Newark, New Jersey faced a tragedy this past week when four of its college-bound or college enrolled young adults were shot at in a neighborhood park. Three died, and one is recovering in the hospital. The police have apprehended three of the individuals responsible for the crime. Detectives are tracking down two more suspects. The crime was not only a tragedy for the families, community and government, but also a significant blow to the young mayor, Cory Booker.
Cory Booker is a graduate of Stanford and Yale and is a Rhode Scholar. He became mayor of Newark last summer, succeeding the twenty-year incumbent, Sharpe James. This July, James was indicted on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. James is a “crook,” as my parents would say. Booker represents the opposite of James. He’s one of those rare politicians where you believe he’s always played by the rules.
I first learned about Booker through the excellent 2005 documentary, Street Fight. It follows him through the mayoral election. Booker campaigns door-to-door (literally) to introduce himself to residents and learn about their concerns. At the time of the documentary, Booker lived in Brick Towers, a public housing project in a dangerous Newark neighborhood. Late last year, he moved from Brick Towers to another dangerous neighborhood in Newark’s south side. He’s a refreshing politician because he does not pose as a resident. He actually is one.
Despite the reforms Booker applied in his first 100 days in office to lower crime, Newark has seen a resurgence of violent crime this year. In 2006, Newark had a record 106 murders—this year, it is on pace to break the record. Many are criticizing Booker’s efforts to reduce crime, but I want to see this guy succeed. He cares about the citizens of Newark. He hosts monthly office hours to meet with the residents, and has even set up job interviews for them during his office hours. This guy is working so hard for this city, and I hope he succeeds. If he does, we might see him as a congressman, senator or maybe even a presidential candidate in the future. I only hope that he retains his ideals and that tragedies like last week’s do not break his spirit.