On Monday, the mayor of the resort city on New Jersey‘s Atlantic coast known for its casinos, iconic Boardwalk, and wide beaches, did not mince words as he stood outside of City Hall and spoke about a proposed state takeover.
Standing before a crowd of representatives from almost every major branch of local government, including more than 100 city workers and representatives of the League of Municipalities, Atlantic City’s Mayor, Don Guardian, called the state’s plan a “fascist dictatorship,” according to philly.com. A much harsher tone than when he stood with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and Governor Chris Christie last month and the five-year takeover plan of Atlantic City’s finances was announced. Declining to call the agreement a takeover at the time, Guardian instead classified it as cooperation, according to NJ Advance Media.
During Guardian’s fiery speech he implored legislators to reject Sweeney’s takeover bill. He called the bill “an insult to democracy.’ Instead, he said, legislation would be proposed by the city to create specific goals and benchmarks for fiscal recovery, and an oversight committee of local and state elected officials and residents would be set up. In addition, the city’s bill would prohibit the state-directed sale of any beach property as well as the city’s Water Authority.
The mayor’s alternate proposal was dismissed by Sweeney spokesman Richard McGrath saying the attempt by the city to make the necessary changes “to bring the finances into line,” was too little and too late. McGrath said that there isn’t enough time to wait for the city to come up with a new plan that will require more money and have the same results.
Christie spokesman Brian Murray said the governor supported Sweeney’s approach and that either Atlantic City has the money to pay its bills or not, but that New Jersey taxpayers can’t keep being asked to bail out Atlantic City, especially with their continued irresponsible spending and taxing. Guardian, however, said that in recent years the city has made significant cuts and that the heads of the police and fire department unions said collective-bargaining agreements had been opened by them and agreed to pay cuts and givebacks.
Under Sweeney’s bill the state’s Local Finance Board would be given power over city government, assets, operations, budget, contracts and departments for as many as five years. It would also include aid for the city, and for casinos, a collective “payment in lieu of taxes.”
Guardian urged the state to partner with Atlantic City and said that he tried to work on a compromise on state intervention with Sweeney, but that “in the end, all of our concerns fell on deaf ears.” He said that depending on which debt service or bills get paid, within two months the city will essentially run out of money.