Soon, odd things happen. James calls him and tells him to go to a furniture store on Springfield Avenue to meet with a former mayoral aide — now an ex-con, Jackie Mattison — who’s looking for some of the land action. Franklin, the serious land-use planner, a dignified, soft-spoken guy with big dreams for a city, feels used as a messenger by his mayor.
More strange stuff: First he is told to help Riley, someone he knows is not a developer. Then he’s told to stop. She demands to know why. He says he doesn’t know. This guy who’s trying to rebuild a city is caught in a place no one wants to be.
A few days later, at night, the mayor himself shows up at his house. Franklin has to go outside and get in the mayor’s car, like a scene from a bad gangster movie. He says the mayor berates him for not knowing how to handle “high-strung” people.
Details emerge on the bizarre back-room dealings of the Sharpe James administration. What’s shocking from the Times article is that some Newarkers seem to condone this behavior. Protectionism and cronyism are not the “American” way, and they’re not the only way to get things done.