The economic revitalization of Atlantic City is in all of our interests. So when I read the Jim Perskie’s opinion piece (“Playing withother people’s money”) that spoke about the Atlantic City police and firefighter unions I was interested to see what he had to say. Unfortunately, I just wish someone who was a past opinion editor for the Press of Atlantic City would have done some of the most basic fact checking before offering what was essentially a strong opinion on union negotiations.
According to Mr. Perskie’s opinion: “Pushback by Atlantic City’s police and firefighter unions will likely be the single biggest impediment to the financial rescue of the city”. It’s fascinating that he finds that decades and decades of gross financial mismanagement and a long list of indicted public officials should land square on the backs of the city’s police officers and firefighters. Had Perskie subscribed to the first tenet of journalism he might have tried some very simple fact checking. If he had reached out to the Mayor’s office or even read his old newspaper, he would have discovered that Atlantic City PBA 24 was literally the very first union at the negotiation table. The Atlantic City PBA has worked closely with Mayor Guardian and our members remain at that table today. The reality is that the members of the Atlantic City PBA have not only been developing a comprehensive plan for financial savings they have also been instrumental in a responsible attrition plan that addresses nearly everything the Mayor asked the PBA to put on the table.
Mr. Perskie also touts the Camden “Regional” Police force as an option for AC. The Camden model is a disgraceful shell game and the actual amount being spent there by taxpayers throughout this state continues to be top secret. We need to end this myth now – there is no such thing as a “County Police” in Camden. Those officers patrol Camden City and that is their only job. The “regional” police force Mr. Perskie writes about couldn’t get to any other single part of Camden County with a GPS and an EZPass. But what they did to Camden wouldn’t work in Atlantic City and truly isn’t necessary unless the goal of those who want it is to break another union.
Mr. Perskie proposes a number of things that seem more like solutions in search of a problem. Police salaries too high? Then adjust them to “private sector” levels he says. I was unaware there are some private police force patrolling the streets of New Jersey that Atlantic City police officers should be compared to. Those comments are not only unrealistic but they ignore that the police are already negotiating to ease the City’s financial deficit.
Firefighting sounds easy to Mr. Perskie also and that hundreds of former blackjack dealers and bartenders would love a $10/hour firefighting job. I wish with just a touch of research Mr. Perskie would soon realize how unrealistic that would be. We want casino workers to stay employed but to suggest that they would be ready to run into burning buildings is an insult to those workers and to the professional and dedicated firefighters in Atlantic City.
Atlantic City doesn’t need bomb throwers seeking to divide the employees from the City they are committed to serve. Mr. Perskie should be thanking the police officers in Atlantic City for their commitment to work with the Mayor and their unselfishness in negotiations. The men and women of the ACPD want to see the City restored to its former glory and they aren’t going to do anything to block that progress.