Following opposition from local merchants and her own belief that it just wasn’t ready for a vote, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville withdrew a proposed ordinance on Tuesday night that would have required service businesses to post their prices.
Baskerville pulled the matter off the agenda after roughly a half dozen business owners appeared at the Township Council meeting to raise concerns about the ordinance, which mandated that “retail service establishments” prominently display their prices.
“Yes, this particular ordinance needs a lot more consideration,” Baskerville said. “And I’m hopeful that it does not just disappear and go on the back burner …. The ordinance, as it is existing now, is not something that I think any of us are comfortable with.”
She added that she hoped that discussions about how to stop price discrimination based on gender, an issue that first came to light in 2015 via complaints to the township’s Civil Rights Commission, would continue.
The retail businesses covered by the ordinance were to “include but not be limited to” tailors, dry cleaners, laundries, barbers, hair and nail salons, shoe repair shops, appliance and furniture repair shops, and tax preparers.
Businesses expressed their concern about various aspects of the ordinance, in part claiming that it was duplicating state regulations regarding posting pricing, was too vague and difficult to enforce.
“Who’s going to regulate it and how?” asked Irfan Raja, owner of Waxing the City. “Today my salon is regulated by the N.J. Board of Cosmetology, who governs the guidelines for my display of price and services. There is a price menu at checkout that lists everything that we offer.”
He added that not only his business but many of those listed in the ordinance are also state regulated.
Jason Gleason, general manager of the Pig & Prince at Lackawanna Plaza, said he was worried about the ordinance language that said it was “not to be limited to” the type of businesses listed.
“There are glaring problems in this town,” he told the council. “Why are we wasting time on this?”
And Dawn Fabbro, a co-owner of Fleet Street, said that her store not only sells shoes but also provides services, such as shoe and bra fittings, in order to stave off online competition, which could put the shop under the ordinance’s mandate.
“In 30 years, I have never heard this come up. …The ordinance as it is written now is not clear,” Fabbro said.
The ordinance would have imposed a fine of $200 for the first violation of the ordinance, $300 for the second offense, and $500 for third and subsequent offenses.
Baskerville said that price discrimination based on gender, one sex paying more for certain services than the other, was a national problem, adding that 42 percent of females pay more than males do in the United States for services. But she agreed that the proposed ordinance needed work.
“There is price discrimination in Montclair, whether it’s a sign that says ‘dad’s cut,’ a ‘mom’s cut,’ or other things,” Baskerville said. “People are grappling with how do we address this and how do we come up with legislation to effectively deal with it.”
At the urging of Mayor Robert Jackson, at the meeting the council voted down on second reading an ordinance that would have had the township regulate crane operators doing work in the municipality and require them to purchase permits.
“My reason for calling for a vote is I just want to vote it down,” Jackson said. “This is nonsense.”
The mayor said there was still confusion over to what degree the state regulates crane operators and what jurisdiction, if any, the township has, and that no action should be taken “until we get some good information.”
The mayor and council voted 4-1, with Baskerville the only no vote, to reappoint Deputy Mayor William Hurlock and Councilman-at-Large Rich McMahon to the Township School Board of Estimate. Councilman-at-large Bob Russo and Second Ward Councilwoman Robin Schlager were not at the meeting. Baskerville questioned why they were only being now reappointed to that body even though they have participated in meetings to talk about next year’s school budget.
“I don’t think we ever officially did the reappointment,” Jackson said.