The State of Newark
As I mentioned last night, I was in attendance for the Mayor's fourth - and maybe final - State of the City address. It didn't last too long, but - as is typical - it painted a rosy picture about Newark's current condition and our near future. Now, I'm not saying that I necessarily disagree with everything the Mayor said. The downtown project - spanning from the changes coming to our square to the Canal Market District - could prove very beneficial to our local economy. Moreover, the Mayor's work with Councilman Blake (who represents my ward) in encouraging young people to take an interest in how government works is an important step forward in promoting good, active citizenship. Also, I was happy to hear that our police and fire departments have been nationally recognized for their great service, and am equally ecstatic about the fact that our officers have been coordinating with block watch groups to help improve public safety (an area that I care deeply about and would like to expand upon).
With all of that said, the people of Newark are right to question the level of optimism conveyed in Mr. Hall's statements. Sure, the city passed a balanced budget for another year, but they did so with a series of questionable decisions pertaining to how the people's money is allocated; such as stripping money from the capital improvements budget at a time when our infrastructure continues to crumble. Not to mention their approval of the construction of a new fire station while ignoring the need to hire more firefighters.
Another area where I've always been concerned is the blind obedience to "efficiency". Look, I get it, we want to do more with less. If it saves us money, then it must be good...right? Not always. I'm all for efficiency if it doesn't significantly diminish the quality of services being rendered, and if the Mayor's policies in this respect prove effective at accomplishing both a cost savings as well as effectively meeting the people's needs then I will applaud him for such. In the end, we'll just have to wait and see.
Otherwise, I feel that our primary focus ought to be job creation, and part of that is fixing our dismal road situation. As I've said many times before, you can make the downtown look as pretty as you want, but it won't do the people of Newark any good so long as the rest of this city looks like the Third World.
Until next time...