Pipersky Says 40 Years As A City Employee & 25 As A Resident Merit Him Montclair Council Post

With the last two-thirds of his life intrinsically bound up in Montclair, it is unsurprising that Robert Pipersky is now vying for a position on the city council in this year’s race. He has been employed as a Montclair police officer for four decades and has lived in the city for a quarter of a century.
“I live in and work in the city,” he said. “I absolutely love the city. This city has done great by me, having lived here the past 25 years. It is a great place to live and work.”
His qualifications for the council position, Pipersky said, consist of his being steeped in every aspect of the community.
“I bring 40 years of experience being a city employee,” he said. “I have an institutional knowledge of the city. I have been an employee in the police department, I know everyone in the fire department, I am familiar with those in human services and most everyone in City Hall. All of this is a result of having been an employee here for 40 years. I have a good working knowledge of how we bring money into our budget. I know the value of the mall in terms of being a revenue producer. I know how to get the most out of what we have.”
When asked what distinguishes him from his opponents for the council position, Pipersky said, “There are several people who are running, and I am sure each one of them has something valuable to offer, so I am not going to make a qualitative comparison between us. I am not going to say anything negative about my opponents. I don’t know what qualifications they may have. The one thing they don’t have is my experience working within the same organization as long as I have. That is in and of itself a plus. If there is something in general that distinguishes me from the others, I would go back to the institutional knowledge I have from working in the community the length of time I have, knowing the policies and procedures of the city.”
Pipersky pointed out that he was employed for nearly four decades on the streets as a working police officer but is now functioning in the capacity of the City of Montclair’s public safety administrative services supervisor, which oversees the city’s emergency response team. In this fashion, Pipersky is the architect of Montclair’s COVID-19 policy.
“It is not accurate to say that I created the city’s emergency operations plan, but I have updated and modernized it,” he said. “Like I said, I have a good institutional working knowledge of the city’s operations. I know what the city’s positions are for. I know most, if not all, of the people in the city.”
In sizing up the major issues facing the city, Pipersky said, “Currently COVID-19, not the disease, but what the disease is doing to us with the shutdown of our economic base is our biggest challenge. We are a retail community, and much of our retail operations have been shut down. That is affecting our tax base. We are working to get money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and doing a comparatively good job to the cities surrounding us, but that is still not close to our actual losses. We’re suffering close to a $4 million budget shortfall. Mr. Starr [Montclair City Manager Ed Starr] has put aside enough in reserves to carry us through, but we are still going to suffer greatly because of the economic downturn. We should be able to recover quickly. One of the effects of the disaster is after recovery starts people will need to buy things, and as a retail community we should see customers starting to spend money here rather than in other places, I would think.”
In the long term, Pipersky said, the city’s overarching problem is its looming pension debt crisis.
“The public employee retirement system is beset with an unfunded liability that is causing a great financial drain on the city as well as other cities,” Pipersky said. He was more sanguine about the situation than a lot of financial prognosticators, however, asserting the city could overcome the problem by growing the size of city government and thereby eventually transferring the burden of paying workers who are no longer working for the city from the city’s residents and taxpayers to future employees who will be paying into the retirement system.
“When we were hiring part-time employees and not filling the positions from behind, once they leave we do not have as many employees making contributions into the retirement system, causing us issues,” he said. “Now, with the unfunded liability, that has become a problem. With the hiring of more employees and increases in the number of employees contributing to the system, the unfunded liability will go down quite a bit. At the present time, the city is looking to address the shortfall with bonds, which is another way to set these financial problems right.”
The city can also use taxes as a temporary stopgap until it redresses its fiscal issues, Pipersky opined.
“Currently the City of Montclair is trying to get passed on the November ballot a one percent transaction use tax that will give us a one percent return on all sales taking place in the city,” he said. “It will bring in up to nine million dollars per year when we are at our full potential retail operation. That transaction use tax will help address some of what we are experiencing, and help pick up some of our losses from COVID-19, bring our manpower levels up to what we should have in public works, human services, the fire department, the police department, City Hall, our people all around, as well as building our infrastructure for the future. We are fortunate. The transaction use tax is supported by 75 percent of the city’s residents. We are a retail community, and so 80 percent of the tax income will come from people outside of our city. As residents, we will pay only 20 percent of the tax and get 100 percent of the benefit. That investment is a win/win.”
He possesses substantial experience relating to government, Pipersky said.
“I am currently working with and have worked with members of the city council for 40 years,” he said. “I have talked to council members on a regular basis throughout that time. I am constantly learning what goes on in the city and how the city works.”
Pipersky is a graduate of Chino High School, Class of 1971.
He has attended Mount San Antonio College, and San Bernardino Valley College. He originally studied ornamental horticulture, as that was the subject most germane to his father’s business, with which he was then employed. He subsequently changed his focus to fire science when he went to work for the California Division of Forestry.
As he is headed into the home stretch on his professional career and sprinting toward the finish line of retirement, his current title is public safety administrative services supervisor. Throughout most of his career with the police department, he was a police officer field training officer. Prior to the advent of the COVID-19 exigency, his daily routine consisted of emergency preparedness for disasters such as earthquakes and fires at the city’s emergency operations center in order to make for fluid and instantaneous incident response and management, transforming the department’s newly acquired police cars for use by the patrol division by outfitting them with guns, lights, sirens and the installation of mobile information processing and communications units. He further oversees the cadet program, consisting of six part-time youthful non-sworn employees on a trajectory toward becoming full-fledged police officers who assist with traffic control and parking tickets.
At present, the city is using federally-provided recovery funds at the emergency operations center in coordinating the city’s reaction to the COVID-19 crisis. He works as the city’s liaison with the county.
He is married, Pipersky said, with what he called “a plethora” of children and even more grandchildren.
Upon becoming councilman, Pipersky said, “What I want to do is ensure the North Montclair Specific Plan is completed and make sure the [light passenger rail] Gold Line comes to Montclair. In working toward completing the North Montclair Specific Plan, we have to start building infrastructure. Montclair at build out will be up to about 75,000 people. We need to start planning to make sure we have the resources, the manpower, to be able to move forward. CIM Group, the company that has Montclair Place [known formerly for a half century as Montclair Plaza] is interested in seeing it grow. We are landlocked. We have to grow to get more population in to be self-sustaining. The city is following a 30-year development plan. I personally would like to see it happen a lot faster. There is going to be population growth on the north end. There is a lot of development ongoing right now on the south end of the city. I want to see industry go into where that is planned. Montclair should provide a safe, healthy environment for all of our residents and businesses. We need to make it a place where people want to come, live and stay.”
Pipersky said, “Previously, my wife, Ester Vargas Pipersky, was the supervisor in the senior center until her retirement this year. We had the best program in the entire valley at that point, prior to COVID-19. I want us to get back to a place where our seniors and youth have top notch senior and youth centers  We need to get those programs back on track.”
Pipersky said, “I look forward to this opportunity to serve the people. Having been an officer within the city for 40 years, I can’t give up. I want to help our employees and residents within the city. I am looking forward to the opportunity to help.”

Leave a Reply