On May 27, Montclair Local’s front-page story reported that Montclair residents will likely decide via a Nov. 2 referendum question whether they should be served by an elected or appointed Board of Education. 

The May 27 story cites Mayor Sean Spiller as saying in April that he trusts voters to decide if an appointed or elected board is best for Montclair; Councilman and former Mayor Bob Russo as saying that he too supports a referendum; and Councilman Yacobellis as saying that he loves “seeing democracy in action.”

Why then has the Township Council so adamantly resisted putting the question of rent controls in Montclair on a ballot? If township voters can be trusted with determining the governance of Montclair’s public schools, why can they not be trusted with determining whether Montclair should impose rent controls?

I have followed this issue since it was a front-page story in the Nov. 7, 2019 Local. Perhaps I missed it, but since that time I haven’t heard a cogent explanation from any of our Township Council members of why this issue should not be decided by Montclair voters rather than the Township Council.  

The entire handling of this issue has been a mess, in part as a result of the COVID crisis. And like so many political issues these days, it has ended up in the courts, with the inevitable delays and expenses. Really, with existing huge case backlogs, is this what we want our legal system dealing with?

A story in the March 11, 2021 Local cited Housing Commission Co-Chair William Scott as saying that a survey conducted in 2017 revealed that 75% of Montclair residents backed some sort of rent stabilization. If Township residents are in principle so supportive of rent controls, why is the Township Council so reluctant to put them to a vote — unless the provisions of the ordinance might be deemed unreasonable by residents, in which case the obvious solution is to amend them.

It appears we will already have one important local issue on the Nov. 2 ballot, which is likely to have a much higher voter turnout than any special election. Why not simply add a second important local issue to the ballot and resolve the issue of rent controls in Montclair in the most democratic possible manner?

Larry Hays
Upper Montclair


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