CCOP News

175 of the Camden Faith and voting community host first Mayoral Forum of 2009

2009 Mayoral Candidates

September 29, 2009

18 Churches; 175+ people; 7 Public officials (representing State, County, and the City); and 11 local non-profits, organizations, neighborhood groups, community development corporations, and public institutions met last night in the church of St. Anthony of Padua Church for the CCOP 2009 Mayoral Forum. (Photos here)

The forum began with opening comments from Reverend Willie Anderson, Chair of CCOP as Pastor at Sword of the Spirit Church, welcoming all 4 of the mayoral candidates, setting ground rules for the meeting, and stressing that CCOP is a non-partisan organization.

Fr. Jud Weiksnar, pastor of St. Anthony and clergy leader of CCOP, then delivered a thought provoking scriptural reflection on Acts 1 21-26, where the apostles work to find a successor to Judas. "They threw lots...in on translation it says they put it to the decision of chance and this is where we differ," stressed Fr. Jud.  "We will go into the voting booth keeping our mind on what you say to us tonight and how well you answer the questions."    

Following the reflection the team of moderators and time keepers took over the meeting.  The Moderators were: Mandi Aviles, Youth director of St. Anthony; Angel Diaz, youth leader from St. Anthony; Marian Jones, member of St. Bartholomew; Joshua Harris, minister at Faith Tabernacle Church of the Living God; and Gordon Harris, member at Camden Bible Tabernacle. 

Each moderator clearly and powerfully read the 10 questions prepared by the CCOP Citywide Leadership Assembly.  CCOP leaders plan to publish a detailed analysis to the candidate's responses in the weeks to come. 

The question areas were Leadership Capacity; Delivery of Neighborhood Services, Economic Development; Abandoned Properties & Vacant Lots; and Public Safety (see the end of this release for the actual questions).

To close the forum, the moderators led a lightening round in which each candidate was given 20 seconds to answer two simple questions.  One question was for each candidate to name the top three concerns for the revival of Camden's Neighborhoods.Here were their responses:

 Candidate Angel Cordero

  1. Jobs
  2. Schools
  3. Crime & Corruption

Candidate Roberto Feliz

  1. Economic Development
  2. Education
  3. Improving level of services

 Candidate Dana Redd

  1. Public Safety
  2. Education
  3. Jobs

 Candidate Mujiba Salaam Parker

  1. Homeownership
  2. Jobs
  3. Entrepreneurs

After the lighting round, Reverend Anderson again turned focus to the voters of Camden.  "The power is in our hands."  He stressed that Camden voters are taking this election seriously and that CCOP plans to conduct a series of voter education and turnout events.

Fr. Gerard Marable, pastor of St. Bartholomew's Church and CCOP clergy leader then closed the meeting, "We began with prayer and will close with prayer."  Fr. Gerard's words filled the church with powerful images and words, "...Let the soul of Camden breath the breath divine, let the heart of Camden beat the drumbeat of justice, and let the mind of Camden come together..."

FORUM QUESTIONS:

Leadership

1. One of the main reasons the State of NJ took control over the city of Camden was the fact that local government was incapable of doing business. What would you do as Mayor that is different from what was done prior to the state takeover to make Camden better?

 2. It is widely understood that there are political systems in the city of Camden that have a powerful influence and leverage over local officials. Being that you will be Mayor chosen by the people and for the people, when it comes down to choosing between the interests of these political systems and the interests of Camden residents, what will you do?

 Neighborhood Services

1. Neighborhood services are the life-blood of our neighborhoods. The current state of these services is extremely poor, which results in the disparity between suburban neighborhoods and Camden neighborhoods. How would you remediate this problem?

 2. It is understood that the city has targeted 5 Camden neighborhoods for development, resources, and attention from officials. Starting on your first day of work, how will you ensure the improved delivery of the basic services (trash pick-up, resurfacing of roads, lighting, landscaping, painting, etc...) to the rest of the city while you move on of those 5 areas?

3. How will you work with our State Government to ensure the Camden Home Improvement Program receives additional funding to expand the program to more Camden homeowners?

4. Youth are important, recreational and educational enrichment for youth are important. What do you see as the greatest need in relation to the points of educational enrichment and recreational opportunities for youth in the city of Camden? What realistic goals can you accomplish in your first year as mayor?

 Economic Development

1. Throughout the year, residents, homeowners, youth, and institutions talk with the city about needed services. All too frequently the response is the same, "We don't have any money." As Mayor how will you respond to these questions given the challenging financial times?

Abandoned Properties & Vacant Lots

1. The city of Camden continues to suffer from an epidemic of abandoned properties and vacant lots. Some of these need rehab and some need demolition. What will you realistically do as Mayor to address these properties in your first year?

2. Camden has an excellent resource in its Non-profits and community development corporations; however, due to current policies and laws their work is blocked. What will you do as Mayor to break-up this log jam, so that the non profits can do their part in reviving our neighborhoods?

Public Safety

1. There have been countless initiatives and programs designed to address public safety in Camden (Weed & Seed, Neighborhood Watch, District Collaborative Council Boards, etc.) but due to a lack of commitment and resources they do not fulfill their potential. How will you direct long-term and sustainable efforts to address public safety in all of our neighborhoods?