From promises of offering a “butt whopping” to claims of racism, there is a fight brewing in Atlantic City as different groups try to take control of the gambling hub. After former mayor Frank Gilliam was forced to resign in October, all hell broke loose and a group of city businessmen and politicians are looking to force elected mayor Marty Small out of office in favor of the use of a city council that would, of course, be appointed by them. It’s a fight over control of the state’s important gaming assets, and their money.
Several local businessmen have paid into a political action committee (PAC) designed to help bring change to Atlantic City. According to the Press of Atlantic City, the Atlantic City Residents for Good Government has picked up over $150,000 in contributions, including $126,000 from Resorts Casino Hotel owner Morris Bailey. There is also reportedly support coming from the company’s CEO, Mark Giannantonio, and unions that back casino, as well as construction, employees.
The goal is to replace Small and a large city council with a city manager and a smaller city council. The PAC and its supporters are pushing a referendum that would seek the changes, even though there is no guarantee that state leaders would agree no matter how much support was gathered.
There are already enough local signatures to hold a vote for the referendum, and it might come within the next couple of weeks. The president of the Unite Here Local 54 union, Bob McDevitt, is behind the measure and explains, “The only people that are (against this) are those who are part of the cartel. I believe we should have less people running a government. I think it’s more efficient and it makes sense for a community this size. No major city that has the kind of hospitality industry that we have has a main drag with the kind of undesirables and buildings that should be torn down.”
The fight has been going on even before Small became mayor – just not at the level that is being seen now. He spoke with a local news station this past June when he served as the president of the City Council and stated, “It is at the height of arrogance and represents deep-seated racial bias and animus that makes us wonder which state are we living in: New Jersey or Alabama? The move reflects a mindset that believes African Americans and other races can’t govern and don’t have the backbone or the courage to fight.”
That same month, City Council Councilman At-Large George Tibbitt had his own take on the referendum, proclaiming to anyone who would listen, “Don’t sign that petition.” He added, “It’s a scam. And even if they pass it, we’re going to give them a good old-fashioned butt whooping.”