ATLANTIC CITY — A decision on what role the state will take in the city is still being determined, as the new administration continues to talk to local stakeholders, said Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the Community Affairs Department.
However, no timetable has been set for Gov. Phil Murphy to determine the state’s future in the city, Ryan said.
“It’s not uncommon for a new administration to take their time in deciding what to do,” said Marc Pfeiffer, professor at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.
“This is what is called a transition,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s not like flipping a switch. There are so many things that a new administration has to handle, it takes time.”
After years of financial mismanagement, the city’s municipal operations were taken over by then-Gov. Chris Christie and the state Department of Community Affairs. Former U.S. Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa and his law firm were appointed in November 2016 to oversee as the Local Government Service director’s designee.
Recently, representatives of the Governor’s Office met with the union that represents the rank and file of the city’s fire department. On Jan. 31, Murphy met with city Mayor Frank Gilliam for about 30 minutes to discuss the future of the state’s role in the city.
The future of the state takeover of the city under Murphy’s administration has been uncertain since he was inaugurated Jan. 16. Murphy has previously mentioned ending the state takeover, as well as having a partnership.
While not getting into specifics, John Varallo Jr., president of the union, called the meeting productive. Since 2016, the fire department has faced salary and staff cuts.
In January, Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez ordered both the state and union to attend two-court mandated mediation sessions to try to resolve issues regarding salary cuts and a possible 10 to 12 more layoffs. The sessions have since been put on hold as the new administration reviews the case.
“The approach that they are using feels different than in the past,” Varallo said. “It’s a more positive approach; they are taking time to consider everything. There is no political agenda.”
Gilliam said following his meeting with Murphy that the governor assured him Atlantic City was a “high priority.”
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, also the head of the Department of Community Affairs, said in her inauguration speech that she wanted to free the city of state intervention.
“What is happening is there is a governor who has been in office for less than a month, there are dozens of agencies that need immediate attention,” Pfeiffer said. “Fortunately Atlantic City is not in a crisis. There is no urgency.”