On July 1, Ras Baraka, a former high-school principal and the son of the late radical poet Amiri Baraka, was sworn in as the 40th mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Elected on May 13, Ras Baraka ran on a progressive platform of finding work for the chronically unemployed, promoting research institutions in the city and supporting micro-loans for small business. He also opposes privatization of public schools. Baraka will take the helm of a rapidly gentrifying city that has seen downtown renewal while outlying neighborhoods and infrastructure continue to be neglected. He plans to tackle such unbalanced economic development by seeking city authority for a local sales tax that would target goods and services used primarily by commuters who live outside the city. He is also considering regional job programs by partnering with small towns around Newark such as Irvington and Paterson. Baraka can count on the backing of the Newark City Council, thanks to the victories of five supporters in June runoff elections. His support among labor, youth and the poor in Newark has also given him the markings of a rising progressive star in New Jersey politics.
William A. Hudson is a summer 2014 In These Times intern.