New generation changing politics in Newark, New Jersey
AMP Campaign Pamphlet

These are turbulent times politically. Every day a new scandal rocks the White House as the Trump administration tramples on the rights and livelihoods of working people. Many see their politicians as people in the pockets of lobbyists and as having no concern for anyone who isn’t wealthy.

A group of activists and politicians in Newark, New Jersey, however, is aiming to change that narrative. Calling themselves AMP,  A Movement of the People, the collective of Newark residents has its sights on combating corruption and disregard for working people in their city of Newark.

Anthony Diaz, an AMP member who is running for city council to represent the Central Ward in Newark, discussed with People’s World issues affecting Newark, and the state of politics generally.

Newark,  a city that doesn’t always get mainstream press coverage, has a long history. Settled in 1666 by Europeans, it is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. Today, as a predominantly African American town, it is the most populous city in the state with its fair share of racial and economic turmoil.

Newark experienced “white flight” after the 1967 Newark Riots. One of many riots taking place in the country at that time in response to racial profiling, police brutality, Black disenfranchisement and unemployment, the city never quite recovered, as white residents and businesses left for the suburbs. Despite the so-called Newark Renaissance, pushed by now criminally convicted former Mayor Sharpe James, Newark, as of 2010, still has one-third of its population living in poverty.

AMP explains in its informational pamphlet that the group wants to address the issue of poverty, and other problems that plague Newark. These issues include, the affordable housing crisis, public safety, unemployment, and education. Speaking to the current situation in Newark, Diaz said, “The political climate in Newark is pretty rough. During the petition phase of the campaign, we have been thrown out of buildings by armed guards and security, had our petitions thrown away, and intimidated along the way. There are people controlling the narrative, while the majority wants a change and wants to see the city move in a different direction.”

The crises of housing and employment in Newark are not unique to the city, but are reflected across the country. The AMP collective explains that 78 percent of Newark residents are renters, and that owning a home is out of reach for many. They call for housing policies and programs that “make rent affordable, keep low-income homeowners in their homes, and increase access to homeownership to all.”

The employment problem is that many of the jobs in Newark aren’t held by Newark residents. Residents hold less than 18 to 20 percent of the jobs in Newark. As explained in a report titled “Bridging the Two Americas: Employment & Economic Opportunity in Newark & Beyond,”  “Newark is in the midst of an economic expansion, with thriving business industries bolstered by its strategic location as one of the main transportation hubs in the United States, with one of the busiest airports and seaports in the world,” the report explains. “Yet, incredibly, Newark residents hold only 18 percent of all jobs in the city.”

“There is most certainly a housing and job crisis in Newark,” said Diaz. “Most of the new development that is going on in the city only has 20-30 units of affordable housing. We have thousands of people on a waiting list, 300 units is not enough to meet the demands. This is happening all over the country. The demographic called the working poor only now seems to be coming to the limelight. There is a job crisis in the city and most often the residents have to work two or three jobs to afford any [type] of lifestyle, and the jobs that do come to the city are not careers.

AMP Campaign Pamphlet

“We need to reallocate money that the city already has and invest it in its people. We need more funding for cooperatives. We need more funding for employee-based businesses. We need to develop more than just the downtown area to revitalize this city. Misappropriations of the city budgets can combat this but often times there is a vested interest in keeping the status quo,” he said.

Diaz expressed consternation with status quo politicians he described, referencing the former GOP governor, as “Christie era bureaucrats.” During his tenure, Diaz said, “The citizens of New Jersey had no say and were often times ignored. This is what led to his abysmal approval ratings towards the end of his term.

“The people need a seat at the table. They need to be voicing their concerns and know that we will follow through. They need to be valued more than ever before. We call ourselves A Movement of the People because we believe in people before anything! We are not afraid of criticism and we are not afraid to hold people accountable because we will truly answer to those we represent.”

Speaking to his goals for Newark if he’s elected to city council for the Central Ward, Diaz said, “I want to cut the police budget and reinvest it in the communities. The police budget along with some uncategorized funds are the biggest part of the municipal budget. I want to make sure the same development that happens downtown happens all over the city. I want to make sure that Newarkers are not cast out for new residents. I want make the streets safer by providing economic opportunities and not more police. I want to make us a progressive example to the rest of the country. Most of all I want to make sure Black and brown residents feel more than ever they have a say in their community.”

Touching on the effects of the Donald Trump presidency Diaz explained, “In the Trump era of politics, the activist needs to take a role and while I myself have tried to stay out of electoral politics, I believe the time is now. People are more open to revolutionary ideas and leftist politics. I think the movement begins on the local level, and then this will be the catalyst to inspire change on the national level.”

Diaz (Central Ward C6) is running alongside fellow AMP members Victor Monterrosa, Jr (Councilman At-Large B10), Tanisha H. Garner (East Ward city council C5),  and Hellane Freeman (North Ward city council C3). The elections are May 8.

More info about the campaign can be found here.


CONTRIBUTOR

Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson believes that writing and media, in any capacity, should help to reflect the world around us, and be tools to help bring about progressive change. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong belief in people power and strength. She is the Social Media Editor for People's World, along with being a journalist for the award winning publication. She’s a self professed geek and lover of pop culture. Chauncey seeks to make sure topics that affect working class people, peoples of color, and women are constantly in the spotlight and part of the discussion.

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