It’s Monday 9/2: Five things we’re thinking about

Happy Labor Day!

This week, we’re thinking about the the limits of President Obama’s executive action on gun violence (he met with Booker and 17 other mayors last week), the new Panasonic CEO encouraging his employees to go local in Newark (they’re moving their headquarters here from Secaucus), Newark schoolteachers’ merit pay raises, the new Mormon Church meetinghouse on Broad Street, and the U.S. response to chemical weapons in Syria.

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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Booker and 17 other mayors met with Obama on youth violence

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In a week when Newark saw seven people killed from gun violence, President Obama, attorney general Eric Holder, 18 mayors (including Cory Booker), and some of their attendant staff (Newark Police director Sam DeMaio was in attendance) met to discuss youth violence. According to a White House statement, the president proposed:

  • Closing a loophole that would allow felons, domestic abusers, and others prohibited from having guns to get around gun purchase restrictions by registering the weapon to a trust or corporation
  • Denying requests to bring military-grade firearms back into the United States, in order to keep them off of the streets

The administration also said it has enacted 22 of 23 recommendations for reducing gun violence proposed by Vice President Biden back in January. Obama’s administration has had to do as much as possible on gun violence using executive orders, because Congress has been unable to push comprehensive gun reform legislation.

If the proposals above feel irrelevant to gun violence as it plays out in Newark, you might want to read our series on Newark’s internal gun violence debate. In it, groups within the city grapple with the causes of gun violence in Newark, and how the city should attack it.

Image: Flickr user djcalpone

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Panasonic CEO encourages employees to go local

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Panasonic North America CEO Joseph Taylor  invited journalists to the new building at Raymond Boulevard and McCarter Highway last week:

The 12-story headquarters, he says, is the first high-rise to go up in the city in 20 years, and Panasonic is urging employees to frequent local restaurants, dry cleaners and drug stores and, as part of the effort to live up to the company’s environmental initiatives, to use the widely available mass transit to get to work.

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Nearly 200 Newark teachers will see impact of the Zuckerberg education grant first-hand

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By the numbers:

  • 190 teachers will receive merit bonuses
  • $1.4 million in bonuses were paid out to teachers
  • 5% of all 3,200 teachers in the system – 1 in 20 – received some sort of bonus from the grant
  • 11% of the teachers who received bonuses got the max amount of $12,500
  • Bonus money was awarded for being rated “highly effective” ($5,000), working at a poorly performing school ($5,000), teaching a hard-to-staff subject ($2,500)
  • The full grant money must be used by 2015
  • As of September 1, 2013, $75.5 million of the $100m grant has been committed
  • By far, the largest portion of the total committed funds for the grant – 69% – is for teacher incentives, officially called “Teacher Quality and Principal Leadership”
  • The smallest portion of total committed funds – less than one-half of 1% – is for at-risk youth

Read more about the debate over the effectiveness of the bonuses themselves – and profiles of teachers who received and did not receive a bonus – at the Wall Street Journal.

And for even more insight, check out:

  • “Breaking down the Newark teacher raises” – Wall Street Journal
  • “Cami Anderson and Zuckerberg, the unlikely duo behind Newark schools’ revitalization” – Fast Company

Image: Flickr user insiderimages

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New Mormon meetinghouse on Broad Street

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Many of us who live in and around Newark have seen them: young men, walking in groups of two, wearing backpacks, dressed in crisply pressed white shirts and dress slacks, and looking quite out of context in the neighborhoods where they appear in the city.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the Mormon Church opened a location on Broad Street in June, and the location is likely part of a broader campaign to increase racial diversity in the church:

Newark’s population is 52% black and 34% Hispanic, while Mormons are more typically white. But the religion has opened churches in inner cities in recent years as it has expanded and grown more diverse, particularly after blacks were allowed to become priests in 1978.

Image: Peter J. Smith for the Wall Street Journal

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Syria explained

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WNYC helpfully provided a summary of the situation in Syria. Here are the questions and answers in brief. For a  comprehensive explanation, read their full story (which they continue to update as events unfold).

1. Why is the US getting involved? “Because of the likely use of chemical weapons. Three hospitals in Damascus reported that approximately 3,600 patients displayed ‘neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on Aug. 21, 2013.’ About 355 people were killed.”

2. Is the world on board? “No — not everyone thinks airstrikes are a good idea, although Kerry said the U.S. has support from France and Australia. Great Britain’s parliament has voted against action. The U.N. is pleading for more time…Russia and Iran — allies of Syria — are warning that if other countries intervene there will be repercussions. Meanwhile, Israel is worried.”

3. How did this start, anyway? “It was part of the Arab Spring, the series of protests across the Middle East that called for political, economic and social reforms.”

4. How bad is it? “The United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 people have died and more than 2 million people have fled Syria.”

5. What’s next? “Most likely, U.S.-led airstrikes. But that might not solve anything and will likely draw Western powers deeper into the conflict.”

Read WNYC’s full story for key updates on what Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry said about the situation on Friday and Saturday.

Image: Flickr user chrisjohnbeckett
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