Montclair’s 2020 municipal election is underway right now, with voters asked to mail in their ballots by May 12. Voters will choose a new mayor and six Township Council seats in the town’s nonpartisan elections. To help Montclair residents make an informed choice, Montclair Local asked all 14 municipal candidates a series of questions on some of the key issues facing the town going forward.
In the Fourth Ward election, David Cummings is running unopposed. Incumbent Renee Baskerville is running for mayor:
What do you see as the number one problem facing Montclair’s educational system? What would solve it?
DAVID CUMMINGS: This doesn’t really come under the purview of a council member. The mayor appoints board members and oversees the Board of School Estimate. As a councilor, I will respect all appointments.
From a personal standpoint, I believe not hiring a permanent superintendent who had previous experience as a superintendent has been the number one issue with our school district and appointment of board members who have had secret agendas.
What are your thoughts on the gentrification of Montclair? What specifically could be done to help keep Montclair diverse?
DAVID CUMMINGS: As a native of Montclair, I can tell you gentrification has severely impacted the number of black families in town and particularly in the Fourth Ward.
In essence, gentrification has slowly eradicated the diverse (black) population that many people say made Montclair attractive to them.
But you also have to clarify diversity, are you talking about racial diversity, socioeconomic diversity? We have a lot of gay couples, interracial couples. That’s a form of diversity.
What your question hints at is the fact historically the term diversity was used to indicate Montclair had a significant population of black people. Over time because housing prices have gone up and realtors started showing prospective buyers homes in the Fourth Ward, working-class people can no longer afford to purchase a house or even rent in Montclair.
How to keep the town diverse is a challenge no one has been able to answer.
Many recent developments have not set aside 20 percent of new residential units as affordable as required by a township council ordinance. Do you believe in the 20 percent set-aside? How can more affordable housing be created? Are you for or against rent control?
DAVID CUMMINGS: The Council has met the COAH requirements, and they have established that new developments provide 10 percent affordable units or houses, and 10 percent for teachers, police officers, or firefighters in the township.
I believe in the 20 percent set-aside, and I’m for rent control.
To create more affordable housing might require the Township identifying property it currently owns and using those locations for affordable housing.
I would also like to consider any new development meet a 20 percent set-aside for minority and or women businesses as vendors on all new projects in town.
What ideas do you have to solve parking problems in Montclair? Are you for or against lifting the overnight ban and should residents get priority on lot permits?
DAVID CUMMINGS: We’re a small town with dense entertainment sections. Parking is going to be an issue because many people come here to dine and for entertainment.
The overnight ban needs to be carefully reviewed. On some residential streets and in some neighborhoods, overnight parking might not be desirable.
You also have locations where it makes sense. Look at the homes on Orange Road across from the hotel. Some of those properties don’t have driveways.
There are some streets and neighborhoods where overnight parking would be untenable.
Does the new demolition oversight law go far enough in preserving Montclair’s history and character? What else would help?
DAVID CUMMINGS: I think the ordinance, if applied as written, does enough to help preserve the character of the town.
A key to me is relying on members of the Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Board to do their jobs independently and provide the council with recommendations that follow the law, and the council accepting those recommendations.
It’s essential to maintain the history and character of the town. This has been a topic for years and will remain a topic because of the number of historically significant structures in town.
Montclair has undergone a huge redevelopment boom in the last five years. How do you see this affecting Montclair, both good and bad?
DAVID CUMMINGS: I want to make it clear that redevelopment and development are not the same.
If you’re talking about purchasing old houses and upgrading them to be sold or rented out, that can be good and bad. You have a chance to turn an older house into a nicer home, improving the neighborhood.
But if it’s a rental, you’re looking at higher rents, which is one reason many working-class families cannot afford to stay here or move here.
I’d like to see the township push hard on vacant properties potentially allocated for affordable housing.
What is an issue in town (not otherwise addressed) that you feel strongly about, and how would you approach it if elected?
DAVID CUMMINGS: It’s important to me that every part of town has the same quality of life.
I think all parks should be in the same shape. I believe all wards should be safe, all streets in good condition, and all neighborhoods get what they need and not what residents want.
To do that, I will commit to working collaboratively with council members and always consider how each decision we make impacts everyone and every neighborhood.