By David Cruz
It’s an annual rite of summer for Gov. Chris Christie, delivered usually on a slow Friday news day — a status report on the water down the shore. With DEP Commissioner Bob Martin in tow on the Asbury Park Boardwalk, the governor reported that the water is just fine.
“A couple of years ago I told you to get the hell off the beach. You know I always try to repeat that when I’m here because it was the people of Asbury Park who caused me to say that,” Christie said.
The governor said beach badge sales in the city were up 40 percent over last year and that the excellent water quality was a big part of that.
While the governor was here to talk about water quality, it was Atlantic City’s troubled waters that dominated the conversation.
With a summit on the gaming capitol’s future set for next month, the governor was asked about it several times during the press conference. While he said he didn’t want to give away any details about what might be discussed, he did give a hint as to what the theme of the gathering might be.
“What I think has to happen in Atlantic City is that it needs to be configured from gaming-centric to resort-centric. We’ve started to do that with ‘the district’ and some of the things we’ve done, the advertising and all the rest, you’re seeing all the non-gaming stuff, the shopping and all the other attractions there, the Steel Pier and others, are all getting really good, good numbers, so we just need to continue to work to do that,” said Christie.
The governor, who had set a five-year time frame for an Atlantic City rebound, said the city suffered not only from competition in neighboring states but from a generally bad economy. Four years into that five-year period, he acknowledged that it was time to start thinking about alternatives. One thing he won’t do, which some casino workers asked him to do yesterday, was have the state intervene directly in keeping some casinos open.
“The government is not gonna take over. I have no interest in being a casino CEO, and the government has no business taking over private businesses. I’m confident we couldn’t do it better. And we have no business doing that, so we’re not gonna do that and I told the workers yesterday I wasn’t gonna do that,” Christie said.
The shore has dominated this governor’s tenure more than any other issues. Whether it’s been Sandy or the Seaside boardwalk fires or now Atlantic City’s woes, how Christie’s perceived to have handled these crises will largely determine whether he’ll be remembered as a good steward or just all wet.