What to expect in Newark's state of the city address

By Karen Yi | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
on March 19, 2017

 

NEWARK -- Mayor Ras Baraka will take the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Monday for his third state of the city address. 

Baraka is expected to focus on jobs, development and public safety. He met with The Star Ledger Editorial Board last month to touch on these subjects and more. Here's what he said and some of what we might hear during his address.

Public safety

While Newark's overall crime rate is the lowest it's been since 1967, Baraka said the city is "working around the clock" to continue to drive those numbers down. 

"We are not at a place obviously where we think we're out of the woods," he said. "We're trying play catch up in terms of police hiring."

The city has 1,052 sworn officers and 297 civilians but Baraka wants to build the force back to 1,300-1,500 officers. He said the city is also working to prevent crime, in part, by installing street level cameras at certain hot spot locations.  

Jobs

One of Baraka's priorities remains securing good jobs for residents (the city's unemployment rate has dropped under his tenure). Part of that is training, he said, as well as providing incentives for incoming businesses to hire locals.

The Newark City Council approved waiving the payroll tax for businesses as long as more than 50 percent of the staff is from the city. Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the plan recommending the city be required to go to the Department of Community Affairs to approve any tax reductions. The measure must get state approval because it impacts municipal revenue.  

"People need decent jobs, they need to have stabilized households," Baraka told the editorial board on Feb. 8. He said only 18 percent of Newark residents work in the city. 

Development

As development booms in the city, Baraka said he's committed to keeping Newark residents able to afford living in Newark.  

"We are doing this very purposely and deliberately and not letting the market dictate," Baraka said. He said many of the properties undergoing changes were long neglected and are not displacing existing residents. 

"All the things developing downtown were abandoned," he said. The administration is also crafting an inclusionary zoning ordinance that would require new housing developments include a percentage of affordable units.

Local control

The School Board is poised to receive control over governance of its schools by fall. The district has been under state control since 1995. Baraka has previously said the search for a new superintendent should be national and the community needs to focus on moving past long-standing disagreements, like school choice and state-appointed leadership. 

"We're not going to blow up every charter school in New Jersey, these people are going to be here," Baraka said Feb. 8. "A lot of people are still in fight mode." 

Once local control is restored, there will be city-wide special elections to decide whether the school district will have a locally-elected school board or a board appointed by the mayor. 

Innovation

The city hosted a Women's Safety Hackathon, a nationwide technology contest this month, focused on women's safety. Applicants were told to create an app on street safety, domestic violence, teen dating or evidence collection. 

The winner of the contest will be announced during the state of the city and receive $15,000 to build out their prototype and $35,000 to maintain it. The winner will also be entered into a global women's safety challenge that comes with a $1 million prize.

Technology has also been a focus of Baraka's tenure, he launched a campaign to remake the city into a tech hub and improve access to high-speed internet. 

The speech begins at 6 p.m. at 1 Center Street. The address will be aired on the Newark Government Access Channel 78 (Fios 28) and streamed live on the city's website.

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