NEWARK, NJ — Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has recently been on a public relations roll when it comes to the lead crisis plaguing his city, announcing significant progress and fielding questions from the media without hesitation.
A fired up Baraka took his resurgent message to his biggest stage yet Wednesday evening.
"Leave my d--n city alone," he said.
In front of a mostly supportive crowd inside the Main Hall at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, he highlighted his administration’s ongoing progress in removing some 18,000 lead service lines and took considerable time to defend his performance.
To be clear, it was not all passion and defiance.
Baraka, standing in front of his constituents, told them what he’s already admitted during one of our recent interviews, he could have done a better job communicating with residents about the lead crisis.
"I'll also concede that maybe we should have spent less time fighting with NRDC, who was trying to abuse us, and had a clearer message," he said. "But what I'll never concede is that the mayor purposely and deliberately lied."
The mayor later sat front and center, part of an equally supportive panel comprised of local and state officials, along with medical professionals to address a myriad of topics, and answer previously recorded questions that hint at the uncertainty that still lingers among residents in New Jersey’s largest city.
"I still feel that we are not up to speed with the questions. To be honest, I really don't use the tap water. I buy bottled water," Newark resident Jennifer Downer said.