By Ileana Diaz and Paul Kurtz
CAMDEN (CBS)–In a city where worn down buildings, empty businesses and crime no longer faze residents, there is change on the horizon and some credit Mayor Dana Redd.
Camden resident Cynthia Madison says, “She brought in police and cleaned it up and I hope she does that with other neighborhoods.”
Hope and progress the theme of Tuesday’s lengthy inauguration ceremony that included speeches from such political luminaries as South Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
Mayor Redd told supporters that Camden is no longer a state laughingstock, citing her decisions to turn police duties over to the county and support a state takeover of the public schools.
“From a new Safe Corridors program that keeps our students safe on the way to and from school to over $5 million being spent to buy new books and install smartboards and technology in the classrooms where children and teachers deserve the resources,” she said.
As the Camden Mayor is sworn in for her second term, she says public safety was a top priority in her first term.
“Hiring more officers, people feeling safer,” she said.
But the city is still one of the most dangerous in the nation, with the highest poverty rate, and one that an expert in urban development says is in bad shape.
Rutgers-Camden professor Paul Jarbowsky says, “Camden doesn’t have economic base to recover on its own but what mayor had done is to reach out to state to county.”
Reaching out has helped with the expansion of Cooper University Hospital and the Rutgers-Camden campus and is bringing dozens of new businesses to Camden in 2014.
Yet the city’s image remains a challenge.
Jarbowsky says, “You have to reach a point where people aren’t so worried about crime and the schools start to improve.”
And the problem of poor public education seems to be growing with exceptionally low SAT scores and graduation rates.
“Something must be done now because it’s really at a low point,” Jarbowsky said.
Mayor Redd says she is working on a new project to implement schools with a higher level of learning, as well as working with county and state leaders to bring jobs to the area.
Later this month, the city will launch a Cure Violence initiative and hope for more business and employment possibilities through the NJ Economic Opportunity Act.