It’s more than 100 days since the Great Atlantic City Takeover began, and Jeffrey Chiesa does not have an adequate nickname. Officially, he is the “Designee of the Director of Local Government Services” but, you know, they create these strings of gobbledygook on purpose. So you won’t be able to talk about them. I’m proposing “Boardwalk Emperor” as an alternative. The Boardwalk Emperor, Jeffrey Chiesa, has not been spotted publicly in Atlantic City since November, but we have a clearer picture of his majesty’s ambitions here, in our Queen of Resorts, courtesy of his attorney Ronald Israel who casually revealed some of the details before a Superior Court Judge on Tuesday.
New Jersey’s sinister Department of Community Affairs (if that is, in fact, its real name) has hired Jason Holt to assist in its work of taking over and fixing the grave mess that is the Atlantic City municipal government. This is a curious hiring decision, since, up until a few days ago, Holt had been business administrator for–wait for it–the municipal government of Atlantic City itself, which raises a question or two. Was the Atlantic City government really incompetent, as Governor Christie has repeatedly asserted? And if so, why is the State Department of Community of Affairs hiring the city’s allegedly incompetent personnel to staff its takeover team? By sheer luck, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Amy Rosenberg seems to have wondered the same thing and reports that a spokesman for Christie, “declined to answer a question about whether Holt’s hire undercut repeated assertions by Christie that Atlantic City’s government was incompetent.”
Socialism for billionaires, free-enterprise for the average Joe
My old friend the fat-cat retired Atlantic City lifeguard pension profiteer is in the news again in this season of “shared sacrifice” here in our fabled Queen of Resorts, this time in the pages of the New York Times, where he’s presented as a symbol, I perceive, of the outrageous greed and excess at the heart of our dilapidated republic. Novice economists might suppose this greed and excess was concentrated within our citadels of high finance, or among the titans of industry—in this case the casino gambling industry—who so enriched themselves while leaving a string of empty eyesores atop our most important natural resource (the beach and boardwalk). This would be incorrect. Our problems here in Atlantic City—generations in the making—are not the result of a concentration of political power in the hands of financiers or gambling moguls, but rather to the unrestrained avarice of our municipal working class. John Steinbeck, that great chronicler of the American everyman, once wrote that socialism never took root in our native soils because the American proletariat does not identify as an exploited working class.
NJ.com’s Brent Johnson has a listicle on things you should know about the possible bankruptcy being floated by Atlantic City officials. Foremost being: They need the state’s permission to declare it. “The last time a New Jersey municipality declared bankruptcy was Fort Lee in 1932 — in the middle of the Great Depression.”
Friendly reminder, the Press of A.C.’s John Santore was reporting Gov. Christie might use a PILOT veto to force regionalization of the A.C. Police Department and privatization of other city agencies, back in November. Meanwhile the Press’s Reuben Kramer reports on the $168 million the city owes the Borgata after the casino successfully appealed its property taxes. Mayor Don Guardian yesterday “floated two potential paths to resolution” of this debt, neither particularly appealing to the executive jobs-creators who brought you such innovations as the Borgata Babe.
A.C. Fights Back, Lucy Loses A Friend and Our Crumbling Infrastructure in Today’s Route Forty Roundup – BETA
The Press of A.C. reports on the widespread opposition across Atlantic County to Steve Sweeny’s takeover plan. Marty Small said the plan robbed the city of its “sovereignty” noting no municipality in the country faced the problems Atlantic City had, while Mayor Don Guardian challenged the narrative the city was at war with the state, saying he and his colleagues were voted to be “diplomats.”
Moody’s said the plan to expand casino gambling would be “bad news” forAtlantic City and cause more casinos to close there, NJ.com reports. Because it’s helpful to have the banker perspective on every issue. Meanwhile, city gambling revenue has been cut in half since 2006, Politico reports (subscription). Rebecca Forand reports on the “swanky” Mullica Hill house Rowan University bought for its president, supplying many photos of the $975,000 spread, which, spoiler, resembles a bog-standard McMansion outfitted to the tastes of Marshal Tito. Meanwhile Rutgers is asking the state for $98.5 million.