Below in pieces is Gov. Christie’s entire single paragraph press release following his second AC Summit on Wednesday, with comments.
“For the people in that room, which-who represented the majority of the stakeholders in this city and the region…” Christie did not release a list of attendees. It is likely there were plenty of politicians, casino owners and some union members. It is unlikely that those most affected – unemployed residents, homeowners, small business owners and providers of food, homeless shelters, medical care, and job retraining – were represented. Christie has frequently referred to the matter as a “casino problem” but not a “people problem.”
“there is a sense of urgency among the people around that table.” If there is such a sense of urgency why were the suggestions for actions to be taken not released Thursday as Christie promised? For a crisis which started in 2005 when casino revenue began its sharp decline, why does Christie nor his administration yet have an action plan?
“There is no one-I shouldn’t say no one, but there’s very few that want to look at playing the blame game and rationalize what’s happened here.” He himself plays the “blame game” when he becomes self-righteous about United Airlines’ business decision that continuing service to AC’s airport is not financially viable. By suggesting at his press conference that he may seek a state-appointed emergency manager, he is pointing blame at Mayor Guardian and City Hall. Casino Revenue Fund Taxes and Fees paid in FY2005 were $474 million and in 2014 were $221 million – hardly Guardian’s or City Hall’s fault.
“Everybody understands that the situation is grave.” He said this back in August when he called for the first A C Summit to be held on September 8 and then kicked decisions down the road to the second summit. Now he says decisions will be reached within the next two months. In the meantime in September, the largest over-the-year U. S. decrease in employment occurred in the Atlantic City Area.
“and with rare exception everybody is committed to not looking backwards but looking forwards and what we need to do.” With four casinos closing this year, and maybe a fifth (Taj Mahal) by the end of the year, looking backwards only reveals that Christie’s 2010 action plan was and continues to be unsuccessful. Total Gaming Wins from the industry after casinos started closing reflect continuing decreases in September and October in comparison with the same 2013 months.
Senate President Sweeney and others have proffered recommendations, but AC continues sinking with an absent, slow-moving and indecisive captain. The few casinos remaining after this crisis may do OK but how about the people? When will the captain get off the deck chairs and propose a plan to strengthen AC’s economy?