Newark Mayor Ras Baraka gave his fourth State of the City address on March 20th at the NJPAC, presenting an overview of his administration’s accomplishments and the positive changes underway in the Newark. Key parts of his speech highlighted the important role of technology in shaping the city’s future.
The Mayor first described the scale of the transformation underway in Newark that has occurred since he took office almost four years ago and how the negative perception of the city is changing.
"You would have seen a bleak and negative narrative that was forced upon us and shaped the way people around the country viewed our great city," Baraka said.
He gave credit to the media located outside of Newark that began to cover the key events and milestones around the city. The Mayor listed the regular ribbon cutting ceremonies that have been held in ground breaking ceremonies, encompassing new retail, restaurants, affordable housing, hotels, warehouses, market rate units, university centers and others. Later local press joined in and ongoing coverage of the city's progress has contributed to the city’s improving reputation.
Most notable was how the current transformation underway provided the foundation for the city to join the national competition for the second Amazon headquarters. Newark recently was selected as one of the twenty city finalists.
"We would never have made Amazon's top 20 picks 5 or 10 years ago. And we were ecstatic to hear that our new Governor stands with our quest for Amazon because he understands that this is not just about one company but about 50,000 direct jobs and some estimated 60 to 100,000 additional jobs," Baraka said.
The decision to participate in the Amazon headquarters' competition aligned with the City's strategic decision to make Newark a tech-centric city akin to Silicon Valley.
"That strategy is already proving successful," said the Mayor. "We prepare for Amazon, whether we agree with them, or not and if they do not come we prepare anyway for a new tech economy. We put a Nan Tech center in every ward like the one on Hawthorne Avenue. We build a smart city by leveraging our 27 miles of fiber. We use it to reduce crime, create jobs, solve problems and make our city more accessible."
Over 1,000 Newark residents and dignitaries attended the address. Baraka focused on four critical areas: public safety; jobs; education, and affordable housing. He touted that crime is the lowest in 50 years and the city unemployment rate is down by 30%.