Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chris Christie to Atlantic City Residents: "Drop Dead!"

Governor Chris Christie, who is on a rampage privatizing every government service in sight, has done an about face when it comes to Atlantic City. Christie is proposing carving out the revenue-producing casino district from the rest of the blighted city. The state would take over municipal services, and no doubt those services would be candidates for Christie's ill-advised privatization initiative.

At one time, Atlantic City was the gambling mecca of the East Coast – an alternative to Las Vegas a lot closer to the population centers on the Atlantic seaboard. But over the years, as other states legalized gambling, Atlantic City's attractiveness started to wane.

Looking at the other recent state takeover of local government, Camden, one can only wonder if this is the right approach. While the Camden waterfront has been gentrified and is a tourist destination, urban decay and all the issues that go with it are just blocks away. I'm afraid the people of Atlantic City will suffer the same fate.

The Governor's motives for this takeover may seem to be laudable. But I'm afraid that I trust the Governor about as far as I can throw him. His track record over the first six months of his reign shows that he cares more about millionaires and developers than he does about the middle class and the poor. His shenanigans with Reform Jersey Now demonstrate that his regard for the spirit of the law is lacking. Will his diversion of tax money on the Xanadu project from government services to the Chris Christie Crony Developers be a precursor for a similar approach in Atlantic City?

Atlantic City is one of New Jersey's many jewels. Its legendary boardwalk and Convention Center are deeply rooted in our nation's history. And the gambling industry provides New Jersey residents with much-needed jobs. But is a state takeover by a power-hungry executive the right solution? At a time when our urban centers are closing libraries and firing teachers, we owe it to the people of Atlantic City to find the best solution that meets the needs of all its residents. Aid to schools, libraries, and the tourism industry – yes. But takeover of the city by an ego maniacal ambitious former prosecutor who skirts around the edges of legality is worrisome at best.

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