Booker talks about urban renewal and seducing employers back to an abandoned city.
Question: How has Newark changed under your leadership?
Cory Booker: Well, it's been this intense two years. A lot of difficult fights, and I think I am excited to say, I can breathe in deep that here in the beginning of 2008, as we are coming to the close of the first quarter, that inarguably Newark has hit the crossroads, or a tipping point even, if to steal from Malcolm Gladwell. We, we on every measure things are showing some very dramatic change, I mean violent crime in many ways, people have Newark, New Jersey, cache for crime and criminality. Last summer, we captured the headlines with a savage execution-style murder of three kids, and here, less in a year later, we now lead the nation in violent crime turn-arounds, we're down over 70% murders now in the city. We are down I think somewhere between 30% and 50% in shootings as well, because our community really banded together and there is something really magical going on and suddenly after an outflow of investment, businesses, we are now seen that starting to reverse as more companies are coming. You know, we are building our first office building in the city of Newark in years. We are building our first four-star hotel in the years in the city of Newark. Companies are moving to Newark, law firms are moving to Newark. So, on the lot of different levels, you see exciting things happening. We're reclaiming city parks has been abandoned for decades that are large $40 million fund of reclaim our green spaces. We're discovering environmental movement in Newark and greening our city with real strategic plans and bringing together a brain trust from around the country. So, so many things are starting to come and it was hard two years, I think to get to the point where we are now, where if you walk around the city of Newark people sort of feel it and are starting to see themselves for who they really are, this dynamic powerful city of Americans in the deepest sense of that word. We are brick city in America and I thought about our architecture, we're brick city, because we are tough, we're resilient, we're strong, we're enduring the most importantly when we come together there is nothing we can't create. So, I think we are city about to demonstrate to the nation what is possible when it comes to urban transformation in a very short period of time.
Question: What models of urban transformation have you looked to?
Cory Booker: That was a blessing to me. First I studied cities academically before I got into politics, but more importantly when we took that beating 2002 and narrowly lost this bruising election. Immediately clicked in my mind and my runs around the city of Newark that, “okay, we narrowly lost that time, but there is nothing going to stop us now,” and with that conclusion I did descendent risky and I went out raise money not only for nonprofit that I started, but I also was talking to people, I said “I want to just do a study of cities around America and look at best practices and hardest lessons learned” and we company called the Institute for Excellence and I hired a guy and Harvard MBA who is just became a phenomenal friend and I said “let’s start looking at these models and these theories that you mentioned about who is doing what well" and start looking at Bloomberg’s Parks Program, which was really phenomenon. The actively based costing that Goldsmith introduced in Indianapolis city stat that they introduced in Baltimore and we just start finding great things at different cities we are doing and talking to great guru’s like Michael Porter who is in the ICIC institute for initiative for competitive in our cities and just starting piecing together a vision, statement and our vision plan, vision and a plan for the city of Newark. So, when we hit the ground, we actually did win the next election by landslide, we actually were ready to go and start say “okay, now we would like city stat so much, let start our performance based model of governance, we liked what they were doing in this city, let’s start to employ that” and we also study around city deep enough to know what were our competitive advantages as a city or what were our assets we are under utilized, what were the low hanging fruits that we get really quick, what were the deeper problems that we had to attack soon, what were the areas we need to raise our hand and say, “help and get McKinsey to come in, Boston consulting group and allow the people help us for mono in the very beginning. What were some key leadership needs that we had in and do recruiting? So, all this is helped us and that is the wonderful thing, almost the best thing I could say, not the best thing, but one great example of this is, “American government is changing and people don’t realize it, because they are so focused on the national level, but on the local level, there is something really wonderful going on the belies party politics. I mean so often this disheartening the tender of politics in the last, since I have been an a voter frankly, it is just disheartening where I see going on, on congressional level, but very quietly beneath all that on the city level on little bit see into the governors. You are starting to see people be so much more about pragmatism in problem solving and not giving a down where side of the isle you come from. I am even that list of Mayors I mention before doing good. They were publics and democrats in that list. So, one of my favorite stories tell is, as soon as I win I get calls from potential presidential candidates and stuff like that “Well, congratulation Mayor Booker” and they all I am grateful, I have rudely and flattered that a lot of folks reached out to me, but the type of call they came from other Mayors around the country were markedly different. They call up and said “Yeah, you won.” Now let me tell you how to save 10% or cut 10% for your expenditures in your first year in your office …. Yeah, you won, let me tell you how our performance review system comes” even the people like Randolph were now governors said “You, get down here, meet with my former chief staff, so you guys go over some of the things you do.” It is almost like the sharing of ideas. We all joke in so lot of the young Mayors on the country about Bloomberg being Mayoral school one-on-one and he invited out my team over, we sat with them, what a genius he is and again he ran as a publican. So, there are all Americans out there, they are so fatigue to party politics and looked everyday at real problems, real people and say “we have got to figure out ways to attack these things, they are not about ideology, not about party or about getting the job done” and that’s the most refreshing thing about Mayors around America. That I knew, so when I was out there stumping for Bob and dating in Ohio, I actually sat there with the Mayor with date on Ohio, she and I shared ideas and its just existing thing happening in America. I think that what most Americans are, we are not right, we are not left, we are in the centre in the heart of America and we are trying to just make life’s better for people. It is a shame that are party process in some ways become so twisted that we often forget that, but I do have a confidence of that’s this movement in America is starting to grow and I am a beneficiary of that. I have a tremendous gratitude towards a dozens of mayors around America from as close to buyers trend New Jersey to as far away as San Francisco and Los Angeles who take in their to help me as a young mayor coming up to solve real problems.
Question: Your predecessor is now on trial. Does this have greater symbolic value for the city?
Cory Booker: Look I tried not to focus on his trail or what he is going through beyond prayer and I don’t care who you are and again this was my professional nemesis so to speak, but in many ways everybody is a gift to you and many ways my competition with him was a gift to me I learnt so many valuable lessons. So, right now, I have to love him as well, I have to hold him in prayer and that’s why tell my service, “look he is not to focus, the focus is what we are trying to do right now, set possible energy there into the larger concept of justice in our country.” So, it’s not a symbol, the reality is most people are going to focused on what’s Newark crime rate. Now, for the first quarter, but at the end of the year are they doing what they our goal is doing, which is being the best setting the national standard for transformation on public safety, what are they doing for kids. If I am a voter in the city in Newark I don’t care about besides a spectacle of about what’s happening with the trail, what some other came before, what I care about is my kid going to be safe walk to the corner store, is my kid is going to other good school, is my kid is going to have something to do after school, is it going to enrich their lives, am I going to have a good jobs so I can get my child good housing and my family good housing. So, I move up economically, can I buy home and be a home owner, I mean these are all the things that saw for the year residents in my city are really concerned with. So, there is drama and there is spectacle, but that’s just not really important, what’s important now is my team getting the job done and not doing - and also getting the job done, working in part of this residence towards the higher ends of the all city.