Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford said he is backing out of a pledge to leave office at the end of the year because the city faces new perils he needs to address.
"Four years ago, I said at that time that would be my last run," Langford said Tuesday, formally kicking off his re-election campaign. He seeks to become the second mayor, after now-state Sen. Jim Whelan, to win three terms in office.
"At that time, I didn't make a mistake. I meant it. But that was before the creation of the Tourism District. And that was before our ratable base plummeted. And that was before Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy and their related consequences. I could go on and on, but I won't, because you already know."
Langford spoke for about 10 minutes at his election headquarters, a former bank building at the intersection of Atlantic and North Carolina Avenues in the resort. A diverse crowd of 150 to 200 people joined him, including friends, family, city workers and other supporters.
City Councilmen Frank Gilliam, George Tibbitt and Tim Mancuso joined him. Tom Forkin, an attorney who owns the Inlet Surf Shop and works as the Chelsea Heights School librarian, wore a lapel pin with the city seal as he solicited signatures for a petition to run for an at-large seat on City Council.
In his speech, Langford, 57, said the campaign would be about preparing the next generation of leaders. He said, "Old men for counsel, young men for war, and this is a war, spiritual and otherwise."
The mayor called on residents to stand with him "as we defend our right of self governance," continue economic development projects, and prepare the next generation of leaders.
Langford also promised to unveil a "three-point residential property tax relief initiative" at a future date.
He described the city as it was four years ago and now, portraying it as improved during his term.
Four year ago, he said, Atlantic City was "under siege" from the state Comptroller’s Office. "The state's physical occupation is no more," he said, "and Wall Street has upgraded our bond rating."
The Office of the Comptroller left once it delivered a caustic audit that in 2010 catalogued millions of dollars of waste in previous administrations. City officials have taken steps to address the findings. City finances remain under the supervision of the state Division of Local Government.
However, Moodys Investors Service downgraded $150.6 million of the city's bonds from "A1" with a stable outlook to "Baa1" with a negative outlook in November 2010, because of declining municipal revenues and the city's steep liability for casino property tax appeals. Moodys affirmed the medium-grade rating in December 2012 for the city's now $248 million in bonds.
Standard & Poor's Ratings Services changed its outlook on city bonds from negative to stable in October 2012, while continuing to rate the city's bonds at "A-," an upper-medium grade rating.
Langford also said that four years ago city concerts at Gardner's Basin were on hiatus, city recreation fields were neglected and relations between City Hall and public unions were "acrimonious."
Since then, he said concerts have restarted, fields are improved and a "spirit of cooperation and mutual respect" colors relations between City Hall and unions.
"Four years ago we vowed to restore integrity and credibility to this city," Langford said, "and we have delivered on that promise."
Langford will face the other declared Democratic candidates in the June 4 primary election. They include David Davidson, 51, a retired city police officer, and Atlantic County Freeholder Charles T. Garrett, 66.
The winner will face Don A. Guardian, 59, the director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority's Special Improvement Division, the only declared Republican candidate.
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