An argument to put Montclair in a single congressional district (town square)

Northern New Jersey Congressional Districts, as of 2013. The New Jersey Congressional Redistribution Commission is holding hearings and reviewing how districts will then be realigned. (DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR)

By MARK LURINSKY
Special at Montclair Local

When my wife and I wanted to move out of our cramped New York apartment 32 years ago, we chose Montclair as our place to stay.

As an interracial couple with a baby girl, a primary consideration was Montclair’s proven track record of diversity. More or less alone among the suburbs surrounding the city, Montclair attempted to meet the challenge of our nation’s racial divisions by creating a magnetic school system. Wherever you live in a city with still widely separated housing models, you would likely send your child to a good public school with a diverse mix of children. (Our daughter enrolled in Nishuane, the “gifted and talented” loving elementary school in the historically African-American neighborhood two miles from our home.) So we arrived and Montclair became our community of interest.

Redistributing Congress – why communities matter: The immediate importance of “communities of interest” is that they are a factor that is frequently taken into account in the national once-per-decade redistribution of Congress, the redistribution of the electoral map. In New Jersey, the new electoral map is decided in just over a month, the public comment period for our state redistribution commission is now in full swing. What is garnering the most national attention is the intense threat of partisan gerrymandering in the map-drawing process of various states, but redistribution can also be an opportunity for communities like ours to have their say.

Our unique characteristics: A number of unique characteristics of our city are incorporated into our geography and history, while others are due to the number of families, like mine, “self-selecting” our city as a place to live. reflects our interests and values. As a community, we are very concerned about education (Hey, Montclair State!); on access to good transport in our neighboring metropolis; on the great arts (as in our increasingly important jazz, film and literature festivals); on libraries and parks. These are all resources that are available to our residents across the city.

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We are also a place whose citizens are disproportionately active on a range of public issues, including gun violence, climate, healthcare and social justice. The massive peaceful outpouring of several thousand of our residents – from all parts of the city – during last summer’s protests demanding fair policing over the murder of George Floyd is just one example of the times when our united voice counted. (Chris Christie, the former Republican governor, inadvertently recognized something commendable in our city’s high civic engagement when he attempted to insult us a few years ago as the “People’s Republic of Montclair” .)

Imani Oakley: Save Black representation in Montclair (Opinion)

Demography, electoral maps and Montclair: It is inevitable that in the new electoral map reflecting the 2020 census, the lines of Congress will change more or less. On the one hand, with the rapid increase in the population of our urban centers in North Jersey relative to the rural areas of the state, the boundaries of these urban districts, including the 10e The congressional district (which now comprises two-thirds of our city’s geographic area) will need to move inland somewhat so that the voting power of its constituents is not diluted. The 8the Congressional District (including parts of Jersey City, Newark and Elizabeth) and the 9e The district (Paterson, Clifton and parts of Bergen County) has similar population surpluses and will need to change for the same reason.

In this case, Montclair is one of the three municipalities now shared between the NJ-10 and a neighboring district. It is not at all clear if the necessary map overhaul will keep us split between the 10e and the 11e Districts, unite us fully in one of them or place us in another district altogether. Best practice suggests uniting a divided city like ours into a single congressional district wherever possible.

Why not a community of interest? Consider what it might mean to have one representative in Congress for all of Montclair. This leader, who should know our issues intimately, could be a powerful advocate for educational improvements that will strongly bridge our racial achievement gap, to address the transit bottlenecks that plague commuters at our six stations. of the Montclair-Boonton line and to tackle the climate-induced flooding that we have seen in our city, among others.

We are a diverse community, not homogeneous, of course. One challenge is that there is a big divergence between some of our residents who have real wealth and others who live on the margins.

My experience with Montclair suggests, however, that we have a lot more that unites us than divides us, and I hope this will be recognized in our portrayal. What do you think?

Long-time Montclair resident Mark Lurinsky, member of the BlueWaveNJ board of directors and member of its Electoral Reform Task Force. He recently testified at a New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission hearing in favor of treating Montclair as a community of interest to be brought together in one district. Residents can learn about upcoming panel hearings and register to participate in njredistrictingcommission.org.


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