By NAKIA J. WHITE With only eight months of campaign time left, the four Newark mayoral candidates are honing their oratorial skills. Given the plethora of debates and forums scheduled they’ll have more than enough time to sharpen their rhetoric.
Tonight’s pedagogical focused debate, hosted by Newark Education Trust, asked candidates a number of educational questions related to school reform, school closure and the role of the mayor in education.
Crime, unemployment and education are the foremost important issues in the minds of Newarkers, but the next mayor will have a nearly non-exsistent role in the improvement or decline of education without full local control. He will, however, possibly have leverage to make the superintendent’s role and decision-making process uncomfortable.
Mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries’ responses were strong and definitive, staunchly different than those of his first debate in August 2013.
At one point he challenged mayoral candidate Ras Baraka on the merits of Central High School.
“Your school has been classified as one of the lowest preforming schools in the U.S. and one of the five worst high schools in NJ,” Jeffries said. “Your actions, not your words, have to drive what you do.”
Baraka and Jeffries heavily dominated the ‘conversation’ as it was characterized by moderator Marsha Wilson Brown, professor at Rutgers University. Central Ward Councilman Darren Sharif had difficulty finding his way into the conversation with his own vision. Northward Councilman and mayoral candidate Anibal Ramos added a bit more energy than previous debates, yet he still responded in a text style manner.
And yet, what is so different about these mayoral candidates are their overall caliber, and for me that is the truest story of this election and debate cycle.
In a city derided as ‘savage,’ ‘deadly’ and ‘uneducated,’ tonight’s debate chipped away at those haunting perceptions. All four candidates, Newark born and raised, were smart, articulate, professional, charming and as Mrs. Wilson mentioned, handsome (I can’t disagree).
Regardless of whatever one may think of former mayor Cory Booker, his stewardship elevated the standard by which all future candidates will be judged,.
Four men of color, one Latino and three Black men, college educated, professionally credentialed with proven track records of success, all stand in stark contrast to what outsiders and even Newarkers believe. Through their campaigns they are debunking every sterotype that has haunted Newark and given hope to what the city could be.
So no matter what your choice, this election will in part boil down to personal preference as Newark has never seen a pool of more qualified candidates.