Newark council takes aim at Baraka's communication

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for
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on April 03, 2015

Newark's city council passed a resolution today urging the state to approve the proposed sale of Saint Michael's Medical Center to a California for-profit firm.


NEWARK — If communication is key, some Newark council members say Mayor Ras Baraka has left the door locked. The mayor has recently come under fire for what some council members say is a lack of communication with them about city events and initiatives.

"It's the worst I've ever seen," said at-large Councilman Luis Quintana, who first arrived to the council in 1994. "Even when (former Mayor) Sharpe James was angry, everyone in the council was notified."

The issue of communication between the mayor's office and the council surfaced during Wednesday's city council meeting when at-large Councilman Carlos Gonzalez criticized the administration for not inviting him to a police office promotion ceremony last Friday

"I don't want the community to think that we are not supportive of the mayor's agenda if we are not invited to the meetings," Gonzalez said in an interview after the meeting.

Gonzalez was one of several council members who said they did not receive an invitation to the ceremony.

City spokeswoman Marjorie Harris said in a statement that the city sent invitations through the clerk's office. Police department spokesman Ron Glover said the department contacted the clerk's office to schedule the ceremony in the council's chambers, which he said is the protocol for inviting council members to such events.

"Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication between the city clerk's office and the municipal council's office and the council was not officially invited to the event," Glover said.

"Since then, the council and the administration have agreed to meet and develop a protocol for department directors to adhere to so that the appropriate notifications may be made to the city council in a timely manner."

The city clerk could not immediately be reached for comment.

But council members allege there are other examples of poor communication from the mayor's office. Last month, council members said they did not know the mayor's administration was appointing attorney Vivian Sanks King to fill former Newark Judge Zilka Saunders' unexpired term until right before a city council meeting. The council approved her to be a municipal judge.

A city spokeswoman did not immediately comment about the timing of the appointment.

And earlier this year, the council criticized Baraka for not briefing them on the Valentine's Day land sale.

West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum said in an interview that he didn't think the mayor's office was purposely withholding information, but communication between the council and administration has been a problem.

"It's been an ongoing struggle," he said. "We've had a quite a few conservations about it."

Some city lawmakers attributed the problem to turnover in the communications department and department directors who are new to City Hall's operations.

"There are some kinks to work out," McCallum said.

But South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James said while he was not invited by the Baraka administration to attend the police promotion ceremony, he is not concerned about any perceived communications issues between the city and the council.

"I don't lose sleep over it," he said. "There are so many (other) things we have to worry about."

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