Camden City Council has approved a plan to lay off about 25 percent of the city’s employees.
Before the council members gave their OK, they heard from a line of workers, residents and business owners.
Many city employees who spoke, like Camden resident and firefighter Javier Ramos, told the council the layoffs make them worry about more than just losing their jobs. The layoffs threaten the safety of their friends and family, Ramos said.
“When the tones go off and I’m at work, I don’t see a fire. I see faces,” Ramos said. “I used to own a business in Camden. It could be my brother, my mother — they still live here just like I live here.”
Ramos said police layoffs could be just as dangerous.
“When there’s violence outside, I don’t want to hear that the police can’t come because they’re understaffed,” he said.
Camden resident Shawn Burke urged the council to remember the city’s past,
“My family lived in East Camden back in the 1970s,” said Burke whose grandparents and great-grandparents worked at RCA. “And they had to leave Camden in the ’70s because the city went to hell. And I’ll be damned if i have to leave the city or I’m made to feel as though I have to leave the city because it’s unsafe to live here!”
Mayor Dana Redd has said with less money from the state as the city faces a $28 million budget gap, she had little choice but to push forward with the layoffs.
Council 10 president Karl Walko spoke on behalf of those workers and the entire city,
“I just want to say that Jan. 18, 2011, will be the worst day in Camden since the 1971 riots.” Walko said, “It’s essentially the end of government as we know it and for many people, not just the employees, it’s the end of hope.”
Mayor Redd has said if the police and fire unions offer concessions in their negotiations, there could be fewer layoffs.
Coach Donald Harris.