Editor’s Note: This popular post was first published here on December 27.
Camden, New Jersey is one of the Garden State’s worst areas, bad enough that people from my home town of East Orange – a Blood stronghold that earned the name “Illtown” in the early 90s – considered it less safe than the crime and drug ridden ghetto East Orange had become. At one time it was ranked the most dangerous city in America, though it has improved somewhat, dropping down to the number two slot recently. Early in December it was reported that the Camden City Council approved a measure that would lay off one half of the police force and one third of the fire department:
Camden City Council voted unanimously Thursday to begin handing out layoff notices to municipal employees even as union leaders and city officials restarted negotiations in an attempt to save some of the 383 threatened jobs.
After emotional and angry pleas from residents, business owners, firefighters, police officers and government workers, Council voted, 5-0, to eliminate nearly half the Police Department and almost a third of the Fire Department.
“We’ll start buying weapons, because I don’t see any choice,” said Carmello Villegas, 65, owner of Villegas Laundromat in East Camden for three decades. “We’re going to have to defend ourselves. We’re going to have to defend our families. I really don’t know what else to do.”
Carmello Villegas is upset about more than just public safety. Reportedly two of his sons and one of his daughters are police officers, and another of his children is a fire fighter. All receive generous benefits and pensions that rely on the largess of the rest of state of New Jersey:
Council President Frank Moran asked for concessions from the police and fire unions while putting the blame on Gov. Christie.
“We didn’t put a price tag on public safety,” Moran said. “Unfortunately, the governor of the State of New Jersey put [on] that price tag.”
The state kicked in $115.6 million toward the city’s proposed $138.8 million budget, $5.5 million less aid than last year.
Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said in a statement that “levels of funding in prior years – together with the costs of generous contracts and benefits – simply could not be sustained in the middle of a recession like this.”
Christie last week provided more money to Camden – $69 million – than to any of the other cash-strapped municipalities that were given so-called transitional aid, Drewniak said.
Why does Camden need the rest of New Jersey to pay for its local services? Because Camden, like many cities run by leftists, promises to pay out far more wealth than it takes in. Roughly 58 percent of Camden property is tax exempt, leaving less than half the residents and business owners to foot the $138.8 million dollar city budget for the privilege of living in America’s second most dangerous city.
Should it be a surprise that this system doesn’t work?