ATLANTIC CITY — The state has set a timetable for the city to hire additional employees in understaffed departments, revamp its master plan and launch an initiative through which casino owners would assist first-time home buyers as part of an accountability report released Tuesday.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. and Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy and co-author of the state’s Atlantic City transition report, unveiled the plan during a public meeting Tuesday morning at the All Wars Memorial Building.

The implementation plan outlines who is responsible for enacting objectives and sets deadlines for work to be completed in 2019.

The 21-page report is the product of the Atlantic City Executive Council’s monthly meetings and input from residents collected at a town hall meeting in January.

“This is an organic implementation plan because it comes from the voice of the people,” said Gilliam. “This is not a plan that came from the top down — it came from the bottom up.”

Oliver called the proposal “a plan for action for priority projects.” She said the plan serves as an “accountability tool” to monitor progress and performance of those projects.

“Accountability is critical because we recognize, wholeheartedly, that past promises made to city residents in Atlantic City very often never materialize,” said Oliver. “We’ve heard residents’ frustrations about what has happened before.”

The implementation plan contains 47 objectives in the areas of government effectiveness and accountability, land use development, economic development, workforce development and job creation, public health, public safety, youth development, civic and cultural development, and public finance.

Each objective identifies agencies or entities in charge of execution, how it will be accomplished, what actions need to be taken, the impact it will have on Atlantic City and the goal.

Key objectives of the plan include hiring additional staff for the city’s tax assessment and planning and development departments, reworking the master plan, strengthening existing businesses and diversifying the local economy, providing residents with workplace training and job placement, tackling public health issues such as morbidity, addiction and food security, creating a program in which casino owners and the state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency assist with down payments for first-time home buyers, supporting educational and vocational youth programs, promoting the arts and identifying new sources of capital through public and private means.

The Atlantic City Initiatives Project Office, a recommendation of the Johnson report funded for three years with money allocated by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, will be responsible for executing the day-to-day efforts of the implementation plan.

When pressed on how accountability would be enforced if deadlines or objectives are not met, Johnson said the structure differs from the corporate world where people are terminated for failing.

“We have put in place a structure in which the mutual bond that holds a community together, which means that your word is your bond, that is an accountability that, to me, is, in many respects, more powerful than the legal ability to fire some stakeholder because they haven’t stepped forward,” he said.

Gilliam touted a “collective impact model” where “everyone is (included), everyone’s voice means something.”

“Together, we have worked with the state, the county and, more importantly, you in the community,” said Gilliam. “We will continue this work because we have a shared vision, and that’s making sure Atlantic City prospers.”

Oliver said financial resources for the projects and initiatives will come from a variety of sources, including state agencies that have been granted authority to assist in Atlantic City’s recovery under an executive order signed by Murphy.

“We are pulling out all the stops with every department,” she said.

The lieutenant governor said she anticipates Atlantic City will remain under state control for the duration of the five-year window granted by the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act of 2016.

“We’ve made great progress since the transition report was issued (in September), and this implementation plan represents the next phase in our work to move Atlantic City forward,” said Oliver. “I have confidence in this plan because it has critical buy-in from the community, city stakeholders and anchor institutions that have agreed to be mutually accountable for getting the work done, which makes for enduring progress.”

Contact: 609-272-7222 Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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