So, how will his legacy fare, given all of that? “Newark is a very poor city. That fact limits what any elected official can accomplish,” observed Roland V. Anglin, director of The Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers University in Newark. He told NewsOne in an email:
The mayor immediately before Booker, Sharpe James, can point to the development of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the Prudential Center as anchor projects that will cement his legacy. The James administration stayed around for 20 years, and voters probably asked [then], “Have things changed for the better?”
Cory Booker brought new ideas about neighborhood security, economic development and prisoner reentry to the table. Booker also tried to modernize the city’s administrative infrastructure. While not headline-grabbing, his push to bring city government into the digital age may well be one of his more tangible legacies. He also made hard choices by cutting spending, and in the process, angering many residents who lost their jobs in city government.
Booker did not solve poverty in Newark, nor did he usher in a mecca for the “creative class” as some now refer to upwardly mobile professionals. Booker did create a stable climate where philanthropy and the private sector now feel comfortable investing in the city. Booker also made strides in crime reduction, but young males of color still kill each other far more than is acceptable. But one thing about Cory Booker, he is leaving Newark better than he found it, and that is the acid test of leadership.
Whether the upward trend continues largely falls on the shoulders of whomever wins the election to become the city’s next mayor. That contest will be held on May 13, 2014. The candidates include North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr., former Attorney General Shaver Jeffries, Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif, West Ward Councilman Ron Rice and Newark City Councilman Ras Baraka.