Newark in Crisis – Again! Just a week or so ago the crisis in Newark was gangs and the murder rate, while this column pointed to more systemic problems. Now we learn a stern letter from the State Department of Community Affairs to Mayor Luis Quintana “has upped the ante in an ongoing battle with Newark City Hall, ordering a new audit and threatening action if Newark does not fall in line.”
Newark has been in a financial crisis particularly since the flight to the suburbs in the 60’s which precipitated a drastic reduction in population and the tax base needed to support itself. Past mayors and councils at best have found only partial, short-term, band-aid solutions.
Cory Booker brought outside dollars to help, strengthened the downtown area and infused optimism, but his cavalier management style was also the cause of some of the problems the state is asking the city now to address. The State indicates among other issues the city violated a memorandum of Agreement of December 2012 by “failing to outsource the collection of court fines and by not advancing a 2013 accelerated tax sale essential for Newark to avoid a deficit situation.” The city’s 2014 budget begins with a $30 million structural imbalance – not uncommon for cities (and the State) but a burden nonetheless.
The city’s governance is currently ill-equipped to address these problems. With upcoming municipal elections in May the Mayor is a placeholder selected by council members to not rock the boat. Three of the seven council members are mayoral candidates who have their own separate political agendas.
The State’s letter ends on an ominous note: “If Newark fails to propose and introduce a budget that addresses its fiscal challenges in a timely manner, the Division will take appropriate action.” Any bromance between Christie and Booker which might have helped Newark has vanished. The city only rarely has been able to produce a budget on time. This year without a united effort from the Council and the Mayor and some creative planning, the city may be facing a financial takeover from the State – never a good thing.
State Appeals Court today at 9:30am will hear arguments on “whether Gov. Chris Christie’s administration illegally pulled New Jersey out of a regional program (RGGI) meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions” by not giving the public an opportunity to comment, Trenton.
Gov. Chris Christie: 11am, trumpets a “Sandy housing recovery milestone,” Stafford Township Volunteer Fire Company #1.
Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee: , 2:00pm, will hear testimony from invited guests on the current status of the State’s administration of federal Hurricane Sandy recovery funding and review two bills on home elevation contractor standards, State House Annex. For more information go here.