Booker faces scrutiny at end of tenure as Newark mayor

Booker faces scrutiny at end of tenure as Newark mayor

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NEW JERSEY (MYFOXNY.COM) -

No on doubts Newark Mayor Cory Booker's charisma or ability to capture attention, but some residents of his city are starting to feel that they've been left behind.

Under a bright sky, Newark Mayor Cory Booker showed his ability to accomplish goals in a bipartisan way with Republican Gov. Chris Christie. They cut the ribbon for the Teachers Village complex of housing and schools in downtown Newark.

"This project right here created over 400 to 500 construction jobs when it's all done, it will create 400 to 500 permanent jobs when it's done," Booker said. "It is a project that will yield to the city of Newark, at a time of tough budgets, that will bring hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.'

The need for jobs is urgent. Just ask the 23-year-old father we found walking the streets looking for work with his 4-year-old son. His goal is a regular paycheck.

"It's hard to find a job out here, and when you do get a job, they don't want to pay you, don't want to put you on the clock," he said. "They want to pay you under the table."

Newark's unemployment rate clocked in at 13.7 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's almost double the national average. Creating jobs for Newark residents has been one of Booker's top priorities.

"One of the reasons it didn't go up as much as the state's unemployment rate went up is because of this massive amount of redevelopment we've been having in the city of Newark," Booker says.

Brigid Callahan Harrison, a political science and law professor at Montclair State Univerity, said there is only so much a mayor can do.

"Mayor Booker has really struggled with the economic climate," Harrison says. "There are some things he can do as mayor but many things are beyond his control."

Another issue Booker has struggled with is Newark's murder rate. In 2007, his first year in office, there were 104 murders. That dropped to 67 in 2008 but the murder rate has been rising over the last 5 years. There were 96 murders in 2012 in the city. Booker said they're doing their best.

"We've made some progress. 27% down in shootings, more than 10% down in murders since I've been mayor, but it's not enough," Booker says.

A handful of protestors demonstrated outside the ribbon cutting event. They said there would have been more but most people were at a funeral at the First Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church for murder victim Naqueese McCoolum, a 16-year-old high school junior.

To see that they're here ribbon cutting...the mayor hasn't been here. This is the first time I've seen him," one protester complained.

The issue of the mayor being out of town is resonating with some residents but Booker says he is running for Senate so that he can help big city mayors on a federal level.

Booker's opponent, Republican Steve Lonegan, has hammered Booker for his celebrity-like following at the national level.

He has said that Booker has a "failed record" in Newark.

A recent poll has the race tightening as the October special election nears.

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