Newark mayoral candidates Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries to face off in debate
NEWARK - Just one week before the election that will decide the next mayor of Newark, the candidates are gearing up for a debate.
Councilman Ras Baraka will square off against former Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries in the contest hosted by News 12 New Jersey on Wednesday night.
Baraka has taken a more traditional approach toward winning the mayor's office through his work on the council and within the Newark public schools as principal of Central High School.
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Jeffries is coming from a different angle, as a civil rights attorney and Newark school board president, and touting his management experience.
"The mayor of Newark is an executive position. We have to manage budgets and produce results," says Jeffries. "I have significant experience. I managed budgets of $170 million at the state level. I managed 1,300 employees as assistant attorney general."
Both candidates remain connected to the public schools where the fear over the city's future is felt strongly at school board meetings. The target of scorn at those meetings is state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson.
Baraka does not favor Anderson's One Newark plan, which hopes to establish more charter schools. He is bothered by "the fact that the community is not engaged and radical decisions are being made without community input."
Jeffries also believes Anderson's plan has been too much too fast, and did not consider parents. Jeffries has favored and established charters but doesn't see that as the only solution.
Whoever wins will inherit a city budget deficit that could approach $100 million or more and a possible state takeover of city finances.
Public safety is another concern for Newark. Neither candidate committed to current police director Sheilah Coley, but both want more police.
Jeffries touts his work at the state level on dealing with crime and plans to go after criminals in Newark. "Under my administration we are seeking to eradicate gangs, gang culture and to target offenders who are driving violent crime in our communities," he says.
Baraka says he would open a dialogue with gangs to inform key offenders of zero tolerance. "We have not been able to deal with crime in the city the way we need to deal with it," he says. "We know what we have to do. We haven't done it."
News 12 New Jersey's Rick Holmes will moderate the debate between the candidates Wednesday night.