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For Montclair Slate Releases Position Statements On Whole Host Of Issues

Slate says it understands that voters want to hear solutions

 

As the election campaign season heats up, the For Montclair slate headed by mayoral candidate Harvey Susswein—and that also includes Tim Barr, Bill Hurlock, Jeff Jacobson, and Walter Springer—has today announced the posting of position statements on the following issues: Economic Development, Education, Sanitation/Recycling, and Animal Control. These can be found on the For Montclair website.

In a further statement of philosophy, For Montclair said in a press release:

For Montclair understands that voters want to hear real solutions, not slogans. For Montclair is listening! There are many issues to be discussed in the campaign, and we ask voters to keep in touch with us about the issues that are most important to them. Here are more real solutions from For Montclair. Check back in the coming days as more issues important to Montclair are discussed.”

Here are the position statements below. Tell us what you think in the comments section.

Economic Development: Montclair needs to invest in its economic future. We are not doing so now. We will reestablish an Economic Development advisory group to tap the valuable experience and entrepreneurial expertise of our residents and help us win the competition with neighboring communities who are also trying to attract businesses and investors.

Municipal Hall needs to be more business-friendly. As Council members, we will hold regular meetings with business owners and listen to their concerns. Rather than force business owners who invest in Montclair to deal with multiple Montclair departments, we will give them a single point of contact and make sure that the town and its Council are is responsive to their concerns. Business owners have told us that some of the town’s current restrictions (prohibiting, for example, certain kinds of businesses from leasing storefronts) make no sense; we will review those restrictions.

Education: As candidates for Council, we all share a commitment to excellence in Montclair’s public schools and will use such powers as we have to maintain and improve our schools. The Mayor has the statutory power to appoint members of the Board of Education. The Mayor and two Councilors sit on the five-member Board of School Estimate, which approves the school budget. Our candidate for Mayor, Harvey Susswein, has promised to submit his Board of Education nominees to the full Council for a ratification vote. We think that will give the entire community a healthy additional voice in the process.

Although the Council does not directly control the school budget, we will never shy away from voicing our opinions to the Board of Education when we believe it is pursuing incorrect policies. You can expect to see us as Councilors in regular attendance at Board of Education and Board of School Estimate meetings, making our and our constituents’ voices heard.

Sanitation and Recycling: There is no excuse for the current Council’s refusal to solicit competitive bids to provide sanitation and recycling services to Montclair. Other New Jersey towns have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by outsourcing these services; there’s no way to know what savings Montclair may realize without seeing formal bids.

Our sanitation workers do a physically demanding, dirty job every day. They deserve our respect and thanks and, more than that, they deserve the chance to compete with bids we receive from outside providers.  If our workers cannot compete with responsible outside bids, however, and if we are confident that an outside provider will deliver reliable service less expensively, we will use a lower-cost provider and realize those savings for our taxpayers.

Whatever arrangements we make for sanitation likely will apply to recycling collections, too, but recycling also has to be looked at as a separate source of additional savings.  Montclair residents simply are putting out too much recyclable material in their regular trash, and each ton of recyclable material that is put in a landfill instead costs the town at least $125. If we can bring our recycling level (28% of total trash) up to that of West Orange (41%), that would turn 5,000 tons of trash each year, which would cost us $90 per ton to dispose of, into 5,000 tons of recycling yielding average revenues of more than $35 per ton – a swing of well over $500,000 per year. We will learn why our neighbors are more successful at this than we are and implement changes that will save taxpayers’ money.

Animal Control: For Montclair sees a real opportunity to reduce costs and improve services in animal control through true regionalization, in contrast to the small, on-and-off deals Montclair has been pursuing around our existing, uneconomic shelter. Significant grant monies from Maddie’s Fund and other sources are available for animal catchment areas of 100,000 residents or more, which means Montclair would benefit greatly by partnering with our neighbors.  We will appoint an advisory group to explore how Montclair should proceed in this area. Animal advocacy groups in Montclair, Bloomfield and other surrounding communities already have engaged in discussions concerning a more regionalized approach. We need to listen to those who will help us save money — and improve the humane treatment of animals at the same time — through cooperation and innovation.

 

 

 

Jeff Jacobson March 27, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Mr. Jones, thanks, but you're not being fair here. There are big-ticket items in our proposals so far, including competition in sanitation, redoing the unbalanced Glen Ridge fire deal (which has an exit clause) and taking a hard look at whether the police and fire departments have too many command and supervisory personnel. More of these specifics will follow. During my time in Philadelphia, Mayor Rendell depended on his department heads to propose ways, some large and some small, to deliver services more efficiently. Those big and little ideas together yielded meaningful percentage savings, and we can and will do the same in Montclair, but only if we elect people with the experience and the willingness to get it done. And because the Council members are only seven volunteers, let's also please not dismiss the importance of enlisting our residents' expertise and then actually listening to it. The current Council didn't listen to the all-volunteer and highly knowledgeable Capital Finance Committee, but instead paid a consultant to tell them the same thing. There are many people in town with similar expertise in economic development. If they want to help, let's by all means enlist their service. So, yes, you will see us propose advisory committees, and more importantly, you'll hear us promise to listen to them.
Right of Center March 27, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Mr. Jacobson, What about the higher cost of collecting Recyclables? That would have to be deducted from the overall gain. Our budget lists $565,000 in "other expenses" for recycling. Surely those expenses will go up. (What are those other expenses, by the way?) That's not an insignificant cost. You have not included those extra costs, is that what will pass for financial analysis if your slate achieves office? Source: http://www.montclairnjusa.org/dmdocuments/Introduced_Municipal_Budget_2012.pdf Sheet, 15e
frank rubacky March 27, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Every Spring Montclair applies for the Recycling Tonnage Grant. This amount has fluctuated greatly since 2008 for reasons unknown to me. I understand Montclair has to annually report recycling figures as a requirement for this grant and the State report is issued the following Spring. I do not understand why we are not talking about the 2010 figures? It would seem to be a logical report, both current and past, to post on the township web site and something the current council could easily rectify. FYI, here are the 2008-2012 grant figures: 2008: 14252.81 2009: 33807.82 2010 : 58369.14 2011: 38053.11 2012: 46085.17 proj.
R.E. March 27, 2012 at 05:33 PM
How about considering an elected Board of Education? Then, we can have a louder voice. What is your position regarding the township coming into private condo communities, extending expired deed restrictions for affordable housing units; extending AH into perpetuity while purchasing them from township funds?
Jeff Jacobson March 27, 2012 at 05:43 PM
If we were adding to the denominator, I'd agree with you, but we're not. The material that should idally be picked up and recycled is instead being picked up and burned. Either way, the material is being collected by the same laborers and put on the same trucks, but there is more of it on recycling day and less of it on trash day. The economics are a little more complicated than that, having to do with the distance between the end of the route and the transfer station, etc., but the basic point is undeniable: When you recycle more and dispose of less, you save money and make money. And the more you recycle instead of dispose, the greater the budgetary impact.
frank rubacky March 27, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I would like the slates to address the Master Plan which has been in draft form for 6 months and also the DCH/Centro Verde development. The Master Plan is our road map to the future and how the slates' planks align, or not, is a potential point of differentiation. As Cary Africk pointed out, this council could sign the DCH development agreement this Spring. The terms will lock the parties in to what clearly will be the biggest development in Montclair for decades to come.
Right of Center March 27, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Mr. Jacobson Here is the WO Budget from 2011 http://www.westorange.org/vertical/sites/%7B8A554F92-3545-4CD9-932E-F8D91F1C9B8B%7D/uploads/%7B921C227A-9FD0-4227-A894-0A85736C6EBF%7D.PDF West Orange Costs for Trash Collection: $287,000 Salaries (sheet 13) $3,400,000 Other expenses (sheet 15f) (they hire a private company) -------------- Total: $ 3,687,000 32,743 Tons Collected $112.60 per ton Montclair: http://www.montclairnjusa.org/dmdocuments/Introduced_Municipal_Budget_2012.pdf $885,000 Salaries (sheet 15a) $1,345,000 other expenses (sheet 15e) $565,000 Recycling Expenses (sheet 15e) -------------- Total: $ 2,795,000 28,869 Tons Collected $96.82 per ton So our costs per ton are significantly lower. But WO collects more recycling. So if we upgraded our collection and we paid the same $112.60 per ton WO pays, our total would then be $3,251,000 or $456,000 MORE than we pay now. So that's essentially a wash. We'll spend roughly 500k more to receive 500k more. Where, precisely are you getting your per ton cost figures? What do I have wrong?
Belletones March 27, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Haha. Please. Mr Susswein campaigned against an elected board. He also scared quite a few people in the process with lies about the motives of the people trying to get the question on tha ballot.
Jeff Jacobson March 27, 2012 at 06:50 PM
You're comparing apples and alligators. I'm talking purely about the cost we pay Covanta to burn a ton of trash ($90) vs. the revenues we collect ($15 and up) when we sell a ton of recyclables. The pickup costs don't change. I'm sure you'll also agree it's better environmentally to recycle a ton of trash that's easily capable of being recycled rather than burning it. But with all this math, let's not lose sight of the basic point: Sanitation/recycling is an area in which Montclair can save a lot of money. We need to get outside bids, and we need to recycle more when we can. We'll help the budget and the environment, which is my favorite kind of conservation.
Jeff Jacobson March 27, 2012 at 07:08 PM
You are reading, or rather misreading, a few lines in two budget documents and drawing incorrect conclusions from them. If you're of the belief that our municipal sanitation service is operating at peak efficiency and we can save no money from getting competing bids, there's a slate for you called Montclair 2012, which has ruled out seeking competitive bids. ROC, I've followed your posts for a long time. You're an astute analyst and I know you'll be a tough critic should I become a Council member. I look forward to continuing to spar with you. On this issue, however, I think we've reached a logical end point for the discussion. When you ask the Real Progress slate from where they are going to get their promised $2 million to $6 million budget savings, let me know. That's a thread I'll read with great interest.
Right of Center March 27, 2012 at 07:22 PM
"You are reading, or rather misreading, a few lines in two budget documents and drawing incorrect conclusions from them." How so? I've added the total collection costs for both townships? What's incorrect in those figures? Can you say? Or not? It makes perfect sense to me that if you want to more carefully separate and collect more recycling there will be more cost. You maintain that there is NO cost differential, and claim we've "reached a logical end point for the discussion." I'd say you've retreated from the issue because you can't support your slate's claims with facts. we've got to end board unsupported generalizations like "Sanitation/recycling is an area in which Montclair can save a lot of money." Such, unsupported notions are what's gotten our township into trouble in the past.
Right of Center March 27, 2012 at 07:53 PM
you are comparing WO's recycling rate to ours. They pay significantly more for pick up than we do. Why would that be unrelated? If trucks and and garbage collectors go to the houses ONCE (ie. no recycling) there would be significantly less cost than when recycling because the trucks have to go to ALL the houses TWICE (the additional trip to pick up recycling) You say that has no additional cost? If you are going to compare WO's recycling rate to ours then you have to compare their whole collection system to ours. You are the one making the comparison. Is this really the depth of analysis we can expect from the For Montclair slate? "Sanitation/recycling is an area in which Montclair can save a lot of money." Yeah? Based on what? Your rather thin analysis here?
frank rubacky March 27, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Jeff, I appreciate that you have been one of the most outgoing candidates in utilizing blogs to get your message out and engaging in dialogue. I think it has helped you establish a positive political identity in addition to what your slate provides. However, you have repeatedly linked your candidacy to this issue. Throwing out is over a half million in savings was an effective attention getter, but you attracted a few cynics due to the lack of specificity and any supporters have been quiet. I think the onus is on you to post your analysis on your slate's site. Cary Africk has mentioned repeatedly that the TC has reviewed several township generated analysis. I would suggest you OPRA these as they could be a good basis for making your case with specifics.
Crafty Spiker March 27, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Anyone can make any issue more complicated and less transparent. The real talent belongs to the person who can take a complicated issue and make it simpler and more understandable. If you can't make something more clear then please consider not playing.
Jeff Jacobson March 27, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Frank, fair enough. My understanding is that the Council's analysis concluded that our sanitation services are operating efficiently. How they can conclude this without soliciting and carefully reviewing outside bids is beyond me. Sanitation economics are simple in some ways and complicated in others. (I learned more than anyone ever would want to know during my Philadelphia days and then again defending an antitrust class action against sanitation companies in Westchester County). It comes down to the size of a truck, the size of the crew, how fast you fill the truck, distance from the end of the route to the dump, etc. Outside providers are going to have to look at all of these issues when submitting bids, and we'll look at them. I can't do much more with ROC's point than what I've already done. Recycling generates revenues, trash burning costs money, ergo -- all other things being equal -- recycling a ton instead of burning it has a positive impact on the budget. I think ROC's suggesting that picking up recyclables can cost more than picking up trash, which shouldn't be true and in my experience has never been true.
frank rubacky March 27, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Yes, I'm guessing the analysis was constrained by several factors, e.g. our recycling fleet type might dictate certain inefficiencies. Regardless, with your experience and lessons learned, you should have no problem picking out some specific opportunities. Good luck.
Right of Center March 27, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Citing easily obtainable numbers is cynical?
frank rubacky March 27, 2012 at 10:08 PM
'Easily obtainable' government info should have been your first clue. Your W.O. numbers are not directly comparable as they put their mixed paper revenues back into the general fund or into a recycling trust fund. Since you did not complete an appropriate level of due diligence either, I have to assume you started from a position of doubt.
Right of Center March 27, 2012 at 10:13 PM
"Recycling generates revenues, trash burning costs money, ergo -- all other things being equal -- recycling a ton instead of burning it has a positive impact on the budget." That's just it, all things are not equal. It's quite simple. Does it take more effort on our end (the users) to collect, separate and put out recyclables on different days than it would to just put out all the garbage once per week? Yes. So too to pick it up separately. That's what the numbers seem to indicate anyway.
Right of Center March 27, 2012 at 10:43 PM
for the sake of discussion I accept Jacobson numbers on the income side. I am talking about expenses, for which he and his slate have apparently not done any analysis.
Right of Center March 27, 2012 at 10:46 PM
p.s. I'd love to have more detailed number to discuss. For Montclair apparently doesn't have them. Yet, they're the ones making sweeping statements. Until some better ones come along the numbers I presented are the best ones available.
frank rubacky March 27, 2012 at 11:13 PM
RoC, I think basically we all agree that there needs to be more & better numbers. Frankly, I allowed myself to get sidetracked from my original opposition to the potential savings - emphasis on potential. The claim, as I would re-phrase it, is "if we can get people to recycle 50% more than they currently do, there is a potential $500+k savings". I think this would entail a substantial effort to educate, to incent, and to penalize. Further, outsourcing is not even a part of/or fact supported aspect of this issue.
Right of Center March 28, 2012 at 12:25 AM
"The claim, as I would re-phrase it, is "if we can get people to recycle 50% more than they currently do, there is a potential $500+k savings" A claim based on little to no analysis is wishful thinking. I've had WAY to much of that from local politicians.
frank rubacky March 28, 2012 at 03:31 AM
RoC, You win. You have bested me this time....but, I'll be back! Before I give you the last word on this subject, I have to say the two of us have beaten this numbers thing into the ground and almost assuredly have created a groundswell of sympathy that will propel Jeff Jacobson into office.
Victoria Hanks March 28, 2012 at 12:21 PM
I think there are other issues besides schools and garbage? What about crime? I've been reading about a lot of recent activity of robberies and burglaries in town. I've just moved here from Newark and I'm shocked at the drug and theft activity. All 3 groups running for office only talk about 3 big issues. What about economic development? There are a lot of empty storefronts. What about art and culture, a Montclair rich resource? I heard there is no longer an arts council? Is that true? Shocking if so.
Shelley Emling (Editor) March 28, 2012 at 12:49 PM
For Montclair just put out position papers on police/fire.. . this is on Montclair Patch right now. Hopefully they and other candidates will address economic development and the arts council. No, there is no longer an arts council.
Howard Beal March 28, 2012 at 06:14 PM
So let me get this straight: If Susswein wins for Mayor as well as Baskerville, Weller-Demming, Hurt, and Schlager, he’s going to cede his BOE appointments to them (4 person majority) through ratification? Why does he want to be Mayor if he doesn’t have the desire or capacity to fulfill his responsibilities. This FM group addresses every issue by forming a committee. Now even BOE appointments! Given this position, why did he fight so hard against an elected BOE? I’m not leaving my children’s future to chance depending on who gets elected to the Council. Susswein’s position demonstrates zero leadership and dereliction of duty.
Right of Center March 28, 2012 at 06:33 PM
I totally disagree. With political responsibility comes accountability. If the council ratifies the BOSE and the BOE, then they are all responsible. We should change our form of government under the Faulkner act to a Mayor Council format, and do away with the Manager position. In that form the Mayor is more of an executive like the president. The council legislates and the Mayor appoints (subject to confirmation by the council), the Mayor also has veto power. What we have now is the Council-Manager form which, in my opinion, does not allow for direct political responsibility for how the township is run. I got so sick of hearing from current councilors "we weren't told that...." or "we didn't know that...." or "we weren't kept in the loop...."
A. Gideon March 28, 2012 at 07:17 PM
If we pay $90/ton, and sheet 15e indicates that we're paying $1345000, then we're dumping about 15000 tons. This is for 2012. But the report at ecuanj.com, for 2008, describes us as dumping 28868 tons. Either we've significantly decreased our trash stream (which would be good!) or something else is amiss with these numbers. Or is the 28868 number inclusive of the 11214 tons of recycling? This yields a number of tons more consistent with the cost of $1345000, but it doesn't agree with Mr. Jacobson's analysis (which assumes we're disposing 28868+11214). If we really have reduced our trash stream by almost 50% between 2008 and 2012, as these numbers would indicate, then Mr. Jacobson's analysis doesn't seem to apply. Put another way: perhaps we've already realized [more than] the savings he is describing. ...Andrew
A. Gideon March 28, 2012 at 07:34 PM
"I think ROC's suggesting that picking up recyclables can cost more than picking up trash, which shouldn't be true and in my experience has never been true." This appears to be assuming a purely linear function for the cost of pickup. I would argue that work rules alone can easily render this assumption false, where an early completion lets people leave early while a late completion costs the town in overtime. There may be other nonlinear cost factors as well. "I can't do much more with ROC's point than what I've already done." ROC is raising a point regarding the numbers. It took me moments to notice that he was working with 2012 data while Mr. Jacobson was working with 2008 data. Maybe that explains the different results; maybe not. Simply dismissing his points w/o consideration, though, sounds an awful lot like the current council's treatment of numbers that it doesn't want to hear. I'm certainly not arguing against replacing trash dumping with recycling. But I think we've had enough of councils that hide from numbers that are inconvenient. ...Andrew

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