Trouble in Camden: The Reyes-Morton InsiderNJ Interview

Camden Councilwoman Reyes Morton

The first weeks of Mayor Victor Carstarphen’s tenure have troubled 4th Ward Camden Councilwoman Felisha Reyes-Morton, who wants her fellow councilmembers to revoke Carstarphen’s paycheck. He’s simply not getting the job done on the city budget front, Reyes-Morton told InsiderNJ.

“Obviously, the budget is a very important piece of how the city runs and governs itself,” the councilwoman said. “I feel very strongly about this. If the mayor can’t pay Camden’s bills why should we pay the mayor’s bills?”

Once an ally of the Camden County Democratic Committee that installed Carstarphen as mayor, Reyes-Morton ran afoul of the machine, ran for mayor herself this year, lost, and now toils in the minority on the local governing body.

“I recommended the resolution bee put on the agenda and it has not been put on the agenda to date,” she said, in reference to her effort to truncate Carstarphen’s funds.

She’s frustrated.

The state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) sent a letter rebuking Camden for asking for three extensions and the city still has not submitted a budget.

“That was a red flag for me,” the councilwoman said of the letter.

The fire fighters concerned about their own budget, she said, and how it interfaces with the city.

To be fair, it is a tough budget year.

The city stands to receive $67 million in federal aid, in addition to the 67% it receives from the state.

“We need to be in addressing the challenges in our community,” Reyes-Morton said. “It’s the budget, it’s what governs us as a city.”

She said Carstarphen’s administration merely shrugs its shoulders in response.

It all adds up to fiscal and administrative mismanagement, according to the councilwoman.

The budget debacle is playing out against the backdrop of the Camden County Democrats trying to assume control of the budget in Camden.

“On March 9, amid objections from some city residents, Camden City Council approved a resolution authorizing a study to explore moving the department under county auspices through a shared services agreement. The study was expected to take a year and cost the city up to $100,000. The Camden County Board of Commissioners approved the study on March 18.

“The following day, in a letter to Camden Municipal Clerk Luis Pastoriza, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said that the agreement ‘potentially creates unsustainable expenses for Camden, which would only serve to burden a city struggling financially.’ She said while the resolution provided for the county to invoice the city each month for the study, no exact costs are mentioned.

“’A more beneficial solution for Camden may be to build capacity within to facilitate its progress towards financial stability,’ added Oliver, who is the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.”

Earlier this year, a day after Murphy officially endorsed Carstarphen for mayor and capped any last-gasp possibility of a (admitted highly unlikely) Murphy-backed insurrection locally, Oliver alighted in Plainfield on the last Saturday before Mayor Adrian Mapp faces the voters come Tuesday.

The Lieutenant Governor (and Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs) reaffirmed her conviction about the City of Camden’s financial destiny.

“Our ultimate goal in Camden is to build capacity so they can be locally governed,” Oliver told InsiderNJ.  “We’re not interested in stripping municipalities of local control.”

For the (FULL!) InsiderNJ interview with Reyes-Morton, please see below:

 

 

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