Christie wins the governor’s race; John Sharpe James wins council at-large seat

As expected, governor Christopher Christie prevailed over Barbara Buono in the New Jersey governor’s race.

More locally, John Sharpe James won the council at-large seat that has been vacant for over a year since former council president Donald Payne, Jr. won the congressional seat formerly held by his father, the late Donald Payne, Sr. The seat became a point of contention when Cory Booker and his allies on the city council attempted to seat Shanique Speight in the vacancy. A Superior Court judge later invalidated the move. James was the fifth-highest vote getter in the 2010 election for at-large city council members. In a general election, the four highest vote getters win at-large seats.

James watched the results on News12 at Loft47, a bar and lounge on Edison Place in Newark. Shortly after the result was announced, Dean Serratelli of Newark-based Serratelli Hat Company gifted James with a congratulatory cowboy hat, which James wore for the rest of the night. At James’ victory party at The Key Club, his father, former mayor Sharpe James, Amiri Baraka, and mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries were among the notables milling around.

James’ election doesn’t leave the Newark city council whole, however. Luis Quintana’s ascendance to the mayor’s seat following Cory Booker’s senate victory leaves the council one member short of its nine total seats.

Newark council candidate Brian Logan shares his goals and plan for the South Ward

I spoke with South Ward council candidate Brian Logan yesterday about his vision for its neighborhoods, and his plan for making that vision a reality. Logan is head football coach at Weequahic High School and 23 year veteran of the Newark Police Department, where he currently serves as a decorated detective on the force. His work has previously been covered in The Star Ledger. He’s aligned with councilman and mayoral candidate Anibal Ramos, whose public safety plan Logan recently endorsed.

What is the most pressing issue in the South Ward?

Right now I think the most pressing issue facing the South Ward is protection. The people don’t feel safe. Police layoffs, attrition from the department, community interaction, putting the “neighbor” back into the “hood” – all that’s gone. That’s why I’m running for the South Ward council.

What will you do to help turn that around?

As a police officer for 23 years, as a head high school football coach for 20 years, and as a man of the community that was born and raised here, I think I know the terrain better than anyone else. I have experience as a detective in the Police Athletic League, in the D.A.R.E. program, and working with a great gang resistance program.

We need to bring back the Youth Aid Bureau. When troubled teens are committing crime, it’s a way to track them to help them stay on the right page. Once they find themselves getting into trouble, you want to try to attract them so you can steer them in the right direction, whether it’s programs for intervention, job training, mentorships — that type of thing. It’s about letting the kid knows he’s of more value being a productive citizen than not.

Why do you think the city council is the most effective place from which to solve that problem?

Resources. City council is able to generate resources. You can always tap into more. They have the outlets to provide more recreational programs. They have the outlets to provide more beautification of the city. And the outlets to basically pass legislation on educational opportunities in terms of what’s going on in the city.

What’s your positive vision for the South Ward at its best?

The positive vision is economic development. The South Ward is one of the least developed wards in the city. There’s nothing going on here. Back when I was growing up, you had small mom-and-pop businesses that I was able to work at and earn $30 a week. That made me feel positive about myself. I was able to buy myself something small and contribute to what my family didn’t have.

Also, the small mom-and-pop stores bring people together. We would shop in the neighborhood. You had Cedric’s record shop, Four Leaves deli, which made great sandwiches. Now people are stuck up in their homes because there’s nothing here, and the shopping is minimal. People don’t get to interact with each other.

It was vibrant before – there was just so much to do. From recreation go education, the South Ward was booming when I was  a kid. And that’s why I want to be South Ward councilman, so I can bring that back. I remember when it meant a lot to put a Little League uniform on with a local business sponsoring your team, walking proud through the neighborhood with that business name on, doing great things in terms of playing sports, and being recognized.

What happened to the South Ward?

I think it was the product of jobs leaving the community as well as drugs coming in. I think the drug game kind of took away from the people in the neighborhood, kind of broke down families, broke down self esteem. It was just a horrible thing for the community.

How do you go about making that positive vision real?

We have to go out and make the community a safe place. It’s already a thriving market. You have public transportation from all over coming to Newark. I love what Cory Booker did for the city in terms of development, but he brought it downtown. We have to bring that back into the neighborhoods. And I think we can attract some great businesses to come here if we get our crime problem in check, and we start looking out for each other.

How do we get the crime problem in check?

We have to take back our community in terms of hiring more police officers, but we all know that we don’t want to over police. That’s not always the solution. But we are totally down in terms of policemen, so we need to hire some to protect the citizens.

Then the citizens need to step up and say, “Okay when the police come in and stabilize it, we need to keep it.” Put more walking teams in the neighborhood and get familiar with who’s supposed to be there and who’s not. If you want to loiter all day, you’re going to get picked up from the corner and dropped off at faith-based or nonprofit organization so you can get a skill and learn to work. Because nobody’s going to occupy these corners. Those days will be over. It’s not going to happen. You can’t do it in Hillside, and you won’t do it here.

We’re just trying to make sure that taxpaying citizens get what they deserve. They deserve to get out of their homes, exercise, meet and greet each other, and be neighbors and not hostages in their homes.

Why are you the ideal person for the council position? What case have you been making to South Ward residents?

Most of them know that I’m a neighborhood guy. You always see me in the neighborhood, and when you see me, I’m working by already being the head football coach of Weequahic, being a police officer. They know they’re going to get 100% honesty, that I’m going to be a fighter and be passionate about the community where I was born and raised and never left. I’m from Newark; I am Newark.

We’re about making the South Ward a priority so people can be safe here, people want to come here to do business, and people want to come here to have a great time.

More information about Logan is available on his website, His campaign also maintains a social media presence on Facebook (, on Twitter @BrainKLogan, and on Instagram @BrianKLogan.

Brick City Live previously interviewed South Ward council candidate Jarmaro “Dilettante” Bass.

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], now 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 BrickCityLive previously interviewed at-large council candidate Lynda Lloyd.

At-large candidate Lynda Lloyd wants to give Newark’s council more muscle

There’s a lot going on politically in Newark these days.

Newark’s mayoral election is well underway, with the candidates in full-on campaign mode. And of course, Newark’s current mayor, Cory Booker, is getting lots of local and national attention as he squares off against Steve Lonegan ahead of next month’s U.S. Senate special election here in New Jersey.

But there’s another special election on the horizon. It’s the contest for the municipal council at-large seat vacated by Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. when he ascended to the U.S. Congress to take the seat formerly held by his father, the late Rep. Donald Payne, Sr. It’s the same seat that caused controversy when some members of the current council – Ras Baraka, Mildred Crump, Ronald Rice, and Darrin Sharif – contested the appointment of Shanique Davis Speight to it late last year (a judge later sided with those members and overturned the appointment).

Lynda Lloyd Headshot - High ResEnter Lynda Lloyd, the Newark native who has served on the congressional staff of Donald Payne, Sr., and on the municipal staff of south ward councilman and current mayoral candidate Baraka. She’s now vying for the seat (along with John Sharpe James, the son of former Newark mayor Sharpe James). The Howard University graduate sat down with me for a couple hours last week to discuss her ideas for Newark, and how she intends to execute them as a member of the council.

In a nutshell, Lloyd says she’s committed to helping reanimate the council – to making it a real factor in pushing the people’s agenda – by more aggressively using its powers on behalf of Newark residents. Read on for her thoughts about how she intends to do that with Newarkers’ help, what it’s like to run for office in Newark as a young person and a woman, and more.

Andaiye Taylor: How long have you known you wanted to hold political office?

Lynda Lloyd: I’ve always wanted to run for office. I fell in love with civics at Camden Middle [middle school in Newark] — that’s where I started to become civically engaged. I also started attending council meetings at a young age, so involvement in that world started early on.

I was interested in the council because they deal with who can build what where, and who can do what where. I knew at an early age that I wanted to run for office, write laws, and make the votes and decisions that increased the quality of life in the city.

How did you pursue that in terms of your education?

Because of my activism, I wanted to study law. I went to Howard [University], and was excited to be in the nation’s capital, because the world comes to DC for politics. Although state and local government had been my focus, I really appreciated that about DC. I was one of those weird young people who just loved government. I was the girl who watched C-Span. And I wanted to be part of the legacy at Howard.

When I was in DC, the late congressman [Donald] Payne [Sr.] was in office. I wanted to work for him, because I wanted to know what he did at the federal level. I cold called his office for three years. Even though I knew people who knew him, I didn’t think of calling home to get an internship — no connections got me there. The third year, a young lady who worked in his office said, “Just send me your resume”. Once I started working there, I realized just how many people we knew in common.

My first semester working there I did well, and his office called and said the congressman wanted me to stay. I started as an intern, and left as a staff assistant. Congressman Payne had a lot of institutional knowledge. He worked on education, housing, healthcare, and appropriations, and being there gave me insight into what role Congress really plays. At the end of the day, they fight for dollars for their districts.

I worked in the Newark and the DC offices. While I was still at Howard, I would come home and work on campaigns – not like spring breaks for a lot of other people my age. And I would always speak to students at my old school.

I also worked with Quest Youth Services, and helped organize programs through that organization with Ms. Joyce Smith Carter, who we’ve since lost to cancer. Anyone who was having something that was impacting the community – I was there. Because of that, it was easy to come home after school and connect.

What do you think you can accomplish on the council?

I look at Newark city council the way I look at Congress. There are some things that the city council can do like subpoena for information, call in officers from companies we give contracts to, and hold public hearings for certain subjects. I haven’t seen us work aggressively enough to use those powers, be transparent, and share information.

When did you decide to run?

When councilman [Donald] Payne [Jr.] decided to run for Congress, I started to research all the options. A friend of mine told me that if Payne wins, I should do it. You have to understand, they used to call me “Councilwoman Lloyd” when I was still going to school in Newark. I’ve always wanted to be on the council.

I’d spent two years with a close-up view of the council when I was working for councilman Baraka, and because of that, I was a little disenchanted and unsure. I said “no” at first. But I still believe in the system, and believe we can get things done. Because of some of my experiences in City Hall, I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue the dream. But a friend of mine reignited the fire, so I prayed about it, and we researched the options.

Do you think the controversy about the seat adds a negative element to your run?

Based upon me engaging residents from all over the city, most people don’t even know it’s a “special election”. I’ve had a handful of people say, “Is that the seat they had the big ruckus over?” But only a handful of people, and only a small number of people have totally made up their minds.

Most people I’ve talked to are engaged, and are ready for a new face, fresh voice, and for more women representing them. You have more people like that than people who are completely behind a certain candidate.

I feel that I’m the best candidate, and here’s why: I’m literally everywhere possible engaging residents. Since I first came out, I’ve given people a whole background on me. I say to them, “If I hadn’t been a community person or been engaged in the past, what makes you think I’m going to do that now?” And I explain the process: why having elections is important, and what the roles and responsibilities of the council are.

Why do you think you’d have enough impact on the council to make a difference?

I know I would be only be one out of nine votes. What I want to do is empower the community through information. As citizens, you shouldn’t elect a person and then walk away. An elected official is only as powerful as who they’re able to mobilize. That may sound very idealistic, but it has to happen. A representative needs to be able to place a call and get hundreds of people to show up.

Votes talk. If I’m a councilperson and get a hundred people to show up, other council members are going to take notice, and that’s going to impact their vote. If they know they can make any decision, and only a handful of people will show up, they don’t have that healthy fear of the people. It should be fear like, “I have this grave responsibility to make decisions about hundreds of thousands of residents, and I need to take this seriously.” I know councilman [and current mayoral candidate] Baraka has tried it, and I think he’s been the most effective at doing that.

In sum, I want to be in constant communication with constituents. We’re not going to agree on everything, but I should be able to explain my votes. And when people are in the loop on a consistent basis, they feel better than when they think everything’s ok, and something big happens out of nowhere.

What are your plans for the city?

I have a community-driven platform that talks about community development, empowerment, and health. The community has to be involved in what’s taking place in the city.

Public safety is the most important issue outside of education, and I have some ideas around how to address public safety, as well as get cleaner neighborhoods. There are sections of Newark that are very filthy where they don’t have to be.

What do you say to people on public safety specifically? Especially when we have a spate of killings like we’ve had over the past week and a half.

People get overwhelmed, and they think there’s nothing they can do. For example, you look at some areas that are extremely dark at night. Community members should feel empowered to call the business administrator and inquire about getting lights put in those places. It’s just important for people to know where to go to get things done. If people are educated on how things go, that’s one small way of helping them take action that can have some impact.

Crime is not something that can be addressed by just policing. There has to be a multi-level plan to address crime. Jobs are an issue, and having more of them would definitely bring the crime down significantly. There are institutions in our city that can impact what’s taking place. If those institutions are being silent, or not being aggressive where they need to be, you can pick up the phone and call people to get them moving quicker.

There really should be a state of emergency. If we were in another community, this type of thing wouldn’t be able to happen. The question is: how do we put a plan in place for what’s going on right now? What can we do right now? And I think institutions can lend resources that can protect our community. And I’m talking about protections, not a police state. I’m talking about public safety and the delivery of social services.

Again, I’m a civics person. I look at who’s paying who, and who’s responsible for what. Why can’t we have more troopers here to cover dangerous areas, if we’re paying to register our cars, and that money is technically supposed to be for [state] trooper hiring? A partnership like that will help alleviate the burden on the NPD [Newark Police Department]. There needs to an emergency plan until we can stabilize the area.

When you have people terrorizing the community, they feel like they can do anything they want to. I definitely know that the state can come in and help alleviate some of what we’re seeing. We have to be aggressive, but we can’t address crime by just beefing up police.

You’ve been into civics since you were a child. What special insight did that give you into how politics works?

Your office is a bully pulpit that can be used to advocate on people’s behalf. We need to be looking at what’s happening in every other major city, and figure out how we can get in front of some of the problems they’re having. And we need to be paying attention to what’s going on in the New Jersey [state] legislature.

Why aren’t we going to Trenton as a delegation more often? We have to be there advocating for Newark needs, making sure there’s legislation and budget items impacting Newark. Once you physically start to see your neighborhood change, you start to appreciate how your city is getting better.

The only thing that the council is technically responsible for is the city clerk. What your councilperson is doing is making calls, and using a little bit of muscle on behalf of residents to get things done. So it really doesn’t matter if all nine [council members] get along – they should go as a delegation to advocate for what we need.

The last time I saw you before you announced, I stumbled into a conversation you were having with a few other people about the lack of women in politics in Newark. What are your insights in light of your run?

The funny thing is, if every woman were to pull out of political structures in this city, I promise you those structures wouldn’t stand. Why is it that we don’t use the bargaining power that we have? It seems like we’re just happy to be at the table, but we don’t understand the strength that we have.

There are some women in our city who could’ve been greater in terms of their voice, but if we don’t mobilize our own power, we can only go so far. Women are 61% of registered voters in Newark. I think it’s important to highlight that fact about our city.

I also saw you recently at a Lean [Startup Machine] Newark networking event. You were the only politician or candidate present there. Why is it important for politicians to engage with the startup community in Newark?

The thing about Lean Newark is when I see them, I see an organization that can come into the south ward, into the west ward – all over Newark. As politicians, we have to challenge ourselves to think about business. The world is at our fingertips, but if you have an organization like Lean at your disposal, they can really help people here take their ideas to another level. We need the physical infrastructure here to create change, but we also need a strong social infrastructure. I think organizations like that can be a part of it.

Anthony [Frasier, founder of the BrickCity Tech meetup], invited me to the event on Twitter, and I’m so glad I was able to come and learn more about what they do. Now, I’m thinking about how to connect more people to that type of initiative; I immediately started thinking about how to get Lean in front of more people. Because as a young person, if you have an idea that you want to get off the ground, they provide another way to think about it. I want to do whatever I can to get the entire city on board with those types of opportunities.

Legislators have their role, and the private sector has theirs. How do you understand the relationship between the two?

We need to know how things happen. Take the port for example: it’s important to know that the governors [of New Jersey and New York] negotiate what can happen there. If you don’t understand that basic fact, you’re not going to lobby the right person to get what you want done. And if you don’t like the way the governor is negotiating, you change him.

It’s kind of like Plato’s theory of the cave. Those of us who know how things work – we’re the ones who made it outside. It’s our responsibility to try to bring everybody else along. We should be helping to give access, provide information, and be excellent brokers on behalf of our constituents.

It’s not our job to give out jobs. It is our job to learn how to use our legislative powers to make more jobs possible. It’s our job to conduct oversight of the administration. To have hearings and expose what’s happening to our constituents.

I’m all about civics – it’s a real passion of mine. The council could become a bigger force if we use our power on behalf of the people of Newark. We need to work together within that domain.

You’re a young woman – is it your goal to grow the electorate in Newark, particularly among younger voters?

All politics are local – people need to understand how important these local offices are. And we take for granted that seniors vote, but young people got Obama elected. A lot of that is because he was a fresh face and a historic candidate, but the fact is it proved that young people do vote in some circumstances.

The question for me is how do we get people to see that all politics are local? If you look at what happens at the federal level, Obama can have all the great ideas he wants, but with no House [of Representatives] support, he can’t get a lot of things he wants done. If we support what he wants to do, we have to vote for our [congressional] representative, not just for him.

I’m all about giving teeth to civics, and putting legislative powers to real use. Change in this city is going to happen, so you need to make sure you have the leaders at the table who are going to remember you. The question is, with new challenges before us, how do we govern? Mobilizing for change is not for the faint of heart.

I asked you about being a woman in politics in Newark. What’s it like being a young political candidate in this town?

Newark is very political, and you’re not really encouraged to participate unless you’re up under someone. Independent thinking is not encouraged politically. You have a bunch of older people trying to hold on. It’s like the older eat the young.

It would be my dream to have a movement where people realized and actualized the power they have. The conversation in this city is one that is full of blame and hopelessness. I want to change it to one of empowerment and action.

Change is fearful. Some people don’t want what they have now, but they’re fearful about the future. And they might have good reasons to be fearful. You have people who complain a lot about the changes they see, but then when you ask them what they want, their voices go down to mute. When you ask, “What do you want the city to look like?” they kind of fall back.

Advancement in this city in terms of economics, business development, institutions, and social infrastructure is wonderful, but we need to make sure what happens here is good for the residents.

Brick City Live also interviewed at-large candidate John Sharpe James.

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


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


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


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


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


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


Darrin Sharif makes his pitch to be mayor of Newark

Darrin Sharif officially declared his candidacy for Newark mayor during an evening rally at the Robert Treat Hotel yesterday. Sharif worked for Cory Booker as his chief of staff during Booker’s Central Ward council days, before ascending to the role himself in 2010, and becoming one of Booker’s key legislative adversaries on the council. He is also the son of long-time Newark political consultant Carl Sharif.

Sharif took to the podium to make his pitch in front of a group of about sixty people. Here’s what he covered:

  • Business development: The Central Ward is home to the the key political, business, and educational institutions in Newark, as well as the transportation infrastructure that makes parts of the ward so accessible by other parts of the city and the region.  Sharif took partial credit for projects throughout the Central Ward, including business development along First Avenue, Halsey Street, and Springfield Avenue.
  • Community learning: Sharif touted his role in the development of “Learning Centers” in residential communities throughout the ward. The purpose of the centers, he said, is to help kids without computers complete school assignments, and to enable adults to complete job applications and prepare for the GED.
  • Accessibility and rehabilitation: He discussed his bringing NJIT’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, Newark Public Schools, and “hopefully” Panasonic together to create a video game that helps Newark kids with disabilities improve their dexterity.
  • STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) career training: Sharif said he’ll be visiting MIT in two weeks to discuss the possibility of creating partnerships with Newark Public Schools to teach interested kids computer programming skills.
  • Innovation incubator: Sharif described a project in the works called the “Center for Human Development and Civic Engagement”. It’s an idea that has been percolating for some time for him: when I interviewed Sharif two summers ago, he described it to me in very similar terms to the program he laid out last night. The center, which he said will be located in the basement of the Renaissance Towers on Market and Mulberry Streets, would be an incubator for “projects that will move the city forward”, and a co-working space for residents, small businesses, non-profits, professors, students, and other Newark stakeholders to work on those projects. He also said the center would house a tech company that would manage Newark’s IT needs, and that a majority of its employees would be Newark residents.
  • Port jobs: Sharif said one of his key priorities as mayor will be to create a “comprehensive, strategic plan for engaging the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey”. He noted that he has long understood the job-creating power of the port, and that former council president Donald Payne, Jr. did take his suggestion to create a “port opportunities committee” and name him chair. But he also said it was a challenge to get the administration to put together a comprehensive port strategy. The mayorship, he said, would give him the power and authority to engage the state governments in New York and New Jersey, as well as our federal and state legislative delegations, to push a comprehensive plan that will benefit Newarkers.

Sharif’s campaign Facebook page is now online.

It’s Monday: Five things we’re thinking about

This week, we’re thinking about the latest mayoral debate, a holistic vision for revitalization in Newark, stop-and-risk transparency, the changing shape of Broad Street, and startup networking.

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


1. Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries debated Saturday in Society Hill


How did they frame themselves and their candidacies?

Shavar Jeffries

  • Jeffries introduced himself by laying out his tough early childhood in the South Ward, and his subsequent ascendance to high school, college, and a distinguished legal career here in New Jersey.
  • He attributed his success to the Boys and Girls Club of Newark and, more broadly, to the “people of Newark”.
  • He cited his career as a civil rights attorney, his presidency of the Boys and Girls Club, his involvement in the creation of Team Academy school, and his management experience at the state level as experiences that demonstrate his commitment to Newark, and qualify him to be the chief executive of the city.
  • Jeffries also emphasized the need for “new leadership” in city hall.


Ras Baraka

  • Baraka framed his time as a high school principal, which has required him to manage, as he put it, “hundreds of employees, millions of dollars, and thousands of kids,” as leadership, management, and executive experience relevant to the mayoral position.
  • In a rebuttal to the emphasis Jeffries placed on his credentials, Baraka also added: “Our history and our resume are not running for office. What we think, and what believe that we want to put in place,” are what voters should consider when picking a mayor.
  • Baraka emphasized that he, not his well-known family, is running for mayor. He took pains to note the positions he’s held within the city for the past 20 years, and argued that his candidacy should be assessed on his own record and ideas.
  • Baraka also emphasized his evolution from 20 years ago. He was still a public figure then, but pronounced some ideas on which he’s since evolved.[/toggle]

Video of the full debate is below.

2. If you like Shark Tank, you’ll love Thursday’s networking event


Have you heard of Lean Startup? It’s the business philosophy conceived by entrepreneur Eric Ries, and it prescribes a method for testing and validating startup and product ideas over time.

The benefit? According to the Lean philosophy, following their program helps entrepreneurs 1) get to market faster, 2) for less initial investment, 3) all while increasing the likelihood they’ll create products customers actually want.

Lean now has an outpost in Newark, and they’ll be hosting a networking event this Thursday at Center Stage Cuts on Broad Street. It’ll be a chance to network, find out more about Lean Newark’s Fall 2013 workshop, and pitch your venture for the chance to win a free ticket (worth $300). Check out our event page for more information about the event and how to register.]

3. The new Prudential Financial tower will look like this

According to an artist’s rendering, the construction site currently spanning Halsey Street (to the west), New Street (to the north), and Broad Street (to the south), will look like this (below) when it’s all done. For perspective: this is a northwest view of the new tower; that’s PSE&G Plaza in the foreground. According to, the tower might be finished as early as 2014.



4. Where to find Newark stop-and-frisk statistics


The Newark Police Department now publishes statistics for stop-and-frisk, use of force, complaints (internal and external), and disciplinary action on its website. The stop-and-frisk and use of force reports are cross-tabulated by precinct, age, race, gender, and reason. In July, for example, there were 2,109 stops, of which just over a quarter resulted in a summons or arrest. (In New York, where stop-and-frisk was recently ruled unconstitutional, police failed to find evidence of an offense 90% of the time.)

Newark has been heralded for being one of the first cities in the country to be transparent about its stop-and-frisk data. While the ACLU conceded in remarks to that stop-and-frisk is “an intrusive practice,” they nonetheless gave the NPD credit for offering “an important look at who is being stopped-and-frisked in our community and why.”

In comments recently made to MSNBC, mayoral candidate Ras Baraka distinguished between the practice as applied in Newark, and the version of it recently ruled unconstitutional in New York City: “The name of the policy or program [with respect to Newark] is misleading. When people hear stop-and-frisk they think of New York City where the police are randomly stopping and frisking people without probable cause, and that is a violation of people’s constitutional rights, especially if you are targeting high minority areas.” He said he thinks the NPD is more judicious in its stops.

5. Why bringing tech to Newark is great, but not nearly enough


What city was this sentence written about?

Downtown [?] used to feel empty, he says, especially after 5 p.m. when corporate office workers left for the suburbs. The city lost residents throughout the 1970s and 1980s, after its manufacturing base began to decline, and [?] did not have a great reputation nationally…Years later, huge swaths of the city now seem like catnip for the creative class…But [?] still faces challenges, especially when it comes to finding decent jobs for its less-skilled workers. The city’s poverty rate remains higher than the statewide average, and those without college degrees say they feel left behind by efforts to become a tech hub or revitalize downtown.

If you guessed Newark, you guessed wrong. In a recent article about a resurgence in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nancy Cook makes the point that although the growing tech sector there is effective at galvanizing certain of its residents and newcomers, it hasn’t yet put much actual money on the table. While tech and startups might be an important part of the mix for Chattanooga’s revitalization, what will really buttress the local economy for the long term is having diverse local job opportunities – in industries that aren’t all as “sexy” as tech – but that people at many skill levels can do .

Cook’s article on Chattanooga’s revitalization is worth reading in full.

Sneak peek: A vision of innovation for Newark’s South Ward

Update: You can now read our full profile of Jamaro “Dilettante” Bass here.

Have you seen this man?

For a lot of Newarkers, the answer is yes. From the community turkey giveaway to the art gallery, the economic development board meeting to the Weequahic Park running trail, Dilettante Bass has been a fixture in many different scenes all around Newark for years.

Now the Newark native and NJIT graduate is running for South Ward councilman, and the self-proclaimed “Renaissance man for a Renaissance City” has a phased plan for how to make the South Ward a locus of innovation and civic activity in its own right, block by block.

BrickCityLive sat down with Bass at Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark to discuss his plans for the South Ward and for the city. Bass – laid back, thoughtful, and deliberative – animates considerably when describing his ideas for how to build neighborhoods in the South Ward. Averse to what he sees as typical, empty generalizations about “building jobs” and “improving education”, Bass says what sets him apart is that he has an ambitious vision for Newark that can begin on a small, neighborhood scale. And that he has the skills, connections, and knowledge of how to navigate many sectors of the city to get them done. In doing so, he said, he can sell his broader vision to Newarkers not through rhetoric, but by pointing to the result down the street.

To borrow from rap legend Guru, we might say Bass’ approach to getting Newarkers on board is:

Here’s something you can feel
Styles more tangible, and image more real

Look for BrickCity Live’s full interview with Bass, who has a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, to be published following our beta launch later this month.

Shot of the Day: Cory Booker’s mobile command Center

Booker campaign employees man social media at Championship Plaza downtown Newark following news of his victory in the New Jersey Senate Democratic primary on Tuesday, August 12. With over 1.2 million Twitter followers and long-standing connections to Silicon Valley that extend back to his undergraduate Stanford days, Booker is the poster child for social media and tech savvy among politicians. In addition to staff, volunteers, supporters, and onlookers, Newark mayoral candidates Ras Baraka and Anibal Ramos were both seen in attendance. A Tribe Called Quest frontman Q-Tip spun records before Booker’s victory speech.

New Jersey votes. Newark mayor leads.

The New York Times ultimately endorsed Newark mayor Cory Booker for the U.S. Senate Democratic primary, but it acknowledged  nonetheless that New Jerseyans are “lucky to have a choice among four candidates with solid credentials: two with experience in Congress and good voting records; one who has worked hard at the state level on women’s issues, in particular; and one who made a national name for himself by bringing new thinking, honesty and compassion to the hidebound, corrupt and cold city government in Newark.

Here are the cases endorsers made for each of the New Jersey Democratic primary candidates:

Cory Booker: “As mayor, he has lured big money to Newark’s schools — notably a matching grant of $100 million from Mark Zuckerberg, a co-founder of Facebook. And he has worked well with Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, on areas of agreement in crime, development and education. That ability to work with the political opposition could be an asset for Mr. Booker if the ice age of a divided Congress ever ends.” – The New York Times

Rush Holt: “In sharp contrast to some of the other candidates in the primary race, Holt has a record of leadership on women’s and progressive issues. He has been willing to stand up and defend the rights of women, the LGBTQI community, and the hardworking voters in his district, even when it has meant challenging the political status quo.” – New Jersy National Organization for Women

Sheila Oliver: “As dedicated legislator and glass ceiling breaker, Sheila has demonstrated her commitment to issues important to women and families like co-sponsoring the law to create the Department of Children and Families and would continue to bring her passion and advocacy to her work in Washington.” – Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey

Frank Pallone: “When my husband needed help on environmental issues in the House of Representatives, he always knew what to do. He called Frank Pallone. Frank Pallone was the go-to guy who had the experience and know-how to get things done…He and Frank Pallone worked together on cleaning up Superfund and brown field sites, holding polluters accountable, stopping ocean dumping and protecting New Jersey’s beaches.” – Bonnie Lautenberg, widow of former U.S. Senator from New Jersey Frank Lautenberg

To find out where to cast your vote, look up your address in New Jersey’s polling location database.