Troubles In Camden

lady-justice-1-mary-tere-perezThank you for visiting the Camden Civil Rights Project’s Camden News Archives page. Our archives contain a variety of informative print, audio and video materials which highlight the consolidation of political power in Camden, NJ,  and how it has been wielded to enrich a small cadre of political insiders at the expense of an American City. The public corruption and long term grift have had devastating impact on Camden’s local economy causing nothing short of a humanitarian crisis.

In what has been termed the politics of poverty, local power brokers have privately enriched themselves through exploiting the plight of the city’s impoverished residents to obtain generous state and federal grant funds earmarked for economic revitalization. Recovery aid is then redistributed among political insiders through patronage appointments and bloated no bid municipal contract awards. This power arrangement is maintained through a Tammany Hall style of machine politics which has been dubbed La Cosa Norcross, due to the Mafioso style intimidation tactics incorporated by South Jersey Powerbroker, George E. Norcross, III, who controls the financing of local campaigns, the selection of elective and public patronage posts and the disbursement of municipal contract awards.

Under this current economic regime, Camden annually achieves national recognition for being the poorest city in America. As of 2006, a staggering 52% of the city’s residents lived below the poverty line. The 2011 NJ Annual Average Labor Force Estimates, report Camden’s unemployment rate to be an astounding 19.6%. These figures do not reflect under-employed individuals or those who have fallen off the unemployment rolls because they are no longer seeking benefits. By way of comparison, The Globalist Research Center reports that in 2014, the highest unemployment rate found globally among  undeveloped nations was North Africa at 12.2%.

Camden has over 4,000 abandoned properties and one out of every three residential homes is vacant. Many of the buildings which remain occupied have suffered significant structural damage from flooding due to neglected repairs of the City’s hundred year old sewage system. For over twenty years Camden’s drinking water has been contaminated with toxic levels of lead. The air and ground soil have been contaminated by industrial waste produced from manufacturing plants that the surrounding municipalities rejected allowing into their communities.

Between 2003 and 2011, a cash infusion of $175 million by the Norcross controlled Economic Recovery Board for Camden actually managed to reduce the economic prosperity of Camden when the grant funds were plundered through a series of pet projects directed towards political allies and Democratic campaign contributors. Camden’s economic recovery was sabotaged to such an extent that in January 2011, acting Mayor of Camden, Dana Redd, was forced to lay off 44% of the city’s police officers, over 25% of its firefighters and furloughed the entire municipal court on Fridays in an effort to close a $26.5 million gap in the city budget. At times between 2011 and 2012, a city of 77,000 residents was patrolled by as few as 12 police officers. From early 2011 through late 2013, the municipality operated under such a skeleton crew that court and municipal employees were allegedly instructed by the Mayor not to answer their telephones.

The purpose of the Camden News Archive page is to draw attention to the human cost of continued apathy towards the public corruption in Camden County. Our goal is to  encourage the development of community organizations and social coalitions which can effectively hold the existing power structure accountable and change the economic course of America’s poorest city. Despite the popular mythos, the existing power structure is extremely fragile.

The most common question I hear is what can we do to change things? They hold the power. In his essay Of the First Principles of Government, the Scottish philosopher, David Hume, contemplates how fragile power is. Hume was confounded by the relative ease with which the many are governed by the few and how willing individuals are to “resign their own sentiments and passions” to those who rule over them. Hume concluded that the greatest power was “always on the side of the governed,” therefore even the most despotic rulers are required to persuade the people to allow them to remain in power. Put another way, those in authority always need public consent, or at a minimum, the non-intervention of the community to cause their mischief. As long as the general population remains passive and apathetic then those in power are free to impose any conditions they see fit. Change only occurs through public challenge.

Part I: The Consolidation of Power

The Machine

Camden Parking Authority Probed

by Kim Maialetti (Gannet/Courrier Post)

Ex-Camden Official Found Dead; Whistle-Blower Shot and Beaten

by Kim Maialetti, Tim Zatzariny and Gene Vernacchio (Gannet/Courrier Post)

In Camden, Another Mayor Is Indicted on Corruption Charges

by Iver Peterson (New York Times)

Former New Jersey Mob Boss Takes Witness Stand against Camden Mayor

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Milton Milan sentenced to 7 years

by Frank Kummer, Renee Winkler and Kathy Matheson (Gannet/Courrier Post)

Bryant’s First Public Words “Not Guilty”

Bryant Investigation Timeline

Philadelphia Inquirer

Bryant Sentenced to Four Years in Prison

by Trish Graber (NJ.com)

Former New Jersey State Senator Wayne R. Bryant and Attorney Eric D. Wisler Indicted on Corruption Charges

U.S. Attorney’s Office

They Call Me El Jefe

All-Powerful, Never Elected: Norcross Wields Influence Statewide

by Jim Walsh (Gannett/Asbury Park Press)

They Have No Choice

by Philadelphia Magazine

Powerbroker Flexing Muscle, Caught on Tape

by David Kocieniewski (New York Times)

Informant Details Norcross Tape

by Maureen Graham (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Palmyra Tape Timelines

Gannett/Courier Post

George Norcross: The Man Who Destroyed Democracy

by Steve Volk (Philadelphia Magazine)

With a Little Help From My Friends

U.S. to Probe Missing Norcross Video

 by George Anastasia and Maureen Graham (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Christie Faults N.J. on Probe of JCA

 By George Anastasia and Troy Graham (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Ex-Prosecutors in Trenton Respond to U.S. Scolding

by David Kocieniewski (New York Times)

Lautenberg Calls for Probe into Allegations Christie Used Office for Political Gain

Associated Press

Crossing Christie

by Rob Lizza (New Yorker Magazine)

The Trouble With Chris Christie

by Chris Hedges (TruthDig)

Chris Christie’s Entire Career Reeks

by Aleck MacGillis (New Republic)

The Christie Political Machine Family Tree

by Aleck MacGillis (New Republic)

If You Don’t Like What They’re Writing…

Interference Seen in Philadelphia Papers

by Amy Chozick and David Carr (New York Times)

Inquirer Editor Reinstatement Case Brings Out the Powerful and Connected

Pennsylvania Record Report

Philadelphia Inquirer Chair Testifies Norcross Controls Board, Decisions

Associated Press

Newsroom Shaken by Norcross Campaign Solicitation

by Joel Mathis (Philadelphia Magazine)

New Jersey Political Boss Loses Control Of Newspaper

By Olivia Nuzzi (The Daily Beast)

Part II: Grift & Graft

Commerce Bank

Norcross, Commerce Bank Enjoy Marriage of Convenience

by Eileen Smith and Erik Schwartz (Gannett/Asbury Park Press)

A Banker’s Last Day at the Office, in a Bank He Built Aggressively

By Jeremy W. Peters and Eric Dash (New York Times)

 

Cooper University Hospital

Listing Cooper’s Board Deals Companies Associated With The Hospital’s Trustees Have Gotten Some Of Its Largest Contracts

By Maureen Graham and Frederick Cusick (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Cooper Hospital Releases Report Citing $18.8 Million In Fraud

by Frederick Cusick and Maureen Graham (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Business Owner Pleads: Thomas J. Damadio Said He Helped Cooper Hospital Executives Launder Stolen Money

By Larry Lewis (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Cooper Hospital Fined in Medicare Fraud Case

By Roslyn Rudolph (Philadelphia Enquirer)

Cooper Health System Pays $12.6 Million To Resolve False Claims Lawsuit Over Kickbacks Paid To Referring Physicians

PR Newswire

The Troubles at Cooper Continue, Part 1: Historical Background

by Roy M. Poses, M.D. (Health Care Renewal)

The Troubles at Cooper Continue, Part 2: Since 2005

by Roy M. Poses, M.D. (Health Care Renewal)

Powerful Medicine: How George Norcross Used His political Muscle to Pump Up Once-Ailing Cooper Hospital

by James Osborne and Craig R. McCoy (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Christie’s Chief of Staff Headed to Cooper Hospital Job

by Maddie Hanna and Andrew Seidman (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Christie Signs Bill Giving EMS contract to Hospital Chaired by Power Broker Norcross

By Susan K. Livio (NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

N.J., Christie Sued Over Law that Allows Just Three Paramedic Providers Statewide

by Jared Shelly (Philadelphia Magazine)

 

The Delaware River Port Authority

Federal Grand Jury is Investigating DRPA Spending

DRPA Probe Widens with Subpoenas

In New Jersey, Leader of an Agency Under Investigation Is Given a Judge’s Robe

by Michael Powell (New York Times)

Rutgers-Camden

Rutgers-Camden Law school Provides Sen. Wayne Bryant “No-Show” Position

by Angela Delli Santi (Associated Press)

In Camden, It’s Takeover All Over Again

by Professor Howard Gillette (Rutgers – Camden)

Rutgers Board of Governors Chair will Fight Bill to Increase Political Appointees

by Kelly Heyboer and Matt Friedman (Newark Star Ledger)

George Norcross Ally Joins Rutgers Board of Governors

by Daniel Munoz (Newark Star Ledger)

Hundreds of Rutgers ‘Sugar Babies’ turn to ‘Sugar Daddy’ websites to Pay off Student Loan Debt

by Vernal Coleman (NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

UMDNJ Whistleblower Cases Cost Rutgers Nearly $2M in Settlements

By Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

The Renaissance Schools

Re-Educating Camden – One School at a Time

by John Mooney (NJ Spotlight)

Charter School Networks and Shady Political Dealings: The Camden, NJ Story

Julia Sass Rubin (Education Week Teacher Magazine)

Acting N.J. Education Chief Cerf Revises Account of Ties to Consulting Firm

Newark Star Ledger

Broad Foundation Grant Terms: Gov. Christie Must Stay in Office

by Rick Cohen (Newark Star Ledger)

Camden Superintendent Announces 241 Layoffs at City Schools

by Jason Laday (NJ.com)

Camden Students Walk Out to Protest Layoffs

Schooled

by Dale Russakoff (The New Yorker)

Camden’s ‘Renaissance Schools’ Takeover Plans May Face Legal Challenge

by John Mooney (NJ Spotlight)

Camden School Closings Illegal, NJEA Asserts

New Jersey Education Association

Protestors Call for Removal of Camden School District Superintendant

by Carly Q. Romalino (Gannett/Courrier Post)

 

Kickbacks and Spoils

George Norcross’ Slippery Insurance Deal with Delaware River Port Authority Legal in N.J., For Now

Editorial Board (Newark Star Ledger)

Christie’s Camden Tax Breaks Reward Political Insiders

by Jeff Horwitz and Geoff Mulvihill (Associated Press)

Part III: The Human Toll

An Economic Meltdown

Camden Rebirth: A Promise Still Unfulfilled

by Matt Katz (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Camden’s Waterfront – and Its Woes

by Matt Katz (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Chris Christie and America’s Poorest City

by Matt Katz (NJ Spotlight)

Hope for Camden, or Just Another Pipe Dream?

by Kevin Riordan (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Addresses are Overrated

Homeless and hungry: Sobering images of Camden, New Jersey

by Helen Pow (Daily Mail)

Homeless and Living in Camden

by Blake Ellis (CNN Money)

Welcome To “Transition Park”, The Horrible Tent City In Camden, NJ

by Vince Veneziani (Business Insider)

Camden’s ‘Tent Cities’ for Homeless Cleared Again

by Amy McNeil (Gannet/Courrier Post)

I Bought the Law…

185 Camden Cases Tossed, ‘Corrupt’ Police Work Blamed

New York Post

Camden Agrees to Pay $3.5M to Victims of Police Corruption

ACLU News Release

Camden Police Draw the Highest Number of Excessive-Force Complaints in the State

by Michael Boren (Philadelphia Inquirer)

… And the Law’s Done

Mass Police, Firefighter Layoffs Begin in Camden

Associated Press

Apocalypse, New Jersey: A Dispatch From America’s Most Desperate Town

by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone Magazine)

Chris Christie Pushes Camden Police Force To Disband, Despite Questions Over New Plan’s Finances

By John Rudolf (Huffington Post)

Camden County Police Department Struggling to Keep Officers

Videos

NBC 30 Rock report: Camden NJ (2013)

Synopsis: As part of the the NBC series, Poverty in America, Brian Williams investigates America’s poorest and most dangerous city, Camden, New Jersey. Williams discovers what he refers to as “a city of staggering poverty surrounded by staggering wealth.” Williams speaks with a local parish priest, Father Doyle and Camden Police Chief, Scott Thompson, about the part crime and poverty play in the everyday lives of Camden residents. We are also introduced to Chrissy Rodriguez, a single mother and part time teacher who lost her children’s father in a drug related shooting and Tawanda Jones who mentors the Sophisticated Sister’s Drill Team, a successful youth  program designed to keep kids off the street.

 View the video HERE

Struggle: Short Documentary on Homelessness in New York and New Jersey (2009)

A short documentary on the current dilemma that countless Americans are facing, from those on the streets, to those who simply cannot afford housing on their low wage jobs within a crippled economy.

 View the video HERE

Poet of Poverty (2010)

Poet of PovertySynopsis: The 2008 documentary film, Poet of Poverty, investigates how a city like Camden, New Jersey, which is annually ranked among the poorest and most dangerous cities in America, can come into existence in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The film is based on the letters of Father Michael Doyle, a local parish priest, which are narrated by Martin Sheen.

The film’s opening segue was written in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Martin Sheen narrates Father Doyle’s account of a student’s comment that “I’m not afraid because if the terrorists fly over Camden, they’ll think they have done it already.”

A second two minute segment, entitled “Hope in Camden,” features Martin Sheen narrating the poem The Dolphins Danced on Arlington to the visual of impoverished children in Camden at play in a makeshift pool built from a discarded hot tub and their imagination.

View the videos HERE

George Norcross: Tales Dubbed “Bogeyman” Bunk are Rooted in Reality (2011)

Brian Donohue with Ledger Live examines how the battle over the pension and benefits reform bill passed by the New Jersey legislature raised questions about the influence of South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross. Assertions by Norcross ally Sen. Steve Sweeney that Norcross plays little role in the legislative process contrast sharply with Norcross’ own words, as captured in 2001 recordings made as part of a state attorney general’s office investigation.

View the video HERE

The Young Turks: Cops, Firefighters Laid-Off In Camden NJ (2011)

 Hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss the Camden emergency lay-offs and the announcement by Camden Police Department that they will no longer dispatch officers for non-violent offenses.

View the video HERE

RT News: Camden, NJ Lays Off Its Entire Police Force (2011)

After decades of public corruption in Camden, the city announced it could no longer afford its own police force and would reduce costs by ending its collective bargaining agreement with the police union. Despite statements by Mayor Dana Redd and Police Chief Scott Thompson that the only way to “put more boots on the ground” was to reduce salaries, Camden announced that it would only be rehiring half of the former officers to form the new county police force. The new department will be prohibited from unionizing and the qualifications for new applicants were lowered by placing a one year moratorium on civil service testing.

View the video HERE

Camden’s Tent City (2012)

This five minute short documents the lives of homeless Camden residents, forgotten by the system, who have survived by forming a tent city complete with its own ordinances against violence and drugs. It is a shocking reminder that all is not well within Walt Whitman’s “City Invincible.”

View the video HERE

Camden Tent City Bulldozed .. Again (2014)

On May 13, 2014, Gov. Chris Christie ordered that a tent city in Camden, N.J. be bulldozed and its residents evicted. State Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Schapiro said the push was prompted by complaints, namely from Cooper University Hospital. “They won’t have the option to come back as they have in the past,” said Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen. Homeless residents of the tent city discuss the eviction from their tent community and the uncertainty surrounding what comes next.

View the video HERE

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“If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

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