Camden Mayor announces more active role with schools in State of City

In front of more than 200 people — including politicians, residents and business owners — Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd delivered her second State of the City address Wednesday. Her venue was the Cooper’s Ferry Partnership’s annual economic development meeting, held at Adventure Aquarium.

While her speech was mostly a recap of what she has done in the last two years, two new initiatives she mentioned both deal with having more influence over the school district. Redd has taken an increasingly vocal stance against the Camden School District’s leadership in the last couple of months.

During her address, she said the status quo was unacceptable. She praised the passing of the Urban Hope Act, which could bring up to four “Renaissance Schools” to the struggling school district in the next few years. But to make sure those schools come to fruition, she proposed Wednesday that shared-services agreements be signed among the district, the city, and the state when choosing developers and school management companies.

“We will offer our expertise for the project execution,” she told me later.

Redd also tooted her horn in reminding that she had started the I Can End Truancy, or ICE-T, program last year (which if you remember was quite controversial because of the $100 stipends youths received for not skipping school).

She said she would continue her work with truancy this year (even though the school district has its own truancy department and director) by starting a Camden Youth Court, much like Newark’s Youth Court, to help curb truancy.

Among other accomplishments she listed: continuing the Camden Clean Campaign; getting final funding to start the city’s Eye in the Sky camera surveillance program, and making use of the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act.

Projects still in progress: The Business Growth and Development Team, which is still working to get businesses to move to the city; construction of Roosevelt Park (in the space once occupied by the Parkade Building); and the infamous business curfew, which went through many amendments before finally being approved by the City Council and as expected was taken to court by activist Frank Fulbrook. The curfew has yet to be implemented pending court decision.

And Redd of course mentioned the much-talked-about regional police force plan by simply saying that it “will efficiently and effectively help us put more boots on the ground.” No details were released.

No celebrity sightings at the event but lots of giant cheese platters, really good spanakopita (only thing I tried), wine, and some recognizable politicians: Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, former Gov. Jim Florio, and state Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden).