Honestly, I don’t know enough about Newark politics to make a judgment call about how well Cory Booker governs. I do have growing questions about how some important city matters are being handled, though. As the Green Drinks Newark founding host, people bring issues and questions to my attention and I feel a moral obligation to look into them. This 21 May article by Josh Benson purports to addresses some of the underlying political reasons things happen the way they do in Newark. Josh quotes State Senator Ronald Rice as saying, “… if people don’t understand it now by … Cory traveling throughout the country, the people he meets with, people he supports and all the stuff happening in Newark with hedge funds and investors, if they don’t understand he’s completely beholden to them, there’s something wrong with them.”
I am personally interesting in knowing:
- Why were redevelopment funds spent to create the Prudential Center in Newark instead of on overall downtown development as was intended? The economic development world knows that sports arenas do not serve sustainable downtown development. Iin fact, they create more transience in a community and are costly in terms of infrastructure wear and tear (streets, for example) and city personnel allocation (like police). The Prudential Center’s creation has had the expected effect: it has produced a beneficial anchoring effect in the area immediately surrounding it, but has failed to help the downtown area overall.
- Why is the mayor working to hand off Newark’s water system to privatized interests? The water system has been a long time Newark asset, for both health and financial reasons. It seems like there’s every reason to keep it under city control.
- Why isn’t there more outcry over the state’s refusal to return local control of public schools to Newark, and why are private schools that have already been allowed to take up residence in Newark public school buildings, now getting ready to completely gobble up the institutions they’re situated in? Several Newark schools are scheduled to insta-magically transform overnight into charter schools: one night, a public school will close and in the morning it will open up as a private institution which is paid for by city taxpayer funds but over which local residents will have no say in how it’s being run; with financial and operational administration likely to be provided by an outside entity with no local ties; and this institution will likely exclude – all at once, or gradually – students with learning disabilities or need for ESL support.
- I perceive community gentrifiers as having a tremendous need for a support web of exclusive charter schools in the neighborhoods they want to occupy, plus access to a robust school voucher system of the type supported by Governor Chris Christie. The first will provide the convenience of being able to send their children to exclusive, private style institutions paid for with public funds within the city limits. And the voucher system will enable gentrifying families to disassociate their children completely from the local community, by making it possible for private schools to be funded with public taxpayer dollars and by making it economically painless to send those children to private schools outside of the cities into which their families re-locate.
- Why is Newark courting Hess Oil Company’s proposal to bring in yet another heavy duty fuel burning plant? The residents of Newark already struggle mightily with breathing and other health issues from the cumulative particulate pollution in the air of their city, and this will only bring more health troubles.
What are your thoughts on these issues? I’d love to know.