Tom Plays the Anti-Race-Card

Tom Moran: A serious accusation, made cheap in Newark. Moran takes a skeptical look at the “race card” that he says is played too often in Newark.

On Wednesday, the job fell to Councilman Ras Baraka, who sat directly across a large conference table from Corzine and his senior aides. The proposal had been modified by then, but its odor remained.

So Baraka played the race card.

“You’re looking at it from a racially and economically privileged position,” he told them. “I don’t have that privilege. I live in Newark where kids are getting shot in the streets and parents are coming to me saying, ‘My child needs a job.’”

I think, with regard to the $80 million the Council is trying to pinch from the city budget, that he’s absolutely right: the Newark city council is backpedaling and grasping for arguments. And Moran’s clever jab at the mayor is warranted — James’ own empathy for Newarkers’ lack of jobs and opportunity comes off as disingenuous given his quarter-million-dollar salarly, Rolls Royce, and 46-foot-long yacht. One could argue that the mayor of uses his identification with Newark along the lines of race and poverty as leverage to push his self-aggrendizing policies through the city Council.

But, I think a more detailed analysis would be more helpful before we paint all Newark social policy arguments with the same brush. This city has been underserved by the state of New Jersey for decades, and one cannot ignore the role of racial demographics that have played part in that disparity. Brushing off all — or, at least, all recent — racial arguments as a “race card” is not helpful to the dialog of understanding racial politics in Newark for Tom’s readership (who apparently need to be reminded that Newark matters because it’s not on the other side of the planet).

On the Radar: Rice spreads the hate, Rutgers examines the past, NJPAC looks to the future

  • Battle for Newark: League of Women Voters letter. In brief, it went something like, “Ahem, NO we didn’t sponsor that.”
  • WBGO: Sen. Rice wants the Newark mayor’s race monitored for fraud. Isn’t that we have state election boards?
  • Newark06: Rice Goes on the Attack. Rice mimics James’ 2002 tactic of flinging hateful accusations at Booker in order to undermine his reputation. It seems that where the Booker team has matured, the current administration has descended to grade school warfare. What’s next? Will Rice shout boldly to Booker at the debate that “you’re not the boss of me,” or will he use the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” attack instead?
  • Battle for Newark: Where to catch the candidates. Katie shares a quick reference for next week’s appearances for the mayoral candidates.
  • Rutgers-Newark: Newark Riots – 1967. Rutgers has put together a site in remembrance of the 40th anniversary of ’67 riots that scarred the city.
  • Urban Land Institute: Arts Center Has A Plan to Help Newark Revive (from the New York Times). Further development plans around the NJPAC.
  • National Jeweler: Newark Museum launches jewelry exhibition. A museum exhibit spanning five centuries of American and European jewelry masterpieces is slated to land next week in a city that may be best known as an airport hub for Continental, but was also once a hot spot for gold jewelry manufacturing: Newark, N.J.

The Main Event

Rutgers-Newark: Rutgers-Newark Campus To Host Newark’s Four Mayoral Candidates In May 2 Debate. One week before election day, Rutgers-Newark will be hosting the mayoral-candidate smackdown on May 2^nd^ at the Robeson Center.

The event at R-N will be the only forum to bring together all four candidates in the nonpartisan election: David Blount, Cory Booker, Ronald L. Rice and Nancy Rosenstock. The format calls for the debate moderator, Desiree Taylor of NJN, to present a series of questions, with each candidate given an equal amount of time to respond to each. Questions will be drawn both from audience questions, submitted shortly before the debate, and questions developed by Student Voices based on input from Newark high school students about local issues they are most concerned about. Doors to the program will open at 6:30 p.m. to allow audience members to submit their questions.

He Smells Like the Future

Clement Price, Newark historian at Rutgers University, introduced tonight’s screening of Marshall Curry’s “Street Fight” by explaining its relevance in the stream of documentaries about the city, including “City of Promise” and “Revolution: 1967”. He noted the film’s Oscar nomination, but explained that the film was ultimately was beaten out by 100 penguins.
We got started with the film shortly after Curry shared some additional words of introduction — though some technical difficulties at the outset prompted a member of the audience to ask, “Is there anyone here from NJIT?” It was fun to see the film again, this time with an audience. We laughed as one enthusiastic little girl declared that Booker “smells like the future,” and gasped in amazement as Curry caught James telling lie after lie down the campaign trail.

What struck me most about watching the film this time was how much the Booker team has grown since their run in 2002. The film opens as an officer from the Newark Housing Authority threatens to call the cops on Booker as he canvases a residential apartment building, then cuts to a scene where Booker is explaining how his “grassroots campaign” is looking to save money by cutting corners wherever possible. Fast forward to today where the 6.1 Million Dollar Man now leads his opponent in the polls by as much as 43%, as if his campaign was gliding along on rails.

Curry fielded questions at the end of the film, explaining that his interest in Newark began in 1991 when he started a literacy program for children. He covered issues like Booker’s support of school vouchers, how he dealt with the intimidation he experienced during the filming of the movie, and why he thought James dropped out of this year’s race. One observation that really seemed to grip Curry about the film — and the election itself — was how the media treated the city as if it were another country. People in the state of New Jersey just didn’t seem to care that much whether the election was run fairly and prefered to vew the rough-and-tumble race as if it were a sporting event. Even today, it’s still hard to find people who are interested in the city of Newark without drawn-out explanations of why Newark matters.

After the screening, I got a chance to catch up with Damien Cave from the New York Times and co-writer of the Newark06 blog. I asked him a bit about how the Times is engaging its readers through the web and how the medium is being treated internally at the company. When he asked how I got involved in blogging about the city, I explained that I had moved here two years ago, and enthused about the city’s untapped potential. He explained to me that the city has been in the midst of this renaissance for a long time. “Every three years or so since 1990, you see this type of story about Newark.”

We agreed that perhaps Booker will be the catalyst the city needs for real change to take hold. I didn’t quite get the chance to ask Damien what will happen to the Times blog after the election, but I sure hope they stick around for what is sure to be an interesting year for the city of Newark.

On the Radar: Pseudo-debates, UMDNJ, and the $80 million question

Booker on Living Conditions

I’m just getting around to reading the Q&A Cory Booker had with the Newark Speaks community. His answers to the handful of questions he chose to answer were very clear and exciting for the people of Newark. One question, in particular, really struck me as an extreme example of public service:

Q. Do you plan to move (I’m embarrassed to say my mayor lives in a run down apt. building.) and if so what ward do he plan to move to?

A. Get used to it. I made a pre-politics commitment to the folks that live in that community — most specifcally including Ms. V. Jones. I told her I would stay there until the job is done. I will remain in that building until we can secure it and then secure the funding to rehab the building. In fact, we had already done that and we had secured millions of dollars in rehab but the city blocked us. This is a great building and a viable one. It should be saved and restored to its 1969 level of greatness. There are people in other city’s that would kill for such large spacious apartments. We can make that a model of mixed income redevelopment right near the heart of our down town.

But as far as where I live…I am not concerned about what people say. It is my personal choice. And I tell you this, you may be surprised where I choose to live next. This city has communities that are in a state of crisis. And for the next four years I am committed to making every neighborhood safe. I am willing to go to any personal lengths necessary to accomplish that as my past living choices have shown: from a moble home to a tent at garden spires. So if I win, your mayor might “embarrass” you again, but I think in the end you will be proud that I got the job done in our city.

Cory Booker

East Ward: Amador vs. Linhares

The Newark Star Ledger helpfully gives a thumbnail sketch of the candidates running in the East Ward: Newark’s East Ward Candidates. The two candidates’ platforms are virtually identical around the issues of property taxes, crime and new schools. Linhares seems to be more verbose — which might have something to do with that law degree — whereas Amador’s language is more pragmatic, concrete and time-bound.

Attack Ad Mystery Solved

The hardworking folks over at the New York Times Newark06 blog figured out who had posted a mysterious attack ad against Booker on the web a couple of weeks ago: “Corey” Ad Mystery Solved!. Great work, guys!

He went on: “We collect data, sir, and we try to give the people of Newark the right message. The message is we need to save Newark from the outsiders who are coming in and trying to take over this city.”

Your area code isn’t from around here. Do you live in Newark?


Lame Duck Appointments

According to this article by the Newark Star Ledger, Mayor James is spending his last few weeks in office stuffing political appointments into various boards and positions throughout the city.
Not surprisingly, Booker was put out:

“He’s doing it in the wrong way,” Booker said. “As opposed to opening it in a public process so Newark residents can apply, so they can get the best possible people, he’s violating the public interest and supporting the people in his inner circle. He’s not getting the most qualified applicants.”

Kinda puts a new spin on “lame duck.”