Ras Baraka

Ras Baraka
40th Mayor of Newark
Assumed office
July 1, 2014
Preceded by Luis Quintana
Member of the Municipal Council of Newark
from the South Ward
In office
July 1, 2010  July 1, 2014
Preceded by Oscar James Jr
Succeeded by John Sharpe James
At-Large Member of the Municipal Council of Newark
In office
November 2, 2005  July 1, 2006
Preceded by Donald Kofi Tucker
Succeeded by Mildred C. Crump
Personal details
Born Ras Jua Baraka
(1970-04-09) April 9, 1970
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Residence Newark, New Jersey
Alma mater Howard University
Saint Peter's University
Website http://rasjbaraka.com

Ras Jua Baraka (born April 9, 1970)[1][2] is an American educator, author, and politician who is the 40th and current Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. He was previously a member of the Municipal Council of Newark and the principal of the city's Central High School[3] until he took an indefinite leave of absence to run for the 2014 Newark mayoral election, which he won on May 13, 2014.[4] Baraka was sworn in as the city's 40th mayor at ceremonies at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on July 1, 2014 for a four-year term.[5] He won reelection in the 2018 mayoral race.[6]


A Newark native, Baraka is son of poet and activist Amiri Baraka and his wife Amina.[3] Ras J. Baraka was educated in the Newark Public Schools and subsequently earned a BA in Political Science from Howard University in Washington, DC, and an MA in Education Supervision from St. Peter's University in Jersey City.[1] He was principal of Central High School from 2007 until 2013.[1]

Poet and spoken word

Baraka is editor of In the tradition: an anthology of young Black writers (1992).

Baraka was featured on singer Lauryn Hill's 1998 The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, as the narrator of several interludes on the album.[7] He also recorded the intro to The Score, The Fugees' second album. Baraka and Hill recorded an unreleased single together entitled "Hot Beverage in the Winter", which later featured on his spoken-word album Shorty for Mayor.[8]

Baraka dedicated his collection of poems Black Girls Learn Love Hard to the life of his late sister, Shani Baraka[1][9] who had been fatally shot in 2003.[10] He had read as part of the city's Dodge Poetry Festival.[11]

Since its inception in 2004 Baraka has participated in the National Political Hip-Hop Convention.[12]

Political career

Newark Municipal Council

Between 2002 and 2006 Baraka was Newark Municipal Council member and in 2002 was appointed deputy mayor, and served that position until 2005. In November 2005, Baraka was voted to complete the term vacated by the deceased Councilmember-at-Large Donald Kofi Tucker.[3]

In May 2010 he defeated then-councilman Oscar James II in a highly contested election, on a platform critical of Mayor Cory Booker.[13] The election was documented on the Sundance reality television series Brick City, which stars Booker, Baraka and other Newark political and residential figures.[14]

Newark mayoral elections

Baraka ran his first campaign for mayor when he was 24 years old, in 1994.[15]

Baraka ran in the 2014 Newark mayoral election against former Assistant State Attorney General Shavar Jeffries,[16][17] after fellow council members Anibal Ramos, Jr. and Darrin S. Sharif dropped out of the race.[18] In August 2013, fellow council members Mildred C. Crump and Ronald C. Rice issued statements formally backing Baraka's candidacy.[19][20] Baraka's slate for the municipal council included John Sharpe James (council member-at-large running for South Ward), Mildred C. Crump (council member at-large incumbent), Alturrick Kenney (at-large candidate), Patrick Council (at-large candidate) and Joe McCallum (West Ward candidate).[21]

In December 2013, the Communication Workers of America, a trade union which counts 2000 members living, and thousands more working in Newark, endorsed Baraka.[22] In February 2014 he received the endorsement of former New Jersey governor Richard Codey and Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop.[23] In March he was endorsed by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.[24][25]

On May 13, 2014, Baraka was elected mayor of Newark. Official results show that of 44,951 ballots cast, he received 24,358 to Jeffries' 20,593. He succeeds Luis A. Quintana, after completing the term of Cory Booker, who had resigned after being elected to the United States Senate in October 2013. Baraka was sworn in as the city's 40th mayor by former Governor of New Jersey Richard Codey at ceremonies at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on July 1, 2014 for a four-year term.[26]

Transition team and municipal council composition

Soon after winning the election, Baraka had initiated meetings with Cory Booker on May 19[27] with Governor Chris Christie, and Essex Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. on May 21. Chris Christie has described Baraka as a "hostile guy".[28]

On May 28, 2014 Baraka announced his transition team, headed by former mayor Kenneth Gibson, comprising sixteen committees that will report to him before his inauguration.[29]

In the 2014 local elections four of the municipal council candidates Baraka supported won their races, leading the expectation that the elected body, in which he needs five votes on the nine-member council to get any proposal passed, will be cooperative to his agenda. His preferred candidates who won seats on the council last month include: At-large Councilwoman Mildred C. Crump, and union leader Eddie Osborne in the at-large race and At-large Councilman John Sharpe James in the South Ward race and Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins in the Central Ward race. Incumbents East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, Jr. and At-large Councilman Carlos Gonzalez were also re-elected on Shavar Jeffries' ticket. Mayor Luis A. Quintana, who was elected to be an at-large councilman, ran as an independent.

Baraka appointed his brother, Amiri "Middy" Baraka, Jr. as his chief of staff.[30]

During his tenure as mayor he has earned praise for improving Newark’s economic prospects.[31]

Position on issues


The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, has released details on a tentative agreement he's reached with ride-hailing company Uber to operate in the state's largest city. The deal calls for Uber to pay Newark $1 million a year for 10 years for permission to operate at Newark Liberty International Airport, which serves the New York City region and is one of the busiest airports in the nation. The San Francisco-based company also will provide $1.5 million in liability coverage for all drivers in its network.

Newark Schools

The Newark Public Schools system (serving approximately 40,000 students)[32] was placed under state control in 1994.[33][34][35] Newark is one of 31 "Abbott", or "SDA district"[36] which requires the state to cover all costs for school building and renovation projects in these districts under the supervision of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.[37]

In 2010 Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, donated $100 million of his personal fortune through his foundation StartUp Education to the Newark school system.[38][39][40] Release of the funds required matching funds, which were mostly raised through the Foundation for Newark's Future and have largely been spent, though funds remain.[41][42] The foundation was short-term philanthropic "shot in the arm," By 2015, FNF and its partners will have spent $200 million. The donation precipitated an effort to reform and restructure the system.

Teams of consultants have suggested numerous management reforms from the top down, but according to Ras Baraka, echoing concerns of many residents, they have ignored the community and the needs of chlldren and wishes of families in the neighborhoods. A restructing program called One Newark calls for the closure of some public schools and the opening of more charter schools (some in public school buildings).[43] The reorganization spearheaded by state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson, would relocate, consolidate or close one quarter of the district's schools that she has determined are underutilized. The plan has met with stiff resistance from large segments of Newark's population, with critics saying there's no evidence it will increase student performance.[44][45][46][47][48][49] The plan would also include teacher lay-offs.[50] While there is some agreement with many of the policies being implemented in the program, the disregard for community input and the pace of change has drawn criticism.[51][52] The plan will require some students to leave their neighborhoods and travel across the city, with many parents fearing for their safety.[53][54][55][56][57]

Baraka ran for election with a campaign to take back local control of the schools.[58] In May 2014, Newark, which already had control of operations (includes student transportation and other support services), was granted local powers over budget and finance, giving the local advisory board its first formal vote on the district's nearly $1 billion in annual spending. The state retains the right to veto any action of the local board and has the final say in appointing the superintendent of the district. Baraka as an outspoken advocate of returning control of the Newark's school to local authority has called for the ouster of state-appointed Superintendent Anderson.[59] Anderson's contract was renewed in June 2014.[60]

A discrimination complaint filed on behalf of Newark parents and the Newark branch of New Jersey's Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE) claims that 86 percent of the students affected by "One Newark" changes are African American, while African-American students make up 51 percent of the entire district. The allegation is being investigated by the United States Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.[61]

Baraka has called for the resignation of Cami Anderson, the state-appointed superintendent.[62] Anderson resigned in June 2015.[63] While Anserson's resignation made the situation less politically volatile, Baraka opposes the creation of more charter schools, and believes they come at the expense of public schools.[64]

Crime and gang violence

In October 2013 Baraka introduced his program to deal with crime and gang violence in the city, the Ras Baraka Blueprint to Reduce Crime and Violence in Newark[65] It includes "Project Chill", which incorporates elements similar to Boston's Operation Ceasefire and other engagement with gang members and intervention programs.[66][67][68][69][70][71] As of June 30 there had been 43 homicides in 2014. In 2013 through June 30, the city recorded 41 homicides. A surge of violence in the second half of 2013 pushed the homicide total to 111, the most since 1990.[72]

In Fall 2014, Baraka started the Model Neighborhood initiative, which increased police presence in troubled neighborhoods.[73]

Underwater mortgages and eminent domain

Between 2008 and mid 2013, 6,810 homes were foreclosed in Newark, and citywide, and homeowners in the city and lost roughly $1.8 billion in home values. At that time about 9,000 Newark residents were "underwater", where payment balances are higher than the fair market value of the property.[74] In May 2014, Baraka introduced a resolution adopted by the municipal council that would affect an estimated one thousand Newark homeowners threatened with foreclosure, giving the city legal authority to purchase home with underwater mortgages through eminent domain and refinancing them.[75] it is estimated that more than 50% of Newark homes are financed by underwater mortgages, partially as a result of the 2010 United States foreclosure crisis.[76]

Newark Watershed

The Newark Watershed comprises 35,000 acres of reservoirs and water treatment and supply systems for more than 500,000 customers in northern New Jersey including Newark and neighboring Belleville, Elizabeth, Bloomfield and Nutley. It is considered one of the city's greatest assets. A New Jersey State Comptroller report issued in February 2014 revealed irregularities and corruption within the Newark Watershed and Development Corporation, which is the process of being dismantled after being taken over the city.[77][78][79] In March 2014, Baraka called for a forensic audit of the agency.[80] Despite protestations from the city council, in April 2014 a Superior Court judge has ruled that the city must continue to fund the agency during the process.[81] The United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey is investigating the matter.[82]

Budget deficit and state oversight

In August 2014, citing a $30 million deficit from the city's 2013 budget and an anticipated $60 million in 2014, Baraka said that Newark would likely have to ask for emergency aid from the state, which if received, would require state oversight and involvement in the city's financial affairs. As of September 2014, the state's Local Finance Board overseesn by the Department of Community Affairs had not taken action.[83][84][85] In September the city auctioned properties, most of which had been foreclosed, in an attempt to raise funds.[86] The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs awarded Newark $10 million in transitional aid, comes with a required oversight memorandum of understanding. The state will hire a private firm to oversee the city's financial management and compliance.[87] The state will reduce budgets for the city clerk and expenses for councilmemebers as part of the agreement.[88]

Model Neighborhoods

In 2014, Baraka initiated a program to help troubled neighborhoods that will take a comprehensive approach to address issues called Model Neighborhoods.[89]

Valentine's Day plot sales

In 2014, initiated a Valentine's Day building lot sale in which married couples could purchase housing plots in the city for $1,000.00.[90] Nearly 100 plots were sold; as of 2015 few had been built on due to financing issues. [91]

Campaign financing irregularities accusation

In November 2017 Baraka was accused of violating campaign finance rules, mainly for non-disclosure, by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.[92]

See also


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  2. Jones, Kellie, and Baraka, Imanu Amini (2011), EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, p. 467, ISBN 082234873X
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  5. Nix, Naomi (July 1, 2014). "Ras Baraka to be sworn in today as Newark's 40th mayor". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2014-06-28.
  6. http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2017/06/newark_mayor_ras_baraka_announces_bid_for_second_4.html
  7. Checkoway, Laura (August 26, 2008). "Inside 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill'". The Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  8. "Ras Baraka". Moore Black Press. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  9. Black Girls Learn Love Hard at Amazon.
  10. Campbell, James (2008), Syncopations: Beats, New Yorkers, and Writers in the Dark, University of California Press
  11. "Ras Baraka". Dodge Poetry Festival. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  12. "Ras Baraka". NLLC. Retrieved 2014-05-28.
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  16. Giambusso, David (August 16, 2013). "Darrin Sharif announces run for mayor of Newark". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2013-11-26. Much of the economic development in Newark and a large stake of its business community operates in Sharif's ward, but its residential neighborhoods are among the most troubled.
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  37. What are SDA Districts? Archived 2012-05-02 at the Wayback Machine., New Jersey Schools Development Authority. Accessed 2014-01-10
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  40. The Oprah Winfrey Show, September 24, 2010
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  47. Mueller, Mark (February 25, 2014). lay-offs "Newark schools chief warns of massive teacher layoffs; wants pink slips tied to performance" Check |url= value (help). The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2014-02-01.
  48. McGlone, Peggy (February 12, 2014). rebuilding funds "$100M for Newark school construction waits for approval" Check |url= value (help). The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2014-02-01.
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  57. "Newark, N.J., Schools Plan Opposed By Mayor-Elect Ras Baraka Takes Big Step Forward". The Huffington Post. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  58. "Newark mayor Ras Baraka tries to wrest control of the city's schools from Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg". Slate Magazine. 21 May 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  59. "Newark, Paterson may have long roads to regaining full control of schools from state". NJ Spotlight. June 5, 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-28.
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  67. http://rasjbaraka.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/BARAKA-BLUEPRINT-FOR-CRIME-Final-Copy.pdf
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  69. Queally, James (December 31, 2013). "Newark mayoral hopeful wrote letters on behalf of notorious city gang boss, records show". The Satr-Ledger. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
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  74. Dayen, David (May 8, 2013). "Newark's Terrible New Foreclosure Fix Idea Activists in the city think eminent domain can save their". The Nation. Retrieved 2014-05-28.
  75. Atlas, John (June 30, 2014). "Working With Grassroots Organizing Groups, Ras Baraka, Newark's Mayor-Elect, Takes Steps To Help Homeowners". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2014-07-05.
  76. Tyrell, Joe (May 9, 2014). "NJ STILL DROWNING IN 'UNDERWATER' MORTGAGES, NEW STUDY REVEALS". NJ Spotlight. Retrieved 2014-07-05.
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  78. Giambusso, David (February 20, 2014). "Newark, state leaders call for criminal investigation of Newark watershed". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
  79. Giambusso, David (March 26, 2013). "Newark Watershed dissolves, leaving city to manage water for 500,000 customers". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
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  81. Wichert, Bill (April 24, 2014). "Newark fights court order to fund shutdown of watershed agency". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
  82. Mulshine, Paul (September 5, 2014). "Cory Booker: U.S. Attorney reported to be probing his watershed pals (Mulshine)". The Star-Ledger.
  83. Dopp, Terrence & Versprille, Allyson (September 26, 2014). "Baraka Faces Newark's Challenges in Post-Booker Era". Bloomberg's Business Week. Retrieved 2014-09-18.
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  90. "Land for $1,000: Homeowner hopefuls flock to Newark Valentines Day Sale". Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  91. "Here's what happened to those 100 lots Newark gave away last Valentine's Day". Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  92. Yi, Karen (November 2, 2017). "Newark mayor accused of violating campaign finance rules". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
Political offices
Preceded by
Luis A. Quintana
Mayor of Newark, New Jersey
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