Last night I attended the City Council meeting. These are my notes and comments for the meeting…
- All department directors were present for the entire meeting, with the exception of Ed Williams of the Department of Planning and Development.
- Ed Williams has not been named acting Director, even though there is no director since Kromer’s contract was not renewed.
- Privately, people are questioning how Ed Williams is able to teach a class at Rutgers during the day when he has a full time job during that time
- Ed Williams was present at the meeting, but left before any votes or questions came forward, leaving Carrie Turner (The acting director of the Camden Redevelopment Agency) to respond to the many issues that came before council about the planning and development issues.
- Dana Redd was absent. This is the second Council meeting the new Senator has missed. She was however present for caucus last week, the time when council ask the administration questions.
- The honorable Theodore Davis was present for the last half of the meeting. He sat quietly with a thoughtful look on his face. He does not usually attend.
The meeting began with city council presenting resolutions in honor of Camden heroes that have passed.
Dr. Archie Young – Graduated from Woodrow Wilson in 1944. Received a doctorate in chemistry and physics. He invented the rocket fuel that makes airplanes capable of going supersonic. After retiring he received his Masters in Computer Science.
Alice May Williams – Angel Fuentes presented a resolution for this East Camden native that was active in the community and politics for over 50 years of her life. She is the mother of Connie Williams.
Duane Myers was presented a resolution for his donations to schools to Camden students. Accepting the award he stated “even after we move away, Camden is our home and we owe our children a bright future”.
Angel Fuentes proposed creating a Camden Hall of Fame.
Danny Bourdua was presented a resolution for starting a trash art project in Camden.
The Important Votes
The administration was approved for adding new positions. The positions will be to staff Eyes in the Sky. Eyes in the Sky is a program that will have video cameras in high crime areas in the city. There is a committee that meets regularly to discuss this. They have been meeting for a few years. I know that from the community Sharon Miller and Sue Brennan sit there. The new positions will have city employees monitor what is on the screen. As I understand it, this was not what was supposed to occur. Councilman Bill Spearman, stoically sat, without giving the community perspective, even though he sits on the committee where the community has complained about the direction city lawyers are taking to program. I later told him that the community expects him to represent their concerns.
Another Abatement. A tax abatement is a government approved stopping of a private business paying property taxes to the city.
301 Market St., the old bank now being hugged by a falling fence, will become a senior affordable housing unit.
- This is a project that many top level people do not want, but are stuck in a contract
City Council approved a 30 year tax abatement.
- The typical time period is 10 years.
Note: I found this disturbing since just last week, the Chief Operating Officer told me at the CRA board meeting that he does not support 30 tax free institutions.
- When I asked council for an explanation - none was given.
- Other members of the public also voiced opposition.
- It passed unanimously.
The CRA announced that it is looking to purchase the Commerce Building. That is the tall building on Federal and Broadway that has a huge pit next to it. City Council approved $42,000 to pay for a structural analysis.
Also during the meeting…
Tina Vignali is a legislative research aide to City Council.
- An attorney from Atlantic City and Penn graduate, she provides the backup information to city council.
- She has a reputation for hating the public and others in City Hall.
- Last night she fell into her reputation when I asked her if she read a report that I brought to the meeting. She said “excuse me” and walked away. This is actually an improvement from the times she just walked away.
- I know all the people that work for City Council and she is the only rude and bombastic person. If I ever get elected, I am sure her resignation would soon follow. Barbara, Mylena, Norma, Ana, Eddie, - I will always treat you with respect.
The problem: The State of New Jersey paid $47 million in special municipal aid in 2006 and 2007. For this fiscal year, the city needs $60 million to cover the budget.
Some facts, history, and some of my opinion...
- That is by far more money that any other city in New Jersey has received
- The state has indicated so far that it will not pay that additional $12 million (estimate).
- According to many sources this will remain a major problem because the city and state are at an impasse.
- Wayne Bryant used his position as Chair of the Senate budget committee in the Senate to assure Camden will get this money. He is now facing a corruption trial.
- Senator Dana Redd is now working to get this money for the city, but as the state faces a money crisis of its own, so far no luck.
- Layoffs are not definite, but are possible.
- The city has recently hired people without the permission of the Department of Community Affairs.
- The new commissioner is not being helpful to Camden. Call him at (609) 292-6613 and tell him that we care about the budget crisis.
- Yesterday, the Mayor Faison used the stage to complain about she has no power.
- According to many, she is repeatedly embarrassing our city by crying “no power”. Instead she should use her position to talk to the state legislature and explain why Camden is facing a fiscal crisis. She has not supported significant change on how the city writes,submits, or gets special state funding for the budget. Call her at 856-757-7200 to ask her to stop crying and start planning a strategy with Judge Davis to fix the problem instead of wining about it. The community has to help her by joining her in her efforts. She has a difficult task, but it is one she was elected twice to do.
- For more information on the budget crisis.