Mayors across the country continue to struggle with fallout from the international financial crisis. Camden Mayor Dana Redd has dealt with additional challenges during her first year in office.
In a move that outraged many residents, Camden City Council approved Mayor Redd’s plan to layoff about a quarter of city employees to deal with a more than $20 million budget gap. “She certainly has been presented with epic challenges,” said David Foster, President and CEO of the Greater Camden partnership, a non-profit economic development company.”Her focus has necessarily has been on trying to restore fiscal health to the city,” Foster said. ” I think she’s taken a tough but necessary stance, I think she’s done a good job working across party lines with Trenton and with our legislative delegation here in Camden to make the most of a very difficult situation.”Foster says Mayor Redd has done good work dealing with blight, trash, and street repairs; but he understands why many citizens are unhappy.”The complaints are valid,” he said. “That’s what all of us need to keep in mind everyday is the folks who live in the city of Camden are, many of them, facing a very tough uphill battle.”Mayor Redd’s year has also been defined by the election of a Republican Governor, said Howard Gillette, a Professor of History at Rutgers-Camden. “She doesn’t have the same working relationship that she might have had if the state oversight had remained and the Democratic party had retained the Governorship,” said Gillette. “At the same time I think she’s been very careful not to challenge the Governor – and try to work with him.”Gillette said it’s too early to say how Redd stacks up next to the city’s past Mayors. “Until she really has some traction to get on top of the budget and in addition find some new revenue streams, once the Recession has really left us, she’s going to have a hard time charting a new course and seeing a lot of progress that people really want to see happen in Camden,” he said.Many Camden residents worry that the layoffs the city’s planning for later this month, could make the city even more dangerous and jeopardize its future.