The NAACP New Jersey State Conference and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey issue the following statement on S1711, Governor Christie’s and Senate President Sweeney’s proposal to grant the State the authority to take over New Jersey municipalities with troubled finances.
The following can be attributed to NAACP New Jersey State Conference President Richard Smith and ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer:
“The proposal being pushed forward by Governor Christie for the State to take over the operations and finances of Atlantic City raises serious concerns for the civil rights and civil liberties of Atlantic City residents.
“A cornerstone of our democracy is the right of the people to elect their local government and to ensure, through the ballot box and public participation, that it is accountable to the people. While we have no doubt that elected officials on both sides of this debate want to prevent Atlantic City from falling into bankruptcy, we urge lawmakers to address this crisis without abandoning basic democratic principles of accountable and open government.
“The Governor’s and Senate President’s plan would essentially dissolve local government by providing the State of New Jersey with the authority to dismantle any of Atlantic City’s municipal authorities or contracts, and veto any City Council vote. The State would be able to overturn and rewrite old ordinances, and it could institute entirely new city laws. State overseers would have powers to work in greater secrecy, sidestepping our open meeting laws and keeping the public in the dark.
“We hope that lawmakers from all factions across the state will come together, see beyond politics, and reach a compromise. Nothing less than the fundamental rights of Atlantic City residents and the integrity of our democratic system of government is at stake here.”