Thanks to Emily Devenney for cross-posting this from her site, The Real MPP. Promoted by Rosi. [I’ve added Phaedra Trethan’s photo of Norcross above].
February is unkind. The shortest month definitely packs just as powerful a winter punch as siblings January and March, but it seems to hit harder because it’s condensed a few days.
But we made it! And on Sunday we enter daylight savings time, the universe’s gift to me each year on my birthday.
So it’s been a little while, but after reading Phaedra Trethan’s piece in the Courier Post this morning, I could not resist a short post. Before you read my thoughts, read Phaedra’s coverage of the Cooper’s Ferry Partnership annual fundraiser; this year, George E. Norcross III was the keynote speaker and he delivered what must have been the most self-righteous, white saviorist, gaslighting speech ever.
I want to start with the first line that really set me off: “There is no person more responsible for what’s going on than Governor Christie.” YIKES. Lest we forget it was Christie who proposed the ironically-named Fairness Formula, an education funding plan that would’ve decimated already struggling, low-income districts and rewarded high-income, affluent districts (Camden being a low-income, historically-classified Abbott district). It was Christie who signed the Urban Hope Act that gave away more than ten of Camden’s public schools to private charter management organizations to create Renaissance schools, which the State Auditor found to be in non-compliance with standards and regulations set by the very legislation that created them. It was Christie who signed the Economic Opportunity Act, which gave away nearly $1.5 billion in tax breaks to companies that “moved” to “Camden” (like Subaru and Holtec). It was recently announced that companies were not accountable to promises they made in order to receive the incentives; for example, Laura McCrystal and Andrew Seidman of Philly.com note, the nearly 3000 jobs promised to Camden residents are unaccounted for.
So, Norcross isn’t wrong about Christie being responsible for what’s going on in Camden, if what you think is going on is redevelopment, gentrification and state violence toward a community of color. For that, they are both responsible.
Norcross then goes on to say that he was “amazed” that state public education union NJ Education Association declined to partner with him on a school project. While his brother Don may have been a union guy (IBEW), NJEA is no friend to the family that has pushed school privatization in communities like Camden, Atlantic City and Trenton for years.
Finally, and this one’s the kicker, Norcross says that in just a decade Camden will no longer need to rely on state aid. In case you’re new here, the reason that Camden relies on state aid is because it has virtually no commercial tax base. And why doesn’t it have one? The quick and dirty of a much longer answer is because of the white flight to Cherry Hill in the 60s, followed by decades of local corruption and mismanagement coupled with a national decline in manufacturing jobs, followed again by state takeovers and an inundation of education and medical campuses, which are largely exempt from the taxes that support a locale, topped off with the Norcross/Christie corporate tax breaks. And those tax breaks are good for thirty years.
What George means is that in ten years, he envisions a Camden that is young, white, living in newly constructed, market-rate condos and sending their kids to privately operated charter schools. A Camden that will become a shell of itself if he is not stopped. A Camden that grandchildren of Parkside and Cooper’s Poynt and Whitman Park may never be allowed to know.