As far as inauguration’s go, Cory Booker’s second term installation as mayor of Newark was quite nice. But “nice” is a disappointment compared to the reception his supporters gave him four years ago when people were turned away from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center because it was packed to the gills; and when all of the nine city council people installed that day were favored by him. Since then he has become somewhat of a celebrity. In fact, Booker’s good friend and talk show host Gail King sat on stage at the inauguration with Booker’s family, and @CoryBooker has almost 1.1 million twitter followers.
His inauguration this year was solemn and respectable. But compared to the cheers and hallelujah’s that erupted from the folks who backed Ras Baraka and Darrin Sharif, two newly instated city council members who challenge Booker on several major issues, its evident that some things are changing in Newark.
That’s not to say that Booker isn’t still popular in Newark. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have won the election with 59% of the vote. Locally, he has accomplished some of his campaign promises, including a reduced crime record–New Jersey, leads the nation in reducing gun violence with a 46% decrease in shootings over the last three years–and increased business development.
“We’re doing everything from making more loans available, partnering with business incubators, creating bonding support …” said Booker after the inauguration. “There are a lot of things that we are doing to support local businesses.”
For example, the Black Wall Street project broke ground in Newark’s West Ward back in December 2008. The project, led by the black-owned Mid-Atlantic Alliance, developed affordable and eco-friendly housing. The mayor blogged that it was a triple win involving “local minority developers creating wealth, construction jobs … and affordable homeownership … for more residents.”
But this year, Booker has a lot to contend with, including a $180 million budget deficit. The city budget he proposed for 2010 last week calls to lay off 651 employees, including many of the 300 policemen he hired to reduce crime. Plus he wants to create a municipal utilities authority that will offset the deficit by $50 million but allow a private entity to control Newark’s watershed, an option that has his critics steaming.
“I really disagree with selling the resources of the people. We need to sustain working people’s lives, their jobs, and not depend on corporatism,” said Baraka, newly installed south ward councilman who defeated a Booker ally.
If the city does start to outsource services, it seems there might be plenty of opportunity for the city to increase contracts to black-owned businesses. Booker has taken symbolic measures in the past to show his concern for the working class and the poor in Newark–even going so far as to live in a housing project to draw awareness to the plight of the poor. Making sure that black-owned businesses get fair access to contracts with the city is one way to start making his symbolism real.
For more information on Cory Booker: Power Player: Cory Booker