6 strange ways Cory Booker helps his constituents [Updated]
Natalia Jimenez/Star Ledger/Corbis
In addition to being a rising star in the Democratic Party, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, N.J., has built up a reputation for going above and beyond the call of duty. Here, six reasons to think he's America's hardest-working civil servant:
1. He will help you propose to your girlfriend
This week, Booker helped a former constituent play cupid. Israel Burns contacted the mayor via Twitter and asked him if he would help him pop the question to his girlfriend. Within minutes, Booker tweeted back, "I am a romantic. Please DM me. Sounds fun." Booker eventually called up Burns' girlfriend to tell her to go to a special location, where Burns was ready on one knee. "Taking a few minutes out of my hectic day to be a small part of that was a gift to me," Booker said.
2. He will live off food stamps for a week
After feuding on Twitter with a North Carolina mom over welfare programs, Booker decided to make a point by taking the "food-stamp challenge." The challenge, which required him to live off of $4 a day (the average amount that a food-stamp recipient receives in benefits), purported to show that those who depend on food stamps aren't exactly living a life of luxury. "This is hard. But what has me profoundly humbled is that this is a week — just a week — and then I'm done," Booker told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. "But millions of Americans are living with food insecurity, with worry and concern about affording food — healthy, decent food for their families and children."
3. He will punch through flames to save your life
Booker came home from a television interview one night to find that the house next door was on fire. He and his bodyguards told all the residents to flee, while Booker and police officer Alex Rodriguez made their way to the second floor to extricate a trapped woman. Rodriguez tried to hold Booker back, but the mayor reportedly responded, "If I don't go in, this lady's going to die." Booker disappeared into a wall of flame, and emerged an "eternity" later, according to Rodriguez, with the woman in tow. "I couldn't see anything but the flames," Booker later told CBS. For a moment, he thought they were trapped in the woman's apartment, but he "punched" his way through the fire until he found Rodriguez on the other side, and suffered smoke inhalation and second-degree burns for his heroism.
4. He will shovel your driveway in a blizzard
While residents of New York City were slamming Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his office's inept response to a 2010 blizzard, Booker was out on the streets shoveling snow, directing plow trucks, and communicating with his constituents via Twitter. One resident tweeted, "My street is covered nobody can get out 2 leave 4 work its been 2 days we need help," which prompted Booker to respond, "On it asap." And he meant that, literally.
5. He will patrol your streets looking for criminals
Newark is one of America's most crime-riddled cities, and Booker made reducing crime a priority when he became mayor in 2006. In addition to overhauling the city's law enforcement, installing surveillance cameras, and cracking down on drug-dealing, Booker for a while personally patrolled the "streets with his security team until 4 in the morning," says Sean Gregory at TIME. The drop in crime from all those efforts has been described as "stunning."
6. He will starve himself to clean up your neighborhood
In 1999, when Booker was still a city council member, he went on a 10-day hunger strike "in front of one of Newark's worst housing projects… to protest the city government's apparent indifference to open-air drug markets," says Lanny Davis at The Washington Times. In 2000, in a similar protest, he lived in a motor home on one of Newark's worst drug corners.
Editor's note: This article — originally published on April 13, 2012 — was last updated on February 28, 2013.