??The City Journal?? has a piece giving an overview of Newark’s history of corruption and Mayor Booker’s current challenges with the city: “Cory Booker’s Battle for Newark”:http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_2_cory_booker.html.
But within Newark’s success lay the seeds of its downfall. As it became America’s most heavily industrialized city, Newark attracted the attention of powerful organized-crime families from New York. Their corrupting influence in the early part of the twentieth century spread from gambling and bootlegging into Newark’s unions and manufacturing industries, and eventually into the city’s politics. Abner “Longy” Zwillman, a bootlegger who smuggled through Newark nearly 40 percent of all liquor peddled on the East Coast during Prohibition, bought off enough local officials to take control of the city’s politics from the late 1920s until his death in 1959. Mob influence then passed to Ruggiero “Richie the Boot” Boiardo, a capo in New York’s Genovese crime family, and Angelo “Ray” DeCarlo, who famously helped to fix the 1962 Newark mayoral election for Democratic congressman Hugh Addonizio.
Federal investigations into Addonizio’s sleazy administration later revealed that almost every aspect of Newark’s government operated like a racket. Officials fattened the cost of contracts by 10 percent for kickbacks, and city government even used the same bought-and-paid-for auditors as the mob did. Every Newark citizen and firm paid a corruption tax. One 1950s study found that Newark, with some 460,000 residents, had the most expensive government of any midsize American city, spending nearly twice as much per citizen as the average.
By the 1960s, manufacturers had begun leaving for cheaper regions, just as Newark was absorbing waves of unskilled blacks from the rural South, creating a toxic mix of urban decline that exploded in the 1967 race riots. Fearful and without faith in Newark’s blatantly crooked government, the middle class fled. The city’s population shrank to just 270,000 mostly low-income residents—a 40 percent decline.
Things didn’t get much better under “reform” mayors Gibson and James, and the author notes that it’s this entrenchment that Booker has found himself fighting. The analysis by “Make Newark Clean at NewarkSpeaks”:http://www.newarkspeaks.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4949g is particularly insightful:
An interesting read, especially the history of corruption in this city. Newark’s government has pitched from being barely legally run, to outright indictable-level crookedness for generations! Although this essay is clearly biased, it has reawakened my appreciation of our mayor’s tightrope walk. On the one hand, he has to pledge fealty to a Democratic party structure for which has been ethically challenged for years, while, on the other hand, he has to cannily pick and choose his battles against such long-term entrenchment. Our mayor also seeks to take on more responsibility — seeking to recover the state-seized Newark school system. Good for him. I particularly like his idea of seeking private money to pay for placing Newark’s schoolchildren out of district. It’s a shame that it’s so bad that it’s come to that. But it does seem to indicate that Cory really does care and hasn’t lost his activist bent.