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New mayor wants to overhaul Newark

Glenn Townes | 12/12/2013, 4:59 p.m.
Luis Quintana

For interim Newark Mayor Luis Quintana, positive change in Newark starts with firing flunkies from the former administration of Cory Booker and hiring throwbacks from the long fallen and tattered regime of ex-Mayor Sharpe James, according to various reports and sources last week.

Quintana, 53, was elected as the first Latino mayor of the Brick City last month after former Mayor Cory Booker was elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election in October. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Quintana said he wants to replace former staffers of the Booker administration who “caused frustrations” for the Newark City Council with other people.

A longtime politico who has sat on the often besmirched Newark City Council since 1994, Quintana said while he has no desire to seek the Brick City mayoral position permanently, he does want to make some staff changes prior to the election of a permanent mayor in May. The Newark City Council and the former Booker administration repeatedly clashed on dozens of issues over the years. However, some contend that Quintana’s plan to overhaul City Hall with new senior staffers may signal a step backward for the city to the days of James, as Quintana was council president under at least a portion of James’ tenure. James, 77, sat at the helm of Newark for 20 years and was eventually convicted of fraud in 2008. He spent nearly two years in a federal prison camp. His mistress at the time was also convicted in the scheme.

Another obstacle that may prevent Quintana from cleaning house of sorts is a mandate that requires new hires to be vetted and extensively reviewed by the state. The legislation is a requirement in order for some municipalities to receive state aid, and Newark is one of the cities included under the requirement. There are also some questions regarding the legality of terminating former staffers and replacing them with new ones under an interim mayor.

Lastly, there are currently at least four candidates running for mayor of Newark. The most notable candidates include North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr., attorney Shavar Jeffries and high school principal Ras Baraka. In the meantime, Quintana and the besmirched Newark City Council must deal with the previously appointed former Booker staffers.