4 ways Baraka's first 100 days were different than Booker's

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on October 08, 2014

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and then Newark mayor-elect Ras Baraka met in May to discuss Newark.

 

NEWARK — Newark mayor Ras Baraka and former mayor now current U.S. senator Cory Booker have become allies lately, as they mull over initiatives that are beneficial to Newark. But the two politicians could not have started their time in office more differently. Here are four ways that distinguish their terms.

1. Hiring. Remember Garry McCarthy? Booker nominated the deputy commissioner of operations in the New York Police Department to lead Newark's police force in 2006. But before his nomination could be confirmed, the former police director was accused of "throwing his weight around" during a traffic stop involving his teenage daughter, prompting criticism from some council members.

By contrast, Baraka's nominations for top department head positions were confirmed by the city council with little controversy. That's because the nominations have been known quantities in Newark, said Andra Gillespie, author of The New Black Politician: Cory Booker, Newark and Post-Racial America.

2. The Press. During his first 100 days in office(and beyond) Booker gave dozens of interviews to local and national media, prompting lots of coverage. Baraka has given fewer interviews, preferring to hold a couple of targeted press conferences with local press and issue press releases. This week was the first time Baraka's administration released a public schedule.

3. The Budget. By the time his 100 days rolled around, the Booker administration said it may have to lay off as much as 20 percent or around 800 employees. The city was facing a large "structural deficit," caused by the city over relying on funds from a lawsuit settlement with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to balance its budget. Booker said eventually the settlement money would run out and he wanted to get the city on sound financial footing. The former mayor also said he might raise taxes by 8 percent.

While Booker's proposed tax hike would not have been allowed under Gov. Chris Christie's administration, Baraka pledged early on that there would be no cuts in the police and fire department. "Newark has cut itself to the bone," he has often said. And his latest iteration of the budget that was adopted by the city council on Tuesday includes no layoffs.

4. The State. When Booker entered office, he had the luxury of working with a democratic governor, Jon Corzine. The two managed to keep their relationship out of the headlines. What a difference switching political parties and politicians makes. Baraka and Christie have been at odds publicly for weeks. Christie has called the Newark mayor "hostile" while reiterating the fact that the state controls the school district. And Baraka lambasted the effectiveness of the state's control of the school district and even questioned the governor's capability to be president.

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