As another ongoing victim of the recession and financial imbalances, the struggling, crime-ridden city of Camden, New Jersey prepares to lay off about 25 percent of its work force, including 43 percent of police department and one-third of its firefighters, in order to fix a $26.5-million budget deficit.
Overall, the city will eliminate 180 policemen, 67 firemen and 150 other city workers (or almost 400 in total).
Last minute efforts to avert the layoffs through union concessions have apparently failed.
Moreover, Camden County (which includes the city of Camden) seeks to eliminate one-sixth of its workforce by March to close its budget deficit of $41-million.
Camden has the same many problems as many other municipalities across the country, including layoffs budgets declining tax revenues, falling state aid and high unemployment. However, this city on the outskirts of Philadelphia has long served as symbol of urban poverty and misery – a seemingly permanent casualty of vanished manufacturing jobs, and prevailing drug abuse and violent crime.
Camden is a city of 80,00 mostly black and Hispanic residents, more than half of whom live in poverty, amidst a perpetual climate of crime.
According to CQ Press, Camden as designated as the country’s second most dangerous city (falling from first place the prior two years). The FBI reported that in 2009, the city’s rate of violent crime was more than five times the national average.
Moreover, New Jersey recently elected a governor, Republican Chris Christie, who has been on a crusade to reduce the size of the public sector and cut government spending (i.e., cutting aid for impoverished cities like Camden). While budget gaps in the past might have been solved by tax hikes, Christie passed a law last year that capped property tax increases to 2 percent.
In recent years, about 80 percent of Camden’s budget had come from the state.
In the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, a Camden firefighter who is losing his job was quoted as saying from Day One, Christie bad-mouthed us public employees. He paints us like we're the enemy. Like we're millionaires. I don't want to be a millionaire. All I want to do is work my job as a fireman and retire with pride and in one piece, and call it a career.