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Is Camden, New Jersey an example for Ontario?

Phillip Blancher
OurHometown.ca

Is Camden, New Jersey an example for Ontario?
The City of Camden, New Jersey, is considered one of the most violent cities in the United States. Camden is broke, fiscally broke. After nine years of Dalton McGuinty's blundering of the Ontario economy, taking it from a "have" to a "have-not" province, this province is now in worse economic shape than the early 1990's under Bob Rae's "leadership".
PHOTO CREDIT - Wikipedia

South Dundas - December 12, 2012 - The City of Camden, New Jersey, is considered one of the most violent cities in the United States. You have a 1 in 41 chance of becoming a victim of some form of crime in that city. According to NeigborhoodScout.com, only 3% of American cities are less safe than it.

The city's police department has 270 officers, for a city of 77,344. That's one police officer for every 286 people; while that may seem like an incredibly high number think of this. In 2011, the city laid off over 130 police officers due to budget constraints. Since the layoffs, police had to stop taking reports for traffic accidents due to the amount of violent crime committed including robbery, assault, rape and murder. Camden's murder rate for 2012 is currently at an all-time high of 60 murders.

Camden has been in the news a great deal over the last six months, but it's not because of the crime statistics. Camden is broke, fiscally broke. They have no money and can no longer afford the entitlements that the city has written into their contracts with public service unions. The police department is top of that list. Officers working day shifts get a 3% increase in pay, night shift nets an officer an additional 10% increase. There are bonuses and benefits that can nearly double the base salary of a police officer, not accounting for seniority. On top of that you have all the usual benefits of medical, dental and such.

The city has tried to negotiate down contracts, to get reductions in pay and benefits but it has not worked. In New Jersey, public service unions are very powerful. So to solve the issue, the City of Camden is doing something rather unorthodox. The city is disbanding the police force and subcontracting out to the county government. The county police force is not unionized, and while wages are comparable to other police forces in New Jersey, the contractual benefits are not as great. Dumping the city force for the county force will mean 130 more officers than what is currently in Camden. That's approximately 60 million dollars which have been cut from benefits, bonus, and put back in to front line policing. There are downsides to this. Less than half of the police officers currently on the city force, will be hired by this new county force. If it's more than 50%, then the labour agreements from before would come into force on the county. One plus is that this new force is able to cherry pick the wheat from the chaff so to speak, and hire only the best and the brightest officers, while not being saddled with officers who just "mail it in". This new arrangement starts January 1, 2013 and it will be interesting to see the effects. Will service be better? Can the city afford this new arrangement? Will it really save money? Can this be an example for Ontario?

How can this perhaps be an example for Ontario? Like New Jersey, Ontario's public service unions are very large and very powerful. After nine years of Dalton McGuinty's blundering of the Ontario economy, taking it from a "have" to a "have-not" province, this province is now in worse economic shape than the early 1990's under Bob Rae's "leadership". Now we are faced with rotating public school strikes in protest to Bill 115, while the Ontario government refuses to exercise the power it has given itself to stop the strikes. If the union leadership isn't smart, Ontario could go down the same road as Camden, New Jersey. Especially when there likely will be a provincial election in the spring of 2013 and the unions may end up facing a Tim Hudak government.

It's time for the public teachers unions to come back and negotiate. They need to stop the strikes and make deals (and compromises) like everyone else. Unions and Governments are both putting children in the middle of their games and if they don't smarten up, both will lose.


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