Sobering Day for Democracy in Newark

Citizens rush council members as chaos erupts at Newark City Hall meeting

But when Speight was escorted by police to be sworn in, a group of residents, led by SEIU Local 617 President Rahaman Muhammad, stormed the dais and appeared to lunge toward Speight and her grade-school-age son.

Police restrained the group as they toppled a podium and residents were caught in the rush. When Muhammad would not give way, an officer doused him with pepper spray, along with residents, reporters and at least one other officer.

“This truly was an out-of-body experience,” said Sharif. “The mayor, who goes all around the country to talk about democracy … literally in the back of the room, hiding in the shadows.”

The Dark Knight spends $2 million filming in Newark

Chicago Tribune: Chicago stand-ins steal revenue but not thunder in new ‘Dark Knight Rises’

“The Dark Knight Rises” has already been a blessing for Pittsburgh and Newark, N.J., two non-traditional film locations that replaced Chicago as Gotham City in the third Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film.

“There was so much attention and media for Newark,” said Gorelick. “We estimated they dropped $2 million during their time here. They created a lot of sets in City Hall and were here weeks before and a number of days after. … We were thrilled. Newark is enjoying this renaissance. Any attention and positive publicity is a good thing. We got a lot of good PR out of it.”

Expecting City Hall to shine on film.

The new Newark CityPlex theater is featuring a marathon of the Dark Knight trilogy tomorrow night for $20/ticket.

Booker’s lack of face time in the city has residents grumbling

David Giambusso: The absentee mayor? Cory Booker’s endless travel schedule pulls him away from Newark

Arguably the most prolific tweeter in American politics, Booker has mastered the art of having a presence without being present. And while his detractors take issue with Oprah Winfrey’s characterization of Booker as a “rock star mayor,” based on his touring schedule she might be right.

Great in-depth piece on the psychological impact to Booker’s national agenda in Newark. Less face time in the community means less trust, and it brings to mind early criticisms of the Mayor’s being an “outsider.”

Booker likely to run for third mayoral term

Cory Booker again indicates interest in running for third term as mayor of Newark

“I don’t want to do anything with my life that is not about healing the challenges that America hasn’t fully faced up to yet,” Booker told the group of local business representatives gathered at the Newark Museum. “The best perch to do that on is the mayor of a big city.

I seem to remember Booker criticizing former Mayor Sharpe James for his lengthy tenure in City Hall, but couldn’t find a quote. Newark does not have term limits for the office of mayor.

Joan Whitlow: Newark’s pay-to-play ban: Gaps linger in enforcement of campaign contribution rules

Joan Whitlow: Newark’s pay-to-play ban: Gaps linger in enforcement of campaign contribution rules

Didn’t a 2007 executive order by Mayor Cory Booker prohibit city contractors and vendors from donating to municipal campaigns?

The order, which also prohibits City of Newark employees from donating, was heralded as an ethical upper cut to pay-to-play, the unfortunate tradition of giving money to politicians to advance a municipal career or gain lucrative public business.

Joanie examines the implementation of the city’s “Pay to Play” ethics reforms and finds the controls to be lacking.

Grand-Family Center Opens in Newark

By way of City Hall: in partnership Newark opens NJ’s first grand-family resource center. Over 10,000 families in Essex County, 4,000 of which are in Newark, have grandparents raising grandchildren. These centers provide a single source for services like Social Security, disability, and legal consultation.

Full press release after the jump.
Continue reading “Grand-Family Center Opens in Newark”

Newark Attorney Arrested for Blackmail

Another city employee has been arrested as a result of the work o the Inspector General’s office.  The attorney worked for city General Counsel Julien X. Neals, and demanded cash and a promotion in exchange for staying quiet about an unspecified offense.  The employee was hired previous to the Booker administration.  Newark city attorney is arrested for alleged blackmail of boss.

A city municipal attorney was arrested at City Hall this afternoon after trying to blackmail his boss for $750,000 in cash and a promotion, authorities said.

Neil Braunstein, 40, of Fanwood in Union County, threatened last week to accuse Julien X. Neals, the city corporation counsel director, of an unspecified offense unless Neals gave him the money and a better job, Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, said today.

Braunstein threatened Neals on May 19 and returned the following day naming the exact amount of cash he wanted, Loriquet said. An assistant corporate counsel, Braunstein was seeking advancement within the city’s law department, he added.

Why he allegedly chose that particular figure is unknown. Other details, including what charges Braunstein allegedly threatened to bring against Neals, were not available last night.

After he was approached, Neals contacted the city inspector general’s office, which launched a joint investigation with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Corruption Unit, Loriquet said. Detectives from both agencies arrested Braunstein around 3:30 p.m. in his office.

Newark Feels the Pinch

From the Mayor’s office today. Anyone whose company has had to implement pay cuts, layoffs and other firm cost-cutting measures recently can relate to this news.

CITY OF NEWARK PROPOSES PAY CUTS AND FURLOUGHS TO HELP BALANCE BUDGET AMID NATIONAL ECONOMIC CRISIS

Non-uniformed City workers will take one-day furloughs each month starting July; Employees making $100,000 will receive 2 percent pay cuts as well as furloughs

Newark, NJ – March 31, 2009 – Mayor Cory A. Booker, Acting Business Administrator Michelle Thomas, and members of the Newark Municipal Council announced in a City Hall press conference this morning that the City of Newark would impose mandatory one-day-a-month furloughs for all non-uniformed employees, beginning in July, and continuing through December 2010, as well as two-percent pay cuts for all unrepresented managers and directors earning more than $100,000 a year.

The measures were in line with similar furloughs announced last week for state employees by Governor Jon Corzine. The municipal measure is anticipated to affect approximately 2,500 employees and save the City about $6 million, as it works to find ways to close by 2012 the $180 million budget deficit that was inherited by the administration upon taking office in 2006. The proposed furloughs must be approved by the state Civil Service Commission.

“In 2006, we took over a city in financial crisis. We have made significant steps to address our financial future and decided that we would not balance the budget on the backs of our residents,” Mayor Booker said. “We have taken drastic and innovative measures toward closing our structural budget deficit of $180 million. The City must work off its dependence on non-recurring payments and state aid in order to balance its budgets within the next three years. We can no longer rely on gimmicks. We must make difficult decisions now, but 2012 will be the year of liberation.”

The planned furloughs will begin in July, and all non-uniformed City agencies will shut down for one day a month every month through December 2010. All non-uniformed municipal workers will be unpaid for that day. The Mayor will propose that the days be connected to municipal holidays. The 18 furlough days amount to an approximate 5 percent salary cut for all employees. Police officers and firefighters are exempt from the furloughs and salary reductions.

Some 61 municipal employees, including Mayor Booker, are impacted by the 2 percent pay cut, which comes on top of the furloughs. He and his senior staff face a total 7 percent salary reduction. The Mayor noted that since taking office, neither he nor any senior manager has received a pay raise or cost-of-living increase. He voluntarily reduced his salary by 8 percent early in his administration. The 2 percent reductions do not affect uniformed personnel, i.e., fire and police.

The City will ensure that there are no dramatic reductions in municipal services during furlough periods.

The Mayor noted that the City was using the money saved wisely, and major projects that will improve the quality of life in Newark are continuing, including the renovations of City parks and the opening of two new police precincts.

“My number one priority upon taking office was public safety. While we have seen dramatic reductions in violent crime, that priority has not changed. We are not laying off police officers or permanent workers, we intend to put a new class of police recruits through the academy this year and to continue our summer youth employment programs. We are using these furloughs to maintain city services and city functions,” Mayor Booker said.

The City is anticipating $436 million in revenues to fund a 2009 municipal budget of $659 million, Mayor Booker said. Filling the budget gap will require additional cost-cutting measures, he said.

The Mayor was joined at the conference by Council President Mildred Crump, Council Vice President Luis Quintana, and Council Members Oscar James, Carlos Gonzalez, Donald Payne, Jr., and Anibal Ramos, Jr.

The Mayor also noted that the City must end its dependence on non-recurring payments, like state aid funds, and pointed out that in 2011, Newark will receive the last $40 million payment from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the settlement for the airport and seaport land reached under the Sharpe James administration. This, he said, added to the global economic crisis, is placing an increased burden on municipal resources.

Mayor Booker also pointed out that while stern measures are needed to address the present crisis, Newark has taken great strides to address a budget shortfall that has existed for years. The City’s dependence on state payments has dropped from $115 million to $40 million, and a balanced budget is in reach within three years.

Mayor Booker’s administration has been “thinking outside of the box.” “We created a Newark Parking Authority, which is extremely efficient. Other ideas on the table include creating an independent authority for our water assets, so we can sell water on the open market to other communities. Finally, I will reach out to other Mayors in Essex County to hold a summit to find ways to create savings,” the Mayor said.

He also pointed out that while other cities and municipalities around the country are experiencing economic contraction and downturns, Newark continues to develop. “We are seeing more businesses opening each day in Newark, or moving here, new warehouses opening, a new hotel, and we are fighting to bring a professional basketball franchise here. These will bring us jobs, revenue, and visitors, which will help to grow our tax base. We will be able to enjoy the collective benefit that comes from three years of sacrifice.”

This is the first time the City of Newark has ordered furloughs for its employees.

Ledger Overview of the State of the City

Ralph Ortega outlines many of the city’s development challenges with a preview of Mayor Booker’s State of the City speech last week: Mayor Cory Booker to focus on Newark economic development, empowerment.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s third state-of-the-city address tonight envisions a 24-hour downtown with 700 additional housing units in two high-rises and an added Seton Hall Law School dorm, the city’s first recreational boat dock in half a century, and the state’s first community court for low-level offenders.

Last year’s address touched on similar issues, including downtown development plans, which will be expanded upon in tonight’s address. But this year, there will be caveats because of the worsening economy. Newark’s unemployment rate has risen to 10 percent since Booker became mayor in 2006, and the city had the 35th-highest number of foreclosures out of 100 U.S. cities in 2008, according to RealtyTrac, a California firm tracking the market. Several hotel chains have already scrapped plans this year to build in the city.