Cory Booker, hero with a snow shovel and a smartphone
The efforts of Newark Mayor Cory Booker to clean up his city feature prominently in the Peabody-Award-winning Docu-Series BRICK CITY, the second season of which will premiere on Sundance Channel on January 30. Those efforts are also capturing major attention this week, thanks to Booker’s use of Twitter to come to the aid of Newark citizens trapped in the aftermath of the blizzard that brought the Northeast to a standstill.
Time magazine, which has dubbed the mayor “a social-media superhero, able to move towering snowbanks in a single push — or by sending the shovels and plows your way,” explains:
After a blizzard started blanketing the Northeast on Dec. 26, an event that earned the Twitter hashtag #snowpocalypse, Booker turned the microblogging site into a public-service tool. Residents of the city, which has a population of around 280,000, swarmed Booker’s account (@CoryBooker) with requests for help, and the mayor responded. He and his staff have bounced around Newark shoveling streets and sending plows to areas where residents said they were still snowed in. “Just doug [sic] a car out on Springfield Ave and broke the cardinal rule: ‘Lift with your Knees!!’ I think I left part of my back back there,” he reported in one message. One person let Booker know, via Twitter, that the snowy streets were preventing his sister from buying diapers. About an hour later, Booker was at the sister’s door, diapers in hand.
But Time, which says Booker’s “frantic Twitter feed reads like an action novel,” isn’t the mayor’s only admirer in the media. In the days since the blizzard, his snow-shovel-wielding, diaper-delivering heroism has been glowingly covered by outlets including CNN, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, BBC News, ABC News, the New York Daily News, AFP, and the New York Times, among many others.
“Quite frankly, awe inspiring,” gushed TheWrap of Booker’s social-media-facilitated response to his constituents snowy travails.
Noting that four times as many people followed Booker’s Twitter feed as lived in Newark, Politico enthused. “This is the kind of urban politics as personal performance perfected, on their better days, by Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch, a model in which the mayor is also the city’s mascot. It’s also a reminder that Booker, with Sarah Palin, is one of the handful of figures with a real handle on the new media.”
“While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vacationed in Disney World, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, raced around his blighted and beleaguered city delivering diapers to stranded mothers, providing aid to women in labor and personally lifting cars out of the snow — all while subsisting on Diet Coke and Advil,” Wired.com commended. “We’ve seen no end of committed public servants in pre-Twitter American history, but never has a public official been able to communicate with — and respond to — constituents so effectively during a crisis of such magnitude.”
“While one day of shoveling the driveways of the people could have been seen as a PR stunt, two days of such kindness suggests actual kindness!” Gothamist breathlessly declared.
Even the stingy-with-the-compliments New York Observer was moved to call Newark residents “the lucky constituents of America’s hardest-working mayor.”
Inevitably, and understandably, many outlets compared New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s response to the snowfall unfavorably to Booker’s, as many New York streets went unplowed for days following the storm and the mayor merely shrugged off complaints. New York magazine echoed the thoughts of many when it snarked, “Take that, Mayor Bloomberg … Cory Booker is taking on the 2010 Tsnownami like a real man.”