Atlantic City feeling disrespected by lack of inclusion in Sandy damage tours
Gov. Chris Christie’s seems to be snubbing Atlantic City one month after his feud with Mayor Lorenzo Langford became fodder for national news.
On Friday, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno surveyed damage Friday in all towns on Absecon Island except for Atlantic City.
A month earlier, Christie stopped at Brigantine during a trip along the entire coastline with President Barack Obama.
Friday's rebuff by Trenton struck the mayor as racially polarizing, "immature" and childish, and a political analyst described it as "divisive.”
But it is just the latest in an ongoing conflict between the two men, one taking place even as the state’s involvement in the city and its ailing $3.5 billion gambling industry — one of New Jersey's key revenue generators — is growing.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak declined comment Friday on efforts to schedule trips to the city or discussions with Langford, who during an appearance on “The Today Show” Oct. 30 challenged the governor to meet with him “mano y mano.” Langford’s comment came the day after Christie slammed him during a press conference because officials in Atlantic City offered on-island storm shelters to residents.
Drewniak also declined to explain why state government damage tours have not yet included the resort, despite going to other places — such as Longport — that sustained less damage.
When asked about whether Christie had contacted him, Langford said the governor “punked out” from meeting with him after their hurricane exchange.
"(It) underscores the historic fundamental disrespect that Atlantic City receives when it has a person of color at the helm — and so, in that respect it's not surprising, but it is par for the course," Langford said. "Furthermore, it speaks to how immature, childish and politically myopic the governor is concerning the residents of Atlantic City, who happen to be primarily Democrat, with a significant minority population."
In Atlantic City, 27 percent of residents are white, versus 72 percent in Atlantic County and 74 percent statewide, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. In 2009, more than three times as many Atlantic City residents voted for then-incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, over Christie, a Republican, according to voting records.
Montclair State University political science professor Brigid Harrison said it would appear Christie’s behavior toward Langford seems in contrast to his overall response to Hurricane Sandy.
"It seems the governor doesn't have an issue with the people in Atlantic City, (but with) the mayor. But cherry picking the towns around Atlantic City for public visits highlights that tension rather than trying to rise above partisan politics like the governor did in immediate aftermath of the storm, which is what people want."
When Obama was leaving the area, he met with the mayor at Atlantic City Iternational Airport Oct. 31, and the two talked.
But Langford said the the president’s plans the day before were to stop in Atlantic City, something that didn’t happen.
Drewniak said previously the White House handled all coordination for that trip.
Harrison said disaster tours are often more a distraction, but said “it’s politics” to skip one of the largest cities to suffer damage for a town the size of Longport.
The discord between the two men has been building.
First, the city agreed to a year — which has turned into three — of financial supervision by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs' Division of Local Government Services and Local Finance Board in October 2010, when the board authorized the first of multiple rounds of tax appeal relief bonds totaling $150 million so far.
The city's planning and development authority within the Atlantic City Tourism District was transferred in 2012 to the CRDA by the same state laws that established the district and deregulated casinos and redirected their subsidies of North Jersey's horseracing industry — about $30 million annually — to rebranding the city.
The legislation also called for a nonprofit to oversee those new marketing efforts; local gambling companies responded by creating the Atlantic City Alliance.
ACA spokesman Jeff Guaracino said the agency has reached out to the Governor’s Office, but that at the moment nothing is planned.
Guaracino declined comment on whether Christie and Langford's occasional sniping complicates the agency's mission.
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