Call it a case of looking the gift horse in the mouth.
Four months after the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority approved $130,000 to bolster Atlantic City's short-staffed code-enforcement division, the city still hasn't put the money to use. It advertised a request for proposals for exactly one day and has made no progress since.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford said the city is using the same process it always uses and that the process has been "completely transparent." But from the beginning, Langford has balked at increasing code enforcement in the Tourism District. Code enforcement there "is not any more important to the CRDA than code enforcement is in the neighborhoods to the residents," the mayor said.
That's a valid point, as far as it goes. But the underlying truth is that both the Tourism District and the city's residential neighborhoods are being poorly served by the city regarding code enforcement.
Atlantic City employs just eight full-time and six part-time inspectors to enforce building codes in a city with 40,000 residents and resort hotels that attract 29 million visitors annually. These inspectors are responsible for 11,055 residential and 1,661 commercial properties, in addition to 176 apartment buildings.
Those 14 inspectors already divide their time between properties in and out of the Tourism District. Surely, using the CRDA's $130,000 to add either two full-time or four part-time inspectors in the Tourism District would allow the city to improve enforcement in both the district and the neighborhoods Langford is advocating for. The CRDA-funded inspectors could be dedicated exclusively to the district while the other 14 focus on the rest of the city.
Langford is doing all the city's residents and its visitors a grave disservice.
The city's failure to put the CRDA's $130,000 to work has renewed calls for state legislation to put the CRDA in charge of code enforcement in the Tourism District. But Langford opposes that approach, too.
It's a pity that Langford has not learned how to better pick his battles. CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri is understandably frustrated, as is everyone with a stake in the success of Atlantic City's tourism economy. The CRDA has extended its help to solve a serious problem. This shouldn't be so difficult.