Who Is Ras Baraka?
Mayor Ras J. Baraka
Ras J. Baraka was sworn in as the 40th Mayor of the City of Newark in July of 2014.
His progressive approach to governing has won him accolades from grassroots organizations to the White House. He was listed in The Nation’s 2015 “Most Valuable Progressives” as “Most Valuable Mayor”, Ebony Magazine’s “Power 100” and on the front page of the New York Times for “defying expectations” during his first year-and-half in office.
President Barack Obama announced his sweeping plan for criminal justice reform while visiting a Newark reentry center with Mayor Baraka and because of Mayor Baraka’s diplomatic skill and strong advocacy, Newark Public Schools can expect to be returned to the control of the City for the first time in more than two decades. Throughout the City’s five wards, he is beloved as an educator, former principal, basketball coach, neighbor, mentor, and friend.
From the launch of a social impact venture fund to accelerate the development of technology and the opening of the nation’s largest vertical indoor farm, to the creation of the City’s first-ever police Civilian Complaint Review Board to mobilizing residents to combat violence in high-crime areas, Mayor Baraka’s leadership has married a profound vision with an unshakeable passion for the City where he has lived and worked for more than four decades.
Under Mayor Baraka’s leadership in 2017, a groundbreaking partnership designed to strengthen the City’s economy called, Hire. Buy. Live. Newark, was formed. Hire. Buy. Live. Newark, is marked by three interrelated strategies: Newark 2020, which will connect 2020 of the city’s unemployed to full-time living wage jobs by the year 2020; Buy Newark which will support the growth of local businesses and match them to the purchasing needs of other Newark businesses large and small; and, Live Newark which will attract more employees, faculty, and students to live in the city and provide existing residents with additional rental and homeownership choices and incentives.
Hire. Buy. Live. Newark marks the first time that any US city has sought to transform its economy by combining employment, procurement, and residential strategies. Mayor Baraka himself coordinated this effort, which joins the City with Newark’s premiere corporate CEOs and leaders of social justice, community development, and educational institutions.
The year 2017 also marked Mayor Baraka’s progressive stance in defense of Newark as a sanctuary city and despite the threatening posture of an unreceptive presidential administration, the Mayor signed a 10-page executive order spelling out in great legal detail the protocols and protections that the city provides to undocumented immigrants.
In 2015, under the Mayor’s leadership, the City of Newark witnessed successes and accomplishments in various areas:
• Set an all-time record for the collection of revenue during the year and finished the year $30 million in the black
• Completed the year with a surplus in the City’s water and sewer department of $14 million and $6 million, respectively
• Implemented an electronic accelerated tax sale that allowed residents to bid on properties online, which generated $1 million more in revenue and increased tax collection to 97%
• Collected $7 million additional in payroll tax and $2 million additional in parking tax
• Joined the fight for $15 minimum wage for airport workers and other workers throughout the State
• Proposed tax abatement for Newark businesses employing 51% or more of Newark residents
• Partnered with the philanthropic and corporate communities to employ 2,900 youth during the summer
• Distributed more than 6,000 municipal IDs, generating over $100,000 in revenue
• Started construction on about 1,000 units of residential space in downtown Newark neighborhoods
• Opened Centers of Hope in every ward, thereby facilitating engagement with 10,000 more Newark residents
• Reorganized several City departments to enhance service and delivery and to increase transparency
• Has committed to working with area institutions of higher learning to ensure that the number of Newark residents with college degrees increases from 17% to 25% by the year 2025
• Instituted community COMSTAT meetings with the Department of Public Safety
Public safety is also one of Mayor Ras Baraka’s highest priorities. He has connected law enforcement agencies with the community, provided at risk youth with mentoring, education and job training and developed programs to help ex-offenders join the workforce, gain counseling and medical treatment, and reunite with their families.
At the close of 2015, Mayor Baraka unified the Police and Fire Departments under a single Department of Public Safety. This groundbreaking initiative streamlined the two departments, saved money, and put more police on the street. His other public safety initiative, “Occupy the Block,” brings the Mayor and senior staffers together with local residents to disrupt criminal activities on high crime blocks and often collaborates with the Newark Alliance of My Brother’s Keeper, the local coalition which is based on President Obama’s program to repair the disconnect that many young men of color have with law enforcement, education, and government.
In his first 100 days in office, Mayor Baraka closed the City’s budget gap without laying off employees. His perspective on economic development has won him favor with Fortune 500© leaders, small business owners and investors. His strong relationships with Newark’s clergy and higher education leaders have allowed him to foster new collaborations on downtown and neighborhood redevelopment, education initiatives and fighting crime.
A native of Newark, whose family has lived in the City for more than 70 years, Mayor Baraka was educated in the Newark Public Schools and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a Master’s Degree in Education Supervision from St. Peter’s University in Jersey City. His father, the late Amiri Baraka, was a legendary poet and playwright. His mother, Amina Baraka, is herself a renowned poet.
The father of three daughters, Mayor Baraka is also a published author. His latest work, “Black Girls Learn Love Hard,” is dedicated to his late sister, Shani Baraka.