Tag Archives: Cory Booker

The Four Most Beautiful Words in the English Language: I Told You So

14 Dec

It was hard not to think of Gore Vidal’s aperçu when I read this piece on Cory Booker in the New York Times this morning.

When snow blanketed this city two Christmases ago, Mayor Cory A. Booker was celebrated around the nation for personally shoveling out residents who had appealed for help on Twitter. But here, his administration was scorned as streets remained impassable for days because the city had no contract for snow removal.

Last spring, Ellen DeGeneres presented Mr. Booker with a superhero costume after he rushed into a burning building to save a neighbor. But Newark had eliminated three fire companies after the mayor’s plan to plug a budget hole failed.

In recent days, Mr. Booker has made the rounds of the national media with his pledge to live on food stamps for a week. But his constituents do not need to be reminded that six years after the mayor came into office vowing to make Newark a “model of urban transformation,” their city remains an emblem of poverty.

Cory Booker’s promise — captured in two books, two documentaries and frequent television appearances — was to save a city that had been hemorrhaging residents, industry and hope since the riots that ripped it apart 45 years ago. But a growing number of Newarkers complain that he has proved to be a better marketer than mayor, who shines in the spotlight but shows little interest in the less-glamorous work of what it takes to run a city.

…Mr. Booker is better suited to speechmaking in Washington than to governing a state.

They say Mr. Booker’s frequent Twitter posts to his 1.3 million followers, his appearances on television and at gatherings of moguls and celebrities — he was out of town nearly a quarter of the time between January 2011 and June 2012, according to The Star-Ledger — have distracted him from the local trench work needed to push his agenda. Business leaders say he dazzles at news conferences, but flags on the follow-through. Residents have wearied of the outside fascination for the mayor whom Oprah Winfrey called “a rock star” and Jon Stewart on Wednesday referred to as “the superhero mayor of Newark.”

Taxes have risen more than 20 percent over the past three years, even after the city laid off about 1,100 workers, including more than 160 police officers. Crime has risen, and unemployment is up. Schools remain under state control, and the city’s finances remain so troubled that it cannot borrow to fix its antiquated water system. While new restaurants have risen near the Prudential Center downtown, those in the outer wards were placed under a curfew this year because of shootings and drug dealing.

“There’s a lot of frustration and disappointment,” said Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, a Democrat representing Newark. “People feel that the mayor basically is out of the city too much and doesn’t focus much on the day-to-day.

Asked about complaints from residents and business owners that garbage is not picked up, abandoned buildings are not boarded up and public spaces are in disrepair, the mayor talked about a new system that allows him to track which streets need snowplows and which departments are paying for too much overtime — even when he is out of town.

He invited a reporter to see the system in action. He then called to apologize that he could not be there: “I’m in and out of New York all day.”

Instead, his staff demonstrated the system. Mr. Booker was on his way to host a reading at a bookstore on the Upper West Side, filmed by CNN. He then spoke at a benefit at Cipriani and attended a movie premiere at Google’s New York headquarters. Afterward, he announced on Twitter, “I sat on a panel with Richard Branson.”

Yes, I told you so.

In Which I Pour More Fuel on the Cory Booker Fire

20 Apr

About six weeks before Cory Booker ran into a neighbor’s home to save her from a fire, a building he owned—but didn’t live in—caught fire.  Booker had bought the building, and the one next door, in 2009 as a residence for him and his parents. But after the renovations got too costly, he abandoned both buildings and bought another place elsewhere. He’s been looking for buyers ever since. Squatters moved into the absentee-owned building, and may have in fact started the fire. (h/t Matt Sledge)

Forgive the video below—it and the music are truly atrocious—but before everyone starts jumping on me, remember: I didn’t start this fire.

 

Update (11:45 am)

Turns out the neighbors of Booker’s abandoned buildings have been complaining about lack of maintenance, rodents, squatters, etc. for some time. According to them, he was not the most neighborly of absentee-owners.

Stephen Colbert Agrees with Me about Cory Booker

20 Apr

My post about Cory Booker pissed a lot of people off. At least Stephen Colbert got the point: “This big dog has shown us how to neuter big city budgets. Fire all the municipal workers and let our elected officials do their jobs.” (h/t Steven Sherman)

 


In Which I Rain on Everyone’s Cory Booker Parade

13 Apr

Everyone’s giddy about Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s rescue of a neighbor last night from her burning house. The Twitterati are calling him a superhero and comparing him to the Seal team that killed Osama bin Laden. If Cory Booker hadn’t come along, Aaron Sorkin would have to invent him.

This isn’t the first time that Booker has rushed to a scene of hazard and saved the day: during a blizzard two winters ago, he was out there shoveling snow, getting praise for doing the things we expect city workers, and not mayors, to do.

Booker, in fact, admits he has no training in firefighting or rescue, and the director of the Newark Fire Department made a special point of noting that his actions last night were ill-advised: “While the heroics of the mayor are unparalleled, we don’t encourage people to run into burning buildings.”

The whole story speaks to a quintessentially American love of amateurism and cowboy theatrics, but it also speaks to our neoliberal age: like the superhero of comic-book lore, Booker is a stand-in, a compensation in this case for a public sector that doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work—the reason we put more stock in the antics of a Batman Mayor than a well paid and well trained city employee—is that we’ve made it not work: through tax cuts, privatization, and outsourcing, policies that Booker himself often supports.

Despite all that, Booker’s antics—and the starstruck response it has elicited from otherwise sane journalists and commentators—are actually more reminiscent of a very different kind of politician from a very different kind of time. As Slavoj Žižek wrote about the cult of personality around Stalin in Did Someone Say Totalitarianism?

This implicit acknowledgment of impotence is also the hidden truth of the divinization of the Stalinist Leader into a  Supreme Genius who can give advice on almost any topic, from how to repair a tractor to how to cultivate flowers: what this Leader’s intervention in everyday life means is that things do not function on the most everyday level—what kind of country is this, in which the supreme Leader himself has to dispense advice about how to repair tractors?

Indeed: what kind of country is this?

A special thanks to Jodi Dean for the Žižek reference.

Update (5:30 pm)

Sandra Williams reminds me of this excellent Black Commentator piece on the love Cory Booker got and gave to the right-wing Manhattan Institute.

Update (11 pm)

Not surprisingly, this post has generated lots of reactions.  Here are some of my favorite tweets of the day:

 

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