Atlantic City, New Jersey has evolved from a city of blight in the early to late 1970s to a diamond along the east coast today. That progress is in large part due to the revitalization of the once sinking resort town by the casino gambling industry.
Today, Atlantic City's future looks bright.
So why offer criticism, if so much progress has been made in the past twenty-five years? Because bad governance is bad for business.
Despite all the progress made in redevelopment and revitalization, Atlantic City is still very much haunted by past ghosts: political corruption and political shenanigans.
Perhaps the U.S. Attorney's Office summarized it best in response to the latest convictions of two council persons on corruption charges: "It's a sad commentary on the state of politics in Atlantic City."
Although it's true that Atlantic County as a whole would benefit from greater economic diversification, there's little doubt of the economic salvation of casino gaming in Atlantic City. Increasing high tech jobs in the county would also benefit the casino industry as new innovations and technical improvements could benefit the casinos bottom line and give them an edge over recent competitors in markets such as Philadelphia.
However, such progress also requires an atmosphere of honest civic engagement and, quite frankly, decent, honest governance. That element is sadly missing in today's mix in Atlantic City.
Before the region can produce real public servants and government leaders who put the public trust and the interests of its citizenry above the petty self-interests, jealousies, and rivalries of political hacks and hoodlums, Atlantic City and Atlantic County must confront its own ghosts.
Elected leaders who accept bribes from corporate and special interests are not meeting even the lowest bar of leadership. Elected leaders who win political points by pandering to the hatreds and differences that divide people, rather than bringing them together, are not serving the people's interests. Elected leaders who attempt to advance their own interests by trashing the honor and character of opponents say more about themselves than the person or persons they seek to destroy.
Atlantic City's business climate is vibrant, but if it is to endure it must find new leaders who embrace and envision common dreams, common hopes, and common successes.
Until then, "Adieu."
Constance Lavender is an HIV-Positive pseudonymous freelance e-journalist from a little isle off the coast of Jersey; New Jersey, that is...
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