There was no podium and no suit for Newark Mayor Ras Baraka as he gave his fifth State of the City address. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center was almost completely filled as hundreds watched the mayor pace back and fourth, touting his yearly accomplishments, occasionally asking the audience to watch a short video.
Baraka discussed a wide range of topics, including Amazon.
“When Amazon first announced their intention to build their new headquarters here, we jumped right in. I watched how people counted us out. I said we are not courting Amazon. We are courting the world through the vehicle of Amazon,” remarked the mayor when discussing the city’s pursuit of the tech giant.
He also spoke about the issue of high lead levels in the city’s water.
“I want to give a special thinks to our Department of Water and Sewer Utilities who, when faced with a problem involving corroding lead service lines, they acted with professionalism and dedication. They’ve already delivered more than 33,000 filters,” Baraka said.
Baraka didn’t skip a beat when it came to calling out his critics, several of whom were rallying outside for clean water.
“They’re lying about the number of filters they’ve given out. They’re lying about the education programs that they’re doing,” said Anthony Diaz from Newark Water Coalition.
“A lot of us parents are finding out our kids have lead levels that are of concern,” said another member of the Newark Water Coalition, Shakima Thomas.
Baraka also announced three new initiatives intended to help reduce economic inequality and build what he calls “prosperity” for Newark residents.
“We have also worked to create Freedom Paper, an African-American owned paper company as part of a community wealth building strategy. We are helping to build a co-op paper company with reentry employees. And through the contractor developer initiative we are servicing and preparing an array of folks ready to take on the challenges of developing and building in this city. Lastly, the city is currently exploring a pilot for universal basic income,” he said.
Whether you’re trolling him or supporting him, Baraka made sure to come prepared with video testimonies and receipts to back up how he says he’s moving the city forward.