(CAMDEN CITY, NJ)(August 16, 2019)(Gloucestercitynews.net) – Standing shoulder-to-shoulder before a vacant site previously slated for a supermarket, city activists today urged Gov. Phil Murphy to veto the state tax credit incentive extension bill, and to dispatch administration officials to host a “supermarket roundtable” in the city of Camden.
“Behind us may appear to be just a vacant lot, and it is,” said Pastor Amir Khan, Camden We Choose. “But it’s also a crime scene.”
Flanked by a larger coalition, Khan and others called on Gov. Murphy to veto the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) extension bill, S-3901/A-5343, and to go back to the drawing board on economic incentives.
They also asked that Murphy dispatch the state’s Economic Development Authority chair and secretary of Agriculture to Camden to host a “supermarket roundtable” for grocery store merchants and supermarket developers to develop a solution to Camden’s decades old problem.
Joining Khan were Sue Altman, Pastor Arnold Stewart, Pastor Tim Merrill, Sandra Wiles, Gary Samuels, Margarita Santiago, Connie Kellum and Keith Benson.
“We’re asking for two things: one, a tax incentive bill to allow companies to compete on a level playing field, and two, a comprehensive plan to attract a full-service supermarket to this marginalized New Jersey city,” said Sue Altman, executive director, New Jersey Working Families.
Camden has been referred to as a “food desert,” as residents are forced to travel outside of the city limits, often requiring the use of costly and inconvenient public transportation.
“For my family, traveling an hour-and-a-half each way to grocery shop is unreasonable, unmanageable and exhausting,” said Sandra Wiles, a single working mother. “We need help.”
According to several news reports, $1.1 billion of $1.6 billion in economic incentives targeted Camden through the EOA, yet not a single dollar was earmarked for a supermarket.
“Ms. Wiles said it best: we deserve better,” said Pastor Arnold Stewart, All Saints Gathering Church.
“How can we expect our people to thrive if we don’t have a full-service supermarket?” said Connie Kellum, an activist and small business owner.
A consistent counter theme to the EOA program is that incentive dollars never truly touched Camden residents, and this has been buoyed by the recent supermarket controversy.
“Camden residents have a billion reasons to be upset over the lack of impact these incentives have had,” said Khan. “And not one reason to believe that a supermarket was ever coming to town.”