Darrin Sharif officially declared his candidacy for Newark mayor during an evening rally at the Robert Treat Hotel yesterday. Sharif worked for Cory Booker as his chief of staff during Booker’s Central Ward council days, before ascending to the role himself in 2010, and becoming one of Booker’s key legislative adversaries on the council. He is also the son of long-time Newark political consultant Carl Sharif.
Sharif took to the podium to make his pitch in front of a group of about sixty people. Here’s what he covered:
- Business development: The Central Ward is home to the the key political, business, and educational institutions in Newark, as well as the transportation infrastructure that makes parts of the ward so accessible by other parts of the city and the region. Sharif took partial credit for projects throughout the Central Ward, including business development along First Avenue, Halsey Street, and Springfield Avenue.
- Community learning: Sharif touted his role in the development of “Learning Centers” in residential communities throughout the ward. The purpose of the centers, he said, is to help kids without computers complete school assignments, and to enable adults to complete job applications and prepare for the GED.
- Accessibility and rehabilitation: He discussed his bringing NJIT’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, Newark Public Schools, and “hopefully” Panasonic together to create a video game that helps Newark kids with disabilities improve their dexterity.
- STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) career training: Sharif said he’ll be visiting MIT in two weeks to discuss the possibility of creating partnerships with Newark Public Schools to teach interested kids computer programming skills.
- Innovation incubator: Sharif described a project in the works called the “Center for Human Development and Civic Engagement”. It’s an idea that has been percolating for some time for him: when I interviewed Sharif two summers ago, he described it to me in very similar terms to the program he laid out last night. The center, which he said will be located in the basement of the Renaissance Towers on Market and Mulberry Streets, would be an incubator for “projects that will move the city forward”, and a co-working space for residents, small businesses, non-profits, professors, students, and other Newark stakeholders to work on those projects. He also said the center would house a tech company that would manage Newark’s IT needs, and that a majority of its employees would be Newark residents.
- Port jobs: Sharif said one of his key priorities as mayor will be to create a “comprehensive, strategic plan for engaging the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey”. He noted that he has long understood the job-creating power of the port, and that former council president Donald Payne, Jr. did take his suggestion to create a “port opportunities committee” and name him chair. But he also said it was a challenge to get the administration to put together a comprehensive port strategy. The mayorship, he said, would give him the power and authority to engage the state governments in New York and New Jersey, as well as our federal and state legislative delegations, to push a comprehensive plan that will benefit Newarkers.
Sharif’s campaign Facebook page is now online.