Thursday, August 28, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Atlantic City is a veritable playground for any gumshoe reporter with the slightest sense of civic responsibility or interest in lurid public scandal. The city possesses every character flaw a local reporter could ask for to provide a constant stream of salacious front page stories. In the past year alone, four former members of city council were convicted of corruption, the mayor resigned following his own corruption scandal, and another member of city council was indicted for setting up a colleague with a prostitute, filming the encounter, and then attempting to blackmail him.
Not only are city leaders corrupt, they are also totally incompetent, as evidenced by the city's bloated payrolls and budget. To get a sense of how badly mismanaged Atlantic City is, look at Coral Gables, Florida for the sake of comparison. Like Atlantic City, Coral Gables is a city with a population of approximately 40,000 and which also has a tourist based local economy. Looking at some basic benchmarks, Coral Gables has a total of 859 city employees and a budget of $142 million. By comparison, Atlantic City has nearly double the number of employees (approximately 1,600) and a budget of $206 million. Despite the fact that Atlantic City spends 45% more than Coral Gables, it delivers far inferior services (particularly schools and public safety) to its residents. There is no legitimate excuse for the high cost and gross inefficiency and ineffectiveness of Atlantic City's government.
Moreover, crime in Atlantic City is at epidemic level. Out of 325 U.S. cities with a population between 40,000 - 60,000, Atlantic City had the highest murder rate in the country - by a significant margin. Thousands of Atlantic City residents live in drug infested, crime ridden public housing projects. Rather than promote efforts to move residents out of these decrepit conditions, local politicians shower them with public assistance dollars in an effort to keep the residents - and their votes - in Atlantic City. The city would be better served by shutting down this public housing and helping these residents move to more dignified conditions elsewhere.
Despite the over-abundance of highly reportable material, the Press somehow manages to be completely irrelevant as a city watchdog and cultural institution. A prime example of The Press' pointless reporting appears in today's edition, where we learn that the Pinnacle casino project, which was put on hold earlier this year due to the credit crisis, continues to lease billboards...
What? I'm sorry, were you waiting for something else to the story? No, no, there's nothing more. That's it. Just in case you hadn't recently noticed the massive billboards around town that are advertising the Pinnacle project, the Press just thought you should know...they're still there.
The Press is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the criminally incompetent and self-serving city administrators it should be questioning, investigating and exposing. Accordingly, we implore the residents of Atlantic City and the region to boycott The Press of Atlantic City unless and until it fulfills its public duty to report on matters of public interest and to hold the city's leaders accountable for their mismanagement of the city.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
The Press of Atlantic City reports today that the City is trying to speed up the process of getting bids for the development of Bader Field, a 140 acre parcel of prime waterfront property worth an estimated $1 billion. Ordinarily, we would applaud the efforts of the city to quickly sell this parcel for development, as it will hopefully result in a major development that will bring thousands of jobs and tourists to the city as well as new infrastructure and amenities. But, as they say in life, timing is everything.
The country's current housing woes have been front page news for months. The credit crisis has banks reeling and the availability of debt and equity capital for new development is scarce, if it can be obtained at all. We have already seen Pinnacle halt development of a planned 1.5 billion casino in Atlantic City due to the credit crisis. Revel, too is having difficulty obtaining financing for its project and has asked the City for assistance in securing $56 million in debt for its $2 billion development. Just last week, Boyd Gaming - which co-owns the successful Borgata casino in Atlantic City - announced that it was suspending construction of The Echelon, a $4.8 billion casino project already under construction in Las Vegas due to the weak market. The stocks values of gaming companies have plummeted in recent months, with some falling by more than 70%, and they remain near their 52 week lows. Gaming revenue in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas has fallen compared to last year as distressed consumers cut back on discretionary spending.
In sum, there could hardly be a worse time to expedite requests for proposals for the acqusition and development of Bader Field. Under the current economic conditions, a quick sale of this prized parcel will attract little interest and those firms with the resources to bid will undoubtedly submit low ball offers which fail to recognize the long term value of this property. The result will be the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the city, its taxpayers, and residents.
There is no pressing reason why the City should not and cannot delay the RFP process for 6-18 months until the economy and capital markets have stabilized or recovered and that is exactly what the City should do.
Monday, August 4, 2008
In addition to the pics of the cropduster planes in action, be sure to check out the sweet shots of the "Duster Babes" and the "Secretary of the Month". Apparently, the good judges in Arkansas adhere to the Russian school of thought on matters of sexual harassment, (i.e., If We Had No Sexual Harassment, We Would Have No Children).
The case was brought by a 22 year old executive who testified that she was locked out of the office after refusing to have sex with her 47 year old boss. "He always demanded that female workers signalled to him with their eyes that they desperately wanted to be laid on the boardroom table as soon as he gave the word," she told the court. "I didn't realise at first that he wasn't speaking metaphorically."
In a bold and brilliant example of contrarian rationale, the judge dismissed the case, not for lack of evidence, but because the boss' behavior was in fact a patriotic duty, rather than an illegal act. "If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children" the judge defiantley proclaimed.
Clearly, things work a little differently in Russia. In light of this case, and the reversal of Italy's infamous "tight jeans" defense to rape (stemming from a case in which an Italian court ruled that the defendant could not be guilty because the girls jeans were so tight there is no way he could have removed them without her consent - see http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24068240-38200,00.html) Russia has clearly established itself as the world's preeminent nation for boorish machismo.