After weeks of pledging cooperation with a threatened state takeover of his city, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian on Monday blasted the plan as “a fascist dictatorship.”
The Republican mayor said he is lining up other state lawmakers to introduce a different financial recovery bill that would be a true partnership between the cash-strapped city and the state.
Senate President Steve Sweeney has introduced a bill that would give the state vast control over Atlantic City’s finances, including the right to cancel union contracts, sell city assets and land, and declare bankruptcy. Gov. Chris Christie has supported a state takeover, saying the gambling resort spends too much.
The mayor says the city could run out of cash within the next two months.
“Far from a partnership, it was absolutely a fascist dictatorship,” Guardian said of the takeover bill pending in the state Legislature.
Guardian said his administration made $25 million in cuts to last year’s budget and is amendable to further savings. But he said the plan now being considered in Trenton strips his residents of their civil and Constitutional rights, and urged the full Legislature to “vote this bill down.”
“This is an insult to democracy and to American citizens living in Atlantic City,” he said outside City Hall. “Today it’s Atlantic City, but tomorrow it will be Paterson or Trenton. The civil rights of our citizens are being trampled on. Taking away the Constitutional rights of residents would never happen in Mendham, Short Hills, or Livingston.”
Betty Lewis, president of the city’s NAACP chapter, threatened a civil rights lawsuit against the state “if they continue to usurp our rights.”
“The state takeover proposal seems to be about racism and greed,” she said.