DOJ: Newark misused $3.5 million community policing grant

Washington Examiner: DOJ says Newark mis-used $3.5 million on $3.7 million COPS grant

Auditors with the Justice Department’s Inspector-General say Newark, NJ, officials improperly used every penny of a $2.8 million Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) plus most of an addition $987,000 in local funds.

The DOJ-IG’s lengthy list of deficiencies in how Newark officials spent the COPS funds unusually blunt and deserves being quoted at length.

The report is brutal in its analysis of misuse of the funds.

It’s great that the Mayor can bring in outside support like the COPS grant, but unless proper governance is in place to administer the funds, progress will take one step forward, two steps back.

Ledger spotlights city’s financial woes

Clock ticks as Newark grapples with budget: $24M in state aid could be riding on city’s fiscal plan

But with another $24 million in state taxpayer dollars needed for city coffers this year, it is unclear how much longer the state’s patience will hold out. If the state revokes the aid, the city will be left scrambling to cover the difference.

One of the biggest items confounding city leaders is a proposal to create a municipal utilities authority to run Newark’s troubled water system. In 2010, Booker suffered a major blow when the MUA, a linchpin in his budget plan, was tabled by the council.

Giambusso’s comprehensive overview of the city’s financial standing reveals a knotted web of interdependencies:

  • The city will be short $24M this year
  • (Well, maybe: the city’s finance department may have found $18M)
  • A water authority has again been proposed by the mayor
  • The city’s 100-year-old water infrastructure is desperately in need of repair
  • There may be a state grant to cover the gap, if the council can agree to the proposed budget
  • And residents will inevitably see a tax hike

What a mess.

Bringing More Opportunities to Newark

Bringing More Opportunities to Newark
Speaking of investment, Mayor Booker shares some of the benefits of moving your business to Newark on his blog.

Newark has so many competitive advantages — they are magnified now in this economy. Our biggest advantages are cost and location — we are the lowest cost location in the region, and so accessible. A company leasing 100,000 square feet of class A space in Newark can save $40 to $70 million over a 10-year period.

Further, with the greatest transportation infrastructure on the East coast, the ability to move goods and people is superior to any other location. We talked very bluntly about this and the many other things that were happening in Newark –- dramatic and record-breaking violent crime reduction, the strength of our workforce, and examples of other companies that are beginning to flow to Newark bringing significant investment and hundreds of jobs (Standard Chartered Bank, law firms like Genova Burns, AMB Warehousing ,, Mimeo, All Hip and many others).

Newark Mayor Seeks to Profit Amid Wall Street Woes

Newark Mayor Seeks to Profit Amid Wall Street Woes

When the market gives him lemons, Cory Booker makes economic development. City Hall’s marketing arm is looking to draw businesses out of Manhattan to boost tax revenue and stabilize the city budget. This Bloomberg piece provides an overview of Newark’s recent history — the construction of the Pru Center, Shaq’s recent investment — and shares Booker’s pitch.

Before last night’s massive savings-and-loan-type bailout was announced for the major financial institutions, one might have wondered what firms would have been left to move their operations over to the Brick City. Still, a timely message, and kudos to City Hall for catching Bloomberg’s attention.

(Hat tip: the Ledger)

“It’s about the logic of the location, about the ease of getting in and out of New York and the logic of the transportation nodes,’‘ Booker said. “But more importantly, I can save you tons of money. In times like these, Newark is seen as a place of opportunity.’‘

Time for Showdown or Shutdown at the Star-Ledger

Time for Showdown or Shutdown at the Star-Ledger

Employees await announcements later this week as to whether the negotiations with the drivers’ union were successful. Failing cost-saving concessions, the paper’s management claims, the Ledger will have to sell or close its operations entirely.

The newsroom has always been non-union and the billionaire family that controls the paper had given lifetime no-layoff guarantees to its reporters and editors so long as the newsroom stayed non-union.

Arwady on July 31 had told stunned employees that the paper was “on life support” and past efforts to cut costs had failed to reverse the losses.

“Despite the best efforts of all of us, the Star-Ledger is losing its battle to survive,” he said at that time.

Newark Star-Ledger says sale or closure possible

Newark Star-Ledger says sale or closure possible

Buyouts are being offered to Ledger employees as the paper considers a best-case 26% reduction in staff and renegotiated agreement with its mailers union.

If a new agreement with the union can’t be reached, the Ledger will be sold or even closed.

The loss of the Ledger would be disastrous for local news coverage in a state of 8.5 million people. In 2005, the paper won a Pulitzer for its coverage of Governor McGreevy’s resignation amidst his gay affair. The Ledger ranks 15th in largest circulation of daily newspapers, nationwide.

The Star-Ledger of Newark is notifying employees that the newspaper will be sold or closed in early January unless it reaches a contract deal with its drivers union.

Publisher George Arwady told employees in a memo today that it is doubtful drivers will ratify a new deal by Oct. 8. As a result, formal notices required by law will be sent out this week advising employees that the newspaper will be sold or close on Jan. 5.

The Star-Ledger is New Jersey’s largest newspaper with a daily circulation of about 350,000. The paper has posted losses for at least three straight years and is on pace to lose between $30 million and $40 million in 2008.

It is good to be green

It is good to be green!
The Mayor shares his experience at the Green Summit (hat tip: Green Jersey). I’m seeing more and more expectations that the green movement — similar to the dot com boom (and hopefully minus the bust) — is capable of producing innovation that will ultimately create jobs and drive finance and M&A.

I’d be grateful if anyone could point to realistic job growth numbers expected from a Green economy, and how that might affect NJ (or Newark!) in particular. Or, if you’re a green expert, give me a shout and let’s do a podcast:

I was really inspired by the dozens of people who I spoke with yesterday who not only get it but who are dedicating their time and resources to the larger green mission. The green mission, in a larger sense, is the realization that we can accomplish so many of our overall community goals by raising our environmental consciousness and advancing a green agenda for New Jersey.

We can:

  1. Save energy
  2. Create jobs
  3. Save money
  4. Reclaim community space
  5. Undermine so many health issues from asthma to cancer
  6. Beautify our cities and state
  7. Re-democratize our environment so that people of all backgrounds and income levels can have access to clean rivers, parks and oceans (you don’t need to travel many miles or pay money to access green spaces)

The American Dream is a Green Dream.

Newark gets $5 Million for prisoner re-entry program

Newark gets $5 Million for prisoner re-entry program
Prisoner re-entry is a cornerstone of the Booker administration, with 2,300 men and women pouring into the city from prison each year, 65 percent of whom are rearrested within five years. This funding gets momentum behind a program that is desperately needed in Newark, and may turn a difficult challenge into an economic opportunity for Newarkers.

The federal government has awarded the city of Newark a $2 million grant to be used for the city’s prisoner re-entry program.

The award, which will be publicly announced today at a noon news conference in Newark, will be matched by another $3 million donation from philanthropic organizations. The $5 million in extra funding will give the city’s fledgling program a much needed boost.

American Express Member Hopes to Send $1.5 Million in Award Money to Newark Parks

American Express Member Hopes to Send $1.5 Million in Award Money to Newark Parks
Texas native Vanessa Pogue has read about Newark in the papers and has been inspired about the positive changes happening in the city. So much so, in fact, that she’s entered a public arts project into consideration for a cash prize from American Express.

The Think About It project is a community oriented public arts project focused on the City of Newark. The goal of the project is to inspire and create community involvement with visual stimulation in the form of murals and other forms of public art. The project will draw upon, and often include the written word (poems, statements, references to classic literature). My application seeks funding for the inaugural piece of this project…a mural in one of the City parks scheduled for renovation.

Projects are chosen on the basis of votes and buzz — and you don’t have to be a card member to participate. While the voting deadline has passed, there’s still opportunity to talk it up in the message boards and generate interest.

Talk up the project at the discussion board. For your trouble, Newark gets a shot at winning some improvements to our city parks.

Newark gets $45M in aid in exchange for state oversight

Newark gets $45M in aid in exchange for state oversight
“Creative accounting,” when it brings legitimate dollars to the bottom line, can be a beautiful thing.

Newark accepted a $45 million bailout from New Jersey taxpayers today, in return for accepting the state designation of “distressed city,” and allowing state oversight of hiring and finances.

The special infusion will head off what otherwise would have been a property tax increase of almost $800 for the typical Newark household, said Michelle Thomas, Newark’s acting business administrator.