Archive: January, 2012
What is now a half-acre of dried grass in East Camden could be transformed into a community garden by later this year.
At Tuesday night’s school board work session, Camden City Garden Club founder and Children’s Garden executive director Mike Devlin presented a plan to beautify (and yummify) a vacant plot at 29th and Cramer Streets that the Camden Board of Education has owned for more than 50 years. James Garfield School occupied the site for several decades until it burned down in 1960, according to a local historical website.
The school board will vote on leasing the land to the garden club at Tuesday’s meeting. The half-acre lot Devlin wants for the community garden is assessed at $70,000 but would be leased at a nominal rate to the nonprofit.
In case you missed it, I wrote about Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd’s first two years in office in Sunday’s Inquirer and my colleague Kevin Riordan followed up with a column in today’s paper in which he takes a closer look at Redd’s relationship with her Chief of Staff Novella Hinson, wife of the late Teddy Hinson, Redd’s longtime mentor.
One of the several items or vignettes that did not make it into my Sunday story was one about whom Redd goes to for advice. I asked Redd to name her closest advisers because I thought Hinson would be one of those Redd confides in or looks to for counsel when making decisions about Camden.
Her answer was surprising at first.
CRAMER HILL- Community Organizing
Organizations all over Camden had MLK Day events on Monday. But one church decided to take a different approach to honoring and remembering Dr. King.
About 80 students (middle school through college) from around the region met at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Camden’s Cramer Hill neighborhood for a day of community organizing, instead of service.
The big chief was in town today to ceremoniously sign a bill that created a pilot project to allow private companies to construct and operate taxpayer-funded schools in three failing districts, including Camden.
Standing between Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd and bill sponsor Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), Gov. Christie said that the students sitting behind them in the Lanning Square School gymnasium deserved a chance to be governor and, so far, regular Camden public schools hadn't provided all of them the necessary education.
“There's a myth that money equals quality education, Christie said, referring to the pumping of state and federal money into poor districts like Camden that continue to fail year after year.
With a poverty rate of 38 percent - one of the highest in the state - Camden residents have seen a lot of their neighbors struggle to put food on the table.
But some Camden youths say it is nothing compared to the poverty seen in other countries. On Thursday, six youths who work at Hopeworks, a nonprofit organization that trains and mentors inner-city youths, will travel to Cuernavaca, Mexico to continue the work some of their peers started in August.
Rushelle Mundell, Ruben Santiago, DJ Brown, Aisha Cobb, Maryann Vega, all of Camden, and Caitlyn Cunane, of West Collingswood Heights, will spend five days in Cuernavaca tutoring kindergarteners in math and compuer literacy, and serving meals to the elderly in the poor village.
Many Camden City residents are still trying to figure out a solution to their high property tax bills from 2011, whether it’s coming up with the money or appealing to local government. Well, they will soon be hit with the next round of property taxes -- for first quarter 2012 -- which will likely have only a slight increase (about $20 for the average home valued at $55,000).
Because the fiscal year 2012 city budget has yet to be adopted, City Council will have to vote tonight whether to allow the first quarter tax bills to go out based on the city’s proposed budget. It calls for an increase of less than 4 percent in the municipal tax levy.
The municipal property tax rate accounts for only one slice of the property tax pie. There are also county, school, library, and open space rates.
As I reported in my story Sunday there are various questions surrounding the Camden Parking Authority's recent hire- Willie E. Hunter, a politically connected former board member. The one that most people are asking is- is Mr. Hunter qualified for the job?
The Parking Authority has yet to provide Mr. Hunter's resume. When I asked for it Friday, board secretary Nyetta Fields said a "third party" handled the application process for director of operations.
Even though Mr. Hunter was officially hired on Dec. 19 and started working Thursday at the parking authority, Ms. Fields said his resume "is not here."
Tuesday evening's reorganization meeting of Camden City Council was full of the everyone-thanks-everyone line-up that is common at many of the city's news conferences.
But one name stuck out: Theodore Hinson. And one call for action stuck out: pray for Camden and allow Divine Intervention.
Mr. Hinson died in October 2010. He was 77. But it is no surprise people still publicly thank him. He was responsible for mentoring and helping almost everyone sitting in city council today. Hinson, whose wife Novella is now Mayor Dana Redd's chief of staff, was a major influence in the city's political scene for more than three decades, having led the Parking Authority, school board, and served as the Camden City Democratic Party leader.