The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey came out against Governor Christie’s favored takeover bill Thursday. As of press time, Assembly Democrats are in caucus to weigh the governor’s favored takeover bill, from Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), against a new alternative bill from Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto (D-32). ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer called Sweeney and Christie’s plan overreaching, and said the group will stay wary of any takeover effort.
“All New Jerseyans have the right to an elected local government that is responsive to their needs and accountable to the people, regardless of whether their community is struggling financially,” Ofer wrote in a statement. “This is a cornerstone of our democratic values.
“The proposal under consideration would allow the state to take over any function and power of the Atlantic City government related to its fiscal condition or recovery. The State of New Jersey would have the power to dissolve any of Atlantic City’s municipal authorities, boards, departments or functions and abolish any non-elected positions in the municipality. Any vote of the City Council could effectively be vetoed by the State, which could also unilaterally terminate contracts and collective bargaining agreements. The State could overturn and rewrite old ordinances, and it could institute entirely new city laws.
“We need not look further than Flint, Michigan, to see the disaster that can befall a community when state managers assume authority to take extreme measures without any accountability to local concerns. The Governor’s takeover proposal for Atlantic City — and any other municipality that may fall within its criteria in the future — would give State overseers enormous power to slash or dismantle critical municipal programs and services without meaningful input or the consent of the people who call it home and raise families there. The proposal also grants those State overseers the authority to sidestep our open meetings laws and make decisions in greater secrecy.”