Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Primary Concern

On Tuesday, June 2, 2009 polls will be open for the Primary. Whoever wins this will be the Democrats’ people for the November election.

The people of the City of Camden need big things to happen. The three most important issues are:
1. Our children must be able to go to quality and safe public schools
2. The city must have safe and safe streets and neighborhoods
3. Job, small businesses, and corporations must be brought to the city to increase job availability and decrease unemployment and poverty

Government is not the only institution that can make these big things happen, but it is certainly the most important. There are immediate lessons that can be learned from President Obama. There must be a New Foundation in Camden. We must build this city on a rock; a rock built with the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and desires for the people to live in city where their basic rights are supported by their local government. Whoever the next mayor and city council members are must provide effective, sustainable, and transformational leadership.
Note: I have not posted a blog about Camden politics this year. I am now a full time student at Rutgers, working on my Master of Public Administration with a concentration on Community Development. Although I have been busy with school and work, I am obligated because of my access and knowledge to share with you my picks for the election.

I endorse Elton Custis for mayor and Donavan McCargo and Aaron Cooper for City Council.

All of them have qualities that are necessary to be great leaders. They listen, they are willing to learn more, and they have a humble spirit that strives for progress, not personal ambition. They are around the same age. They are not corrupted by the dirty politics. Some went to the same public Camden schools. They share respect from older generations. They are Camden bred and college educated. They all have jobs where they serve people. Elton works with people suffering from drug addiction. Aaron is a firefighter and directs a youth council in Camden. Donavan helps young people get into and stay in college at Rowan. When they win they will need smart and dedicated people that understand politics and policy to help encourage them to make the big changes that we need and build a foundation that will lift us all.

I also endorse Scot McCray for city committee. He is my friendly neighbor and has potential to be a great force. I encourage him to stay away from the dark side.

Why not the Democratic Establishment?

I have been asked by many people to endorse and work with Dana Redd. I admit I was tempted. Dana has a uniquely charming personality. She can be radiant at times. She works hard and is smart. As you will read, I am convinced that her leadership will only worsen Camden’s problems. In this election, the voters can begin to chip away at the horrible leadership that we have had for over 25 years. Every person that asked me to support Dana admitted that they are only supporting her because they think she will win. I have too much pride to endorse an assumed winner and am confident that if a competent and prepared leader runs against her, that person can win. She has over $80,000 for this election. But money does not have the final say, the voters do.

I do not want Senator and Councilwoman Dana Redd to win for specific reasons. The main reason is that she does not represent the ideas and leadership style that I think will move Camden on a solid new foundation. On the most important issues dealing with everyone that lives and visits this city, she has been on the wrong side or no side. She has said that she loves this city and she doesn’t like people talking bad about Camden. Of course not. In the John 21 in the bible, When Jesus asked Peter three times if he loves him, Peter said yes three times. Jesus then said, “if you love me feed my sheep”. This was a call to action. It is one thing to say that you love, that you support, that you are against. It is another to do something about it. Dana Redd has little to show for her eight years in elected office. If you look at her campaign platform, you see that she has great ideas. But it isn’t anything new. Everyone agrees that the city should be safe. We cannot judge her by her words, but by her actions. She could have already done big things as a city councilwoman, member of the state committee, and especially as state senator. She didn’t. The voters would be foolish to vote her into a $100,000 job to do the same nothing that she has already not done.

Hinson & Fuentes – The biggest problem in Camden politics is Novella Hinson. People are afraid of this woman. She helped Dana get elected and is now her chief of staff in the Senate office. Hinson tells people that she represents the senator when doing business, when she does not. She is rude, abrasive, and although she understands government, has not lead the office to introduce legislation that will actually lay the foundation for a new direction in Camden and other urban cities. Hinson is like George Bush’s Karl Rove, but not as clever. She is corrupt. I have never met anyone that has anything positive to say about her. And I asked dozens of people. Ask people about Wilbert Fountain and what happened on Public Works in the 1990s. Dana’s relationship with Hinson is proof that the only “change” her campaign represents is changing jobs that make more money and provide another opportunity to do nothing for the people. Angel Fuentes wanted to be mayor. He was handed the seat in the State Assembly (like the House of Representative on the state level) instead. Unlike Dana or Novella, he is not smart. Sending him to Trenton will be a huge embarrassment for Camden. The Puerto Rican community has several strong and smart leaders and they should encourage them to run for office so that the city has a diverse and intelligent government. His entry to the state capitol will make people in Trenton wonder why they authorize millions of state aid every year. The fact that Dana supported giving this idiot and liar a promotion to represent the 5th district in Trenton is disturbing. Fuentes has lied to me and the media on several occasions. He thought is was funny to make jokes about me getting shot. Maybe I would have laughed if wasn’t for the fact that a 18 year old girl died that night and he promised as city council president to act to make legislative changes that would end violence. Ultimately he did nothing. Shame on him and Dana.

Ethics - In a time that government is laying off people and making deep budget cuts and in a city where the voters’ right to vote for a full Board of Education has been taken away, it is important for the people to trust their local government. A big part of that trust is in having an ethical government. Councilwoman Redd voted against an ordinance for ethics reform. Judge Davis had the ordinance drafted which reflected similar ethical standards that the state government uses. The ordinance was introduced July 22nd and taken off the agenda September 9th (there are no meetings in August). There was no explanation given about why they did not vote to prevent things like nepotism or conflicts of interests.

Legislative Record -Redd is a reliable “yes” vote for the Democrats that are in the majority. She has sponsored some legislation. She has done nothing on the state level to deal with constraints and barriers in Camden and other urban areas in the city. She claims to want to do things for ex-felons, but has no legislation to help them.

Curtis Jenkins is running for reelection. Personally, he has always been cool with me. He listens, responds to e-mails, reads, researches, and asks important questions at meetings. Sometimes. However, I cannot ignore his obvious strict loyalty to Redd, Fuentes, and the others whose inaction has prevented progress. For example, he voted for the switch to partisan elections. That vote in the summer of 2007 allowed the city to go back to having candidates for mayor and city council run as Democrats and Republicans or independents.

If Gilbert “Whip” Wilson chose to run for mayor in the Democratic primary, he would have won. Instead, he put short term political convenience before the interests of the people and played musical chairs. When I repeatedly asked him what he actually accomplished, he showed me letters that he wrote to the government and talked about being a coach years ago. Insufficient. Wilson had a group of young people, new to politics, that were ready to get signatures for his petitions, organize community service events, sweat, struggle, and sacrifice for him to be the next mayor. I warned the group not to endorse too early. I shared with them my experiences of seeing Wilson sit silent during City Council meetings as Fuentes and Redd lead City Council to a litany of bad votes. I told them, with Wilson in the room sitting 20 feet away from me, that he could not be trusted. I was right. Wilson sold his political soul to become City Council President to a buyer that he promised everyone to be against.

Marilyn Torres is a nice lady. When she was asked to run for City Council, she should have politely said “Thanks, but no thanks”. God bless her .
I admit that I might be wrong.

Maybe the ideas that I have for Camden that are borrowed from successful cities worldwide are wrong. Maybe this is the best that we can expect and my expectations are too unreasonable. Maybe innocent people getting shot, poor quality public schools, a high unemployment rate, and bumpy roads are acceptable based on the economy and political reality. If so, I apologize.
I don’t think I’m wrong and it is my hope that on election day, 5,000 people will vote for those that I have endorsed.

Newspaper articles about the elections can be found here: