Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mayor Booker at the MI

There are benefits to being a card-carrying member of the working press. Free intellectual stimulation, for one. All of this is to say, if I haven't said so already, that the Manhattan Institute is a wonderful thing.

And that Cory Booker is an impressive guy. The MI had the young mayor of Newark over this morning for a breakfast lecture, purportedly on his new prison-to-work program, but what ultimately became the general story of the city as he found it two years ago, and what he's been doing since.

The background story is better laid out here, but the cartoon summary is that when New York City had Rudy Giuliani, Newark got stuck with Sharpe James, who Booker finally unseated in 2006. Booker's a democrat, but a young, tough-on-crime, school-vouchers-believing one, for whom the sky's the limit politically if he can actually deliver as promised.

Which would be a very good thing, at least judging from the 45 min I got to hear him talk. He's been compared to Barack Obama (young, black, charismatic, community organizer type), but while there are other things to recommend him over Obama, he's not quite as smooth.

He's even got a bit of that Mike-Bloomberg-post-partisan-problem-solver vibe, which would be annoying -- the one cringe-inducing moment of the breakfast came when, searching briefly for the right turn of phrase, he came up with "inefficiencies of the human spirit" -- if the problems he was facing weren't of such a greater magnitude, and if he didn't have the serious street cred to back it up.

His success, of course, remains to be seen, but all signs still indicate that this guy is for real. It tells you something about a guy when he moves into the housing projects immediately upon being elected to the city council and stays there for 8 years -- camping out on the street, among other things, to protest the lack of police protection.

As mayor, not only has he seriously cut the city's crime rate already, he'll also quite frequently tag along with cops on their nightly patrols, sometimes -- sometimes -- chasing down criminals himself.

I'm not quite sure what to think of that last part. It reminds me a bit of Winston Churchill's stint as home secretary back before WWI, when he once famously insisted on commanding a police confrontation with a group of anarchists holed up inside their London hideout. There's a school of thought that says that the great man didn't exactly help matters with his presence.

Then again, it was all part of the same package: A leader who had a strong enough sense of himself and his purpose to think to do something like that as anything more than a PR stunt.

So yeah, press work has its perks.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spring blog-keeping

Hey folks. My apologies for the long hiatus; I'm back now. It's been a busy and distraction-filled few weeks, with some exciting adventures I hope to catch you all up with eventually.

One of the benefits of being away is that I've had occasion to think a bit about this blog -- what I like, what I don't like, and what I'd like to do more of. Some thoughts:

*Three-week vacations aside, this is my 88th post in just under a year. (Yes, it's been that long.) Considering the shelf-life of most comparable "random musings"-style blogs, that's not half bad. I congratulate myself.

*I said when I started this thing that I hoped it would be a good exercise in disciplining my writing. How disciplined I've been, of course, is open to debate, but I've grown to appreciate blogging as a way to preserve my own voice in the midst of a day job that has me writing in a very different style. That's something I want to keep up. To that end, I'm going to try to cut down on posts like these, which -- while fun -- don't really say anything. Not that I'll leave off-beat subjects completely alone, just that when I have something to say about them, I'll actually take the time to say it.

*I suppose I'd be kidding myself if I thought I could completely avoid blogging about the election in the next few months. Still, it's something I'd like to get away from as much as possible. One of the great failings of this blog, as I see it, has been my lack of effort in giving a good account of my life in the city -- which, if I'm honest with myself, probably speaks to my own lack of serious contemplation on that score. No more. Expect this blog to get somewhat more personal in nature, but always with an eye to presenting useful insights and observations in that context. I promise not to start navel-gazing on you.

*To that end, a couple of ideas I've been kicking around for a while: One is to post more about what I'm reading at the moment, whenever I come across something useful to say. This naturally includes interesting lectures I've been to or movies I've seen (of which there have been several lately). The second is to start a bit of travel journaling. One of my favorite things to do here remains to find some random area of the city I've yet to explore, then take an hour or two just walking around. I'll start bringing a camera, too. Though I suppose I should start with a bit of an ode to my own neighborhood, which I've become quite taken with. Stay tuned.