The reverend Al Sharpton led Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy into a classroom in Newark Tuesday morning – a South Ward building, that has been vacant for 20 years.
Last fall, Sharpton’s National Action Network teamed up with Panasonic and the Cisco Systems to launch a digital academy to help local residents acquire the skills needed in the digital age.
“The civil rights issue of the 21st century is that we already have a racial divide, now we’ve got to deal with the digital divide or we can only bring racism to a new level,” said Sharpton.
Murphy’s presence gave us an opportunity to get his response to Gov. Christie’s remarks in which the Republican governor delivered a sharp attack on the Democratic candidate Monday over reports that Murphy would hike taxes by $1.3 billion.
“It’s a huge mistake, and believe me if that’s what he’s admitting to in the campaign, it’s only the beginning. I say to the workers in the back of the room, if this guy is elected, you get your hand on your wallet, put your money in a safe deposit box and hide it,” he said.
“I don’t think this administration has any credibility on the economy with all due respect. They have heaped tax breaks on the biggest corporations as a blunt instrument. The economy has not grown and we’ve become in addition to that profoundly unfair. And, so I would say you need leadership that understands how you both grow an economy and make it fair again,” said Murphy.
Murphy’s plan would hike the income tax on millionaires to gather 600 million dollars in new revenue.
“He says $600 million from the income tax? It won’t even be close to that because people will leave,” said Christie.
Murphy counters, “People will come here if they feel they’re getting good value for money. Right now, under this administration, they’re not. The premium to be here has gone up and up and up, and a basket of stuff you get back for being here, whether you’re a person or a company, has been shrinking.”
Murphy is running against Republican Kim Guadagno, but Christie is working against him, as well.
“Phil Murphy is not a New Jersey guy. He doesn’t understand New Jersey’s sensibility on taxes, the way Jon Corzine didn’t understand it. Phil Murphy is a Massachusetts liberal, the worst kind, a Massachusetts liberal. And he’s going to bring Massachusetts liberalism to New Jersey.”
But Murphy does not see Massachusetts as a negative moniker.
“We think Massachusetts has generated seven times more jobs than New Jersey has,” according to Murphy. “Whatever they’re doing is working a lot better than what we’re doing under this administration.”
The digital academy is named NAN Newark Tech World, after Sharpton’s group, National Action Network.
Already it seems to be helping people.
“I had no technical background. I had nothing. I was looking for a job, just freshly out of the military, I felt like my skills didn’t transfer over. But now, I apply these military skills and I feel like I’m ahead of my peers,” said Tech World student Marquise Knott.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka sees his city as the tech hub of North Jersey.
“We have a huge tech community, a growing entrepreneurial community of young black and brown people that are starting their own companies, that are involving people in tech and coding,” he said.
“For all the focus we’ve had recently on moral authority, the Presidency and immigration and discrimination and monuments, and all of that stuff that goes with it, if it comes at the expense of the bread a butter, how are you going to put one foot in front of the other and close the digital divide in our society, then we will have paid a big price. We have to walk and chew gum at the same time,” said Murphy.
Murphy’s running mate Asw. Sheila Oliver noted how vital digital skills are today.
“It’s getting to the point where you can’t pay a bill if you don’t know how to go online,” she said.
While Newark is striving to become a tech hub, Murphy is striving to garner Newark’s support and be the candidate most identified with tech issues.