March 27, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
Newark, NJ—The race for the next mayor of Newark is heating up as fellow politicians and organizations endorse their preferred candidate. Councilman Ras Baraka won the endorsement of Senator Ronald Rice on Tuesday in Ivy Hill, who said Baraka is the better candidate because he’s always stood up for working people. Video
Mr. Baraka has picked up numerous labor endorsements as Election Day nears on May 13, including 1199SEIU, the Newark Teachers Union, Communication Workers of America and the New Jersey Working Families Alliance.
He’s also picked up the endorsements of former Newark Mayors Kenneth A. Gibson, the city’s first African-American mayor, and Sharpe James.
“Now we have Senator Ron Rice. If you can’t pull together three more powerful voices than that in Northern New Jersey, I don’t think there are any other folks that you can pull together,” said Baraka.
The vote for a new mayor for New Jersey’s biggest city comes six months after former Newark Mayor Cory Booker won a Special Senate election to fill a vacant Senate seat after Senator Frank Lautenberg died last June.
Senator Rice said the decision to endorse Mr. Baraka over his opponent Shavar Jefferies was easy.
“It was very easy because I’ve watched both men grow up. They both did academically well. But people like Ras Baraka have constantly attended community meetings, have constantly interacted with labor and understands the need for diversity and a quality education,” said Rice.
Rice stressed the upcoming election in Newark is the city’s most important since the days of the Gibson administration when Mr. Gibson had to govern only three years after the city exploded in 1967 due to a combination of racial tensions and industrial decline.
In 2014, 20 years after the state took control of the Newark school system, the city is experiencing an upheaval in elementary and secondary education. The city’s school superintendent, Cami Anderson, wants to close public schools and expand charter schools.
“It’s very important because Ras understands that we have to have a strong education system. He understands that we’ve been blamed [for 20 years] for something we don’t control. Nothing can happen with public education unless the governor says so,” Rice said.
The foreclosure rate stemming from the Great Recession in 2008 has taken a toll on the city. According to a report by New Jersey Communities United, the foreclosure crisis has cost Newark homeowners $1.9 billion in lost value.
And while Newark has diversified its economy since losing its manufacturing base, it still has an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent as of January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Mr. Baraka, when asked about his economic plan for Newark, said he has a robust economic development plan.
“Part of it is definitely about creating and getting jobs for Newark residents. We have to have a robust plan to be able to employ Newark residents, to provide the skills and training [for] not only entry-level jobs, but for living-wage jobs,” said Baraka.
Baraka also wants to help small businesses grow in the city and create commercial corridors that feed into downtown Newark.
“Clinton Avenue, South Orange Avenue, Orange Street and Broadway used to be the gateway to downtown Newark. Businesses like Macy’s left Newark after those corridors closed down. We have to recreate those commercial corridors,” Baraka said.
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