Wednesday, April 23, 2008

4/23 City Council Meeting Notes

This blog is still in its infancy stage. I will continue to add features and post stories that are relevant to the readers. I have had good and bad feedback. Although this is a blog and blogs can be whatever the creator wishes it to be, I understand that this will be more helpful if it is more objective. I have decided to separate my opinion from the events as they occurred. My opinion will be stated clearly in purple. If you don’t care what I think, but only what I observe then skip it. As always, please make comments. I want this site to be used as an opportunity for people to share their thought and opinions. You can e-mail me at .

· The City Council meeting began with a special meeting. During this meeting, City Attorney Lewis Wilson met with the members in closed session to discuss litigation.

· Councilman Frank Moran (3rd ward) was absent during the meeting.

Ordinance Second reading

· Councilman Curtis Jenkins sponsored legislation that requires a Human Capital Analysis and Human Capital Plan to be attached to every redevelopment plan.

o According to the ordinance, human capital analysis is “a community engagement process based on, and in response to, existing neighborhood conditions and human service needs…in response to physical redevelopment”.

o The plan passed unanimously

o Sean M. Brown, a resident of Cooper Plaza and member of the newly formed Cooper Lanning Improvement Association, spoke with a few members of the group behind him, in support of the plan. Brown eloquently and passionately stated that the group represented “generations of leadership facilitating a perfect union of players”. This group met with the Camden Redevelopment agencies, Urban Strategies, the Department of Development and Planning, and over 150 neighborhood residents. These meetings were facilitated by Donna Helmes of the CRA and Sandra Moore of Urban Strategies, which also sponsored 11 focus groups and a neighborhood wide survey.

o Connie Jackson spoke for the minority contractors in opposition to the plan. She respectfully requested the council table and amend the plan to assure that minority businesses are included in projects. Councilman Jenkins said that he agreed with the idea, but had been advised by lawyers from around the country that a provision requiring that may be thrown out be the court, so he removed it from the original draft. Ms. Jackson had over 15 businesses with at the meeting.

· There were 14 ordinances to allow 14 residents in Cramer Hill to have a five year tax abatement.

o Several council members and Sean M. Brown asked several questions about the program. How do people apply? (with the state) Is it only for new construction? (yes)

o Four people with the administration gave an array of responses, ultimately leaving more questions and the answers. Jones, Williams, Simpson, and Keating.

o My Opinion: The exchange between City Council, the administration, and me manifested a big problem with Camden city government. This is the second time these ordinances were on the agenda, yet not one person that attempted to answer the questions had clear understanding of the program that allowed these homeowners to be able to live in their homes five year tax free. I do not think that all of those that spoke needed to know all the details, but certainly one person present should have. I also know that if I were on City Council, I would have motioned to table the vote until the questions were accurately answered.


  • Angel Fuentes sponsored an ordinance to encourage the COO, Irban Enterprise Zone and Empowerment Zone to support Unity Community Center . He spoke about the “wonderful work” that the group does. He stated that it “is a sin” that more has not been done to support them by the city.

o Unity community center has mentored and trained children since 1984.

o They need more money and space.

o Go to their website to see how you can help.

o My Opinion: Although I agree the City of Camden government can provide more funding to the program through grant money, as Fuentes stated, I disagree with his passing of the buck. The resolution that was passed will do nothing to provide money to help children learn karate, African dance, and music. The resolution was ceremonial. City Council has the ultimate power to pass the budget and mandate how money will be spent.

  • The city applied to the Urban Enterprise Zone for $235,706 to fund their FY2008 budget.

o Also included in the resolution is $500,000 for CCTV aka Channel 19. When I asked for a plan for how the money will be spent, no answer was available. Opinion: Well, I am pretty sure this is a fact, but nonetheless – they have no plan.

  • The city accepted a $484,152 grant from Urban Enterprise Zone.

o This money will pay for the expansion of the service district. There will be cleaners and ambassadors on River Rd., Haddon Ave., Broadway (from MLK to Kaighn), Federal St., and Fairview Square.

o I will soon post an extensive story about this. I interviewed Vince, the coordinator, and Steve Dragos, the administrator of this project. This is the type of good news that the Courier Post should report.

  • There will be an auction of old police vehicles and other city vehicles. I will post the date once it is set.
  • The city applied for $1 million for the summer food service program.

o 225 jobs will be for 1residents 18 and over

o this is for a feeding program of breakfast and lunch to 4,000 children

o Recreation is built in between feedings at the sites, there may be some trips depending on money available

o Summer Youth employment program – the city is still working on it according to Rev. Evans, Director of the Department of Health and Human Services

  • The biggest issue was brought up by Sean M. Brown – the huge deficit for the current fiscal year. When I asked the City Council president how the hole will be filled, he stated that he trusted others are handling it. We’ll remember that on June 2, 2009.

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