If YOU Were Mayor, Here's What YOU Would Do!

We ask hundreds of residents what they'd do if elected


With the May 8 election less than two weeks away, it's no surprise that the campaign rhetoric is heating up. Also intensifying are the comments from residents, demanding answers from the candidates on a wide range of issues. As a result, Montclair Patch decided to ask you—our readers—what you would do within the first six months of office if elected mayor. We emailed more than 200 voters and will publish a series of articles detailing people's responses—most of them delivered on the condition that the residents remain anonymous. And who knows? Maybe the mayoral candidates—Robert Jackson, Harvey Susswein, and Karen Turner—will be listening!

One resident said she would do something to fix Highland Avenue. "I think it costs me $1,000 a year in car repairs. It’s in shambles and is an embarrassment. And of course the biggest issue is the escalating property taxes. When I moved here my taxes were under $8,000 a year. Now they are $26,000! That is in a 15-year span. Unfortunately, my salary has not tripled in this time frame. I would vote for people that would have a more sensible and transparent budget. Reduce the costs of public services. Hire private garbage collection if that is more cost effective. Combine fire departments with surrounding towns. Reduce the number of chiefs in the fire department and the police department. The overhead is tremendous. Look at the busing costs for the schools. Maybe there is a more cost effective way to get children to school. Maybe the magnet system is not the best solution. It seems to get people fighting to get into one school or another when it wouldn’t be necessary if the Montclair schools were run in the same way. Just some thoughts. I’m sure none of the solutions are that easy. But I do believe that this town needs a major overhaul in the government. I think there is enough blatant waste to cut out in a way to increase efficiency and services without raising taxes."

"What I would do is something about taxes. My biggest issue, and that of a lot of my friends, is the insanely high property taxes. This town is quickly becoming unaffordable for a lot of people like us in the middle of the economic spectrum— the current trend will turn it into a town of the very rich and the very poor, and that won't be good for anyone," an anonymous resident.

"Transparency on where the money really goes ... and consolidate municipal services between neighboring towns to cut down on costs, especially healthcare and retirement costs that are killing us," an anonymous resident.

"For our family it's all about having a mayor that can get a handle on our taxes—my husband and i would like our kids to be able to come back to Montclair for Thanksgiving dinner when they're older, but our taxes have nearly doubled in the past eight years and it scares us that it won't be sustainable to stay here in the long run," an anonymous resident.

"The first thing I would do is sit down with all the different business associations around town and find out if there is a way they could work together and support one another better. I'd ask what they need to draw in more businesses. Why are so many businesses closing on Bloomfield Avenue? I'd meet with business owners immediately," an anonymous resident.

What would you do? Let us know in the comments section below or email Shelley@patch.com.




mandy April 25, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I'd lay off half the crossing guards. really, how many kids a- walk to school b- walk to school alone? I'd get rid of half the school buses by consolidating bus stops (on grove they stop almost every block. the kids can literally SEE each other, yet the bus stops multiple times). Renegotiate town benefits to have higher co-pays and/or an HRA or HSA plan (assuming we are not tied to a state plan).
Shelley Emling (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Someone just emailed that they'd restore benefits to classroom aides... but don't believe the mayor would have the power to do this...
Cary Africk April 25, 2012 at 12:02 PM
I have repeatedly brought to Council the situation with Highland. It is a disgrace with respect to the condition of the roads. And it was a disgrace when the tree branches had to be picked up. The MAYOR and the MANAGER don't agree. The MAYOR says it's a matter of priorities. It was explained that there is a comprehensive system of rating to see which streets should be paved. INCREDIBLY, the condition of the road only accounts for 20% of the rating. Also involved is the volume of traffic, curbs, drainage. Highland ranks low. When we had the snowstorm in October Highland was one of the LAST streets to be cleared. I asked the Mayor and Manager who said it wasn't a priority, because there were busier streets, like Bloomfield Ave. Anyone see any tree branches blocking Bloomfield Ave? At the time CCM was raising (rightfully) a ruckus about budgeting and numbers. Any coincidence that Highland was the neighborhood where CCM members lived?
Cary Africk April 25, 2012 at 12:14 PM
If I were Mayor the first thing I would do after being elected would be to plan a series of strategy meetings of the newly elected officials. They can meet as a group without violating statute as long as it's before July 1. I would put together a strategic plan for the four years. We're not sure who will win, but I would like to re-establish committees such as Capital Finance, and OBAC, as soon as possible. We need their help. I would also plan on bringing in someone such as Glenn Rogers to advise on how to improve the organization (recognizing that the Council doesn't run the organization). I would establish multiple permanent Council committees, including one on personnel, and one on the budget. I would expand the role of the Board of School Estimate, who in the last four years has not held ONE meeting that wasn't required under statute, such meetings being a rubber stamp for decisions that were already made. I would expand outreach to Montclair State, and talk to the State about more than complete streets and bike lanes. I would propose to re-establish mutually respectful relationships with the surrounding communities
Shelley Emling (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Good ideas Cary!
Louis Fontana April 25, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Is it too late to Draft Africk?
Robin Hoffman April 25, 2012 at 02:02 PM
My thoughts exactly. Right now, I have no idea who I'm voting for. If Cary were in the picture, that'd make this a much easier decision.
montclair feed April 25, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Taxes! Roads ! Street lighting! are up there, no doubt. In regard to businesses, I agree that the associations should meet together. Lack of stores/empty store fronts ?? Talk to or better yet, demand from the building owners better rents. A Mayor and Council that really cares for this town and its continued growth. For instance, two Holiday seasons ago I argued at a Town Meeting that parking meters be covered as they have always been. I was given a thumbs down....BUT this year when there's an election the meters were covered.
Shelley Emling (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I'd agree with you on the roads and street lighting! I broke my foot in the fall... by literally tripping over a huge pothole in Upper Montclair..
frank rubacky April 25, 2012 at 03:56 PM
As the Mayor-elect with just one vote, the first thing would be to take full advantage of the time between the election and being sworn in. The biggest opportunity would be a series of meetings as a group - without OPMA/OPRA or press oversight – “off-site”, with as many municipal and other organizational stakeholders as possible. Limit the objectives of each meeting to information gathering and establishing a rapport with the invited participants. The operative element is participating as a full council-elect. This can be a low-intensity setting towards establishing a constructive group dynamic and a foundation of trust going into their terms.
Kyle Martinowich April 25, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I would sit down with the current Manager with a whole bunch of questions pertaining to his views on Union Contract negotiations, previous budgets produced, departmental reviews and outsourcing. I would have the the current Township Attorney present as well. Once I finished questioning him, I would determine if his views aligned with mine and whether it would be appropriate to keep or buy out his contract and replace him.
Greg Shelton April 26, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Greg Shelton These are all great ideas that would probably benefit any city in a metro area like Montclair. Unfortunately the politicians and special interest groups will prevent most of these great ideas from ever becoming a reality. Even the folks that mean well succumb to the majority once elected and fall right in line and it's business as usual. As a life long democrat and ex-Montclair resident I agree with the current Governor of New Jersey in his approach to running the state. He is not afraid to make the hard choices and decisions that he feels will benefit the majority of the residents of his state. He may not always be right but he not not afraid to make a tough decision. Mayors, council persons and residents of our cities have to be prepared for a radical change if there is to be a radical change. Most of us want the change but we are not prepared to pay the cost. What is the solution? The same as it has always been. Take the time to know the political process and when politicians are not doing their job,"GET RID OF THEM!" I agree the solution is not to continually raise taxes and cut services.
CGI Debate April 26, 2012 at 01:23 AM
I would go to the Civics & Government Institute Mayoral Debate on Thursday night at 6:30pm at Montclair High School. Hope to see you all there.
john clue April 26, 2012 at 11:01 AM
These are all great ideas and I believe that a number of meetings right away is a good idea and the hell with politics and special interests. Isn't it time a new tone is set? As for our business sections, I have often wondered why Montclair center has so many empty buildings and store fronts. I would guess it might have something to do with the owner, Grabowsky, I believe. We need a vibrant downtown area. Rents are an issues so why don't some of the town elders put pressure on those that own and get those places rented? Cary, I loved your ideas!!!


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