Booker’s Swanky Fundraiser on Saturday

Newark Star Ledger: A mighty splashy Saturday for Newark.
The Star Ledger has an critical opinion piece on Cory’s Inaugural Ball on Saturday. Apparently, you can’t attend the main event unless you’re making some sweet moolah (or were a volunteer for the campaign). Anyone planning to go to the “FREE” events? 🙂

If Jon Corzine could get by charging $250 a ticket for his gubernatorial inauguration, does it matter that Newark’s mayor-elect Cory Booker is charging $500 and up for his inaugural ball this Saturday at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium?

On the one hand, Newark cannot keep thinking of itself as a two-dollar town. A city that wants to be prosperous must act the part, strike the pose that attracts swanky visitors. If the new mayor can do that, bring’em on! This town will soon have a hockey arena to fill.

Yet the median household income in Newark is just a bit over $500 a week. It’s a place where for years city employees bought tickets to pricey mayoral events convinced that they had to, in order to keep a job or get a promotion. A $500 ticket? That’s happened before.

The $30,000 price for a luxury box at Booker’s shindig? That’s a record.

On the one hand, I appreciate what Booker is doing here: he’s trying to bring in outside interest (read: investment) on day one of his administration. Given the possible impression he’s given that Newark isn’t interested in honoring previous commitments, this could be a good approach.

On the other, though, this does create a bifurcation in the city: those with money (and influence), and those without. The only folks attending that wouldn’t normally be able to afford tickets are the Booker faithful that were hanging banners and handing out flyers on Election Day.

I think, on the whole, Booker is critically aware that the city needs money. If he wields his fundraising powerhouse to start drawing cash in and directing it towards the needs of its citizens, then I’m all for it. But he could have done a better job with the PR.

For more discussion, check out the Newark Speaks topic.

Go Vote

After Booker won the mayoral election on May 9th, I have to admit that my enthusiasm waned for the upcoming run-off election on June 13th. Booker took the election by storm, getting 70% of the vote, so I only assumed that the rest of his team competing for the at-large council positions would probably get into office without much trouble. If not, though, I didn’t think it was a big deal — Booker will just have a little resistance and diversity of opinion on his council.
Then this weekend featured a lot of news about the city, little of it good. From the budget overrun of the Newark arena, to the dilapidated state of its Little League baseball fields, to the potential budget crisis waiting for the Booker Team in the city’s ledgers, this is a place in deep need of change. No matter what your political affiliations are, you need to go vote today. Go, participate, and vote for what you believe the city needs most — don’t just sit and wait for it to happen to you.

There’s just too much at stake.

Ongoing Coverage of the Election

Newark in a Nutshell

People outside of Newark may be perplexed the national interest garnered by the city over the past few weeks, and might think our local politics aren’t really interesting to anyone outside our physical borders. I think, though, that if you take a look at what’s happening here, that you might find yourself fascinated by the tale of a city about to experience a resurgence similar to Baltimore and New York. Newark is an underdog that, for decades, has languished in flagging attempts to recover from damage done by the 1967 riots. For the past forty years, the city has been trying to rebuild, heal the wounds of poverty and racism, and recover from its reputation as politically corrupt and a hotbed for crime.
Newark has been “turning a corner” since as far back as 1990 — bringing in new development, arts, and culture — but its growth over the past decade has come in fits and starts as the city continues to struggle with crime and poverty. For many, a change in administration has come to mean a new era for the development of the city.

In 1995, Stanford-educated Rhodes scholar Cory Booker saw the potential of this city, and a place where he could make a difference with his life. He moved into one of the most run-down neighborhoods to identify with the people living there and find out how best he can help turn it around. His social concern developed into a political interest, and, four years ago, he ran for mayor and narrowly lost in a brutal campaign against five-term incumbent Mayor Sharpe James.

But, after staying under the radar and continuing to develop grass-roots support in the city, Booker ran again in the 2006 mayoral race. This time, his 10-year commitment to the poor of this city, his idealism, and his new approach to governing seems to have struck a chord with Newarkers looking for the next phase in the city’s history. Last night, Booker won the mayoral election in a 72% landslide.

New York Times reporter Damien Cave has summarized this story in an article entitled, Cory Anthony Booker: On a Path That Could Have No Limits. Booker’s success could mean a real change for the city of Newark: safer streets, better education, and real growth for this city of 280,000 just five miles from Manhattan.

The Daily Newarker will continue to follow the story of the historic changes on which the city is about to embark. So, stick around — things are just about to get interesting. 🙂

Big Day Tomorrow

I told my wife this morning on the way to the train station, “Well, tomorrow’s the big day! I’m going to have to do something really big with the blog — like maybe blog every hour of Election Day!” She sniffed, “Why? Just blog once: everybody knows what’s going to happen, anyway.”
It’s true. Damien Cave notes in today’s New York Times article, In Newark, Booker Mayoral Campaign Takes on Air of Coronation, that Booker’s last few days on the campaign trail — despite Rice’s best efforts — have made his installation into office seem inevitable. Tomorrow will see the first major administration change in the city of Newark for the first time in twenty years. On July 1, 2006, Cory Booker will be sworn in as Newark’s new mayor.

Sure, there will be some drama. Yesterday’s bizarre breakfast rally for Rice resulted in this classic quote from Mayor James about Ron Rice:

“I got to get him to shut up now,” James said as he exited the ballroom.

The media will have a good time with more moments like this as the Rice campaign works through its denial before conceding the victory. I have a feeling, though, that Rice will handle it with grace. He has been in public service for years and seems like a good guy.

The nail-biter for tomorrow’s election, however, lies with the 9-member city council seats that are all up for re-election. The race is particularly close in the North and East Wards, which have seen intense campaigning, allegations of fraud and bitter court battles. More commentary on the North Ward race at Newark Confidential.

Whether Booker can land the rest of his team into the city council positions is the real question for tomorrow. His ability to get a city council in place that will be sympathetic to his legislation will be a key success factor for his administration for the next four years. Rumor has it that Booker will be staging a shock and awe ground campaign tomorrow to mobilze the vote for his team.

So, while we know some of what will happen tomorrow, it is guaranteed to be an exciting day for Newark that will be fun to watch. Will I be blogging throughout the day tomorrow? Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned. 😉