Last night a near-riot broke out at Newark City Council, as Mayor Cory Booker did some political maneuvering and cast a highly unusual mayor’s vote to install a longtime ally of Essex political boss Steve Adubato, Sr. into Don Payne’s old seat. When it became clear what was happening, members of the audience tried to rush the stage to prevent it. There was pepper spray, possibly mace, furniture knocked over. Shouts of “Cory’s gotta go!”. An SEIU leader was charged with assault, resisting arrest, inciting a riot. I reached out to West Ward Councilman Rice for his take. If the mayor, other council members or attendees also want to weigh in, we’d be interested. – Rosi
The city of Newark reverted back to some age old political machine ways last evening and that is not good for our city, our future nor the aspirations of some politicos seeking higher office. I preface this by pointing out what I know some will say about this critique: that these are the “sour grapes” of an elected official that did not get his candidate selected to fill the vacancy on the Newark City Council created by Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr.’s ascension to his father’s seat. But my comments are a forewarning of what this vote could mean short term and long term.
There is no easy way to say it except to say that Mayor Cory Booker was complicit in engineering a power grab for a Newark City Council seat with the express cooperation of the Steve Adubato, Sr. North Ward political machine, hardly the credentials of a progressive reformer that is seeking to create a Big Tent for Governor in 2013 or Senator in 2014. The applicable statute governing municipal council vacancies under our form of government allows the council a 30-day window to select a replacement or a special election will ensue at the next General Election. There is also statutory language that allows a Mayor to vote if there is a 4-4 tie. Mayor Booker decided to vote even though there was no tie (I stayed away from the meeting to deprive the meeting of a tie and thus depriving the Mayor with an opportunity to wade into council waters at least until ALL of my colleagues had chance to even have preliminary discussions regarding an appointment) and based that decision on a general statute that allows him to vote should the council essentially “fail” to do our job. What is so cynical about his move is that he used this general, “catch-all” statute that can be used by him under almost any situation under the “strong Mayor” form of government before the council began any type of deliberation.
Moreover, the Mayor and many of my colleagues used the very levers of government to advance a political agenda. Clearly, the Mayor was “in on it,” but seemingly so was our city’s Corporation Counsel which identified this statute and our City Clerk, both of whom were not transparent to the rest of the council what they were doing procedurally behind our backs. They even provided some of us with one interpretation of the applicable statutes and others of us with another interpretation of the same applicable statute. The precedent of government departments and agencies purposefully providing partial, incomplete and/or incorrect information is, at best, malfeasance and, at worst, a dereliction of official duty or possibly misconduct.
I juxtapose this behavior with how Mayor Booker handled the last appointment/council voting controversy in 2006. In that year, both Councilman Luis Quintana and Councilwoman Mildred Crump sought the Presidency of the Newark Municipal Council. Instead of choosing sides, the Mayor showed candor, a respect for problem solving and mutual cooperation by suggesting the creation of a Vice-Presidency, thereby expanding participation, promoting inclusion and a Big Tent worldview. Last evening, he endorsed politics as usual.