Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat who’s eying a U.S. Senate bid, said New Jersey’s biggest city will add new police officers this year as growing revenue will free the city from dependence on emergency state aid.
“After years dating back to the 1990s, I declare this year Newark’s year of budgetary independence,” Booker, 43, said in his annual speech about the state of the city. “Our budget is now strong, our budget is now balanced, and, in fact, our revenues are growing and our tax base is expanding.”
Booker said he’ll also seek to set up a civilian review board after misconduct complaints against the police department. “It is my vision that this citizen-lead police oversight panel will help us to make Newark a model for police-community trust,” he said in a prepared text of the speech. “With more police, we will double down on our efforts to improve police- community relations.”
Booker in 2010 fired more than 160 police officers, or 15 percent of the force in the city of almost 278,000, after Republican Governor Chris Christie cut local aid in his first budget. About one-fourth of Newark’s residents live in poverty. City statistics show a 5 percent increase in crime this year through March 3 compared with a similar period a year ago.
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The mayor said he will seek to add more than 50 new police officers this year, and more in 2014. Newark will “break through” and end its past reliance on state aid as an expanding tax base lets the city increase the department’s roster, Booker said. Booker said the city also won’t need to seek state transitional funding for distressed cities.
Booker was the first to line up a bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat. Booker said Dec. 20 that he is exploring a run.
Lautenberg, who at 89 is the oldest member of the Senate, said last month that he won’t seek a sixth term in 2014, setting off a wide-open race.
Booker is a rising star in the national Democratic Party — he was a speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and helped lead its platform committee. He may have to contend with New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney of West Deptford, the state’s highest-ranking Democratic lawmaker, and U.S. Representative Frank Pallone for his party’s nomination. Both have expressed interest in the post.
The 2014 Senate campaign will be the first for an open seat in the Garden State since 2002. No New Jersey Republicans have been elected to the chamber since Clifford Case in 1972, and none have said they might make a bid for the office since Lautenberg announced his plan to step down.
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