The state's Local Finance Board (LFB) voted to take over major decision making powers from Atlantic City Wednesday, giving Local Government Services Director Timothy Cunningham extensive powers over most Atlantic City decisions for the next five years.

Here's an overview of some of what the state can do with those powers:

- Hire and fire workers: This includes all city workers except those appointed officials who have received tenure, as stipulated by takeover law.

- Terminate or modify union contracts: The state could now break any union contracts except those related to the school district.

- Terminate city departments: The LFB has the authority to dissolve, terminate abolish or dispose of any city authority, board, commission or department.

- Sell city assets: The state could put any city asset up fro sale, including Bader Field and the MUA, the city's waterworks.

- Restructure debt: The LFB could take whatever steps it sees fit to adjust or restructure the city's $500 million debt.

It was not immediately clear what authority Atlantic City Mayor Donald Guardian or the elected city council would retain. Mr. Guardian has said that the city would go to court to assert its rights to manage its own affairs.

According to the New York Times, the powers the state is taking in Atlantic City exceed those they have ever taken before, including most recently in Camden.

Other New Jersey cities, including Camden, have been placed under state supervision in the past, but the state has granted itself more authority to take direct control in Atlantic City, said Marc H. Pfeiffer, assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University.

“This is a new process,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “We’ve never done a process like this before.”

In 2002, the state assigned a chief operating officer to help sort out Camden’s financial problems. One of the changes that ensued was the dissolution of the city’s police department and the transfer of authority to patrol Camden to the county police.

“Camden is effectively not on the critical list any more” and is in better shape than Trenton and Paterson, Mr. Pfeiffer said. “Atlantic City’s fiscal problems are far more critical that those of Trenton or Paterson.”

SOURCE: New York Times

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