Newark special council election comes amid a crowded season

By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
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on October 27, 2013

From L to R: John Sharpe James, Lynda Lloyd and Yvonne Garrett Moore are competing ion the Nov. 5 special election for an open Newark council seat. (Star-Ledger file photo)


NEWARK — Had enough elections, Newark?

Well, there are more to come.

Since June 2012, Newark residents have picked a new congressman and a new U.S. senator, and when they head to the polls next Tuesday, they will not only be casting their ballot for governor, but also for an at-large city council member.

Lynda Lloyd, Yvonne Garrett Moore and John Sharpe James, son of the former mayor, are vying for the open council seat vacated last year when Donald Payne Jr. was elected to Congress.

When the council seat was vacated in November 2012, it sparked a riotous public meeting after outgoing Mayor Cory Booker tried to fill the seat with an ally. That was followed by a court battle in which an Essex County judge told Booker his move was illegal.

Since then, the council has been one seat short of its full, nine-member complement. On Nov. 5, Newark voters will decide who takes over the seat.

Because of the crowded election season, the three candidates have not gotten a lot of attention, but each agree on the central issues facing the city: violence, jobs and education.

"For me, the biggest thing is just a reflection of what’s important to residents, which is the violence in the city," Lloyd said in an interview.

A graduate of Howard University, Lloyd is a former staffer for the late Rep. Donald Payne Sr. and a former staffer for South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka.

She said the council needs to be more aggressive as a "bully pulpit" to advocate for issues and resources dear to Newarkers.

With Booker heading to the U.S. Senate, Payne Jr. in Congress and members of the Legislature who live in Newark, Lloyd said elected officials who live in the city could form a powerful legislative caucus if they worked more closely together.

"It makes sense that we work together no matter what our individual politics are," she said.

James, 45, has been eyeing the council for years, having lost elections for the South Ward seat as well as the at-large seat. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, James, who has a law degree from Rutgers, also cited violence and jobs as main issues in the campaign.

He also said Newark has to be careful about how it enacts school reform, specifically in the expansion of charter schools.

"I just do not want to have unfettered charter schools," he said, adding that community members have to play a direct role in charter school governance. "Is their allegiance going to be 100 percent for education of our youth or is it going to be for profit?"

James also promised to take a hard look at the city budget, with an eye toward hiring more police officers.

"There’s no way the number of police we have right now can adequately do their jobs," he said.

After the city laid off more than 160 officers in 2010, hundreds more retired. The police department currently has less than 1,000 uniformed officers — its lowest level in more than a decade.

Moore, 57, ran for mayor in 2010 and is an active voice in local politics. A former performing artist who studied at the School of Performing Arts in New York, Moore converted a career in the arts to one in community development and outreach.

She said the focus of her campaign is leveraging Newark’s resources and location to create more jobs for city residents.

"We’re living so far beneath what we’re capable of," she said. "We’re a global city. It makes no sense that we can’t offer more jobs to our residents."

Newark residents also have some ballot questions to contend with on Nov. 5, including one statewide referendum calling for a $1 increase in the minimum wage, from $7.25 an hour to $8.25.

Newark voters will also decide if they want to raise city property taxes by one penny, to create an annual fund dedicated to park maintenance, construction, and renovation. If approved, the fund would raise roughly $1 million annually.

Newarkers should not get their hopes up for a full council after the election, though. Council President Luis Quintana is likely to take over as interim mayor until the 2014 municipal election, again leaving the council one member short.

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