All kidding aside, Newark's Mayor Booker relates his policy challenges and success
In a public conversation at NYU Wagner before more than 125 students, Newark, N.J., Mayor Corey Booker offered hard-won insight, progress reports and humor in describing how his administration's strategies to reduce recidivism are contributing to broad civic improvement.
Mayor Booker fielded questions October 8, 2009, about his pattern-breaking efforts from Ellen Schall, Dean of Wagner, and the audience on a day when, as it happened, he was attracting national attention for countering quips delivered by TV talk-show host Conan O'Brien at Newark's expense. The mayor told students that New Jersey's largest city is simply "not the butt of jokes," but conceded that matching O'Brien laugh-for-laugh is no easy challenge.
But Booker had the audience chuckling at several points, even as he described serious and substantial efforts since his election in July, 2006, to set a national standard for urban transformation. He noted he has created several public/private partnerships and brought together civic group to rehabilitate and green the city's parks and playgrounds, doubled affordable housing construction, and set up model programs to assist at-risk youth and empower ex-offenders to thrive in meeting their family obligations.
Booker said with evident pride that only 3 percent of the ex-offenders who participated in an innovative fraternity on fatherhood begun by the city two years ago have been re-arrested, showing that carefully tailored programs can end a publicly and personally tragic cycle of recidivism. He said he calls the fatherhood program DADS, or Delta Alpha Delta Sigma, he joked. He hopes that by working to bring proven business analytical measurements and operational management techniques to the city administration, such efforts will be scaled up and replicated elsewhere. "Most cities," he said, "don't have a mature prisoner-reentry system."
The 39-year-old Mayor Booker said he's working to turn the city's well-regarded charter schools -- currently overseen by Wagner alumnus De'Shawn Wright -- "from "islands of excellence to hemispheres of hope." With the help of philanthropic organizations and researchers, transferring the Newark charters' formula for high achievement to the rest of the 45,000-student school system is achievable, he said.
"Hopelessness is probably one of the worst toxins in any city, it's a cancer, and it really undermines what you're trying to do," said the mayor. But in referring to his deepening involvement in public service, he then added, "It hasn't been easy, but it's been so rewarding."
The evening event was sponsored by The NYU Wagner Students for Criminal Justice Reform and The Black Allied Law Students Association.
An Exercise in Hard Budget Choices
At NYU Wagner event, OMB Director Orszag describes remedies for U.S. deficit [Video]
Peter Orszag, Director of the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), talked about the enormous U.S. budget deficit, its primary causes, and its potential implications for health care, higher education, and the career prospects of younger people in an address November 3rd at New York University sponsored by the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Orszag was introduced by John Sexton, NYU's President, and Ellen Schall, the Dean of NYU Wagner, who served as the event's moderator and in her opening remarks noted that Orszag was the youngest member of President Barack Obama's cabinet.
Last year, Orszag told the audience of more than 400 people at NYU's Kimmel Center, the federal deficit was $1.4 trillion ,and a comparable budget gap is projected for the present fiscal year. Over the next decade, he said, the federal government is projected to generate additional red ink of $9 trillion. "Deficits of this size are serious and ultimately unsustainable," Orszag said.
The event was broadcast live by Fox Business while generating a significant amount of public interest and media coverage. To read an official text of the speech or view the NYU webcast, click on the links below.