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ALL Mayoral Candidates Speak Out On Youth Sports And Recreation Programs

The three candidates respond to a questionnaire sent out by local sports team leaders

 

A group of youth sports leaders in Montclair issued a questionnaire to the mayoral candidates related to youth sports and recreation. Montclair Patch published this recently, but we're re-publishing it now to include answers from mayoral candidate Harvey Susswein. All answers from all three candidates are below. The questions were as follows.

1)    In your opinion what role(s) do community youth sports organizations play in enhancing quality of life in Montclair and what will you do as Mayor to support them?

2)    If you were sitting on the School Board of Estimate, would you approve a Board of Education budget with funding for the recently proposed Montclair High School Facilities Master Plan?

3)   What are your short-term and long-term plans, if any, for maintaining and improving township recreation fields and facilities, e.g. pools, Clary Anderson Arena, tennis courts, etc., for Montclair residents? What funding, if any, would you provide for these plans?

4)  What are your thoughts on managing township recreation facilities and programs? Are you considering outsourcing of management?

5)  Do you have children that are currently involved or have been involved in PRCA or community youth sports and recreation program? Have you ever volunteered for a youth sports or recreation program?

Respectfully,

Scott Davisson, President - Montclair United Soccer Club

The Board of Directors, Montclair United Soccer Club

The Board of Directors, Montclair Baseball and Softball Club

Response from Harvey Susswein, Mayoral Candidate, For Montclair

1) In your opinion what role(s) do community youth sports organizations play in enhancing quality of life in Montclair and what will you do as Mayor to support them?

Youth sports organizations are a vital part of the fabric of any community, including Montclair. They provide a constructive outlet for our kids and they provide invaluable life lessons as our kids grow into young adults. The sports organizations, inside and outside the schools, need to be supported and encouraged. As Mayor I would encourage the Council to give community sports equal consideration for funding with other town-wide priorities. I would direct the Town Manager to take steps to make Parks & Recs more efficient and more customer friendly without ‘busting the budget.’

2) If you were sitting on the School Board of Estimate, would you approve a Board of Education budget with funding for the recently proposed Montclair High School Facilities Master Plan? 

Whether funding for the Plan should be approved or not is dependent both on competing BoE priorities for funding and on the need to lower the Township’s outstanding debt and to avoid run-ups in the BoE operating budget. In the best of all worlds, of course our facilities should be improved, but we do need to look at all priorities and strike a balance.

3) What are your short-term and long-term plans, if any, for maintaining and improving township recreation fields and facilities, e.g. pools, Clary Anderson Arena, tennis courts, etc., for Montclair residents? What funding, if any, would you provide for these plans? 

To be frank, this is not something that has been addressed by the slate. As discussed elsewhere in this questionnaire we would review how facilities are managed today, review the cost structure, and review the level of customer service provided. What is lacking will be addressed. What can be provided more cost effectively will likewise be addressed. Funding levels would need to be determined based on budgetary considerations and the need to balance competing requests for funding. We would encourage, and would provide support for, an aggressive fund raising effort to bring in grant money and private donations to augment taxpayer funding for sports and recreation.

4) What are your thoughts on managing township recreation facilities and programs? Are you considering outsourcing of management?

The For Montclair slate has been very clear that we will be looking at many possibilities for outsourcing and for shared services. We would take a hard look to see if outsourcing management of Township recreation facilities would make sense from both a fiscal and an operational viewpoint. If it makes sense for Montclair we would pursue it. If we are already operating efficiently and economically we would leave it alone.

5) Do you have children that are currently involved or have been involved in PRCA or community youth sports and recreation program?  

 My children are adults and have not participated in children sports programs for decades. Tim Barr, Bill Hurlock, and Walter Springer all have children participating in organized sports. Jeff Jacobson has young kids who are not quite there yet.   

6) Have you ever volunteered for a youth sports or recreation program? 

When my kids were young I was an active parent volunteer with my daughter’s gymnastics team. Members of the For Montclair slate, particularly Tim Barr and Walter Springer both are active volunteers in town sports programs.

Responses from Karen Turner, Mayoral Candidate, Real Progress Montclair

1) In your opinion what role(s) do community youth sports organizations play in enhancing quality of life in Montclair and what will you do as Mayor to support them?

Youth sports organizations play a critical role in the life of our community. It’s not just a matter of health-though encouraging exercise, physical activity and wellness to our youth is obviously an important part of all the youth sports programs. How these groups enhance Montclair goes much deeper. Life lessons that can’t be taught in the classroom take place on our playing fields. Learning how to compete, learning how to be part of a team and learning about working toward common goals as a group are important lessons and for many of our kids the youth sports groups is where this learning starts.

In Montclair there are more important lessons as well. Our sports groups help break down racial and economic barriers better than most, if not all, other institutions in a town that prides itself on diversity. It’s not just that kids often form lifelong friendships from their youth sports teams. It’s also parents. It gives parents of different backgrounds a chance to meet and work with parents from all different groups in town. I know from my experience that parents form lifelong friendships as well across racial and economic barriers in ways that never would happen without youth sports group.

The Recreation and Cultural Affairs office is behind the times in its sign up and permitting processes. For sports groups that are still run through the town, Pop Warner football, some rec baseball, etc.  We need to install the software that’s already been paid for to allow online registrations, something most youth sports group are already doing.  Besides being more efficient financially and more customer service-oriented, it will allow easier communications with parents since it’s much easier to capture email addresses and other contact information.

The permitting process for all the town’s fields, both Board of Ed and Township, needs to be combined so that there is a single point of contact and one system. The current lack of coordination between the two systems makes it impossible to allocate fields efficiently. Many of our youth teams lose playing and practice times because a field is under a blanket permit but no one knows that it is actually open on a particular day. We should be able to combine the systems and make them web-based so that coaches can see if a field has opened up because another team has cancelled a practice, for example.

We should also combine town and BOE field maintenance functions. Studies in the past have indicated not only significant savings if this can be done, but also more accountability and better maintenance.  

Finally, I would encourage regular meetings of the heads of all youth sports group so that issues can be worked out between them. I don’t think we need to bring that inside the auspices of the town government, but if we could facilitate such meetings by letting people use the let council room or other facilities, I would do so. It may be time for a more formal youth sports advisory group if the groups can’t get together on their own.

2) If you were sitting on the School Board of Estimate, would you approve a Board of Education budget with funding for the recently proposed Montclair High School Facilities Master Plan?

The BOE did not approve the plan and that was the appropriate action on the BOE’s part at this time. It was premature to release the plan since several key stakeholders, such as softball and residents living near the facilities had not been thoroughly consulted. I am told by Chris Swenson that the cost estimate for the renovating Heningburg Field had not been completely vetted and that inclusion of the project in the BOE’s agenda by Dana Sullivan was a surprise to many, including the Mr. Porcelli and several parents who had begun work on the plan. Once more parties are brought into the process and better cost estimates are obtained the BOE will be in a better position to take action on the plan. If the BOE approves it after a thorough and inclusive process, it is extremely unlikely I would vote against an entire school budget just because the plan was included.

I also think it might be better to expand the nature of the study beyond just the high school fields and examine other BOE fields and town fields together to see that we are getting maximum efficiencies and the best uses possible. Field space is very tight for many sports and changing one or two venues can have major impacts on several sports.

3) What are your short-term and long-term plans, if any, for maintaining and improving township recreation fields and facilities, e.g. pools, Clary Anderson Arena, tennis courts, etc., for Montclair residents? What funding, if any, would you provide for these plans?

I don’t have short or long term plans for these facilities at this time. We would impose a 2-year moratorium on issuing non-essential debt. Unless there is a safety issue-which there may with some of these facilities or unless a project undertaken today would save a significant amount of money as opposed to waiting several years, would not want to incur the capital expense. Having said that, I think there are opportunities to outsource management of some of athletic facilities that would result in a win-win situation for users and help us financially. For example, leasing the tennis facilities to a private entity that would give lessons, run its own tournaments, is common in other areas and should be doable here. We might have to split cost of renovating with a private operator since some of the facilities have fallen into such disrepair-especially at Mountainside Park, but this is worth exploring. Similar arrangement might be possible with one or more of our pools. I would consider strongly appointing a citizens committee to look into these possible arrangements since our government do not seem to have the expertise to do this.

4) What are your thoughts on managing township recreation facilities and programs? Are you considering outsourcing of management?

My answers above speak to this. I would definitely examine the possibility of outsourcing management of facilities and programs.

5) Do you have children that are currently involved or have been involved in PRCA or community youth sports and recreation program? Have you ever volunteered for a youth sports or recreation program?

My two daughters got their start with athletic teams through Montclair’s town sports. They both learned to play soccer and softball through the town programs. The programs were very well run and both girls learned a lot about team sports while making good friends and getting some exercise! It was a great experience for the whole family. One still plays softball, but with her school team. 

Chris Swenson who is on my slate and running in the Third Ward is a former travel soccer coach (F license), a founder of the Montclair Baseball and Softball Club and the MHS Touchdown Club, the football booster club and a former nationally ranked tennis player. He currently runs the MBSC Teeball and Coach Pitch Programs for children between 4 and 8 years old.

Responses from Robert Jackson, Mayoral Candidate, Montclair 2012

1) In your opinion what role(s) do community youth sports organizations play in enhancing quality of life in Montclair and what will you do as Mayor to support them?

Community youth sports play a vital role in the life of Montclair. The participants work toward mastering a sport but more importantly learn about themselves and that they are generally capable of far more than they ever imagined. We all know how critical it is to get our children to “get that heartbeat up” and youth sports provides a wonderful venue.  The value of building new friendships and family-to-family connections is beyond words.

As Mayor, I will use my “bully pulpit” to champion youth sports and I will seek every opportunity, subject to fiscal constraints, to expand and upgrade the facilities for these activities.

2) If you were sitting on the School Board of Estimate, would you approve a Board of Education budget with funding for the recently proposed Montclair High School Facilities Master Plan?

The MHS FMP has many strong points. However, I would not have supported it as presented to the BOSE because of the plans for the Henningburg field. I would have liked to see more private dollars brought to bear. The $1 million price tag was too steep.

3) What are your short-term and long-term plans, if any, for maintaining and improving township recreation fields and facilities, e.g. pools, Clary Anderson Arena, tennis courts, etc., for Montclair residents?  What funding, if any, would you provide for these plans?

These facilities should be addressed through a facilities master plan as well. Our plan would be to incorporate upgrades of these facilities through overall development. For example, we would include an upgrade of the CAR into the development of the Walnut Street station area. We can leverage developer dollars to gain needed improvements.

4) What are your thoughts on managing township recreation facilities and programs? Are you considering outsourcing of management?

We do not view outsourcing as a panacea as some of the other slates appear to do. We know that a group of citizens has been working on facilities management and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to come up with what’s best for Montclair.

5) Do you have children that are currently involved or have been involved in PRCA or community youth sports and recreation program? Have you ever volunteered for a youth sports or recreation program?

All of our slate’s children have participated or are participating in PRCA or community sports. I have coached Kinder Kickers and managed a travel soccer team. McMahon and Murnick have coached soccer as well.  Sean Spiller has coached local, high school, and college hockey.

Terry Gorman May 03, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Ms. Emling, Please correct me if I am wrong here, but when this article was first published yesterday or the day before, Harvey Susswein's initial response was something along the lines of ....sorry I'm just to busy to respond to your 6 questions. (That is not a quote as I don't remember the exact language) Are we now to assume that when he saw that in print he realized just how arrogant it sounded? Or perhaps he was too busy getting council from Ed Remsen and David Grill regarding how to attack the other two mayoral candidates and get his own slate to distance themselves from him.
Shelley Emling (Editor) May 03, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I'm re-printing at the request of the sports/recreation folks... and I think it's always good to show all 3 mayoral candidates' responses to the exact same questions.
Terry Gorman May 03, 2012 at 06:33 PM
I was not questioning your motives, simply making an observation and asking you to correct me if my summation of Harvey's original response was inaccurate. I apologize if it sounded as if I were questioning you.
Shelley Emling (Editor) May 03, 2012 at 06:43 PM
I believe that he did say Terry that he was sorry ... that he had not had enough time to answer the questions ... or something like that.
Jane Evers May 03, 2012 at 08:08 PM
How about opinions on why (and whether they should be allowed) out of town residents who attend Montclair private schools are allowed to join already crowded Montclair recreation teams.
Shelley Emling (Editor) May 03, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Good question Jane... I'll submit it to the candidates..
mounties May 03, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Hey Candidates what are you going to do with the over spending in the schools? A football coach making $110,000 as an in school detention teacher is a big problem and way too many crises counselors and VP’s in the district are wasteful.
A. Gideon May 04, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Someone - I cannot recall who at the moment - made an interesting argument to me back when the latest BOE budget was being discussed. He explained that one of the reasons to have the counselors etc. was not just for the students being "helped", but also for the students that would otherwise have to suffer for being around those students not receiving help. I don't know how much of a difference this makes or how much of this support we actually need, but that explanation did remind me of an incident a few years ago. One of my children, in a very early grade, had a student in the class that was "volatile". This was disruptive, and it eventually "blew up" into an altercation involving several of the students. Multiple this by multiple "volatile" students, in ever-growing bodies, and I can see the benefit of spending some money to prevent these altercations or other related disruptions. This doesn't really answer the key questions of whether we've too many (or even too few) of these "support staffers". It does though give me the sense that they do serve a significant purpose for *all* of our students. ...Andrew
D-Zone May 04, 2012 at 12:28 AM
I concur Mounties....Salaries, Crisis Counselors (including, psychologists, etc) are extreme. After all these years, its now coming out with the Turner slate. Your kids are 'Special Ed projects'! The choice of Mayor: None. At Large: Barely 3 choices...now, none. What 'Write-In' choices are their?
mark haefeli May 04, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Election Comments Susswein's comments were clueless on kids athletics. Glen Ridge Tennis..???? Clearly did not take this seriously and it is seriously too late to right this wrong... Karen Turner: "practiced as a CPA at KPMG ...(When)...prior; "various jobs..." Can we be any more non-specific....Check out Community Action..."Junior League..?",. the majority of Montclair citizens can relate to that...? CCM; grass roots ad-hoc group, no influence nor was responsible for any local legislation. Ditto on OBAC.....Not to diminish the capability's or credentials of any of those appointed. Just a fact. ....MKA Parent Association...?...now there is something that helps the Montclair School Systems. More then 70% of homes with RPM signs, are citizens who either have or had, kids in private schools. Nothing here against private schools... People have choices, which is good! To even suggest that the PTA supports any political party in this town or any town, with misleading advertising is shameful. Education: (Jackson) Princeton University; Harvard MBA....vs. (Turner) BS Accounting @ Southern Maine??? Really...? Granted, education may not mean everything...but a Harvard MBA means almost everything in the business community. I would take the Vegas odds on that one. TIM BARR's community service.. truly a "Concerned Citizen" of Montclair! Worker amongst workers. NO agenda other then to be of service. Not equaled by any candidate for any position in this regard.
mark haefeli May 04, 2012 at 03:34 PM
BTW; there are a ton of kids who do not even go to Montclair private schools who play on Montclair recreational teams...Verona, Essex Fells, Cedar Grove, Glen Ridge, all have kids at MUSC...
Jay Sheehan May 04, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Mark, what about Swenson? he went to Yale and runs a T-ball program!
CMFAS55 May 04, 2012 at 05:38 PM
George W Bush - Yale undergrad, Harvard MBA. Most here wouldn't think he was qualified to run the T-ball program. If he ran for Montclair mayor - would you vote for him? BTW - no dobt Jackson has a very impressive educational background.
Jay Sheehan May 04, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Mayor?? He was the least impressive of the three candidates during the 3rd ward debate. Very impressed with Jacobson and Spiller, and i don't think either of them have an ivy league degree? I'm not sure we should be judging the candidates based on their educational background.
Crafty Spiker May 04, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Mr. Barr might be well served by addressing the questions put to him here, on The Patch. His failure to answer these questions is disturbing to me.
Jeff Jacobson May 04, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Thanks, Jay. I'm afraid I'm guilty on the charge of being an Ivy Leaguer. I met my wife when we were freshmen together at Penn.
A. Gideon May 04, 2012 at 07:56 PM
"I met my wife when we were freshmen together at Penn." Amusing coincidence: Same here (except for the freshmen part). Vance Hall. Still, I have to remind people that Chris Swenson was one of those that did the spelunking into the BOE budget that has helped to bring that budget under more control (I won't claim the job is done). His financial acumen and willingness to dig into a pile of steaming...data...to locate the hidden truths is exactly what I think we need on the council. ...Andrew
A. Gideon May 04, 2012 at 08:03 PM
"More then 70% of homes with RPM signs, are citizens who either have or had, kids in private schools." It's good to have this type of insider knowledge of the Montclair population. I myself often worry about my inability to look at a home and know to where the family sends its kids. "To even suggest that the PTA supports any political party in this town or any town, with misleading advertising is shameful. " Fortunately, that hasn't occurred. Is it shameful to imply that it has? Come on: there are good reasons to vote for or against most of the candidates. Do we really need fabrication and innuendo like this? ...Andrew

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