I referred to Newark Mayor Cory Booker as a big baby some weeks ago because he demanded an apology from Canadian hockey broadcaster, Barry Melrose, who described the new hockey arena in Newark thusly: "Don't go outside if you have a wallet or anything else, because the area around the arena is just horrible."
Mayor Booker should have just let it slide, but I just wanted to say, for the record, that there's a good chance he's a decent bloke otherwise. He actually lives in Newark. He has lived in some lousy neighborhoods in Newark, to make a point about conditions in his city. And recently, as reported by the New York Times, and commented on by Old Mill Hill, over on The Front Stoop, Booker proves he has heart, dedication, and courage, because he showed up the other night at one of Newark's police stations, and not only asked why certain types of crimes continued to rise in Newark (like armed robberies, car theft, drug dealing...sound familiar??), but he also let police know that he'd be heading out on foot patrol with them, during the overnight shifts.
Damn! From a regular citizen point-of-view, that's pretty awesome! Cory Booker is my new hero! And hopefully, with his commitment to his city, he can prove Barry Melrose wrong, by insisting on improvements in the arena district.
In the last two weeks, Trenton has seen an unbelievable amount of attacks against regular people. We don't have many assaults in my neighborhood, but were stunned last week to hear about an armed robbery and beating a few blocks from our house. It happened out on Olden Avenue, not too far from a police camera, the middle school, a couple of small shops, and dozens and dozens of homes. I'd like to think there would have to be loads of witnesses, so that the victim can find some closure, and the rude, brazen perpetrator can meet justice. I hate to think that there's a dirtbag walking around our neighborhood preying on regular people, and I imagine if Mayor Douglas Palmer and Police Director Joseph Santiago (a former police director of Newark) took a more hands-on approach to policing, and brought back the foot patrols, constant attacks against people walking home would slow down.
Trenton has a problem with absentee landlords — those who let their properties fall apart around their tenants, and/or those who rent to knuckleheads without a care for the neighborhood — but the bigger problem might be that we have an absentee mayor and police director. They have not invested any of their own time or sweat to a real project in this city in some time, and instead, continue to rely on other out-of-towners, who probably care even less about the city than Palmer and Santiago, all the while the city crumbles.
For instance, council will likely open our purse again this week for Palmer's annointed gang "expert" Barry Colicelli, a former Newark police captain, handing over upward of $91,000 to this guy who says he can make our streets safer. Sometimes things get worse before they get better, but does this guy seem to be making things better here in the time we've been giving him piles of money? Does he really have a plan? The right to call himself "expert"? Colicelli lives in Brielle, but his job description does not require him to live in the city (like Santiago's does). But it's hard to imagine that someone who lives so far away geographically, and in a safe little boating community so completely different than our urban world, and who works only part-time for this city on a full-time problem, is really giving it 100%.
Since Trenton has gotten so good at spending its money on people from Newark, I'd rather see the city pay Newark Mayor's Cory Booker that $91,000 to provide his expertise to Trenton, because he at least understands the needs and fears of urban residents — because he actually is one — and also, because he's obviously the only official from Newark who has honest-to-goodness balls, instead of empty machismo.