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Governor Christie's Plan for Atlantic City Seen by Some as TakeoverThe July 26, 2010, By Rodney Eriksen
As Governor Christie’s ambitious plan to involve the state of New Jersey in the rehabilitation of Atlantic City leaked out on Thursday, critics began to use a term that is both dreading and polarizing term: State Takeover.
For southern New Jersey residents, it was all-too-easy to think of Camden. The details of the state involvement in Atlantic City are still being worked out, but news of state control over a large - and as yet undefined - territory in the city designated as a tourism district drew parallels with the state's decision in 2002 to take over key functions in the city of Camden.
Christie has called himself "reluctant" to see a state takeover of anything. Mayor Lorenzo Langford said he views Christie's plan as a partnership, not a "takeover." Two days after the governor's announcement about Atlantic City, casino representatives have moved to stop use of the "takeover" term. But judging by readers' comments on news websites, the public continues to associate Christie's plan with Camden; and city stakeholders are wondering how different state control of Atlantic City will turn out.
Christie, who said on the campaign trail in 2009 that Camden should return to home rule, said his hopes for Atlantic City are different because its problems are different. But the Camden plan also relied on public-private partnerships to develop infrastructure and tourism.
"What you have in Camden is a dearth of investment for decades and decades and decades, and decay that's come along with it," he said Wednesday.
"In Atlantic City, you have a recent and acute crisis that needs to be dealt with. You don't have a lack of investment historically in Atlantic City," he went on. "What you have is an acute crisis that was brought on, in my view, by the state's collective reluctance to modernize and change with changing competitive circumstances that were happening around us. Now we need to do it."
In Atlantic City, where crime and blight rates have never matched Camden's, the state-controlled district would not have a quasi-CEO but a governing commission that would include a representative from the city government. Langford and City Council would maintain control over areas outside the state's tourism district.