BY Tom Crone
Last week a truly unbelievable set of events took place at the Courier Post that we find
astonishing. First, political reporter Jane Roh used the social media platform Twitter to announce George Norcross was sitting on the editorial board for three months. For the majority of subscribers who don’t use Twitter, it would stand to reason the Courier Post would make an announcement the following day in their own paper, which leads to the second event (or in this case non event); there did not seem to be an official announcement, warning or editorial on why and how Mr. Norcross came to sit on the editorial board. In fact, this editorial may be the first time your readers have become publicly informed.
It would seem only fair since Mr. George Norcross joined the Courier Post editorial board in this fashion that we seek in a very public and clear voice the same opportunity to balance Mr. Norcross’s view by requesting to sit on the editorial board for the same amount of time. We find it chilling that a man many know as one of the most powerful political figures in New Jersey, a person who has never been elected to office, yet under whose 20 year dominance as an old school political boss the City of Camden has fallen into a deep dark pit, was afforded the option of having his views printed for free in your newspaper.
Mr. Norcross’s position on the editorial board is anything but objective, and some may call it intimidating. We hope Mr. Norcross will address why Camden County and Gloucester County continue to provide lucrative contracts to his firms like Connor Strong and Parker McCay. We hope Mr. Norcross will address questions that are raised in the book The Soprano State, a book largely focused on his political activities. We hope Mr. Norcross will address the federal investigations he was under while being involved in US Vision and Commerce Bank, and ask that he explain the federal lawsuit pertaining to Medicaid fraud at Cooper Hospital.
Image: Political Boss Tweed..."As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it?"
Speaking of Cooper Hospital, will Mr. Norcross address why he has turned Cooper Hospital into another patronage pit? Will Mr. Norcross answer objectively questions surrounding why the wife of his political counterpart has an executive-level position at his hospital? Will Mr. Norcross provide insight into the decision to name a wing of the hospital after a career politician who oversaw the dramatic decline of Camden, let alone why he choose a politician instead of a real hero like anyone who died in the line of duty while serving their county, state or county? Will Mr. Norcross answer the multitude of rumors surrounding the building of Rowan University, particularly this misappropriation of the Camden police department to secure the area? Will Mr. Norcross address why, all of the sudden, Cooper Hospital is placing bids to take over the EMS/ambulance services within Camden County towns?
The fact remains that when Mr. Norcross is in the room so is an 800 pound gorilla.
We ask Mr. Norcross to stop hiding behind his brother State Senator Norcross, and State Senators Beach and Sweeney and answer all of these questions and more. Of all the questions we have raised, we hope Mr. Norcross will explain how Camden County residents have benefited from his ‘leadership and vision.’ We know through freedom of information requests how Mr. Norcross’s business interests have benefited, and we ask him to answer how paying for these expensive professional services year after year have made us, The People, better as a community.
For those who may not understand why this is such a big stink to us, Mr. Norcross is a man who 20 years ago invested into the political system, and today is incredibly wealthy. Elected officials and senior bureaucrats throughout Camden and Gloucester county, as well as those in the democrat party apparatus, are his handpicked friends and loyal servants. As a result of his leadership style, Camden County residents are victims of some of the highest property taxes in the United States. We, the citizens, pay for the endless lucrative contracts, salaries and benefits that go directly to Mr. Norcross and to his friends and family.
For example, Camden County Freeholder Ed McDonnell receives more than $200,000 in taxpayer salary and benefits, and State Senator Sweeney was allowed to hold multiple jobs at one time, all on the backs of the taxpayers. In addition, there are several examples where multiple government paychecks are sent to a single household, which is just one reason why the only way to get things done is by supporting the party machine.
It simply cannot be said the rule of King George has benefited the citizens of Camden County.
His oversight led to the state takeover of Camden, yet the public is fed a constant flow of propaganda of how everything is “sunshine and lollipops.” Further to this point, essential services like roads, economic development and libraries are in deplorable condition. We also find it very curious there never seems to be an airing of issues, disagreement, firing or change at the top within his party. As just one example, we find it very odd not a single Democrat asked for Jeff Nash to resign during the ongoing news of the waste, fraud and abuse coming out of the DRPA.
The citizens of Camden County, as a result of Mr. Norcross’s iron fist approach, are treated to high costs associated with the CCMUA. In addition, just in recent months, we were informed of a $6 million dollar proposed real estate project that would have been very profitable for the politically connected. At the time of this writing, we are being told that countywide police and fire departments are good for residents despite the fact that our entire political system is under single party rule, and notwithstanding the facts billions have been dumped into Camden without any accountability. In other parts of the world, this is referred to as tyranny.
We find it preposterous Mr. Norcross chooses to exert additional influence on the Courier Post editorial board, yet the candidates under his thumb refuse to debate or run a real, truthful campaign each year. Everyday citizens wonder why career politicians spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay in office. From our standpoint, the reason is clear--to protect Mr. Norcross. Unfortunately, there is also a history of Courier-Post staff leaving and accepting key positions within the Camden County Democrat Party. It is very disturbing to us that Mr. Norcross has the next three months to walk into the Courier Post newsroom and use the opportunity to develop and foster relationships that can turn into “real time” sources for information and allow him to recruit the next generation of government spokespersons.
Furthermore, it has been reported that with George Norcross “you’re either part of his machine or you get crushed.” He has been called a “thug” by another reporter and even State Senator and Co-Chairman of the Camden County Democrats has said “I wouldn’t want to cross him.” These statements, like the condition of Camden County, are of grave concern.
There is nothing special, extraordinary or remarkable about Mr. Norcross and his leadership. Quite the contrary, his very existence, decisions and influence on the political scene must be more than questioned; they must be investigated by state and federal authorities. The power of the press to shape and change opinion is far too powerful to be placed in the hands of a man who has lurked in the political shadows for decades. While Mr. Norcross wields the façade of businessman and entrepreneur as a surgeon does a scalpel, it is also true that he is the unelected and reputed boss of a vast and corrupt political machine reaching from Trenton to Camden to Washington, DC.
Finally, what does this decision of placing Mr. Norcross on the editorial board say about the credibility of the Courier Post? Allowing Mr. Norcross to sit on the editorial board reeks of another “insider deal,” and is at best a questionable decision by the Courier Post. It isn’t right that Mr. Norcross is “visiting” and it isn’t right the Citizens of this region have gone decades without a legitimate advocate within your newsroom. We seek answers and an alternative voice.
This is a time of new ideas, a time for citizens to put their hands up and say “STOP” to the corruption and politics as usual in our community. The Courier Post has decided not to allow the voices of the People to be heard, yet will invite a man so politically connected and rooted in the problem to shape and craft the debate on HIS very indiscretions. The Courier Post has shown poor judgment and we ask that you rectify this immediately.
The author is the executive director of the South Jersey Citizens United