Today marked an important event for the city of Camden — the dedication of Cooper Medical School. Camden Mayor Dana Redd told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she is optimistic for the city’s future, especially considering the new medical school, a new regional police paradigm and work on city schools.
Redd sees the new medical school as a positive step for the city. “We were delighted to take part with Gov. Christie, George Norcross, Senate President Sweeney and others for today’s ribbon cutting which is certainly significant for things that are to come for the great city of Camden,” she said.
The new school will offer new employment opportunities and the advancement of the health sciences campus in downtown Camden, Redd said. “The medical school has been long talked about for well over 40 years and it is a legacy that has come to fruition today, representing over $139 million in one particular neighborhood but I’m sure that that investment will be leveraged for a new renaissance school for some of the work that we’re going to do around public safety because we know public safety is really key and critical to Camden’s resurgence and revitalization,” she said.
Redd attributes the high crime rate in Camden to fallout from problems that have existed in the city for a long time along with the economic downturn, but she is confident that adding police officers will improve the situation.
“I’m confident that moving forward with our new regional police paradigm that we will double, and if not triple, the number of police officers that will be hired to patrol our business communities and certainly to patrol our neighborhoods and keep our citizens safe,” she said. “And we are fast tracking that process in the very near future and I look forward to the announcement.”
Residents and community stakeholders are on board with changes, according to Redd, and she is ready to tackle them head on. One of the major areas of concern is the school system. A survey from the state Department of Education said 23 of Camden’s 26 schools are the worst performing in the state.
“That’s totally unacceptable. I think we definitely have to make some decisions that are in the best interest of our children, youth and families,” Redd said. “To this end, we’re working with the board of education, we’re working with the commissioner of education at the state level and other interested parties again to create a pipeline from cradle to college to career.”
Under the Urban Hope Act, Redd said new renaissance schools will be opening in Camden in an effort to increase academic outcomes for urban youth and prepare them for a global economy.
Having Campbell Soup’s headquarters in Camden is an asset for the city, according to Redd. “We’re very delighted to have a Fortune 500 company remain in the city of Camden,” she said. “As you know in 2009, they reopened their new corporate world headquarters to a tune of $90 million invested in the Gateway neighborhood and we’re partnering with them to bring future development to the city of Camden — potentially a supermarket, which has been long talked about for many, many decades.”
Redd said she has a positive attitude for the future of Camden, even though there is a lot of work to do. “We have challenges but I’m certain that we will confront those challenges with solutions that are innovative,” she said, citing partnerships with education entities and medical facilities in the area, which include Cooper University Hospital, Rowan University and Camden County College.