Freeholder Brendan Gill responds to letter from constituent
I wanted to take this opportunity to respond to Michael Laser’s letter to the editor published in the Sept. 26 edition of Montclair Local. First and foremost, it has always been my policy to respond to citizens who contact me directly, and to provide answers to questions asked by the public during Freeholder Board meetings.
With respect to the issue of transparency, it is my hope that our new website will allow all members of the Freeholder Board to share their views publicly, and address various issues of concern in a transparent fashion. Two specific issues that have garnered a great amount of public attention are Essex County’s contract with ICE, and the need to replace county voting machines.
Over the last year, I have met with community organizations, members of the county administration, the clergy, and a multitude of concerned citizens on these issues. During this process, I have been open in expressing my position, while doing my best to keep the public informed.
Regarding the voting machines, I have been an active leader in advocating for Essex County to purchase machines that employ the use of optical scanners and verifiable paper ballots for quite some time. I have stated this on record at multiple Freeholder Board meetings, and I articulated this position in an op-ed published by the Star-Ledger on April 22, 2019. This op-ed, titled “The Urgency of Protecting our Voting Process, Our Elections, and Our Democracy,” can be found on our new website. Additionally, I recently participated in a nationwide Secure the Vote Rally with organizations such as BlueWave NJ, Our Revolution Essex, and the SOMA Action Committee to make my position clear on the need for the county to purchase and implement these machines.
As part of the Essex County’s pilot program, this upcoming election day, Nov. 5, 2019, voters at the Montclair Fire House on Pine Street will use machines that employ optical scanners and verifiable paper ballots. Although the Essex County Board of Elections will make the final decision on the purchase of these machines, I am confident that we can meet the goal of having them in place at all Essex County polling places by the general election of 2020.
Protecting the accuracy and veracity of our election results is an issue of the highest urgency. As president of the Board of Freeholders, and as a citizen who values democracy, I will continue to advocate for the exclusive use of paper ballot voting machines throughout Essex County.
My position on the County’s contract with ICE consists of three points of focus: Providing universal legal representation for undocumented detainees being held in the Essex County Correctional Facility due to their immigration status; establishing an Independent Citizen Oversight Committee of the ECCF; and implementing a plan for Essex County to engage in a responsible wind-down of the contract.
Earlier this year, county administration accepted my proposal to provide funds in this year’s budget for the legal services of undocumented detainees. I am proud of this significant first step on the pathway towards universal legal representation, and I will continue to work towards that goal. In addition, I have been working with the ACLU and the county administration on implementing the first Independent Citizen Oversight Committee of a county correctional facility. During this process, I will continue to encourage the administration to wind down the contract with ICE in a responsible manner.
As a lifelong resident of Montclair, I care deeply about the concerns voiced by our community on these issues, and I have done my best to respond. Our community has a history of activism and engagement, and it is great to see the continuation of this legacy.
The author is President of the Essex County Board of Freeholders.
Archdiocese, Rev. Benny Prado show their colors
I’ve been struggling with writing this letter in condemning the Archdiocese of Newark, and the Rev. Benny Prado, while at the same time being diplomatic and respectful.
After giving this matter much thought I have decided that they do not deserve diplomacy nor respect but instead, deserve condemnation, because they have acted disgracefully with another slap in the face to the parishioners of Our Lady Of Mount Carmel Church.
In the Sunday, Oct. 6, church bulletin for St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, the Rev. Benny Prado — I’m sure, with the approval of the Archdiocese of Newark — placed a special highlighted notice to all parishioners to boycott the Tricky Tray fundraiser scheduled for Nov. 3.
This Tricky Tray is sponsored by the (Community Outreach Program) for Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, in which all the revenue raised would be for the betterment of Mount Carmel.
Last years fundraising generated over $28,000 that well paid for our boiler. How low can they get? We have an air conditioning system that has been inoperable for over three years, a roof that needs repairs and leaks in the ceiling so bad that a section of the church has been roped off for the safety of the faithful attending mass.
The Archdiocese and Rev. Benny have stated publicly they don’t have the money to make the necessary repairs. Nonsense. They found money to make all repairs at Immaculate Conception Church with no problem.
To add insult to injury, they have cut our masses to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, and for the past four months Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church has been without music at the Saturday mass. Immaculate Conception Church has a full schedule of masses with music.
I can go on with the disgraceful way we have been treated for the past four years, however I think the readers of this letter get the picture.
To make such a public statement in favor of boycotting the Tricky Tray, after all our attempts to raise money to make the necessary repairs; to eliminate our traditional feast that has been going on for over 100 years and any other money generating events: it is obvious they want us to fail, so that they have a legitimate reason to close Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and cash in on the property’s value.
I urge all parishioners of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, as well any other citizens, to disregard such a negative and un-Christian message from the pastor, a supposed servant of Christ, and to instead purchase tickets to our Tricky Tray. For tickets and more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a private table, or an individual seat.
Let’s show The Archdiocese of Newark and the Rev. Benny Prado what true Christians are made of. With help we can combat the disgraceful way parishioners of Our Lady Of Mount Carmel Church have been treated since the inception of the Rev. Benny Prado as our pastor.
If the Archdiocese of Newark and the Rev. Benny Prado are serious about keeping Our Lady of Mount Carmel open, may I suggest that you use the $80,000 you stole from us in the merger — the $5,000 per month generated by renting our parking lot to Mountainside Hospital, he $2,000 in rent for our rectory for the past three years, and the endowment money left by a parishioner solely for use by Our Lady of Mount Carmel for the repairs and upkeep of the boiler and air conditioning system.
May God bless America and Our Lady of Mount Carmel church.
THOMAS J. RUSSO
Celebrate Spring! Celebrate May in Montclair!
Every spring, Montclair residents enjoy the colorful splendor of tulips and daffodils that cover our town. Since 1979, “May in Montclair” has donated tulips for planting in our schools, parks, and business districts.
This spectacular floral display, which draws visitors from all over, is a source of pride for our town. May in Montclair needs your donations so they can purchase the bulbs for planting. Please Think Spring! and donate to May in Montclair.