Newark mayor calls for Omahans to work together


March 4th, 2011

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Omaha, NE – Hundreds of Omaha young professionals were urged to address issues of community development and poverty by working together this week.

Newark, NJ. Mayor Cory Booker called on Omahans to work together to solve issues of poverty and community development

The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker, was the keynote speaker at the Young Professionals Greater Omaha Summit Thursday. He addressed an audience of about 1,300 business professionals at the Qwest Center.

Newark is a city with high crime rates and gang activities. In fact, in 1996, Newark was called the nation’s most dangerous city. As mayor, Booker said he worked with the Newark community and implemented several programs including a grassroots organization, Newark Now, that helps people with employment, housing, and education. Booker said his favorite program is one that addresses some of the barriers ex-offenders face when re-entering into society as fathers.

[They have] “trouble getting jobs and getting work,” he said, “and they … were going back to prison at rates of 60% or more. So we actually sat down and interviewed them, and said, well, what is going on here? Do you want to be great dads? Let’s create a program by bringing together people to help you.”

Booker said after three years, there’s now a waiting list for the program and the recidivism rate for those enrolled has decreased. After becoming mayor in 2006, Booker focused on reducing the city’s crime rate, starting by hiring more police. In 2008, Newark had the lowest crime rate since 1959, and last March, was the first murder-free month for the city in 44 years. Omaha is no stranger to high crime rates and gang activities either. Booker said we should all start to do “something” no matter how bad things look in the community.

“I just really think everybody should be very conscious in their decisions to make a difference,” he said in an interview after the event, “even if it’s very small… mentoring a young man or young woman is a transformative way to make a change.”

The Young Professionals Summit is an annual tradition hosted by the Omaha Chamber of Commerce: a networking event for business up and comers. But this year’s theme focused on the broader community, with the message that change only comes when the whole community is at the table.

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