Romano, Andrew, Newsweek
Byline: Andrew Romano
Newark's Mayor has long been considered one of the most promising politicians of his generation. Now, with a $100 million education grant from Facebook, he's hoping to become one of the most influential.
One of your goals in Newark has been to "set a national standard for urban transformation." What can other cities learn from what you've accomplished?
The great thing about cities these days is that success doesn't exist in a vacuum. More and more, the first thing I see happening with new mayors is them reaching out to other mayors. That's what I did when I entered office, and that's what other mayors are now doing with me. The reason we had four years of double-digit reductions in shootings is that we approached crime as more than just a police issue. We have the first-ever pro bono legal service for ex-offenders. We have one-stop centers for youth coming out of prison; we have a fatherhood program that's gotten a lot of national attention. If you think someone's carrying an illegal gun, all you do is call a tip line. You get four digits, you call back and see if we've made an arrest--we don't need a conviction, we just want to recover the weapon--and then, if we have, you get another four digits that you can use to get $1,000 from a number of local banks. It's just those eight digits, no questions asked. Many of these are ideas we took from other cities and tried to improve on.
Why is there more cooperation between cities now than in the past?
There's a famous quote from Fiorello La Guardia: "There's no Democratic or Republican way to fix a pothole." Mayors don't have time for pontification. They demand progress. Many people on the national level--especially in the national legislature--see it as "If the other side wins, I lose." That turns politics into a zero-sum game. The better metaphor for my level of government is a candle. If I can light my candle from your flame, we are creating even more light for our country. That's what's going on in cities in America today.
The press tends to treat the recession as an inside-the-Beltway problem. But how has it affected governing on a local level?
The rhetoric you hear on the national level you see in vivid reality here in cities. From soup kitchens to government services, the demands are going up, but the resources to meet those needs are going down, and it's forcing us to be a lot more creative. …