[toc]New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was talking up his role in the rebound of Atlantic City during an appearance on Thursday.
Crediting the state takeover of AC last fall and the “difficult decisions” made by him and state lawmakers, Christie painted an optimistic picture for the future of the resort town.
Development coming back to AC
Christie spoke on Thursday at the groundbreaking of a new $220 million complex in AC. That complex will host a satellite campus of Stockton University as well as the headquarters of South Jersey Gas.
Christie said that this complex and investment like the new complex and from Hard Rock International is not just good fortune.
“Hard Rock is not coming here because they weren’t to engage in a charitable enterprise. South Jersey Gas is not engaged in a charitable enterprise,” Christie said on Thursday. “So, these folks who are coming back into the city are here, because they believe that we have turned the corner and they are willing to put their money behind the efforts that what we’ve done together.”
More on the new AC complex
Some of what Christie said, in a transcript released by the governor’s office:
In fact, the 675,000-square-foot project is the first major non-casino development since the completion of the walk, which, unbelievably, was 15 years ago, now.
More importantly, it’s anticipated to generate about 925 direct construction jobs and once completed the project will bring an additional 300 permanent jobs into Atlantic City.
Today not only represents another major step in putting Atlantic City on the right path by developing its non-gaming sector thorough private investment and job creation, it’s bringing both Stockton University and South Jersey Gas back to Atlantic City.
Christie pats self on the back
Christie spent some of his time in Atlantic City congratulating himself and the state government for the job it did before and after the state takeover of the city’s finances:
I think if I had told you, forget about five years ago, if I had told you a year ago, that we would announce a 5-percent decrease in Atlantic City property taxes for the 2017 budget year, you would’ve said that both [Senate President Stephen] Sweeney and I were crazy.
But the fact is that when you make difficult decisions, you can actually do things like decrease property taxes, and the people of Atlantic City are seeing their first reduction in their property taxes in over a decade.
The tax decrease is resulting from a $35-million reduction in the city’s 2017 budget, $56 million less than the 2015 budget, and that is due to two things: the legislation that the state legislature passed and that I signed and the extraordinary efforts of former United States Senator Jeff Chiesa, who has been down here and doing the really hard work, along with the city council to get that done.
All of this stuff that has occurred is because of the efforts that we’ve made over the last seven years. We started working with the legislature in 2010, setting up the tourism district, giving greater law enforcement resources through the state police here, making sure that we were increasing, not only public safety but trying to reign in what was being spent.
All that stuff took a long time, because you’re fighting against a lot of special interest forces that want the spending to continue unabated, because it’s always easier to spend other people’s money. But when you’re governor it’s all the money of the people that you represent, and that’s why we’ve worked forward on making Atlantic City, once again from a municipal government perspective, on the road, not done yet, but on the road to living within their means.
Not all rainbows and unicorns for AC, state takeover
Christie’s “victory lap” in AC had its detractors, however. Mainly, people voiced concerns about a possible attempt by Christie and NJ to privatize AC’s water authority. More color in a report from Philly.com:
With Cornell Brooks, the national president of the NAACP, in town vowing to fight “for the long haul,” any attempt to sell Atlantic City’s water authority, residents and activists appeared newly dug in Thursday to protect their rights despite a state takeover.
But just an hour before, Gov. Christie, also in Atlantic City, vowed to be “very, very protective” of the Municipal Utility Authority, words that appeared to soften his stance toward that long-feared sale of the coveted MUA, valued in excess of $100 million.
No matter what Christie says, the hard work in AC clearly isn’t done, nor are the finances of AC entirely cleaned up.
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