Skip Navigation

A Responsive Government and Justice for All Can Help Revive Atlantic City

A revitalization plan from Brennan Center Senior Fellow Jim Johnson

September 28, 2018

When many of our cities find themselves split between the rich and poor and others find their best days, apparently well in the past, there is one clear path to a resilient, vibrant community: a shared economic vision, attention to social problems, a responsive government and justice for all citizens. No city has been able to turn itself around without addressing issues at the core of the Brennan Center mission. Atlantic City is no different. Reliant on a large casino industry, Atlantic City faced a devastating retrenchment of that industry after the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009. It is on the rebound, but poverty remains high, public health a deep concern, and public safety is not where community members would like it to be. In 2016, the state passed legislation to take over the finances and much of the operations of the city, and in 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy asked Brennan Center Senior Fellow Jim Johnson to lead a review.

The results of six months of effort is a report entitled Atlantic City: Building a Foundation for Shared Prosperity, delivered to Gov. Murphy last week.

The report, praised by Moody’s as “credit positive” for the city, provides a six-point strategy for building a vibrant community. Moody’s support signals that a fiscally sound approach can also be progressive. The redevelopment strategy  embraces core Brennan Center values: a stronger democracy with a responsive government and criminal justice reform. The policy proposals include continued law enforcement reform proposals — including enhancing community policing, early intervention, and developing alternatives to incarceration — which have been endorsed by Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. They also include calls for strengthening the fundamentals of government by improving ethics and insisting on professionalism in government service. The report also outlines tools for enhancing civic engagement, both with government and across the silos within the community.

The report can be found here:

Moody’s evaluation can be found here:–87f2–5c8b-93b2–80b8294e08c1/5babb8bca235a.pdf.pdf

The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily those of the Brennan Center for Justice.