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.