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SPRING 2007  · DECEMBER 2006 · JULY-AUG 2006 · APRIL--MAY 2006 · FEBRUARY 2006
A Poem · Dear Mr. Mayor · Renaissance City · As I Remember · Letter to A. Davis · Angola · Politics in Nigeria · "Detained?" · Lee Raymond · Mr. 'Bring 'Em On" · Nuclear Middle East · Words of Inspiration

Click above, for articles in this issue.


An Open Letter to the Mayor-Elect of the City of Newark; Cory Booker


Dear Mr. Mayor-Elect:


I guess congratulations are in order, although such felicitations may be muted by the duties that undoubtedly will face you in short order.  The Star-Ledger recently published a cartoon that encapsulates the thought quite nicely; it depicts you as a runner crossing the finish line while razing up your hands with fingers depicting the v for victory, as a precipice faces you a few feet ahead.  Yes, that’s Newark, capture the spirit!


Seriously, though, I am writing you this short exposition, because I would like to offer you my two cents. You see, I owe you my gratitude, for the Christmas cards that I have received from your Newark Now organization, wishing me and mine a joyous holiday season and a happy new year.  I enjoyed meeting your image adorned by the office décor and the towering Christmas tree. My heart was warmed by the thought, that you cared about Newarkers and harbored such happy thoughts for your future constituents even though subconsciously I knew that all you wanted was my vote.  Nevertheless, in such spirit I owe you my two cents Mr. Mayor-Elect, and here they are:


I don’t envy your ‘good fortune’ at being elected Mayor, although some might, perhaps Ron Rice, or Mr. Blount, but believe me few others, even if you will rake in a salary of $187,000, while the vast majority of your constituents make far less than $20,000 per year. No one will envy the fact that your mayoral aide will also have a salary of $130,000, or that your office carries with it, undeclared miscellaneous expenses of $298,000 for the past fiscal year.  No one will envy the fact that the Mayor’s office has on its payroll its own ‘Radio/TV Producer’ at a salary of $50,000, or that your office has unspecified ‘other professional services’ of $90,000 per year. 


Mr. Booker, in the coming weeks and months, you will be approached in public and private by that happy constituency that makes city hall its second home; you know, those who are part and parcel to the ‘political machine’ that made your election possible;  favors will be asked from you, ‘pay-up time’ will arrive; and when such encounters realize themselves, you will be tested—what kind of Mayor, what kind of public ‘servant’ will you be? 

Newark has had a long line of examples to compare you to; that have helped fashion the city that we have-- some positive things have been realized, but the preponderance of deeds have proven negative. 


What kind of Mayor will you be? 


Much is expected from you.  On the one hand, you have the partisans of ‘business as usual’ who grease palms and have helped create the morass of ineptitude, and corruption that this city is recognized for; they will no doubt pressure you into not rocking the boat; they will seek to continue the status quo; they will wine you and dine you at the many restaurants and back rooms of the city, and toast to the great Cory Booker; they will remind you of how much money can be made; they will offer you trips to Las Vegas, Florida, Aruba, the Virgin Islands, and Atlantic City; while there you can qualify and substantiate the outing by being the ‘City’s First and Greatest Cheerleader’.  You will be offered ‘hints’ on great-undervalued stock, and on great cheap buys; jewelry, cars, yachts, you name it, it will come.


But on the other hand, Mr. Mayor-Elect, you have the hopes and aspirations of the regular folk of this city, the office workers, the factory workers, the cleaners, the carpenters, maids, the youth, students, the elderly; in short the people who believed in Cory Booker and elected him to a $187,000 a year job. It was they who elected you Mayor! What will you do now?


You have proven that you can follow rules; you have proven that you have the intelligence and the persistence to gain admittance and graduate from the Ivy League, but do you have what it takes to rake the muck that festers in this city?


Pick up the latest budget of the city, close your office door, unplug the phones, and delve through that 3-inch thick volume, and feel free to take notes.  Look at all those expenses across the numerous departments at city hall.  Ask yourself if the Mayor’s Office really needs 43 employees, if it needs a Radio/TV Producer on staff.  Find out what the Mayor’s Office gets for $90,000 in ‘other professional services’-- what does that mean, who’s on the payroll with no name attached?


While you are at it, compare what the several departments at city hall pay for in maintenance, repair, and rentals for office equipment.  Would you believe that the city council spends $55,000 for copier maintenance and repair, $35,000 for ‘equipment’ rental, $80,000 for ‘other materials and supplies’ and $50,000 for ‘other equipment’?  Did you know that the City Council President spent an additional $40,000 on copier rentals, $20,000 on copier maintenance and repair, $65,000 for postage and $500,000 for ‘other professional services’??? 


Compare such costs with what the Business Administrator’s office spent--$300 for copier repair and maintenance and $2000 for ‘other equipment rental’ in 2003 and $6000 in 2004. 


The department of Office Services was allocated $274,000 for copier rental and maintenance costs and $20,525 for ‘other office equipment’ rental costs. 

Mr. Mayor-Elect, I guess lots of copying goes on at city hall, but someone needs to do a thorough reining in of this madness… the citizens of this city can’t afford it!


They can’t afford to continually pay tax increases for ‘public servants’ who seem to continually be out to lunch, talking on cell phones while dining at expensive restaurants!


I know!  As the heads of most departments are making six figure salaries, a couple of thousand here and there is just ‘chump change’; but city residents don’t have salaries like the City Council President $97,085, or the Business Administrator $150,000, or the City Personnel Director $117,696, or the Mayor.


City Hall needs more than just another Mayor, this city needs a positive change, where ‘every person counts’.  City Hall needs to tighten the belt, and eliminate wasteful spending, sweetheart deals, cronyism, and corrupt practices-- are you the Mayor to insure that? Are you the Mayor to institute anti-corruption practices ( as recommended by Transparency International?  Are you the Mayor that will finally place a viable ‘virtual Kiosk’ on the Internet, so that permit applications can be filed and fees paid; where citizens may pay for municipal taxes, water and sewer, and for other services?  Will you institute a Newark Inspector General to root out corruption?  Will you insure whistleblower protection for city employees? Will you develop and institute a code of ethics for all city workers? Will you sponsor Oversight Committees constituted by reputable and impartial parties? Will you insure strict adherence to the Sunshine and Open Meetings Law?  Will you insure that all city departments adhere to NJ’s Freedom of Information Act?  


Will you be the Mayor that will realize improvements for the thousands of unemployed minority youth?  Will you be the Mayor that will seek to open communication with the marginalized citizens of our city who cater to gangs and drugs; will you offer them concrete alternatives to abandon that lifestyle without resorting to police crackdowns and more violence?


Will you be the Mayor that will be remembered for compassion, honesty and integrity while in office?


Well Mr. Booker, what sort of Mayor will you be? Spare us the rhetoric and answer us instead with positive changes to our city in the coming four years.


Wishing You Courage,


Victor Saraiva




Statistics and salaries cited are based on the 2003-2005 City of Newark Budget.


Posted  May 16, 2006

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