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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Step 1 in Camden - Transparency

Kudos to Mayor Dana Redd of Camden. She is moving forward on several fronts in the city and letting people know what she is doing and sharing the input she has received. This is a first step in making Camden city government transparent. Others may say that the weekly 500+ page City Council agenda is transparency in action. Providing copies of financial statements, employee records, and all correspondence around an issue is certainly a bright light shining on the bureaucratic process. However, we need to understand what our elected and appointed officials are doing, their agenda, and how they are moving the city forward. The mayor has made good efforts in the last week.

First, she received the recommendations from her transition team for her first 100 days in office and beyond. Granted, she received this report just 2 weeks before her 100 days are completed - but she said she was busy handling the budget crisis and focused on that first. Uh, multitasking is an important skill for a mayor, madame Mayor.

Mayor Redd has posted the report in its entirety on the city's web page. You can read all 5 reports here: .

Second, Mayor Redd has called for applications to replace a school board member that moved up to city council. As other school board members' terms expire, she will appoint their replacements as well. The mayor now has full control of the board. The CP article informs us of who will be on the review committee and that is a huge bit of transparency. Unfortunately, the Mayor has not indicated anything about her priorities for qualifications or how she sees the school district moving forward and how her appointments will play a role in that.

Finally, the Mayor announced that the City received some revitalization funds from DRPA this week. The funds will be used to continue revitalization of Broadway in the downtown area. This will certainly enhance Cooper Hospital and the new medical school. Before people jump on that bandwagon of this is helping George Norcross, it also helps Camden. Shops on Broadway will do better business, people will be more inclined to shop locally, other investors may be willing to build, rent, and open stores and offices. This is good news. Unfortunately, the Mayor indicated that her first order of business is to hire a consultant to prepare a plan and in the fall seek feedback from the residents. This is a classic backwards approach to revitalization and one that smacks of power insulation - those in power will deliver a plan to the people and tell them how good it is for them. That's a big misstep Mayor. Listen to what you know to be the best move and do it. Don't follow the advice of so-called experts whose only agenda is to get contracts for professional loyalists.

All in all, it seems that things are moving a bit in the right direction for Camden. Let's see who gets appointed to school board, who get's hired as consultant and what they come up with, and most importantly, what Mayor Redd does with the transition recommendations. More insight on those recommendations later.

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