Saturday, October 17, 2009

Inspiring leaders

I watched Newark Mayor Cory Booker kiss and make up with late night talk show host Conan O'Brien last night, after they spent the better part of recent days trading insults. It started, not surprisingly, with Conan mocking Newark. Newark, and the other New Jersey cities, and, come to think of it, the whole damn state, are often the punchlines to many jokes, and usually, I don't care much because there are 8 million of us jammed into the little telephone booth of a state, and it's because this place is great. It's where everyone wants to be. The way I figure, those on the outside looking in are just jealous.

Sometimes, though, there are morsels of truth in teasing. Newark, like other New Jersey cities, are gritty and suffering. But occasionally, special leaders come along and give everything to improve the lives of those they represent, and they work to honor a place's history. Conan, I'll bet, saw that quality in Mayor Booker, and it moved him. It moved him enough to donate $50,000 of his own money to Booker's Newark Now initiative, and the talk show host was able to get NBC to match that donation, sending Booker home with $100,000. Newark Now helps to provide Newark residents with skills, tools, and support to transform their neighborhoods.

I admit, I once accused Booker of being a big baby because former hockey announcer, Barry Melrose, warned visitors to the Devils' arena of the dangers of Newark, and it sent Booker into a tizzy. What I didn't know is that Melrose had never even BEEN to Newark. When he made it to the city, Melrose was fed and watered and shown about, and he apologized. Although, in my experience, Canadians — and Melrose is Canadian — are very quick to apologize. But I think he, at least, did it publicly.

I think if Trenton had a leader willing to freak the hell out at all of the criticism coming from outside our city, we'd be in much better shape. Instead, our mayor poses for Esquire, and makes cameo appearances in Tyler Perry productions, and buries his face in the buttocks of the Clintons. It's all about Doug, and never about Trenton. You're planning to run again, aren't you Doug? Your big ticket appointments have not been realized, Doug, and somehow, we still have some meat on our bones. Please stop using us, Doug. Please. For all that is good and right.

Why was it an ordinary citizen who delivered the Trenton care package to the jackass who wrote the nasty letter to the editor about our city? Why is it ordinary citizens who tout the city's strengths (and, okay, the weaknesses, too) with their blogs and Twitter accounts? Why are the residents organizing the rallies and vigils?

I'm not looking for the government to do everything for me, but I am looking for my leaders to inspire. That's not happening in Trenton. Doug needs to go.

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