Atlantic City Leaders Grapple With State Takeover Threat

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -

Atlantic City’s elected officials mixed compliance with defiance Wednesday as they struggled to respond to a threatened state takeover of the city’s finances.

Shortly after a state takeover bill was introduced, Mayor Don Guardian and City Council members said they wanted to work with the state rather than fight it.

But several also warned the city would not be bullied, and Atlantic County Freeholder Ernest Coursey cautioned against adopting “a plantation mentality” regarding Atlantic City, where blacks constitute the largest population group at nearly 40 percent.

“There’s no fight, no war,” Guardian said at a news conference. “We weren’t elected as generals; we were elected as diplomats.”

State Senate President Steve Sweeney introduced a bill giving the state vast power over most major decisions in Atlantic City, including the right to sell off city assets and land. He said there is “Atlantic City fatigue” in the state Legislature with repeated requests for money since its casino industry folded.

City Council President Marty Small said Atlantic City already has complied with 90 percent of what it has been asked to do by its state overseers, including an emergency manager appointed by Gov. Chris Christie.

“Last time I checked, when you get a 90 on a test, you get an ‘A’,” he said.