Author Archive: Ron C. Rice

Newark: An Appeal To Our Better Angels Or At Least A Request To End Politics As Usual

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.

Two Wings: Newark’s Project Labor Agreement is how development should be done in urban NJ

Are you listening, Gov. Christie? – promoted by Rosi

Rice is Newark Councilman, for the City’s West Ward.

Last week, Newark Mayor Cory Booker signed legislation, sponsored by Council President Donald M. Payne, Jr. (soon to be Congressman Payne, Jr.) and I, that guarantees union participation in our city’s largest construction developments. This Project Labor Agreement (PLA) law, modeled after Jersey City’s PLA, is an affirmation of our city’s support for unions, still the best avenue for working class citizens to make it into the middle class. It did not come into existence, however, as easily as some would think, but the journey is illustrative of how local government, unions, the “grassroots,” and residents can still come together and formulate good public policy that will have a positive impact on urban job creation.

In 2010, Mayor Booker introduced a Project Labor Agreement ordinance for consideration by the Newark Municipal Council. There were problems from the start.  It was introduced in a municipal election year, the city council did not have any input in the final legislation, and the rumor was that the trade unions were not that enthused about the version either. The most visible problem was that it met with almost universal non-union construction worker/company opposition (even though they did not pay their workers prevailing wages nor offer pensions/healthcare). The non-union opposition was well organized, packing the City Hall Council chambers in greater numbers than the union supporters of the proposal by a 2-1 ratio. Their argument was simple, poignant and true: why give the unions so much when the trade union locals did not have a significant number of Newark residents in their organizations and, therefore, not a lot of African-American and Latino workers? They also proffered the argument that in these tough times, a job is a job, even if there are no fringe benefits (FTEs).  The City Council unanimously tabled the proposal without a comment or statement.  

NYPD Investigating Newark Muslim Community: Are We Not Americans, Too?

The author is West Ward councilman, City of Newark. – promoted by Rosi

The Star-Ledger reported last week that in mid to late 2007, the New York Police Department (NYPD) conducted extensive surveillance of Newark Muslim based businesses and mosques. The sad part of this poster child for religious profiling was that it was done with the full knowledge and cooperation of former Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy and without the knowledge of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, his boss. Even sadder is the fact that the 60-page Ccompiled report cited no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior.

In a post-9/11 world in the tri-state area, most would understand an investigation based on probable cause or some intelligence indicating a national security threat. But  this type of arbitrary investigation, only known to an out of jurisdiction law enforcement agency, and the head of the investigated jurisdiction’s police department, apparently without federal cooperation based on some evidence of terrorism, is anti-American and chilling to all of our rights as citizens under the Constitution. We all need to be offended and embarrassed by the act and the lack of remorse by the NYPD.

Towards A Newark Declaration of Economic Independence

This was written by Ron C. Rice with Allen Patterson, CEO of Patterson & Fraser, and posted by Newark Councilman Rice. – Promoted by Rosi

Since 1967, the City of Newark has economically struggled. In 44 years, real development did not take place until the early 1990s – the construction of New Jersey Performing Arts Center. The development of this edifice started the energy of citywide “new” construction throughout the ’90s. In 2006 and 2007, there were signs of economic retraction possibly leading to a recession and as the recession loomed, the City of Newark began to experience an even more critical condition of its economic pulse: the foreclosure rate elevated to historic highs and the city continued spending more than it was generating despite cutting substantially into the structural deficit.

Recently, the Newark Municipal Council voted for a $616M spending plan thereby ratifying a 2011 budget for the city. In doing so, the council lowered the tax increase originally proposed by Booker’s Administration from 7% to 4.6% and maintained the budget’s commitment to no furloughs or layoffs. Historically, however, Newark’s budget solutions have not tackled the main systemic problems of spending and investing.

It would be easy to say that as the structural deficit grew in our budget, the problem was masked by the use of Port Authority settlement monies to fill budget holes for a decade. It would be easy to say cut all directors’ salaries, get rid of all city perks, end all legal contracts, etc. and those cuts alone would annually balance the budget. It would also be easy to merely state that other cities in America are experiencing the same maladies and worse, from laying off half of their police forces to declaring bankruptcy. But all of those arguments hide the fact that we have real assets in our city that we have not had the collective will or the statewide support to use for the benefit of our city’s progress.

Federal Investigation Into the Newark Police Department: Our Hope, Our Fear, and The Future

promoted by Rosi

I grew up as a “son of the blue.” My father, State Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28th Legislative District), was a decorated member of the Newark Police Department, serving as a detective and active member of the Bronze Shields organization within the NPD. I knew/know great cops and my earliest Christmas childhood memories involve leaving my new toys from “Santa” to accompany my father as he joined other members of Newark’s finest giving toys, clothes and food to the less fortunate in my city. I also know that the conditions that created the precursor to the Newark rebellion, a police brutality event, and many other problems within the Newark Police Department have not been corrected for over 40 years. This has been the case through three mayoral administrations, many city councils, and police directors that have served from every color (Black, White, Latino) and who have come from within or from outside of the department. Simply put, the institution has not been able to correct itself when dealing with alleged police brutality and alleged racial disparity in discipline issues.  more below

An Anti-Small Business, Anti-Urban Development Idea at the Worst Possible Time: Eliminating the UEZ

To me, one of the kickers of this request, from Newark’s West Ward councilman, is the last line directed at Gov. Chris Christie: “In this instance, please be pro-business.” – promoted by Rosi

The recommendations of the Governor’s task force to eliminate the Urban Enterprise Zone program (UEZ) is ill-timed at best and potentially disastrous to small business survival, stabilization and growth in urban areas like Newark at the worst. When President Obama is providing small businesses with help via tax credits to spur hiring and other incentives for technology and investments in our national economy, the state of New Jersey could potentially strike a blow against small businesses for short term budget in urban areas that are barely holding on.

Urban areas, like Newark, have a hard enough time encouraging, supporting, and working collaboratively to develop small businesses in robust economic times for many reasons: access to capital, technical training, staying afloat during that critical first two years, and the fighting the negative ( and some would say racially prejudicial/inaccurate) perceptions of crime and safety. In harsh economic times, the UEZ is not only helping to sustain small businesses, but also the jobs they provide. The UEZ program has created real opportunities in places like Newark, Jersey City, Bayonne, Trenton, Rahway, etc. and an understanding of its history and real results will clarify these facts separate and apart from short term and myopic opinions that do not take into account the total impact and provisions of the program.

The UEZ program was enacted in 1983 with a duration of 20 years.  The program has worked so well that….

A look at the benefits to businesses, after the jump.

Why I wrote the letter backing ACLU’s petition for federal investigation of the Newark Police Dept.

I authored and mailed a letter to Thomas E. Perez, Esq., the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights supporting the recent petition by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of NJ for a federal investigation into the Newark Police Department (NPD). I was pleased to be supported in that action by five of my colleagues on the Newark City Council, a majority.

I did so in full knowledge that the overwhelming majority of the men and women that serve in the NPD do so in an honorable and distinguished manner.  They put their lives on the line every day for me and the other 280,000 residents in our great city.  They are homeowners, coaches, and leaders of philanthropy in our metropolis. My colleagues and I are humbled by their service and their sacrifice.  

But, as a councilman, I also receive too many complaints about citizen abuse at the hands of the police, which our city cannot afford or tolerate.  I feel that the expertise and authority of an outside monitor to reform our department where needed will help to end the problems of police-community relations in Newark, which affects public safety and the quality of life on many levels. In short, we will never be able to continue to drive crime down beyond the admittedly record level of reductions over the last three years unless average citizens get more involved in reporting crime and joining the NPD as active eyes and ears to those that commit them. And they will not until they are assured that bad cops that abuse their authority are appropriately punished and/or drummed out of the ranks of the NPD when deserved and warranted.

This is not a new phenomenon in the city of Newark.  Indeed, I supported the re-nomination of Police Director Garry McCarthy due to his historic lowering of violent crime statistics in the last three years, but also due to his proposed courageous community relations/community engagement reforms that he has taken a year and a half to develop. He is the first Director to acknowledge the problems in the department AND to propose solutions. But this is an endemic problem that has lasted unabated, unchallenged and unaddressed for over 40 years through several mayors, city councils and police directors. And the city council that has oversight of the Administration does not have the power under our enabling statute, the Faulkner Act, to create what it would take to have effective oversight over these problems (a point I will address with our state legislative representatives before the year is out).  

Until such time that the state empowers the city council in Newark to create systems of accountability such as an Independent Monitor with a Citizen Review Board empowered with real subpoena and investigatory powers, I think a federal investigation that will propose institutional changes and correct old bad policies with real oversight is the way to go.

Time for the Governor to take responsibility and stop trying to pass the buck

This is how I see it –

The Christie Administration has cast a wide net, blaming everyone from mindless drones in Washington to Rahm Emanuel and the Obama Administration itself. The facts are clear, that the mistake in New Jersey’s Race to the Top application originated in the Governor’s office and the blame game should begin and end there.

The Governor was already prepared to scapegoat President Obama before that kind of blew up in his face, instead of taking the blame himself as he should have. Even before this mess started with former Education Commissioner Bret Schundler, the Christie administration was already planing on what they’re response was going to be to be, simply to blame the federal government.

Never mind that the federal government and the Obama administration are the reason we even have a Race to the Top program and funds we could apply for that can help this state. The Christie administration is still going to try and scapegoat them. Gov. Christie is contributing to the shrill nature of politics in this state and in this nation yet again with this scorched earth policy.

The governor needs to apologize to the Obama administration and to the President directly, take responsibility, and stop trying to push it away from his desk.

About that Tweet

Promoted by Rosi – It was the tweet that ricocheted around New Jersey, not long after Steve Sweeney made an infuriating statement. Angry and kind of profane, Newark Councilman Ron Rice tweeted the fury a lot of us felt:

I am here n AC w/ Sen Sweeney & if/when I c him, I am going 2 give him a piece of my mind on the issue of marriage equality. Fu$%@ng sellout

Much has been made about my Twitter comments regarding Senator Sweeney’s statement on the legislative prioritization of marriage equality.  Let me first apologize to the Senator for the passion and heat of my comments.  Those that know me personally know that commenting in that tone and fashion is not my normal modus operandi.  I have a great deal of respect for the Senator, his leadership capabilities and know that we Democrats need to rally around him to support our principles as a party especially in these hard times.

But it is because of that respect that I made my comments.  Senator Sweeney and others in the state Legislature are masters in fighting for the least of these in our society, those ignored and neglected by the world and that is why I am a supporter of his and a proud Democrat.  Being the voice of the voiceless is why our party has made the tough decisions that has brought the greatest positive changes to America and New Jersey.  We are at our lowest, however, when we retreat from those principles, when we adopt the Ostrich mentality, or when we say, why can’t you wait.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in a Letter from a Birmingham Jail about why African Americans could not wait when progressive White Southern Christian ministers and clergy questioned his direct, non-violent tactics.  He wrote:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

I support marriage equality now because my life as a heterosexual man is affected when others in my community that may not be do not have the same rights and privileges I have under the law and Constitution, in fact, my life is somewhat diminished.

I sponsored the legislation creating the most progressive and powerful LGBTIQ Commission in New Jersey with Mayor Cory Booker in Newark because we understand that notion. At a community unveiling of the Commission last week, the pride, commitment to being an active component of our Newark community, and yes, tears of joy showed me the power of empowering someone else, of granting something to someone that you or I take for granted. And it was priceless.  But was also priceless was seeing same sex couples at the event, many of whom I know have been in loving realtionships for longer than most of my heterosexual, straight counterparts and I was struck by the fact that their love is not recognized by the law as it should be, FUNDAMENTALLY !!! They are half citizens of my state and city even as the Mayor and I were seeking to give them more power, a terrible dichotomy.

Marriage equality has to happen now and retreat is tantamount to waiting and thereby denying the LGBTIQ community their humanity and by association, a lil’ bit of our own.

I know my leadership in Trenton won’t fail us because they can’t. And my “Tweet” represented that, rightly or wrongly stated.  Dr. King also coined the rationale for change in a manner that President Obama references reguarly: the fierce urgency of now.  Now, is the time and it is time to step up.

Notes for Brick City, 4th Night: Conflict and Resistance to Real Change

Apologies to all who have been following along as Newark Councilman Ron Rice chronicled Sundance Channel’s 5-night documentary about his city, Brick City. We were both in Atlantic City, and the Trump folks screwed up my internet, so I couldn’t help post this till now. It’s still worth reading, and Brick City is worth looking for, in cable On Demand and in replay. The series drew considerable attention to Mayor Cory Booker and the city council and police department he works, and the people who live in NJ’s largest city. Ron watched every episode, then wrote about it in the wee hours of the morning – Newark’s leaders keep late hours. Expect this series to be in competition for film awards, and expect it to be shown again. Here’s Ron, about Night Four.  – – promoted by Rosi

On the 4th night of Sundance Channel’s Brick City, you see a major internal city government fight in Newark during 2008: who will run the Newark Police Department, the Police Director or the Police Chief? Both men, Director Garry McCarthy and Chief Anthony Campos, are hardworking men of their word and fighting the good fight.  Campos, however, is a Newark born and bred cop from the city’s Portugese community that rose up through the ranks to a top law enforcement position.  Director McCarthy is an Irish cop from NYC. Some, in the city and within the Police Department, have a strong case of xenophobia, an irrational fear and/or resentment of outsiders, some of it justified, some of it is a knee jerk fall back position that helps to stop change in our city.  Its roots are found in the resentment of the city’s African American and Latino population to the white flight that started in the ’40s, picked up steam in the ’50s, and was complete in the late ’60s and early ’70s.  It is also grounded in the fact that Newark’s population during the day swells to close to 500,000, but goes back down to 281,000 after 5:00 PM.  Many feel that people just use our city to make money, get what they need and have no real commitment to our city or its people.  So, the attitude is stay out, we that live here can solve our own problems without anyone’s help and indeed, we don’t want any new immigrants, income diverse people from NYC and other places, etc. coming to “our” city because it just means trouble. Add to the mix that the Police Director is trying to change a culture within the Department, change policing techniques to be more aggressive (he has moved lots of desk police back to street patrol and altered a department that had a majority of its force working 9 to 5 to working when crime actually occurs), and the fact that Mayor Booker was not born and raised in Newark and you see the resentment of the “outsiders” trying to take over Newark at the expense of good, Newark born people like Campos and others that were laid off from City Hall as we shrink government and the new businesses and condos that are coming downtown.  In the end, the city council supported the Mayor and his request to support him by supporting the man he brought in to lead the agency to record reductions in crime, but I like the comment that has traction beyond this fight from David Cruz, on air personality at our Jazz 88 radio station in Newark: “No matter how much good you get done, there is always someone that will put out something that you are F@#king up on.”

You get a really good inside look at gang life in the city. Jiwe, an author and Blood member says that as long as there is poverty, no jobs, projects, crack, there will be gangs.  It is hard not to like Jiwe as he knocks down stereotypes. He is intelligent, prolific, clear minded, but gang related, like Jayda. You see why gang life is attractive in poor urban communities because it is not all violence, murder and drug dealing.  In fact, that is only a part of it (a major part, but not the only one). Gang life is family, support, even fun times. It is protection, acceptance and, yes, love in a world where Todd Warren said last night, men do not know how to show love to one another. Crime is a small exchange for this sense of belonging that no one else is offering or providing. The key challenge is, how do we take these gangs and make them gangs that support our community and indeed build community in Newark?  How do we educate them and make them emulate groups like the Black Panthers that fed our communities, politically educated themselves and others and protected our neighborhoods from crime and destruction?

Jayda’s case progresses. Now that she is doing right, old bad habits and her past could disrupt it. This is a message to all of our young people that your past can be an anchor around your neck so don’t start down that path in the first place.

Ringling Bros circus comes back to Newark. The Prudential Arena has been a mixed blessing for the city of Newark. Good events, spurring new venues and nightlife in downtown Newark, great events like Miley Cyrus, Lil Wayne, Gospel fest, and Devil’s hockey (when r we going to get out of the first round of the playoffs). But the perception is that there is too much police protection for the “outsiders” that come here to the city to just use us and take vitally needed police protection from the neighborhoods.  The city has also been in constant fight mode with the Devils over non payment of rent, lack of needed certificates of occupancy, water bill payments, even street and campus improvements that they are responsible for all after the fact that the city has done all we promised.

Lastly, we meet Hood Ru, Blood gang member and friend to Jiwe’s set…briefly, because he commits suicide. Gang life is hard and a hard life and the lesson that all, not some, will eventually end up dead, in jail for extended periods of time making them unemployable, or crazy mentally just does not get through. Gang life, no matter what Jiwe and others may say in the documentary, are recipes for an early death, a lifetime of abject poverty, and relegation to a permanent underclass as well as their progeny and offspring that will come into the world with two strikes against them and worst odds for a better life than his mom or dad. but most in that lifestyle don’t think they will live that long.  Most do, and their lives are many times unsaveable. Stay tuned.

Brick City aired five straight nights this week, on the Sundance Channel. Expect it to be rebroadcast.