TRENTON – State Senator Jim Whelan (D-2) thinks that the proposed 15-year takeover of Atlantic City’s finances by the state would be “disastrous.”
The proposed bill—called the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act—would shift power away from Atlantic City’s elected council into the hands of state officials. This would allow the state to dissolve any functions or powers of the city’s government that relate to financials as deemed necessary. This move would limit the power of the city council and would likely impact the function of the city’s school board.
According to Whelan, however, such a step would be redundant due to the state financial monitors already in place in the city.
“There isn’t a dime spent in Atlantic City that isn’t approved by the fiscal monitors,” Whelan told PolitickerNJ. “I don’t know what the complaint is if the state is already there.”
Whelan also said that the potential implications for schools in the city are troubling.
“When I look at the state takeovers of the board of educations in Paterson and Newark, I don’t notice that they have become wonderful shining lights of efficiency or models of great school systems,” Whelan said. “They still struggle.”
Some critics of the state takeover argue that it would leave Atlantic City residents disenfranchised due to the limited powers it would give the city council and mayor.
According to Whelan, he is currently in conversation with Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Atlantic City officials. He said that his hope is to make the city more efficient and quell the need for a state takeover.
“I have already had conversations with city leaders and will continue to meet and talk with them,” Whelan said. “There are things that we can do in terms of efficiency and tracking revenue. We can take those steps and hopefully negate the need for a state takeover.”
Whelan is a former Atlantic City mayor. Atlantic City falls within his district.