Newark Mayor Ras Baraka delivered his first State of the City address since being reelected last May, with a message highlighting investment in the city and its children, while defending an increase in development.
Amazon passed on Newark as a location for its new headquarters, but Baraka says the consideration was a major victory and believes opponents were wrongheaded for being skeptical.
“We are courting even a small measure of those 50,000 direct jobs or the 70,000 to 100,000 indirect jobs,” Baraka told the crowd at NJPAC. “It’s a privileged decision to say we reject jobs because we refuse to even have talks with Amazon. When our people are unemployed, we have no right to walk away from a deal like that.”
Even without Amazon, Baraka says unemployment among city residents is at a fifty-year low. Still he believes future companies that invest in Newark need to think local.
“If you have not hired Newark employees, then you are missing the boat. If you are not spending money with local businesses, then your use in our town is waning. We need you to be a part of Newark. We don’t need you to benefit from Newark. We need you to be a part of Newark’s growth,” he said.
Several initiatives introduced into Newark schools during the Baraka administration has high school graduation rates up, with more of those students enrolling in college. But Baraka says minorities still face a disadvantage.
“They are being left behind purposefully and systemically,” he said. “We can no longer be satisfied with the one or two tokens we have in the AP classes. Or the one or two in the pre-college programs. Or the ten that you allow to go to magnate schools. Or the three that are in honors tracks. The list can go on and on.”
Baraka touts that there’s cranes building new projects through investments in every city ward and says development with smart budgeting has the city on the road to recovery.
“We’re building our city because our children need jobs, because our babies are being killed, because people are impoverished. Because they don’t have the opportunity or access to health care and education. We build our city because we have to damn choice to do anything else.”