Baraka sets stage for Newark mayoral run with ward speech
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NEWARK — Part sermon and part political creed, South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka’s state-of-the-ward speech set the tone for his 2014 mayoral campaign with a slogan Newarkers are likely to see a lot over the next 14 months: Believe in Newark.
“We must never stop believing in our city,” Baraka told more than 1,000 supporters at the George Washington Carver Elementary School last week. “More importantly, we must never stop believing in the people of our city.”
Baraka is facing a tough race for mayor with at least two other serious contenders — North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos and former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries — potentially jumping into the mix.
And while he has not raised significant money to date, Baraka’s political organization has only grown in the years since he upset Mayor Cory Booker’s campaign in 2010, taking a council seat from Oscar S. James despite being outspent by more than two to one.
Ticking off a list of accomplishments under his leadership, Baraka touted a progressive vision that welcomed Newarkers of all ethnicities.
“We want a grassroots campaign and the same alliance that elected the president of the United States for the second time in a row — we need that same force,” Baraka said. “That same force of African Americans, Latinos, women, labor and progressives of all nationalities, all religions, and of every language.”
An October poll showed Baraka in a relatively tight race with Ramos. But Jeffries, who has yet to begin campaigning, had much lower numbers than either of the two councilmen.
Baraka addressed concerns about his citywide appeal, saying that he had been accused of being too far left.
“You can even say that I’m radical at times but you can never say I represent special interests and political bosses,” he said in his speech. “You can call me all kinds of names but you can’t say I was never a friend of the people.”
Baraka cited a list of gains since taking office, including opening a “mini” police precinct on Bergen Street, directing $1.2 million in funding to South Ward nonprofits, opening a new Key Food supermarket and limiting the hours of pizza places, chicken shacks and bodegas that often serve as magnets for crime.
Looking forward, Baraka said he will be pushing a “homestead ordinance” that will make it easier for people to move into abandoned properties and get them back on the tax rolls.
Baraka said he is also close to establishing the Bergen-Lyons Improvement District, which will rehabilitate a business corridor along the ward’s main arteries with startup capital from Beth Israel Medical Center and City National Bank.
Baraka, a long-time opponent of Booker’s, paid the mayor a rare compliment saying, “Because of our mayor’s national status and the state’s urban tax credits we have become a magnet for business.”
But he added that too often, Newark’s neighborhoods are forgotten in that development and its small businesses are left out of the growth — something he would look to change if elected mayor.
“We cannot brag about how many jobs we bring to Newark if Newarkers are not employed in those jobs,” he said.
Finally, Baraka, the principal of Central High School, demanded an end to state control of schools, saying education was the “glue” of Newark’s future success.
He implored Newarkers to convert their disenfranchisement to political action.
“It’s not enough just to be angry. There’s a step after that. Once you get angry now you gotta get up and do something about it.”
By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
March 03, 2013 at 6:17 AM
Posted by Admin on Friday, March 22nd, 2013 @ 11:31AM
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