The Civic Leaders: Neighborhood Rehabilitation
The single most significant characteristic of Newark politics in the last quarter-century has been the alienation of the city's business and professional groups. 1 Throughout the 1940s the city's corporation executives, lawyers, realtors, and educators fled Newark for suburban residence. While this exodus of upper-income, white Protestants is by no means unique to Newark, it seems to have been accompanied by an extreme case of political withdrawal. The result has been a chasm between the city's former civic leaders, on the one hand, and the politicos, the neighborhood associations, the ethnic societies, the small merchants' groups, and the Catholic Church, on the other.
At one time these upper-middle class groups were the backbone of the civic improvement associations and the reform movement. In more recent years their participation in Newark politics has been sporadic, half-hearted, and ineffectual. The Chamber of Commerce, the Real Estate Board of Newark ( REBON), the Downtown Association, and other civic groups traditionally manned by the civic leaders continued to operate after the exodus and continued to press for economy and efficiency in government. But the civic leaders' commitment to such groups was tenuous and the impact of these groups on public policy negligible. Behind the façade of civic leader participation were a few activists and the civic groups' professional staffs, whose major problem was to keep the organizations alive from year to year.
It is doubtful whether the civic leaders or civic elite were ever as important in Newark politics as their names imply. Yet, most