"You’re dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don’t even know the flavor.” Remember when U.S. Senator Cory Booker said that?
Well, now we know the Kool-Aid is lead flavored and it’s Booker’s fault.
But how is the lead in Newark’s water Booker’s fault? He’s no longer mayor.
True, Booker is no longer mayor, but he was Newark’s mayor from 2006 – 2013 and part of being mayor also made him ex-officio chairman of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation (NWCDC).
The Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation, according to Politico:
The NWCDC was created in the 1970s initially to manage the 35,000 acres of forest and wetlands that Newark owned in the northern part of the state. It was classified as a nonprofit and its only client was the City of Newark. By the time Booker was elected in 2006, the agency was contracted to run virtually all of Newark's water infrastructure.
“The agency was contracted to run virtually all of Newark’s water infrastructure.” The problem is that while serving as ex-officio chairman of NWCDC Booker did nothing. Nothing might be an understatement because Booker did find a way, indirectly, to profit from NWCDC. According to the America’s Rising PAC:
Booker oversaw and strengthened the watershed while serving as mayor. Booker’s former employer, Trenk, DiPasquale, Webster, profited over $200,000 from its work with the watershed while Booker’s former law partner, Elnardo Webster, “had been acting as the watershed’s counsel.” Booker was also personally receiving money from the law firm during that period as well. As the Daily Beast noted:
“[W]hile Booker was profiting from the firm, they were profiting from Newark: over $2 million in work for Newark’s Housing Authority, the Watershed Conservation Development Corporation, and a wastewater agency. ‘That’s almost like Sharpe James-type shit,’ one New Jersey Democratic operative offered.”
Not only wasn’t Booker attending meetings, but for at least three years he had no one attend meetings in his place. Again, according to the Washington Times:
Booker’s negligence was partly to blame for the corruption at the watershed. He tried to distance himself from the scandal with the excuse that he had not been paying attention or attending meetings:
“[T]he comptroller’s office noted in their report that the mayor did not attend a single meeting regarding the agency. He instead sent a business administrator in his place, and then when the administrator resigned, in 2010, Booker never replaced them. He had no time to go to the meetings, he said. Never mind that a dearth of free time never seemed to get in the way of a commencement address, or a talk-show appearance, or a social-media stunt.”
The corruption? Again, according to Politico:
Multiple investigations eventually determined that a Booker ally and the agency's director, Linda Watkins Brashear, was running a patronage pit — awarding no-show contracts, playing the markets with agency funds, cooking the books, and pocketing close to $1 million in undeclared income.
We know Watkins Brashear was an ally because she was a Booker donor. According to the Star-Ledger, way back in 2014:
Brashear donated more than $5,000 to Booker and his political allies in Newark between 2008 and 2010, according to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, and shows up as a volunteer on several of Booker's filings. She donated $1,000 to Booker's Senate campaign last year, according to FEC filings.
But what about the lead, how is that Cory Booker’s fault?
The answer is in the previously linked Washington Times article:
A report from the engineering firm CDM Smith released in October said a decrease of pH levels in the system was likely a major contributing factor to the elevated lead levels in the city’s water supply in 2017 and 2018. The lower pH levels caused the pipes to start leaching.
The pH range was 8.5 to 9.0 during the 1990s, fell to a range of 8.0 to 8.3 until 2013 and then decreased to the recent average of about 7.1, the report said.
Mr. O’Flaherty said a decision to reduce the pH levels from about 8 to 7 would have been made at some point between 2012 and 2016 — a time frame that overlaps with Mr. Booker’s tenure as mayor.
“That’s the cause of everything,” he said. “I do not know when the decision was made. I do not know who made it.”
To be fair, the decision to lower pH levels could have been made after Booker left Newark City Hall, but these problems do not happen overnight. Years of mismanagement of NWCDC are to blame and it was Booker who allowed that mismanagement to happen.
I’m not the only one who says it’s Booker’s fault. According to Columbia University economics professor Brendan O’Flaherty in the Washington Times article:
“Booker has no credibility, especially on water,” said Brendan O’Flaherty, an economics professor at Columbia University who put together a 2011 report on the commission. “He did not leave a legacy of a well-functioning water treatment plant and engineering corps. He left a mess.”
Enjoy your Kool-Aid Mr. Booker.