Did Gloucester Township's taxes, and "redevelopment plan, erase a part of African American history?

Gloucester Township, Camden County, NJ

The Gloucester Township redevelopment plan has been on the books since the 1980's, but the current elected officials have taken "redevelopment" to new and higher levels.
In theory, the township officials have responded to public questions, in that the entire area of the township, is labeled "in need of redevelopment'. That allows the Mayor and council to use, and possibly abuse a privilege to make a property or land that much more appealing to a developer, or buyer, somewhat at the cost of local taxpayers.

When a property can be sold at below fair market value, or a tax abatement is granted where it otherwise is not necessary, the local taxpayers make up that cost to close the gap for schools, fire departments, and lack of collectible taxes for that abatement period of time, until the abatement ends, and regular taxes are payable. The question arises that in 2016, did this push for "redevelopment" erase a vital part of African American history?

Up until 2016, Freeway Golf Course was the very first African American owned golf course in America, and was located right here in the Sicklerville section of Gloucester Township.
In 1967 four black businessmen, who were also golfers, heard that a golf course was up for auction. With segregation still upon them, they felt owning their own golf course was a good idea. These men were Al Letson, a realtor, Maxwell Stanford, a business owner, Robert Salsbury, a motel owner, and James Blocker, vice-president at First Pennsylvania Bank. They decided to bid for the golf course. This was a major decision and a very expensive objective. They decide to involve the black golf clubs. It only took a few months to get 100 golfers to pledge $1,000.00 each for the down payment. In many instances, First Pennsylvania Bank loaned the individuals the $1,000.00 that was needed. An offer of $250,000 was accepted and Freeway Golf Course was purchased. The story of Freeway Golf Course is a part of black history. Many well-known golfers have played at Freeway. The first Sammy Davis Jr. Open was held a Freeway Golf Course. The tournament was such a great success that the next year it was moved to Hartford, CT. and was added to the PGA Tour. The tournament is now known as the Travelers Insurance Championship. Since the purchase the course has been continually maintained and improved. The largest improvement was a computerized irrigation system that enables us to irrigate all or part of the golf course at any time day or night. Our golf legend Bill Bishop is our Class A PGA Pro. Each year for the past 41 years he has hosted the Bill Bishop Benefit Pro-Am Golf Classic bringing professional golfers to Freeway. The tournament proceeds benefit the Bill Bishop Golf Foundation, which fund the Bill Bishop Junior Golf Program. Freeway Golf Course is the home course for many of our golf clubs, Freeway Golf Club, Green Ladies, Del-Val Golf Club, Philadelphia Chapter of the National Negro Golf Association, and others.

In 2016, the golf course was sold, and redevelopment would erase that part of history. Was it the staggering property tax increases that made it difficult for the historic establishment to continue to survive, or was it the political hawks sitting on the proverbial fence, waiting to "redevelop" a once proud piece of cultural history for other reasons. Maybe only those close to the source (inner circles) would know for sure, but you would think that a town that prides itself on diversification, and values, would have fought for such a piece of history, that has greater value to history, rather than dollars and cents.

Either way, one must look at this from two directions. Why did local politicians allow such a huge party of African American history to slip out or our town's hands, and this over push of "need" for redevelopment extended way to far. One of those two issues can be addressed. The other may just be historically erased forever. That is more than just a shame. That is a priceless part of history, that we can never get back.

Detail source on Freeway Golf Course from "Freewaygolf1967.com" Listed as the Unofficial website for the Golf course.

In Gloucester Twp, is "open space" becoming a money grab, and a joke?

Gloucester Township, Camden County

This idea of preserving space has been around for many years. It is always a great thing to do in any town, anywhere.
Who would ever think of opposing "open space" ? Who would think that anything could ever go wrong with such a novel idea?
When you add the word "Politician" to any feel good idea or plan, people don't have the same thoughts. In and about 2000, the Gloucester Township
elected officials brought that idea to a referendum, so the people could decide if it was worth collecting a measly 2 cents to "preserve open space".

It was packaged just right, it was presented, and supported. Some even say that it was pushed, because it what the town and it's people "needed".
Well, here we are in 2019, and do the people of Gloucester twp still see that plan coming to fruition? Let's look at it's merits, in a simple form.

First, what is the "open space" theory? It is to collect 2 cents per $100 of your GT's homes value, and then do it again for Camden county from all home-owning taxpayers.
Now, her comes the "open space" thing. Do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING with a piece of land. That's right nothing. It is now "preserved".
The powers that be will also "use" some of that money for maintenance, equipment, for "up keep" for a piece of land to keep it "open".

So, in theory, the elected officials, got the voters to approve this idea, and trust that the politicians would always do the right thing as the keepers, of their heart earned dollars.
In 2019, if you look around the township of Gloucester, you will still see some "open space", and no, not just in your wallet, but along Blackwood Clementon Rd, but also throughout the township, and we are not talking about vacant homes.

So for the better part of 20 years that you have been taxed by the county , and township, would you say that the tax dollars that were collected for open space were well ?
Forget about what the Politicians would tell you. Do you the people of Gloucester Township see the same amount of "open space" throughout the township as you did 20 years ago?
Or even that past 10 years? Has the collecting of the people's money for the so called "open space" outlived its usefulness? Is it time to ask ourselves and the Politicians just that?

Who will be left, if Gloucester Twp politicians continue to squeeze and tax middle class out?

Gloucester Township, Camden County,NJ

As more homes become vacant in the once desirable Gloucester township, many wonder, who will be left, if things continue the way that they have been in the past 10 years.
In the past 10 years, residents have seen their property taxes rise to a whopping 52%, with more increase schedule to be introduced in 2020. Between folks moving out of township, others just walking away from their homes, and mortgages, and some suffering through it all, as they just can not leave.

The township of Gloucester grew and thrived, as the location was perfect, the area was desirable, and the schools were just where you wanted your children to attend. Slowly, but surely things began to change, merchants, began leaving the once busy Blackwood Clementon road area, other businesses could not keep up with the rising cost of doing business in the town, then came the "red light cameras", then homeowners began leaving in greater numbers. In 2010, taxpayers saw one of the biggest property tax increases that the town had ever seen, and in 2014, it hit again. By 2016, the double digit tax increase had sealed the fate of many more tax paying residents, and with the additional increase in 2018, the "for sale" signs were surrendering to the sticky white paper on the windows, indicating that the house was vacant. Many more were to follow, until those empty/vacant homes were becoming the norm.

When you look at the out of control borrowing, and spending that the township has done in the past 8 years, you begin to see that we don't recognize the town, that we grew to love.
Many say that borrowing, to buy such luxury items, and projects when residents are losing their homes. one would have to wonder, do they even care, and who will be left, when the tax train barrels down the tracks again.

Many very long time residents feel that they will be taxed, and squeezed out, and the only people that will be able to stay are the rich, the subsidized, and public workers that get [aid with tax payer dollars. If you see the reoccurring, tax increase pattern, they might just be right. At the pace the Mayor and Council are on, 2020, and 2022, will finish off many more of the long time residents, and those retired whose income just can not keep up.

This is truly not a story for political purposes, this is a story of real people's lives who's hearts will be broken, coming to terms with them having to leave the house that they called homes, and raised their children, for many years. Some will blame the politicians, other will blame the people who put them there, and others will just leave a surrender flag on the lawn, when they lock the door behind them when they get into the moving truck, with tears in their eyes.

After all is said and done, maybe social media will help those neighbors stay in touch, or even decide to move where their neighbors have relocated, and start their close knit neighborhood, all over again. Just somewhere else.

Missing teens popping up on media. It's time for parents to tune in

Gloucester Township, Camden County,NJ

With a greater frequency of missing teens appearing in media, and social media, it's about time that parents make every attempt to "tune in" to what goes on in the everyday life of their teens, and millennial children.

As many parents know, starting at pre-teen years, kids tend to squeeze their parents out of what they are doing. We remember asking our kids, where are you going? who are you hanging out with? and what time are you coming home? Those are usually responded to with modern teenage replies. "I'm going out, or what's it matter to you, or why do you keep asking me that, get off my back". It's then when parents need to take the upper hand, and let our teens know, that we are asking because we LOVE them and CARE about all of that. They have no idea how much we worry sick about what goes on in today's world, and what could happen. We need to instill onto them what that love means, and how they are the most important thing in the world to us, and only hope that it sinks in. Opening that line of communication, is only a start. Getting our teenage children to trust our judgment and concern is the bigger hurdle. Those hurdles need to be crossed at the younger ages, so that they trust us into the teen years.

It is then, when the trials and tribulations meet them at those difficult teen ages, they can trust us to help them deal with them, and also how we can help them get past them.
Usually when a teen is preparing to leave home, it is not just an instantaneous decision. It stems from a build up of events that they had trouble dealing with which may include the parents themselves. It is about knowing your children, and knowing when something is not right. Those are the times when we need to act on those signs. A subtle approach may bring them to the table, as after it builds up, they may shut down that line of communication.

Unfortunately, as we see more of these missing teen reports, there may be more to come. No one has all of the answers to this, and we surely do not pretend to be a doctor, of adolescent behavior, but just merely adding some common sense suggestions so that we do not see any more of these missing teen news events happening in Gloucester Township area, or any other area for that matter.

If our children only knew how our hearts beat every minute of every day for them, and how it affects every fiber of our being when things like this happen, they don't realize it at that age. We have to find ways to make that happen, so that our worst nightmares, do not become a reality.

Gloucester Twp. It's not about political parties anymore. It's about TAXES

Gloucester Township, Camden County,NJ

Gloucester Township and Camden County have long been known as a Democratic stronghold in South Jersey. As more long time residents flee the place that they called home for so many years, those that are still left have to decide if they want to stay true to their political party, or do what best for them.
High taxes are not new to New Jersey, or Gloucester Township for that matter, but huge increases have reared their ugly head, in the past 10 years. This has happened in Democratic towns, and even some Republican towns.

In Camden County though, the county, and most of the towns are, and have been controlled by one party for the past decade or two. In Gloucester Township, residents have seen several property tax increases in the past 10 years, but nothing compares to the huge increases that have come about since 2010. The previous administration left in 2009, with a sizable tax increase, but what was to follow, would set the pace for unprecedented property tax increases that would lead many to leave.

Dave Mayer became Mayor in 2010 in the first November partisan election of Gloucester Township. His very first year in office brought the largest property tax increase in the history of the township. A whopping 26% increase that had residents reeling for the next few years. The next 3 years saw more spending, but no increase in taxes. In the few short years that followed, the 2 remaining Republicans were squeezed out in the following partisan elections. The town was now solely in Democratic control.

After the 3 years of "zero" increases, the now Democratically controlled council would then introduce and pass an 8% increase in 2014, a 12% increase in 2016, and the 9% increase that followed in 2018. That is when we began to see for sale signs go up like crazy, and even worse, residents being forced to just vacate their home to give it up to foreclosure.
It was extremely disheartening to see those white stickers on homes on your own block, but even worse, to see your neighborhood friends just fade from the place that you both called home.

This is not a story to beat up on local Democrats, but they are indeed, those responsible for the frivolous spending, waste, and going overboard on luxury items, when their tax paying residents, and our neighbors were struggling , and some losing their homes. People of the township continue to ask others, "when will it hurt bad enough" before people just get someone new into office. It is about loyalty? Is it about familiar names? or could it truly be about political party?

Gloucester Township is no doubt a beautiful, and wonderful place to live, but if people are being taxed out of the houses that they called home, and many paid off years ago, then will they continue to do much of the same? Is voting a political party worth it when it comes to others in our town? We will soon find out. If you change nothing, then nothing will change.

Remember when Gloucester Township

Gloucester Township, Camden County, NJ

Gloucester Township long time residents remember when their town was a growing, and thriving place to live. Blackwood-Clementon was your exit off of the "east-west freeway" and to the town you loved to call your own. Sure there was homes still being built, new stores coming into town, and a superior school district that attracted all who wanted a better life for themselves, and especially their children.

Blackwood-Clementon and Crosskeys roads were moderately traveled, horse farms and other farmland was still plentiful, among the existing, and new homes springing up.
You frequented the stores that knew your name, and you knew the store owner, and their family members. Your town was looked after by the elected officials who's names you barely knew, but why would you need to, things were as good as they could be in your mini city, known as Gloucester Township.

Most , if not everyone knew your beloved Mayor, Ann Mullen, who's name was synonyms with the town and maybe one or two council people who could help you breeze through putting that addition on your home, or even a shed that would be put up with little or no complications. It was like a lake with not a ripple in this town.

As time went on, and we lost our beloved Mayor Mullen, the town surely felt different, but not all that noticeable. The new Mayor Love surely knew how Ann Mullen would have liked her town run, and things started off, just that way. Politics was not the talk of the town, but then again, why did it need to be. Only those on the inside of political baseball knew the ins, and outs of those politics. Gloucester Township was still the town that had "non partisan" May elections, there was no heavy bickering, or finger pointing, and not much in the way of publicly seen "dirty" or aggressive political races that could be seen by the masses. Democrats and Republicans could run together on a ticket, under a slogan, and most wouldn't really notice who was what. Just vote for the slate that they liked best, or who persuaded them to their side.

The town was still the envy of many other towns in the area, as it was nicely populated, clean, great schools, and everyone wanted some of that. Especially since he property taxes were well in check, and surely reasonable to those that wanted to live, or buy there. Each area of Gloucester Township, had it's own individual identity, from Hilltop and Blenheim of the northern end, through Glen Oaks, Millbridge and Laurel Springs in the central, to Blackwood and Erial making up the southern end, it was all a part of GT, and it was proud, to call home.

The township would indeed continue to grow. New shopping districts in the southern end on Crosskeys road, a few more stores on the northern end of the Pike and others to come.

In 2005, that marked the end of what was those "non partisan" elections. Some of those insiders that we spoke of earlier felt that those that won in that year, were kind of outsiders, and weren't to their liking, even though the establishment still held a commanding majority in the local government. So, the "powers that be' decided that if a few more "Rs" were too much for the mix, for their liking, that they would change all of that and move the local Gloucester twp elections to November and make them "partisan", Democrats versus Republicans, which as most residents know, changed the course of politics from that day on. No more mixing Democrats and Republicans on a "slogan" ticket.

That would lead to drastic changes in all aspects of local governments, that are still non partisan, but are anything but now. The gloves would be off, and the residents wallets would open and fair game. That was obvious and hard hitting just after the first November/Partisan race, when residents saw their highest property tax increase. After current Mayor Mayer took office, in January of 2010. The 26% tax increase would set a new course for the tax paying residents of the town. Most thought that some updated improvements were needed and that huge increase would take care of that. Unfortunately, that was not the case. That became the start of a pattern that would soon find reckless and frivolous spending that were digging into the pockets of long time residents, especially those that had paid their mortgage off years ago. Sure there were high end upgraded parks and playgrounds, new Public works buildings and MUA buildings, but for a brief moment, the town looked like it was getting a spit shine, or sprucing up.

When the dust settled from the devastating tax increase, things looked like they were going to be fine, not much harmed. Until it became re-election time. It was then the the "pattern" had revealed it's course. Immediately after the Mayor's re-election it was an every other year hammering of tax increases. 2014 , 2016, 2018, and then the "Premium" and luxury items started showing up on the radar and those same tax increases lead to a new pattern, people leaving the township. Including those who had paid their mortgage off and now falling behind. Also the GT logo stickers starting popping up all over town, almost at over kill pace. Those same little parts of town were losing their identity to the bigger township name, and logo. Neighbors leaving, houses being left vacant for longer periods of time, some for years, and new neighbors being a welcome sight.

Sure you have a great hockey complex, acres, and acres of the finest "astro turf" that money can buy, exquisite tools, and toys for many of the township entities and yes, including the Police, but at what cost? Each little section of Gloucester Township had it's own identity. Each and every family, and neighbor made up that part of town. Many of them would have stayed if it hadn't gotten like this, and yes, some may have gone anyway. No one will know for sure, but one thing is for sure, when times change, people, places and things, change, and adapt, with the times. For Gloucester Township, did some forced changes bring on forced changes to the people that used to call this town our home. Just about any resident could tell a story about a neighbor, or many that wished that they did not have to go. Just imagine, if those forced changes didn't come about, imagine if those who wanted to stay did stay. If our schools stayed performing as they did and many more would want to have what we had. Just imagine, what could have been. Just imagine, or remember when.