Mayor honored for support of fair housing

By KEVIN CALLAHAN
Courier-Post Staff

This is really being on call.

Gloucester Township Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton lists her home phone number on the township's Web page.

"I've been a resident of Gloucester Township for 48 years, I've lived here since I was 3 years old and I want an open door policy," Rau-Hatton said. "I want the residents to feel they can call me at home or on the weekends and that I will get back to them."

Well, the New Jersey Regional Coalition called her.

The NJRC, a faith-based organization, saluted Rau-Hatton as mayor of the year this year. She was cited because of her "courageous stand against housing segregation and the very public role she played as an ally of the NJRC on numerous occasions throughout the fight."

"I enjoy working with the New Jersey Regional Coalition because it is very issue oriented," said Rau-Hatton, a graduate of Highland High School. "It is combining elected officials with faith-based organizations with residents and advocacy groups to work on issues that affect all New Jerseyans."

Rau-Hatton, as well as other mayors and local elected leaders from across New Jersey, played a decisive role in winning fair-housing reform and abolishing Regional Contribution Agreements (RCAs). RCAs allowed affluent municipalities to pay poor ones to take their affordable housing obligation.

"With the RCA issue, I felt very strongly about that," she said.

Rau-Hatton, who taught at a music studio she owned before becoming mayor, said she felt every community had an obligation to provide affordable housing.

"I didn't like the idea that the rich towns were selling their obligations to poor towns," Rau-Hatton said. "It really wasn't fair."

The NJRC, which is in its fifth year, is a statewide organization of congregations and community groups that works together to bring regional solutions to what it calls "poverty, segregation, sprawl and the destructive competition between municipalities in New Jersey."

The NJRC aims to lower property taxes, improve schools and create fair housing opportunities.

"The coalition worked great and it was very effective in getting legislators on board, there are powers in numbers and we worked well throughout the whole state," she said. "I'm glad I had the opportunity to be involved."

Rau-Hatton, who was sworn into office on July 1, 2006, was honored by the NJRC along with Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, Bishop Joseph Galante of the Camden Diocese, Michael McGuinness, executive director of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, Thomas Giblin, president of the Essex-West Hudson Central Labor Council, and Rev. Darrell Armstrong, senior pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton.

Reach Kevin Callahan at (856) 317-7821 or kcallahan@courierpostonline.com.

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