Friday, March 7, 2008

Mayor's State of the City and my Response

On February13th, at Rowan University, Camden Campus, the mayor was invited by the board to give her state of the city address. I took notes and recorded the speech. These are the notes.

  • There must be new approach to economic development. It must residents. we have concentrated places of poverty. As a mission the city must break barriers. Economic development must benefit the neighborhoods, not just the waterfront.

  • The state must take responsibility for the short comings. The COO controls every aspect of the city. We must ask was the MRERA (aka Recovery Legislation) used properly?

  • Safety has been an issue but we finally have the right people in place.

  • There is a new superintendent- it is too early to tell the progress. We are not quite pleased withe the quality of education.

  • Just last week the water treatment plant was upgraded. The city has to find money for good drinking water in the neighborhoods.

  • The city is beginning to have market rate housing

  • The city wants Rowan to have the building (located on 3rd and Cooper)

My response

I listened intensely to the mayor give this speech. I have two main points in response

One, I do not understand why a person would run for re-election for a position if she learned in the first term that in her words "the mayor has no power". She certainly does not get paid $100,000 a year to be powerless. This begs the questions - If the position has no power, what does she do everyday and why does she still have the job?

Two, where are the specifics? Most people would agree that development in Camden must go beyond the waterfront and into the neighborhoods, but how will that be accomplished? What is she doing to make that happen?

I admit that the questions that I ask may certainly have reasonable and thoughtful answers. I look forward to being challenged and corrected. For this challenge and and correction to be valid though, it must include a few elements -

  • a specific written plan that is already being implemented which shows how the mayor is using her office to overcome the lack of power that admit to having

  • the specific plan to show how the city will bring economic prosperity to the neighborhoods, beyond the waterfront.

  • Note: After years of questioning the city on its lack of an economic development plan, a document almost every city in the country has, I was told that it was done in connection with Camden County's economic development plan - . I certainly do not think that the city's economic future should be incorporated with the entire County.

My suggestion

I do offer some ways that the mayor can get beyond seeking power and actually having it and get beyond vague cliches of the city's vision and move to actual progress.

  • Begin the serious discussion with the state of how to move the Riverfront prison off of prime real estate and replace with a tax generating facility on the river. The state should be shamed in doing this in the early 1980s when it bailed the city of its first financial crisis.

  • Open all the community centers and parks in the city until 9pm. Allow our children and others to use these places after school and work to give them an alternative to the rough and ugly streets.

  • Start meeting with the local non-profit organizations and faith based institutions to facilitate and centralize the plethora of projects that are already going on. the mayor can certainly use her office to host what could be a monthly meeting. To the mayor's credit, this is already happening on a small scale with the Mayor's Youth Council, but should be expanded.

The current mayor has 21 months to accomplish greatness. Wtih the challenges that my generation faces, mediocre leadership is not sufficient.

This blog that I write will not be enough to motivate the change in direction and thinking that I suggest. If you agree or disagree, post a response or call the mayor and let her know that she does have power. Her number is 856-757-7200 and e-mail address is

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