I wanted to share some updates and thoughts with you before we enter the summer season.
First, it is a Really Good News Day Today for Montclair!
Today we learned that the Shultz House has been saved. It is being purchased by a local family to live in. For the last year, I've had many meetings with my colleagues, the Montclair History Center and developers in hopes of finding a solution. While I had nothing to do with this resolution, I am elated by it.
We also learned that DeCamp will resume some service in June with more to come in time. This was something many of you have written me about and I discussed with County Commissioner Brendan Gill a few weeks ago and it is welcome news.
If you're an eco-warrior like me, you'll also be excited to know that we announced today that we will be piloting a styrofoam recycling program, with drop off on Saturdays in June and July at 219 N. Fullerton from 9a-12pm
On COVID-19 Vaccines: We are still seeing some positive cases in town. Please help the cause by making sure everyone you know who is eligible for a vaccine gets vaccinated. Resources are abundant as are services, so please reach out to me or visit essexcovid.org if you know someone who for some reason is unable to obtain one.
On Masks: Please note that the Governor has rescinded the mask mandate in outdoor public spaces. Montclair never adopted a mask mandate of our own -- rather, we followed the Governor's direction. Therefore it is no longer required that masks be worn in outdoor public places in Montclair, regardless of vaccination status or social distancing prospects. Masks are still required indoors until Friday. Note the details and exceptions here.
On Schools: We know all students will have been back or will be back in school on a hybrid schedule by June 1st. I know the district is considering possibly opening elementary schools full time for the last couple of weeks. This would be welcome. We also know the Governor has mandated that all schools in NJ be open for full time in person learning this fall. I do not see any reason why the district wouldn't be able to comply but continue to urge all parties to speak up if there is something they need that they aren't getting. I also now hope to see a strong pivot to addressing learning loss and social challenges inevitably caused by such a long stretch of virtual learning.
You may have also seen that I called for extensive capital investment in our schools now while interest rates are low and our credit rating is strong. I reviewed the E.I. proposal before the Board of Education and while it tackles some important, fundamental work that must be done quickly; it was lacking significantly on medium and long term vision. I urge the district to scope out a comprehensive needs assessment that addresses both the backlog of work that is needed and assesses and plans for needs in the next 1-10 years.
You may have also seen that Vote Montclair was successful in their push to put the question of an elected vs. appointed school board on the ballot this November. More on that and my plans and comments here.
On the Budget:
Next to managing land use, the budget is the most important thing we manage as a Council. For the last 40 days or so, I dove into every crack and crevice of it wanting to both understand and influence it. I fought hard to cut spending and keep our tax increase below 2% and thanks to the creativity of our staff and collaboration with my colleagues, we achieved that while also finding some more money for the library. But this entire process also leaves me with many questions and many more areas to explore and I will be sharing my thoughts on different ways to approach our budget planning in the coming weeks.
In a personal capacity and with a lot of help, my associates and I launched Out Montclair -- a new LGBTQ educational and community organization for the LGBTQ+ community (and allies) in and around Montclair. We just announced 9 events with two more in the works. To learn more, visit outmontclair.org to get on the list.
We've set hours for the pop-up skate park as 9am - 8pm 24/7/365 and even got them a temporary bathroom too. And if next year's capital budget doesn't include the words "Skate Park", I'm not voting for it. So, know that the Mayor, my colleagues and I will continue to be working on this.
Thanks to the hard work of owner Angelica Flores and the help of Councilman David Cummings and my former running mate James Cotter; I was able to work with American Express to ensure Ray's had strong consideration for one of the company's recently announced $40,000 historic grants. I'm pleased to share that Ray's is the only restaurant in NJ to win this award.
Thanks for reading. Follow me via social links below and look for a call to action from me to the Governor in the next day or so about the Essex Hudson Greenway. It's make or break time on that. I'll also be dropping what I'm calling the "LGBTQ+ Equality Agenda" for Montclair later this week.
Be well and safe.