Newark mayoral candidates weigh in on potential state takeover

By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
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on March 13, 2014

Shavar Jeffries, left, and Ras Baraka weighed in on the potential state takeover of Newark's budget.


NEWARK — The two men who would be directly affected by a state takeover of Newark's budget weighed in today on recent statements by state officials accusing the city of skirting state budget laws.

But mayoral candidates Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries struck markedly different tones in their reactions to the state's threat to take over Newark's finances.

Baraka, the South Ward Councilman who for years has railed against state control of Newark's schools, said he would oppose a takeover, but admitted Newark's budget needed critical attention.

"As mayor, I will abide by previous agreements between Newark and the Office of Local Government Services. I will follow their guidelines for best practices," Baraka said in a statement, adding he would work closely with state officials to get Newark's fiscal house in order.

Still, Baraka said, a takeover would not be helpful.

"Our city must make difficult and painful decisions, but our priorities must be set by the people of Newark and not by the state," Baraka said, adding that if elected, he would appoint a "Commission on Newark's Future," to generate community input and ideas on where to cut and where to create revenue.

The Jeffries campaign accused Baraka of being an "absentee leader" and touted Jeffries' own executive experience as an assistant state attorney general.

"Baraka has missed three of the four budget votes," since taking office in 2010, said Jeffries spokeswoman Lupe Todd. "Now more than ever, Newark needs a mayor with a proven track record of results. As a senior state official in charge of budgets of over $170 million, Shavar audited spending, reduced overtime and wasteful expense, and cut exorbitant outsourced contracts that saved the city and state millions of dollars."

The Jeffries camp also opposes the potential takeover but said, "Baraka's kind of failed and absent leadership will surely lead to state control of Newark's finances."

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