New Jersey

Atlantic City Temporarily Averts City Hall Shutdown, Christie Slams AC Mayor

Atlantic City has temporarily averted the shutdown of its city hall.

The Atlantic City council voted Wednesday night to avert the shutdown by passing a measure for a 28-day payroll schedule.

Last month officials announced Atlantic City’s City Hall was set to close on April 8 (this Friday) and that city workers would not be paid. Wednesday’s 9-0 vote to avert the shutdown and adopt the 28-day payroll schedule is only a temporary solution though it will keep city hall open past April 8. Workers will receive their paycheck Friday but won’t get their next paycheck until May 6.

The vote comes the same day Governor Chris Christie denounced Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, calling him a liar who has “zero idea” what he’s doing.

The governor used his harshest language yet to criticize Mayor Guardian, a fellow Republican, as the seaside gambling resort continues to deal with financial problems.

The city still has not found a way to cope with the contraction of its casino industry, which has lost more than half its revenue — and four of its 12 casinos — since 2006. A pair of assistance bills is stalled in the state Assembly. One would let casinos make payments in lieu of taxes in return for not appealing their tax assessments — something they have done to devastating effect in recent years.

The other would give the state vast control over Atlantic City's finances and most of its major decision-making power, including the right to cancel union contracts, dissolve city agencies and sell off city land and assets. Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Democrat, refuses to post the takeover bill for a vote because it would let the state cancel public employee contracts.

Christie used a press conference with Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson to take repeated shots at Guardian in the harshest and most personal language he has used against him to date, reminiscent of the invective he frequently hurled at Guardian's Democratic predecessor, Lorenzo Langford.

Asked about complaints by Guardian that he has not met with the governor in months as his city inches closer to bankruptcy, Christie replied, "Because there's no purpose in meeting with a liar."
Christie accused Guardian of agreeing to a state takeover in a Statehouse news conference with leaders of the state Senate and Assembly, then changing his mind. Guardian said lawmakers promised to make changes to protect the city's interest but failed to make good on them.

"He has no idea what he's talking about," Christie said. "Zero idea what he's talking about."

Christie also seemed to insult Guardian's intelligence as well as his competency.

"The mayor's math and his understanding match his management ability," Christie said.

At his news conference afterward, Guardian disputed many of Christie's criticisms and laid much of the blame for his city's fiscal crisis on the doorstep of the state, which has appointed monitors to oversee the city and school system.

"I'm sorry that he has to use name-calling," Guardian said. "I'm disappointed, and I can say, like every urban mayor in the state of New Jersey, that we can't wait until Jan. 14, 2018 when we have a new governor."

Prieto said Christie "spends an inordinate amount of time casting blame on others for his failings."

"If he put as much effort into using his authority to save Atlantic City or negotiating a compromise as he does talking, maybe we could have resolved this situation," said Prieto, who predicted the takeover bill as it currently stands would not pass in the Assembly.


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