By Amir Elmonairy
“The first Latino mayor of Newark.” This seems to be the only thing I hear about Louis Quintana every time I ask a question. People seem to be somewhere between mildly amused to genuinely proud to have lived to see this – for now let’s call it an accomplishment has come to pass.
But the question that I find myself coming back to time and again is, “Why?” Why is it that on the most diverse campus in the country in one of the most ethnic cities in one of the most diverse states in America do we still have to pretend that we are impressed by the fact that a person who isn’t white can succeed?
Why is the first thing people have to say about Quintana that he is the first Latino Mayor of Newark.
Why are we more concerned with the box he checked on the census than with what he’ll do for the city? Is he draped in the flag of diversity in the hopes of bolstering his popularity? And more outrageously, why do we jump at the chance to make this one man a representative for the entirety of the Hispanic community?
No ordinary citizen let alone any Hispanic citizen chose him to represent their culture, not that there is one single culture across all the Spanish speaking peoples in this or in any country – but that is a topic for another day. Or is it that as a Latino mayor, he should somehow care more about his Latino constituents?
There was no vote, by the public. Hell there were two emergency council meetings held in order to reach this underwhelming decision. I ask again, why? Because there were not enough council members in the entirety of the city who deemed selecting an interim mayor important enough to turn out for the vote. It took two attempts just to make a quorum, yet he is the Latino’s mayor.
But forget about all that, there are plenty of unpopular people who happen to be uniquely qualified for their particular station in life. So maybe – maybe I think, let’s hold off on crucifying the man for stepping in. He does, after all, “Need to make some changes so [he] can move the city forward.”
Don’t mistake me. I am all for progress – especially in Newark. Hell, if there’s a list of places begging for it, Newark has to be close to the top of it. But he said something that caught my attention – as someone with a fine ear for contradictions and a fairly decent grasp on the idea that when a politician has to choose between what he should do and what he said he would do, the wrong pig is always the one that seems to get fucked. By that I mean it’s rarely the politician. But let’s hear him out, he’s the first Latino mayor, after all – big accomplishment. Never mind there was no election. Never mind it took two council meetings to select the man – let’s give him his day; politics isn’t about whose most articulate or handsome or well dressed, after all. It’s about the issues – and what the man can do for this city. He says he wants to move it forward. Fine, but then why is his first proposed move to remove police officers from The NJPAC and the Prudential Center during events? Maybe he wants to move cops to more turbulent neighborhoods where they haven’t had an impact for decades and deter suburban dollars from making their way to the city all with one stroke of the pen. Hell maybe the economy isn’t that important to him? Never mind that Newark still boasts a 13% unemployment rate, well above the national average – maybe he wants to look tough on crime. Never mind he wasn’t elected. He doesn’t have time for commie ice sports and frilly art shows! This is a City Government dammit!
He’d be the first to tell you, “I’m an old-school politician,” probably with a self-satisfied look like he just summed up the world in a single phrase, “I return phone calls, I know neighborhoods, and I know Mrs. Lopez.” And then his oversized chest would fill with pride as he told you, “I don’t twit. I only walk. I don’t email. I don’t Facebook.”
Take a moment and let those very real quotes sink in. Note, if you will the use of the word “twit” not tweet. Admire his pride as he boasts that he does not use social media…lap it up when he goes on about phone calls and not using email. Maybe for a second you almost think it’s just swell how he hasn’t kept up. But maybe then you pinch yourself, and you remember that we are in the 21st Century, and that the man who is charged with moving the city forward has just admitted, hell bragged that he does not have the networking skills of your average middle school student!
Jesus Christ! How can this be the man that the elected officials chose to move Newark into what we had hoped would be a bit of post-Booker growth? What the hell is going on in this city? Who’s the bigger idiot? The idiot or the idiots who elected the idiots who picked…well the mayor? And for the love of God can anybody tell me who the hell Mrs. Lopez is, and why the fact that Quintana knows her should mean anything to us?
I was hoping after all this that maybe, maybe he would at least have kept good company but there was no luck. The man got off the ground in Newark politics as a deputy for former mayor Sharpe James. I don’t know if you remember him,(as most readers were still in high school) but he was the gap toothed fella’ convicted of five counts of fraud in 2008 for selling nine city lots to his mistress who then sold them for hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit, yeah, that Sharpe James. Now to be fair, we’ve all had bad bosses. But then whereas most of us would try to distance ourselves from a man with that history, Quintana allowed him to give interviews at rallies for our future campaigns for office (Council President). But apparently he is the best man for the job according to the remainder of council.