Meet The Candidates: Here’s Who’s Running For Mayor in Newark

Newark’s next mayor will play an important role in taking the helm of New Jersey’s largest city over the next four years. When businesses and schools across the city shuttered their doors in 2020 in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the city socially and economically. To date, city officials are still working to address the prolonged effects of the pandemic.

The next mayor will not only have to shoulder the responsibility of the city’s recovery in the post-pandemic era but will have to address a number of ongoing issues that predate the pandemic.

One major issue that has plagued Newark for years is gun violence, a problem that has local authorities recovering a record number of illegal guns off the streets after the city experienced a recent uptick in shootings in 2021. Violent crime also rose in Newark by 4% in 2021 compared to 2020, with homicides up by 6%.

Providing adequate housing to meet the demands of the city’s growing population without barring low-income residents from affordable units will be another key challenge for Newark’s next mayor. A report issued in February 2021 by The Rutgers Law School Center on Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity (CLiME) revealed the city’s housing stock falls short to provide affordable units for low-income residents by about 16,000 units. According to the report, the city’s North, South, West and East wards have a gap of more than 3,000 low-cost units that rent for less than $900, with little demand for housing that cost between $900 and $1,250 per month. The greatest need for very-low-cost units (less than $500 per month) is in the North, West and East wards, according to the report.

Here is some background on the mayoral candidates and which issues facing Newark matter the most to them. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Ras Baraka

Age: 52

Affiliation or Slogan: Team Baraka “Newark Forward”

Profession: Newark Mayor (Incumbent)

Why I think I am qualified and should be re-elected for Mayor of Newark:

I have had the pleasure of serving the great city of Newark as the Mayor for two terms. I can remember the first 100 days after I took office, the New York Times article read “The Mayor exceeds expectations.” Since the very beginning, we have proven that we can govern and govern in very tenuous even impossible times. We have faced our challenges head-on and have dealt with issues that many avoided. We have successfully changed the narrative of our city. We were once looked passed and now we are testifying before a Senate subcommittee as an example of how to change lead service lines and execute large infrastructure projects on time while empowering residents. As the rest of the country watched their cities burn and crime reached record numbers, delegations are coming to our city to look at our strategies and plans. We are invited to national discussions on equitable growth and development. We are certainly not where we want to be, and experienced a wealth of challenges, but I am confident in saying the city is in a much better place than it was eight years ago. We had a $93 million deficit and this year we were able to offer a municipal tax decrease. We cut homicides in half and dropped overall crime precipitously. We are experiencing a growth boom and billions worth of development while focusing on affordability and equity. Our city is on a clear trajectory forward and we need to remain on course.

Three key issues you believe are facing the city of Newark:

Issue 1: Newark is one of two communities in New Jersey that is experiencing the fastest growth in rent increases. On the positive side, it means people are coming to our city and choosing to invest, build and stay here. On the other side, it makes it even more urgent for us to address the Rutgers Center on Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity (CLIME) report findings that suggests the city of Newark is missing approximately 16,000 units of affordable housing. Based on this data, we developed a comprehensive strategy to tackle this issue with the help of our city’s incredible non-profit partners and our Newark Housing Authority. Further, we strengthened our city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance to ensure more affordability while investing $20 million into securing housing for residents with families that make about $34,000 a year or less. We have recently built a brand-new homeless shelter and are in process of creating three more shelter villages of container homes spearheaded by our new Office of Homeless Services. In my next term, we plan on focusing and expanding on the development of low-cost housing and low-cost homeownership.

Issue 2: The city of Newark is listed as one of the top 100 cities that is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic the fastest. In 2013, our unemployment rate was 14%; pre-pandemic, that number was around 5%; and in the middle of the pandemic the grew to 22%. Today, that number dropped to 8% and while that is huge improvement, it also shows that we have much more work to do to ensure that residents are recovering, and that they are getting back to work and that we are creating more jobs. In 2020, with the support of our anchor institutions, we created 4,000 jobs. Now, we need to double down on these efforts and create more stable, high-paying jobs for our residents. Additionally, we need to ensure that our residents are taking advantage of training opportunities and are being prepared for these competitive jobs as we continue to advocate for them. At the same time, we plan to continue to focus on eradicating food insecurity and advocate for more opportunities and resources such as the expansion of earned income tax credits and child credits. In addition, the City of Newark has launched a guaranteed income pilot that focuses on getting funding to our families that need it the most.

Issue 3: Our recovery from COVID-19 must also be focused on our children and the issues they face such as isolation, depression, and learning loss. We are partnering with Newark Public Schools to ensure that our children have more access to counseling, expanded summer opportunities, and year-round internships. We are creating more access for our residents to higher education by working with our colleges and universities that have already doubled their enrollment and plan to expand this even further. We recently created a pilot program for 40 at-risk students to attend St. Elizabeth College for free. We are specifically targeting this program for our students who have a GPA of 1.8 to 2.5 and themselves were or have a family member that was a victim of violence as we must end the cycle of violence and trauma for our youth. In addition, we are currently discussing strategies with other colleges and universities to work on similar programs and plan on expanding this program for more of our youth. During the pandemic, we realized that our children have deep issues of access to broadband through cost and access. To that end, my administration is committed to building our Newark fiber throughout our city to ensure that all of our residents have access to low-cost or no cost broadband at high speeds. To increase literacy, we are looking to grow our book clubs and enlist every institution in this city to double down on our young people and ensure that they have access to a quality education and enrichment resources all-year-round.

Sheila Montague

Age: 49

Affiliation or Slogan: "Open the Door"

Profession: Educator, Professor, West Ward Democratic District Leader 49

Why I think I am qualified and should be elected for Mayor of Newark:

Being a native Newarker, I understand the foundational and cultural fabric of our city. There is a certain nuance to the struggles that play an essential role in decision-making that must occur to maintain a necessary balance when a renaissance is occurring. I take joy in serving others as well as finding lasting solutions to problems. My kind skill set can be an asset to our community. There are several concerns that I have noticed that the current administration has missed the mark on. These are overlooked, issues in which I’d love to address. This position will also help me give back to society on a larger scale, that directly deals with legislation and effective appropriation of funds. Moreover, the extensive and excellent leadership skills that I possess will be a great instrument to attract businesses, jobs, and tourists. Other qualities that are equally associated with my political savviness are administrative ability, honesty, management skills, good communication skills, and the ability to make tough decisions, delegate work, as well as inspire others.

Three key issues you believe are facing the city of Newark:

Issue 1: Education. I understand the importance of education and the opportunities afforded to those who receive an adequate education. Our public schools have received the penalty of poverty for far too long. In Newark, it appears more attractive to give tax abatements to developers than to ensure children receive the greatest education feasible.

I understood the beginning stages of the transition to local control, would afford stakeholders the opportunity of creating a historical shift and change the course of life for our greatest asset - the children. They must be provided with a system that prepares students for the 21st-century.

I intend to see children progress through:

  • More accountability on the school board to ensure the full funding formula is returned, and those funds reach the classroom first.
  • Supporting true engagement of the local community of parents, and providing them with a greater voice in the process of how their children are educated.
  • Restoring a healthy coalition of stakeholders to create an environment where teachers are better supported.
  • Increasing access to community and state colleges for high school students, as well as offering viable vocational programs to students who choose an alternative road to success. 

Issue 2: Public Safety. I am committed to making our neighborhoods better places to live in by implementing policies that work and enacting those best practices. We have taken a comprehensive approach to the issue of public safety by not only treating the symptoms but the causes of crime. Poverty, unemployment and the lack of quality education is a direct cause of not only the amount of crime but the types of crimes.

Community Policing: Reorganize the patrol plan, with the goal of active community policing in each precinct. Each precinct will be divided into staffed segments, with officers strategically assigned to permanent posts to increase familiarity with the community.

Prevention: Improve how we identify those most at-risk of committing crimes and implement a multi-level intervention. 1. Demand improvement of the public and adult education systems. 2. Recognizing that Newark’s unemployment rate is nearly double the state, this is in direct correlation to the increase of crime in our community.

Engagement: Create an authentic relationship between local government, law enforcement and residents. We will influence an active partnership in public safety by giving community leaders a seat at the table and allowing them to help design and implement policies to promote greater trust and investment in safer neighborhoods.

Enforcement: Working with prosecutors and police, we will send a message that if you commit a crime in Newark, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Issue 3: Affordable Housing. Affordable housing is becoming a thing of the past and leaving families with no options. Homeowners have seen their property taxes increase consistently, and families are being locked out of the city. I intend to create more options for families. What is being touted as positive development growth in the city has displaced families through enormous rent increases. As the population grows, so will the problem. The options we create must include low-income families, as well as the middle-class we seem to have abandoned.

I will create the Newark Housing Agenda (NHA), which will serve as a blueprint for an additional 20,000–plus low-income housing units over the next decade; through developing partnerships at the state, regional and local level. Targeting for profit and nonprofit developers, social justice organizations, and labor will result in short-term action and long-term success.

The NHA will first abolish a city ordinance recently passed - a document that is adversarial to our residents. We will return preference to residents and abolish any deadlines penalizing the renter. 
The NHA will promote and engage developers who respect that they are investing in a city that invests in its people.  We need to understand the impact of any proposal to build in Newark, by listening to our communities and what it takes to fix this issue.

Newark's municipal elections are Tuesday, May 10. The deadline to apply by mail for a vote-by-mail ballot is Tuesday, May 3.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-04-30 03:05:31 -0700