Since last September, when Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy, released a report outlining the ongoing issues in Atlantic City, the city and state have been working to address the problems.

Hampered by years of disruption and decline, the city remains under state control as it rebuilds and expands its economic base.

And there are many signs of progress. The Atlantic City Executive Council, a public-private collaboration among state, county and local stakeholders, recently introduced a task list and a community calendar to keep residents in the loop.

A location for the city’s planned supermarket has been selected, and a series of community meetings have been scheduled to obtain feedback. Steps have been taken by City Council to address rooming house violations.

All are necessary and welcome developments.

But one solution cannot be ignored. Nothing is going to change in our city if citizens — both residents of Atlantic City and those who support it — do not actively participate in its revival.

That means showing up to the many civic association meetings held within the city. It means reaching out to officials and politicians to make your suggestions or complaints heard. It means registering and voting in every election in which you are eligible to participate.

“We can all agree that a healthy, prosperous A.C. is in everyone’s best interest,” writes reader Bill Land on ReinventingAC.com, a website devoted to The Press’ special project. “I would submit to all of you that the chronic issues outlined in this article will never get better until those that really care actually start living and voting here. Those of us that actually do live here see the potential for a wonderful community.”

In fact, many who agree about Atlantic City’s potential have been making energetic efforts to help move it forward.

In January, about 500 people packed Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall to share their concerns and ideas in a meeting organized by the Atlantic City Initiatives Office. So many people showed up that there weren’t enough chairs for everyone. The meeting was organized in breakout groups around 18 large tables by topic from affordable housing to public safety, youth programs to business entrepreneurship.

Officials have promised to hold similar meetings regularly going forward.

The work of transforming anything — an individual, an organization, an entire city — is incremental, exhilarating and exhausting. It’s crucial that city residents — and those whose lives are impacted by the city’s success or failure — keep the conversation and effort going.

“No amusement park or attraction or slogan is going to change things here,” writes Land. “We need concerned citizens that will bring their talents, businesses and leadership to this city year round.”

For more from The Press’ yearlong series examining the city’s path forward, go to ReinventingAC.com and join the conversation.

Load comments