Op-Ed: From the Boardwalk in Atlantic City – The Reckoning

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The city and county are mad at the other over taxes, the Governor and his cohorts seemingly lied to both about many things, and New Jersey’s bureaucratic presence known as the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) voted to adopt a new master plan. It is understandable that much of the local populace seems mad at them all.
Years ago, we learned the world isn’t flat… it’s round. Round worlds don’t have corners. They are connected to everything, and everyone, and if we would keep that in mind, we may reorient this town, county, and state into a proper balance of cooperation instead of control.

CRDA’s Lance Landgraf explains the new master plan for the Atlantic City Tourism District.

We, as fellow residents living in Atlantic County, must decide to steer Atlantic City to a place of safety and balance. But there seem to be speed bumps everywhere.
Let’s look at one reality: The state is going on seven years monitoring Atlantic City finances and 33 years investing in it through the CRDA (CRDA’s only been in charge of planning since the Tourism District was created in 2011). The state takes credit for good news, but no blame for bad news here or elsewhere in the state. In fact, Governor Christie was in town for Stockton University’s groundbreaking and photo opportunities two weeks ago. He was joined by plenty of politicians and bureaucrats who helped steer us here…. to the #1 county across the country for foreclosures.

Even our good politicians seem awful because the systems themselves are broken. So, the way I see it, our choices are:
1) to raise a toast to backward-moving hopelessness, or
2) to point a direction for them to follow.

There is always a background murmur in Atlantic City. Thing is, not many are prepared to buck the system and speak openly. We were founded by gangsters, and still have gangsters involved in everything. The difference is, the old gangsters were local crooks, and left crumbs behind for all to share. The new breed seems to take the crumbs with them.

I no longer care much what the CRDA, city council or state government has to say. They’ve all had years to say it, and haven’t done many things noteworthy or leading toward prosperity. Further, it doesn’t really matter if the bad forces were internal from the city, or external from the state. It is what it is – messy at the core and we are stuck in the middle like pawns.

We are under state control and the state is poised to take our water company while it continues to milk hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes yearly from our collapsed teats….. Talk about taxation without representation!

It doesn’t make sense that the CRDA board took back pay while cutting the guy making $11.00 an hour. Our cops are being cut, our fireman are being thrown to the wolves, and there’s another out-of-town decision maker at $400 an hour deciding these issues.

However, I am of the mind that we are at a point of new beginning and how we approach this beginning really does matter. Since I can’t design the system, I intend to play with the ballpark principle in mind: “When in someone’s ballpark, play by their rules.” But I fully intend to point out when I think those rules are flawed.

The city needs residents vested in the county making the decisions and many would easily do it for free. If they removed the politics and the long-term players, the CRDA might find new direction more quickly. I have served on many successful boards; one of the principles of success includes rotating seats. With new blood we may get new ideas and direction for the new director, Chris Howard.

It’s time the CRDA reckons with the people and recognizes the population’s betterment is their purpose and their reason to exist. It was not created to exist for the sake of the board members.

This isn’t about the State, the CRDA Board, City Council, or even the Mayor’s office. It’s about us being all we can be while there is still an Atlantic City to improve. There’s a new mood in town. We cannot allow the old games and the same people to kill it. We need to lead the leaders.

The county is now suing the state, and who knows what other lawsuit will be filed this week, or by whom. I’d suggest giving new blood a seat at the table. Replace the current CRDA Board with the local mayor’s association, or a substantive number of the local mayors. Give them the vested interest their constituents deserve, and get some local Atlantic City citizens and residents on the Board. Also, get rid of the pay. Let’s see who is up for the task free of another stipend at our expense. It’s time for a whole new rewrite of things that are not working in real time. Here’s something we can all agree on: Atlantic City, Atlantic County, and New Jersey are screwed up, and possibly screwed if we don’t mix things up some.

The emperor has no clothes, and it looks like there’s more than one emperor to parade down the boardwalk.

Contact Geoff Rosenberger

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