Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Exclusive Interview with Newark Mayoral Candidate Shavar Jeffries

                                           Eva Longoria endorses Shavar Jeffries

Send in Your Questions for North Ward Councilman and Mayoral Candidate for Newark Anibal Ramos Jr. @

As we continue our exclusive series on the Mayoral Candidates for Newark- our next Candidate is Shavar Jeffries the father of two children, Naomi and Kaleb and husband to Tenagne. Jeffries has been a past board member on the Newark School Advisory Board, former Assistant State Attorney General and current Seton Hall Law Professor. We recently interviewed him in the North Ward, so take a read and look at our video of Shavar and gain some new insight.

My first question is looking directly into the future and as a former board of education member you would be the perfect person to answer. It looks like the state is really making a concerted effort to give control back to the city. If this should happen, you as Mayor would have more of say in how our school system moves forward. What would be your priority and why?

A: My first priority will be to ensure that we have an effective teacher in every classroom in the city of Newark, whether district or public charter. Research consistently shows that teachers are the most important in-school factor in improving student achievement.  I will work to ensure our teachers have the support and resources they need to be successful.  I have a long record as a civil-rights lawyer and advocate in ensuring that our educators have the resources they need.  I have successfully sued the state to provide greater funding to educate our children, working during my time as board president to bring back over $30 million after the state illegally cut our budget and successfully sued the state to provide additional special-education resources for Newark children.  I also strongly support and have advocated for universal pre-school programs, the construction and renovation of dilapidated Newark school facilities, extended learning time for our children, and expanded high-quality school options for Newark families.
2. Recently it has been reported that the homicide rate has fallen slightly, but 1 murder is still 1 to many and every life is precious, what would you do differently to combat the homicide rate and crime in general?  
A: Crime in our city is entirely too high and our residents do not feel safe.  The council approved a budget in 2010 that increased taxes by 16% and laid off 170 cops.  The safety of our city has not been the same since.  We had 92 murders last year, about 350 carjackings, and hundreds of robberies, shootings, and aggravated assaults.  I will pursue the same strategies that we successfully implemented throughout the state of New Jersey during my time as Assistant Attorney General, when I helped to oversee the state's crime plan.  We implemented a crime plan that focused on prevention, enforcement, and re-entry.  We expanded drug courts, recognizing that treatment is cheaper and more effective than imprisonment; we used modern technology and close oversight and management to ensure our officers were aggressively focused on the right things; and we invested in job training and academic programs so that ex-offenders had a meaningful opportunity to effectively re-enter society.  Through this strategy and hands-on management, we reduced violent crime throughout the state of New Jersey for three years straight, and reduced recidivism through our re-entry programs by almost 30 percent.  As the only candidate running with a law-enforcement background, I will bring this record with me to City Hall.

3. Our property taxes under the current administration has gone up considerably and yet our services such as sanitation, street cleaning, walking police officers have been on the decline. What would you do to help the citizens of Newark? 
Answer: The council approved budgets in the last four years that raised residents taxes 40% on average, while laying off 170 police officers and gutting city services.  That is unacceptable.  I will first seek to cut the fat in our budget, from too many out-sourced consultant and law-firm contracts for matters we can handle in-house, to the exorbitant number of taxpayer-funded cars and other perks at taxpayer expense.  We will examine salaries for political appointments and seek to manage our spending more responsibly. My administration will streamline city government so that residents, as well as business owners who want to contribute to our city's economy, have a much more efficient and user-friendly experience.  We will leverage our anchors -- particularly our university community, sports and entertainment resources, and core commercial anchors -- to generate resources that can help neighborhood-based businesses grow.  My administration will incubate existing Newark-based businesses and entrepreneurs, providing them with the resources and technical support to assist them in accessing financial and business services.  Through these approaches, we will seek to increase revenue, while at the same time manage expenses.

4.Speaking of our municipal services our Newark Water Department has been at the center of attention for years now and the Newark watershed Conservation Development Corporation is going to be dissolved. What is your opinion on that and what would you do with Newark Water Department? 
A: I would approach the water department like I'd approach other departments in municipal government: I would demand effectiveness, accountability, and respect for taxpayer dollars.  This is the same approach I took as school-board president; as Assistant Attorney General with oversight for the Juvenile Justice Commission, the state Civil Rights Division, and several other initiatives; and as board president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newark and Team Academy Charter Schools.  Water is one of the few remaining assets we have. If managed well, it can also be another source of additional revenue.  We need to repair our infrastructure, yet at the same time make sure we collect our bills from those that owe payments to the city.  We should not be looking to sell off such a precious asset; we should be using it effectively to provide water services to our residents and to generate revenue to invest in the future of our city. 
5.It has recently been reported that Barringer (3 oldest High School in The United States) High School will break up into 3 separate schools, but many are also worried about keeping the name Barringer. What is your opinion on the name? 
A: Barringer is a Newark landmark.  My grandmother, who raised me, graduated from Barringer in 1948.  Our city has a beautiful and glorious culture, and we should cherish and maintain that legacy, not discard it.  Some of Newark's icons are graduates of Barringer and we must respect that history. So while I absolutely support efforts to reform and improve the quality of education received by the students Barringer serves, we should preserve the name and the heritage it represents. 

6. Name 3 people you admire and why?
Answer: I admire so many people.  But to name three, I'd start with my grandmother who took in my sister at six-months old, and me at 11, after my mother was killed and my father abandoned us.  She thought she'd be headed for retirement, but she voluntarily took on motherhood again.  Second, would be Diane Nash.  After segregationists had stopped the Freedom Riders in Birmingham, Diane Nash (only 23 years old at the time) and other young people, after signing their will, engaged the heart of the segregated south and pursued justice in the face of violence.  She is an inspiration.  Finally, my pastor, Michael A. Walrond, Jr., who is a brilliant thinker on faith, purpose, and Christianity.

7. If you're elected, your number 1 priority is?  
A: Safety.  We have too much crime, and too few residents feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods.  As the only candidate with a law-enforcement background, I will bring this experience with me to City Hall.  I also have substantial experience in after-school programs and youth development as president of the Boys and Girls Clubs, and school board president both for Newark Public Schools and Team Academy Charter Schools. I also know the importance of providing opportunities, education, job training, and after-school programs as the ultimate long-term approach for fostering safe streets and neighborhoods.

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