Sunday, November 3, 2013

An open letter to the winner

Dear Winner of the Election for Mayor, 

Congratulations. I look forward to having professional relationship with you. 

I have the following recommendations: 

  1. Have a meeting with the other candidates. Find a way that you can continue to work together. The others want to be involved. They devoted the last few months of their life to public service. Our city is too easily divided and angry at times. Show some humility and grace. Meet with them, pray with them, learn from them, challenge them to help with the agenda.
  2. Promote the Learning Matters initiative: This city has 27 traditional public schools, four private schools, and a dozen charter schools.  The education debate has been too much about what types of school are better or who should lead them. That mattes, but the value of learning matters more. A student that is motivated to learn will know that algebra, writing, science, and history are important to his or her present and future. Education, good grades, access, quality all matter. Learning matters. Over 27% of our city is school age children. The mayor can promote this idea by telling students the power of education and learning. Say it in assemblies, on YouTube, and at every event there is. An urban minority mayor has the moral responsibility to remember the wisdom of promoting education of DuBois, Washington, Garvey, and others in the early 20th century. They disagreed on the exact platform, but they made it clear that education is necessary.
  3. Find money for trash cans on the business corridors. This is simple. Let's help the Clean and Safe Program be more effective by giving people a place to put their trash. Along with that, encourage people to throw trash in the can and not the sidewalk or street. Would tickets for the litterers help? I'm not sure, but the city is still too dirty to allow economic growth.
  4. Rework the Mayor's Youth Council. If you've been to a meeting, you'll understand. The homepage of the website includes former Mayor Faison and and former Gov. Corzine. They may be a symbol that the current organization needs to modernize, have clear objectives, and do more to address the many needs of the 24,000 children that live in Camden. The group has a great opportunity to be reorganized and have new leadership.They may be able to address issues the Division of Youth Services has.
  5. Explain why PILOTs are a good thing for the city. During the debates, a few candidates spoke against payments in the lieu of taxes. PILOTs are different from tax abatements; if fact, they are sort of opposites. Non-profit organizations are not requried to pay taxes to the city government. Under PILOT agreements, the city gets revenue from hospitals and other organizations, that it otherwise wouldn't. Knowing that, it is confusing to hear people speak against it. What would replace it? No mayor would actually try to get less money for the city and no City Council would approve it.Tax abatements are different. City Council has acted differently towards them. The arguement for tax abatements is that they promote new business to cities that need them, by not paying taxes for 10-20 years.
  6. Explain why Eds and Meds are the beginning of economic development. Hospitals and schools in Camden bring thousands of people to our city daily. Most work here and others are patients or visitors. They are anchor institutions. There is much good that does and more than can come from them. They aren't always perfect neighbors, but they are employers and add to the civics and richness of our city. You can't promote the hospitality industry in one venue and then are argue that service positions (in hospitals) are bad in another, without expressing an odd contradiction.
  7. Interview current drug dealers. Ask them why they do what they do. Gun proliferation only explains a a small part of why their is crime in Camden.There are many steps that can be taken to reduce crimes. If you begin thinking about gun violence with gun sales across state lines, you're wildly confused about why there have been 200 murders in the last four years.
  8. Help small businesses come, grow, and expand. Period.
  9. Tell the police to be nicer. People can be approached and even arrested with respect. Being nice to the public will make investigations easier.
  10. Advocate for affordable housing reform.  Governor Chris Christie has blocked attempts to allow affordable housing units to expand to the suburbs. The NJ Supreme Court just overruled him in September. As mayor, you can be an advocate for poor people that need options for housing. Concentrated poverty is bad for the poor person, the community, and society.
  11. Create a citywide youth athletic association. I've heard this idea said by a few people over the years. Felix Moulier said it at the PBCIP debate and got a thunderous applause. It's a simple, yet powerful idea. The mayor can work with him, Bryan Morton, and many others to set up a single non-profit organization that collects payments from parents, hires coaches, works with the city to maintain facilities, and manages baseball, basketball, soccer, and other sports and activities for the youth of the city.  Many cities have them: Cherry Hill, Pennsauken, Gloucester Township
I hope you appreciate this list and find it helpful. 

1 comment:

Tim Merrill said...

This would be a great start to what we hope will be a progressive and innovative approach to governing the city. I hope all candidates would consider your suggestions and get our city on the road to fulfilling its vast potential.