Had a great opportunity this morning to have a conversation with Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian. He’s a thoughtful, intelligent leader committed to bringing his city out of the financial mess it’s current suffering through. The war of words in Trenton has been stepped up recently as Governor Christie pulled no punches regarding the bill to allow the state to takeover the operations and finances of Atlantic City. Going so far as to say that if Guardian were a CEO of a company the board would have him fired.
During the Governor’s press event yesterday our chaser Ashley Johnson asked the Governor about his using the Moody’s bond rating downgrade for the City as a reason for the takeover given the fact that Moody’s has downgraded the state of NJ nine times during Christie’s two terms. The Governor responded by essentially saying that he wouldn’t answer because Ashley has no idea what she was talking about.
I asked the Mayor about the political rhetoric from the Senate President and the Governor, specifically regarding the state takeover and why it’s considered necessary to right the financial ship. My thought is that since the city was promised aid, why not just give a list of demands to hold the city accountable for the spending of taxpayers money from the state coffers. The Mayor told me that they had been given demands. And the followed every one of them. Including cuts to essential services by reducing the costs in the police force as a ns example by 20%. His new operating budget came in $60 million dollars lower than the past at around $200 million dollars. Seems to me that the city has made cuts and continues to move in the direction of reducing spending to the levels expected from a fiscally conservative Republican mayor. Why then the need for a state takeover?
Ahh, Jersey politics. Senate President Steve Sweeney wants to be governor. My thought is that if he wrestles control away from the local elected leaders with the fear mongering about AC shutting down with chaos and mayhem in the streets, he’ll be able to ride in as the hero. The state will give the money to AC after they get control and since the cuts are already being made by Guardian and the local leaders, Sweeney will be able to take credit for a balancing the budget and ‘saving the city’. This is the worst kind of politics. The people of Atlantic City and New Jersey deserve better than a soundbite from the politician who stands to gain the most from the misfortune of the residents of Atlantic City. The fact that the Governor is using the issue as a political weapon is almost as disappointing.
Talking to Don Guardian it was clear that he’s not a typical politician. We spoke candidly and he offered refreshingly honest thoughts about the future of the city. He’s clearly a man who actually cares about the city he was elected to serve. Whether he’s the best financial manager or not, time will tell, but he inherited a mess spawned by decades of corruption and mismanagement. Sound familiar?
The short term solution is to hold the city government accountable for the money they have and will receive. The long term solution is to let the free market do it’s job bringing a once great American tourist destination back from the brink of disaster.
Change the gaming license rules and offer tax breaks to independent businesses to come to the shore town. If the gaming license rules were amended to strike the requirement of having to have a huge hotel before qualifying then there’s no reason why local restaurants, delis, and even laundromats couldn’t partake in the high demand for gambling. The best example is what is happening successfully in Las Vegas. From the airport to the coffee shop customers can take a chance to win big on electronic games. Not only does this independent business competition not hurt the revenue of the big casino hotels but since there’s a thriving entrepreneurial spirit in the city, it enhances the market for everyone. The streets are clean and safe and attractive for people to travel from across the globe to partake in the entertainment.
Think about having free market gaming in AC, where there is also have a beach and an ocean. The possibilities are endless. Atlantic City could return to the days when it was known as “America’s Playground”.
Get government out of the way. The state of New Jersey should reject the dealings of the power brokers in Trenton. Make good on the promises made to provide emergency funding then allow for the market to take hold and lift AC out of this mess. AC should be providing the state with and ever increasing supply of money from tax revenues, not the other way around. It’s possible and can happen sooner rather than later.
The streets have become increasingly safer as crime continues to drop despite cuts to the police force. The mayor is #DigginIn and committed to public service for his local community. It’s time to remove the political speak and get down to business. With Don Guardian’s recent success in getting multiple unions to agree to delay paychecks to avoid a shutdown it would seem that he’s got his pulse on the working men and women in the city.
Give him a chance to continue on the path of fiscal responsibility that started when he took office. The state is a mess and can’t manage their own finances. What makes anyone think that they can manage someone else’s?