April 8, 2015

Did you miss the unveiling on Newark 3.0? Last month, on March 18, 2015, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka held his first State of the City Address.

The evening began with a welcome by Councilwoman-at-Large Mildred Crump welcoming the family of Mayor Baraka, the City Council, the department heads of the City of Newark as well as other elected officials around the state of NJ, including but not limited to Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, and the first African-American mayor of Newark, Kenneth Gibson, who received a standing ovation.  Soon after, Rev. Perry Simmonds from the Abyssianian Baptist Church led the evening in prayer.

The Newark Police Department presented the colors with accompanied performances from Newark public school students who led the pledge of allegiance and a rendition of the national anthem and “Lift Every Voice.”  After the Arts High School choir sang the anthems, the City’s own “Voices of Newark” sang “Moving Forward” conducted by Gwendolyn Moten, the City’s Director of Arts, Cultural Development, and Tourism.  At last, after a moving presentation, the Honorable Ras Baraka arrived and thanked all who were in attendance.

Baraka took the evening to discuss “Newark 3.0,” a term he coined to represent the next steps the state’s largest city will take to keep up with the 21st century economy and technology that will move Newark forward.  Some key policy areas he touched were:

Health and Wellness

  • Under the leadership of Dr. Hanaa Hamdi, the health delivery is “rapidly growing,” said Baraka.
  • The city is currently operating health care centers and is gearing up to add three more: a primary at Bradley Court, a Wellness Center on Clinton Avenue, and a Dental Clinic at George King Village.
  • During the winter months, over 1400 homeless individuals were serviced at many of the warming stations around the city.  Doctors were also on site to provide free checkups.
  • Lead inspections went up from 100% to 1029%.

Economic Development

  • The City is looking to expand the manufacturing industry.  This will be an effort in partnership with NJIT to ensure that all residents have access to the opportunity to be trained to join this industry’s workforce.
  • With small businesses being the backbone of the city, Baraka committed to ensuring the procurement process to be “stubbornly local to Newark.”
  • The mayor demanded “relationship counseling” between the city and the port.  “We need to become better partners.  Our port is the 3rd largest in the country, the largest on the Eastern coast.  The port shouldn’t be an entity IN Newark, but should be the port OF Newark. e need port compliance and transparency and environmental litigation now.”  If the port does not cooperate,”  Baraka stated he will put an RFP out to buy our sea port and use the revenue to move the city forward.
  • Newark will soon have an old steel factory become the world’s largest indoor farming that will produce fresh foods, local produce and about 100 construction jobs.

Community Development

  • The Valentine’s Day lot sale was a success.  The first ten families didn’t have to pay a down payment thanks to BCB Bank.
  • For families that stay in the home built on the lot will be provided a $5000 forgivable loan after five years.  If they stay for 10 years, they will be provided $10,000 forgivable loan.
  • Baraka added that the “key to a community moving forward is adding more residents,” and praised the efforts of Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop with how he implemented this in the city next door.

Education

  • The city boasts approximately $50,000 college students.  Baraka is working to ensure continued and strong partnerships with the city’s universities.
  • Baraka praised Essex County College’s president, Gail Gibson for delivering quality members of the workforce, President Joel Bloom for serving as an incubator for new businesses, and Rutgers University-Newark President Nancy Cantor for committing to helping Newark put 25% of its residents in college by 2025.
  • While Baraka is grateful for the universities commitment to be strong partners, he stated he will ask for more.  “Fifty percent of our properties are tax-exempt or tax free, and $13 billion work of property are not taxable.”  Because universities are tax-exempt Baraka will ask for all institutes of higher education to pay an in kind fee in lieu of taxes or “even better…provide scholarships to Newark students only.”

Crime and Public Safety

  • Overall crime is down since July 2014.
  • A new Fire Department Precinct was open on 469 Ferry Street and recently responded to a large industrial fire.
  • Illegal dumpings from industrial companies have addressed.
  • Baraka has addressed numerous absentee landlords to ensure they hold their end of the bargain in ensuring safe housing.

The Mayor went on to discuss in detail housing initiatives underway, including artist housing, affordable housing, the foreclosing of the Pabst brewery, and the redevelopment of the south and west ward.  More information on his initiative can be found on the city’s website and the Nj.com article.