Just two days after the referendum for expanded gambling in New Jersey was rejected, it has now been announced that Atlantic City will be taken over by the state. Atlantic City has faced a state takeover for many months and now it seems the takeover is finally happening. Yesterday, Governor Chris Christie’s administration announced that authority was granted for the immediate seizure of control of Atlantic City by the state.
A vote of 5 to 0 was cast by the state Local Finance Board to approve a takeover of the city for a five year time frame. Christie has stated that this effort is the best way to keep the city from becoming the first municipality in New Jersey from going bankrupt since 1938.
With the decision, the state will have the power to assume key functions that would normally be controlled by local officials. Union contracts can be negotiated, employees can be hired as well as fired along with city assets being sold and more. The last time a takeover of this nature took place in the state was back in 2002 and involved the city of Camden.
After the vote took place, City Council President Marty Small stated that it is a sad day in the history of Atlantic City. Don Guardian, the mayor, commented in days leading up to the vote that if a takeover was approved then the city would be challenging the decision in court. However, when the vote took place, Guardian stated that a challenge would not be made until they were able to take with state officials more. Apparently, Guardian wants to see how cooperative the state will be before moving forward with a court filing.
The takeover of the city by the state will be overseen by the Director of the Department of Community Affairs Division of Local Government Services, Timothy Cunningham. According to Cunningham, he is not sure as to what duties the mayor and council will be able to retain, calling the takeover ‘uncharted territory’. Cunningham also stated that the move is an unbelievable responsibility and one that he has lost sleep over in the past few days leading up to the decision.
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