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Editor’s note: This week’s Letters To The Editor section includes several letters from residents announcing their candidacy in the May municipal elections. Montclair Local invites anyone running for office in May to submit a letter explaining why they are running. These should be submitted no later than March 20; after the March 23 issue, Montclair Local will not publish any opinion pieces from municipal election candidates until after Election Day.

Spending millions to destroy the Reservation

There is growing county-wide resistance to plans by Essex County to spend $8.6 million to destroy more South Mountain Reservation to build another for-profit entertainment venue. The Coalition to Save South Mountain Reservation, comprised of 18 coalition members so far, including many residents of Montclair, has been created to stop this environmental destruction. 

Essex County plans to clear cut over 100 mature trees in the South Mountain Reservation to build a 500 seat outdoor amphitheater at Turtle Back Zoo. Animals will be exhibited with bright lights and a sound system five times per day.

What’s the downside of this project? In addition to irreplaceable habitat destruction, this will result in more congestion (increasing attendance to 1.2 million), flooding, noise and light pollution and add to climate change. No environmental impact statement has been produced.

This amphitheater is not necessary. The zoo already has an appropriately-sized amphitheater. Millions were recently spent on an indoor Education Center. Professionals say children learn best in smaller settings.

Since 2003, the county has destroyed 25 acres, carving an amusement park out of the reservation building a zip line, a mini golf course, McLoone’s restaurant and multiple parking lots, all at taxpayer’s expense. Now the county will seize 1.5 acres for this project and another 10 acres in the future. There is no end in sight.

The Reservation is historic. It was designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted (of Central Park fame) and should be preserved as open space for future generations. Once destroyed, forever lost.

Exploring the forest is an endless source of knowledge and entertainment. And it’s free.

The trees removed will be replaced by a 4:1 ratio, but the saplings take 25 years to reach maturity. A mature tree absorbs 11,000 gallons of water and 48 pounds of carbon a year. Our planet can’t wait. We are in the midst of a global climate crisis.

While the state of New Jersey has committed $4 million towards the $8.6 million price tag, these funds all come from our taxpayer dollars.

The zoo’s ongoing expansion hurts animals. Exotic species don’t belong here. One giraffe died after surgery for a tooth infection. Giraffes are locked in a barn 7 months of the year because of our cold temperatures. A lion died this summer.

Despite opposition and 11,500-plus petition signatures, the county has posted bids for construction and marked trees for removal. Visit coalitionsmr.org to sign the petition and to find out more.

A student-led Rally to Save the Reservation is planned for March 1 at noon in front of the Turtle Back Zoo. 

JOYCE RUDIN
Montclair

In favor of restorative practices 

I have two children in Montclair public schools and I am a criminal justice reform advocate. Last Sunday I attended a meeting at Glenfield Park organized by the NAACP where we talked about the school to prison pipeline, suspension and detention, and restorative practices sessions at school. Restorative practice is an excellent alternative to punitive methods, which we need to eradicate from school settings, and when it is well used is a fantastic tool to solve conflicts and prevent them from ever happening. This program can only survive with the support of the whole school community and the leadership of school principals and teachers. 

Therefore, I urge you to support the efforts for the implementation and expansion of the restorative justice program to all schools and to all students. Don’t let it die.

MARIA EVA DORIGO
Montclair

Don’t cut Social Security

Throughout my working years I paid social security taxes with the understanding that they would pay for my security after I retired. Now that I’m retired, our president has submitted cuts in such payments in his proposed budget. How unfair!

He has also proposed to cut Medicare payments, just as some candidates are proposing that we expand Medicare. This is just plain scary.

I have written to my two senators and my representative pleading with them to not pass any budget with these provisions. I hope others will too.

PAT KENSCHAFT
Montclair

Loughman announces run for council

I am pleased to announce that I have received official word from the Town Clerk that I, Carmel Loughman, will be on the ballot running for Councilor-at-Large in the May 12, Montclair municipal election. 

I am an underdog, long-shot candidate hoping for grassroots support, encouraged by the grit and determination of other women new to public life like our own Mikie Sherrill, who challenged the establishment and won elective office in 2018. 

I am particularly interested in efficiency, transparency and accountability of local government. Councilors must be effective stewards of taxpayers’ money, balancing benefits to the entire community as they address a myriad of town issues and make difficult decisions.  

An independent thinker, political moderate, and pragmatic problem-solver, I see myself in the mold of Amy Klobuchar or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, working methodically and collaboratively with others to get things done. 

I am fortunate that at this point in my life I can commit myself fully to public service. I enjoy public discourse and believe that offering my time and talent in the service of others brings immense satisfaction.  

My single political aspiration is to be a dedicated local public servant working with integrity and intelligence to solve the difficult issues Montclair faces. I hold independent views and will be a new voice with new ideas, working hard for all Montclair. 

My first challenge was getting enough signatures (420!) to get on the ballot. With that accomplished, I will now be pounding the pavement and knocking on doors to introduce myself and ask for Montclair’s vote.

Please visit my website, www.carmelloughman.org, for my background information.

CARMEL LOUGHMAN
Montclair

The author is a candidate for the Township Council in May.

Russo offers to continue on Montclair Council

I’m willing to answer the call of so many voters and residents to continue serving another term on the Montclair Town Council. 

I will continue progressive and stable government and fiscal policies started several years ago by the current mayor and council. 

I will focus on stabilizing rents, taxes and affordable housing for our growing Senior population and the many working families and middle and lower income residents who want to stay in Montclair. 

This includes my continued fight, since the years I was mayor, to get fair state and federal funding for our schools, especially in the area of special education. 

Reasonable development to control taxes and preservation of what makes Montclair so special will be the goal of my next years of service to this town I love.

BOB RUSSO
Montclair
The author is currently an at-large Township Councilman, and is up for re-election in May.

Hurlock to run for council re-election

As many of you know, I have been considering whether to run for office in 2020. I have been very fortunate to have the support of so many. After careful consideration and deliberation I have decided to run for the the First Ward seat on the Montclair Township Council. Thank you.

I am running to have the opportunity to continue the good work that we have undertaken over these last eight years — continuing on a path of fiscal responsibility as we pay down existing debt; sustaining our excellent debt rating, which saves us millions of dollars in interest payments, freeing taxpayer dollars for projects; and upgrading and replacing infrastructure in the First Ward, paving roads, replacing curbs, planting trees and upgrading playgrounds.

BILL HURLOCK
Montclair
The author is currently the First Ward Township Councilman, and is up for re-election in May.

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