Ras Baraka was sworn in Tuesday as the mayor of Newark, putting him at the helm of New Jersey's largest city after the high-profile but sometimes-controversial tenure of former Mayor Cory Booker.
Baraka, 45, was elected last month after defeating Shavar Jeffries. The former South Ward councilman won on a broadly progressive campaign, succeeding Luis Quintana, who completed the unexpired term left by Booker’s election to the U.S. Senate last year.
"Years from now, when we look back on this day, let us say that this was the day that we all decided to fight back," he said in his inaugural address, according to a report on NJ.com. "Let us say that this was the day that we did it together, that we sacrificed our right now for a better tomorrow."
It remains to be seen how the business community will embrace Baraka after years with a mayor who was largely seen as pro-business, albeit with some questions about how other aspects of the city fared. In March, Baraka told NJBIZ that Newark has benefited from the state’s lucrative business incentives, but that “we have to form our own identity here in Newark, and businesses and companies are coming, but they need some direction.”
“We need to let them know what we want, how we want it, and they have to be a part of what we think is going to grow our economy here, not just simply coming to Newark to benefit from our tax credits,” Baraka said.
He also said his plan “is not to do what has been done, which is just to reach out for big businesses and big box industry to come to the city.”
“I think we've been trying to live under New York's shadow for too long. We can't compete with New York; we're too close to it,” he said. “We're going to have to find our own identity, and once we find our own identity and we begin to do those things good, we rebrand ourselves.”
He also said small business owners could expect “a robust plan centered around small business development,” one focused on businesses that hire 100 percent Newarkers and “(does) something about their ability to navigate City Hall.”
During the campaign, Baraka sought to correct this major misconception about him:
“People say I'm anti-business. … That's the biggest lie,” he said. “That mythology is there to scare people and intimidate people who say, 'Oh, the businesses are not going to come to Newark.’”
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