A half-dozen companies are getting $1.2 billion in tax discounts to operate in Camden, New Jersey. Why is so much public money going to so few? And what can we do about it?

This video was produced by Media Mobilizing Project’s Movement Media Fellows.

Posted by NJ Platform on Wednesday, July 20, 2016

 

There are 18 companies getting $1.2 billion in tax discounts in order to move to or stay in Camden, New Jersey. Why is so much public money going to so few people? And what can we do about it? Media Mobilizing Project presents this short documentary on the topic. We talked to residents, community leaders, and national experts about what’s going on in the city.

In statistically the poorest and most dangerous city in America, the companies coming in have not put any promises on paper about hiring or training residents or any other support for community causes in Camden. The mayor and city council have murmured a few vague statements, but they have not publicly stated how they represent the community’s interest. In many other cities in America, corporations, city government, and community groups negotiate agreements enforceable in court to assure that the corporations do what they say they will. These agreements are known as Community Benefit Agreements.

This movie was made by MMP’s Movement Media Fellows, who volunteered to produce the documentary and learn how to use media tools to spread important messages. At MMP we share a vision that people should be able to live, work, and play in a safe and clean community. As local people, we see a great difference between what children in Camden and many parts of Philly are born into compared to the middle class and wealthy communities that surround our cities. Although we must be strong and advocate for common sense to be realized, we also realize that the enormous combined powers of the corporate and political elite must be challenged. Capturing these ideas and images on video is a powerful way to inform the community.

We also worked with Camden Organized for Responsible Development. CORD was created in response to the tax discount program. After decades of broken promises and declining employment, the group formed a coalition to assure that it won’t happen this time.

As seen in the first few minutes of the movie, I do street interviews. Throughout the movie I do voiceovers. We decided that including me, being a resident and person that works on the issues, was the best way to get certain ideas across. Originally we used text to display supporting facts and details about the specifics being discussed. In times where people are just as likely to view a video on the phone as they are on a desktop, that text became audio. With a bigger budget and more time, we would have graphics that show more of the data.

Now that the movie is done and available on the internet for anyone to see, it is up to CORD and the general public to take the next steps to assure that the companies do more than move the commute of employees from one South Jersey town to another. There is nothing controversial or radical about asking for a profit-making, tax-exempt organization to do something in its host community. The answer to “Who Gets the Money?” could potentially include organizations that address multiple issues in the Camden community.

I hope you enjoy it. Please share and feel free to submit any questions  –  Sean Brown