Sunday, February 17, 2008

A reformer in Newark

There's a great profile of Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, in the Feb. 4th edition of the New Yorker. Unfortunately, only a synopsis is available online, but the conservative City Journal covered similar ground in a profile of Cory Booker from Spring 2007.

Booker is not a conventional Newark politician. Young, black, Ivy-league educated, and raised in the suburbs, he is fighting to reduce crime, overturn the corrupt political establishment, and bring in outside investment to transform the city. He "considers himself as part of a new paradigm of 'people who are trying to make their governments engines of economic opportunity and judge them not by how many jobs they can provide but by how much wealth they can create and how efficiently they can deliver services within their own city.'"

His efforts have engendered fierce resistant, both for his politics and his background. In his first bid for mayor, the incumbent accused him of not being authentically black, saying, “You have to learn how to be African-American, and we don’t have time to train you.” He has been attacked for appointing outsiders, many of whom are white, to his administration, and many in the city oppose his policy positions, including support for school vouchers.

His experience is thought-provoking, especially in the context of Detroit, which itself so badly needs enlightened leadership. Booker's heart certainly seems to be in the right place, reflecting the perspective of a new generation of idealists who hope to reform and revitalize Rust Belt cities through pragmatic policy that transcends traditional divisions pitting white against black and city against suburb. But ultimately intentions count for naught. The real test is whether his administration can successfully reduce crime and bring jobs to the city.

No comments: