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Newark's Mayor: Ruffling a Few Feathers to Produce Extraordinary Results
Cory Booker took the Newark Mayor’s office by storm in 2006, promising to revitalize the economy, improve the district’s school system, and reduce the sky-high crime rate. So far, his vision for Newark has strongly taken root. He’s been innovative—raising $90 million in philanthropic support over four years and reaching out to private entities to help fund public programs—a model that has been nothing less than controversial. He has brought down the city’s $150+ million deficit and balanced Newark’s budget, helping to ensure the financial stability of the city. To help grow businesses, he has collaborated with the Brick City Development Corporation to establish a small business loan program that provides $150,000 loans to minority- and women-owned businesses. And in his first term alone, he has doubled the city’s production rate of affordable housing by adding more than 1,200 units. Wow.
It’s no wonder that Mayor Booker’s reputation as a “solutions-driven” political leader landed him on Time magazine’s Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.
And there’s no stopping him now.
In an interview with Neil Conan of NPR on Friday, Mayor Booker explained that the city still faces challenges; specifically, with its K-12 public education system and fluctuating (but still too high) crime rate. Booker puts his finger on improving education as a primary way to both reduce the crime rate and improve the economy. Certainly, the $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will eventually help boost educational attainment in Newark. It’s just a matter of time.
Meanwhile, Booker discusses how the city of Newark can leverage its existing assets to improve the economy. He highlights a conversation he had with ICIC founder and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. Porter informed him, according to Booker, that...:
"...Newark has probably more competitive advantage than most cities in America, and tremendous things could happen there if you think strategically about how to leverage its assets: the port region that it has, airport, deep-water seaport, the five major colleges and universities, the hospitals and its proximity to the capital of our global economy, New York City.”
Pretty great advice, if you ask us.
Building off this, Booker explains that the city must continue investing infrastructure. When possible, public-private partnerships should be utilized to complete these projects. Similarly, the local small business community should be engaged to help set the agenda for future economic growth.
Finally, the mayor highlighted how essential it is for cities to be proactive in their economic and community development strategies, rather than being reactionary as cities move from one crisis to another.
We applaud the work being carried out by Mayor Booker in the face of all his opponents that told him he could not revitalize Newark. When budgets were tight and general political will was lacking, Mayor Booker continued to push hard for his vision, and the results are undeniable.
Listen to, or read the transcript of, the interview here and tell us what you think about Mayor Booker’s vision and continued progress in Newark!
BY Amanda Maher on July 25th, 2011