Kiki & Lala

Cory…Not Of The Yellow Variety

Posted on: November 27, 2009

While the Philippines looks to a yellow clad Cory for hope,  the city of Newark, NJ looks to Mayor Cory Booker for hope and for the right kind of leadership that will usher Newark into prosperous times.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of the city of Newark.  Its famous and infamous at the same time. It’s the largest city in NJ and it used to be  a formidable corporate hub housing a diverse selection of corporate headquarters.   It was a melting pot of diverse cultures. As such, it became one of the first with African Americans as the majority race.  However, it’s not exactly your ideal destination nowadays. This city has seen a lot of discrimination, violence and poverty.  I think a lot of it had to do with the riots of 1967 and the city never really bounced back after that.  Or it never really had a good leader at the helm to help it bounce back.

When you see it from a distance as you drive through the turnpike, you can see traces of its fading splendor.

Would you believe that this breathtaking Basilica of Sacred Heart is nestled in Newark, NJ?  The few times I’ve been to Newark I noticed the amazing architecture that still stands.   I get the same feeling as when I walk around the old part of Manila:  pretty buildings with a rich sense of history.  Yet as you walk deeper into the city, you can’t help cut notice the hardship and poverty all around.

Enter Mayor Booker.  What makes him special?

photo credit:

Apart from the fact that he is well educated (Undergrad: Stanford, Rhodes Scholar: Oxford, Law: Yale), he is tech savvy and has intrepid and ingenious ideas, I think as mayor he changed the face of politics and leadership in Newark. Through his out of the box mindset he was able to implement programs solely for the benefit of his city. He introduced a platform of transparency and accountability.  He created an awareness of the problems of Newark and invited experts to help him solve those problems, non-resident experts who now feel they have a stake in the success of this soon to be glorious city.  On the crime battlefront, he hired a White, Irish, no nonsense ex NYC cop to help him cut disturbingly high crime rates in his city – a rather risque move considering the deep-rooted racial tensions between Newark residents and policemen.  He installed close to a hundred surveillance cameras around the city.  And to prove that he meant serious business in his fight against crime, he started joining his policemen do night watch patrols and tweets about these night watches! Result: a 40% reduction in shootings and murders.  And if you still are not impressed, when he was a councilman, he moved into a run-down house in the projects of Newark to understand fully the problem of poverty and homelessness.  Imagine that.  How many public servants would be willing to do this?  Through all these he demonstrated that anything is possible if you have a genuine sense of commitment and a hefty helping of moxie.

His morning run along the projects

For me, the most impressive move he’s done so far was to turn down a very attractive offer to run Obama’s Urban Affairs office in DC.  This Ivy League Alum, Rhodes Scholar, golden colored boy passed up the chance to be a rock star in the nation’s capital. Instead he chose to continue his fight in the streets of Newark because this is a fight that he intends to win.

I’ve been following him on Twitter (and guess what, he’s following me too!) updating us about his many Newark-focused activities and I can’t help but wonder why we don’t have these kinds of leaders back home.   We have well educated  and capable leaders but apparently that’s not enough.   After what happened in Maguindanao, I think our local governments need noble people of this variety DESPERATELY.  We need change, and with the small things that you and I are “working” on I really hope that change is gonna come.


1 Response to "Cory…Not Of The Yellow Variety"

omg – this guy is truly amazing. how many idiots among those who filed their COCs in the past few days would move into an unpleasant neighborhood and do dirty work like go on police patrols???

for so many people running next year, it’s so much about (gutless!) glory and not authentic change – so sad.

having said that though, personal and social change are inextricably linked – start with the (wo)man in the mirror… very tall order.

but yes, we are working on things (and hopefully ourselves!) so things will get better.

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