Newark, N.J., did what Dayton can’t

Last night I watched “Street Fight”- a documentary that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005. In some ways, it reminded me of Dayton politics when I ran for Mayor the first time (vs. Clay Dixon where Mike Turner won by 400 votes). My windows were shot out two nights in a row at the office, I was warned that my life was in danger, I was assaulted by the sitting mayor, and a union boss- and asking questions about where the money was coming from was considered bad form.

However, as backward as Dayton politics were in 1993, they were small town little league compared to Newark, N.J.:

Street Fight chronicles the bare-knuckles race for Mayor of Newark, N.J., between Cory Booker, a 32-year-old Rhodes Scholar/Yale Law School grad, and Sharpe James, the four-term incumbent and undisputed champion of New Jersey politics.

Fought in Newark’s neighborhoods and housing projects, the battle pits Booker against an old style political machine that uses any means necessary to crush its opponents: city workers who do not support the mayor are demoted; “disloyal” businesses are targeted by code enforcement; a campaigner is detained and accused of terrorism; and disks of voter data are burglarized in the night.

Even the filmmaker is dragged into the slugfest, and by election day, the climate becomes so heated that the Federal government is forced to send in observers to watch for cheating and violence.

via Street Fight – A film by Marshall Curry – About Street Fight.

Even though both candidates in the Newark election were African American, the race issue was part of the argument. The campaigns raised unholy amounts of money- for what is supposed to be a “non-partisan” race (just like Dayton)- there were charges of the challenger being a Republican, a tool of Jews, and other misguided mudslinging. The city was polarized, the election was highly charged- and for all the wrong reasons.

The system was showing how broken it was- with the filmmaker being manhandled repeatedly by Newark cops to stop him from taping the sitting mayor as he campaigned. This wasn’t the America I pledge allegiance to.

The challenger, Cory Booker, was a Stanford grad, Rhodes scholar, Yale Law grad, had the nerve at 33 to challenge a man who had been in office since 1970. Labeled a carpetbagger by the incumbent, Booker had come to Newark to help the less fortunate get a shot. He had the nerve to live in a public housing project called “Brick Towers” and as a sitting councilman, had been labeled “unconventional”- from Wikipedia:

In 1999, he went on a 10-day hunger strike, living in a tent in front of one of Newark’s public housing projects (Garden Spires), to protest open-air drug dealing and the associated violence. For five months in 2000 he lived in a contemporary motor home, parking on street corners where drug trafficking frequently occurred.[7]

He proposed a variety of Council initiatives that impacted housing, young people, law and order and the efficiency and transparency of City Hall, but was regularly rebuffed by a resistant Municipal Council and often outvoted 8–1. While on the Council, Booker became an outspoken advocate of education reform.

via Cory Booker – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

To me, Cory Booker is one of the few people who have managed to beat the system and stay true to their roots- an objective that has escaped me. And while Gary Leitzell has managed to do the unthinkable- by unseating one of the last vestiges of Dayton’s old political machine- I’ve seen little from him to show either passion for change, or leadership on the very real issues we’re facing.

Not to give away the movie- since it is a documentary, Booker loses the race in the movie, but does get elected the next time, when the incumbent doesn’t run again. The incumbent, who had managed to be mayor and a state senator at the same time, went on to eventually get busted for fraud and sentenced to prison for 27 months.

Booker campaigned for President Obama and:

was offered the chance to head the new White House Office of Urban Affairs Policy; Booker turned the offer down citing a commitment to Newark.[29]

via Cory Booker – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

He even gets social media-

Booker made news when on December 31, 2009, a constituent used Twitter to ask the mayor to send someone to her father’s house to shovel his driveway because her father, who was 65 years old, was going to attempt to do it himself. Booker responded by tweeting; “I will do it myself where does he live?” Other people volunteered, including one person who offered his help on Twitter and 20 minutes later the mayor and some volunteers showed up and shoveled the man’s driveway.

via Cory Booker – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

If you are looking for a future presidential candidate, you should be watching Cory Booker. As to Dayton politics, I want to find our version of Cory Booker- because what has passed for politicians in this city hasn’t cut it. I am going to begin in earnest to get the Dayton Process started for the next commission election cycle.

Would you please help- by identifying people who you believe might be willing to step up and serve?

Just remember- Cory Booker lost to the machine the first time- but that didn’t stop him. I’m not going to stop running until we elect some brilliant minds who will lead- instead of wiggle at the end of puppet strings.

And- btw, crime in Newark is at the lowest levels in over 50 years since Booker took office.

It’s time Dayton voters demanded more from those they elect, and if they can’t deliver- replace them. Newark did, and is better for it.

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10 Responses

  1. truddick August 15, 2010 / 10:59 am
    It takes more than inspirational gestures.  It takes a realistic program.  Focus on Cory Booker’s living in a motor home or doing a hunger strike ignores the stern realities.
     
    Booker, as mayor, raised Newark property taxes by 8.3%, the largest increase in Newark history.  He then spent the money wisely by increasing police force, renovating police stations, implementing youth programs, etc.   He’s also a proponent of gun control.
     
    Good luck selling those positions to the I-don’t-wanna-pay-no-taxes, I-wanna-go-to-Bill-Goodman denizens of west central Ohio.

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  2. Gary August 15, 2010 / 12:21 pm
    Good for Cory and NJ! I see our city mayor, Gary Leitzell, not doing too badly of a job, he promotes blogging and emailing him for suggestions… And, I feel we have a smart city manager, too!
    The only problem I do see is at the city commission meetings, it just seems like a bunch of talking heads! Why won’t the commission tell us what the federal stimulus money is really doing for Dayton besides tearing up our main roads?
    I have however, finally seen they are repaving Riverview, which was incredibly uneven!
    But like mayor McCline, all I ever saw of her was her, walking about, but never did I see any stats on what she did.
    The city council is so clandestine! If we are paying the taxes, why can’t we get what we want, like Jobs! Care Source only hired their cozy supporters’ people (I cannot prove that). I was highly qualified for a job there but was rejected!
    I do see our city schools being rennovated or torn down, nearly every one of them, which is very nice for the children/students.
    I just want to see more small businesses succeed here and this hiring freeze be gone; I do not see why it isn’t happening, everything else is in place: housing, welfare, schools, teachers, buses, new roads, churches, organizations, but no new jobs!
    How is Dayton going to survive w/o new commerce and jobs for the middle class and folks in their 40s and 50s out of work?

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  3. Pat August 15, 2010 / 3:48 pm
    How exactly is wanting to pay as little tax as possible a bad thing? Or are there people who willingly send more money to the government every April, to see it squandered on idiotic pet projects?
    And why are gun shows so vile? The last I knew, the constitution mentions law abiding citizens the right to keep and bear arms, a right not granted them by a government, but seen as a right given by their creator. I, as a gun owner, detest the fact that criminals get guns, and comply with regulations meant to limit and end their access to them. Pretty much, if a criminal has no respect for the particular law they violate, they likely aren’t real interested in following gun laws either.

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  4. David Esrati August 15, 2010 / 9:32 pm

    It might be interesting to look and compare Newark and Dayton- although Newark is almost double the population- it might be interesting to look at number of government employees per capita- andcompare.

    We’re in the same boat racially and economically- yet, I get the feeling Newark has more pride than Dayton-despite having the last 3 mayors end up in prison.

    Maybe instead of bringing in Richard Florida- an academic- we should invite Cory Booker to speak.

    just a few thoughts.

    As to raising taxes- at least Booker promised- and delivered results. We’ve yet to have anyone promise us anything- or even suggest change in this town for….

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  5. truddick August 15, 2010 / 11:31 pm
    Pat, just to clarify:

    I have no great love of taxes, but I have seen our nation fall into perpetuating the myth that taxes are all evil and that nobody has to pay for anything.  I hold that we will not get better government than we pay for, and that our elected officials have the job duty of setting tax rates equitably in order to fund essential services.
     
    And I have nothing against firearms per se, and I have in my day been a pretty good shot.  What I object to is the rampant disregard for reasonable safeguards.  I don’t want just anybody to be able to put down a few hundred and take home a gun; that’s the sort of laxity that leads to Virginia Tech getting shot up by a looney, or to innocent citizens getting shot at from south Columbus overpasses by a man who was clearly insane.  Guns, like cars or drugs, ought to be sold only by licensed dealers with proper safeguards–and we need enforcement of current safeguards before we know what other ones need to be legislated.

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  6. Pat August 16, 2010 / 12:42 am
    truddick:
     
    You say:

    I have no great love of taxes, but I have seen our nation fall into perpetuating the myth that taxes are all evil and that nobody has to pay for anything.  I hold that we will not get better government than we pay for, and that our elected officials have the job duty of setting tax rates equitably in order to fund essential services.
    My contention is, since we see our taxes take every penny we earn up until May of the year, we’re paying around 25% of our income to the various taxes. That tax burden is well above that of the serfs of the time when nobility owned the land, and the serfs paid a portion of the output of the land they were allowed to use as tribute to their Lord of the Manor.
    What are we seeing for the money we pay already? Not very much in my opinion. Those who are leading us now made the statement that it’s “patriotic” to pay taxes. So why were so many of the administration guilty of not paying their taxes, until they got caught and were forced to do so?
     
    You say:

    And I have nothing against firearms per se, and I have in my day been a pretty good shot.  What I object to is the rampant disregard for reasonable safeguards.  I don’t want just anybody to be able to put down a few hundred and take home a gun; that’s the sort of laxity that leads to Virginia Tech getting shot up by a looney, or to innocent citizens getting shot at from south Columbus overpasses by a man who was clearly insane.  Guns, like cars or drugs, ought to be sold only by licensed dealers with proper safeguards–and we need enforcement of current safeguards before we know what other ones need to be legislated.
    It seems you’re falling into the lie that gun shows, like Bill Goodman’s shows, allow unlicensed dealers to sell at their venues. That’s BS, regardless of the edited tapes Bloomberg wants to put out about how they do business.
    Bloomberg has done this same kind of “sting” operation in Virginia and West Virginia before he decided to gig our city. He received a letter from the Attorney General of Virginia informing him that he should never send his “undercover” agents into the state again, or they’d be prosecuted for their crimes. He also was warned by the BATFE to cease and desist his illegal activities sending his agents attempting to do a straw purchase.
    There is a data base in operation that is used in the background checks to ferret out people who have a history of mental health issues that required treatment. Some states choose to add their information to the data base, some don’t. The law states that you can buy a long gun in neighboring states of your residence, you can only buy a handgun in your state of residence, if it’s bought from a seller out of your state, the transaction has to go through a FFL in your home state. With them running the normal background check through the Federal government.
    Have you ever gone to a gun show? I doubt it, because a simple scan of the crowd (at least if you’re looking for them) will show you that a number of those in attendance are either local law enforcement or Federal agents watching every transaction.  And they’ll also try to do sting operations as well.
     
    Bottom line is, there are in excess of 10,000 regulations or laws on the books regulating firearms. The cops on the street enforce those laws, the justice system seems to prefer to plea bargain down most gun charges. An example? The rapper “TI” was caught a year or so ago trying to buy machine guns and silencers, both regulated under the NFA law. He already had a felony on his record, so gun possession was illegal for him as he was under firearm disability. He screwed up and made a deal with a guy who worked for him, that had legal issues and opted to turn confidential informant to the authorities. He sought to buy, if my memory serves me right, 3 machine guns and 2 silencers.
     
    The penalty for trying to buy a NFA device, either a full auto firearm, or a silencer, without following the laws for an NFA device, is a mandatory 10 year prison sentence. As he had a felony, he wasn’t able to legally buy a .22 rifle, let alone a machine gun. That’s a 10 year sentence for each infraction.
     
    He got 1 year in detention for this crime, after the plea bargains his high priced attorney got him. Oh, he also has to do community service as part of his sentence. His community service involves going to schools, and telling kids not to break the law like he did. That’s like having Keith Richards doing anti-drug commercials!
     
    “Reasonable safeguards?” Sounds like the usual diatribe from the Brady Campaign.
     
    I own guns, I shoot regularly as well. My firearms are locked up to prevent unauthorized people access to them. But, it’s hardly reasonable to suggest that I have no right to sell or transfer in whatever manner I wish, a firearm to a person I know is perfectly sane, and is legally able to own firearms. If I choose to gift a gun to a family member, I know if they’re allowed to own a gun, I know if they’re mentally stable. Proposing a law requiring any gun sale to go through a dealer only benefits one group, the firearms dealers. They charge at minimum $25.00 to handle a gun transfer.
     
    They passed a law in California to require any gun transfer go through a dealer. It has not impacted gun violence in the state. Their concealed carry laws allow for “may issue” licenses, some counties do allow licenses to citizens. Many only allow licenses to those who have wealth, influence, or celebrity. That has not impacted gun violence either. If criminals don’t follow other laws, they sure ain’t following gun laws either. Their murder rate from firearms per 100,000 people  is much higher than Utah, deemed having the most lax firearm laws by the Brady campaign for 2009.

     
     

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  7. djw August 16, 2010 / 1:47 pm
    It’s a really great documentary. I’ve shown that documentary to my (Intro-level poli sci class students) for years. They’re always, uniformly, pretty blown away by it. They *think* they’re cynical about politics, but they are utterly shocked by Sharpe James’ venality and corruption, and even more shocked that he managed to defeat Cory Booker.
    I disagree, mildly, with some of Booker’s political positions, and I think (as you can see in the documentary) he doesn’t always have pitch-perfect political instincts. However, there are few people in positions of significant power in government in this country today whose commitment to being a good and effective public servant is stronger. I have moderately high hopes for him. Hopefully, Marshall Curry can go back to Newark in 5 years and do another documentary about the transformation of Newark.

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  8. David Esrati August 16, 2010 / 2:04 pm

    @DJW- glad you are exposing students to this film- I think it’s pretty important that the veil of democracy as preached gets revealed as how it’s practiced.

    Same thing happens in Dayton-

    Booker isn’t perfect- but, then again- no one is. However, he seems to be a man of principle- and Newark is lucky to have him.

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  9. Donald Phillips August 17, 2010 / 9:25 am
    You’re idealizing the state of Newark and the effectiveness of its mayor. Newark is a physical mess and is one of the most indebted cities in the union. Go see for yourself;  you’ll thank Heaven that you live in Dayton.

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  10. truddick August 18, 2010 / 5:02 pm
    Pat:
     
    You compare citizens of the USA, who receive public educaton, roads, law enforcement, public health, military protection, food and drug safety, and a minimal retirement system from the government, to a medieval serf who received only military protection (to which he was required to contribute)?  Gosh, you were asleep in class when the teacher covered “false analogy” weren’t you?
     
    And again: I don’t think you’re qualified to screen gun recipients.  Sounds to me like you’re a responsible owner, so I have no problem with you personally.  But I am with the NRA on the point that current gun laws are not enforced, and Bill Goodman’s proves their point.  I can’t sell my car without formally transferring the license, and cars are much more necessary in these parts than weapons.

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