Among those at the forefront of fighting the machine in Camden stands Vida Neil Rosiji, who had hopes of the Gov. Phil Murphy administration derailing the organization here only to see him endorse their candidate for mayor and fold onto the top of the party ticket.
“He really let the City of Camden down,” Neil Rosiji told InsiderNJ, referring to Murphy, who formed a task force examining the alleged misuse of $11.5 billion in tax incentives for a corporate network with ties to the Camden County Democratic Party power structure only to gradually ease away from pursuing the story.
“He needed [Camden County Democratic Party power broker George] Norcross to get reelected, so he dropped the ball on that,” said Neil Rosiji, a veteran activist in her home city. “Nothing happening when they started uncovering all the dirt; it got to be too much, so they shut it down.”
But no one shut Neil Rosiji down, and on Tuesday she will go before the voters in her pursuit of a School Board seat.
It’s a nine member board and all nine claim ties to the Camden machine, except one – Elton Custis, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor earlier this year.
Neil Rosiji is running with Aaron Cooper in hopes of getting a 3-6 board and then going for more seats, but she acknowledges the daunting prospect of winning off the line against a party organization column topped by the incumbent Democratic Governor.
Jeanette Alvarez, Cameron Hudson and N’Namdee Nelson have the support of the county party.
“No one should be bracketed,” said the retiree from the Camden Department of Public Works, graduate of Camden High School, and mother of four.
But they are, and it is her challenge to generate sufficient support for an agenda that includes returning the city school system to local control with what she describes as a properly elected school board, not one coat-tailed by organization power.
Neil Rosiji said she mainly opposes the aggressive charter school enabling agenda of the sitting board majority.
“They’re great at building buildings – with no curriculum for the students,” Neil Rosiji told InsiderNJ. “The teachers don’t have sufficient background checks or certifications. They [County Democrats’-supported charter schools] just made a mess in the City of Camden.”
They all might as well be bracketed together, said the candidate, because the state is responsible for misappropriating federal funds, in her view.
“We had 30 public schools, now we all have nine,” Neil Rosiji added. “The Norcross schools are worse than the public schools. We want the Democratic Party out of our educational system. They control the Board of Elections, they control the machines we vote on – the old and raggedy machines. They’ve been cheating us for years.”
In an election cycle mostly characterized by moribund movements and machines intent on putting people to sleep, the activist insists she has a shot on Tuesday.
“The people are screaming my name, from the gay to Hispanic to the black community,” Neil Rosiji said. “I hope they get out and vote for me. I will inform citizens of what’s going on. If I get on the board, I will have a quarterly newspaper to inform the citizens. That’s the problem now: the superintendent doesn’t want people to know what’s going on.”
Neil Rosiji graduated from high school as part of the class of 1980.
“The same toilets were in the school in 2015 as were there in 1980,” she said. “Nothing changed. They didn’t put any work inside the schools, gave money to the charter school network and they’re bankrupting the public schools. The federal government needs to come in here and turn the lights on because their money is being mismanaged by the State of New Jersey.”