above, for articles in
An Open Letter to the Mayor-Elect of the City of
Newark; Cory Booker
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
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:
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.
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?
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.
kind of Mayor will you be?
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.
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?
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
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?
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
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
department of Office Services was allocated $274,000 for copier rental and
maintenance costs and $20,525 for ‘other office equipment’ rental costs.
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
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
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.
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 (www.transparency.org/tools/e_toolkit/tools_to_support_transparency_in_local_governance)
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?
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
you be the Mayor that will be remembered for compassion, honesty and integrity
while in office?
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.
Statistics and salaries cited are based on the 2003-2005 City of
Posted May 16, 2006
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