State of the State Address: Camden – not Newark – front and center

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TRENTON – The office of Governor Chris Christie just released excerpts of his forthcoming State of the State address, and predictable, according to the political alliances Christie has forged south and lost north – is the governor’s decision to highlight strides he has made in Camden – not Newark.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was a staunch Christie ally when he was mayor of Newark.

But Booker’s gone from Brick City now, supplanted by Mayor Ras Baraka, who defeated the machine run by Christie’s friend, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, to ascend from the city council to the city’s throne of executive power.

That election arguably re-calibrated Christie to firmer political footing in Camden, where he has strong ties to South Jersey Democrat.

Monmouth University pollster and political scientist Patrick Murray digested the comments (reprinted below) and acknowledged that Christie’s use of Camden as a laboratory has a certain resonance.

“He’s trying to reset the clock to December 20th, 2013 when he was the odds on favorite for president,” said Murray, a reference to the pre-sting of Bridgegate. “This is the leader who can reach across the aisle and work with Democrats – that’s how we can win back the White House.

“Internally, the internal New Jersey politics, are the hero of urban regeneration has shifted from the north to the south,” the pollster added. “His alliance in South Jersey has become even more important.”

Here is a glimpse of what the governor will say on the subject of urban New Jersey – and his specifically Camden-centric take…

“But our goal, together, should be to make sure that New Jersey remains one place where a better life is possible — for us, for our children, and for their children — through determination, hard work, and a commitment to the greater good.

“There is no better example of what we can achieve if we put aside party and pettiness than the results we are seeing in Camden.

“A city devoid of hope five years ago…A city riddled with violent crime five years ago…A city beset by a corrupt and ineffective government five years ago … A school system that failed Camden’s families almost every day just five short years ago.

“Then an outstanding leader stepped forward for mayor.

“A county government stepped in to lead boldly.

“And I asked all of you to support a new vision for Camden.

“Did we just throw money at the problem as has been done before? No. We demanded partnership and accountability and we are getting results.

“Through the economic opportunity act of 2013 a city that has suffered from divestment for decades is now seeing a new tomorrow.

“$600 million dollars of private investment in Camden in the last year alone.

“In a city suffering from epidemic crime, we acted boldly.

“We terminated the city police department and, partnering with the county, put a new metro division on the streets with 400 officers for the same price we were paying for 260.

“The results?

“Murder down 51%. Firearm assaults down by 1/3. All violent crime down 22%. Police are working with neighborhood groups to bring calm and peace across the city.

“In Camden schools, we partnered with the local groups to bring new leadership to the schools and a renewed accountability to the classroom.

“The Urban Hope Act has expanded opportunity and new schools are being built once again in Camden in a public/ private partnership.

“Hope and optimism are up –fear of failure is down.

“In Camden’s downtown, a new medical school and new investment by Rutgers University is helping to bring bright new citizens to Camden’s neighborhoods.

“No one could have believed it was possible five years ago.

“Today, it is happening because we put action and results ahead of politics, partisanship and a shared failed history.”