Hey, Mr. Mayor–face down Christie’s gangbangers!

Mr. Mayor--be the loud voice for kids
Mr. Mayor–be the loud voice for kids

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka got a lot of media attention Friday when he called a press conference to talk about the school enrollment debacle. He probably faced more cameras than at any time since his election. He also faced outrage and skepticism from  parents  growing weary of having the state use their children as guinea pigs in a social science experiment conducted by superintendent Cami Anderson and her stable of over-paid and inexperienced  amateurs. Baraka also faced a very short list of options for action beyond repeating his criticism of Anderson’s racism-tinged ineptitude.

“I have tried to play nice,” he said. “But this is not a very nice situation.”

He could have invested his popularity and charisma in the incipient but still quiet and leaderless movement to boycott the opening of schools. Instead, he answered a question about the boycott by offering general, ACLU-type, support for protests, including a boycott.

“Everybody has the right to protest,” he said. “If folks believe they should boycott, they have the right to do that. But, as mayor, my job is to make sure the children have free, unfettered access to schools.”

So he used the press conference, not to announce any new action, not to nurture a growing protest movement, but to say he would meet with both state Education  Commissioner David Hespe and Anderson. Both of these political creatures of Gov. and presidential candidate Chris Christie have treated Baraka as if he were elected president of a high school student council instead of mayor of New Jersey’s largest city.

Hespe already has misled him–lying to Baraka and others by intimating that Anderson would be fired. Christie has treated Baraka as an irrelevancy, saying “I am the decider” and acting as if the new chief magistrate of Newark were some sort of powerless and ceremonial colonial appointee and Christie were Queen Victoria in drag. Baraka is an elected governmental officer as well as the symbol of the hopes and aspirations of  not just Newark but other cities across the state and the country.

Baraka has power. He spoke about Anderson’s absurd transportation plan, saying it was developed “by hindsight” and “off the cuff.” He is absolutely right. The plan is as irresponsible as  adults letting children play with matches or electrical cords. It’s  dangerous because Anderson intends to bus little children across town in the dark. She is relying on the city’s police force to help implement the plan.

That’s a non-starter. Yes, of course, the police must be used to protect the children. But officers–and Baraka–shouldn’t wait until Anderson puts children in harm’s way. If some parent called Green Street and told the cops he was about to abandon his child in the middle of the state-created prairie in the Central Ward, wouldn’t the cops do something then? Isn’t that what Anderson is doing?

As the chief security officer of his city, Baraka should tell Christie’s $300,000-a-year agent and Glen Ridge resident she must come up with something safer. He can block the plan by exercising his responsibility to protect the children.

At his press conference, Baraka revealed that privately operated charters–including some with for-profit subsidiary corporations–have taken over public property without leases and without certificates of occupancy.

What? That’s illegal, last I checked.

Who is the chief executive charged with enforcing laws  requiring certificates of occupancy? Why, the mayor, of course. Baraka can keep those charters from opening.

His police have investigative powers. Detectives could be building a case regarding the Pink Hula Hoop and other insider deals between Anderson and her friends and business associates and personal landlords in the charter movement. Sure, only the county or the federal government can bring indictments–but that wouldn’t prevent Newark police from keeping an eye on the outsiders who are torturing Newark children and their families in the name of profit, the best interests of the charter school  movement, and Christie’s presidential ambitions.

At the very least, Baraka should have called on Paul Fishman, the federal prosecutor, and Carol Murray, the Essex County prosecutor, to look into the cozy arrangements between Anderson, former state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf and Tim Carden, the leader of TEAM Academy charter schools.

Anyone can ask for an investigation–but Baraka’s voice, at least for now, is very loud.

This is a moment that won’t come by this way again for a while. Baraka, given his underdog victory against great gobs of white, out-of-town money  behind his pro-Cami opponent, is probably the most heroic political figure in the Newark community since Ken Gibson replaced the larcenous Hugh Addonizio as mayor in 1970.

But the honeymoon, the hero worship, won’t last forever. Not everyone sitting at the press conference Friday was a reporter. Some were community leaders and activists who grumbled before–and especially afterward–about the need for Baraka to play a bigger, tougher role.

They don’t want to hear about statutes governing control of education and “I am the decider” comments by an oafish white fat boy from Livingston whose family escaped Newark and boasted about it. They elected a strong, tough mayor who probably would not have been elected but for the rising anger against Cami Anderson.

The parents and children of Newark need a leader. Not to have meetings with cretins who have proven their ill will and their gross incompetence.

Not to talk. But to act.

Hey, Ras–remember that video that Jeffries thought would sink you? The one in which you faced down the gang leaders on a cold winter night? You looked like a leader then, big time. Angry but righteous.

That’s what you need to do and to be now. Righteous and angry.

Face down Christie’s gangbangers before they do even more harm to the children of Newark.

 

10 comments

  1. booklady

    Become a gadfly. Call, write, no bucket of ice dumped on you.
    Dear Mr Brown,
    Your blog & Facebook postings stimulated me to call my state senator’s office on Friday to urge that other state reps act to address the NPS fiasco promptly. Sen R Rice can’t do it alone. The aide I spoke to was knowledgeable re school funding, state control. (I’m
    not an Essex Co resident.)
    1. Let’s urge your readers outside Newark to call their District reps.
    2. The State Board of Ed meets Sept 3 as Open Topic/Public Hearing Session. Citizens can submit written comments if they can’t attend in person (see NJ State Board of Ed website) or call 609-292-0739 to reserve time to speak. Naturally, we must recognize the role of the Board; they can’t fire a governor-appointed superintendent but they can “advise on educational policies proposed by the commissioner.”

  2. Educator

    Found this from a 2011 S-L editorial.

    So a full year later, Cerf remains “acting education commissioner” even though no one questions that he is qualified. Rice’s concern is based largely on a bizarre conspiracy theory that Cerf might be part of a plan to privatize Newark’s public schools.

    Don’t think that plan is so bizarre anymore.

  3. Phillip Battle

    In such economical trying times,isn’t it more fesaible Not to educate the urban poor; which will boost the economy by way of Penal Institutions,and law enforcement enlargement? The system of human profiting is in affect as like the 1600’s,by way of monies that are being manipulated via Educational Fundings. Billions of dollars are at stake. Those greedy folk are throwing the poor under the bus as they’ve done historically.

  4. michael khan

    Clearly this “social experiment” is motivated purely by money which is sad because the charter school concept is being exploited and I only hope that Ras Baraka Gear up and fight for these kids and not allow the powers that be put them in harms way

  5. booklady

    Called NJ Dept Ed today. Public Info Ofc said D Hespe hasn’t named the community advisory committee for Newark’s state appointed superintendent as promised when her contract was renewed. It’s been 2 months.

      • booklady

        1. True, but let’s notify multiple sources that both Newark and NJ residents outside Newark want better for Newark students than this state-appointed superintendent provides. Imagine . . . all Bob’s readers & those 77 pastors + their cohorts phoning Dept of Ed (877-900-6960), plus many Newark teachers who live outside Ron Rice Dist 28 calling their district legislators to politely request ACTION & better treatment of students/parents. NJ DoEd website has a means to e-mail D Hespe. (I remember a history teacher saying Gandhi drove the British nuts.) Ask all the folks you know to call/involve others.
        2. Source 1, your 8-22 draft letter for CA is priceless! You write more coherently than she (Berkeley & Harvard degrees) does.

        • Source1

          Yes. We all must continue to get the word out.

          Anderson continues to harm children, their families and Newark Public School employees. When someone relentlessly pounds people on the head, it’s not called educational leadership, it’s called assault…

    • booklady

      Mr Braun,
      Please check NJ State Board of Ed Members website. It looks as though Dr Dorothy Strickland’s (Essex Co) term expires this year. Will Dr Strickland be re-named or will she be replaced?
      How many other NJ county members know about urban education or literacy?

      Three board members may be familiar w. the Peck School (a K-8 private Morris Co school supported by the Kirby family and other philanthropists); two NJ Board members are connected to Newark Academy/Livingston–a plaque in the school lobby cites donor/Nixon’s Treasury Secretary William Simon. His son, J Peter Simon, was named to NJ Dept Board Ed in 2011. Think he worked w. Alliance for School Choice, but that isn’t listed on NJ state website.

  6. Bill Wolfe

    I hope Baraka isn’t getting the Obama-like advice:

    “Don’t be perceived as an angry black man – you will scare white people and corporations!”

    As you say Bob, time to get big.

    And the credibility window will not be open much longer.

    When you get played by a rival or foe, it’s best to admit it very publicly and take visible cornet steps to make certain it never happens again.

Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.