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Ray Lamboy sa down for an in-depth interview with AL DÍA News.
Ray Lamboy sa down for an in-depth interview with AL DÍA News.

Camden candidate Ray Lamboy, the political outsider

Ray Lamboy, President and CEO of the Latin American Economic Development Association (LAEDA) is running for Mayor of Camden.

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Raymond Lamboy’s bid to be the next Mayor of Camden and the democratic candidate for the primary election for June 6 is unsurprising.

Having spent years focusing on improvement within the business community in the city and using his position as President & CEO of the Latin American Economic Development Association (LAEDA) to help local residents start their own business, Lamboy has shown a particular interest in seeing the city grow and revitalize itself.

His family’s legacy as business owners is one that cannot be overlooked, having a presence in both Philadelphia and Camden since the 1970s. Lamboy uses the stories of his family business to portray the economic growth and then decline of the city, right on Broadway street.

And though Lamboy may have a strong presence in the business community, his involvement in the city does not stop there. Lamboy served on the City of Camden Board of Education from 2009 - 2013 and was the past chairman of the board of the Salvation Army Kroc Center.

Despite his longtime presence in various aspects of the city of Camden, Lamboy’s campaign has very much painted him as the candidate who is the political outsider. Running against 20-year politician Frank Moran, and candidates Theo Spencer and Amir Kahn, the mayoral race has seen newcomers rise to the top since the current Mayor, Dana Redd, announced that she would not be seeking another term.

Without much political backing, Lamboy and his running mates have spent the campaign going door-to-door to earn the support of the city of Camden. In a city where only 20 percent of residents vote, this tactic could be their only path to victory over candidates like Moran who have the support of other leaders such as Angel Fuentes.

When speaking with AL DIA News on the campaign, Lamboy was clear he had the resolve to fight for victory until the end.

In an exclusive interview, he outlines his policies, past and his new vision for the city of Camden.

Read the full interview below:

Why do you want to be the Mayor Of Camden?

Camden is at a crossroads. In many instances over the years, I’ve been in the city as a business owner since 1991- and I’ve witnessed various efforts to revitalize the city that disenfranchised the community. If you recall the adventure Aquarium, back then it was the Thomas Paine Aquarium, it was presented as the next great thing for the city of Camden. And then they made investments in the Blockbuster Entertainment Center and that was presented as the next game-changer for the city of Camden. And then next was the ballpark. [...] “What about the residents? What about Camden? How are we going to connect the resident community - the success of our families - to these revenue programs?” And we began to advocate through local government for a seat at the table to begin to ask how are we going to grow these programs? How are we going to recruit companies in? What kind of companies are we going to recruit in to have a direct impact on the community?” [...] We were looking at grassroots strategies that could be applied in the city of Camden to include the residents in the growth or success of the community. And out of that forum came the desire for community benefit agreements.

What are community benefit agreements?

This is used in cities where a company that comes in agrees to provide certain benefits to that community in return for tax breaks, fast-tracking of their programs and the like. [...]                                                          So the group that I work with, Camden Churches Organized for People, gathered this research and got a meeting with the Mayor’s office which included the Mayor, Councilman President Frank Moran, the Chief of Staff and our team of residents and faith leaders in the room, and we presented our research and said, “Hey let’s work together so we can ensure these benefits work together and the economic impact of these companies can be felt wide and deep into the community.” The response we got was surprising. The mayor’s office, in fact the mayor, stated that she represented the community and there was no need to engage with them. And we went about going to the grassroots again to try and work with these companies. The last stop on that journey and the final trigger on my decision to run for Mayor was my last stop with the Cooper Foundation, which is a large foundation in the city of Camden, and I went to go see the head of that foundation to see what they could do to help bridge the community with these companies to really get these agreements in place. And I was met with the advice that the best place to go with this is to your elected officials. So I essentially came full circle. [...] It was good advice. Unfortunately our mayor and our city council were not in tune with those community benefit agreements. So I said who would be the one to convene with these people and these meetings and he said, “Well, the Mayor’s the only one who can really do that.” And at that point I decided to run for Mayor.

Tell us more about your background and what got you here today.

I’m the son of Candelario Lamboy and Carmen Lamboy, both very involved community leaders in the Latino community in Philadelphia. We come from a family of entrepreneurs. My father is an entrepreneur and his father was an entrepreneur. I started my business career after graduating from Rutgers in New Brunswick where I studied Economics. Then I took over my family business on Broadway, the Lamboy furniture store. [...] My dad opened that store in 1970, so I saw as a young boy with my dad, the city crumble around us. My store was the last store on the block of 30 businesses. Our building was the last building on the block of 30 buildings. [...] We eventually sold that building and I went on to work as the Program Manager at the Latin American Economic Development Association. [...] I took over as President and CEO in 2007 to 2008 and I really crystalized our strategy. [...] We’ve expanded throughout South Jersey as well, providing Spanish-language training. [...] I opened the eyes of people in downtown to the thriving communities outside of downtown. I say all this to say this grassroots strategy is one of the levels of my economic strategy for the city of Camden and this is one of the levels we’ll find opportunities for citizens to start their own businesses.

Noting your experience with the school board what do you see as the future of education in Camden?

As Mayor, I’m responsible for the 15,000 school-age children in the city of Camden. I’m responsible for appointing board members to the school board and eventually they will be elected school board members and they will have a vision and an understanding the importance of getting our on par with any child in the region. So regardless of the business model - a charter school, renaissance school or a public school - we must hold our school system responsible for educating our children. The bottom line for me is: are we educating our children?

Outside of economic development and education, what’s at the top of your agenda?

Rebuilding civic pride in our city [...] I think one of things a Mayor of the city of Camden needs to do is to create hope. A lot of times, hope has been presented but not followed through on. So when you look at these companies you hear the narrative of, “This is it?” They’re skeptical because they’ve been told this narrative of hope that never really came to pass. And my goal is to make sure that this opportunity is not squandered, that we build the bridges from the commercial corridor. That we build those bridges from Holtec to the neighborhood corridor. That we build those bridges between these companies and these communities to ensure that everyone rises when Camden rises.

You’ve talked a lot about the current state of Camden. What is Camden’s current situation and who do you think should be held responsible for it? What is the path to change?

I think the biggest obstacle to change is our current political situation. As a democrat running outside of the political establishment, it goes without saying. But a lot of the people who are in office today have been in office for the past 20 years. [...] These are the same players, the casted characters, who have been in charge all these years. So the question is how can you expect those who have been in office for so long to suddenly change their stripes and be that connector, that builder, between the communities and these opportunities to economic development. [...] For me it’s about opening the door to debate.

Taking a step back to Milton Milan, the first Latino Mayor of the city. He was charged for corruption and one of the past 3 mayors to be charged. How do you think political leaders should be held accountable to prevent corruption?

If it’s not good for the community, if it’s not good for that particular neighborhood, we should vote no. [...] When it comes to corruption, if a solution cannot withstand the light of day. It’s not a solution. [...] When I was on the school board and the issue of renaissance schools came about, we were under a lot of pressure to get the ordinance moved along. And with $60 million at play, it was a lot at stake. And when I ask people how we got there they say, “The process was rigged.” At every turn there were changes to the rules that brought about the preconceived ending. And I think that frustration - I don’t want to call that corruption - in situation where the ending is already determined is valid. Especially when everyone is so determined to put that outcome in place.

Tell us about the evolution of the Latino community since the election of Mayor Milan. What has happened in the past 20 years?

My desire to run for Mayor is not a Latino thing or an African-American thing. My desire to run for Mayor is based on the city of Camden. I think when you frame politics in the framework of race, you limit the scope of what can be done. What’s for the good of the city is for the good of the city - no matter your background.

 

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