Geoff’s Page: Camp Boardwalk: Un-Do AC
Location: Atlantic City, New Jersey
Dateline: Memorial Day Weekend, May 24th, 2014
“I never thought I’d see such a dysfunctional government.” That’s how the veteran responded to me as I donated to the cause outside Margate’s WaWa this week. “Thanks for continuing to put up the good fight… for still believing in America. Your generation did so much right, and my generation seems to have brought on this mess. Hopefully, the next generation can fix things.” I said as I put money in his jar.
Veterans have been stationed there all week, in all sorts of weather, proudly announcing their achievements with their presence, and reminding us the war isn’t over. Some of these guys are WWII vets in their 90’s.
This vet inspired me and made me think about a lot of battles that have to be fought, including ones we can’t wait to fight anymore.
As a real estate broker I am showing homes daily throughout our county in foreclosure and short sale situations. These homes often have families still living in them who are losing everything, in my humble opinion, to political forces that have nothing to do with people’s better interests and everything to do with the decades long wholesale destruction of Atlantic City and our state and nation as a whole.
Every day we wake to disastrous headlines or meaningless reports about Atlantic City, and even as we start to turn corners in some areas, we locals know there is more pain to bear, and those corners are not going to add up to the bottom line needed. After all, we’re the ones waving good bye to our family, children, and friends as they leave town for better shores.
The past 2 weeks we read: Caesars is announcing another possible closing… East Coast Gaming Experts announce we must close at least two casinos to remain viable… Our bright spot – Casinos lost less money this quarter than last (because there is one less casino in town, with the already closed Atlantic Club, thus shrinking the pool splitting winnings). The bad news goes on and on….. And now, the CRDA is using eminent domain and taking Mr. Birnbaum’s family home of 45 years with no plans for the property, other than creating more urban blight, and banking more untaxed land. Taking this poor guy to court certainly doesn’t fix years of misguided decisions or make today any better. There isn’t even the promise of hope for things to come when you look at the lackluster performance of land auctioned last week within site of Mr. Birnbaum’s front door and the bankrupt Revel on the other side. Land once worth hundreds of millions is going begging. Hotels and houses are selling at pennies on the dollar.
“If somebody said, ‘Charles, there is going to be a park here. We’re having a road that’s coming through. I would have accepted it and said, ‘So be it. Let’s make Atlantic City better.’ What they have given me is something so unsatisfying it doesn’t do it for me,” he said. For more on the story, follow the link below.
Meanwhile those in charge make no comment about our decline, nor offer new direction with an economic plan to stimulate the economy. It’s sounds more like: “This didn’t work, so now we’re trying this.”
On May 17th, 2013 I approached Governor Christie in Ventnor to identify an economic plan to fix the city which has local support. Further, I stated attempts to reach him and/or someone in his office have been useless. To accommodate a clear channel of communication, I was supplied a state police security officer’s e-mail address.
The plan was e-mailed May 21st with a letter inviting the Governor to come see the city from the eyes of the residents. A simple response of “not interested” would be better than the ongoing non – response a year later. I wonder aloud if my email would have been returned if I had identified myself as a voter in the Iowa Caucuses, instead of one of his current constituents.
Christie continues saying the business of New Jersey is his main concern. Yet those statements are not reinforced by our reality: He has been mum on Atlantic City. There continues: a shell game in Trenton with pension and other funds, a state budget shortfall of billions, Sandy rebuild efforts and fund uses are shameful, home sales have shut down in many communities along the shore where pronouncements have been made about raising homes that have never flooded, and FEMA forms get in the way wherever you go, to the point many have absorbed their loss, including years of flood insurance payments. Meanwhile, a recent attorney’s report exonerating him from scandal elsewhere reminds me of high school when I signed my own report cards, afraid to face the truth at home!
Finally, incredibly galling, to me , other voters and our veteran, was Christie’s statement “your votes don’t matter” as he responded to Margate’s informed vote against construction of dunes. Governor, as a non affiliated independent voter, who put aside my own issues on LGBT rights and voted for you the first time, I must ask, why did my vote count then? and not now? Even those who voted for the dunes don’t like being told our venting and voting processes don’t matter. And the vets didn’t fight for you alone, they fought for all of us, as protected by the Constitution.
Now, to our local politicians, I stood on the Boardwalk with you the day the governor came to town to announce the state takeover. Like you, I shook his hand, and said welcome. But, I was wrong, and so were you. When I have to privately suggest books to read to those in charge so they have an understanding of the town, something is wrong. Our island empire is sinking fast, and it has nothing to do with Sandy, or other gambling markets. It has to do with poor planning on all parts, and a government sponsored corpocracy that feeds on our blood. It is a different kind of war, calling for a different kind of battle and action.
The current empowerment of out of town corporations instead of local businesses means more closures and millions more investment into $8.25 an hour jobs where the real profits are shipped out of town to spend, and the locals are stuck on food stamps to feed themselves. National studies clearly indicate over 75%, and as much as 90% of money spent in locally owned businesses stay in town, while less than 50% spent in out of town investment stays locally. Do the math. No local cares about the millions spent for the Bass Pro Shop except those promoting it, and it sure as heck is not going to fix AC.
AC was built by grandiose dreamers who saw a city where others saw marsh. We conceived and built Boardwalk Hall in less time than it takes the current leadership to pave Pacific Avenue. Past leaders and planners were part of the city and accountable to their neighbors because they lived here and created jobs for their neighbors, instead of moved here for a job, or ruling from Vegas and Trenton.
Whether coordinated theft or incompetence, the people of Atlantic City, Atlantic County, and New Jersey are losing, and the state is as suspect as any industry. We deserve better than this and it’s time to demand it.
My advice: It’s Memorial Day Weekend. Follow the lead of our veterans who fought for what made America great. It’s time to state the facts and for area residents to take back the leadership of Atlantic City. Our Queen of Resorts used to host power brokers who came to enjoy the hospitality of our own strong leaders. We told them what we would do for them, not vice versa. The governor and State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, et al would be best kept in Trenton, where they have created enough muck to deal with.
A true leader knows when to lead and when to follow and is capable of both. You are all fully aware of the majority feeling of your constituents. Please wake up, smell the roses, and act on it. WE THE PEOPLE welcome you into the trenches with us. That’s what war is….. economic or democratic…. we have to fight it together, protect our territory, and know we’re fighting for everyone equally, not the select few. Come meet and represent your constituents again, and stop patting yourselves on the back with more awards for progress not made.
Otherwise, we’ll all get stuck in Dodge after dark. This is our corral, not theirs. Get it?
Thank you in advance, and welcome home to the America we celebrate this memorial day. Let’s soar back to the future.