Some people wake up on a day like this–wind howling in turret and tree–and immediately call in sick, resolving to spend the day drinking chamomile tea and watching I, Claudius reruns with the cat in their lap. Better to hunker down and avoid reality than risk getting hit in the face with a flying fish trying to make it to the office in a nor’easter.
Some other people call in sick and think: I’m going to the beach!
The Miss America Organization is getting 1,800 square feet of prime Atlantic City real estate from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for $1,500 a month, according to CRDA, but the nonprofit pageant says it’s not a done deal. “We are currently in discussions, and there is no further information at this time,” said a spokesperson for the Miss America Organization in an email, after we sent them a copy of a CRDA press release announcing their new office-space arrangement. Miss America Organization currently has office space at The Claridge and it was not immediately clear what would happen to that space.
Maybe you’ve lived through more than one of Atlantic City’s many revival phases. Maybe you’ve seen the big buildings come down as well as go up. Maybe you’re a foreigner and a bit of a cynic like me. But put aside your reservations for a minute and take a look at the Stockton University Island Campus. Skipping over the mess surrounding the project’s origins, it’s hard not to be at least a little bit lifted up by these massive machines at work.
Someone asked me the other day whether the state will just let Atlantic City get on with things now, since the city somehow on Monday pulled the rabbit out of the hat and produced a recovery plan, as demanded by state officials and ahead of their schedule. Who knows. As Jitney Guy noted on Twitter (see below), it depends in large part on the winds in Trenton, which we know have changed, but you’d need some kind of hyperactive weather vane to have a clue what direction they’re pointing in now.
This morning, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and a support team of lawyers are testifying before the Assembly Judiciary Committee in Trenton to try and win support for the city’s recovery plan. The Press of Atlantic City’s Christian Hetrick is providing a rundown on Twitter (@_hetrick) and the deal – which includes agreements on city union contracts, significant cost cuts and no tax increases for five years – seems pretty impressive. The one question hanging over it, as Amy Rosenberg raised in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday, is the extent to which the city’s biggest taxpayer, the Borgata casino, is on board. The Borgata said yesterday it had no agreement with the city – but the casino is prepared to discuss a reduction of the amount the city owes it in taxes it overpaid in previous years. The Borgata, as the city’s advisors well know, doesn’t really trust Atlantic City after long-running litigation over its taxes, and it is apparently waiting for the state’s ruling on the recovery plan.
The local weather institution that is Dan Skeldon has a piece that (SPOILER!) won’t surprise you by accurately predicting, day-by-day, the winter weather, but you’ll want to read it anyway just so can talk about the weather in an informed kind of way with friends, relations and Wawa cashiers. Skeldon says that other forecasters believe it will be an ‘average’ winter and that maybe the warm ocean temperature could cause more coastal storms and coastal flooding. The No North Jersey Casinos coalition is holding a rally on Thursday – on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Right now, SNJ Today says polls show that 70 percent of voters are against the idea of gaming in the north of the state. And most people you speak to in AC think it’s just another way to kick South Jersey while it’s down.
The stars seem to be aligning around here, meaning that a whole lot of people with deep pockets as well as some politicians have agreed on something: Atlantic County needs jobs and maybe aviation and technology could be a better bet (sorry) than the casino industry. Leaving aside the fact that it would be hard to do much worse than being a gambling economy centered around closing casinos, aeronautics really does sound like a great future for our youth of today. The Press of Atlantic City looked at this issue last week and New Jersey 101.5 has the details today of a New York-based college that focuses on aeronautics and technology and could open a branch at the Atlantic City International Airport. Every time I read about District 2, I think of the Hunger Games. But democratic hopeful David Cole seems to be thinking of how to beat his big-spending incumbent rival Frank LoBiondo.
The Press of Atlantic City takes a look at the impact of casino
gambling on small businesses, declaring the effects “both a blessing
and a curse.” “When they brought casinos in, I don’t think that they ever envisioned
that they would be all-encompassing, that they would be closed off to
the city — and to the ocean for that matter,” said Mayor Don Guardian. Oh, Donnie. You are so naive! Meanwhile, the same Atlantic City mayor has been cracking on with his plan to keep the Queen of Resorts out of the state’s clutches, mainly by coming up with a faintly sketched roadmap for paying down debt and reducing interest payments.
Atlantic City last night took a step closer – maybe, just maybe – to getting out from under the bizarre and complex terms that came with taking a controversial state emergency loan earlier this year. The city council agreed (just – the vote was 5-4) to sell former airstrip Bader Field to the city’s water utility in return for $110 million (and yep, a lot more debt for the Municipal Utilities Authority). Next step is the announcement of a five-year recovery plan which will be presented at a public meeting at City Hall on Monday at 5pm. If it doesn’t appease the state, it won’t be for Mayor Don Guardian’s lack of trying. Guardian has sold everything from scrap metal and filing cabinets to bicycles and vacant lots to raise money and he’s persuaded hundreds of city staffers to take early retirement and do without city courtesy cars to trim costs.
Atlantic City residents will be voting November 8 on a school voucher referendum that would, theoretically, give parents $10,000 to send their kids to the school of their (the parents’) choice. The referendum was proposed by Councilman Jesse Kurtz (who was home-schooled and home-schools his kids) and passed the city council unanimously. The teacher’s union opposes it, rather strenuously. And vouchers are currently illegal in New Jersey. But with the sky falling down the way it has been, proponents see an opportunity. Read Diane D’Amico’s story.
In news from the paranormal school of clickbait, Philly Voice reported on a Mountain Lion possibly roaming through South Jersey (wait – you didn’t realize you were living in a mountainous snowy wonderland? Us neither). There was “trail camera” footage, a genre familiar to everyone who’s ever googled ‘Jersey Devil’ or ‘Big Foot’, and Winslow Township police were on the case. Spoiler alert – the story was later updated and the party poopers at the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife snuffed out the wannabe viral image. ‘Tis the season, folks.
It’s 40 years since the referendum was passed to legalize casino gambling in Atlantic City, and the town has been completely saved and rejuvenated by the sainted industry. Right? Anyway, the Press of Atlantic City has a neat interview with Steve Perskie, ‘father of casino gaming’, looking back on those 40 years. Probably a good time to remind everyone that Perskie was found to have committed serious ethics violations as a judge and to have lied to a senate panel a few years ago. Also, for those with time on their hands, we have a neat document that shows how the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has spent all that tax money.