Year in review
Who and what made the news in New Jersey in 2015
Glenn Townes | 12/28/2015, noon
For many New Jerseyans, the year 2015 will likely be remembered as a year of comebacks, changes and surprises---especially when it comes to politics, the economy and a host of other things. In fact, what is a year-end review story if it doesn't include details—albeit occasionally ungracious and outlandish---of political intrigue, controversy and perhaps even some good news.
Christie pushes his way into presidential race
Hoping to capitalize on some good news from a legislative panel investigating his alleged involvement in the Bridgegate fiasco, Chris Christie did it!
No—not cause Bridgegate, but formally announced his run for the White House. In January, the governor formed a political action committee and officially set the wheels in motion to become president. Despite some serious baggage—including a plunge in his popularity across the state, the outspoken governor pushed his way into the already crowded presidential arena.
In mid December of 2014, a legislative panel in Trenton released a 136-page detailed report clearing the governor of being complicit in the scheme and ultimately fingered several senior members of his administration as the key players in the scandal that forced the closure of several lanes on the George Washington Bridge (GWB) – a major thoroughfare between New York and New Jersey during the height of rush hour back in September 2013. Allegedly, members of the Christie administration—under his direction-- orchestrated the alleged “traffic study,” as payback to Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich for not supporting the re-election campaign of the Republican governor. However, remnants of the highly publicized debacle still continue to plague the governor and his bid to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in D.C.., as his opponents and others frequently bring up the matter as well as dozens of other problems exacerbated in the Garden State under the Christie watch—(i.e.) the state's lowered credit rating, out of control property taxes; the consistent outflow of residents and the constant delay of the disbursement of federal and state relief funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy, to name a few.
Atlantic City on the rebound
With gas prices hovering at about a paltry $2 a gallon and idyllic weather conditions---including at least a dozen or so virtually rain-free weekends throughout the peak spring and summer season months, dozens of South Jersey shore communities enjoyed a banner season. The biggest benefactor of the cheap gas and beautiful weather was Atlantic City. The once unchallenged east coast gambling mecca slowly began to bounce back from prior abysmal earnings; poor attendance and thousands of employee layoffs from past years. In 2014 four casinos, the Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel and Trump Plaza closed and sharply reduced capacity in the crowded gaming market and furloughed thousands of workers.
The number of gamblers, tourists, beachcombers and most importantly—revenues, were up at most of the casinos. Add to the mix the popularity of online gaming in New Jersey which is linked to some AC casinos and the South Jersey shore community is on the comeback trail.
In January, members of the Atlantic City Council extended a much needed lifeline to the struggling Atlantic City casino industry when it approved a proposal to bail out the cash strapped resort city. The council allowed Atlantic City casinos to make abbreviated loan payments to the city for an extended period---in some cases, the casinos would be exempt from paying property taxes for as long as 15 years. Offset for the casino bail out would come through layoffs and budget cuts across the board in Atlantic City.