Newark Through The Eyes of Councilman Quintana

Friday, 01 August 2014 17:45 Local Talk News Editor


The City of Newark received a huge change in leadership. The candidate of the same group holding control of the fate of Newark has been defeated. This time, it is vital to receive the feedback from the newly elected council. So for the first time, I have approached all of the council members for their views about the future of Newark.
The best person to talk to is Councilman Luis Quintana, who just served as Mayor of Newark for eight months. When Mayor Cory Booker resigned to proceed with his position as US Senator, the Newark Council selected Councilman Luis Quintana as Interim Mayor to finish Booker's term until July 1, 2014.

Quintana will finished 28 years of service as a councilman in October 2013. During the interview, it was revealed that he has never held any other job except the council job for all those years. He does not believe in nepotism and holding dual jobs.


Dhiren Shah: Why did you decide against running for mayor after your stint as Interim Mayor?

Luis Quintana: Because at the time I was a gatekeeper. I knew that I was going to be the mayor for a short period of time. There was too much division on the city council, and I believe that I was the one to bring peace. I was honored that the council decided to have me serve as interim mayor. I thanked them many times. Everything stops at the mayor's office, so I realized and understood the job. It's not easy to judge when you don't know the job. Now I know the job. The mayor's job is not an easy job. It's a hard task. You have to be there, you have to be listening and you have to be objective. There are five wards of Newark, and you have to represent them equally.

DS: What was your highlight as mayor? What was the most difficult part of the job?

LQ: When I came in, it was so much difficult; we have so much to know. Oh my God, we had 60 some inches of snow. It was such a difficult time. Here we are, budget, money. We never ran out of salt. I was worried that we would run out of salt. And the heating complaints. I was happy that I was able to put 40 people in a catholic academy. I believe that there was some mistake with the laying off of 140 police officers. One aspect of being the mayor is that I believe that we have to put more boots on the street. The police is a paramilitary organization.
I have accomplished change in City Hall, making a waiting area for people to come and pay their bills. The Abraham Lincoln statue, we have put it there, which was in the corner. The perception is key when you come to city hall, we are going to change that to better customer service. "May I help you Sir/Madam?" That is what I want to accomplish. More response, more police response. We are able to make two women chief and deputy chief and broke a record. I believe that we gotta continue to empower people. We have tried, but we have so many issues. The state should help us, not just with finances, but help us. Let us be responsible. The people of Newark need good government, and we have tried to give them good government.

DS: What can you apply from your mayoral experience now that you're back as an At-Large Councilman?
LQ: I always tell the council that it is not easy as you think. It's always good to blame somebody, blame each other. That has been historic (to blame the mayor), instead of taking responsibility. You take the responsibility as a leader.

DS: As councilman, what are your future plans for the city?

LQ: My future plans is to give citizens of Newark good government. We are there for responding to their concerns and their needs. Making sure the tax level is kept at a conservative level so that people do not have to go into foreclosures. We have to assess the city, in terms of a. moving forward, b. public safety. Part of our money goes to the school district and we have no say. Out of the tax money we have to pay. It is not about charter vs public, it is about the kids. Lack of recreation. We don't have truancy like we used to have before. To move forward, we all have to do a lot. We need to run a government where we may disagree, but we have to find out why we disagree. We have to be more proactive in terms of public safety. Before giving tax incentives, when your project is finished how many will you hire from Newark? None, then we don't need to help you. In Jersey City, what they do with tax abatements, before they give tax abatement, they have to give incentives to fix a park or to do something. They give something back.

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

LQ: His biggest asset, he has to keep the city together.

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

LQ: We need to review everything. We need to have more dialogue in terms of education, what is that we want for our kids. Instead of leaders making decisions, we should listen to the people. Encourage parents to be more involved; we used to call the PTA. When we put a plan together, let there be a roundtable, before we finalize this things.

DS: Where do you see Newark in five years?

LQ: Downtown always has things happening. Newark should go into the neighborhood, where houses are abandoned, and houses are dilapidated. Give an opportunity to the people, buy homes here, not just downtown, but it has to be uptown also.

DS: What sort of feedback have you received about the new mayor-council lineup since July 1 from - Residents and constituents? - People and/or officials from outside Newark?

LQ: There should be more dialogue. The mayor and the nine representatives of the council should get together. It is not about politics. There should be a meeting, not individually, but a meeting of all of us, finding out what can we do to help this mayor move forward. The campaign is over. Now we have to heal the wounds, and bring Newark where it should be.
DS: Looking ahead into 2018, what existing and/or new challenges do you see Newark wrestling with in terms of: Public safety? Public education? Employment and economic development? Health and quality of life? Please explain in brief.

LQ: Newark has to be well-able economically, motor pools for job. We can refer jobs to Panasonic, other companies or local businessmen. Newark needs to go back to the neighborhood, stabilize the economy, and public safety. Ask federal representatives like Menendez, Booker, Sires, Payne, they gotta go and work in Washington.

DS: Why did you choose one job throughout your 28 or 29 years as councilman?

LQ: Because I always felt that having this job, it's too precious, and time is very important for me. To spend time dedicated to this job. This is a 24/7 job. I take it very responsibly.

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