Kasai Guthrie is running to be mayor of Newark in an effort to bridge the gap between the student population and the residents of the college town.
At only 21 years old, the UD sophomore also happens to be the youngest person to ever run for that position.
We interviewed Guthrie, a 2017 graduate of Salesianum School, on the heels of a controversial Newark City Council ordinance designed to curb the partying which put UD on the national map as the country’s top party school.
The new restriction on social gatherings has thousands of University of Delaware students up in arms. The measure, which was passed unanimously by the Newark City Council on Tuesday night, has injected even greater interest in Guthrie’s candidacy by students who hope he can turn things around.
Town Square Delaware: What is your stance on the new Unruly Social Gathering ordinance?
Kasai Guthrie: I am strongly against the ordinance.
I am not against the intention of it and even agree with what they are saying about wanting to stop the parties in more family neighborhood areas. But at the end of the day, the ordinance has too many more negatives than positives.
While parties have started to become a nuisance to the community, I feel as though the Newark City Council started these issues in the first place, and I said that during the council meeting and this is why: They made codes and ordinances making Newark the quietest town in America. If you look it up, Newark is by law the quietest town in America by noise decibel.
Legally, you can get a fine if you’re talking on your porch after 9:00 at night. Businesses and bars also can’t have dance floors in Newark, which is why we have a pizza shop turned bar as the best bar in Newark. Newark created these laws and codes that force students to not go out on Main Street and force them to create their own fun in their houses. The only thing that Newark has to offer other than a pizza-shop-turned bar is residential houses.
TSD: What are the politics surrounding this issue?
Guthrie: The Newark City Council actually introduced this bill about eight months ago, and I realized this was kind of the final straw in trying to shut down UD students and force them to not party in a sense, so that’s what made me really want to give the students a voice.
I think the City Council created the problem of parties in the neighborhood areas.
TSD: What do you see as the main issues with the ordinance?
Guthrie: The number one issue with the ordinance is female safety. Statistically, sexual assault is increasing, and I’ve never seen Newark City Council try to address this problem.
In the actual Unruly Social Gathering ordinance, they talk about crowds dispersing after parties, which indirectly addresses rideshares and makes it impossible for students to stand and wait for their Ubers. When I brought up the point about making women walk home late at night, they responded with a point about Ubers hitting people in the streets when they are waiting, which really hasn’t happened in Newark. This is in contrast with the sexual assault statistics, which are constantly rising.
The other issue with the ordinance is that every part of it is extremely open-ended.
The fact that they called any gathering ‘four people’ gives the police judicial rights to stop four people if they’re just sitting on their porch. Right now the law is that you can have up to 150 people at your house, but the Unruly Social Gathering ordinance brings that down to four people, and I just don’t agree with that because that many people can be living in one house.
The last major issue is that it will disrupt the economy of the rideshare community. A lot of Newark residents are Uber drivers. One of the Uber drivers actually spoke out in front of City Counsel saying that passing this ordinance would disrupt his livelihood and ability to pay his bills.
While I understand and agree with some of the issues they’re trying to address, at the end of the day, it’s not going to be a solution. One of the council members even came out directly and said that passing this is merely a bandaid. We need to be coming up with more permanent solutions. There are existing laws that you can enforce, rather than create a new one which will ultimately lead to much greater issues, including greater divisiveness in our historic town — a place all of the students call home.
TSD: Why do you think you are the right person to represent the City of Newark as its mayor?
Guthrie: My whole life has been basically devoted to service. So this really seems like the logical next step.
At the age of 15, I started an organization called “We and Our Fathers,” which was an organization aimed at establishing relationships between absent fathers and their children. Since then, I have been speaking around the country on fatherhood. I am the youngest Black Enterprise Modern Man and a Jefferson Awards Globe Changer, so I think my devotion to service has really come through in all of those endeavors.
TSD: What got you interested in politics, specifically within Newark?
Guthrie: What actually got me into politics was getting arrested for having a party on University of Delaware’s campus.
So from there, I wanted to figure out the strategy behind the many restrictions and see if there was an amicable way to come up with solutions that would make both students and residents happy. I started going to the City Council meetings and trying to get more involved.
I soon realized large portions of the electorate in this town don’t come out and vote. Councilmembers usually win with 200 votes, and mayors usually win with 900 too 1,100 votes. That helped ignite my desire to jump into the mayoral race — the fact that if I came up with the right campaign strategy to attract students into this election, I might potentially be able to generate enough votes to win and make a difference.
The council members always have their own re-elections on their minds. So they cater to views of the current voting population of Newark. I realized that if I united the students to come out and vote, they can sway every single election. Until students come out and start voting they’re not going to change the way the Newark City Counsel views and represents them.
Guthrie’s campaign website: https://kasaifornewark.com.
Guthrie aims to represent the voice of the young Newark population and create a sustainable relationship between the University, students, and residents for years to come. He hopes students will come out and vote on Tuesday, April 9th.