For those who may have noticed I’ve been remiss about writing a blog for the past month or two, well ... I’ve been distracted. I’m retiring.
When Tom Carver was head of the Casino Association in Atlantic City during the 1980s, he had a way of getting himself in trouble with local politicians. Usually, it was something he said — bluntly and colorfully, the kind of quotable guy reporters love.
The big news this week is the Revel story - the approval of the $261 million state tax reimbursement and the fact that Revel is getting back on track. (Sure, the bill-signing was terrific news, too - but it was expected.)
The Community FoodBank on the Black Horse Pike has always sparkled and caught the attention of passing motorists - the result of a jaw-dropping mural that was built into just about every square inch of its outside walls, a mural shimmering with mosaic tiles and detailed inlay. The building itself always seemed to say that even when times are tough and money is short, there is joy and beauty in life and in helping others.
I was stumped about what to get my husband for Christmas this year, so I asked At the Shore editor Scott Cronick whether there were any celebrity chefs in town, hoping to get him tickets. There weren't - but Scott suggested a class at Viking Cooking School at Harrahs.
The Press ran a story a little while back about rural towns complaining about cutbacks in the aid the state has long provided to compensate towns for tax-exempt preserved land. I got a letter shortly afterward from someone in tiny Washington Township in Burlington County — one of the towns complaining — who pointed out that the taxes were incredibly low there, and that the community really had little reason to be crying the blues about cutbacks.
So the New Jersey PBA has decided to hold its annual spring convention at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut to protest what it says is Atlantic City's lack of support for the city's police department - the fact that it laid off 60 police officers (17 of whom have been rehired).
I knew I liked Ed Rendell.
Opera has never been my favorite form of theater. But I'm far more likely to give it a try after witnessing a "random act of culture" Saturday at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.
I'm on vacation now. But when I get back in a week, newspapers and wire services will be starting to put together their picks for the top stories of the year. It's far from the biggest story of the year, but here's my early choice for the most important on the national level:
A recent Moody's report was skeptical whether the state's plans for Atlantic City would improve the town's bottom line - and some local observers were quick to note that the bond-rating agency is hardly infallible in its predictions. Now another New Jersey agency contends Moody’s is too glum: The New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
Gov. Christie, where are you?
I love reading restaurant reviews. And the ones that are the most fun to read, in a perverse way, are the ones where a reviewer has a truly dreadful time - and doesn't pull any punches.
"Who wrote it?" Senate President Steve Sweeney joked after the state ballot question passed, despite its absurdly convoluted language. "That's what I was asking... But whoever wrote it should be shot."
At a political forum in Middle Township Wednesday, a Chamber of Commerce member asked U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo if the new federal health care bill included a 3.8 percent tax on real estate transactions.
Conservative activist James O'Keefe - who gained fame when he posed as a pimp and surreptiously filmed ACORN workers giving him advice on how to facilitate his business - is at it again, this time filming a New Jersey teachers' union convention during which attendees dissed Gov. Chris Christie in colorful language and joked about how hard it is to fire a tenured teacher. The action took place at a hotel bar, and they seemed a bit inebriated. According to the union, O'Keefe and the so-called "citizen journalists" who used hidden cameras to film the teachers contributed to that inebriation by buying drinks and trying to pick them up. The tapes, NJEA contends, were heavily edited.
Sen. Ray Lesniak railed in a Press story today about Harrah’s plans to take a minority ownership in the troubled Foxwoods casino in Philadelphia: “Harrah’s only interest is its corporate bottom line in Nevada. They don’t care about Atlantic City. They don’t care about New Jersey.”
Playing with stimulus numbers is a national, bipartisan sport. But during a recent editorial-board meeting at The Press, U.S. Rep. Frank Lobiondo, R-2nd, presented an interesting local example of how the numbers can get skewed - and how the Ocean City-Somers Point causeway project wound up No. 26 on the Obama administration's list of the top 100 stimulus projects in the nation.
Like so many issues involving Gov. Chris Christie, one can be suspicious of his motives while supporting his general position.
The Wall Street Journal did an article this week on “middle of the road radicals,” the huge group of independent voters that is estraged from government, aligned with neither party and increasingly swings elections one way or the other. They are pragmatic, not ideological; centrist, not far-left or far-right.
Former Commissioner of Education Bret Schundler is testifying today before a state Senate committee. And his written testimony, released to the media yesterday, contains some pretty damning words about the boss who fired him.
I love the Delaware River and Port Authority. It hearkens back to a time when government made writing editorials (and blogs) so easy.
New Orleans and Atlantic City have more in common than just being tourist towns that have suffered downturns in the past few years - Atlantic City from competition and the economy, New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina and BP.
Think Atlantic City's finances are in the toilet? Look at Newark - where Mayor Cory Booker said the city can't even afford toilet paper or holiday decorations.
Atlantic City's big day in the spotlight is Sunday, when its fictionalized history debuts on HBO in "Boardwalk Empire." But the big day for the real Atlantic City is Friday - when the state may decide whether to grant the city a $10 million cap waiver, the second-largest in the state.
On Friday, we ran a letter from a Linwood woman who told a heart-rending story of how a thief stole the only gift her 3-year-old had gotten for her birthday: an electric Barbie Jeep. The girl's father has been out of work for more than a year, and the entire extended family had chipped in to get her the gift she had wanted for months.
Casino Reinvestment Development Authority money has done a lot to make Atlantic City a better place to live and to visit. But outside the city, it's often just more free cash for politicians to funnel into pet projects or those that benefit their cronies. And nowhere was that more apparent than in 2006, when Camden County Democratic boss George Norcross, who owned a hockey team, wanted $16.5 million for a hockey arena at the site of the Pennsauken Mart.
What if they gave a hearing and nobody came?
I wonder if former Education Commissioner Bret Schundler's use of the word "defamed" caused a little pause in the Christie administration.
Ready for more depressing news on the state's bleak financial outlook?
Let's hear it for Wildwood and Boardwalk Inspector James Nanos - who obviously subscribes to that social-sciences theory of broken windows, in which one broken window can lead to a downward spiral in a neighborhood.
Could it be true? Could Atlantic City government essentially shut down if it doesn't get a state budget-cap waiver next month?
What a huge embarrassment for the Christie administration — the equivalent, as one Democrat put it, of losing the 200 “given” points on an SAT by failing to put your name at the top.
Yes, folks, New Jersey has racked up another dubious "first": It is the first state in the nation to be charged with securities fraud.
Gov. Chris Christie's plan for Atlantic City and gaming has been cast as a "north vs. south" battle.
Does the Atlantic City Council have any idea how its arrogance, waste and foolishness play out statewide right now?
My kneejerk reaction to today's headline, "N.J. teachers hope federal funds restore raises" was this:
A reader passed along this YouTube video to me — one of those old travel shorts, circa 1951, of Atlantic City.
I'm sitting in the office watching the gambling summit on our webcam and wondering: Why didn't Jon Hanson's committee just hold a few of these dog-and-pony shows (I'm not kidding, there was a guy who played those racetrack bugle notes when the summit began) and defuse some of the criticism and suspicion?
The U.S. correspondent for The Observer, a large British newspaper, is in town doing a story on Atlantic City because of the upcoming debut of the "Boardwalk Empire" miniseries on HBO. Expect more of this attention, much more. HBO is hyping the show big-time. Reporters from across the nation and around the world will likely be descending on the city.
An update to the blog, posted below earlier today:
The Atlantic City plan promoted by Gov. Chris Christie envisions an Atlantic City that has adult entertainment in and around casinos, a Vegas-style nightclub area downtown - and fun for families and kids on the Boardwalk.
An interesting story from North Jersey: Scads of local taxpayer groups are popping up in the wake of government cutbacks and tax increases.
The staggering shortfall in New Jersey's pension fund has many factors - the biggest being overly generous benefits, the failure of politicians to pay into the fund and a downturn in investments.
“Takeover” is a loaded word — especially in Atlantic City.
Gov. Chris Christies statewide gambling/entertainment plan has triggered the old north-versus-south battle, with northern New Jersey lawmakers wanting slots in the Meadowlands and southern New Jersey lawmakers staunchly opposed, preferring Christie's approach to making Atlantic City a premiere destination resort.
A Senate bill that just passed committee would allow municipalities to post legal ads online rather than in newspapers.
Transportation officials say they are re-evaluating the $3.6 billion Atlantic City regional transportation master plan in light of Atlantic City’s shrinking market and the state’s shrinking resources. (Who didn’t see that coming?)
What bothers me about the planned $312,000 "snack bar" in Northfield's Birch Grove Park isn't the price tag. It may seem high, but it does include wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, as well as meeting, office and storage space.