ATLANTIC CITY — The state will hold a Spanish-language town hall event next month for the city’s Latino residents and business owners who missed the opportunity earlier this year.
The state Department of Community Affairs and the Atlantic City Initiatives Project Office said the meeting will take place June 18.
A location and time have not been determined.
In January, the DCA and the Atlantic City Executive Council hosted a town hall at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.
Nearly 500 people attended the meeting where Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy for the state’s transition efforts in Atlantic City, took questions from residents about the resort’s future and initiatives designed to improve quality of life. The meeting also included breakout sessions on city-specific issues, such as health care, youth programs and economic development.
“Afterwards, members of the Hispanic community approached us and said, ‘You would have had more (attendance at the meeting) if people were comfortable that they would have understood what was going on and if it was in a setting where they felt safe,’” Johnson said. “We wanted to make sure that we gave people a true opportunity for input and understanding and we did it in an environment where they felt safe and secure.”
According to 2018 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Hispanics and Latinos make up 28.3% of the city’s population.
Johnson said community members, including the Hispanic Association of Atlantic County, will facilitate communication. He said the intention is for the meeting to be conducted almost entirely in Spanish.
“We want to make it so that when people come, they’re comfortable,” Johnson said.
The Executive Council on Tuesday also received updates on the progress of second-quarter initiatives and projects outlined in the state’s Implementation Plan.
Mike Epps, executive director of the city Initiatives Project Office, said nearly 75% of the 38 projects are either complete or progressing significantly.
The city is developing a new Master Plan, which should be completed by the end of the summer. Other projects, such as creation of the Neighborhood Coordination Officer program and mandatory ethics training for city employees, have been completed.
“For the first time out, for the first quarter after the Implementation Plan (was introduced in April), I think that’s a pretty good number,” he said.
Epps said his office will work with the various public and private stakeholders that comprise the Executive Council to increase that percentage going forward.
Tuesday’s meeting of the Executive Council, held at Atlantic Cape Community College’s Atlantic City campus, also included a presentation about economic development.
Lauren Moore, executive director of the Atlantic County Economic Alliance, told council members the budget and policy battle taking place in Trenton over the state’s tax incentives program could have a direct impact on the region. The Economic Alliance has been heavily focused on capitalizing on the aviation opportunities at Atlantic City International Airport and the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township.
With the state’s tax credit program, which is run by the Economic Development Authority, set to expire at the end of the fiscal year June 30, Murphy has proposed an alternative plan to the one that has been in place for nearly 15 years. Moore said the governor’s plan is not “anywhere as generous” as the current program.
“(The tax credits) are very, very important to our region,” Moore said. “If the program expires, we would lose a powerful tool to attract high-paying jobs. ... Without (the credits), it would be difficult to compete in a high-cost state.”