Interview with Councilman Augusto Amador

Tuesday, 02 September 2014 14:38 Local Talk News Editor

Continuing our series of interviews with leaders in our area, Local Talk recently sat down with long time East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador.

Dhiren Shah: What made you run for city council again?

Augusto Amador: The motivation I had in 1998 when I first got elected is stronger than it was back then. There's a purpose and a plan when we get involved in politics. I always understood politics to be serving the public and having a vision for the community you represent. A lot has changed in the last 16 years, and I intend to continue to be as motivated today as I was in 1998 to realize that vision.

DS: Being on the council since 1998, who do you feel is your biggest accomplishment so far?

AA: Creating and maintaining the trust of the residents I represent in the East Ward for the last 16 years. That together with the physical changes that have taken place, the building of schools and rebuilding of parks, the project on Ferry Street. I won each election with over 50 percent of the vote, so people have a high trust in what I do.

DS: In the last election, you ran on Shavar Jeffries' slate, whereas most of the elected council was on Ras Baraka's slate. How can you avoid conflict with other council members?

AA: There is no conflict. We all are individuals with different philosophies and opinions and beliefs in politics and the way the city is going. I can work with anybody as long as we all have the interests of the residents of the city at heart. The fact that I supported Mr. Jeffries doesn't mean a thing, except that of the two candidates that were available for mayor, I made my choice. That doesn't necessarily mean that I'm not going to work with and support Mayor Baraka when there's a proposal that will benefit the residents I represent. The same goes for the council if there's a resolution or an ordinance that clearly supports the residents of the East Ward, I'd ask for their support and I'd do the same thing when it relates to their communities.

DS: As East Ward Councilman, what are your future plans for the ward?

AA: I want to continue to work very hard to build new schools, more green space along the river, expand the IBID area to improve on what we've done on Ferry Street, the strongest commercial corridor in the city of Newark, and at the same time continue to fight for lower taxes and reduce crime.

DS: Do you support what's being done with the soccer stadium across the river in Harrison?

AA: When the Red Bulls decided to come to an area around Newark, I have to tell you that before them we had the MetroStars, and the MetroStars at that time were trying to find a home. I showed them around the Ironbound area, including Ironbound Stadium. I was working with them very hard to see if we could locate them in Newark. There was difficulty in finding the right space. When the Red Bulls decided to go to Harrison right across the bridge, I welcomed them because the area I represent is a hotbed for soccer. So the connection was perfect. The residents of my community benefit from having a stadium so close. Also, people from there come to Newark to restaurants in the Ironbound.

DS: How are you going to spread the influence of soccer throughout the city?

AA: I'm happy that the World Cup raised the consciousness level of the residents of the city to the importance of soccer, especially the kids. We have a large number of youngsters playing soccer in the East Ward. I hope to be able to make the administration understand that soccer is not only a cheap sport, but it's also a sport not as dangerous as football or hockey. My responsibility will be to make sure that the administration brings it to communities outside of the Ironbound. From what I understand, the administration is looking to do that.

DS: What is the biggest issue in the city right now?

AA: There are two big issues, and they interact. Crime and education. Until we find a happy medium to address this problem with education where we can provide better education to our youngsters and build generations of residents who can take over the jobs we have available in this city, we're not going to be able to fight the problem with crime. Crime is not just a police issue, even though it has to be dealt with by the police. It's also an education and poverty related issue. Until we deal with education first, and then poverty, we're not going to be able to solve the issues with crime. I hope enough leaders in the city have the sensitivity to understand this and not address the issue of crime just from one perspective of fighting crime through the police department.

DS: What do you feel is Mayor Baraka's biggest asset?

AA: His ability to communicate with folks who have been on the lower end of the social spectrum. He's able to connect very easily with those who don't have jobs or at the end of the social scale. He's very able to talk on issues such as crime because I think he's been involved with these issues on a personal basis more than anyone has in this city. So I think his ability to talk to about 60 percent of the population of the city of Newark in a direct and easy way supports whatever efforts he has to bring them to the table and be part of the Newark reality.

DS: After Cory Booker left to run for the Senate, the council appointed Luis Quintana as Interim Mayor. Did you think about the possibility of yourself filling that role? Why or why not?

AA: I love my job. I love to represent the people I represent. I never had the ambition to move to a different job. I think that one of the biggest problems politicians have is to be elected to one position and think about another position that they can go to as soon as they get elected. I think that's the biggest problem; it's something that defrauds the system and people lose respect for politicians when they begin to realize that. My job has been to serve the residents of the East Ward, and that is the position I'm thinking about for as long as I've been here. That doesn't mean that if an opportunity comes for me to express my beliefs on how politics should be, I wouldn't try to serve them in another capacity.
DS: One long standing issue in the East Ward has been parking, where people have to double park at certain times of day. Is the current system working in your opinion?

AA: It's working better today than 16 years ago. One problem is that there is not enough space for everyone to park. Also, there's a culture problem. I see situations where people double park outside of a restaurant when across the street there is a parking facility available and they don't use it. That's an enforcement issue. It has improved over the years, but not necessarily to the point where I'd like to see it. I think the answer is to select portions of the community where we institute parking for residents only. I think that needs to be done throughout the entire city. The parking authority needs to implement this, where areas of the community are selected by color (coding). Once you select the color, then the resident of that area obtains a permit from the city and parks within that area. I think that will solve the problem, like other cities have done.

DS: What should be done about the tense education situation in Newark? Do you support the One Newark Plan or an alternative?

AA: No. Absolutely not. I represent an area fortunately, and I say this with pride, where the school system benefits tremendously where the youngsters attend their schools. I can tell you right now that East Side High School is doing very well. The majority of the schools in the Ironbound are doing very well. I do not support the One Newark Plan. I do not support having a child or a youngster move out of his/her area and go to a school outside of the area. The neighborhood schools concept is what should be used to improve, and if we ever have a need to correct something related to why school x or g does not perform appropriately then the Newark public school system has the responsibility to correct those problems.

DS: Where do you see Newark in five years?

AA: Because of the location primarily and the conditions around Newark, and the availability of the airport, the port, the train station, I think the future of Newark will never be in jeopardy. Do we have the potential to grow even better and stronger? Absolutely. We need the right leadership, we need the right decisions to be made, political primarily, in order to make Newark stronger and healthier. I do see a future that, 16 years ago, I wouldn't have seen when I was elected. Newark, at that time, was a city in despair. It has come a long way. We need to continue to work very hard to make Newark a stronger and healthier city.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment