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UPDATED Politics Roundup: Turner's Final Letter, Carlson's Math, And Other Hot Button Items

The candidates have been out campaigning en masse this weekend


When it comes to local politics, the last 48 hours have been akin to the "Potpourri" category on TV's Jeopardy—a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

First, with polls opening in less than 24 hours, LeeAnn Carlson, running as an at-large candidate on the Real Progress Montclair slate, released a statement late Monday how how the math of Montclair's municipal budget just doesn't add up.

In part, it said:

"If this pattern of mismanagement is allowed to continue, the fabric and identity of our community is threatened to its very core. The next Mayor and Council must be motivated to fully understand and honestly address Montclair's debt, its cost of services, the uncertainty around property tax trends, and the need for more active Township governance. Only by doing so will critical public services and cherished institutions like our public magnet school system, our libraries, and pre-k program thrive. Voters must take this equation into the voting booth when making their decisions on Election Day, May 8th.

"With combined experience of 6+ years studying Montclair's municipal and Board of Education budgets, Real Progress Montclair is the team best equipped to fight the very real threats to Montclair's core values. We did this work and analysis not as elected officials but as part of Montclair's broad community of volunteers through our contributions to official Working Groups and Advisory Committees, and as leaders of a budget watchdog organization.

"Visit www.realprogressmontclair.com for more information on the candidate's positions on key issues, background, and its specific 90-day and six-month plans of action."

Second, Karen Turner, the mayoral candidate leading the Real Progress Montclair slate, has released a final letter to supporters and voters. It reads as follows:

Dear Friends,

In a few short days, the campaign dust will settle and we'll be neighbors again.

We'll see each other at the grocery store and the post office; at synagogue and at church; at PTA meetings and at our children's games and activities.  When you see me, I want you to know who you are seeing.

I'm a woman who grew up in many different places. Because my father was in the military I didn't have roots anywhere until I came here. Now, Montclair is my home. I fell in love with this town when my husband first took me to Edgemont Park where he hit his first home run. I saw the architecture, I felt the energy, I enjoyed the shade of our magnificent trees. But, most of all, I loved the people. And while I've made so many close friends over the last 17 years, I've lost some too - forced to move because of the unsustainable rise in property taxes.

A few years ago, my husband suggested that we might have to think about moving as well. But, like any other smart woman, I had my own ideas. I decided to get involved and see what I could do to help stabilize taxes and restructure services rather than relying on cuts and new debt to balance the budget.  

What I learned through Concerned Citizens of Montclair and later, through the Operating Budget Advisory Committee, was frightening. Although the Township is a $200 million organization, there is no process for fiscal planning beyond the current budget. No 3-year forecast of revenue projections; no 5-year plan for expenses; no 10-year benchmark for debt reduction. 

Instead, as budget cycles come and go, our elected officials scramble to decide what so-called "amenities" they can cut and how high they can increase taxes. The result: library funding has been slashed, funding for Pre-K scholarships to those in need nearly eliminated, and community policing not even seriously discussed as a possible program. In the last few years, we also saw middle class, public employee layoffs for the first time in the Township's history, health care stripped from our classroom aides, and important institutions like the Arts Council completely defunded.

The truth is, none of this had to be. Past councils simply allowed it to happen by taking no initiative to prevent it. Stale thinking and an inordinate amount of time spent on distractions and pet projects kept the focus off our true priorities.  

This has been no way to run a Township. And sadly, many of our family members, friends, and neighbors have agreed and they've voted with their feet. How can we truly maintain a community if the people are constantly leaving?  
I have no interest in higher office. You won't see me cutting deals with outside interests to get elected. And you won't see me contort the truth about my opponents' records in order to win at all costs. But if I do earn the privilege of being Montclair's first popularly elected woman mayor, I promise to be true to Montclair.

We will get a handle on our town's finances no matter how hard it is and no matter how much resistance we face. As we do, you can be sure we will preserve the programs, institutions, and values that others on the incumbent slate and the status quo slate have jeopardized: the Library, early childhood education, the arts, economic development, open space, and so much more.

Friends, I harbor no animosity to my opponents. While their attacks have gone too far, I understand that campaigns can be hard fought. In the end, I believe my opponents want what's best for Montclair.

But, they've had their chances. In the next four years, Montclair is going to need hard work and a fresh perspective. It's time to elect candidates that will make Real Progress in order to preserve what we all love about Montclair in a more sustainable and thoughtful manner.

Your Neighbor,

Third, and on a completely different note, when it comes to campaign signs, it seems a whole lot of people around Montclair are violating the town code. According to section 08-47, signs need to be 10 feet in and not placed between the curb and the sidewalk.

Fourth, Mayor Jerry Fried—campaign manager for Deputy Mayor Kathryn Weller-Demming, who's running for an at-large seat—said Saturday night that he's not sure whether or not he'll publicly endorse any candidates, adding that he's uncertain whether an endorsement would be helpful at this stage.

Fifth, both Councilor Rich Murnick, running in the 1st ward, and Robin Schlager, running in the 2nd ward, attended Saturday night's Filmmakers Party put on by the Montclair Film Festival. The candidates, running on the Montclair 2012 slate, made a point of talking to almost everyone there, and noted that they'd been campaigning hard all day.

Sixth, the Real Progress Montclair slate sent out all sorts of press releases and emails to voters over the weekend, including one on Sunday that made note of: "a 40 percent tax increase during [Robert] Jackson's first term in office" and "$100 million in new debt under Bob Russo during his four years as mayor."

Seventh, an email also went out Monday morning from the For Montclair slate.

It reads as follows:

"On May 8 Montclair will go to the polls to select a mayor and council.  The choice is between three stark alternatives. Harvey Susswein and For Montclair is the only progressive team with broad appeal across the political spectrum. They have put forward a detailed and balanced plan of fiscal restraint and economic development along with respect for Montclair's traditions. Neither Robert Jackson's Montclair 2012 slate or Karen Turner's Real Progress Montclair slate of candidates have proposed realistic solutions to the issues facing Montclair. Vote for a progressive ticket that has the vision and experience to preserve Montclair’s values and get our fiscal house in order. Vote for Harvey Susswein and the For Montclair team on Line C:

Mayoral Candidate Harvey Susswein; At-Large Candidate Tim Barr; 1st Ward Candidate Bill Hurlock; 2nd Ward Candidate Walter Springer; 3rd Ward Candidate Jeff Jacobson

Regards, Harvey Susswein and the For Montclair team.

Eighth, and perhaps most interestingly, this Montclair Patch editor received a handful of emails over the weekend expressing concern over Michael Byrne's connection to the Real Progress Montclair campaign. Byrne was a field director for the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

"As a voter I’d like to know the answer to this—can they explain why they chose Michael Byrne as campaign manager with his connections to a right wing agenda that does not represent the values of most Montclair residents?" asked Montclair resident Emily Grand.

Patch asked the RPM campaign about this. The campaign's response, written by Larry Kopp, co-chair and campaign director for RPM, is as follows:

"I am running this campaign and its day-to-day operations. I have been the co-chair of RPM with Sue Weintraub and the campaign manager since day one. This role was announced at our launch. I am also running the GOTV operation. I am a seasoned Democratic political consultant with years of experience working on national and statewide campaigns and progressive causes. My role has been reported in the media previously. 

"Mike Byrnes and Ilmar Vanderer are our only paid part time volunteers on the campaign who work under my direction. We have many bright citizens who are also helping with our campaign operation at the same level including Dede Horotwitz, Lynn Selassie, Carol Ewertson, Linda Bowers, Jane Day, Sue McLaughlin, and dozens of others from all corners of Montclair. They all report to me and to Sue.

"Ironically, Mike was asked by both [Robert] Jackson and [Harvey] Susswein to work on their slates as a paid volunteer. Mike was born and raised in Montclair. He attended Montclair High School. He has served in a non-partisan capacity for the last four years on the Shared Services Task Force, 4th of July Parade Committee, the Mayor's School Board Advisory Committee and the Montclair Election Review Commission.

"Our opponents are trying to tarnish Mike and make this a campaign issue. As you know this race is non-partisan and the Real Progress Montclair slate is made up of two Democrats and two Independents. Other slates are made up of ex-mayors and registered Republicans.

"Voters care only about our platform and what we are going to do if our team is elected. RPM's goal is to put Montclair on better footing for a sustainable future while preserving the character and valued programs we all know and love about this great town."  


Meg Beattie Patrick May 07, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Here's Turner speaking on slashing the Library and the Arts and trees, oh my.... http://www.montclair2012.com/karen_turner_in_her_own_words_on_the_library_the_arts_and_trees?recruiter_id=27325
MC May 07, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I guess we file this under "jumping the shark?" Really, Dead Zone. Can you and others (of any slate) take all this *stuff* someplace else off this newsite? Tx.
Meg Beattie Patrick May 07, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Here's Turner speaking on slashing the Library and the Arts and trees, oh my.... http://www.montclair2012.com/karen_turner_in_her_own_words_on_the_library_the_arts_and_trees?recruiter_id=27325
Good Liberal May 07, 2012 at 09:01 PM
How can Turner, with her CCM background, her Tea Party/Michelle Bachman campaign manager, and her all-white slate claim to represent Montclair? You can't possibly belong to the same Democratic party that I do. She has no interest in our schools and wouldn't even send her children to our schools. Not my kind of Democrat.
Terry Gorman May 07, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Meg, So that's your "smoking gun"? You provide a 30 second portion of a presentation to the council asking various questions about the library, including raising money through a shared services agreement with other towns. Aren't shared services a focal point of your slates platform? She questions whether we need to plant more trees or can't we get by with the trees that the town already has while deciding between "need to have and nice to have". Oh the horror! Surely this woman is the devil. That's seriously what you've got?
notroc May 07, 2012 at 09:14 PM
(cont.:) Back to the topic, my wife and I bought here about a year after the Stock Market crash of 1987, and the psyche among the taxpayers then was similar to how it is now: people were depressed about an uncertain economy and the loss in value of their retirement accounts, etc. The demographics were different in that many homeowners then were empty-nesters who still were holding onto their homes in hope of better prices down the road after suffering home price declines and stagnation from the very early '70s through the late '80s. The activated older generation put tons of pressure on the town to lower taxes by cutting expenses. We are now still paying for the mistakes my fellow Montclairions made then.. Back when we bought here in '88 the main attraction for us over other comparable towns was Montlair's Public Schools, which were then ranked #1 in New Jersey (I even recall one magazine naming us #1 in the nation in '89 or '90 or so), and.included FREE FULL-DAY PUBLIC PRE-K which was offered to all 4-year-olds. The Old Guard considered Pre-K to be an extravagance: free baby-sitting for the uppity newcomers. They also favored mothers to be stay-at-home moms. Cutting expenses was the populist movement then here, much as it is now, at least among the loud crowd. (Cont...)
notroc May 07, 2012 at 09:15 PM
(Cont.:) So, in order to cut education expenses, Montclair closed the Pre-K system, and sold the Washington Avenue, Grove Street and Southwest (South Mountain Avenue) schools. For the obscene total (in a negative way) of about $2,750,000. That's right - for ALL THREE school buildings (ponder the replacement cost of those facilities today). Of course a baby boom began - the biggest since the post-WWII boom - around the same time, which soon required more school facilities. As a result, our family and others began hemorrhaging tuition to MKA, and MKA, previously a sleepy little school, has thrived ever since. I like MKA, but Montclair is still paying the price. For example, $40 Million of Montclair's current debt is carried for the construction of the Bullock School as a direct result of the earlier school sales. Only one of those former properties of ours is generating any property tax, yet Deron and Sawtelle do tax us in municipal services,traffic and other issues. I don't recall the exact amounts that we've spent or committed to debt for building the current Pre-K or paying rent to the tax-free Vatican for Renaissance MS or rehabbing the Rand School for Renaissance, but mistakes do have consequences. I just hope we don't make a few more tomorrow...
Paine May 07, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Cary gave me the search watchtower lorterdan, which brings up several stories: http://www.freeminds.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3120:the-strange-saga-of-lorterdan-properties-at-ramapo-v-watchtower-of-new-york&catid=33:business&Itemid=348 According to pacer.gov, there appears to be an open lawsuit between Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. and Lorterdan Properties at Ramapo I, LLC Where’s Linda Moss when you need her? It looks like a serious real estate lawsuit. Maybe above Patch and Baristanet. Or, why don’t you give it a try Walleroo and RoC?
Tell it Straight May 07, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Meg, good stuff on that video. I f she were discussing both those subjects today, she would do a complete reversal. If you listen carefully, it's not only what she says, it is the tone she uses, which is clearly dismissive. Don't worry about anything Tery has to say, it's 6:15, well into his happy hour.
notroc May 07, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Paine - Oh, so on the eve of the election, you try to start a libelous rumor offensive about an impending lawsuit, which ends up being a rich (they expect to sell their current Brooklyn HQ for over $1 Billion) and powerful church trying to steal a $21 Million 250-acre piece of development property owned by one of the candidate's businesses? What, IBM, KPMG, Fox and Anderson don't sue or get sued?? Thanks a lot, "Real Progress" troll.
notroc May 07, 2012 at 10:43 PM
You've got it 180 degrees backward, "Dem". Somehow I'm not surprised. Mr. Jackson's company is suing the Jehova's Witnesses for their attempt to misappropriate a $21 Million property through fraud and crafty lawyering. Nice church, huh?
notroc May 07, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Hey Stuart - $40 Million of Montclair's $220 Million debt outstanding is due to Bullock. But you really should read my response to your 12:37 post regarding whom blew what. $10 Million was lost in tax appeals by my taxed enough already neighbors after the 2008 housing market crash. Learn your facts before trolling.
A. Gideon May 07, 2012 at 11:03 PM
It seems a little silly arguing who wasted the most money when we should instead be identifying the candidate who'd do the best job to eliminate further waste. We can argue about the past on Wednesday. Still, with respect to the cost of the school, please see: http://www.thejerseytomatopress.com/stories/New-Montclair-School-comes-in-9-Million-Under-Budget,4906 and http://www.northjersey.com/news/101882538_Bullock_School_construction_well_under_budget.html I myself would much rather spend money on a school than on refunds because a council chose to postpone the obviously necessary reassessment following the crash in housing prices. ...Andrew
Renter who can't afford Mtclr taxes May 07, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Wow, folks. Get. A. Grip! I'm beyond....beyond over this. Behave, be courteous! We're all nighbors!
OMG Montclair May 08, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Are you sure that this was the NY Times and not the Onion Karen Turner is quoted as wanting to put 6 year old students on NJ Transit Buses to save money for the schools transportation?
Montclair's Own May 08, 2012 at 12:09 AM
My oh my, what has this town become? The reason I moved here is being replaced by the reason I will leave...a population of me-firsters, nimby "liberals" and raging tea-party conservatives. If only this town reflected the ideals I thought it once did. Very sad.
Mara Novak May 08, 2012 at 01:25 AM
And here you are Paine, stirring up something, just as ROC predicted. And still unwilling to post under your real name. What makes you better than any of the other nameless maroons on this blog? You asked us to take your endorsements seriously. Hard to take anything you say seriously.
Stuart Weissman May 08, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Don't fret. Come tomorrow night, we will all go back to pretending we are friends again.
Prof. Roy Bittan May 08, 2012 at 01:52 AM
I've been monitoring these sites for the last few days and have grown incredibly tired with the outlandish attacks on the integrity of Karen Turner and her supporters. Based on some earlier posts I have done a little digging and look what I have found. I have a link about a lawsuit that Robert Jackson is involved in regarding his company Lorterdan Properties. Jackson is being sued and is suing in turn the Jehovahs Witnesses, in this case called The Watchtower Bible and Track Society of New York. I believe this information merits a read. Jackson has been promoting the idea that his commercial real estate skills ideally position him to help Montclair grow if he gets elected. How could that be the case if one of his biggest deals has gone south and could drive him into bankruptcy. In addition it appears Jackson was unable to manage $11 million dollars that was entrusted to him in the real estate deal with the Jehovah Witnesses. When the Jevovah's came for their money the money was gone. How can he be expected to manage our town's finances if he can't manage his own. Also if this lawsuit goes as expected Jackson will be driven out of business. How can we elect a mayor whose company is about to be or could be bankrupt. Does this mean he would get a job from the Essex County political machine? The rumor is that the county will take care of him no matter what. Very Scary. Please see for yourself
Prof. Roy Bittan May 08, 2012 at 01:53 AM
(continued) http://www.freeminds.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3120:the-strange-saga-of-lorterdan-properties-at-ramapo-v-watchtower-of-new-york&catid=33:business&Itemid=348
OMG Montclair May 08, 2012 at 02:00 AM
well then she could sell the 3rd ward to west Orange and then the 2nd Ward to verona and the 1st Ward to cliffton that should cover the debt
OMG Montclair May 08, 2012 at 02:03 AM
roy, I knew I would find you here, freeminds is a website to fight cults, how appropriate for a RPM supporter, it will come in handy if we get a turner term But for lawsuits, try lexisnexus and it will show you that the suit was settled in jackson's favor in 2009
montclairgurl May 08, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Maybe not. Some of these posters may not even live here. Hired guns can live anywhere.
Adam May 08, 2012 at 03:21 AM
The link referenced shows the case to be on-going. Jackson owes some people some serious dough.
Stuck in the Middle May 08, 2012 at 06:21 AM
The last time I checked, we are not voting for the campaign team, we are voting for the candidates. The RPM slate has 4 candidates -- and 2 of them are women. From the other 2 slates there are a combined 11 candidates and only 1 woman. You may not care much about that OMG, but I guess it depends on how you define diversity. The biggest town blunders in recent history (and happening currently) have been due to developers having their way with the Town Council -- The Sienna, Christopher Court, the Assisted Living Facility, etc. I WILL NOT vote for a candidate who is financially and philosophically aligned with the real estate oligarchy that treats this town like its own little fiefdom, which is why I WILL NOT vote for Jackson.
Stuart Weissman May 08, 2012 at 12:57 PM
notroc, I am not trolling and I know my facts. Had the town reassessed two years earlier, they would have saved about ten million dollars. My wife, an expert in this area, requested the town do this repeatedly and the professionals on the council (who to this day don't understand the process) was told we couldn't by someone they were not willing to name. Some towns revalue every year to avoid appeals. Instead of learning how other towns were avoiding the massive losses due to appeals, Fried was focused on Safe Streets and the great Chinese Cultural and Economical Exchange. In the end, Montclair had to bond to pay for the defense of the appeals and the refunds and the county gets to review every new town hire in exchange for the exception to the new law that says towns cannot bond to pay for appeals. In other towns, such as Glen Ridge, it's much more common for the town to accept appeal requests without going to hearing which saves legal costs and the county portion. In Montclair, they like to go to hearing and it costs the town tons. But, that's what happens when you think everyone down at Claremont is the tits, when actually many of them are hopelessly incompetent.
Stuart Weissman May 08, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I already am, though I own a small multifamily in the 4th ward still.
Sydney May 08, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Dear "Good Liberal"... You give Good Liberals a BAD NAME. Are you so ignorant that you would compare an independant running for Mayor to Michelle Bachmann? Are you so ignorant that you cry "diversity" but a political view that is reasonable and different sends you running for the hills? Do you have more allegiance to democrats and liberals than you do MONTCLAIR and your neighbors?
sydney May 08, 2012 at 01:41 PM
OMG Montclair-- You must not have read the directory for the Junior League recently. Anyway.. what a compliment to the women of the Junior Leauge. I should hope that women who are active community volunteers supporting childen-in-need in Essex County would support the right candidate.
Danielle May 08, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Your comment is very misleading. The Jehovahs Witnesses behaved very badly here as your own linked describes. The tone of your comment is quite bazaar & clearly a cheapshot.


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