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December 5, 2006 > Newark, A City at Fifty

Newark, A City at Fifty

Newark, A City at Fifty is an exciting new book written by Bruce MacGregor and published by the City of Newark; editing and design work was done by Nicholas A. Veronico.  The book is dedicated to the author’s father, John I. “Jack” MacGregor and the Newark Unified School District.

Based on 35 oral histories recorded by the City of Newark Oral History Project begun in 1995, it is designed to be a useful reference for people of all ages. The Acknowledgements section notes that the goals of the book are to provide a continuation of the 1976 book, The Centennial History of Newark.  This section of the book contains the author’s thanks to those people who helped with the oral histories and members of the City Task Force that guided the development of the book.  The author also recognizes the sources of the citations recorded at the end of each chapter and personally thanks family members for “a decade of support and understanding.”

To fashion a book out of collected oral histories, MacGregor added his own research, including newspapers, official City documents, and additional interviews.  This approach required five more years of work, culminating with a completed manuscript in 2004.  It took two additional years to add photographs, design and publish the book.

Introduction to the book, entitled “The Essence of Newark,” was written by Mayor David W. Smith.  He notes that a common thread throughout the history of Newark has been “self determination” and suggests that this book “captures the spirit of Newark’s people, the pride they have in their community and the progress we have made by truly working together.”  The mayor also pays tribute to Newark’s volunteers, many of whom are recognized in the book.

The main body of the book is divided into six chapters, or decades.  Chapter one, “The 1950s: The Birth of a City,” reviews important events that led up to the incorporation of the City of Newark in September 1955 and some of the problems faced by the new city.

Chapter two, “The l960s: Growing Pains” covers a decade of Newark’s “identity crisis,” the complexities of housing development, revenue gaps and the conflict of Old Town supporters versus “New Planners.”  Divisive politics led to the resignation of three council members, replacement appointments and controlled development.  Other developments of the decade included parks, a city hall, public school unification, revision of the general plan, environmental concerns, council salaries, racial divisions and industrial tensions.

Chapter three, “The 1970s: Three Battlefields,” summarizes the threats of San Jose’s airport expansion, opposition to Newark plans for a new Dumbarton Bridge and Fremont’s efforts for a new regional shopping center.  The airport battle eventually became an environmental and quality of life issue, construction of New Park Mall began in 1979, and the Dumbarton Bridge plan survived a barrage of roadblocks and lawsuits to completion in 1984.

The fourth chapter, “The 1980s: Cash Cows Come Home to Roost,” begins with the clash between the effects of the Jarvis-Gann tax cuts, and Newark’s continuing population growth.  The City suffered severe budget handicaps and layoffs, but at the same time, volunteer programs helped ease the loss of money for social services.  Other topics include the Mowry Avenue overpass, increasing conflicts between land use and environmental planning, the rise of high tech industry, and the Loma Prieta earthquake.

The fifth chapter, “The 1990s: The New Economy,” describes Newark’s emergence as a full partner in Silicon Valley, the politics of the 1990’s, and a new master planning initiative called project 2007, designed to take the City into the new Millennium.

The sixth chapter, “Millennium:  Dark Passage,” brings the story up-to-date in the post 9/11 world, returning to the book’s central theme about Newark’s unflagging sense of community in the wake of both national, and local tragedies.

The author notes that the book is not a publicity vehicle but instead delves into the positives and negatives of the city’s history.  For example, the text describes in detail he resignation of a majority of the City Council in 1963 and provides the views of opponents in city elections.

The author also notes that Laurie Gebhart deserves high praise for guiding the book through all stages to production and marketing.  This is a book you will want for your library.  Copies may be purchased at the cashier’s window at the Newark City Hall, 37101 Newark Blvd.

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