Wally Edge: If Booker gets less than 60%, is his star quality tarnished?

Wally Edge: If Booker gets less than 60%, is his star quality tarnished?

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has two opponents in the May 11 election: 67-year-old former judge and prosecutor Clifford Minor, and the expectations game.

The charismatic Booker, with a 17-1 fundraising advantage, is likely to win re-election to as second term against the quiet and reserved Minor, who has the backing of what is left of Sharpe James’ old machine. The problem for Booker is that he won with 75% of the vote four years ago (against a formidable opponent, State Sen. Ronald Rice) and then went on to become a national media sensation.

The defeat of Gov. Jon Corzine last fall makes Booker a leading candidate for the 2013 Democratic nomination for governor, if he wants it. But a lackluster victory against a bland, relatively unknown, underfinanced opponent – perhaps anything under 60% — might create the impression that local voters don’t think Booker is as good as his friends in Washington, Chicago and Hollywood think he is. That might make his front runner status in the next gubernatorial primary less automatic.

Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James reports to prison on Monday

Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James reports to prison on Monday
James’ sentence begins while he continues his efforts to appeal the judge’s guilty ruling for fraud and conspiracy charges during his last term in office.

During decades spent in public service, Sharpe James collected an array of impressive titles, such as mayor, state senator and college professor.

For about the next two years, however, he’ll be known as federal inmate number 28791-050.

In Newark, More Weariness Than Anger at Sentence

In Newark, More Weariness Than Anger at Sentence
Man on the street interviews by the Times in reaction the James sentence. Newark is ready to have this behind us.

James Williams, who came to Newark from Camden, another city with a history of troubled governance, said the only thing that mattered was that Mr. James had had a public trust and that he had betrayed it.

“I think public service has lost its etiquette,” he said. “When you work for the people, integrity is paramount. My grandmother always said what doesn’t come out in the wash will come out in the rinse. If you don’t want the light to shine on you, be sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”

No Tears for Sharpe

Sharpe James will serve 27 months in federal prison for directing real estate deals to his mistress, Tamika Riley — conduct considered unbecoming a public servant by a jury of his peers.
Reactions around the web to yesterday’s sentencing have ranged from anger to mild indifference. Ultimately, no one was satisfied by the outcome of the case.

Rest assured, though: Sharpe’s political enemies will get their perp walk. U.S. Attorney Chris Christie will get another notch in his pristine record. The city will see $127,000 returned to its coffers in the form of fines.

But, the sentence handed down by District Court Judge William J. Martini was not justice — and that has little to do with the length of James’ sentence.

Sharpe James was once a hero in this town, a man who fought for Newark when it seemed that New Jersey, through its highway and housing policies, was bent on destroying it. After the racially-charged 1967 riots, James was the second black mayor to arrive in office, calling for reform and admonishing an administration fraught with corruption.

Newarkers, however, had heard it before. Kenneth Gibson, James’ predecessor, took office in 1970 as a reformer, and was later indicted on fraud and bribery charges. He had replaced Hugh Addonizo, who won the Mayor’s office in 1962, accusing his predecessor of running a corrupt political machine. Addonizio was also brought up on with corruption charges for bowing to the will of organized crime.

Because of this — three disgraced mayors and forty-four years of corruption in City Hall — Newark suffers from a poverty of hope. An obstinate cynicism permeates this city to the degree that many “man on the street” interviews revealed Newarkers asking sympathetically, “why wouldn’t Sharpe take care of his own?”

We are only just beginning to see this dogged attitude chip away, two years into what appears to be a substantive renaissance in the nation’s third-oldest city — truly one of our great American stories.

But the Sharpe James sentence, too short to account for the years of undue influence, and too long to shake Newarkers’ perceptions that the establishment is trying to undermine the city’s progress — offers nothing but a sad reminder of our torrid history of corruption.

The Undoing of Sharpe James

The Undoing of Sharpe James
My piece from April, written the day after the Sharpe James conviction.

Sharpe James saw Newark through some tough times, and was a tireless cheerleader for the city, but government was never meant to be run this way. Newark is undergoing a transformative change, seeing a drastic drop in crime and renewed economic interest. It’s time to put away old ways of apologizing for cronyism, evolve our political discussion away from racialism, call for accountability from our leaders, and stop thinking of potential partners in the city’s success as “outsiders.”

James’ approach to governing the city created a culture of secrecy, suspicion and fear that was more about him than the city. It was that very cult of personality that led to his larger-than-life attitude and his ultimate undoing. Perhaps the real legacy of Sharpe James will be a warning of what can happen if we don’t demand more from our elected officials.

There is always a victim

There is always a victim
Thurman Hart, who usually blogs at Blue Jersey, reacts to Bob Braun’s lenient opinion on the Sharpe James conviction.

I find it difficult to believe that the developer pushed out of the program was a major donor to Sharpe James’ election funds. The lesson: Get on the Mayor’s good side if you want to do business here.

No victims? I suppose none of the inflated costs of doing business in Newark were passed along? Even if it were so, the perception of corruption keeps legitimate businesses out of Newark — and Newark badly needs more legitimate businesses.

James gets 27 months

James gets 27 months
Max Pizzaro covers the James sentencing, which includes some surprisingly sympathetic language for Sharpe’s 32-year service to the city. U.S. Attorney Chris Christie plans to appeal the ruling.

Reflecting on the James legacy, Martini discussed driving into the City of Newark today, passing Bears Stadium, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and the new arena.

“When bad things happen under your watch, you get blamed for everything,” said the judge. “On the other hand, when good things happen under your watch, you have a right to make claim. …I think reasonable people looking at that should give him credit for that.”

“Just because a mayor pushes for a friend – is that corruption?” the judge wondered aloud. “It’s a fine line. I know. I’ve been there. I was a politician.”