It was another bad day at the beach for beleaguered New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
By a unanimous vote (8-0, with one abstention), the City Council of Atlantic City passed an ordinance on July 11 demanding a public vote on any sale of their municipal water system. This move is a direct challenge to the state takeover of Atlantic City engineered by Christie. The takeover gives the state broad powers, including the ability to sell off the prized water system to private water corporations with deep connections to leaders in both major political parties.
The ordinance comes in response to a petition drive led by AC Citizens Against the State Takeover, which sought to have any sale of the water system put up to a public vote—a right granted to any other municipality in the state. This campaign has been supported by Food & Water Watch, the ACLU of New Jersey, the Atlantic City Chapter of the NAACP, the Committee of Petitioners, and the New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center.
The campaign went door to door, and neighbor to neighbor, to make sure that Atlantic City residents were given a voice in controlling resources that belong to them.
What comes next? Under the state takeover law, Governor Christie and his appointed overseer could simply veto the Council’s new law, a move that would show a blatant disregard for the public will. But it doesn't end there. This would simply send the question to the ballot for a citywide vote, giving the citizens the chance to override Christie.
Either way, this is more bad news for Chris Christie, who pushed for this profoundly undemocratic takeover of Atlantic City. Of course, we've seen a lot of Christie in the press lately. The governor's decision to shut down the state government over a budget dispute and turn a public beach into a private family getaway on a holiday weekend revealed (yet again) his attitude towards exploiting and mismanaging public resources.
The residents of Atlantic City, and the city’s elected officials, are standing up to Christie and his corporate cronies to say: "Our water, our voice."