Mayor Dana Redd could bring in a football stadium with solar panels, a full-scale model of Noah’s arc, or a zoo to the Camden Waterfront. It’s a nice gesture but the name of the game isn’t to change public perception. It’s called, ‘what have you done for me lately?’
And my hope is that there are people out there asking themselves that question.
Last week, I featured a Camden Chatter piece that pertained to breaking developments in a plan to build a 120,000 sq. ft. Philadelphia 76ers practice facility along the Camden waterfront. The plan offers an $82 million tax credit to allow the Sixers to build the facility in Camden.
According to a Philly.com report, 250 jobs will be created from the plan, but 200 already belong to administrators of the Sixers. I called this offer “nibble to none” in terms of what’s available for Camden residents. In a post by Dr. Stephen Danley, Dr. Danley went on to say, “Camden needs to look for strategies that see a high percentage of funds go towards its key problems of unemployment and blight.”
Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with the Philadelphia 76ers building a practice facility anywhere. In a perfect world, it would be a fine offer.
In reality, Camden doesn’t need more buildings, or sports teams.
It needs more jobs.
With every development process, and a soon to be edition of a Philadelphia 76ers basketball practice facility, Camden stillhasn’t escaped the slight from the public eye with every mouth that utters the words: ‘poorest city in America.’
And that’s not an opinion.
In 2012, nearly half of the population (77,000 residents) lived below the poverty line. In 2014, that means that the average person per house makes only $11,670 a year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS poverty guidelines also show that a family of four making less than $23,850 per year is also living below the poverty line. Essentially, roughly half of Camden is only making nearly 1/3 of New Jersey’s average income around $67,000.
In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that New Jersey’s unemployment rate reached 8.4%. During that same year, Camden’s unemployment rate was nearly doubled the state average, reaching 16.6%.
As repetitive as these statistics look, it is reality.
Like I’ve stated before, we could be talking about jobs, but instead we’re talking about practice.
With every plan to develop the Camden waterfront, I can’t help but to think that the city is being built to refashion public perception, rather than economic development.
City council’s concern shouldn’t be with sports teams, or music festivals. The city has enough issues with bringing in thousands of country-music lovers to join in the 92.5 XTU Festival at the Susquehanna Bank Center – a facility that is not even owned by the city.
My hometown of Wilmington, Delaware is known as ‘a place to be somebody.’ America is known as the ‘land of opportunity.’
If the city government does it right, Camden needs to be known for the place that takes care of its own first.