Cory Booker, the Mayor Who's Everywhere

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 13 2012 11:35 AM

Cory Booker, the Mayor Who's Everywhere

132200893
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Honoree Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark attends the 2011 Emery Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on November 10, 2011 in New York, City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Macy's)

Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Macy's

When I first heard that a mayor had run into a burning building to save a neighbor, I knew it would turn out to be Cory Booker. On July 1, 2006, Booker was sworn in as Mayor of Newark, N.J. Less than two weeks later, he and some security staff left city hall and spotted a cop, fully armed, confronting a man wielding scissors. Jennifer 8. Lee explained what happened next.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Mr. Booker, 37, who played tight end on Stanford University’s football team, said, “I took off my jacket and gave chase.”
The two officers with him, Billy Valentin and Kendrick Isaac, began running, too.
The guards overtook Mr. Booker and took the man down in front of a parking lot.
Mr. Valentin, 37, a 12-year veteran of the force, said, “He actually didn’t see it coming because he was looking at the officer with the gun, and we came from behind.’’
When Mr. Booker reached the group, he began shouting at the robber: “Not in our city anymore! These days are over!”
Advertisement

Booker was living up to a role that he'd spent years writing for. When he moved to Newark, he made sure to live in a housing complex in one of the city's less-desirable neighborhoods. In 2002, when he first ran for mayor, he cooperated with a documentary crew that discovered a true underdog story -- it helped, probably, that the victorious incumbent literally shoved the cameras away. After Booker was elected, and after he stopped the crime, the camera crews returned for a documentary TV series.

Does any municipal politician have a better sense of his own brand? No. Another example: Booker has used Twitter to provide yet more proof that he is living, breathing, and dreaming Newark, acting like a sort of New Jersey Jack Hawksmoor. Most politicians use their accounts for some self-promotion and to duck their heads in when a crisis needs commenting on. Booker has tweeted nearly 15,000 times, and he has 1.1 million followers. The city of Newark only has 278,000 residents. Booker seems to know every single one of them. He retweets them when they complain about a crime or a poor city service. He retweets them when they talk about how much weight they've lost on the Booker/Michelle Obama-endorsed "Let's Move" campaign. Booker follows nearly 59,000 people; Newt Gingrich, to pick another example, follows less than 500 people.

So it seems like Booker is everywhere. He isn't. Crime in Newark has actually risen since 2010, after stimulus money started to run dry and the city laid off police officers. But at the same time, Newark's been able to reverse a population slide and add residents for the first time since the churning white flight of the 1970s. Booker has turned himself into an avatar and ambassador for a whole city. In small ways, it actually sort of works.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.