Newark mayor to Christie: 'We need your help'

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for
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on March 17, 2015

NEWARK — Newark Mayor Ras Baraka delivered strong demands to state officials and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in his first state of the city address.

Addressing parts of his speech to Gov. Chris Christie, who was not present, Baraka said the city needs the state to approve new sources of revenue so Newark can have the right "to stand up on our two feet."

"We need your help," he said. "I'm standing here representing 300,000 people in the city of Newark asking for your help."

Baraka spoke before a packed audience tonight inside City Hall's city council chambers.

Among the issues Baraka said will need state approval is a potential tax on storage containers that enter the city through the seaport. Newark is also seeking state approval on the ability to require city police officers and firefighters to live in Newark for five years, Baraka said.

In an interview after his speech, Baraka said he thinks there is support in the state legislature for bills that would approve the new revenue sources.

"I think we have support for most of the bills we lobbying for," he said.

Additionally, if Newark were to receive a tax on goods sold at the airport, "we would never have our hand out again," he said.

In addition to his messages to the state, Baraka used his speech to talk about several other key issues that he said his administration will address:


    • Port Authority: Baraka took aim at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, saying it needs to do a better job of mitigating the environmental impact of the seaport. If the Port Authority does not cooperate, the mayor said he was prepared start accepting bids for interested parties to buy the seaport.


    • College Town: Baraka also addressed local universities, saying in most college towns institutions of higher education give money to municipalities in lieu of paying taxes. Colleges based in Newark should consider a similar arrangement, or pay an equivalent amount in full scholarships to Newark high school students, the mayor said. The city is interested in making sure Newark becomes a true college town, he said.


    • Technology and Development: Baraka also outlined his vision for the city of Newark, saying his administration would usher the city in to "Newark 3.0." He spoke of a number of new development projects coming to the city's downtown and local neighborhoods. The mayor said the city will work on attracting manufacturing opportunities to create more jobs for Newark residents. To that end, the city plans to hold a manufacturing conference later this year. The mayor also said there will be announcements about enhanced technology offerings in Newark, including wifi in more public places.

His speech was absent of the political animosity between the mayor's administration and the city council that has surfaced during the state of the city in other years.

In 2012, Baraka — then a South Ward councilman — and city council president Mildred Crump walked out of former mayor and now current U.S. Sen Cory Booker's state of the city address after he chided the council for not cutting their salaries when the city shed a quarter of its workforce.

"We will work tirelessly with all nine of our council members," Baraka said tonight.

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