ATLANTIC CITY - Mayor Lorenzo Langford said he will not attend Gov. Chris Christie's appearance in Atlantic City today, holding firm to his objections over the Atlantic City Tourism District legislation that would strip the city of much of its power.
A Christie administration source said Saturday that the governor plans to appear in Atlantic City today to make an announcement on tourism and casino deregulation bills that are awaiting his signature.
"I do not expect to attend," Langford wrote in an e-mail to The Press of Atlantic City on Monday. "I will not protest the event. I will not try to speak with him tomorrow before he makes an announcement."
Langford has been outspoken in his opposition to the legislation since late December, when he threatened to sue the state over plans to turn control over the city's high-traffic tourism areas to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. On Monday, Langford accused the governor of being disrespectful by coming to Atlantic City without speaking to him and said the visit would not be in Christie's best interests. He did not elaborate.
The mayor disagreed with several parts of the legislation, including the boundaries of the proposed Tourism District, plans for law enforcement within the district and the state's plan to take over planning and zoning functions within the zone. He also claimed the city never had a place at the negotiating table. Langford said Monday that his opposition has not changed and that "my concerns are still valid."
Since he first announced his opposition, the mayor's objections have been amplified by some unorthodox political tactics. During his State of the City address, he said Christie's battle is not with him, but with God. Later the same week, Langford put a secretary in the Governor's Office on speaker phone during a news conference while trying to schedule a meeting with the governor.
The mayor said Monday that he has not spoken to Christie or anyone from his office since he made the phone call last week. Michael Drewniak, the governor's spokesman, called the phone call incident "silly theatrics."
Asked if he is moving forward with plans to sue the state, Langford said, "If necessary."
Drewniak declined to comment on Langford's plans to not attend today's appearance. He also did not offer a comment when asked why the administration did not return Langford's very public request for a meeting with the governor last week. Instead, he simply referred to his comments last week.
"We are perfectly open to communicating with the mayor, but without the silly theatrics we saw today," Drewniak said previously.
The governor's visit to Atlantic City today will be his first regarding the tourism bills since he proposed the vast overhaul in July. Langford attended that hastily scheduled announcement, despite being bothered by Christie's decision not to notify him beforehand. Although many believed the mayor would see Christie's proposal as a threat to the city's sovereignty, Langford welcomed the plan, which was pitched as a partnership between the city and state.
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