Christie: Turning AC Around and Running for President By Ken Adams January 28, 2015 at 8:43 pm Governor Christopher “Chris” Christie is not one to sit still and watch the grass grow. If he sees a problem, the governor jumps in with both feet. And he sees Atlantic City as a problem. Beginning as soon as he took office, the republican governor started to be very active in the affairs of the city and its casinos. It is difficult to imagine another governor taking as much interest, as Christie as taken, in one city and one industry, even a city as challenged as Atlantic City. And it is challenged; AC’s tax base is rapidly disappearing because the city’s casinos have lost half of their revenue since 2006. Atlantic City has lost nearly half its casino revenue over the past eight years as competition in nearby states cannibalized its market and drove four casinos out of business. The casinos took in $2.74 billion in 2014, or about what the industry brought in 1988. That is down 48 percent from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006. Four of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos closed in 2014 – The Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel and Trump Plaza – leaving 8,000 workers unemployed. There were 42,545 casino workers in Atlantic City at the end of 2006; there now are 24,817. Wayne Parry, Associated Press, 1-14-15 In his efforts to make things better, Christie may have had a success or two along the way, but he has had a monster failure too. The entire Revel debacle could be put at his door. The $2.4 billion casino would never have been built without Christie’s help and it should never have been built. Revel was a very expensive and very grand idea, but it was never a success in any sense. It was on the edge of bankruptcy for all of its short life. But, even the bankruptcy court did not save the casino-hotel, revenues were never enough to service, even a reduced, debt and it was forced to close. The building sold at auction for less than $100 million. The developer who purchased it has big plans and he is make big promises. But thus far, it is all talk. Revel Casino Hotel’s new buyer plans to build a huge water park and run high-speed ferries from Manhattan as part of a grand redevelopment of the shuttered megaresort. Glenn Straub, a flamboyant Florida developer who is buying Revel out of bankruptcy, detailed some of his plans during a break this morning in a hearing on the final court order approving the $95.4 million sale. Donald Wittkowski, 1-8-15 On the plus side of the ledger, Christie engineered a much needed revision of gaming regulation and streamlined the bureaucracy. However, his biggest challenge has been the city administration. Christie has not been successful at pushing the city’s government into doing the “right” things. He got tired of waiting and took over. Not everyone is pleased with the plan, but Christie is not known for managing by consensus. Since the beginning of his tenure as governor, he has simply announced the changes he had in mind, no discussion required. The emergency manager was the most controversial proposal among a series of recommendations made by a governor’s advisory commission following the second Atlantic City summit in November. Mayor Don Guardian and members of City Council have fiercely opposed having their power usurped by what some have called a “czar.”…“I think there are a lot of questions here, starting with the legal authority of the emergency manager,” State Sen. Jim Whelan said. “Frankly, I thought this idea had been on the back burner, but I guess it’s not.” Patrick Colligan, president of the state’s PBA, said in a statement Thursday the appointment of an emergency manager in Atlantic City is “both unnecessary and disturbing.” Donald Wittkowski, 1-23-15 There must be a precedent for a state government taking over a city, but I can’t think of one. About this move, he said:”It’s time to confront the dire circumstances with which we are confronted.” Confront them he did and without waiting for the New Jersey legislature to take action. There are a number of bills in the legislature designed to help the struggling city and its gaming industry, but apparently that process is too slow. The mayor has some ideas and plans as well, but Christie is giving him any more time either. Instead, like the board of directors of a trouble corporation, Governor Christie is taking charge and hiring a “turnaround” team for Atlantic City. The first outcome of the takeover was not positive. Moody’s downgraded the city’s bonds. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Atlantic City’s general obligation debt to Caa1 with a negative outlook from Ba1 on Friday. This action comes the day after Gov. Chris Christie installed an emergency manager to resolve the city’s floundering finances. The city currently has $344 million of outstanding long-term general obligation debt and $397 million of total debt, according to a Moody’s release. Press of Atlantic City, 1-23-15 Moody’s and most other observers believe the city is headed for bankruptcy as some of the members of the turnaround team earned their strips in the Detroit bankruptcy. Still, the takeover may be one of Christie’s successes. He needs a success because he is preparing to run for president of the United States. When Hurricane Sandy hit the Atlantic Coast in 2012, Christie had his finest hour. He walked the beaches, talked with people and promised to help – he was a hero. He was brave, decisive and he rose above the party line. The way Christie handled Hurricane Sand brought him national attention and created support for a run at the presidency. However, Christie’s stock has dropped a lot since 2012. It is weighted down by Bridge Scandal and Atlantic City. Undaunted, the New Jersey governor still wants to live in the White House. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has taken a major step toward a run for president in 2016, forming a political action committee that will allow him to raise money for a possible White House bid. The creation of the committee, called Leadership Matters for America, was confirmed to Fox News by a Christie adviser. The paperwork was filed Friday before his address over the weekend to the Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative gathering in Des Moines. Fox News, 1-26-15 From my little corner of the world, I can’t imagine he will succeed, but stranger things have happened in politics. From Hurricane Sandy to Revel, Atlantic City defines his last four years. Christie has tried to make Atlantic City a symbol for his skills, but far too often it has become a symbol for his short comings. Still, I like to speculate about Chris Christie as president of the United States. Would he appoint turnaround teams for Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Miami? Would he take over entire states? What might he do if he thought England or France was being mismanaged? The possibilities are endless. Christopher James Christie has only been governor of New Jersey for only four years, but it has been a wild ride. Imagining him as president is kind of scary.