Tag Archive: Paterson

NJ Cities Working Together

Cross-posted at Huffington Post

Crime recognizes few boundaries – urban or suburban. That’s why it’s so important to have police departments cooperate as regional crime fighters, especially to slow the movement of guns and drugs. But fighting crime is more than just good police work. We also need to remedy some of the problems that cause crime to occur by focusing not only on public safety but job creation, housing security and recreation opportunities as well.

That’s why, in New Jersey, the mayors of the state’s three largest cities have joined together to launch a three-pronged, united front to help change the cycle of poverty and crime. In Jersey City, Newark and Paterson, we have come together to share services, and at times personnel, in fighting crime, while also seeking to coordinate community outreach efforts. Mayors Ras Baraka, Joey Torres and I believe this can become a model for mayors throughout the United States to follow.

Christie’s Summer of Failure – And Ours

Promoted by Rosi, who is not as convinced as the writer or the first commenter, of the eventual outcome.

As the dog days of Summer set in (actually, it’s pretty cool out today, now that I think about it), the nearly unbelievable extent of the failures of our strong-willed governor have clearly emerged. Here is a man who was elected to one of the most powerful governorships in the nation, yet, after a full term and then some, he’s achieved nothing.

In infrastructure, he failed us. He vetoed the construction of a long-overdue Trans-Hudson link in his first term. Now he’s illegally shuffling around millions to fund repairs on the Pulaski Highway. Public transit fares remain astronomical, especially for those commuting into New York City. I’d say that all of this is due to his “small government” philosophy, but that’s really the philosophy of the Republican Party. Christie has no philosophy, no guiding set of ideas, no overall goals, at least none that do not relate to his national political career. He does like to yell at people who ask him tough questions  

Saving New Jersey’s children three zip codes at a time

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield blog. – Promoted by Rosi.

Yesterday the mayors of New Jersey’s three largest cities, Ras Baraka of Newark, Jose Torres of Paterson and Steven Fulop of Jersey City, announced a bold move to collaborate on reducing violent crime in all three cities.

The proposal evolved from the Passaic River Corridor Initiative along Route 21, which has involved as many as 80 municipalities sharing police intelligence, according to Tom O’Reilly, the head of the Police Institute at Rutgers University. State authorities have said the program has led to hundreds of arrests.

But sharing police officers among three large cities that are not adjacent to one another while also combining social services is “sort of a first,” O’Reilly said. “They are challenging the traditional ways of thinking,” he said of the mayors. “The idea that three mayors have cut across bureaucratic lines is the first step.”

Getting New Jersey’s Urban Residents Organized is in Everyone’s Interests

promoted by Rosi

In a blog published earlier this month, I introduced an important but little-appreciated topic that is at the core of what is ailing our troubled inner cities, that being, a lack of empowered community organizations. As crime and poverty continue to stifle New Jersey’s urban areas, it must be noted that if we expect the residents of places like Camden, Newark and Paterson to help themselves, they have to have a place to meet. Literally, there are little if any places to gather, talk about issues, prioritize, network and plan, plan, plan. So often we hear from the residents of the Garden State’s wealthier suburbs and rural areas (such as Sussex County) that the first step in solving the problems of our inner cities is getting the people who live there to work together. Or more cynically, we’ll read posted snippets like “We’ve been throwing money at these places for years and things just keep getting worse,” and even “if more of this crime continues we’ll have to call in the National Guard.”  

How Can Jersey’s Urban Citizens Organize if They Have No Place to Meet?

As the online articles of summertime shootings in New Jersey’s neglected, jobless and isolated inner cities begin to ramp up, so do the ignorant, hostile comments that adjoin them. To many Internet readers, these forums are either wholly ignored or regarded as more or less useless – being the sum total of random ranters with too much time on their hands. But even from a non-scientific point of view, they do matter, because in some form, they represent documented, and occasionally comprehensive reactions and discussions from concerned Garden State citizens of all kinds.

One kind of comment, however, seems to be more common than all the others. For within the collections of comments that state things like “a tragedy for a girl who had her whole life ahead of her,” and “minorities continue to ruin places where we used to leave the doors unlocked,” there is one that is worth genuine analysis. It varies, but usually states something like “This violence will continue until the people of Newark/Camden/Trenton/Paterson etc. no longer tolerate it.”

It’s an interesting assumption, because not only have I come across it often on sites like NJ.com and NorthJersey.com but I’ve heard it countless times in other places. Apparently, according to a sizable minority of those willing to publish their opinions on the issue, crime in New Jersey’s cities is a result of a lack of civic awareness, pride, activity or organization on the part of our urban dwellers – or all of those things combined.  

It’s interesting. Though most posters do not identify where they’re writing from, I think it’s safe to assume that many, if not all of them, do not live in these depressing cities, rife with crime and poverty. These posters have little idea of the places they’re talking about. That’s too bad, because you no longer have to physically go to Trenton, Newark, Camden or anywhere in New Jersey to get a feel for its topography. You can simply visit Google Maps and take a virtual walk around the streets, and witness the extent of the devastation firsthand. And if one has even more time on their hands, I believe they can even use Google Maps to view a series of photos of the same places over time, to see how a specific neighborhood, lot, etc. has changed.

The problems of New Jersey’s urban centers are complex, of course, and go back decades. But as a former Newark Central Ward teacher and resident, I have to be honest here: if you’re going to accuse Newark or Camden’s people of a lack of civic spirit or capability to organize, you need to look at the physical geography of such places. In short, what kinds of conditions and structures are present that could enable people to organize and, say, challenge poverty, crime and corruption in such cities?

It’s a good question, because it matters. America’s Revolutionaries had their taverns, where they passionately debated and organized against British rule. Abolitionists and later Civil Rights leaders had their Churches, which functioned as vital incubators of organization and leadership. Newark’s former Jewish community had huge, active community centers, especially along what was once High Street (Now MLK Blvd.)  

All of these institutions – and that’s what they were – required time, energy, funding and organization – and space. And now, for the most part, they’re gone. Swept away in a tide of history and drowned out by poverty. Aside from their homes and places of employment, most of our state’s urban residents lack a “Third Place,” where they can simply socialize, which in a free society is the first step in tackling any problem as a community.

Think about it another way. Say you’re a Newark Central Ward resident, and you want to start some sort of council or club or action group. Where would you meet? Really, where?

In the 1920’s and 30’s, many of Newark’s great community gatherings took place in its schools. But under the regime of State Superintendent Cami Anderson, whose contempt for all forms of democracy and civic expression is well known, today this is almost an impossibility. In fact, some parent organizers have even been arrested for posting material on school grounds. It’s a tragedy, because much of the city’s finest physical structures are completely off limits, or nearly impossible to attain, for meeting, debating and organizing.

Okay, so what about other publicly oriented businesses like cafes and coffeehouses? Well you can forget about these too. The last coffeehouse in the Central Ward – a Starbucks – closed in 2009. The event was regarded as so devastating that it was even covered by the New York Times.

And what about the Churches? Yes, there are still some churches active in our inner cities, but aside from Sunday services, they offer few other services for even their own parishioners. And from a practical perspective, from my years and years of walking around Newark and Paterson, I’d say that most Church buildings are locked and sealed shut during the week.

So how are the people of our urban areas supposed to organize if they cannot even find a place to congregate?

I hope there are some meaningful replies to this blog…am I completely wrong here? Am I on to something?  

Christie can’t take the heat in Paterson

After this happened in Paterson today, Christie had some trouble with people who disagree with him at his “town hall” in nearby Caldwell and ejected some he didn’t want to hear from. – Rosi

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield.

1 of 4 - PATERSONApparently Gov. Christie heeded the old saying, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” and high-tailed it out of the Silk City after uttering about 25 words in his swearing in of Mayor Jose Torres. But I don’t think it was the typical Jersey-style summer-in-the-city, +90° hazy, hot and humid weather that forced him out. No, I think it was the approximately 50 Paterson education professionals who showed up armed with their best teacher voices to protest. Clad in red shirts to symbolize Trenton’s bleeding of the school district, they were there to deliver a message to Gov. Christie: state control is hurting their students, their schools and profession, and forcing many education professionals out of their jobs because they can no longer support their families and pay their bills.

Michele Brown, Why do we so often find you in the middle of Chris Christie’s malarkey?

We already know that if Chris Christie doesn’t like the rules, he won’t follow them. Scandals under investigation by both federal and state officers (including a federal grand jury investigating possible criminal charges) are looking at possible gross violations of ethical conduct, abuse of power and possibly even illegal acts that may have been committed by Christie or by his close operatives in an administration we know he holds the reins tight. Today we find out – poof! – rules everybody else has to play by have been pushed aside so yet another friend of the Governor’s can rake in the cash. And once again, who do we see right in the middle of it? Michele Brown.  

Poverty’s Terrifying Specter Haunts 600,000 of Jersey’s Children

Like Marie Antoinette entertaining at Versailles, our state policymakers continue to debate and propose a myriad of new laws and regulations that, as usual, address rather marginal issues. Smoking on the beach? Sure, Trenton’s debating on it. Animal cruelty? We’ve got loads of proposed bills on that one. Internet decency and bullying? Absolutely…the Garden State’s reps are all over that. But in the midst of all of this legislative excellence came really big news. News, of course, that after its initial reporting was tucked away, forgotten, marginalized, even by a so-called “Progressive” Democratic majority in the Legislature.

The shocking informationemerged earlier this month from the yearly “Kids Count” report of the highly respected Advocates for Children of New Jersey. The raw number, one that is hard to hide, is shameful and highly indicative of our state’s inexorable slide into a Third World status. One third of New Jersey’s Children – over 600,000 – are living in a de facto state of poverty. And more than half of those children – some 300,000 – are living in a state of extreme poverty.

We’re not talking about adults here. We’re not examining the numbers of New Jerseyans who, in fine right-wing fashion, are expected to resolve their own poverty through the magic of full-time employment. We are talking about kids. Remember them? They are the people that we, as a state, are collectively responsible for. No, this isn’t a socialistic jibe. I’m not proposing a Communist nirvana. I’m simply stating that the children of our state – well over a half million of them – are in desperate crisis.

Six Hundred Thousand. The number needs to be fleshed out. What does 600,000 look like? Try imagining a sold out Yankee stadium. Then stretch that thought to embrace 10 or 11 of them, all filled to capacity, with every seat, from the prime locales along the first base line to the seats in the distant rafters, occupied by a child. And all kids, nothing but kids. This isn’t Rio de Janiero, Mumbai, Damascus or some other Third World city. This is New Jersey, right now.

As an educator/blogger with a profound interest in our state’s fascinating history, I think this present level of poverty can only be described as Dickensian. Charles Dickens remains famous for his descriptive and touching stories concerning those who were desperately poor in an era of declining social mobility, insecure employment and a callous, uncaring state. From this mid-19th century British writer we get such classics as A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities. His stories are filled with such terrors as urban starvation, brutal bosses and environmental degradation. With no meaningful social safety net to depend on, Dickens characters, regardless of class, were continually filled with the terror of sliding into hapless poverty. Doubtless to say 600,000 of our state’s children would probably fit into one or two of Dickens’ novels, and neatly at that.

Just like today, during Dickens’ era of the mid-1800’s, New Jersey had an abysmal record in caring for its poor. During that era there was a so-called ‘answer’ to poverty, and one that is still hinted at by politicians on the right today. It went by many names – the poorhouse, the workhouse, the almshouse. But in all its manifestations it was a ghastly place where the poor were forced to work for their bread and shelter, frequently under the supervision of municipally-appointed masters or bosses that amply represented a state that so despised the unfortunate. The workhouse was a destination of last resort – much like our homeless shelters of today. It was a place of utter humiliation.

One of the worst examples emerged out of Paterson in September 1867. The city’s so-called Almshouse was at the center of a well-publicized scandal involving its city-appointed Steward, a man by the name of Sigler.

During the course of the state’s investigation of him, Sigler’s victims testified to the horrific conditions of the almshouse. Current and former residents reported that Sigler had repeatedly abused those under his care. He routinely whipped people who were clearly mentally ill, banishing some of them to rooms where they subsequently froze to death. Additionally, many children were under his supervision placed there by the state and parents who could not afford to care for them. Kids who gave him trouble were routinely lashed by an instrument of torture that can only be described as a smaller version of a cat o’ nine tails. Bed-wetters and other young “troublemakers” were regularly deprived of meals and punished in other cruel ways.

It is interesting to note that even during his trial, the authorities made no move to separate Sigler from the residents, a fact that at least one publication stated was “for political reasons.” Sigler was under the protection of a higher authority.

Through my research I was unable to find out if Sigler was ultimately convicted and punished. But that’s not really the point. The point is that in this age of wireless Internet and email, our state, by allowing such a huge number of children – 600,000 – to remain and fester in poverty, is committing a moral outrage – a sin – equal in every way to Sigler’s.

Helping these kids is something that is going to take bold leadership, big ideas and yes, money. This problem is so huge that it makes the debate over abolishing reality transfer fees rather laughable. These kids need help, now. We’ve got to get them out of this modern-day version of the poorhouse.  

Posted on: http://kurzglobe.blogspot.com/…

Video Recap of #NJEdMarch27

Pulling this back up top again. Two reasons: It went up late yesterday after sensible people had already closed their computers. Also, it’s just that good. – REE

There’s something happening here …

On Thursday of this week, there was a statewide rally in support of public education in Trenton at the Statehouse. There were student activists, parents, community members, teachers … and some of our NJ legislators stepped out of the statehouse to join. Here’s a video recap. Please share this on Facebook and your social networks. Thanks much.

#NJEdMarch27 from Ronen Kauffman on Vimeo.

Sit Tight on Ukraine, but Aid New Jersey’s Cities

It’s been a rapid-fire collection of events over the past week in (far) Eastern Europe. The bully/former president of Ukraine was removed from power by both demonstrators in Kiev’s central square and the Ukranian Parliament itself. Ukraine took rapid steps towards reorienting itself toward Europe and, more consequently, the United States.

But that wasn’t all. Ukraine’s former president was declared a fugitive from justice, wanted forcrimes against his own people. He vanished for a few days, then turned up in southern Russia only to declare himself not deposed.

Then the situation turned really weird. The Russians invaded the Crimean peninsula, a Russian-majority, autonomous region in the far south of Ukraine. Though the Russians claim that they’ve done so to protect their already sizable military assets in the territory, it is obvious that they seek to pry the peninsula away from Ukraine. If not through outright annexation, then perhaps by the establishment of some kind of proxy republic along the lines of what’s occurred in Georgia.

Obama warned Russia not to do this. Our president wasn’t very specific about what the consequences of such action would be, of course, but he dared Putin to cross a line, which Putin promptly crossed. Though I doubt that the world will soon be enveloped in a thermonuclear war on behalf of Ukraine, it looks like we’re on the verge of some kind of classic, Cold War-like showdown. If some of the editors at the National Review had their way, we’d probably have troops on the ground in Kiev at this moment. So in the middle of this whirlwind of revolution, diplomacy and war, to those who are demanding American boots on the ground and the U.S. Navy to blockade Russian ports, I say this:

Calm yourselves.

We need to remember some facts about Ukraine that many Americans – most, in fact, are completely ignorant of. First, the country’s borders, particularly concerning Crimea, are a result of internal wrangling in the former Soviet Union. The Communist party originally transferred Crimea as a ‘gift’ from then-Soviet dominated Russia to the then Soviet-dominated Ukraine. Since both regional jurisdictions back then were irrelevant, the move was strictly and strangely symbolic. Now we’re coping with the legacy of this move.

Secondly, Ukraine is a demographic mess. Its larger western portion is dominated by Ukrainians, who despise Mother Russia as the Poles, our allies, do. Any Ukrainian would tell you that they hold Soviet Russia rightfully responsible for the genocidal famine of their land in the 1930’s, and the subsequent Nazi invasion of the same land a decade later (due, mainly, to Stalin’s indifference and negligence toward the Ukrainians under his rule). Now to my American readers, I know that these historical facts seem rather trivial, but believe me, in Ukraine, they’re not. They’re everything.

Ukraine’s eastern portion, including Crimea, is ethnically dominated by Russians. This large population is a result of Stalin’s “Russificiation” policies of the former Soviet Union, which aimed at thinning out the native populations of the non-Russian portions of the Soviet Union. It was a failed policy, of course, but its legacy is still felt in every former Soviet republic, from Estonia to Latvia to Ukraine to Georgia.

Putin’s intentions thus far seem pretty limited, even in Ukraine. The Russian leader may talk tough, but even he knows the limitations of his armed forces and national budget. Occupying small portions of Ukraine dominated by Russians is one thing, but chancing a long and dangerous guerilla war with the majority of Ukrainians, while earning the enmity of all Europe is quite another. In short, I don’t think that Putin is interested in conquering and forcefully annexing all of Ukraine.

I could be proven wrong, of course, over the next few weeks or even days of events. Therefore right now I believe that though we ought to continue to denounce the Russians for their actions, which are illegal under international law, the U.S. and its Western allies need to sit tight. This is because we need to remember something important: we won the Cold War. Aside from Ukraine and tiny Moldova, which are ethnically troubled to be sure, all of Eastern Europe sits safely under NATO’s protective umbrella. American fighter jets and those of its allies fly daily over the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. American and allied troops sit at the ready not in Germany, Britain and France, but in Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey and, of course, the Baltic States.

Russia is a flailing, Third World military power. This is not the Soviet Union at its peak. Russia’s population is in steep decline. Its overdependence on funding its government though the selling of its natural resources has proven dangerous in this time of steadily falling gas and oil prices. Believe me, the American discovery and extraction of usable fossil fuels in places like North Dakota and Alaska pose far more of a danger to Putin’s Russia than many people realize.

Russia is also geographically overextended and domestically troubled. Putin’s own government, if certain trends in fuel prices and demographics continue, has a troubled future, if it has a future at all.

Again, I’m not stipulating that Putin loves democracy, or is some kind of moral leader and incapable of doing harm. He’s a bully and aspiring dictator. But he’s got limits. And we do too. For those Americans who are now calling for a fast, $15 billion grant to Ukraine, I ask this: have you seen Trenton lately? Visited Newark or Paterson? Perhaps a few billion should be thrown in their direction before we start writing checks to Kiev.