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Will Mayor-Elect Jackson Be Able To Heal A Divided Town?

Karen Turner seeks to set the record straight Wednesday


Robert Jackson, elected mayor Tuesday night by a wide margin—and others on his Montclair 2012 slate—have vowed to move Montclair forward and to start the healing process following a long and contentious race.

"I guarantee you there will be a big difference. A new Montclair. A new future," he told supporters Tuesday night.

But will he be able to bring together a town that became increasingly divided between supporters of three very different slates over the last few weeks?

Tim Barr, who ran as an at-large candidate on the For Montclair slate, said there absolutely has to be some healing.

"We all care about the town ... I think it would be helpful for [Jackson] to use the ideas of those who didn't get elected ... I think many of those who ran had some good ideas that will be worth listening to," he said.

Fifth District Freeholder Brendan Gill said he also hopes Jackson will reach out to those he beat.

"I think he should call those people and sit down with those people and mend fences so to speak," he said. "Asking what they think should be done as a sign that you will be an inclusive leader.

"The worst thing is when good people run for office and then you never hear from them again," he said.

Gill noted that politics is such a funny business in that, if six out of 10 people are happy with what you're doing, you are a superstar.

Former Mayor Bob Russo, who won an at-large seat on Jackson's Montclair 2012 slate, said he hoped people would be able to put aside their differences and work towards a better Montclair.

"We're going to have to work together," he said.

But it may take awhile.

In the last few weeks, the race—especially between the Montclair 2012 and the Real Progress Montclair slates—grew increasingly heated.

Montclair 2012 accused mayoral candidate Karen Turner of being against beloved Montclair institutions such as the library and the pre-k.

On Wednesday morning, Turner emailed out an audio recording that, she says, proves she is not against the arts or the library.

A few days ago, Montclair 2012 had emailed out a press release that included an audio tape of Turner’s remarks at a Sept. 30, 2010 council meeting in which she seemed to question the need for the Montclair Public Library, arts programs and funding for shade trees. Listen to the audio here.

Turner said Wednesday morning that she's "mortified that people might believe I don't support the arts or the library. I never said anything about the pre-k in this audio. They cut, paste, and dubbed this audio recording. Too little too late, I know, but if you listen to the whole thing, it shows that I was asking questions about the library, not suggesting to close it, and it stated I support the arts and shade trees. I also make an offer to help the town deliver a balanced budget. I also give Renee [Baskerville] a shout out of support in this audio for the ideas she suggested."

In a later email, Turner said: "I just went back and listened to the one used by Jackson. They didn't dub, but they certainly took it out of context."

Listen for yourself as the full video, emailed by Turner, is attached. 

Meanwhile, many of the candidates who ran were gracious in defeat on Wednesday morning.

Jeff Jacobson, who ran in the third ward on the For Montclair slate, said he was not surprised by Jackson's victory.

"Anyone who saw Mr. Jackson's performance at the CGI debate at the High School should not be surprised," he said. "He gave a commanding performance, answering tough and unpredictable questions thoughtfully and always with a positive spirit.

"I later watched him answer questions from a restaurant full of Republicans and do much the same thing," he added. "That Mayor-elect Jackson loves Montclair and has a bold vision for its future is not remotely in doubt. And if he is able to run Montclair as effectively as he ran his campaign, we'll be in good shape."

Jackson ran on two sweeping themes—more development for Montclair to bring in new tax ratables and selling municipal services to neighboring towns through more shared services agreements.

"The voters gave him nearly his entire slate to be his partners on the council," Jacobson noted. "It therefore will be easy for the voters to judge his performance.

"We should all wish him and the new council well and support them however we can," he said.

Deputy Mayor Kathryn Weller-Demming, who had run as an independent at-large candidate, said Wednesday that she is thrilled with the results of the election.

"I think the voters of Montclair made really great choices, and we will all be well served by the 2012-2016 Montclair Township Council," she said. "I have really enjoyed serving the residents of Montclair, and feel truly confident that the accomplishments of the past few years will be exceeded, and we will all be able to remain in the community with values that we love."

Peter Simon May 10, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Andrew, First, I think you give too much weight to the dialogue, such as it is, that went on here and at Baristanet. That dialogue was frequently flat-out offensive and divisive at times. But isn't it conceivable, even in this day and age, that there were more Montclair residents who got their impressions of the candidates from some form of personal contact with them or their supporters than from these two internet hothouses? If it *is* conceivable, then I would hope that you can concede that it's possible that Jackson pretty consistently impressed the people he talked to or with, and that the other two candidates didn't do so as consistently. The reports that I read and heard described in conversation suggest that Jackson did well in the debate format, for example. On the dismay you're expressing regarding substance versus surface, of *course* I understand where you're coming from, and I agree on some level, too. But in politics, it has ever been thus. Have you ever read any of (UVA psychologist) Jonathan Haidt's books? His latest, THE RIGHTEOUS MIND, is *so good* on the almost unavoidable role that our emotions play in our deliberations about politics, morality, and so much else. On the question of whether it's about 'winning': of course it is! If you don't win, you can't do any of the other things you feel you need to do. Again, Politics 101. BTW, I voted for the For Montclair slate, with my other "at large" vote going to LeAnn Carlson.
montclairgurl May 10, 2012 at 07:35 PM
"Third, I am very disappointed in Baristanet and, somewhat less so, with the Patch for attempting to create a post-election issue of "outsiders" coming up from (code-word) "Newark" to hand out leaflets. " Considering the flack from the Jackson slate over having local Glenfield students pass out leaflets for the RPM slate, upon learning Jackson was doing exactly the same thing using out of town (West Orange, code for West Orange) students to do the same. This is not creating an issue. This is an issue.
A. Gideon May 10, 2012 at 07:47 PM
"On the question of whether it's about 'winning': of course it is! If you don't win, you can't do any of the other things you feel you need to do. Again, Politics 101." Voting is about choosing between what one candidate feels the need to do and another candidate feels the need to do. If each candidate expresses his or her plan, and the voters choose which they prefer, what is wrong with being the losing candidate? Why the need to win, even if winning means that the voters are not actually choosing the plan they'd choose absent all the hyperbole? "it's possible that Jackson pretty consistently impressed the people he talked to or with" Of course. It's also possible that people were swayed to vote as they did because of his claim that RPM engaged in racist attacks, or that they were closet tea partiers. The problem here is that Mr. Jackson cannot know that his plan would be the one chosen by the voters absent all the other noise. Maybe it would be. But maybe it would not be. I would find that uncertainty discomforting in his place. I personally would much rather present a plan rejected by the voters than win without any certainty that my proposed plan was in fact what brought me the victory. ...Andrew
A. Gideon May 10, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Since I believe that a program which provides credit for community service should absolutely include the option of serving a political campaign, and since my kids will shortly age into Glenfield, this is an issue to which I will give continued attention. Esp. if the incoming administration is willing to use students earning credit in this way from other school districts, there's no reason to deny our students the same opportunity to serve while earning credit. ...Andrew
Peter Simon May 10, 2012 at 08:17 PM
I definitely agree with you, there, Andrew. That is why, long before the election, many people--myself included--were so put off by the ad hominem attacks, snide taunts, and hyperbolic rhetoric that was repeatedly posted by the (mostly anonymous) commenters on B'net and Patch who later became some of RPM's most ardent defenders in these forums. They didn't do RPM any favors.


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