Atlantic City Isn’t Doing That Great, But Mayor Guardian Will Run Again Anyway
A busted budget and a governor’s criticism weren’t enough to stop Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian from announcing his run for re-election.
The beleaguered public servant’s announcement came recently in the City Hall Courtyard. Guardian’s speech focused on his office’s successes in the face of skepticism.
“We needed a new beginning beyond casinos,” Guardian said. “Four years ago, people said that I could never fix any of the problems that were plaguing Atlantic City. People said I could never reduce the size of city government, but we did by 350 employees and counting. People said that I could never reduce the city budget, but we did by $50 million annually and counting.”
Guardian went on to list other accomplishments, including improving the relationship between the police and citizens and acquiring tens of millions of dollars of funding for the city.
Of course, the big question is what a Guardian re-election would mean for Atlantic City’s casino industry.
Christie critical of Guardian’s budget handling
While Guardian may have improved certain aspects of Atlantic City’s finances and public relations, he fell short in what many consider his most important task: To dig Atlantic City out of its $500 million hole.
Last June, Gov. Chris Christie gave Guardian’s office five months to balance the budget, requiring that Guardian come up with a five-year plan to buoy the city’s finances.
Even before Christie offered a five-month reprieve to the city, he launched unashamed salvos at Guardian:
“Where’s his plan? He says he’s been prepared to do it. Where is it? It’s Day 145,” the governor said during a press conference. “Where is it? Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. Where’s the plan, Mayor?”
Budget bungled, state takes over
At the conclusion of the five-month grace period, Guardian submitted a budget to the state.
Christie’s office reviewed it and released a report saying the budget wasn’t good enough to balance the city’s finances.
Charles Richman, author of the report and commissioner of the NJ Department of Community Affairs, said Guardian’s plan was a poor one.
“Based upon my review, there is little in the Plan to suggest what constructive actions have been initiated by the City since June 6, to show that it has the fortitude and the resolve to make the hard choices and difficult decisions at hand,” Richman said.
Because Guardian couldn’t provide a solution (at least one good enough for Christie), the state took over the city’s finances. The state even hired Guardian’s business administrator to assist in the takeover.
Guardian opposed casino expansion, but things have been looking up
One of Guardian’s smart moves this past year was his opposition to casino expansion into North Jersey.
There wasn’t much he could do though: The city was, naturally, bitterly opposed to the bill. Projections indicated multiple casinos would close if properties opened in the northern part of the state.
Whether Guardian, the state, or other market forces are responsible, things have seen an uptick of late in AC:
- AC’s credit rating went up.
- Casino revenue has been increasing year-on-year, thanks largely to NJ gambling websites.
- A buyer popped up for Trump Taj Mahal in the form of Hard Rock International.
- Atlantic Club will become a water park resort.