I have documented a decent amount of research and statistical findings over the past semester. Much of it was based upon the concentrations of affordable housing units which yields impoverished cities and decreases opportunities to rise above the poverty threshold.
I have not contributed much opinion at all, so I will do so right now:
During the past semester at Rutgers-Camden I held an internship with the Fifth Legislative District of New Jersey. My work was varied amongst office “busy-work” and miscellaneous assignments from any of the three legislators; Senator Donald Norcross, Assemblyman Gilbert Wilson, and Assemblyman Angel Fuentes.
Amongst everything that I was able to learn about the legislative process, I think I learned that the most important aspect of New Jersey politics is that some people as individuals and some people as groups are very good at getting their voices heard. Other individuals and groups who may share an equally burning inner protest about a social issue are not very good at all at getting their opinions heard by the appropriate powers that be.
For example, the pro gun rights lobbyist groups are fenomenal at organizing themselves into a network that directs individuals to call every legislative office in the state. I personally must have taken 200+ calls from individuals who opposed Assembly Bill A2006, which reduces the maximum capacity of firearms in New Jersey from 15 rounds to 10 rounds. My coworkers at the Fifth District must have taken even more calls than I did plus the hundreds of automated faxes that all opposed this one bill.
Another very good example of organized voices came just after Senator Nicholas Scutari revealed his Senate bill, S1896, which aims to decriminalize the use and possession of marijuana. It was clear that there was not such an organized effort by any specific marijuana lobby, however we still received quite a number of phone calls, emails, letters, and faxes in support of Senator Scutari’s bill.
Unfortunately, amongst all good examples, there are bad examples. There was a lot of commotion coming from Camden City during my time as an intern specifically about what is happening to the city’s public schools. The newspapers and newscasts showed hundreds of families and students upset and protesting the Superintendent’s decision to layoff over 200 schools teachers and employees. The same media sources showed equal discontent when the state announced the plans for less public schools and more charter schools. The missing link here, in Camden’s case, was that the legislative offices were not receiving any amount of letters, phone calls, or anything. The Fifth District would receive calls from the teacher’s union and other entities within the educational realm, but pretty much nothing directly from the citizens. If it was not for media outlets documenting the student protests, the legislators that represent them in Trenton never would have known the event took place.
Voices of opposition from Camden City will be heard if they are spoken. I remember the swift organization that took place amongst Rutgers-Camden students and faculty in order to protest and then ultimately defeat the proposed merger between Rowan University and RUC. There were thousands of letters written to legislators of both the State and Federal levels, an online petition was created that received more than 10,000 signatures, and most importantly, the entire State and Delaware Valley were paying attention to what was happening.
Camden City residents can still make a very big statement, and they can stand up for their united beliefs by making sure that they direct their voices to where they are supposed to go. If public school students are tired of having their teachers fired, if parents are tired of their children being forced into alternative schooling types, if Camden residents are fed up with anything about their City, they should start writing some letters and making some phone calls. There are more than 14,000 letters that can be mailed from public school students and parents, and it would be nice to see half of that happen.
Until the calls are made and the letters are written, the Mayor’s office, the Senator, and Assemblymen will not have any documentation that shows how the public feels about these life changing issues. Because of this disconnect, the elected officials will support and oppose legislation without the input of Camden’s residents.