ATLANTIC CITY (November 24, 2018) – The state is set to invest more than $1 million to ensure recommendations contained in its report on returning local government to city officials are properly implemented.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority approved an intergovernmental agreement with the state Department of Community Affairs to fund the Atlantic City Project Office.
Funding for the three-year deal, which ends Dec. 31, 2021, is not to exceed $450,000 annually, for a total of $1.35 million. The money will be used for salary and health benefits for the staff.
The creation of the Project Office was among a list of recommendations found in the state’s transition report, published in September, which outlined Gov. Phil Murphy’s preferred path for Atlantic City to regain sovereignty following the 2016 takeover of city government.
According to the report, which was co-authored by Special Counsel Jim Johnson, the intent of the Project Office is to facilitate and coordinate the recommendations.
DCA Deputy Commissioner Rob Long said the Atlantic City Project Office will manage “all the aspects of the Jim Johnson report.”
“So everything that’s outlined in the report, (the Project Office) will be tasked with making sure that we follow up and execute on it,” said Long.
“The Project Office would develop an implementation plan and oversee in some cases and act as a liaison in others the day-to-day work of working groups,” which include health, safety, education, vocational, economic planning and development, youth services and government accountability committees, according to the report.
The Atlantic City Project Office is the third unelected body generated by the Johnson report, joining the Atlantic City Executive Council and the Atlantic City Coordinating Council, which Murphy created via executive order earlier this month.
CRDA Executive Board Chairman Robert Mulcahy said the CRDA-approved funding would be used to staff the newly created Project Office, which will be located in City Hall.
“We’ll have a memorandum of understanding with DCA, and it relieves us of the potential of dealing with additional personnel and all the things that go with it,” said Mulcahy. “So I think that worked out very well.”
Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr., whose elected position affords him a seat on the CRDA board, said the Project Office “creates a cohesiveness that we really haven’t had.”
“In some cases, you’ll have some state partners working on a particular perspective and then another partner working on another perspective,” he said. “So it allows all the partners to coexist and have one directive so we can move forward and hopefully get these processes done quicker.”
Long said the Project Office would be accountable to Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who is also DCA commissioner and chairs the other two newly created councils.
Third Ward Councilman Kaleem Shabazz said Johnson’s report has been “well received” by City Council and the Mayor’s Office.
“We believe in what (Johnson) has said,” said Shabazz. “But I think the important part is how you implement it. And this is an implementation tool that’s very important and, I think, critical to the development of Atlantic City.”