World News Australia: Cory Booker saves Newark

World News Australia

Cory Booker saves Newark

04 January 2011 | 8:25 | Source: Matthew Hall, SBS

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For those basking in Southern Hemisphere sunshine over the New Year, you might have missed the blizzard that smothered the East Coast of the United States.

There were many stories to come out of the snow, many of them not so good.

Last week’s dump, more than 50 centimeters deep, didn’t work out so well especially for two local political leaders.

Another made international news for the right reasons – and for doing his job – but more on that later.

New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, often criticised for being out of touch with “regular” New Yorkers (if such people exist), was further pounded after suggesting locals “go out and shop or take in a Broadway show” rather than complain about snow.

This was great advice, especially if you lived on Bloomberg’s street which was promptly plowed and appeared pristine soon after snow fell.

But if you lived in Brooklyn (the fourth largest city in America, by the way) where streets remained snowbound for days and subway lines out of service long after the snow struck, then a cute Broadway show was not an option.

Still, at least Bloomberg was in town.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie spent the worst blizzard in decades vacationing in sunny Florida, refusing to return home as the snow piled up.

With Christie enjoying time at Disney World, major roads across New Jersey remained uncleared. One newspaper declared the state’s response as “extraordinarily incompetent”.

“It boggles the mind that a governor would abandon his state in the midst of a natural disaster,” said Bob Mann, communications director to Louisiana’s former Governor during Hurricane Katrina – and he should know.

“[Christie] was in Disney World for crying out loud, of all places. That’s the worse image that you could possibly have.”

Christie, in his defence, says he wouldn’t have come home anyway to drive a plow or shovel people out just to seem like he was on the case.

“I wouldn’t change the decision even if I could do it right now,” Christie said. “I had a great five days with my children. I promised that.”

But rather than complain, let’s meet Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, a New Jersey city just a short train ride from New York City.

You might know Newark for its airport but it’s also something of a troubled city also infamous for its gangs, guns, and drugs.

While Bloomberg was citing Broadway shows and Christie told Jerzoids to quit bugging him about a Disney World vacation, can-do Booker was in the streets with a shovel and a Twitter account.

Booker personally responded to his city’s snowbound residents and turned up to many addresses to shovel snow during the three-day whiteout.

“Still has yet to clean my street & I live across from hospital!” read one tweet.

Replied Booker: “Sending team immediately back there 2 ensure hospital is clear.”

“My grandma is 82 yrs old, she can’t get out,” wrote one woman.

Booker: “Where is she? I will go now.”

Remember Booker’s name, right it on the inside of your palm, or wherever. His snow response demonstrates the strides he has made in turning Newark around.

A graduate of Yale and Oxford universities, an accomplished American football player, he is a driving force in Newark’s slow but steady transformation to somewhere holding hope for the future.

He successfully banned comedian Conan O’Brien from the city – so isn’t always serious.

His achievements have been noted – he turned down an opportunity to work with President Obama on urban development, claiming his commitment to Newark was more important.

Before Obama’s election, Booker was considered most likely to be America’s first black president.

That opportunity has gone – to another “community organiser” – but his most recent performance has done no harm to suggestions that he may be a historic second.

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