Tag Archive: East Orange

Robert Peace and “I Can’t Breathe”

Camden, Trenton, Newark, Jersey City, Montclair, Lawrence, and Princeton are just some of the New Jersey locations where people have taken to the streets protesting police injustice and repeating the phrase “I can’t breathe.” Saturday in East Orange students marched loudly and peacefully down Martin Luther King Blvd. Next door in Orange is where Robert Peace was born in 1981. He lived a short, tragic life – a bright African-American who attended St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark and went to Yale but could not escape problems confronted by so many of his brethren.

Outrage over the decision not to criminally charge the police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island is a recurrent theme in our history. In Newark in 1967 a black cab driver was pulled over by police and badly beaten within sight of residents. Thus began the Newark insurrection.

The current protests go well beyond discontent with police problems. Following the election of President Barack Obama there was talk about a new post-racial society. It continues a work-in-progress. The ongoing racial tension is displayed by Robert Peace who learned to live and even thrive at Yale and yet under the surface resented the inequality he saw around him. He was an A+ student leader but bore the weight of a father in prison, a mother who works two shifts a day, and a childhood living in a low-income, dangerous neighborhood.  

While it’s hard to find justice in the Ferguson and Staten Island incidents, there remains the hope that the coalition of protesters – people of all colors and ages – will yet manage to bring about new procedures, attitudes and broader change. Perhaps one small step forward was in July when after a three-year study the U. S. Department of Justice announced it would install a monitor over the Newark police that it found had repeatedly violated the rights of its citizens, especially blacks. Many more steps are needed.

Anand Giridharadas concludes in a N Y Times book review of Peace’s biography, “Robert Peace, who called his mother “my heart,” was her only and beloved son. But he was our son, too. We are the wondrous country that made him a Yale man. We are the wanting country where even that wasn’t enough to spare him.”  

Meet The People Who Just Created The Biggest Wave Of Paid Sick Day Victories Ever

Here’s a headline – from ThinkProgress – currently bouncing around among advocates and activists like a ping-pong ball. It’s a huge compliment to the coalition working together this early autumn to midwife earned sick day legislation – following the breakthrough cities of Newark and Jersey City – through city after city by ordinance.

New Jersey is now the epicenter of the movement for earned sick leave, which will result in workers having time to recover properly, or care for a sick child, and protect co-workers and strangers from illness. To do the right thing for good health and have a chance to do it without worrying about losing a job.

Congratulations on well-deserved good – and national – press to New Jersey Working Families, NJ Citizen Action NJTime to Care Coalition, NJ Communities United, SEIU 32BJ and CWA. And the residents of Jersey City, Newark, East Orange, Paterson, Passaic and Irvington.

Way to start a progressive wave, people.  

East Orange Mayor Says Sex In Government Office and Campaign Finance Violations Are A Private Issue

promoted by Rosi

Cross-Posted On FireDogLake

Embattled East Orange New Jersey Mayor Robert Bowser has an interesting theory. In a press conference on Friday Mayor Bowser told reporters that his admission of a sexual affair with a subordinate in a sexual harassment deposition is a private issue and belongs between him and his wife. The mayor read a prepared statement and refused to answer any questions as a spokesman referred reporters to a written form of the statement the mayor gave and the contact information for the mayor’s lawyer.

But is this a reasonable assertion?

According to The Star-Ledger, which obtained a copy of the sealed sexual harassment deposition, the affair was between the mayor and a subordinate city employee and sex acts occurred inside the mayor’s office on government time.

According to the deposition obtained by The Star-Ledger, Corletta Hicks, Bowser’s former research assistant, gave him oral sex on multiple occasions, including in his city hall office, while she was working for him…

The mayor previously denied having a relationship with Hicks while she worked for him in city hall, maintaining they had “no personal relationship throughout her tenure in my office.”

The mayor also disclosed payments were made after each sexual encounter and that Ms. Hicks at one point resisted his sexual advances.

In the Jan. 3 deposition, Bowser, 77, admitted the affair started roughly four months into Hicks’ tenure and lasted until late 2010. He said he would give her money after the encounters, estimating he paid her roughly $3,000…

Bowser initially denied that he sexually harassed Hicks but admitted in the deposition that Hicks resisted his sexual advances on one occasion, according to the document.

Furthermore the mayor used money from his campaign fund to buy gifts for Hicks’ child according to the deposition.

According to the documents, Bowser wrote a $400 check to Erika Prince, the daughter of his former research assistant Corletta Hicks, who in 2011 filed a discrimination suit against the mayor which included claims of sexual harassment.

Bowser said the money was for a “book scholarship” for Prince “at the time she was taking some courses,” he said in the document, a copy of which was obtained by The Star-Ledger.

Bowser acknowledged in the deposition that the gift had nothing to do with his campaign. According to the Election Law Enforcement Commission, personal use of campaign funds could result in fines of up to $7,600 per violation and, in some cases, could become a criminal matter.

Is it really a private issue between spouses when one of the spouses violates campaign finance law to give gifts to his mistress’ child and engages in sexual activity inside his government office when he is supposed to be working for the taxpayers? Tough sell.

(more after the jump)

Blue Jersey Focus – Mark Alexander

Even though the 2012 election season has yet to reach its peak, let’s not forget that in New Jersey, 2013 will be another significant election year with the governor and the entire legislature at the forefront of electoral politics.

While many of our state elected officials are not professing to be gearing up for 2013, at least in public, one person who has already declared his candidacy is Seton Hall University law professor Mark Alexander. Two weeks ago, on Blue Jersey, he made what he calls “an exciting announcement” to tell the world that he is running for the Senate seat currently held by Senator Nia Gill.

Earlier today, I spoke with Professor Alexander via Skype to get to know him, why he is running, and what his priorities would be if elected. Alexander is no stranger to politics, having served behind the scenes for many prominent Democrats, and is the son of former presidential counsel and Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander.

Notes: This is my first (and maybe last) attempt at a Skype interview. The audio and video are horribly out of sync. If any of the technonerds out there have some suggestions on a better way to record using Skype, please e-mail me at deciminyan@gmail.com. The article has been corrected to reflect the comments from Carl Bergmanson.

An exciting announcement

As we noted in this morning’s News Roundup, this is going to make an interesting 2013, with Prof. Alexander primarying Nia Gill. As though 2013 wasn’t already going to involve turf battles, rending of garments and long pointy knives. Prof. Alexander was state director for the Obama campaign in 2008. – promoted by Rosi

This morning I made an exciting announcement: I am going to be running for the State Senate in New Jersey’s 34th Legislative District.  My entire career has been dedicated to serving my community, working to elect progressive leaders, and trying to make things better for working class families. Today is the first step in bringing more accountable representation in the State Senate to families throughout Clifton, East Orange, Montclair, and Orange.  

Right now my focus remains on reelecting President Obama in November.  But in order to make sure I have the resources necessary to run a competitive race in June 2013, I thought it was imperative to get started early.  Over the coming months I am going to be raising seed money and putting together a strong campaign team that can help me get across the finish line in June.  

With Governor Christie up for reelection next year, it is so important that Democrats across New Jersey begin to mobilize.  We need strong voices to stand up against his rhetoric.  As a former National Policy Advisor to President Obama, I know I can bring strong progressive alternatives to Trenton that will move New Jersey forward in putting people to work, protecting our environment, and ensuring women have access to healthcare services.  

I hope everyone on Blue Jersey will follow me on Twitter @MarkCAlexander and comment below.  I want to hear your thoughts, comments, and questions as we move forward in New Jersey.    

Naughty by Nature wants you voting from home

Naughty by Nature, who hail from East Orange, just made a high-spirited video to encourage you to vote from home, and vote Democrat like you did when you voted for Barack Obama.

I really kind of love this. For a few reasons. The Corzine campaign’s making an effort to engage the surge voters who powered Barack Obama’s win last year. The video’s not tied in to the Yes We Can 2.0 project (which does lots of cool stuff), but reminds me of it. Many of those surge voters were voting for the first time, and were largely young and non-white. They’re a special group, and we need them. They saved everybody’s bacon last year. And if they hadn’t been engaged before then, that’s our fault and not theirs, so I’m enthusiastic about any effort to reach them again. Among Naughty by Nature’s fans are young people and black people, and both run a higher risk encountering trouble at the polls than, say, I do. And among likely advantages of voting by mail is cutting down on roadblocks at the polls.

I like this little 30-second reminder of how we all felt last November, with the guys’ Keep it going, New Jersey! Watch:

Something rotton in the city of East Orange.

We purchased our first property back in September 2006. After living in Brooklyn for almost 12 years, we were tired of paying other people’s mortgages in the form of rent, so we scraped and saved up for our first home. Buying in Brooklyn was totally out of the question when looking at closing costs alone. So New Jersey was looking more and more attractive. I was raised in South Jersey and spent years defending our great state all over New York City. Why not come home, I thought to myself. Over the years I’ve watched my home state grow more and more progressive when dealing with GLBT rights. With very little resistance from my husband, we spent over a year looking in Northern New Jersey for our first home. Thanks to craigslist, I found a brand new condo building in East Orange that had plenty of units in our price range. A risky investment, most of you are probably thinking to yourselves, but there are many new and exciting things happening in East Orange, so we decided to take a chance.

Now that my mini introduction is out of the way, methinks my newly acquired local government is acting kind of kooky. We’ve lived here for almost 7 months. There are about 30 units out of 150 waiting to be sold. No one knows what our local tax rate will be. And the city government has continued to be less than forthcoming with the sponsors of our building, who are trying to get them to nail down a rate. Whether or not this is de rigeur when it comes to assessing local taxes is not my concern at the moment. What I find curious is whether or not someone know how to do their job. Or if they have been doing it at all.

As per the East Orange website: “The primary function of the Tax Assessors office is to value all real property within the city boundaries for property tax purposes”. The lucky lady who gets the honor of being our Tax Assessor is Barbara Williams. The building sponsor held a meeting last week to make sure we were all on the same page. Apparently, a tax assessment is supposed to be conducted by the city every 10 years. As it turns out, this hasn’t happened in almost 30 years! When the assessment for the building was finally made a few weeks ago, about 1/3 were valued correctly, 1/3 were over-valued and 1/3 were under-valued. In other words, for about 1/3 of our building’s inhabitants, once a tax rate is finally set in stone, will be paying more in city taxes than their property is worth. Basically, a 700 sqf condo will be paying more in taxes than a 1200 sqf condo. And after numerous meetings with Ms. Williams, the last of which was attended by Mayor Robert Bowser, a reason why this happened has yet to be established. Nor have we been able to get in writing the promised taxrate.

In one of the more encouraging signs that the homeowners at this condo building really want to help change the face of East Orange, a large group will be attending the Town Hall meeting this evening. Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend. But once I get some more answers, I will share them with you. Democrat or Republican, I post this as one of the many challenges to local, state and federal government to clean-up their act. Your constituents are watching and are demanding transparency.