Thursday, November 10, 2016

The State of NJ is now calling the shots in Atlantic City

John Reitmeyer reports for NJ Spotlight:

The state’s formal takeover of Atlantic City’s local government was authorized yesterday by a vote taken in Trenton by the state Local Finance Board, an agency that oversees municipal and county government finances in New Jersey. 

The board’s action followed last week’s rejection by the commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs of a five-year fiscal-recovery plan that was submitted by Atlantic City officials under the terms of state takeover legislation signed into law by Christie in late May.

Tim Cunningham, director,
 Local Finance Board

While the takeover law didn’t initiate the immediate intervention that Christie had originally asked lawmakers to grant him, it gave his administration the sole power to determine the viability of the city’s recovery plan, which it was given only a few months to produce.

Tim Cunningham, the director of the Local Finance Board, told reporters after the vote was held yesterday that his next step will be to meet directly with city officials. He acknowledged his powers under the takeover law now include having the authority to tear up collective-bargaining agreements and take direct control over personnel decisions.

“It’s an incredible responsibility, and it’s one that I’ve lost sleep over the last couple weeks,” Cunningham said.

The takeover law also allows him to sell off assets like Bader Field, the city’s former airport, and its water utility, which has become a major source of controversy in the wake of a decision by officials in Michigan to seek cost savings through the public-water system in Flint, leading to mass lead poisoning.

But the board also stopped short of granting Cunningham the authority to take the city into bankruptcy, something that hasn’t happened to a municipality in New Jersey in roughly 80 years.

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