Christie pushing for state takeover of Atlantic City

 Flanked by New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, left, and Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, Gov. Chris Christie  announces plans for the state to take control of Atlantic City finances. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Flanked by New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, left, and Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, Gov. Chris Christie announces plans for the state to take control of Atlantic City finances. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Since Atlantic City officials have not been able to stabilize the city’s finances, Gov. Chris Christie has declared it’s time for New Jersey to intervene.

At a Tuesday new conference in Trenton, Christie said he expects the legislature will pass a measure next month authorizing the state to exert control over Atlantic City for up to five years.

The legislation would allow state officials to cancel contracts, consolidate municipal services with the county, and sell or lease city-owned assets and land.

“I’m not looking for any kind of long term takeover of the city at all,” said Christie, who traveled to New Jersey from the presidential campaign trail in New Hampshire.

“What I’m looking for is an intervention in the short term that will help them develop a long-term relationship with the mayor and the council that gets them on stable financial footing so that businesses would want to stay and invest there.”

Atlantic City officials had been united against a state takeover, but Mayor Don Guardian said Tuesday that even declaring bankruptcy would not have solved the city’s structural deficit.

“So we do need the state, the force that the state brings with it, to help us restructure our debt, to give us extra strength in dealing with collective-bargaining agreements, and to show us best practices of other cities that are going to provide services at a lower cost for government,” said Guardian who appeared along with Senate President Steve Sweeney at Christie’s side during the news conference at the Statehouse.

Sweeney said state intervention is vitally important for the financial future of the struggling resort town where four casinos have closed since 2014 and left thousands unemployed.

“Now that we have the cooperation and a partnership going with the mayor and the governor and we’ll have [Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto], I think that we’ll be in a place where we pass legislation in February,” said Sweeney. “We get Atlantic City back on its feet, and we help in assisting in making some of the tough decisions.”

But Prieto offered a word of caution following the news conference.

“I’m pleased the governor and Senate president followed my lead and started a dialogue with the Atlantic City mayor,” he said in a statement.

Seeking assurance that no collective bargaining agreements will be altered unilaterally, Prieto added, “The fact is that no one speaks for the Assembly except for the Assembly. If the Assembly is not involved, then there is no agreement.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m not looking for any kind of long term takeover of the city at all. What I’m looking for is an intervention in the short term that will help them develop a long term relationship with the mayor and the council that gets them on stable financial footing so that businesses would want to stay and invest there.”

 

Mayor Don Guardian says Atlantic City officials were against a state takeover but even declaring bankruptcy would not have solved the city’s structural deficit.

 

 “So we do need the state, the force that the state brings with it, to help us restructure our debt, to give us extra strength in dealing with collective bargaining agreements, and to show us best practices of other cities that are going to provide services at a lower cost for government.”

 

 

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