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A Small Town that Wants More Attention from Trenton

Mayor says his town, like other small towns in New Jersey, is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ while the focus of State House politicians is on big cities

Media outlets across New Jersey are collaborating on Voting Block, to encourage political discussion among neighbors in advance of this fall’s gubernatorial election. As part of the project, WHYY radio from Philadelphia talked to voters in the small town of Paulsboro.

Among the six thousand residents of Paulsboro, many feel neglected by politicians in Trenton. They hope that will change when a new governor is elected next November.

“We're kind of like out of sight, out of mind,” said Gary Stevenson, mayor of this small town in the southwestern corner of New Jersey. “And I'm speaking for a lot of mayors in small towns.”

“[Politicians] are most definitely going to have to take this small town into consideration, so that we don't turn into a city with even bigger problems,” said resident Christa Cooper. “There are small little towns that are suffering big time because of cuts that start in our government.”

For Mayor Stevenson, the town’s main issue is how to deal with abandoned properties. “Do I get upset when I see Camden getting $10, $15, $20 million to rehab neighborhoods and I get nothing? You're darn right I do,” he said. “They need to spread that wealth around a little better to the smaller towns and not just concentrate on the big cities.”

School funding is also a major issue in Paulsboro. The public school district experienced spikes in its homeless and special-education populations in the last two years, which required additional spending. But school funding from Trenton has been flat for the past seven years even as it has increased for nearby towns. This year, the district laid off 10 faculty and staff members.

On the upside, the Port of Paulsboro opened in March, promising to bring economic opportunity back to an area that lost jobs as the refinery industry downsized over the years.

Read the full story on NewsWorks, a content partner of NJ Spotlight.

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