What exactly are the issues that millennials care about in South Jersey?
Of course, relative to all things involving South Jersey, that depends on who you’re asking and where they are from. Southern New Jersey is an incredibly fragmented, segregated dot on the U.S. map, and what might be 5 miles apart somewhere else equates to completely different worlds here.
So what does this mean? Well, it means that our lawmakers might have pretty tough jobs as they try to understand and seek input from their constituencies. State legislative districts encompass dozens of municipalities with one district holding urban food desserts and wealthy suburban utopias at the same time. To some degree, this is to remind the constituencies that we must remain engaged, no matter our geographic locations. Yes, yes, I am well aware of how some South Jersey municipalities avidly dismiss resident input.
But there is one thing both younger and older populations must never forget as we brace for 2017; social media still holds a lot of power. Record, document, scan, and share your governmental interactions.
From my experiences as a millennial who has had the privilege to grow up in Cherry Hill, I can gauge that millennials are fired up about the heroin and opioid epidemic. Lawmakers have taken the initiative on in many capacities, with some making the issue a campaign battle cry. All lawmakers, though, have sought the regular political remedies for addiction such as pumping money into educational initiatives and by making Narcan readily available to law enforcement and the public. No lawmaker has moved to provide legislation aimed at preventing addiction in the first place, and that may or may not be due to the fact that very few lawmakers are medical doctors. If there were more medical doctor-lawmakers, I’d like to imagine a stronger legislative push on the medical profession to seek alternative treatment methods to temporary pain than routinely prescribing derivatives of opium.
LGTBQ Equality is also a concern for many SJ Millennials. The presidential election contributed to this, for sure, but South Jersey also lacks any real pockets of progressive culture. Many townships are home to traditional families who have resided in those places for a century or more. Philly is across the bridge, which gets expensive, and Jersey City is basically ‘NYC far’ away. Asbury Park is just beyond the SJ boundary. We lack that inclusive culture that the aforementioned areas all have ingrained in their streets. If there is such a place in South Jersey, well, I guess we need to publicize a little more.
Suburban millennials in South Jersey are also real tired of damaged roadways such as Route 70. We drive cars, and are close to needing to buy new cars. But why would we when the most traveled road in Camden County literally breaks suspensions?
When we move outside of the more populated suburbs and view the region as a whole, South Jersey millennials are asking about jobs. Most millennials have gone through college, or are close to graduating by now, and it’s safe to say that many are employed. But, where are the higher paying opportunities that their college degree prepared them for? That is what some are asking, and that is why many have fled to Philadelphia or New York City. The brain drain that has plagued New Jersey as a whole persists. Philadelphia, by the way, is poised to be a booming STEM/STEAM hub over the next decade, with Comcast striking their flag in the center of the city.
And rent. For most millennials, rent is the most ridiculous thing currently in our lives, or in our foreseeable futures. Why? Because it is the perfect reason to still be living with our parents until we are 30. Rent prices in South Jersey are in some cases more expensive than monthly mortgage payments. I mean it, go check Trulia! But in order to receive a mortgage, we need a decent down payment, and banks also want to see a salary that ensures we can pay out the life of the contract. Couple that with mountains of student loans, yeah, #TeamMomandDad all the way! Though, I will say to those who do have decent salaries but might not be in the ‘mortgage’ comfort zone yet, go check out some foreclosed homes. They are likely in rough shape, but I would bet that their prices would surprise you.
I invite readers to contribute more issues in the comments section, however, be sure to write to your state and federal representatives about these issues, too. They have staff members specifically hired to read constituent letters.