Five thing we’re thinking about: Week of September 30

This week, we’re 1) trying to understand how we’ll be affected by a possible government shutdown, 2) making the sense of the types of jobs the recovery is bringing to our region, 3) watching Lonegan’s campaign respond to a surprising poll result, 4) checking out Brick City Live’s new travel section, and 5) marking our calendars for Newark’s Open Doors art festival.

Full disclosure, when we break from reality, we’re also thinking about the season finale of Breaking Bad. Here’s a review by Jersey’s own Alan Sepinwall.

What else should we be thinking about? Tweet #fivethings @brickcitylive, or leave a comment below.

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What the a shutdown would mean

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Once again, the country is facing the possibility of a government shutdown, this time due to House Republicans’ appending a one-year delay on funding the Affordable Care Act to its government spending bill. The health exchanges, which are a major provision of the ACA, are set to go into effect tomorrow, October 1.

USA Today provides a helpful Q&A about the possible shutdown, including a section about the government services that will be affected. Highlights:

  • Will I still get my mail? Yes.
  • Can I get a passport? Maybe, but hurry.
  • Can I visit national parks? No.
  • What about campers already in the parks? They will be given two days to leave.
  • Will Washington museums be open? If it’s usually free, it’s probably closed.
  • Will the District of Columbia shut down? The district does not have complete autonomy and relies on an appropriation from Congress to operate. So during the shutdowns in the 1990s, trash went uncollected, and many city departments closed.
  • Would food safety inspections continue? Mostly.

Read the full explainer on USA Today’s website.

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An uneven recovery

Although the economy is currently technically in recovery, The Atlantic Cities notes that the new jobs are mostly low wage ones. The New York metro area saw 11% growth in low wage jobs, but less than 5% growth in high wage employment. The report’s conclusions underscore the importance not only of drawing and cultivating higher paying employers to the area, but also of training area residents for those jobs.

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Image: The Atlantic Cities

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Lonegan emboldened by recent poll showing tighter-than-expected race

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Per The Star Ledger, Lonegan’s Senate run went from being a statement campaign to a more serious effort when his team saw a poll showing he’d closed Cory Booker’s lead from 35 percentage points to only 12. Though some contest the accuracy of the result, it’s galvanized Lonegan’s campaign.

Image: Associated Press

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Sometimes we leave town

In case you missed it, Brick City Live launched a travel section last week (brickc.it/travel). Founder Andaiye Taylor explained why we’re doing it in the first place:

I’ve met many people in this city who travel, both domestically and internationally. We’re highly connected to the rest of the world through our airport, rail system, and easy access to key interstate highways. It only makes sense that a site with Brick City Live’s mission and ambition inform our readers about how to maximize the travel opportunities that infrastructure affords us.

Featured travel contributor Madeline Boughton went on to discuss her experiences meeting Newarkers all over the world in her inaugural post. If you want to send pictures and anecdotes from your trips, email travel@brickcitylive.com.

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Open Doors schedule announced

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The Newark Art Council’s annual Open Doors citywide art festival starts October 10. The current schedule:

Open Doors Kick-Off Party!   Thursday, October 10 from 6-9 pm at 85 Market Street
Annual Gallery Crawl   Friday, October 11 from 6-9:30 pm*
Saturday Stroll & Making the World’s Largest Monotype Mile Print   Saturday, October 12 from 11-5 pm*
Open Doors Studio Tour and City Murals Tour   Sunday, October 13 from 12 to 5 pm*
Creation Nation Art & Peace Parade Sunday, October 20 (time and starting location TBA)
Closing Party at Kilkenny Alehouse! Sunday, October 20 from 6-8 pm

*Complimentary shuttle service provided by Rutgers University–Newark

You can also find the Open Doors schedule on Brick City Live’s calendar at brickc.it/opendoors2013.

Image: Newark Arts Council

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Home News: Get your own “BrickC.it” web address for our events calendar

BrickC.it/yourorganization

Do you want a shareable, “Brick City” branded web address that will easily expose all of your events? Brick City Live is offering legitimate businesses, organizations, and promotional companies the ability to reserve their “BrickC.it” web address for our calendar, for free! Those can include networking, parties, entertainment, education, community events and more.

If you follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you might notice that the links to all of our stories begin with “brickc.it”. This is a special web address that takes readers to Brick City Live content exclusively.

We’re now offering that special web address to those who organize events in and around Newark. For example, the address brickc.it/symphonyhall will take people to a list of Newark Symphony Hall events on our calendar. The address brickc.it/artisancollective will taken them to a list of Artisan Collective events on our calendar. The address brickc.it/bumpa2bumpa will take users to a list of events by the promotional company Bumpa2Bumpa Entertainment.

On top of that, we’ll give you a login to post, edit, and delete events yourself. We’re also happy to add existing events for you in bulk to start out.

If you want to reserve a BrickC.it address for your organization and get an event posting login, email events@brickcitylive.com with your name, business/organization name, and your website, Facebook page, and Twitter handle, if you have them.

Why on earth are we launching a travel section?

When I was 17 years old, I traveled abroad for the first time. Along with about two dozen classmates, I visited a number of cities in Spain, and took a day trip from the tip of Spain to the top of Morocco.

While visiting one of the Spanish cities, some classmates and I went to a little teenybopper club. We met an English-speaking, American-seeming young man there. One guess where he was from.

That’s right. Just like our featured travel contributor, Traveling Mad, recalls in her inaugural travel post, I was an ocean away from home, yet managed to bump into someone from Newark, New Jersey.

Brick City Live is launching a travel section for a couple reasons. First, I’ve met many people in this city who travel, both domestically and internationally. We’re highly connected to the rest of the world through our airport, rail system, and easy access to key interstate highways. It only makes sense that a site with Brick City Live’s mission and ambition inform our readers about how to maximize the travel opportunities that infrastructure affords us.

And those trips include travel to other East Coast cities, which so many of us take for granted, but which are just as much travel experiences as anything else. After all, non-Americans travel halfway around the world to visit those places. (Also, in about the same time it would take to drive from Newark to Virginia Beach, you can drive north instead for an international trip to a French-speaking city.)

Second, many people from this city travel, and I think our perspectives on experiences outside of Newark are just as valuable as anyone else’s. Why not?

Third, a more personal reason: I love to travel. I think it’s one of the most horizon-expanding, transformative, and fun experiences a person can have. Living smack in the middle of a travel hub, I think it only makes sense that we swap suggestions, stories, and tips. At the very least, it might make those of us who haven’t given travel serious thought realize how much more accessible these opportunities are than one might think.

…Perhaps some of us will even take a trip together sometime soon.

And fourth: I find that travel can change the way you look at where you live. A few months ago, I went on an unofficial walking tour of Maputo, Mozambique that lasted for hours. Maputo is not scrubbed and pristine, but it’s still beautiful. I loved the tour (and posted about it on Brick City Live when I returned).

Inspired by that experience, the second walking tour I took this summer was…in Newark. I gathered with a group of about a dozen other people at Penn Station for the Have You Met Newark? tour, and spent four hours walking around the immediate neighborhood where I’d lived for five years, this time with a tourist’s eyes. About half of the people on the tour were Newark natives. Everyone had a great time, and it gave us a newfound appreciation for the history, architecture, culture, and characters we have right here in one of America’s oldest cities.

So we hope you’ll enjoy this section, and that you’ll help us build it by sending your travel pictures, experiences, and/or questions to travel@brickcitylive.com. To get to this section quickly, visit brickc.it/travel. To stay on top of Traveling Mad’s posts, visit brickc.it/mad. You can also check out her website, Facebook page, and Twitter page.

For more on what Brick City Live is all about, visit our About page, my “Exactly why are we launching a Style section” post, and my recent essay, “What about the shootings?

You’re from Newark? No way. Me too!

Have you ever been on vacation, or just really far from home, and run into someone from Newark? That has happened to me at least three times while living in Europe. I have met Newark natives that settled and lived abroad, that were vacationing — even performers from Newark on tour. We get around, and can be found almost anywhere.

I’m a Newark, New Jersey native and world traveler — this isn’t shocking, is it? I know some people find it odd that New Jerseyans and Newarkers actually travel. We have to change this. I need everyone to get their passports, pack a suitcase, and show up far away until the world gets used to seeing us.

I’ve been to countries where people have never even heard of New Jersey. In fact, some people only know of two places in the United States: California and New York. Tourists and expats are expected to be from New York City or Los Angeles. I often have to explain New Jersey in proximity to New York, and it’s been a challenge for some to really understand the difference between the two places.

I look for any excuse to travel, at any time. At my old job, I had a giant poster of a beach with palms trees in my cubicle. Looking at it was my motivation. I told myself, “If you work hard here, you’ll be able to go there.” My mission is to travel the world, and then bring those experiences home to share with friends and family. I’ve been to many countries, but I always come back home. Traveling is my thing.

Every time I meet someone from Newark outside of the U.S. I feel an instant connection with that person, and we end up chatting for a long time. I’m always happy to reminisce about things back home. We talk about what high schools we went to, our favorite Newark restaurants, and local politics. Running into “neighbors” while in England and France was surreal. (Everyone from Newark is your neighbor when you’re 3,600-plus miles away from home.)

More and more of us, even children, are traveling. People everywhere are finally starting to take notice of the advantages of exploring different places. This isn’t a trend; it’s a way of life.

My posts in the travel section will be about both domestic and international travel. I’ll share tips, budget travel suggestions, destination reviews, and a few flashbacks on my experiences as a Newarker traveling abroad. I look forward to reading your comments, and hearing about your experiences as well.

Make sure you say hello to me when I see you at the next vacation destination!

 – TravelingMad

Mad is currently traveling in Morocco.

Reader style: Newark artisan, style maven & entrepreneur Kaylan Jones is ‘Forever Audacious’

Forever Audacious x Persoanl Advisory . RBG

“Speak with passion…move with aggression…always assume positive intent.” – artisan/entrepreneur Kaylan Jones

About Kaylan

From: Newark/East Orange
Business: Forever Audacious™ (www.foreveraudacious.etsy.com)
Earrings: Forever Audacious
Bracelet: Forever Audacious
Top: Personal Advisory
Location: 116th & Malcolm X Shabazz Blvd. Harlem, NY at the 44th Annual African American Day Parade, promoting her brand and representing Brick City

forever-audacious-gear

Want to submit your own style photo? Email us at style@brickcitylive.com!

 

It’s Monday, September 23: Five things we’re thinking about

This week, we’re 1) making note of the recent Newark city council president vote, 2) thinking about whether we have a “community” here in Newark, 3) considering how the frayed police/community relationship puts us in danger, 4) remembering to check out a lecture at NJIT on Wednesday, and re-reading the essay “What about the shootings“, and 5) announcing our FREE “Key to BrickC.it” program for legitimate businesses, organizations, and promotors that have events.

What else should we be thinking about? Tweet #fivethings @brickcitylive, leave a comment on our Facebook thread, or leave a comment below.

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Luis Quintana voted city council president – The Star Ledger

Per The Star Ledger:

In a surprise, last-minute move last Wednesday, the South Ward councilman and mayoral candidate introduced a motion to make long-time Newark Councilman Luis Quintana, council president.

The Ledger also speculated about the politics of the move, particularly in the context of racial politics in Newark. Baraka introduced the motion to make Quintana the council president, which the Ledger says might be, “a signal to the city’s Latino community that he is not their enemy.” The Ramos campaign countered by calling Baraka “divisive”, and saying the move was transparently political.

More coverage at the Ledger here and here.
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What is a “community”? Do we have one here?

In Saturday’s New York Times, Anand Giridharadas discusses how we use “community” today to mean almost everything but what it should actually signify:

Go back a century or two (thanks to the Corpus of Historical American English database), and you see rather different usage of “community.” The word then seemed to connote a specific group of people, from a particular patch of earth, who knew and judged and kept an eye on one another, who shared habits and history and memories, and could at times be persuaded to act as a whole on behalf of a part.

In our interview with Tiffany “The Bugetnista” Aliche, she describes her personal experience living in Newark this way: “The people here are really amazing, and it’s like I can’t make it from one end of the street to the other without meeting somebody new. Or seeing someone I know and having a conversation.”

Does living in a city of Newark’s (relatively small) size make “community” living more attainable?
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How stop-and-frisk frays community/police relationships – The Atlantic Cities

The Atlantic Cities reports that according to a recent study of New Yorkers who had been stopped at least once,  less than half would feel comfortable calling the police for help, and only a quarter would report someone for committing a crime. The Atlantic described the vicious cycle this way:

In short: Young people in New York who have been stopped and frisked appear to trust the police less, which makes them less likely to call the police when they should, which in turn makes it harder for the police to do their jobs. This was true even of respondents who were themselves victims of crime.

The Newark Police Department employs the stop-and-frisk tactic. They’ve recently been lauded for the transparency of the program (they report statistics on their website), though transparency after-the-fact likely has no bearing on the attitudes of people who are stopped.
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Lecture this week at NJIT: “Does the media engineer your reality, or do you engineer your media?”

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Brooke Gladstone, co-host of NPR’s On the Media and author of the graphic non-fiction work, The Influencing Machine, will give the lecture this Wednesday, September 5 from 2:30 to 4pm at NJIT. It’s a subject that hits close to home at Brick City Live. Editor-in-Chief Andaiye Taylor wrote an essay last week about how the coverage on this site seeks to diversify people’s perception of the realities in Newark.
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Home news: Key to BrickC.it(y)

Look out for our “Key to BrickC.it” program announcement. What is it? If you have a legitimate business, organization, or community organization that holds events in or near Newark, you can reserve a “BrickC.it” URL that you can use anywhere: flyers, business cards, your website, etc. The URL will take your users to a section on our calendar that shows only your events.

For example, Newark Symphony Hall has brickc.it/symphonyhall. Promotion company Bumpa2Bumpa Entertainment has brickc.it/bumpa2bumpa, and so on.

Look out for more details later this week. If you just can’t wait, feel free to email us at events@brickcitylive.com to be an early participant.
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Q&A with Newark council at-large candidate John Sharpe James

I was sitting in the huge South Ward police precinct at Bergen Street and Clinton Avenue when John Sharpe James walked in, smiling, clad head-to-toe in black, unadorned by jewelry, and carrying a large box under his right arm. James was at the precinct to chair a community meeting on public safety, where police officers would field questions from residents in a large meeting room just off the precinct's main corridor. He would open his Central Ward headquarters on Orange Street the next day.

After positioning three long tables between a podium at the front of the room and a phalanx of chairs in the back, James set the box down at the end of the table, sat down next to it, and settled in for an hourlong conversation about his run for the at-large council seat in the November 5 special election. We discussed his previous council runs, his nearly quarter-of-a-decade military experience and its bearing on his run, the basic needs he thinks should be Newark's priorities moving forward, and the ways he thinks the current administration has fallen short. We also discussed James' father, former Mayor Sharpe James, a boxful of whose brand new memoir – Political Prisoner – the council candidate had shuttled into the station.

Andaiye Taylor: Your 2010 run was key in last year's dispute over the open at-large seat. Can you talk about your initial runs for office, and why you decided to jump in?

John Sharpe James: I first ran in 2006, because at that time I didn't feel the Booker team was fielding someone who was qualified to run the South Ward. So I ran for South Ward councilman. They ran someone with the same last name [Oscar James II], and spent $6 million running against the Rice team.

And so that was a beginning run. After that, I went to Afghanistan and served in the military, which I'd already been serving since '88, and when I came back, [mayoral candidate Clifford J.] Minor asked me to join his team. At that point, he wanted Ras Baraka to run for the south, and I said I would run at-large. And that's what I did.

I had a very good showing: 12,000 votes, for someone running for the first time at-large, and with minimal funding compared to what they spent.

What is your vision for Newark? What is your thesis for running?

Right now, Newark is in survival mode. The average Newarker just wants government services. They want the garbage picked up, they want police, they want protection, they want to be able to walk the streets, they want quality schools, they want a good, quality life, which does not exist right now.

There's no responsibility. No one's owning up to any of the crime or violence or murders that we have right now. And we need more people in government to speak out, instead of using Newark as a stepping stone, moving on to the next position or title, and not concentrating on what's going on right now.

So as a military veteran, as a law school graduate, as a Morehouse College graduate, I feel that I do have input as a Newark resident and homeowner, into what goes on in the city. My major background is in the military, where I spent 23-and-a-half years. So I've been serving my country, and now I feel it's time to serve the community.

What neighborhood do you live in?

I'm in the South Ward.

You think the current administration has been insufficient on those basic services. Can you cite some specifics?

Let's put it this way: when they ran in '06, they said we need reform, we need to get everyone out, we need to get new policies, new procedures. One of the first things they did was lay off everyone in City Hall, whether they were actually doing their jobs or not. It was detrimental, because there were a lot of workers who worked at City Hall for years who really knew their jobs, knew how to get money into the city and into programs, knew where the funding sources were. And they were just thrown by the wayside.

Then you had an influx of a lot of people who didn't live in Newark, and they didn't know how to do the jobs, because they didn't work in government. They might have worked in the private sector, but the government sector is different. We had an influx of higher-paid individuals with no allegiance with the taxpayers in Newark. And so the result is, we had the two police classes which were hired initially under the Booker administration. Within a year, year and a half, they ran out of money. And not only those two, but part of the ones that were hired under the previous mayor were let go because of funding concerns.

In what specific ways do you think the current administration is responsible for that?

I think it was mismanagement and lack of knowing how to fund things. We went through seven business administrators in seven years (James includes those acknowledged by the city – Bo Kemp, Michelle Thomas, Michael Greene, and the current administrator, Julien Neals – plus interim business administrators Pablo Fonseca, Bill Letona, and a third he says was in an "acting capacity" for a brief time), so no one has truly been watching the money, watching the budget, saying, "Hey, this is where we can cut, this is where we have a surplus, this where we can move money around."

Why do you think the council is an effective place from which to push your vision for Newark, as opposed to another elected office, a non-profit, or the private sector? 

I've worked for the county for the past 14 years. I've been a jack of all trades; the county executive has had me in a lot of different positions. I was one of the people in charge of making sure the jail contracts were completed under the prior administration, and continued when the new county executive came in. He had me working the registrar's office to speed up the recording of deeds and mortgages. So I have county-level experience.

I have some experience working with my father. I have experience working with a lot of the council members already. Ron [Rice] Jr. and I grew up together from law school. He's already been a councilman for two terms. Ras Baraka – I know him, and our families have been together for a long time. So there's a lot of knowledge there. To some extent, people have not seen me enough because I was in military duty for the most part.

But as one of nine people, how do you manage to influence the other council members? What's your strategy?

I've worked with Ras Baraka, and with Anibal Ramos in passing, only because he works at the county.

We will see how it goes, because some people aren't running for reelection, and some people are running for higher seats. It's going to be interesting. This is the first time the council has had three current members running for mayor at the same time. It's a big shakeup. I'm not sure it's going to be positive for the city, because you're going to have a new person running the south, a new person running the north, and a new person running the central, instead of a slow progression. It's like a free-for-all in all three wards.

What should the council's top priorities be, and which ones have they not been attentive to in the last few sessions?

I think the council hasn't been helped by the executive or the mayor's office at all. Every time the council finds out about something, it's last minute, and the mayor is in the position where he wants them to vote on it or not vote for it, without all of the information, and without public hearings. And that is not right. So the hope in the future is you have a mayor that works more closely with the council and says, "This is my vision. Council, let's enact this, because it's for the betterment of the entire city." This will move us forward.

My father being mayor, there were definitely times when he was at odds with the council. But overall, together, they moved the city forward.

Is there any any potential mayor in this field that you could see yourself working with better than others?

No. We need someone who's going to speak for the people. People change when they get to the mayor's seat, so someone who looks good right now could be bad later; someone who looks bad right now could be good later. Just for now, I'm focused on the November race. I'm not trying to lose another election, and I think I deserve to be in office, because I've worked hard and I've served my community. Again, primarily military, but it's still community service.

Can you walk through your military career highlights, and how you think they equip you for the position?

I wrestled four years at St. Benedict's. Within four months at college, I gained weight. So I joined the military for two reasons: one, for love of country, and two, to stay in shape. [laughs]

With love of country, you never want to be thrown into a war. You want to prepare. You never want it to be like Vietnam, where people are drafted and thrown onto the front lines with very little training. I said if I'm going to protect my country, I will be trained. So after two years as a private, scrubbing toilets, doing all the little stuff you see in the movies, I stepped in as an officer and platoon leader in ROTC. I got into the infantry – I really wanted that branch – and started moving up the chain. I came back home and was commissioned a second lieutenant of a long range surveillance unit.

What does that mean?

You're trained to operate behind enemy lines. You're the spotters, and you let friendly forces know what the enemy's doing from behind enemy lines. So it's very covert. It's like special forces without the "special". And I really enjoyed that time. I was also airborne, so I jumped out of planes for the New Jersey National Guard. Then I went onto multiple positions in my progression: company commander, mortar platoon leader…

And this is all within a domestic, National Guard context?

Yes – New Jersey National Guard. So along the way we had incidents like snow storms and floods that we responded to. For September 11, we were put on duty for 30 days watching the train yards in Harrison and in Journal Square. We were in charge of securing the subway platforms and the parking decks right outside of Journal Square.

During Desert Storm, I was stationed in Augusta, Georgia for six months during the war, and at that point, I wasn't commissioned an officer yet – I was still enlisted. I was a barracks sergeant in a medical unit, responsible for all the buildings that our staff slept in, as well as for the patients.

Had Desert Storm been more violent, we would have gone to replace troops overseas. The hospital we were in had already deployed during the first wave. Since there were [low casualties] during the first Desert Storm, there was no need for follow-on medical forces. It was a good experience. I actually got decorated for that.

At any point during this time were you thinking, "I"m going to go into politics when I'm done with this experience."

Absolutely not.

When did that happen? I assume it was some time before you ran in 2006 that you started entertaining the notion.

Well, when 2006 came along, my father was leaving. My father was the mayor, so people would come to me for support and assistance.  I'd be like "Dad, so-and-so wants to meet with you, wants to see you," or, "This program's going on, they asked if you can be there," or, "Someone's having a problem with City Hall, can you help out?" So I did have interaction with City Hall and the council members, and with my father's staff. But that wasn't specifically for politics — I was just trying to help people.

And then when 2006 rolled around, and my father decided that he may not run again, at that point I just didn't want Newark to be taken over. So I ran with the people's choice team. And we slugged it out, but it was just too much.

People say with politics, sometimes we might stay too long. And people feel like, "Hey, it's time for a change." And with Booker flooding the campaign with $6 million the first run, it was hard for people not to think "Ok, we're going to get a younger of Sharpe James or Ken Gibson, and we're gonna have this man for another 20 years," or something to that effect. But we tried to tell people that I was not the same person.

Are you sympathetic to that point of view? That people don't want dynastic politics in Newark, where there's a James now and a James later?

I don't think that was it. They just thought that this new young person would be similar to the other two mayors they had. And they went head over heels for the flash which, we now see, is not substance.

Back to your military service for a moment. You described your experience, and I know you were in the military for almost a quarter century. Can you talk about how you'd actually bring that experience to bear on the office if you win? 

With the military, as you move up in rank, if you move up in rank, you're put in a lot of leadership roles. I was a platoon leader and a company commander, and I fired the anti-tank missiles. We had to be on our toes, because we couldn't make mistakes. In that type of position, you need leadership, you need to be on top of it, you can't let people be lax, you can't let people be lazy – I did that.

And then in 2007, after losing the 2006 election, I wanted more responsibility in the military. They said, "We have a  team we want to go to Afghanistan," and I was the second person to volunteer. And so they sent 16 of us over to Afghanistan to work with the local police, which were the ones who got attacked the most, because the Afghan army doesn't move that much over there. So the local police are in the towns, and as a major in charge of that team, it's a big responsibility. You're dealing with troops from other countries, Afghan personnel, military personnel, auxiliary police, border police, and  you have to interact representing the United States. There's a lot of leadership in that, and not only did I do that, but I brought the majority of my team back. One of my team members was killed, and so it's serious. It's a serious task, and I completed that, and I earned it.

And also, growing up in Newark, I know most of the people. You're not going to come in here and play games with me. You're not going to come sell something for your own purposes. I'm not going to be fooled. I think I'm that mix of advocate, military background, legal background, political knowledge background, and just a humble person who's never thrown my legacy in someone's face.

Given that you're a vet, do you have a special agenda for vets in the city?

Absolutely. They have the G.I. Go Fund in City Hall now. Unfortunately, they don't have any veterans on staff. My hope is to get at least get one veteran working for them.

Still, they've been doing outreach. They've been going to Penn Station at night, helping homeless veterans who are out there sleeping. We definitely need to make sure there's more veteran employment in the city. We just hired a class of firefighters where almost all of them (28 of 31) were veterans. Hopefully, we can get funding to do the same for the police officers.

But my biggest issue with the city right now is the budget. If we don't stay on stop of the budget, we're going to see more cutbacks on services. There are so many areas which we're cutting back on because the money isn't there, and which we'll cut back on in the future if we don't find funding.

And how do we find funding?

What I want to do is sit down with the current business administrator and get some of that institutional knowledge that was lost from before. And talk to the last business administrator, maybe from 2006 or 2005, and find out how we were funding our priorities back then, and if we're getting it from that same source now. If not, can we rejuvenate that source, whether it be state, county, federal, or a nonprofit? Can we find it from any of those sources, and try to marry that up? I think when 2006 hit, it was just another regime, and they had no regard for the institutional knowledge of the old regime.

Back in 2008 was when the recession hit hard. Have you considered that many of those sources might have just dried up?

I'm definitely afraid of that, but by the same token, we do need to provide services. We can't be a city that just has nine council members and a mayor, and no police and no fire department. The average citizen is concerned about basic city services: garbage, police, fire, taxes.

Speaking of public safety, it's a lot of people's number one priority. What are your ideas?

I know our police are hard workers. I know they're out there doing their best. Everyone's hung up on 167 cops laid off. The real number is about 400, because there have been about 40 to 50 retiring every year since then, and we haven't had a new class. So we're actually far short of where we should be if we stayed even.

Another piece of that is maintenance. If we don't take care of our maintenance and police cars, we're going to have a lot out of service. People focus on manpower, but we have to have equipment power, too. The police helicopter just came back up in the air a couple weeks ago. If we can get more police officers hired – again, I don't now where the money is going to come from – maybe we can get a federal grant like we did when Clinton was in office – to hire 50 to 100 to 200 more cops. That would help. I think if we look into the personnel – and I don't want to go too deep into micromanaging the police department – but if we have a better work environment, we'll have less of them retiring. Because the ones I run into say, "Look, I just had to get out. I just couldn't put up with the bureaucracy and the politics within the department."

And then as residents, we have to work closer with the cops, that's why we're here [having a community meeting].

And crime-wise, we just have a different generation now. I was raised in more of a family structure. The current generation now is more steeped in, "What's in it for me," and, "I'm not worried about anyone else." So we need to work together more as a people.

Home ownership in Newark is down. When you have renters, you have a different mentality. I'm not speaking for all renters, but they may not be vested in the block and in the area. That's a different mentality.

And the schools are such a mess right now. The governor clearly came out a couple weeks ago and said that they control the schools. And that's what we've been telling everyone: how can you fault us for the school situation, when the state has been running our schools for 20 years? So we need local control. I supported the Children First team for both elections. Now we have a chance because we have passed some of the QSAC (Quality Single Accountability Continuum, which New Jersey's education department uses to evaluate its public school districts) to have it turned back over to local control.

But there is another component with the folks who are controlling the charter schools who don't want to turn it over, because now a piece of the budget which is for Newark Public Schools can go off to their charter school.

There was just a story on Newark Prep charter school, and how K12 [Inc.] basically dictates what goes on in the school. I think they picked the principal, and the article clearly says that's not what we want. That's not the model. And the kids apparently are online by themselves unless they need help (for the first portion of the school day, per the Star Ledger). That doesn't even sound right. Someone said: "They're doing it in the colleges." But these are not college kids, these are high school kids. If they aren't properly guided or mentored, what's to say they don't go goof off?

So the jury is still out on charter schools. There has been no clear report that charter schools increase a child's intelligence. I believe it comes from the home, the family.

I want to talk about Mayor James a little bit. He's written a book arguing that he's innocent of the charges he was convicted for. Can you explain what his claim to innocence is based on? From a legal perspective, why does he think he was wrongly convicted?

At that time, governor Christie was the [U.S. Attorney]. Booker had just lost in 2002. He himself had said that after losing in 2002, he and Governor Christie became friends. They started communicating with each other. And my premise is, with Christie already admitting that he had met with Karl Rove about running for governor, he knew that Sharpe James could be a stumbling block. (According to a Star Ledger report, Democrats accused Christie of strategizing with Rove about using Christie's ostensibly apolitical U.S. Attorney role to shore up his chances of winning the gubernatorial seat. Rove and Christie acknowledged the conversations, but said they were merely about "state issues", not political strategy. Meanwhile, a New York Times report said Christie "won convictions or guilty pleas," not only from James, but "from more than 100 elected officials".) And Booker of course wanted to make sure he won the election, so he didn't want Sharpe James around.

And within months they said, "Well, Mayor James took these trips. We want a federal investigation. The mayor charges credit cards. We want a federal investigation." And immediately, Christie got the ball rolling, and an investigation happened.

Now, the key aspect of this is that in the courtroom, the federal government said Sharpe James did not receive any money. (James was accused of helping Tamika Riley get approved to purchase redevelopment zone land, which she then sold at a significant profit.)  So now you're prosecuting someone who's not running for office anymore. He wasn't indicted until 2007, wasn't running for mayor, and didn't take any money. And we believe they wanted a conviction so he could no longer hold public office (James was still a state senator at the time of the indictment, and would remain so until January 2008, three months before the guilty verdict). And so he would be quiet while Christie moved to governor and Booker moved to be mayor.

Now, knowing it was fact that he didn't receive any money, why would Christie suggest a 20 year sentence for a 72 year old man? That would be a death sentence. They never suggested that for other politicians, even when they took money. Common sense tells you there was a reason. This was not your typical prosecution.

Given what you believe about the motivation behind the prosecution, how did you feel about it?

Of course I was upset. But I learned that politics has a personal side, and has a political side. There are people who like me – who've always liked me – but for political reasons, they can't support me. I get that. But my only issue was the personal attack on my father's character, on the family. It was just overboard. Now, I was in Afghanistan then – I was not here for the trial – so I had to get bits and pieces through some internet interaction periodically.

The military has a Stars and Stripes magazine, which is only given to frontline troops overseas. I came on the main base after being on the front for about three months, and one of my buddies from New Jersey said, "You need to sit down." He handed me Stars and Stripes, and in the New Jersey section it said, "Newark mayor Sharpe James and his wife convicted of fraud." So the lengths they went to push out the negativity about our family, our character…I can't respect that.

I've never talked to Booker, never shaken his hand — never will do that. Chris Christie is friends with my boss, the county executive. I respect him as the governor, but I cannot respect Cory Booker and that whole scheme.

As you saw on November 20, after me being the next-highest vote getter (after the top four vote getters, all incumbents, who won at-large seats in 2010) — he pushed someone who had never run for the seat in a backdoor deal. So if you look at character and you look at the games — he couldn't get away from Newark fast enough.

Mayor Booker's record in Newark has gotten more scrutiny now that he's in the midst of a campaign for national office. You've obviously had a different view of him than most people for a long time. What do you make of the change in the tone of the coverage?

In 2000, when he started running for mayor, I Googled him. And most of it was positive. But then there was this one guy, Glen Ford, who wrote for [left-leaning website] BlackCommentator.com, now BlackAgendaReport.com. He said, "This guy is a Trojan Horse. He's with the right, and they want him to push their agenda with the charter schools."  This was written back in 2000. I tried to put this out to the people, and people said, "You're just mad because your father's not going to be mayor anymore." I said, "No, you guys don't understand. I'm not making this up. I still live here, my family still lives here, and we're all affected by what's going on in Newark."

And so it's now coming out, but I think it's too little, too late. It's assumed that he's going to win, and press has wanted to talk to me about him, and I refuse to. Because we've been saying this all along.  So it's sad vindication, because the people in Newark are really paying the price. There are less police officers, there's less money, there's less services, and no explanation why. And he's out there pitching the total opposite: "I turned Newark around."

Is there even a little piece of you that thinks about your run as vindicating your dad somehow?

I think he clears himself, because when he goes around and talks to average Newarkers, they love him. Even the enemies he had before. So he's vindicated, because he didn't take a dime from Newark residents.

I want to tell people, they need to stop getting caught up in the entertainment and the flash. Look at what they're really about, and then think about how they're going to move the city forward, and how they're going to help you. That's not just in politics – that's common sense. Sometimes people fall for the stuff that looks shiny and nice and new, and that's not the case.

How do you feel about your chances with the current field?

The bottom line is, for me to run against $9 million in 2010, while my father was in jail, and receive 12,000 votes, was a sign that people respected me as I emerged from 2006 into 2010. There are not many people who can go from running in a ward and losing, to four years later getting 12,000 votes.

There are basic services we need in this city, and we need to secure the city in terms of public safety. But assuming we can manage the city's basic needs, what does a Newark that's reached it's potential look like?

Well see, I'd do it backwards: if you don't do the basics, you don't get to the end, which is better economics for the city, so that people are less impoverished, and committing less crimes because they have more. Socially, we need to get that family structure back, and you can't necessarily get that with government. So we need to continually work on the community, tie the community hand in hand with the government to say, "Hey, we're here to help, but everyone has to help themselves to an extent".

Someone was telling me about their son acting up. They called the police, and the police said, "We can't do anything. Your son didn't break any laws." And his mother was pleading like, "Look, this 15-year-old is out of control, he's disappearing from the house for 4 or 5 days at a time. When we find him, he's doped up. You guys gotta do something." And then finally [her son] did do something, and then they were able to put him in a program. So how do we help even before that? Through nonprofits or something like that, and not necessarily government or government officials. But where do we get that help to stabilize these families, so that babies aren't having babies, and people put more emphasis on going to school, getting an education, and doing something positive?

When I grew up, I was in bowling leagues. I was in Little League baseball. In high school I moved to wrestling. I ran cross-country. I did something productive. When we were on the street, we played stickball. We played electric football. There were a lot of other things we did besides crime. And so we need to get away from that current mentality that says, "I'm just gonna get mine. I'm just hustlin'". We can't have that, because your crime is victimizing somebody else. And nine times out of ten, it's your neighbor. It doesn't help the Newark community.

That is the hard part. That is 10 years, 15 years, 20 years down the road, getting people to think less violently. We used to have arguments — alright we had a fist fight. That was it when I grew up. By the time I got older, they'd moved onto knives, and now everything's a gun. And there's no recourse once you pull that trigger. They're not even trained, so they're not even hitting the target. They're hitting other people. And they need to realize that innocent bystanders are being brought into their little battles or arguments or disagreements. We've had all these killings in the past few weeks — no comment from the current administration.

John Sharpe James' campaign website is online at voteforjohnjames.com. BrickCityLive previously interviewed at-large council candidate Lynda Lloyd.

Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche: Newark’s financial literacy ‘valedictorian’

tiffany the budgetnista aliche

Best-selling author Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche and I met at Elbow Room in Newark recently to discuss her financial literacy career, which she launched in Newark, and which has truly taken off over the past 18 months.

Depending on the day, you can spot her on your television, in your Twitter feed, on the Huffington Post, speaking at major conferences, teaching financial literacy in smaller groups, giving webinars, and being featured in high-recognition newspapers and magazines. Or, if you’re in Newark (Aliche lives here), you just might catch her strolling around town, always with a forearm full of her signature green Budgetnista bracelets.

Among other things, we talked about how the recession changed a generation’s attitude toward risk taking, why you should let your business speak to you, and why you might want to look out for a green “B” on your potential purchases in the not-too-distant future. And as always, I asked about the entrepreneurial climate in Newark.

Andaiye Taylor: Your reach has spread well beyond Newark. Can you talk about why Newark makes a good home base for an entrepreneur like yourself?

Tiffany Aliche: Newark is like a big city and a small town at the same time. If you succeed in Newark, it puts you on the map, because in your given field, there might be next to no competition. In my case, who else is going to teach financial literacy? I was the only game in town.

I look at Dreena [Whitfield, founder of WhitPR, a public relations firm, and Newark’s current press secretary]: no one was specifically doing public relations for small business here before she did. Or Akintola [Hanif, founder of Hycide magazine]: no one was a hardcore photographer in the way he did it.

These are truly talented people at what they do. It’s just that Newark allows us to hone our skills in a smaller environment, where people can help you out without feeling threatened, whereas in New York City, it’s more dog eat dog.

Right now, I’m like the valedictorian in a small high school: I’m right in league with the other valedictorians. Newark might be pretty small, but it’s the biggest city in the state. Because I’m at the top of the heap in Newark, it puts me in league with other people all over the country who do what I do.

And another thing I love about Newark is that all the movers and shakers are so touchable. It seems like everybody is just a touch away. There’s more than enough going on here that you can make an impact, and you can be put on the map to succeed.

Does the proximity to New York City also help?

It does. Because Newark is so close, I’m able to make the transition to New York.

I’m City National Bank’s financial literacy expert. That’s a case where I was able to work with a company that is based here, but has a presence in [New York] city. A bank in [New York] city would never have asked me to be its lead financial literacy expert at the stage in my career that CNB did. But here in Newark, there was no other real choice. The president [of CNB] saw a Star Ledger story and called me in. And that’s another thing: to even have the opportunity to have press here is a big advantage.

So it sounds like this has been a great place to kick off a career. Can you talk about living in Newark?

I love living here. It’s not a super pretty place like California. Newark is like the baby that’s not that cute, but it’s my baby. What I like is the people. The people here are really amazing, and it’s like I can’t make it from one end of the street to the other without meeting somebody new. Or seeing someone I know and having a conversation.

And there’s a certain energy here.  Everyone is kind of like “Man, we’re all trying to figure out how to do something amazing.”

What do you think is driving that attitude? Why are so many people trying to do their own thing?

“Living richer” is about pursuing your purposeful passion in life. I feel like the recession has led to people thinking, “If I do things the ‘right way’, everything can still be taken away.” That’s the gift that the recession has given to us, especially if you’re in your late 20s, or in your 30s. My [younger] sister and her peers who are coming out [of college] now aren’t seeing the worst of it like our generation has.

The recession made you rethink how life is supposed to work. It shined light on the lie that if you go to school and get a “regular job”, everything’s going to work out fine. I think more people in our generation have thought to themselves, “If you’re going to take away my sucky job anyway, I might as well take a risk on doing something I’ll love.”

How did that play out in your specific case? 

I was a teacher in Newark for 7 years. A couple years ago, around the time when school was going to start again for the fall, they called and said, “Don’t come.”

At that point, I had saved two years’ worth of income just because, so I had a cushion, and that situation made me realize I was over that kind of teaching anyway. But it was still a devastating time.

I took two years to travel and volunteer, and always ended up teaching somehow. I realized I loved teaching, just not in the box of the classroom.

I working with [Newark nonprofit] FP [YOUTHOUTCRY] teaching financial literacy, and would be in city hall all the time because of that work. And I’d meet all these amazing people there. Newark Now would have meetings where I’d meet a bunch of people doing interesting things in the city. When I wrote a financial program for FP, people eventually started asking, “How much does Tiffany cost?” Al Tariq [Best, founder of FP YOUTHOUTCRY] was like, “I think you should do financial literacy.”

How did you turn that suggestion into a business?

Three years ago, I was on my sister’s couch about to lose my house. One of my mentors said to me, “You need to get a contract.” I remember thinking, “Oh thanks, because they’re just flying in from the sky.” But then I realized I had everything I needed to go out and get paid for my work.

I thought about what organizations would want what I was giving. Then I thought about the people who could make the connections, and just started emailing. One woman I emailed connected me to The United Way, and that was my very first contract.

It’s funny because in the beginning, I used to force Budgetnista to be here and there. Now, I focus on doing the best job I can do, and I have not solicited any business in the last year and a half. My job is to do my very best work, write the very best article, give my very best interview, prepare and prepare for my speaking engagements. If I do that, people will contact me. If you’re an entrepreneur, the business will show you the direction you need to go in, if you let it.

Why do you think your audiences relate to you?

I tell them that they don’t need to be afraid of finances anymore, and I let people know they don’t have to be ashamed of their financial situation anymore. When I make a financial mistake, I don’t mind telling everyone, and using it as another lesson. Putting that on the table lets me say, “If I can show you this, then you don’t need to be ashamed to ask me about high credit card debt, or about how to handle your potential foreclosure.”

Speaking is a big part of your job. Where did your charisma come from?

I’m a middle child, so I guess that I’m always like, “Look at me!”  Plus, I’m super talkative. I’ve learned that it’s just my natural personality.

You frame your financial advice in the context of happiness and quality of life. How did you develop your financial curriculum around those higher concepts?

I’m an avid reader — I always have my Kindle with me. I don’t read solely about business; I read a lot of philosophical books. I’m on that quest for the best life. I love The Alchemist. I love Jonathan Livingston’s book Seagull, which is about a seagull that thinks flying should be about more than just getting food. I read a lot of marketing books. In fact, my degree is in marketing. I watch a lot of YouTube videos. I’m always on the quest for my best self.

When you do your seminars, what types of people come out?

In Newark, it’s a great mix. I was working with YouthBuild, which is a program for kids who got into trouble, and want to get their lives together. When I speak at The United Way, it’s usually to professional people who are in their late 20s to upper 40s. They’re thinking, “I’m making good money, but I don’t know what to do with it, how to manage it.” I do a lot of schools and colleges. So there’s no typical person, it’s really just people who are admitting to themselves, “I know I can do better with my money, but how do I do it? I want to do better, but I don’t know the language.” That’s the thread that ties them together.

When it comes to my curriculum, I’m like a mad scientist. So many things I’ve shown people how to do are based on mistakes I’ve made. Or sometimes, I’ve figured out an issue someone I care about is having.

Because I taught preschool, I’m good at taking really big concepts and making them understandable. Being a preschool teacher was the best training ground for that. That’s why step one of my book (The One Week Budget) is literally, “Get a paper and a pencil, and begin writing this.”

You’ve had an exciting year and a half. Where do you envision taking your brand from here?

My ultimate world domination goal is that one day, Budgetnista won’t just be associated with financial literacy. It will be associated with value. You’ll see my Budgetnista “B” on a washing machine, or you’ll go to Target and see it on a dress. It’ll mean this item is a great value for your money.

In the next two to five years, I want to do more shows – I would love to be the “Friday girl” on a morning news show. I want to do more travel to spread fun financial literacy around. I’m also working on another book. I did a “30 day money challenge” recently, and after I did it, a couple people were like, “Is this all in one place?” So I thought, “You know what? That’s what I’ll do next”. But “One Week Budget” is still doing well, and I think it still has some time left.

I don’t want to put out a new book just to make money, though. I’m not in the business of taking money from people, I’m in the financial literacy business, and I’m into helping people. I want my new book to be borne out of that energy.

What about the shootings?

My name is Andaiye Taylor. I am a journalist and entrepreneur, and I created BrickCityLive.com, which I officially launched about three weeks ago. As of today, I personally write the vast majority of the stories on this site. Given the recent spate of shootings in town that have gotten so much press, and given the ongoing violence and other tough problems that are a reality here in Newark, I think it makes sense for me to explain the content on this website. But before I start that discussion in earnest, let me tell you a little about myself.

I was born in Newark, and I’ve lived here longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else. I’ve lived in the South Ward, on Wainwright Street, and in the West Ward, off of Orange Street. I spent a substantial part of my childhood and adolescence living in Hillside. I spent all of my teenage years living in Irvington. I’ve attended school in Newark, Hillside and, for high school, Livingston. I attended college in Philadelphia. I currently live downtown.

My family first migrated from Georgia to Newark in the 1950s. My grandmother graduated from South Side High School. My mother graduated from University. Five generations of my family live in the city of Newark today. Blood relatives of mine live in all five wards of this city.

I’ve been privileged to travel a lot, both in the U.S. and overseas. When I descend into Newark Airport on my way back home, I feel lucky that no matter where I go in the world, I truly have a sense of place and a feeling of homecoming when I come back here. I know that not everyone has such a place.

I explain all this for context: I’ve had a lived experience with Newark that goes back further than my memory can even reach. I love this city, in no small part because so many of the people I love most in this world were born in, bred in, and/or live within these 25 square miles. I have high expectations for this city that are rooted in my experiences here, and in my personal relationships with people here. When bad things happen in this city, I become disappointed in that profound way one does when someone you believe in falls short of their potential.

The violence in this city sickens me. That we’re losing lives violently, that families are feeling the impact, that so many of these lives are young ones, that we’re so used to hearing about it happening, and that our youth have such an eye-level view of it, is heart rending. I cannot overstate how much so.

But as a journalist, and as a result of my own habits of mind, I also have to pull back and remember a few things. I have to remember that violence is not the only thing that happens in Newark, and that it’s not a contradiction to mourn our losses, wrap our arms around their families, acknowledge that for a very long time, it’ll feel like the only thing happening in their lives, continue to seek ways to quash it…and also acknowledge, applaud, and shine a light on the positive things that occur here.

I have to remember that the very act of acknowledging only the negative has its own destabilizing effect on our communities. Violence here, as in all places, has a terroristic effect. That effect works by asymmetry, which means that an act of violence will have a reach far outside of its already substantial real-world sphere of influence. Every time someone perpetrates a violent act, it affects even those of us who observe it from a “safe” distance: it reaches into our minds, makes us feel under siege, chokes out hope, and blinds us to the real opportunities around us.

We must know what’s going on in our neighborhoods in order to reckon with those things. The violence here is a bona fide emergency, and we need to surround it and root it out. But if we only give voice to negative things, we’ll amplify their impact that much more. We’ll cede substantially more ground to them than even they deserve. We must elevate hopeful things even as we grapple with our gravest problems.

I started Brick City Live as a corrective. The story selection on this site is not balanced, but it is balancing. I seek to give voice and light to the hopeful people and hopeful stories that coexist with those events and stories that rightly disturb us. I want people both here and the world over to know that Newark is not a place without hope. I’m motivated to tell those stories not only because I’m a Newarker, but also because I’m a fact-seeking journalist. The hope that springs in this city is not a product of my wishfulness: it is an all-too-often unsung fact of our lives here.

That is not to say that I’ll never report on violence in Newark, or any other tough subject, for that matter. In fact, the lengthiest story, by far, on this site to date is about gun violence in Newark. It’s a story I’ve been sharing widely for the past few weeks. But when I do report on and write about it, it will be in a way that sheds more light on it, on the people involved, and on the context in which it occurred, just as I attempted to do with that story.

So as you read the content on the site – and I hope you’ll make a habit of it – please know that it’s attempting to present a more complete picture of the types of things that can and do occur in Newark. These are the other things that occur in our collective backyards. These are our other neighbors. This is the other context. These are the things that should be galvanizing in a positive way, and helping us make sense of what’s possible right here. And highlighting them isn’t an act of denial. While I do that work, know that I’m also thinking deeply about our most abiding problems, and thinking through ways to do them justice. That’s a project that takes a little time to do properly.

But also know, above all, that I’m focusing daily on helping us all see a more complex and textured truth about our complicated city.

FYI: Are you ready to ‘Start Something’?

Although lending to small businesses increased in 2012, the number of micro-loans actually decreased, depriving small business owners of one of their most viable funding options.

In response, Rising Tide Capital, the community-based entrepreneurship organization, created the Start Something Challenge, which consists of a $10,000 cash prize business pitch competition, networking opportunities, access to startup experts, elevator pitch coaching, and general visibility for their venture. The deadline for the competition is this Wednesday, September 18, at 12pm.

Not sure how to approach your pitch? Rising Tide will be hosting a video pitch tutorial at their office this coming Monday, September 16 at 6:30pm, at their offices at 334 Martin Luther King Drive in Jersey City.