As with so much in Atlantic City, the opposition to Bader Field being included in the state-run Tourism District is a bit mystifying.
Oh, we understand the politics of the situation and the egos involved.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford does not like the idea of the Tourism District in the first place. He has compared it to South Africa's apartheid system. He does not like the idea of ceding authority to the state over key parts of the city. He is clearly angry that the city was not more involved in the drafting of the Tourism District legislation. And he opposes including Bader Field in the district.
But substantively, it seems to us to make little difference to the city if Bader Field is in the Tourism District.
Certainly, the 142-acre defunct municipal airport, which is zoned for casinos, is a prime site for tourism-related development. At one time - before the economy collapsed and took the gambling industry with it - Bader Field was considered the hottest spot on the East Coast for new casino development. And its fortunes (and value) will rise again at some point.
But Bader Field is city-owned land and will remain city-owned land even if it is in the Tourism District. Any proceeds from the sale of Bader Field will go to the city, whether it is part of the Tourism District or not.
Furthermore, the state already has substantial authority over any future development at Bader Field.
A bill signed by Gov. Jon S. Corzine in August 2008 - a law that is not in any way supplanted by the Tourism District legislation - already gives the state Local Finance Board, a part of the Department of Community Affairs - authority over any redevelopment plan for Bader Field.
The 2008 law also expressly requires that any proceeds from the sale or lease of Bader Field be put in a trust fund administered by the mayor of Atlantic City, a City Council representative and the city's chief financial officer, who will manage it under the supervision of the state treasurer.
The law was necessary at the time, a period when the city had at least four mayors or acting mayors in a year (it's a long story), and Bader Field was attracting interest from major developers. Bringing some stability to the process, by involving the state, was the smart thing to do.
But back to today. Langford has gone so far as to put out a request for proposals for Bader Field development without advising the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which is in charge of the Tourism District.
That is certainly Langford's right. But Bader Field should remain in the Tourism District. The site is already subject to the authority of the Local Finance Board. The city's financial interests in the land are protected. And CRDA's involvement in any future development will ensure that it is done as an integrated part of an overall plan to remake Atlantic City.
And who can object to that?