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Leaving Office: Mayor Fried's Final Thoughts

The mayor talks about the last four years.


This week brings Mayor Jerry Fried's final days in office. On Sunday, July 1, a new mayor, Robert Jackson, will be sworn in. Patch asked Fried about his time as mayor.

Q) What have you been most proud of these last four years?

A) Bringing in outstanding new senior staff (Manager, Attorney, Judge), appointing a transformative Board of Education, using Montclair's first BOE advisory committee, investing in our future (South Park Street in particular), promoting "smart growth" development through Gateway redevelopment plan and projects like CentroVerde/assisted-living facility/Hillside Square and others, lowest tax increases in memory, reassessment to rebalance tax burden after years of appeals, preserving Montclair's quality of life and values despite budget challenges (through volunteerism/fundraising for Township activities/restructuring local government/management efficiency/budget cuts), getting weekend NJTransit service, adopting the State's first Complete Streets policy three months before New Jersey adopted its own, and various sustainability initiatives like our Sustainable Jersey certification/grants, outreach to kids (via "Energy Ambassadors" initiative), more bike/pedestrian advocacy. And visits from dozens of Chinese kids who stayed with Montclair families and learned about America right here in town while we learned about China from them.

Q) What projects do you hope the new council will carry on with?

A) All of the above, particularly working with NJDOT to extend "Transit Oriented Development" all the way through our Central Business District through implementing a pilot "local shuttle" (we were not awarded a NJTPA grant this year, but should be able to get it in 2014).

Q) Were there things in the last four years you learned that surprised you?

A) Learning that the main enemy of progress in local government is not disagreements over policy direction. It is really paralysis, which afflicts legislators who shy away from change because of fears of creating conflicts, overconfidence in existing methods/staff, and valuing loyalty over skill/experience.

Q) How will you stay involved once you leave office?

A) I have applied for a future seat on the Environmental Commission (I don't think there are any vacancies at this time). I'll stay involved in regional efforts through Building One NJ and my transportation-related job at Rutgers/NJDOT.

Q) You've said that your job really isn't a thankless job, as some might think. Do you believe people have appreciated what you and the council have accomplished?

A) Many have, many haven't. If a mayor or elected official hasn't upset several people along the way, he/she probably hasn't accomplished very much.

What would you like to ask the mayor before he leaves office? Let us know in the comments section below.

Stuart Weissman June 27, 2012 at 02:17 PM
POTUS should be PILOT in first comment. Sorry. This council was the most dysfunctional council in the history of Montclair. The list of errors made are endless. Fried was an arrogant fool and it showed the most when he chose to ignore the will of the council in trying to extend his own term through referendum. Then there was the buying off of Baskersville by placing her on a committee in exchange for her vote in support of Ira's hiring. There ware the parking authority debacles, the poor handling of the Irene cleanup, the highest municipal tax increases in Essex county and the bonding of the tax refund debt necessitating the county review of every town hire. As Rome burned, Fried focused on bike lockers, complete streets, and China. The proposed Wildwood Tract sale too was a terrible decision as was selling off two pieces of town property to pay operating costs. And of course, there is still no RFP for the outsourcing of sanitation though it was promised years ago. The only thing Fried successfully accomplished as mayor was parlaying his job into a job at the state level. I do not doubt for one minute that he called his constituents 'angry' as quoted by the Montclair Times. For they justifiably are! Nice job running Weller-Demming's relection campaign btw.
Louis Fontana June 27, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Stuart, The Fried Council was certainly "dysfunctional," but the Remsen Council -- which has one of its members returning to office on July 1 -- was much, much worse in terms of fiscal policies. The financial hole Montclair is in today stems from the Remsen years (and before that, the Russo years). Let's see what "experience" can do.
Stuart Weissman June 27, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I was here for all three. The Fried council would have been equally as bad had they not been working in a recession. Don't forget, they tried hard to purchase the 3.5 million senior care center among other things. Only the loss in tax revenue made it impossible to spend. If I recall correctly, Fried still supported the purchase of the Senior Care center even after Mark reported the drastic drop in tax revenues. The people of Montclair voted back in Jackson and Russo. Can't wait to see the town live by their decision to ignore the fiscal train wreck that is Montclair. No one is willing to take their medicine. Eventually everyone will die.
allaboutthenumbers123 June 27, 2012 at 06:01 PM
The people of Montclair did vote back in Jackson and Russo. However, if you look through the NJELEC forms on-line, you'll see that over 70% of the reported contributors were people or organizations from outside of Montclair. Large amounts came from Unions.
Stuart Weissman June 27, 2012 at 06:50 PM
There are two union leaders on the future council. I highly doubt this will help with the control of expenses. I also highly doubt the citizens of Montclair will ever be able to obtain an RFP on the outsourcing of anything anytime soon. We'll just have to trust that the municipal workers are being as efficient as possible at the lowest cost. Sounds like a solid strategy doesn't it? Have you been following the thread on the watercooler about the single stream recycling? I wonder how much $ Montclair loses when they can't sell the paper separately from the plastic and metal? You'll never know. You'll just have to trust them.

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