Cory Booker Transformed Newark Schools. Some Residents Still Haven’t Forgiven Him For It.

Newark School Superintendent Cami Anderson welcomes a student on the first day of classes in 2014, amid controversy over the direction of the district.
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NEWARK, N.J.Presidential candidate Cory Booker likens himself to a civil rights icon when describing his previous work with Newark schools.

“I was like Malcolm X,” Booker, a senator from New Jersey, told an Iowa crowd in February of his time as Newark’s mayor. He went on to cite a quote he has used for nearly two decades to justify his centrist brand of education reform. “By any means necessary, my kids were going to get an education.”

But when Newark resident Lisa Douglas hears of the comparison, she cringes.

“For him to even say he considers himself a Malcolm X and then to not consider those who he would hurt in the process of going with this whole [school] choice … I don’t think he’s Malcolm X at all,” said the mother of three.  

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Luxury building in Newark’s downtown does not have lead water, city says, citing new tests

Updated Sep 1, 2019

A luxury tower in the heart of Newark’s downtown does not have elevated lead levels in its tap water, city officials announced Sunday, two days after the building’s management urged tenants to use bottled water.

Mayor Ras Baraka said the city performed additional tests through an independent laboratory that found the tap water contained undetectable levels of lead at 1180 Raymond Blvd. He urged buildings to use state-certified labs for future testing to ensure accuracy.

The building is serviced by the Wanaque treatment plant "where the source water does not contain elevated levels of lead and the corrosion control system is effective at preventing lead from entering the water in buildings with lead service lines,” Baraka said in a statement.

 

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Want to beat Trump in 2020? These are the voters you need and I can get them, Booker says.

Posted Sep 2, 2019

WASHINGTON — Sure, Donald Trump became president after capturing three states a Republican hadn’t carried in two decades, thanks in part to white working class voters who backed Barack Obama four years earlier.

But Cory Booker says that’s not why Trump won in 2016, and for the Democrats to pick the 2020 presidential candidate they believe has the best shot to win back those voters would be a mistake.

Instead, says Booker, who trails the early frontrunners in opinion polls, Democrats need to find a nominee who can get more blacks to cast ballots. Thats what electability means, he says.

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The state of play for Gateway: Wake up, Feds | Editorial

Posted Sep 1, 2019

Motivated either by political malice or clay-brained negligence, the Department of Transportation snatched tens of millions in rail improvement money that Congress had intended for the Gateway Project two weeks ago, and re-allocated the funds to a passenger terminal in New Orleans and new coach cars in Wisconsin.

Such a diversion doesn’t surprise anyone anymore, and it hardly matters that members of Donald Trump’s own party tells him that Gateway is the most urgent public works project in the country. The president has an inherent hostility for projects that benefit blue states, and he isn’t above playing politics with the lives of commuters from New Jersey and New York.

Nor does Trump seem to fear the catastrophic effects of a prolonged repair or potential shutdown of the Hudson River Tunnel or the Portal Bridge, two Amtrak assets that are part of Gateway, and the most fragile segments of a Northeast Corridor region that produces 20 percent of our nation’s GDP.

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Baraka sees racial animus, but Newark’s denials on lead echo those in Flint | Moran

September 1, 2019

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka insists that he’s doing everything possible to combat the lead poisoning crisis in the state’s largest city, and that comparing it to the crisis in Flint, Mich., is a grand slander, one pushed by the environmental group that forced reforms in Flint.

“It drives me up the wall,” he says of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They are spreading the thing that there are problems before we even have evidence. They’re saying that in court. They are hiring people in Newark. We have professional agitators who are paid to spread this message.”

This being Newark, the race card is never far from the top of the deck. Here’s how he characterized the attitude of NRDC, which has filed a federal suit against Newark seeking the same kind of reforms it won in Flint.

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Booker ally pressured Newark water contractors to donate to mayor’s campaign, jailed official told FBI

Updated Aug 29, 2019

The ex-director of the agency that once managed Newark’s water told federal investigators in 2015 that she pressured vendors to make campaign contributions to then-mayor Cory Booker and his political friends, new court records show.

Linda Watkins-Brashear, who is currently serving an eight-year sentencefor soliciting bribes in exchange for no-show contracts, said a Booker ally at the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. set a donation goal for vendors who usually bought $500 fundraising tickets without question, she told the FBI. If they refused, there were repercussions, her testimony said.

Watkins-Brashear’s 2015 interviews with federal prosecutors were filed as part of an ongoing federal court case of another contractor allegedly involved in the $1 million kickback scheme that eventually toppled the NWCDC.

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Murphy signs law fixing N.J. mail-in ballot glitch in time for the November election

Updated Aug 28, 2019

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Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday signed a bill into law allocating $2 million in taxpayer money to fix a glitch with New Jersey’s mail-in ballot law — which could determine whether thousands of residents automatically receive a ballot to vote by mail in the upcoming November elections.

The Democratic-controlled state Legislature came in from summer breakthe last two days to pass the emergency legislation.

It aims to clear up the confusion around New Jersey’s year-old mail-in voter law. Murphy and fellow Democrats said the goal of the law was to make it easier for people to vote by mail when they can’t do so in person, allowing those who request mail-in ballots to receive them for life.

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Baraka Administration to Allow Press Access to Lead Water Meetings

Mayor Ras Baraka's administration had blocked members of the news media from attending a meeting inside City Hall that addressed Newark's lead water crisis.
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NEWARK, NJ - Mayor Ras Baraka’s administration said on Wednesday it would reverse future decisions to block the press from covering meetings that involve residents impacted by Newark’s lead water crisis one day after it prevented reporters from attending a gathering on the matter inside City Hall.

The meeting on Tuesday had been pegged as an opportunity for Newark residents to sign up as volunteers to inform others about how to replace affected lead service lines shortly after the city secured a $120 million loan from Essex County. 

Reporters did not learn that the mayor’s office was asking only Newark residents to attend until they showed up at a time and place that had been detailed by a press release sent to news media that cover the mayor. 

Members of television crews told TAPinto Newark, which first reported Tuesday’s incident, they had initially entered the rotunda where the meeting was to take place and set up their cameras before being told by the mayor’s staff they were not allowed in and were instructed to stay outside.

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Newark and the Imperative of Eliminating Environmental Racism

By Alan Steinberg | August 28, 2019

Insider NJ

 

Of all the New Jersey political stories I have written about since I began my life as a political columnist in 2009, I find the Newark water crisis to be the most compelling.  It is a mistake to view the Newark story in isolation from clean water environmental issues existing in other venues in America.  Indeed, it is a national story of supreme importance in two significant respects. 

First, as I have written, there is a need for over $500 billion nationally to finance necessary replacement of deteriorated water infrastructure, and the Newark situation is an archetypal example of this necessity. The Essex County bond package assistance to Newark announced on Monday could prove to be a national model for financing such infrastructure, at least until a national scale infrastructure financing plan is passed by Congress. As I said, however, in my previous Insider NJ column, “Newark and the Politics of Clean Water” (https://www.insidernj.com/newark-politics-clean-water/),  it is most unlikely that that there will be public support for such a national water infrastructure funding plan, financed by a water usage tax until the clean water tragedies of Flint, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey spread to suburban white America.  

The second matter is a broader environmental issue and in many ways one of historic significance.  That issue consists of the twin components of environmental justice and environmental racism.  White Americans are largely unaware of these issues.  Yet there is no doubt that Newark historically has been a major victim of environmental racism.  The lead service line crisis in Brick City is a clear manifestation of this. 

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N.J.’s highest court upholds law giving terminally ill patients the option to end their lives

Updated Aug 27, 2019

The state’s controversial “Aid in Dying” law won the support of the state Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon, upholding a decision from earlier in the day dismissing a restraining order that prevented patients from pursuing their own death.

The "Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” Gov. Phil Murphysigned in April took effect Aug. 1, but the law was put on hold due to the legal challenge.

Tuesday’s rulings means the law is in effect again.

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