16 September 2008

Muggings in Newark

The Review today has a great cover story on muggings and crime in Newark. (The cover places locations of muggings in the last month on a Newark map - it is scary. Sadly, I couldn't find the image on the Review's web site.)

The article (plus support articles and editorial) covers the brutal crimes (six armed robberies in the immediate campus vicinity within a month), and quotes Newark PD and University DPS officials. To summarize their thoughts.

Newark PD: "This is normal, the crime is no higher than any other year. There is nothing we can do about it."

University DPS: "Students shouldn't walk alone at night. Students shouldn't drink. Stay home at night and you'll be safe."

Ummm, no. Sorry. Newark is a small city. Newark ABSOLUTELY should be safe. I should be able to walk around at night (or go running) on major streets and not worry about muggings. I should be able to work late at the university and walk to my car without worrying about getting mugged. Students should be able to go to the bars and walk home without having a gun thrust in their faces. Sadly, that world is not the world of Newark in 2008.

And what are the Newark Police doing about the crime in Newark?

Patrolling Main Street in the middle of the day in unmarked cars. Yep, they're trying really hard to do something about the muggings.

17 August 2008

Followup on enforcement of speeding in Newark

In the article referenced in the last post, NCC member David Athey was quoted:
"There are a few places in Delaware where people know not to speed...I want Newark to be one of them."

Restated: we want to be known as a town that is a speedtrap. Where the law is applied differently than it is in most places. We prefer the law to be inconsistently applied and for people visiting the town to be confused, because then we can nail them.

David Athey clearly lives in his own little world in which nobody ever leaves Delaware and everybody knows all of the gossip of all of the small towns in Delaware. Does he seriously believe that (for example) visiting parents of UD students will know that Newark is known as a speedtrap town? He also stated he'd like to use the money on public education...which will not have any effect on anyone outside of Newark. We'll make sure our people know the rules, and then get everyone else. More money for us, no complaints from Newark taxpayers. Yay!

Clearly, if standards are applied differently than in the majority of society, Newark is the inconsistent anomaly, abusing the power of government for its own benefit.

16 August 2008

The Newark City Council Thinks that You're an Idiot

From the second paragraph of this week's Newark Post article "Speeding fines on the rise in Newark":
"This is not intended to be a revenue-generating measure," said City Councilman David Athey.

Ummm, yeah, right.

Of course, later in the article, that same councilman is all over himself talking about what the city will do with the extra money:
Athey requested that an accounting process be established to track any increased revenue that results from the amended fine structure. "I would like to see that money invested in enhanced traffic calming measures or even public education," he said.

The article also quotes Ezra Temko's salivations on the use of the "enhanced" speeding revenue.

What is most remarkable about the article is that the city council actually believes that you are dumb enough to believe these statements. It is similarly disturbing that the Newark Post doesn't apply any of the skepticism that should be the newspaper's role. Nope, we'll just print the PR of the government without questioning it.

Similarly appalling (though more of a statement on public education): describing the fine structure as complicated or exponential, but not actually indicating the formula. It really not tough. Fine = (mph over limit)^2. Pretty simple, actually. Of course, it places a high premium on getting that initial speed limit right. Going 40 in a 35 zone, fine = $5^2 = $25. Going 40 in a 30 zone, fine = $10^2 = $100. Going 40 in a 25 zone (even if it should be a 30 or 35 zone) fine = $15^2 = $225. The NCC has even more incentive to set speed limits too low (under the auspices of safety) because of the squared relationship between fines and speed over the speed limit.

I'm not so much opposed to a modified speeding fine structure - as long as the city (a) sets speed limits reasonably (for a counterexample, see: 25 mph on Paper Mill Road); (b) enforces speed limits reasonably (I just don't see speeding as a major problem in Newark, most "speeding" is selective law enforcement for revenue generation); and (c) those salivating over speeding fines recognize that the fine is often the smallest cost for the driver (robbery by insurance companies is a much bigger issue in $ terms). And, most importantly, the focus of law enforcement must be on public safety and crime, not on revenue collection. Unfortunately, the City Council and the Newark Police Department fail on all four of those counts. They think about revenue, not the costs of their actions (including opportunity costs). Do you think the Newark PD needs more incentives to collect "speeding" fines instead of, say, actually doing something about the muggings?

12 July 2008

All Cower Before the Newark City Council

From this week's Newark Post:
Kildare's pushes back opening to late July.

To summarize: Kildare's planned to be open by now, but the Newark City Council, in a 4-1 vote on June 9, said, "No, you really should wait on this so we can define the terms of your business to our liking. It won't cost you any money to sit around doing nothing, will it? Well, we frankly don't care." Essentially, the NCC wants a public hearing to restrict the use of the outdoor deck (close at 11 pm S-Th nights, 1 am Fri and Sat nights). Why? Because people might actually enjoy themselves drinking beer outside, and we certainly can't have anyone having fun in Newark!

Of course, the owner of Kildare's caved and said, "That's fine," mainly because he still doesn't have the liquor license and doesn't want further delays or scrutiny from the city. Of course, he didn't say that (savvy to the bullying nature of political power that he is)...but why would you conceivably want to close the deck at 11? Certainly I would like to enjoy a cold malted beverage from time to time on the outdoor deck after 11 o'clock on a weekday. I enjoy drinking beer outside. And the deck overlooks a big parking lot. There is no legitimate city interest in closing the deck early - the city is just acting in typical killjoy mode.

08 July 2008

Entrepreneurs in Newark, take note (part 1)

If you want to make money and add to the quality of life in the city, focus on developing a pan-Asian restaurant - combining Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and/or Thai cuisines. But especially Thai. Wow, the Thai food options in northern Delaware are just horrible.
I can guarantee that, assuming that you have high quality food, a reasonable price structure, and can serve alcohol, this restaurant will be very, very popular.
Seriously, what are the best current options for Asian cuisines on a walkable Main Street? Pad Thai at Home Grown; no ambience (but very good food) at Number One Chinese; and the very underrated Saigon (which suffers from poor location, but should be more heavily patronized).

06 July 2008

Kildare's - or what's wrong with the Main Street dining scene

This post may appear to be premature (and prejudicial to boot!). I am, of course, happy to see a restaurant/bar (but especially a bar) occupy the Shaggy's space. And I have been to Kildare's in West Chester and on 2nd Street in Philly - they're both enjoyable, social places where I've had a good time. It's a relatively small, localish chain, in the mold of BrewHaHa or Peace. Places that I really like, in other words. I am sure that I will enjoy and be a regular at Kildare's.

But that's what's really wrong about Kildare's - it's a known commodity. The council/ABC can look at a track record in food service and feel comfortable that it's primarily a restaurant, not a drinking establishment. No risk for them - their asses are covered.

Ugggh. It's going to look really nice - they're spending a lot of money on interior and exterior design, following the mold of other Kildare's. Not doing anything to create something new in Newark. Delaware - the land of the chains, doing everything possible to crush the unique. Actively discouraging people from doing something new and different through the power of licensure.

Oh - and have you seen the food prices? It's NOT going to be a place to get lunch or dinner at a decent price. Well, all of the design and renovations cost money. And they need to get their money from food, according to the ABC. Though that doesn't mean the drinks will come cheap. Again: I don't blame Kildare's - it's their business model. I blame the mayor/council/ABC for being intolerant of organic growth on Main Street.

To recap: good food, good drinks, should be popular, I look forward to it opening; but it was approved under a highly controlled process for the primary purpose of extracting more money from the Main Street dining crowd, rather than allowing Main Street to evolve on its own to the dynamic space that should be present in a town with 20,000 college students, associated faculty and staff, and a diverse range of nearby high-income industry.

06 June 2008

Round numbers, please?

One advantage of being in a state with no sales tax is the predictability of prices: listed price = price paid. I somewhat inconveniently forget to do these calculations when out of state.

So....could we please please please get retailers to adopt rational pricing structures that avoid the use of coins whenever possible? For example, BrewHaHa sells their sandwiches for $6.95 and $7.95. An extra-tall coffee costs $1.95. Wouldn't whole numbers work out better for everyone? Is anyone really fooled by coffee that's still "under $2?" Or a sandwich that's about 6 bucks (at $6.95)? I'd like to pay my cash and move on...and do it without having my intelligence insulted.

I don't mean to pick on BrewHaHa...most places on Main Street have these silly pricing structures. Home Grown and the bars (at least in the bar part, not in the restaurant part) seem to be the only places to embrace the ability to use whole-dollar pricing.

But the worst is Panera. I get PENNIES in change when I happen to buy something there. PENNIES! PENNIES!!! Because people are definitely fooled by the $1.99 (or $1.69, or $5.49, etc.) pricing. Pricing that involves people wasting their time with pennies needs to be vocally resisted. Thankfully it's not a regular stop for me.

My call for the eateries on Main Street: please wherever reasonable use whole-dollar pricing! If you need to go to coins, try to limit the need for coins to quarters. And NEVER EVER EVER should anyone in Delaware have to touch a penny!

UPDATE: Even the bar at Grotto plays this stupid game. Seriously, $5.95 for a Sam Adams??? We really need to deal with nickels?

31 May 2008

The Start of the Silly Season for the Newark PD

Graduation day has pleasantly passed, most of the students have moved out, and summer has (finally and belatedly) arrived. Given the amount of time the Newark police spend harassing the students, the large reduction in their "perceived" workload (fewer of those awful students having fun) should mean more time that they can devote to, you know, fighting crime.

Yeah, right. I've lived here long enough to know that the Newark police see this as "harass the non-college populace" time of the year. More speed traps (e.g. Papermill Road's northbound "25 zone" where the southbound portion OF THE SAME ROAD, which actually has businesses and residences, is a reasonable 35 zone), more extracting money for the auto insurance companies, still no devotion to doing something about crime or increasing actual safety.

And for those of us who walk around Newark at night, there is now even less safety. The "safety in numbers" provided by the large number of students is gone, replaced by...easier targets and fewer witnesses. With no police usefully in sight. Because the major problems in this town must be addressed by police in the daylight. Of course.

22 May 2008

There Might Be Some Resistance to the Über-Kops?

During the Champions League match I observed a small band of protesters moseying down Main Street. As I left Grotto after the match, they happened to return. Hey, they're protesting the heavy-handed nature and the questionable priorities of the Newark PD! I can support those goals! As I walked with them, I heard tales of Newark PD heavy-handedness that I had seen from afar or suspected. Getting the stories down may (MAY) help people realize that all those dollars being spent to beef up the police force in the name of crime-fighting are, uh, not being very well spent.
Their goals: to photographically document the Newark PD doing things not related to fighting the actual crime problem in this city. In order to encourage a change in the directions and priorities of the Newark PD. Otherwise stated: to get the police to do what should be their actual job. You know, to make the city more safe and secure. Rather than randomly harrassing law-abiding citizens on miniscule formal violations (20 year-olds drinking; people congregating and talking socially; people driving 37 in a "25" zone (that should be a 35 zone); etc.), because there's money to be made in minor formal violations!

Why I Love Living in Newark (part 752)

Spectacular crowd yesterday at Grotto for the Champions League final. Very loud supporters for both Chelsea and ManU, a packed bar, a great match (even if a few balls off the crossbar led to the forces of evil winning). It all made for a great afternoon. 

The international aspect of UD, especially the number of students who study abroad and the way that time overseas changes their outlook, is something I just didn't appreciate, even in my first few years here. The intensity of passions for this match was undeniable, and made for one of my favorite recent experiences watching sports. I can't wait for Euro 2008.

10 May 2008

Police Priorities - Working at 8 a.m. or 11 p.m.?

My drive to and from work is about 1.5 miles. In the morning I seem to see a police officer every other day (and if I don't see one while driving, one will pass me on Main Street as I'm grabbing coffee). There's serious police work to do at 8 a.m., I'm sure, certainly they're focusing on the serious crime in Newark. All these muggings obviously occur in the morning hours when productive citizens are rushing to work.

Contrast the mornings with my experience last night.

At 10:30 p.m. I went out running. My 5.5-mile run took me on such obscure and low-traffic streets as Elkton Road, Park Place, S College Ave, Cleveland Ave, Papermill Road, Hillside Road, and Apple Road. Streets that have never seen a mugging, certainly not between 10:30 and 11:30 at night. People should feel completely safe walking these roads alone. Obviously. Since I didn't see a single Newark police officer the entire hour while running.

The city council keeps approving more police officers to combat the crime problem. Too bad the police force doesn't care about assigning officers to work in a way that might actually do something about the crime problem.

21 February 2008

The Shaggy's Situation

This blog is a long time coming - the Shaggy's situation is what has pushed me over the edge.
Let's start by looking at the facts: a restaurant and bar has closed in town, not because it is not profitable, but because the local politicians/bureaucrats who consider themselves important have determined that Shaggy's sold too much booze and didn't sell enough food. Now, let me say, I have enjoyed Shaggy's both based on its food (decidedly different than the Newark norm) and its booze. It had a fun atmosphere and gave us food options much better than comparable simple bar food options (e.g. Deer Park or Kate's). I particularly liked the Conch Fritters and Fish Tacos (no place on Main Street was comparable in any way). There were also a variety of other different/interesting dishes. The number of crustaceans in the Sunday Brunch is a good example of the "difference". Of course, "different" does not guarantee food popularity (at least initially). They even tried cheaper specials, but the lunch never really became popular. But the bar held its own, and Shaggy's did fine.

Until the alcoholic beverage commission decided to take a look. And decided that Shaggy's didn't make enough money from food, and made too much money from booze. At first, the ABC decided that Shaggy's should "forgo" the post-midnight alcohol sales. Apparently, just for spite. How is a place of business improved by removing some of its most profitable hours? But the ABC was hell-bent on increasing the percent of total sales due to food, no matter the impact on the business. Yes, we would like to support businesses on Main Street. By crushing their profitability, of course, so that they only make money the way that we want them to make money. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Never heard of those things.

And in the end, it didn't matter. Because a niche restaurant in a poor location was limited in its opportunities to make money off food. So the city of Newark decided that it was best to eliminate a unique venue rather than recognize reality. I lost a favored restaurant because of government decision, not because the venue couldn't make it. How does this improve the quality of life of Newarkers, exactly?

But in the end, that's the problem of Newark in 2008. The government want only "certain types" of business, and is actively hostile to the interest of many Newarkers.

17 February 2008


I've lived and worked in Newark for about a decade. I hope to live here for an extended time beyond - I'm a faculty member at UD who loves the academic lifestyle as well as many aspects of my adopted hometown. This blog is intended to be a forum for the discussion of issues in Newark and, particularly, ways to improve Newark. The recent trends in Newark, particularly among the police and city council, are worrisome for those of us interested broadly in the quality of life in Newark. In my view, the quality of life in Newark depends on a thriving walking-oriented community. Thus, I have a strong interest in a broadly thriving Main Street that caters to the full community. My Newark loves (outside my university community) include the following: (a) bars: Deer Park, Grotto's, Iron Hill, East End Cafe, and Timothy's; (b) restaurants: Caffe Gelato, Iron Hill, Home Grown, Saigon, Deer Park, Margherita's Pizza, Number One Chinese, Santa Fé Grill, and Ali Baba; (c) record stores: crap, Rainbow is all that is left; (d) coffee: BrewHaHa, Brewed Awakenings. I actively avoid Dunkin Donuts (except late night), Panera, and Central Perk.

I'm distressed by developments that have made Main Street less thriving over the last few years. These developments include (foremost) closing of the Stone Balloon; increasing common muggings and other personal crime; excessive policing focused on alcoholic beverage violations and "speeding", and a complete lack of focus on the personal crimes (e.g. the muggings) that critically affect quality of life; the loss of Bert's Record Store; the closing of Shaggy's by fiat of the city council/alcoholic beverage commission; and the effective closing of Italian Bistro (not a great restaurant, but still) due to a lack of providing a liquor license. Each of these issues will be discussed more in the future. This blog certainly will include a voicing of my displeasure in these short-sighted developments!