Campaign Clutter, Back to School and More


If you didn’t know there was a local election coming up, just look around.

The annual clutter of campaign signs and promotions hit big this month, with both a school board race and Maplewood Township Committee contest slated for November 7. 

And, of course, the governor’s election appears to have Democrat Phil Murphy all but anointed as the next Garden State chief. Most polls have the Goldman Sachs honcho up by 20 points or more, although a recent survey had it down to 13 percent. 

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In mostly Democratic Maplewood, signs for his GOP challenger and Christie lieutenant Kim Guadagno are scarce at best.

But it’s the local races that give Maplewood that great lawn sign overkill. One corner near my house has no fewer than six different candidates’ names polluting the house fronts.

And two vacant storefronts on Springfield Avenue are now covered in signage. One run by a pro-Murphy voting group has the likely gov’s name filling its two windows, while the other -- at Prospect and Springfield -- mixes local Dems with our state representatives’ campaign scrawl. 

The TC race is pretty simple with Democratic nominee Dean Dafis and incumbent Mayor Vic Deluca facing Republican Mike Summersgill. The three are vying for Deluca’s seat and that being vacated by incumbent India Larrier, who chose not to run again. (Likely a good idea given her past anti-gay marriage stance).

If for nothing else, Summersgill gets points for not using lawn signs this round just as he did last year when he lost to Frank McGehee.

The GOP candidate’s reason for going sign-free is to help the environment (and we can agree the visual look of the Township). He has a website where you can purchase a “virtual” sign and donate to a local charity.  

Sadly this will not help him since the goal of the signs, awful as they are, is to promote your name and spread awareness. While the Township recently had a short battle with realtors over their for sale signs that included new restriction changes, campaign signs have no real limits thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And it’s always interesting to see who is running with who via the lawn message. Dafis and Deluca are together on the Democratic ticket with signs proclaiming the duo. Some thought they might use Dean and Deluca, a reference to the high-end coffee company. Of course, who knows what litigation that might prompt.

Over in the school board race, Incumbent School Board President Elizabeth Baker has teamed with challenger Robin Johnson Baker, no relation, a former board member who served from 1998 to 2001. 

That produces the obvious Baker & Baker signage, which sounds like a law firm and seems to be the most prevalent around the two towns. One wonders if it will also spark confusion and have a voter opting for one Baker when they really wanted the other.

The two Bakers are among eight candidates vying for the three school board seats up for grabs. The others include incumbent Donna Smith (with her own signs) and challenger Anthony Mazzocchi (whose multi-color lawn images resemble a box of crayons).

Rounding out the school board field are Avery Julien, Felisha George, Shannon Cuttle, and Sheila Shidnia. Julien just graduated Columbia High School this year, while George is a 2012 grad. We have yet to see their signs.

Would-be candidates John Sarantakis and Lucas Calhoun recently dropped out, although their names may still appear on the ballot. Board member Maureen Jones is not running for re-election and has already endorsed Baker & Baker.


In other school district beginning-of-the-year items there was another update on the lead in the water issue, although it did little to offer specific plans – or even specific locations for the 13 drinking sources that were still problematic, not even saying which schools had which water sources.

That’s on top of the mice infestation we first reported weeks ago that apparently affected all Maplewood public schools, including CHS. It’s unclear why the school district, first informed of the problem by township health officials in late August, did not inform parents for three weeks – and only a day after we asked about it.

Did they know and keep it secret? Or did the letter to interim Superintendent Tom Ficarra not get to him?

Either way, the answer seems to be stop eating and leaving crumbs, etc. in school rooms.

On the positive front, the CHS back to school night was a big hit as usual. Along with Principal Elizabeth Aaron many students were roaming the halls to guide parents to and from classes, while teachers exuded enthusiasm and positive plans. Always a good sign.

As for Aaron, her welcoming speech was perfect, with a little demand for discipline and a lot of hope and outlook for good results. She did sprinkle in some interesting acknowledgement of the difficult past year for many, stating in part:

Last year, to be frank, was a difficult year for schools, and students and teachers, and our community and school district had some powerful and frank conversations about who we are, and who we want to be.  For me, those experiences – town hall meetings, board meetings, media coverage and more  - ultimately come to this: Our students expect us to do our jobs. They expect us to do our jobs as parents and guardians, as teachers and leaders, as coaches and mentors. They want us to be good at what we do, to be there for them when they falter, to push them when they are ready, and to be honest with them. They want us to hear them, see them, and to want them to do well.

And later this:

There is certainly cause for despair these days- it is simply the time we live in. Our children hear, see, and experience things that we would like to shield them from, lessen the blows of, or simply make disappear. But we usually cannot.  So we do our best to mitigate the damage the world may do us and our children, and we try to do our very best to build resilient and successful teens. There is great cause for joy, and work, and collaboration in our world – and that is what we are committed to at CHS this year.


Finally, the latest issue of New Jersey Monthly is worth a looksee, with two Maplewood mentions.

First, our own Tina Kelley has a great piece on the changing state laws regarding adoption and secrecy (or not) for birth parents. Herself an adoptee, Kelley talked to a handful of Jersey folks who found their first parents and what it meant.

Then there’s Dana Siomkos and Zane Latta of Colgate Road who had their home improvements highlighted in the magazine’s “Low Budget, High Style” pages.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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