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Despite Atlantic City’s Opposition, Senate to Consider takeover plan

Thursday, March 10, 2016   (0 Comments)
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Nj1015.com 3/9/2016

The collapse of the gaming industry that has led to the closing of one-third of the seaside resort’s casinos has had a crippling effect on property values and city services. Despite cuts in local spending, more outside help is needed – but if it comes, it’ll be with major strings attached. Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney have agreed on legislation that would give state officials vast powers over municipal decision-making – such as the ability to break union contracts, sell city assets and lay off workers. Initially, Atlantic City Mayor, Don Guardian, strenuously opposed Sweeney’s proposal, which has been intermittently called a takeover, intervention or partnership, depending on the day and who was talking. That’s part of what made his endorsement of the concept Jan. 26 surprising. It was also short-lived. Guardian and other city officials are back to fighting the idea. On Tuesday, according to the Press of Atlantic City, Guardian told the New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association convention: “I might lose my job as mayor. We will file bankruptcy, but I’m not giving in to the state.” If the state takes control of local government, among the moves it may make is to dissolve the city’s police department in favor of a county-based department that would patrol the city, similar to what is being done in Camden. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) has said the Atlantic City bill should not include the authority to dissolve union contracts. He also says Christie should not have vetoed “payment in lieu of taxes” legislation in January that would have provided funding to stave off Atlantic City’s potential bankruptcy; it did not include the takeover now being contemplated. Atlantic City can pay its bills into April, but the situation beyond that is unclear. The takeover bill would allow the state to make local governing decisions for five years. It would be permitted to dissolve local agencies, veto the actions of the governing council, sell assets, terminate contracts, modify the terms of collectively bargained agreements, such as salaries and hours, abolish positions and lay off employees, offer early retirement incentives and enter shared services agreements.


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