Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford wants to confront Gov. Chris Christie "mano a mano" over the governor's criticism of the city's sheltering strategy.
“I would love nothing better than that, than to confront the governor mano a mano," Langford said on the Today Show Tuesday.
Christie, also appearing on Today, continued his criticism of the mayor over a strategy to shelter some residents fleeing Hurricane Sandy in the city.
"My anger has turned to sympathy for those folks," Christie said. "I'm sorry that they received mixed messages. For some reason, the mayor gave folks a mixed message."
The public barbs were the latest in a feud between Christie and Langford that began when the state established the Atlantic City Tourism District in the resort’s most economically important areas.
Just recently, Christie complained that Langford was “impossible” to work with. Out of town at the time, Langford shot back days later.
This time, he did not wait.
“At a time like – when people are at their wit’s end, they’re nervous, there’s anxiety – for the governor to inject politics, … is reprehensible, ” Langford said.
Langford said he and other local officials repeatedly urged people to leave the resort during the days leading up to Sandy’s landfall late Monday. They also announced the city would partner with transportation agencies to bus people to offshore shelters from several public schools and the All Wars Memorial Building in the city.
And they said they planned to turn those buildings into shelters of last resort for anyone who stayed behind.
Langford said that was intended as a “last resort” option — hence the city’s term for them.
Langford first made that announcement during a press conference Saturday in the lobby of City Hall. Pushed off to the side was a pair of posterboards on which Langford had blown up his letter responding to Christie’s last criticism.
About 30,000 people left the resort on their own, while 2,600 were taken by city-provided transportation, according to statistics provided by the city’s Office of Emergency Management.
About 275 stayed in city shelters last night. They “might as well have stayed in their homes,” Christie said.
On Monday, he described the city’s offer to shelter residents on the island as one in direct contradiction to state evacuation orders. One day prior, however, Christie praised the city’s evacuation plan.
The Governor’s Office did not respond to requests for comment on Langford's comments Tuesday.
Because city officials also let people know they could accommodate up to 3,000 people on the island in shelters that opened hours before the mandatory deadline, their message was mixed, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said.
“As a leader, you simply cannot do that, especially in an emergency situation,” Levinson said.
Emergency shelters – as shelters of last resort also are known – do not open hours before an evacuation curfew, as those in the city did. And although city officials are referring to them as emergency shelters now, they were listed as designated shelters on a document provided to the Atlantic County Emergency Management Coordinator Vince Jones said.
Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines state that designated shelters cannot be located in a flood zone; these were, Jones said.
Such shelters also must be fully stocked with food and water, and have generators – also not the case here, according to Jones, who said he brought 450 cots with blankets to Atlantic City earlier this week because they didn’t have enough.
City officials said previously they picked those buildings because they have generators.