Baraka taps Prudential executive to help with city budget

By Naomi Nix/The Star-Ledger
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on July 09, 2014

Christopher Cooper is Prudential International Investments CEO and chairman. He will be helping Newark through is ongoing budget crisis.


NEWARK — Mayor Ras Baraka is enlisting Prudential Financial to help the city weather its ongoing budget crisis.

Prudential’s International Investments CEO and Chairman Christopher Cooper will act as a consultant to the city of Newark, dispensing free advice on financial, budgetary and operations issues in City Hall, a city official confirmed today.

Cooper, who is responsible for managing some of Prudential’s investment operations abroad, will work in the city through the end of December, spokeswoman Sakina Cole said.

The mayor’s office is in the process of choosing an acting business administrator, since former business administrator Julien Neals has left office, Cole said.

Cooper will have much to do for Newark. In April, officials disclosed that the city faced a deficit of more than $93 million and that the only way Newark could balance its budget would be for the state to supervise the city’s finances. The city council has since introduced a preliminary budget, and legislators are revising it.

Also today, Baraka’s transition team released a report offering a slew of proposals for the new administration to tackle in coming months.

The report recommends the Baraka administration implement "Project CHILL," a program in which law enforcement officers talk directly with gang members about their activities and offer them alternatives to the criminal lifestyle.

"We’re gonna have aggressive policing around folks we know are committing these kinds of crimes in the community," Baraka said today during a press conference in Newark Public Library.

To improve community engagement, the report recommends the city create advisory boards to gain input from neighborhoods. Under the proposal, the advisory boards would vote on certain initiatives to the city council.

The report also advised Baraka’s administration use the city website to more effectively communicate with residents, maintain a database of resident and business phone numbers, and create constituent service centers in various neighborhoods.

Further, the report outlined several initiatives to spur economic development, from improving code enforcement to providing micro loans for small businesses.

In general, Baraka said his administration aims to be more responsive to constituents’ needs. "I don’t know if you feel it yet, but we’re building a movement in this city," the mayor said.

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