By Matt Friedman | May 20th, 2009 - 4:41pm
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State Sen. Dana Redd (D-Camden) took exception with Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan’s idea to bulldoze some of Camden’s most run down neighborhoods, going as far as to call it “Naziesque.”  

“Steven Lonegan’s brazen attempt to degrade the city of Camden and everyone who lives and works there with Naziesque ‘wisecracks’ about bulldozing our community is a poor reflection on him and on the entire Republican Party,” Redd said. “He crossed the line of decency when he told the Courier-Post editorial board that his plan for revitalizing Camden was to uproot an entire community.”

The Lonegan comments were reported in a Courier-Post story published this morning that detailed his meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board.

Redd, who is also a councilwoman in Camden and the vice chair of the Democratic State Committee, is running to become mayor of the beleaguered city.  

“Job growth and business growth are critical, but also to some extent downsizing the city is, too," Lonegan told the paper. "You have neighborhoods in Camden I've visited that are boarded-up. They should be leveled. Why not make them into parks or forests?"

Redd also called on the other Republican candidates for Governor – former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie and Assemblyman Rick Merkt (R-Mendham) – to repudiate the comments, which she said reflected poorly on the entire Republican Party.

“It goes to show how out of touch the Republican Party is when it comes to urban issues and concerns,” she said.

Lonegan called Redd’s invocation of the Nazis “foolish and meaningless rhetoric.”

“Clearly Dana Redd has no vision for the future of Camden. The downsizing of old, blighted neighborhoods to return them to open space is common practice for urban planners,” he said.  “Camden is rife with functionally obsolete neighborhoods, unoccupied buildings, and to continue to pour money into these areas thinking we’re going to bring population back to Camden is absurd.”

Lonegan said many of the neighborhoods were so deserted that not many people would even need to be relocated.  And those that would, he said, would have “the opportunity to get a better home and get some open space.”

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*Update --When asked whether he would repudiate Lonegan's statement, as Redd requested, Merkt wrote the following response:

Senator Redd is hardly in a position to be demanding apologies from anyone.  Instead, she and her fellow Democrats should be begging forgiveness from the long-suffering people of Camden for having ensnared them into a perpetual cycle of government dependency.  Instead, these cynical and self-serving politicians continue to feather their own personal nests, while their constituents are consigned to hopeless lives of permanent poverty and political indenture to the likes of Senator Redd.

And, Senator, before you start slamming other people about their supposed lack of sensitivity to your constituents, how about your showing even a modicum of concern for the well-being of the 85% of New Jersey's population that lives in the suburbs and rural areas?  Your party's shocking irresponsibility has virtually bankrupted the State of New Jersey, leaving an impossible bill for future generations to pay.  So, while you're busy apologizing to your own constituents for the chronic failure of Democratic policies, you might also want to express your personal regrets to the people of the entire state for your complicity in wrecking New Jersey's finances and economy.

I do not agree with former Mayor Lonegan's comments, but neither do I agree with Senator Redd's reprehensible attempts to smear all Republicans as "Naziesque."  Members of my family fought the Nazis, Senator.  We know about their evil in ways you cannot even begin to imagine.  I find your blanket criticism of everyone in my party just as specious and offensive as you find former Mayor Lonegan's remarks.

And when we're all done with apologies, Senator, perhaps you can explain just how your party plans to save New Jersey from bankruptcy, or are we all destined to pin our hopes on an endless series of "bailouts" from Washington, DC?  In other words, why don't we all concentrate on what really matters to the future welfare of the people of New Jersey, instead of wasting our time on blatant political pandering? 

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