Atlantic City has civic associations that were first organized more than a century ago and still drive change in their neighborhoods. ... These associations act independently to protect and beautify their neighborhoods by raising funds and applying for grants. They have also come together to marshal forces in opposition to initiatives where the community voice has not been included from the start. Their voice, insight and energy are some of the strengths that will help propel Atlantic City forward. In a city that has become one of the most diverse in the State, they can build a sense of inclusion among communities.”
— Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy.
Atlantic City has a long tradition of offering strong civic involvement through its neighborhood associations and civic groups.
In fact, the civic groups were one of the bright spots in the often-cited Johnson report, which outlined Atlantic City’s problems, and the steps the city must take to move out from under state oversight.
By deed and tradition, the civic organizations have been the stewards and social glue that has kept the city functioning, even when the government has faltered.
We’ve seen this first hand, as part of our ongoing coverage of Atlantic City’s progress through our Reinventing Atlantic City project. Press of Atlantic City reporters attended many of the monthly civic meetings that represent the city’s diverse neigborhoods of Chelsea, Westside, Venice Park, Bungalow Park and the Boardwalk.
What the reporters witnessed were groups of hardworking, proud and dedicated residents intent on working collaboratively in making their communities a better place — one block, one street, one lot at time.
Something else we noticed: Not only were the meetings a model of high-functioning teamwork, but they also included frequent appearances by city officials. The officials attended to provide updates, solicit feedback and work with the groups to find solutions to the city’s myriad issues. Absent from the meetings were the political posturing or divisive rhetoric that can sometimes sidetrack government meetings.
It’s not a mystery that the reason the civic groups operate effectively is that they represent not just their local communities, but also blocks of voters. They represent democracy at it’s most elementary level.
Now, joining this thriving landscape of civic organizations recently is the nonprofit, nonpartisan Atlantic City Taxpayers Association. Their focus, as stated in their inaugural meeting earlier this month is “join together to challenge the crushing property tax burden placed on the people of Atlantic City.”
A focus on tax burden is badly needed in the city, particularly as it comes on the heels of the discovery that property owners are facing a hefty tax increase this year, even though county, school and city officials had adopted budgets with flat or reduced taxes. Explanation for the hike was that a period of regular tax appeal funds to the city had ended.
The latest city taxpayer group has the opportunity to add to the voices, and the tradition of the city’s more-established civic groups, which work openly, utilize the expertise of their members and push for improvements.
If there’s one thing we’ve seen through the years, it’s that there is no such thing as too much attention on Atlantic City.