By Mr. Outside
This analysis of the–perhaps dangerous–political chess game between Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was written by a Newark teacher who prefers to be known as “Mr. Outside.” It was submitted as a comment to my blog but I thought it should be seen by a wider audience. I use pseudonymous submissions at my discretion and when they are as good as this one.
Telling it like it is, huh? Ok. If that’s what we’re going to be doing, then let’s do that.
Baraka ran a campaign singularly focused on local control of Newark’s public schools. Nothing else. He didn’t run a campaign focused on job creation, reducing the city’s deficit, growing the city’s infrastructure– none of that boiler plate stuff. He focused almost exclusively on local control of the schools.
He managed somehow to lose sight of the many other issues the city facing; issues that resulted in more out-of-town oversight: a) the state taking over the city’s ball of yarn finances, and b) the justice department monitoring the city’s police force. I support Baraka. Always have. And I am supporting Baraka now. Not the office of the Mayor–but Ras Baraka. I am supporting him when I tell it like it is in the following lines. The man occupying the office of the Mayor of Newark did not anticipate the weight of managing a city like Newark– which is competing with Hoboken, Jersey City and New York City. He didn’t anticipate how far removed from grass roots politics, he would be when it came to wheeling and dealing with forces like Prudential, like “big-charter,” with federal agencies and yes, even foreign governments. It’s different as a councilman. He at once, has the burden of playing nicely in the sandbox with those whose moral, philosophical, cultural and social codes have long since been compromised, and appealing to the constituency that elected him. Ras Baraka could probably rise to the occasion. But the Mayor of Newark simply cannot. The seat of that office is an ivory tower. A prison. As the Mayor he is a pawn, to Bill Wolf’s point, who got played.
I read that NJ Spotlight article. I was disappointed at its conclusion. The Mayor has allowed himself to be deluded into thinking that he arrived at some epiphany; that it became clear for him what he ought to do when Christie declared himself the decider. Somehow, Baraka thought, or continues to think, Christie backed himself into a corner. No. Christie simply affirmed his and Baraka’s position and the nature of their relationship. The Mayor of Newark is not in control. Everyone else but the Mayor is in control. The students are in control, the private interests are in control, the state is in control, the feds are in control. But not the Mayor.
Ras Baraka has probably made the decision not to fight the battle, either at this point in time or again. I won’t speculate. The fact of the matter is, things change really quickly once you go from being a candidate behind a bullhorn to sitting behind the Mayor’s desk. The city is certainly divided. Whether he recognizes it or not, Baraka by virtue of his “settlement” or “agreement” with Christie has endorsed the governor’s position by alignment. Plainly put. With the world watching, Christie is at his most politically vulnerable. I do not understand how or why the Mayor is staying his hand, and at the same time, I again concede that it’s all a matter of perspective. However, considering the vantage points, Christie holds all the advantages.
Ras Baraka and The Mayor of Newark can not occupy the same seat. Nor can they serve two masters. The people of Newark elected Ras Baraka on the same platform Christie is running on now. Telling It Like It Is. On the one hand, there is a man, born in Newark, who has risen to power largely on the merits of his vociferousness and his ability to connect with people, in spite of how brash he can seem; and who is poised to influence the nation in ways yet unseen. On the other hand, there is another man, also born in Newark, also in power, equally as vociferous and brash also poised to influence the nation in ways yet unseen. Which is which? If we’re going to tell it like it is, I’m going to say that this is looking downright Orwellian to me.