Conan O'Brien vs. Cory Booker: Our Winner

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Last Tuesday, Conan O’Brien was banned from the Newark Airport. His offense? Badmouthing the city of Newark. Apparently to Mayor Cory Booker, talking smack on Newark ranks right up there with carting explosives into EWR. In case you missed it, here was the exchange that prompted Conan's ban.

“The Mayor of Newark, NJ, wants to set up a citywide program to improve residents’ health,” Conan joked on the Tonight Show monologue last week. “The health care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark.”

Mayor Booker then took it to YouTube to release his anger:

Conan certainly isn’t the first to slam Brick City, and Booker took the typical politician gloves off for an entertaining spot. So who reigns victorious in this viral video war? Our Director of Data Operations, who shall to remain nameless to protect his identity and freedom to visit Newark Airport, dug in to our own community information databases to find out who really won this battle royal. Booker says:

“Conan, you fail to understand our city is one of the fastest growing cities in the Northeast. We  have strong neighborhoods, strong people, record reductions in violent crime. We have a city on the rise.”

Newark’s overall violent crime has not decreased as Mayor Booker suggests. Keep in mind the national average of violent crimes per 100,000 people is 195.

Newark crime

While the city has seen drops of crime within certain categories, such as the low murder rate in 2008, overall numbers are climbing. (No word yet for 2009; the most recent FBI data covers through 2008 only.)

As for a city on the rise, we need to know exactly what is rising besides the smoke from Mayor Booker’s ears following the late-night debacle. Between 2007 and last year, the number of households in Newark dropped 3%.

On the bright side, Newark is the home of Rutgers School of Law-Newark, a U.S. News & World Report top tier law school. Newark Downtown's Prudential Center, built in 2007 on Booker's watch, hosts the New Jersey Devils and over 200 events per year. Almost 5% of Newark is covered by parks; the two largest being Weequahic Park and Branch Brook Park. It is a good place to start a business, as some parts of its Urban Enterprise Zone enjoy a 3.5% tax rate as opposed to the statewide rate of 7%.

Unfortunately foreclosures in Essex County, in which Newark is by far the largest city, don't help Mayor Booker's sentiments. Onboard's foreclosure index reported above-average foreclosures for Essex compared to both the U.S. and New Jersey averages.

Essex co foreclosures

With all of that said, the outcome of round one of this late-night fight? Conan-1, Mayor Booker-0. Rest assured: no bias went into this analysis, as the handling and mishandling of New Jersey is a sensitive subject in our office.

As for the next round of banter between Conan and Mayor Booker, well, we'll let you judge that one for yourself.

Image Credit: Boston Public Library on Flickr.com