Interview With Council Candidate John Sharpe James

Friday, 25 October 2013 20:01 Local Talk News Editor


Dhiren Shah: Why are you running for a seat on the Newark City Council?

John Sharpe James: Early in 2006, there was a group who decided that they wanted to take over Newark. People in the community wanted some voices they respected, with a good background, and running against people from out of town. Unfortunately, I lost in 2006. My background is military primarily. It's all wrapped up in politics and community service. In 2006, I was drafted by the people and ran against Booker team, new politicians who did not necessarily have the communities in mind or best intentions in hand.

DS: In your opinion what are the main problems of Newark today?

JSJ: Right now, crime, and we have a leaderless city hall. Concerning the Mayor's position, his mind has elsewhere sometimes, and because of that we have deterioration in every department. Sanitation is a mess, the recreation department is a mess, and funding shortages cost the police department. Not only do we have 167 police officers laid off, but we haven't had a new police class in over 7 years. It definitely has a detrimental effect on the streets. The community is not safe, and criminals feel comfortable. We don't have enough police officers walking on the street. We have 900 police officers right now from a high of 1,500. Housing prices are going down, taxes are going up. People do not have that warm feeling anymore and, we are losing hope.

DS: When you talk about crime, I do remember that in early 2006, the first year of Booker's administration, murder was at 108, and before that 102 or 106. The murder rate is down, so what brings you to make the statement that crime is up?

JSJ: Crime is more than the murder rate. The average in the previous administration was about 90. We are already at 71 or 73, and I believe it can go beyond 90. There are more shootings now, and in the past we had history of car theft, but now we have a high rate of carjackings, which is violent crime. So, we have more shootings, more burglaries, more home invasions, and domestic violence. So you cannot just point to murder numbers and get a full picture of crime.

DS: What do you think about government transparency? Do you think the Booker administration was transparent?

JSJ: They came in as reformers, but as they came in, some people got jobs because they helped out their campaign. Booker said to the government employees before getting elected, don't worry we will have performance evaluation, you're not going to be fired automatically. It didn't happen. When Booker came in, the people under him without his knowledge were decimated and fired, something the people did not like. It was wrong. If you talk about transparency, number one is personal. The first act the Booker administration passed was regarding contracts with the city. Any vendor who donated $300 to the campaign of the city officials, they could not get a contract. Booker got his money from outside sources that would not affect him, but it affected local politicians. Every person getting a contract from city hall is not necessarily corrupt.

DS: Two times the council rejected the Municipal Utilities Authority. Then, the Watershed Board was dissolved, and power was given to the city. What is your take on this matter?

JSJ: I believe that was another maneuver by the people of the Booker administration. Webster did that in Jersey City. They created the Jersey City MUA, and it was taken over by United Water. It's not in the best interest of Newarkers. We have done major infrastructure repairs, so why all of a sudden do we want to create a separate authority, which doesn't respond directly to the residents of Newark and locked into a 99 year contract? I think it was a gimmick. The study says Newark loses 20% of water every day. If you go across the country, the average rate of loss nationwide is about 20%.

DS: The education system is under control of the state. The local board is trying to have local control and the court has favored them. Are you in favor of local control or state control?

JSJ: I am in favor of local control. As you have seen, the state has not been able to do anything on their own as far as moving the scores. You have individual principals, individual schools that are doing a good job, only because of staff and parental support.

DS: People ask many times about your father. He got indicted, he went to jail and he served his time, and he is back. Why should people believe that you would not go the same route?

JSJ: First of all, you have to look at the trial. What my father was indicted of and what he was convicted of and what he served. He did not take any money, he did not do any favors. The press, governor and Booker all worked together and made him looked like a bad person. The jury ruled on their own, and there was only one member in the jury from the city of Newark. You would not believe that from 2000 to 2007, the household income rose 28% in the city of Newark, the largest double-digit increase in the state's history.

DS: Where do you see Newark in the near future and 10 years from now?

JSJ: Our issues right now are with the current national state of economy. A lot of cities before were industrialized, and are now facing the service industry. The factories are all closed, automakers have issues in Detroit. The job market is smaller. In the older days, somebody worked in the factory, their son worked there, their grandparents worked there. For the service industry jobs, you have to have a college degree and you have to apply for them, and that's tough. The cities have problems like Newark. Newark used to have five breweries. All the factories are down, and we are faced with where to get jobs. I really stress individual decisions, as an individual how you can improve. I will tell every Newarker if you don't have a college degree or GED, get one. If you have a GED, go to the next level. It allows you to compete in a different market. If you want to start a small business, yes, it's tough. The TSA was hiring people, but you have to pass a drug test. 9/11 change a lot of protocols. If you committed a crime and if you have a criminal record, there are certain jobs you can't be hired for, especially working around children, the education system, government, county jobs, you cannot be hired.

DS: Do you have any message for your constituents.

JSJ: I am born and raised in Newark. I spent 22 and a half years in the military. That's part of my character. It's a lot of work from starting on the bottom as a Private, cleaning toilets and bathrooms, up to retiring as a Major.

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commented 2013-10-28 08:17:21 -0700
Is it to demanding to ask for our city elected officials to answer questions in complete coherent sentences? Outside of your complete reiterations of your past in the military, what have done in the form of community organizing or outreach that would lead our community to believe that you can better represent us in office when compared to any of the other candidates?