Out on a Limb

by Christine Adams Beckett

The mayoral campaign is entering it’s final, dramatic stage in Montclair: low budget cardboard signs are decorating many a front lawn, the on line local news websites are clogged with articles about the candidates’ respective platforms and post scripted with stinging responses from readers, many under the cowardly guise of an alias.  There are rarely aired programs on the public access television channels, featuring debates between these civic-minded individuals that are willing to act as the Scape Goat of the Next Four Years.  Ours is a tough crowd, filled with outspoken, over-educated people who are more than willing to lend their opinions.  Loudly.

Most opinions as of late surround fiscal responsibility, budget cuts and our ever-rising property taxes.  Recently there have been so many challenges to the township’s assessment of individual properties that they decided to splurge and reassess everyone after the 2008 Real Estate Apocalypse.  The bubble burst in all of our faces, leaving us griping.  The gripers hired lawyers.  So did the municipality, leaving them with legal fees approaching two million dollars, so the town ordered a full reassessment of all houses in our township to avoid further debacle.

That is only one example of what has sunk our town into a cup of boiling financial water, much like a bag of tea leaves.  Somehow our town is buried under piles of debt, the economy is in the toilet, yet our tax bills soar high.  Townspeople are particularly passionate about this election after the past years of what can practically be described as fiscal panic.  Money is always a point of great concern for any citizen of any community.  So is deeply-seeded love for certain programs that have been the subject of spending lists and budget cuts.

Most meetings of a volunteer nature have been populated with candidates these last few weeks.  They are trolling the park with palm cards and agendas and confidence.  They turn their backs and are immediately sized up alongside their rivals.

Cartoon engraving of Maximilien de Robespierre guillotining the executioner during the Reign of Terror. Courtesy of The Bettman Archive.

Their dedication and ambition in such a thick political pea soup are a marvel, especially knowing the criticism and hardships they will face once elected; therefore these candidates that have come forward to volunteer to lead us out of this mess deserve respect and courtesy.  I imagine them to be confident, righteous and motivated to run for public office in a town full of fiery debaters and financially pinched constituents.  Their necks are stuck straight out — and far.  My hope is that they are offered a decent grace period before the on line water cooler commenters, shroud in their virtual black executioner robe aliases, start to oil  their virtual guillotine.  That, of course, and that they deliver the promised goods.