New Mayor Jerry Clifton addresses past Newark issues and his plans for the future
Jerry Clifton, the former City Council representative for District 2, won Newark’s mayoral election on April 9. Nearly a month after his election, Clifton touched on issues that have plagued the citizens of Newark in the past and the university and shares his plans for the future.
A concern of many Newark citizens is the ongoing construction of Main Street, which may significantly reduce traffic that is vital to local businesses. In response, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) held public hearings and workshops in response to the many raised concerns.
Clifton, however, said that these public proceedings have done nothing to help Newark residents and business owners.
“There’s been, I can’t even tell you how many conversations, including the business community going to the secretary of transportation,” Clifton said. “And, DelDOT, in a disingenuous way, told the community that they weren’t going to do anything different.”
The many public hearings held by DelDOT accompanied by the alleged lack of acknowledgment towards community dissatisfaction seem to be a consistent problem for Newark business owners.
“The one core element that the business community in this city wanted was to start work two months later after UD graduation,” Clifton said. “And what that would mean is that Main Street would only be shut down for one graduation period, which is important. And their answer was, ‘That’s when the contractors want to start.’”
Clifton continues to describe the frustration felt by local Newark business owners.
“They really didn’t care at all what the government said and they didn’t care what the business community said. So there’s a lot of ire in the business community towards DelDOT and I get that.”
On March 11, the Newark City Council passed Bill 19-05, otherwise known as the “Unruly Social Gathering Ordinance.” In response to the passing of this bill, more than 14,000 students signed a petition criticizing the decision.
“I think it’s a safe thing to say that the people that signed that probably haven’t read it or don’t understand it,” Clifton said. “Because I keep hearing that ‘oh, four people on a porch and they’re going to arrest you.’ That’s a flat out lie.”
The ordinance has not since been redacted.
The bill defines an unruly social gathering as a group of four or more people on private property where police observe a minimum of three behaviors that threaten “health, safety, and good and quiet order.” This number was selected as it mimics an effective law passed in Towson, Md.
Clifton made it clear that the punishable offenses in Bill 19-05 are already crimes under existing law.
“Everything that you can be cited for in that, you can already be cited for. If you are, say, drinking underage, if you have music that you can hear a block away — you can already be cited for that,” Clifton said. “Nothing is groundbreaking in that. What was groundbreaking is it allows that you have to have three separate elements to be found guilty and then it just raises the fine and makes for public service.”
Despite these issues presented in the past, Clifton has big plans for the future — and that future is green.
“The biggest initiative is to be moving some green energy initiatives forward to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” Clifton said. “I’m looking at ways that we can partner with the private sector for increasing our renewable energy portfolio. The city manager already stated that he’s on board. We’re appropriate for getting electric vehicles and putting up charging stations and so forth.”
Clifton addresses his plan for a more renewable and greener future for the city of Newark.
“There are companies that are looking to move into our market with solar farms,” Clifton said. “And some of those companies will stabilize your rates for a decade or two, where you will be getting renewable energy and the rates will be locked in for a long period of time. I think it’s important to at least explore that as a way of having consistency in electric rates to Newark consumers and doing the right thing in purchasing renewable energy.”
However, the journey toward turning Newark into a city fueled by renewable energy comes with some difficulty.
“I think there’s going to be some conversation on this, certainly with our own vehicles, you know, we need to, when it comes to our own vehicle fleet, we need to be as green as we possibly can,” Clifton said. “Part of the problem is, for example, some of the trucks aren’t available in electric or even hybrid. For examples, there’s a lot more to buying a police car other than buying a sedan and saying that we are going to use it for police agencies. Interior space, availability to put equipment, put your cage in there and so forth are all elements that need to be addressed.”
Clifton, who has lived in Newark since 1992, summed up his plans for the future of the town with a simple statement: “I think we can become far more environmentally responsible.”