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State must require all votes be counted
The decision reached last week between the League of Women Voters, NAACP and Secretary Way, which established a notice-and-cure process for mail-in and provisional ballots in New Jersey’s July 7 primary election, is tremendous news for New Jersey voters who will vote in the election.
As with the other ex-post-facto adjustments Gov. Murphy has ordered to remedy the flawed vote-by-mail-only process that was used in the May 12 Montclair municipal elections and others, this is a welcome next step moving the state toward having in place an elections process that will ensure that every vote cast will be fully and fairly counted.
The unfortunate matter is that roughly 1,086 Montclair voters risked their comfort — and in some instances their health — to exercise what is for them and so many others the most important right in this democracy, the right to vote, and more particularly, the right to vote unfettered and have your vote count. I urge and encourage Gov. Murphy to consider taking his remedial action one step further.
The proposed action does nothing to give back to the voters who were not counted in the May 12 elections their most prized right, their vote. In Montclair, more than 400 voters had their vote denied due to signature flaws. Hundreds of others had their vote denied due to the failure of the post office to put its stamp on ballots, and others still were denied the franchise because of the early closure of some of the post offices the last two days of the election, and the strict adherence to the 48-hour rule, when the post office suggested that COVID-19 made it impossible for them to meet standard service times.
I urge Gov. Murphy to take executive action to give back the most powerful weapon in our participatory democracy to those who voted in the May 12 election fully expecting that their votes would be counted, only to learn after the result was certified that untrained signature-reviewing officials rejected their ballots because they thought the signature did not match an earlier one.
In the spirit of thanksgiving for what Gov. Murphy and Secretary Way have done and are continuing to do to right the voting process for the July 7 elections, I humbly request that the governor issue an executive order consistent with the broad and equitable measures he has put in place using lessons from the May 12 elections, to ensure an equitable process for the May 12 elections, requiring that all votes cast with the expectation that the ballots would be counted must be counted.
When in doubt about the status of votes cast, New Jersey must err on the side of participatory democracy and the voters. This equitable action would make whole the 1,086 Montclair voters whose votes were not counted, as well as those whose votes were not counted in other May 12 elections. It would position the state of New Jersey as a gold standard bearer in our evolving democracy, for such times as these.
RENÉE BASKERVILLE, M.D.
The author is the current Fourth Ward councilor and was a candidate in the May mayoral election.
Council should take action to aid businesses
I recently wrote to outgoing and incoming elected representatives of Montclair with a request for action to support local businesses in, and the people of, Montclair.
Shortly after this letter was sent the town launched its local business recovery plan. While some of the letter’s concerns are addressed, the thrust of it has not been. I do not see the energy, imagination, and urgency needed to help support the citizens and businesses of Montclair.
Surrounding towns have all worked to support local businesses with changing outdoor seating and parking fees. Until recently, we’ve heard nothing from Montclair except for comments from Mayor Jackson on revenues from parking. To call this an insensitive response would be an understatement. This to people who are holding on by a thread to their businesses, which draw people to live, work, shop, and eat in Montclair! A promise to “work to close streets to create additional outdoor space for patrons” is just not good enough.
The township grant funding for businesses of $150,000 is, frankly, pathetic. Mayor Jackson said “I know of no other New Jersey municipality that has offered grant funding to its businesses for recovery purposes.”
While this might be the case, a grant of $1,000 is not going to make a whole lot of difference for many businesses. It certainly doesn’t justify asking applicants to certify that they will make their best effort not to furlough or lay off any individuals from the time of application through six months after the end of the declared state of emergency, and, if they have already furloughed or laid off workers, make a best-effort pledge to rehire them as soon as possible.
Grant recipients are expected to retain all receipts and documents pertaining to the grant for 12 years! Even the IRS only expects people to hold onto paperwork for seven. This grant is another example of a small, not very helpful gesture, burdened with unnecessary requirements, painted to make the council look good.
Surrounding towns and cities all over the world have come up with creative solutions to allow more space for pedestrians and bikes so that people can keep a safe distance as they navigate the streets. Bike/Walk Montclair has submitted a number of suggestions, and all we see is nothing. Sean Spiller is concerned about paying for this and “policing.” Setting up a barrier at the entrances to Church Street and Park Street would cost literally nothing and would create a pedestrian zone. The country, indeed the world, has had more than enough of policing. This was not a sensitive or useful response at all.
Small business owners are on the very edge of extinction. Restaurants have reopened with such limited capacity that they will be mostly operating at a loss. It is not the time to talk about the cost to the town of doing whatever it takes to make Montclair safely navigable for residents and visitors. It is and should be recognized as part of the social contract a town has to its inhabitants.
The public pools remain closed with no information about if, when, or how they will reopen. Meanwhile the private pool clubs have reopened. The town needs to have a clear directive on whether or not pools should be open, not one rule for those who can afford private membership and another for the users of the public pools. Either Montclair deems it safe to swim or not.
As always, communication from the town council is missing. Why does the council not share regular updates with those who live here? There is an abundance of social media, local press and, of course, the town website available. To highlight this, the free 15-minute metered parking was not widely shared information. You’d think we could have had some signage on the streets to let people know, but zip, nada, nothing.
The only elected representatives who responded to my letter were Renee Baskerville and Bob Russo. While I appreciated them replying, there was nothing concrete or substantive in their responses.
We are all in this for the long haul. Montclair needs to get with the program and make prompt, nimble, and creative changes for our brave new world. Thus far most of the heavy lifting has been done by local nonprofits; it’s way beyond time the town stepped up.
Support our hurting restaurants
On Father’s Day, our family celebration included picking up a full dinner from Corso 98. I asked Corso 98’s co-owner (with his wife Lisa) Elio Suriano about the rumor that they were going out of business.
He acknowledged that the last 3½ months have been extremely hard, as he had to lay off his wait staff, put their building on the market, and was still considering all options.
Corso 98 has been at 98 Walnut St. since 1997 and like other Montclair restaurants has innovated and invested by setting up outdoor tables, but on Father’s Day they were all empty!
Now is the time to show our support — at Corso 98 and the many other wonderful Montclair restaurants — by making the most of the summer weather to safely dine al fresco.