ATLANTIC CITY — In the last three months of 2018, the state oversaw the creation of a dizzying array of groups, programs and development projects designed to help the city return to healthier finances and local control.
They were all laid out Monday in the first quarterly report issued since Special Counsel Jim Johnson released “Atlantic City: Building a Foundation for a Shared Prosperity” last September.
Johnson works closely with the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the day-to-day operation of the resort.
“We have done a tremendous amount in a short period of time,” said Johnson on Monday. “And there’s a lot of work ahead.”
The first quarterly report covers the period from Sept. 20 to Dec. 31, 2018.
Johnson said most of the structural elements have now been put in place to help the state work with the city and drive change.
They include an Atlantic City Project Office to oversee initiatives identified in the Johnson report, led by attorney Michael Epps and funded by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority; an Executive Council to bring together community leaders to advise on goals; a Statewide Coordinating Council of state workers responsible for assisting the city; and a Stockton University Office of Atlantic City Solutions to help with research.
One has yet to get started, he said. That is the Citizens Advisory Board, which is responsible for improving neighborhood relationships with the Police Department. Its members were sworn in at a City Council meeting earlier this month, and it should have its first meeting by mid-February, said Johnson.
The next quarter will see many initiatives getting under way, he said.
“Starting March 12, senior city managers will start a certified public manager training,” said Johnson, adding that the training will be run by Rutgers University. “Things will develop as a result, as (managers) become more familiar with best practices across the state and country.”
The class will meet for a full day, once a week, every week for 10 months, Johnson said.
“It’s a significant commitment,” Johnson said. “Participation is voluntary, not mandated.”
He said 19 managers have signed up, including a clear majority of department directors.
Johnson also said the DCA, the city and the Superintendent of Schools are developing an internship program for young people of the city.
“It’s still taking shape,” he said, but by the next quarterly report much more will be clear about how the summer pilot program will function.
“We are very concerned about the experience of youth throughout the city, so we will be working with the board of education to get an accurate picture of the life of the youth in the city through a survey tool,” said Johnson. “Once we have that, we will be in a better position to provide funding for young people.”
The city and Superintendent of Schools have an agreement to work with the Search Institute on a developmental assets survey of youth between fourth and 12th grades, according to the quarterly report.
Plans will also be informed by some of the information collected at Tuesday night’s Town Hall meeting at Boardwalk Hall, said Johnson.
“We urge anyone who is interested in Atlantic City’s future to participate in the town hall,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner. “The town hall meeting will give the Atlantic City community a chance to take stock of what’s been done thus far and to engage in a candid conversation about how to keep the momentum moving forward.”
The quarterly report also notes the hiring of a new city planner and consolidation of City Hall and CRDA planning offices, as initial steps toward building municipal capacity.
Other improvements listed include the state’s plan to develop an offshore wind industry, the opening of Stockton University campus and South Jersey Gas headquarters, four new businesses on Tennessee Avenue and the planned construction of a new AtlanticCare Healthpark.