UNION CITY, New Jersey–New Jersey’s biggest city has yet to file a budget and hasn’t told the state whether it will need federal aid this year. Left in an “extraordinary level of fiscal distress” by former Mayor Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Newark is on the brink of a state takeover.
The Associated Press reports that officials responsible for keeping Newark afloat are increasingly hitting roadblocks in their attempts to streamline the government. In one letter to the City Council, one city official, Thomas Neff, described the situation as “an extraordinary level of fiscal distress” and urged the ailing city to invite state oversight. While the city is currently being run by an interim government since Cory Booker’s ascendance to the Senate, both candidates currently running for mayor oppose state intervention. New Jersey generally is struggling through a stagnating economy and serious revenue shortfalls, but Newark has become especially aggrieved. Neff’s argument is centered around the fact that Newark has yet to produce a budget for 2014 and has not reached out to state officials for financial aid during this difficult time.
The federal government is also threatening to intervene to save Newark’s police department. The Justice Department announced in February that it would send observers to the city to monitor police. This resulted from a 96-page appeal that the American Civil Liberties Union sent to the federal government arguing that federal oversight in Newark would prevent police abuse.
The AP notes that Booker, who ran his Senate campaign on a commitment to reform Newark, continues to be proud of his work in the city. He argues that he “turned the city around” after being told “Newark’s problems were literally impossible to solve.” After several years of stagnant crime development, however, 2013 heralded a sea change in Newark’s status quo, with a significant increase in violent crimes–carjackings, in particular. The crime wave peaked during Booker’s Senate campaign but failed to deter his victory. Booker’s mark on the city led The New York Times to attack him as an “absentee landlord” who boasted of doing his job well because he “brought ice pops” around during the summer, though he never actually fixed problems.
Even Newark’s mayoral race is plagued with crime. The inside of the campaign bus of candidate Ras Baraka was “torn apart” and burned, and sugar was poured into the gas tank. A suspect has been arrested, but Baraka accuses opponent Shavar Jeffries of orchestrating the vandalism, as official campaign finance records show that the suspect was paid by the Jeffries campaign.