Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon called for fiscal accountability in Newark this week. You wouldn’t have known that unless you read The Star Ledger. The
Asbury Park Press, the newspaper/pay site that covers O’Scanlon’s Monmouth County district missed it.
At issue is the $24 million in state aid that Newark is “due” this year, after the state taxpayers kicked in $32 million to Newark’s budget last year, in the face of blatant waste on the part of Mayor Cory Booker and the city council.
Booker squandered $3.7 million in legal and consulting fees in a fight with the New Jersey Devils hockey team over revenue sharing. Booker lost the fight, which even The Star Ledger says was a waste and should have been settled, and vowed to spend more—O’Scanlon says $1 million more, The Ledger says $100 thousand more—in appealing the ruling that favored The Devils. As the ruling stands, Newark owes the Devils $600 thousand.
Newark’s city council is disgrace. A “gaggle of blowhards,” Ledger editor Tom Moran calls them, who “awards itself the highest salaries in the state, along with a free car.” Newark’s city council is paid six times more than Jersey City’s city council, according to Moran. $3.45 million in salaries paid to the Newark city council in 2011.
Also at issue is that the overpaid council has yet to pass their budget that was due in February. Yet, they want the $24 million from Jersey taxpayers.
According to The Ledger, O’Scanlon said,
“Cory Booker is fighting an expensive personal vendetta with one hand while he has the other hand out expecting state aid”
“As the ranking Republican member of the Assembly Budget Committee, I cannot, in good conscience, imagine handing Newark another $24 million when the mayor is continuing to rack up legal fees and costs for litigation that could have been settled months ago,” O’Scanlon said. “The state should not be in the habit of bailing out towns and cities that are unwilling to help themselves.”
Moran, The Ledger’s editorial page editor, responded to O’Scanlon’s rebuke of Booker, with a racially charged column under his own byline, From a perch in the suburbs, a cheap shot at cities.
As if $24 million, or $32 million, or $3.7 million or $3.45 million is cheap.
Moran, a Caucasian, is The Ledger’s first Black editor in the way that Bill Clinton was the first Black President of the United States. He deals with his white guilt by feeling Newark’s pain and pandering to Black elected officials.
Early on in Governor Christie’s term, Moran teamed up with Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver in an attempt paint the new administration as racist, at worst, or as a bunch of out of touch white guys who have never ridden a bus, at best.
And he has the nerve to accuse O’Scanlon of demagoguery.
In his racist rant Moran says O’Scanlon should spend more time in the cities. But his real message to white suburbia is “pay up and shut up.” Moran blames “much of the violence” in the cities on suburbanites coming to the hood to buy drugs.
In the next breath after calling Newark’s city council a greedy gaggle of blowhards, Moran excuses their excess. He says their behavior is enough to make you scream, but he screams at O’Scanlon instead, while justifying the council’s greed as only one third of one percent of the budget if Booker get’s his way in reducing the coucil’s compensation.
In his next breath after agreeing with O’Scanlon that Booker was foolhardy in wasting $3.7 million fighting the Devils, Moran justifies that waste by pointing out that Governor Christie has gone to court and lost too. “It happens,” Moran said. It happens more often when you’re not paying your own legal and consulting fees.
Moran’s racist rant is typical of the liberal playbook that has resulted in most of New Jersey paying up and shutting up about the dysfunction of our cities for the last half century. Pay up and shut up has not improved the quality of life in Newark, Trenton, or Camden. Paying up and shutting up makes matters worse.
Moran argues that Newark’s problems are not of its own making, as O’Scanlon said. He sites the spending cuts that Booker has made and challenges O’Scanlon to name one municipality in his district that has taken austerity measures as drastic as Newark’s…a 25% workforce reduction. If Moran’s report is accurate, “O’Scanlon came up empty,” in answering the challenge, that is because O’Scanlon fell for the framing of Moran’s question. Where is the $24 million Newark is getting coming from?
Moran says Newark’s problems are not of its own making. He says that property taxes will never pay all of Newark’s bills, in part because 45% of Newark’s property is tax exempt? 45% !!! How did that happen if not by government decree? Booker didn’t do that, as Moran notes, but he has the power to start doing something about it.
There is at least one town in O’Scanlon’s district that has reduced their workforce by 25%–Highlands. Middletown, in O’Scanlon’s district, has the lowest municipal employee to resident ratio in the state for towns its size. Neither of those towns, or any towns in O’Scanlon’s district have council members earning fat salaries and getting free cars. For one-third of 1% of their budgets, some of them could.
O’Scanlon should keep speaking out about wasteful spending in the cities who are being bailed out by the rest of the state’s taxpayers. Moran should stop driving a wedge between Blacks and Whites, Cities and Suburbs.
Surely, Newark will be bailed out again this year, but they shouldn’t be unless the council reduces its compensation to at least Jersey City levels. As a condition of the bailout, Booker’s ability to engage in expensive litigation should be controlled by the Department of Community Affairs.