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Most conversations with Booker — no matter the topic, no matter the place — typically launch him into a thrilling, sometimes feverish recitation of statistics and indices and benchmarks that attest in one way or another to the good health of Newark.He is all about the hard numbers — he memorizes Newark statistics like he does quotes from famous poets and authors and activists, rattling them off when he can find room for another breath during a meeting or a speech."In the last nine years, 24,811 tax returns equaled million refunded to Newark," reads one.The way the mayor tells it, the national spotlight he's currently enjoying casts a shadow only "over the things that I wish people would focus more on," he says, citing programs like the city's Office of Reentry, which helps the formerly incarcerated reunite with family and find work, and Fathers Now, a program that aids men in regaining employment.Booker says 2013 could be his "most productive" year as mayor.He wants to finish off a 0 million budget deficit, introduce a truly balanced budget, and get a Moody's rating upgrade.
THE POLITICAL MEDIA'S fascination with Booker as a national figure — and not city mayor — came to a head last year when speculation about his political ambitions became a favorite parlor game of the chattering class. media went wild over a potential intra-party feud between Booker and Frank Lautenberg, the 89-year-old senator whose seat Booker is "exploring." "I never thought I would have people asking me for quotes from places like The Hill and Roll Call," he says.
By the time the article goes live — The Stanford Daily with the scoop! Booker had them up all night and day on the phone about it.
"That took 48 hours of our time," says Modia Butler, Booker's chief of staff.
The mayor sits at the head of a mahogany conference table in his large office.
City Hall, at the heart of downtown Newark, is an improbably beautiful rotunda-style building with carved marble and a dome gilded in 24-karat gold — all the fixings for America's favorite mayor.
CORY BOOKER IS in a meeting when the column goes online.