So, a few months ago, when the Newark Teachers Union took out billboard ads across the city condemning the spike in gun-related violence, I understood that it was a response (however misguided) to the pain the community was feeling at the time.
But this is getting ridiculous.
Since then, the campaign has only grown bigger. Almost anywhere you go throughout the city, billboards and public transit bus banners plead, “HELP WANTED: Stop the killings in Newark now!” Here’s a glimpse of the ad from one of the highways past the city:
Katie Wang at the Star Ledger recently covered Newark business owners’ reaction to the campaign: Merchants and mayor say billboards are hurting business.
Arthur Stern, chief executive of Cogswell Realty, the developers of the luxury high-rise apartment complex at 1180 Raymond Blvd., was so frustrated by the billboard that he decided to rent the space out with his own advertisement.
One of the six billboards is located in Military Park on Broad Street, facing the apartment complex.
“We felt it wasn’t very helpful with regard to our marketing efforts for 1180 and the general image of the city,” said Stern.
Wang notes that the Teachers Union backed a political rival to Mayor Booker during last April’s election, suggesting the ad campaign is a political tactic. The massive Associated Press coverage: of the union’s adamant unwillingness to take the ads down would seem to be politically driven, because there’s just no other way to interpret the signs. Let’s take a look:
- Help Wanted: Okay, fine, Newark is looking for help. To do what? And from whom?
- Stop the killings in Newark now!: Got it. Help Newark stop the killings. Sounds good. Where do I sign up?
- Paid for by the Newark Teachers Union, Joseph Del Grasso, President: Huh? But how do I help stop the killings?
Every sign throughout the city says the same exact thing, with no actionable steps to take to help reduce Newark’s crime problem. This leaves one to wonder: who is the intended audience for these signs? Is it suburbanites? Doubtful, we’re not telling them how to help, so they keep driving. City residents? Maybe, but there isn’t a phone number or website to get more information, so we’re left being confused. Oh, well, maybe it’s the thugs doing the killing. They’re the ones who have direct control over the situation to stop the crime, right? But it’s just not likely that a billboard telling them to stop is going to change anybody’s mind who’s tangled up in a turf war or drug deal.
Or maybe it’s the city government — and I think this is the right answer. The NTU is publicly ridiculing the city administration’s apparent inability to contain crime. But, rather than work with City Hall to try to turn their neighborhoods around, they’ve wasted tens of thousands of dollars airing their dirty laundry in a massive FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) campaign. The question behind the question is, what do they hope to get out of it?