Posted tagged ‘new jersey’

Over Saturated and More

July 15, 2014

The last week New Jersey newspapers have been full of rumors about further Atlantic City casino closings. With the recent announcement of the Trump Plaza closing, the total this year comes to 4. The popular question is why?

A PhD is not required to answer this question. Since Atlantic City’s hay day, casinos have sprouted up in nearby Pennsylvania as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland. In short, there are too many gambling locations for too few gamblers.

A harder question to answer is why have only certain casinos closed?

Atlantic City has two clumps of casinos. The largest number are strung out along the boardwalk next to the ocean. For reasons that are not clear, the cliental which frequents the AC boardwalk are lower blue collar. While this cohort does frequent the casinos, they are not “big rollers”.

The streets on the opposite side of the Boardwalk casinos present another marketing problem. There, one finds homeless and unemployed people (urban poverty). The prospects of a casino hotel guest taking a walk around the nearby neighborhood is not too attractive.

So the Boardwalk located casinos have relied upon “drive-in, drive-out” guests.  In other words, the casino could be located anywhere which was a convenient drive.

With the overall market size decreasing due to the new casinos in other States, the Boardwalk casinos were left to compete on the basis of what each offered compared to other Boardwalk casinos. Some tried harder than others. Those that have closed were not competitive enough.

Atlantic City’s urban poverty is not a new phenomena. As each new casino was announced to great fanfare, politicians promised jobs, new housing, and in short, a new Atlantic City. The new city on the hill never happened and now the die is cast with no more promises about a bright future.

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Prudent, Or Just Being Realistic?

October 23, 2013

In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, there is an interview with Senator Pat Toomey.  He was one of 18 Senators (along with Ted Cruz) who voted against the compromise legislation which has temporarily reopened Government.  Toomey said he was for reopening but against the pork spending that accompanied the reopening.  Was Toomey’s explanation prudent, or just being realistic?

Toomey faces reelection in 2016 and already Democrats are portraying him as a Ted Cruz disciple.  I suppose Toomey’s explanation is aimed at that sweet spot between Cruz’s “shut down, damn the injuries” and Toomey’s more “principled” stand “shut down, sob, sob, but I had to vote against the bill because it would not have savings to offset the debt increase limit”.  Toomey’s explanation also sits in the context that his former organization, Club For Growth, is full square behind shut down and default on the debt regardless of the consequences.

But Toomey is not the only leading Republican needing to step lightly.  Governor Chris Christy took a less combative stance versus same sex marriage.  Governor Christy originally objected to an appellate court’s decision that New Jersey’s Constitution guaranteed equal treatment under the law to all citizens and therefore same sex couples were being treated differently because they were denied Federal benefits.

The Governor withdrew his objection without comment.  Observers said the Supreme Court would have decided in favor of same sex marriage.  So was Christy’s decision “prudent or just being realistic”?

Hmmm.

If Governor Christy has any designs on the GOP Presidential nomination in 2016, he will have to withstand the evangelical conservative’s wrath because he did not fight harder.

If Senator Toomey wants to be reelected, he will have to overcome those who think government closure and defaulting on the debt are  unwarranted.

Of the two, Governor Christy has made the wiser bet history will reveal.

 

Trying To Do Better?

June 17, 2013

New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christy made the news again.  This is not unusual, although on this issue it is surprising.  Christy wants to change the Civil Service promotion rules.  Hmmm.

Christy’s spokesperson said the proposal which would allow managers to promote younger, more qualified employees without all the bother of tests and procedures was in line with Christy’s efforts to improve State Government services.  As you might expect, the State Public Service Employees Union howled with disapproval.

I can easily imagine that this proposal arises from the mismatch of younger people with computer and social media skills locked into positions which do not reward those skills financially.  Instead, the younger workers are destined to work a routine assignments “until” their time comes.  And the irony is most likely that when their time comes to occupy higher level jobs, technology will have evolved again and those junior to these new supervisors will have the necessary talents.  Hmmm.

Less obvious but just as undesirable an outcome occurs when public employees must be laid off.  Seniority rules the way and skill or ability are overlooked.  So why aren’t the best and the brightest promoted and paid accordingly?

Let’s be clear this is not a new phenomena or one unique to Governor Christy.  It goes hand in hand with political appointments and political spoils.

Selecting the best and the brightest by management evaluations works as well as the “independence and integrity” of the evaluator.  Favoritism, prejudices, and payoffs all can abound in a system of management selection.  In short, this is why the Civil Service rules evolved.

In the business world, management selection is the bedrock process for advancement.  So, why does it work in business and is so fraught with problems in public service?

Competition is the answer.

In the business world, should management selections turn out to be unwise, a competitor will offer better mouse traps and one business will fail while the other flourishes.  We should recognize that management selection models always involve favoritism, prejudices, and payoffs of some type or amount whether employed in the public or private sector.  With the prospect of business failure, the private sector has natural reasons to limit the misuse of management selection.  Public service does not.

One more warning to Governor Christy.  I could accept that his personal motivation might be just as stated, improve the effectiveness of government services.  I could also accept that Governor Christy’s civil service managers would wisely choose those for promotion.  What I have difficulty accepting is that Governor Christy’s successors will have the same goals when it would be so helpful to reward his/her political supporters.

The Oklahoma Way

May 24, 2013

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn was interviewed yesterday on whether Federal tornado relief funds should be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget.  His statement drew interest because he had objected to the size of the relief package New Jersey and New York received following Hurricane Sandy.  The media was looking for an “I gotcha” moment.  Instead they got, if they were listening, a dose of common sense.

Coburn remained consistant on emergency relief.  Natural disasters occur regularly and as such ought to be a budget item.  With a central fund, the government could release necessary funds quickly without any chance for politicians to get involved.  But there was more.

Senator Coburn made clear that his objection to the NJ/NY relief was in part that the legislation contained a lot of “pork”.  He claimed that most of the funds would not be spent within two years.  Hmmm.  (Of course one man’s pork is another man’s meat and potatoes.)

The most important message, in my opinion, was the Senator’s description of Oklahomans.  He said Oklahomans knew the risks and took prior steps to mitigate.   He predicted that most of the residents of Moore had home insurance.  Policy payoffs coupled with help from neighbors would cover most of the estimated $2 billion loss.  He predicted $200 million would be all that was needed.   Hmmm.

Consider.  Hurricane Sandy was a surprise late season storm.  Many of the costal cities had rejected recommendations for building protective ocean dunes.  Hmmm.  New York   City had studies calling for protective dikes to guard against flooding subways and tunnels for several years.  Hmmm.  Yet, in the end, the Federal Government sent $50 billion to the area.

For sure there is a difference in population density between Oklahoma City and the New Jersey/New York coastal area.  Never the less, Senator Coburn’s words make sense and underscore the possibility that big government bail outs breed further dependency rather than simply rehabilitate.

What To Do About Sandy?

December 4, 2012

Governors Cuomo and Christie have tallied the estimates of how much money it will take to restore their towns and shorelines following Sandy’s devastation.  It’s huge.  Almost $80 billion is the latest estimate and each governor wants the Federal Government to cover this cost.  Hmmm.

For most of the victims whose homes or businesses were destroyed, it is a lot to expect for them to go to their savings accounts and pay for repairs or rebuilding.  And it is a lot to expect that cities and towns could afford to replace infrastructure that had been built up over many years from current operating funds.  And one would expect there was insurance coverage on much of what was destroyed but certainly not complete coverage.  So, should the Federal Government pay?

In terms of our current $1 trillion deficit, $80 billion is about 8% and less than 3% of the total Federal expenditures.  How should the government offset this $80 billion?  More taxes?  More cuts to other programs like Medicare?

And should the Federal help come with, or without strings?  Should residents be allowed to rebuild in ways that are just as susceptible to the next big storm?  And if not, who should decide?

I have not seen any proposals but it is clear that from a political eye, both Christie and Cuomo want a lot of credit which would flow from generous federal grants.  I would not begrudge either because I think they have performed well up to now.  Rather this is a question about the role of government.

Since 2001, US citizens have been content to allow government run deficit budgets while granting tax reductions and refusing to take action on known underfunding of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  In 2010, the GOP, lead by the Tea Party, took control of Congress on the mantel that government was too big.  What does that mean when we consider Sandy’s damage?

Since the government has not balance its books (and seems not to care), shouldn’t citizens expect the government to simply borrow more and help.  Or, is it that government is already too big and New York and New Jersey are on their own?

Lost In Politics?

February 17, 2012

The New Jersey legislature has just passed a bill allowing same sex marriage.  New Jersey already has made civil unions legal.  This is the next step, in the minds of gay rights people.  Governor Christie has said he will veto the marriage law.

What is the deliberative process that one uses to decide to veto one measure and not push for repeal of the other?

Governor Christie is one of several (maybe many) who have their eyes on the 2016 Presidential election.  Governor Christie’s mother did not raise any dim witted kids.  He is looking for the mid point of the middle of the road.  He can claim he respected gay rights by keeping clear of civil unions and throw a bone to religious groups by saying he vetoed same sex marriage.  A Solomon-like compromise it would seem.

Lost, of course, in this discussion is why are States involved in what a “civil union” is called?  Marriage as the Government knows it is a civil union.

For sure, States and the Federal Government have an important roll in civil unions.  Taxes breaks, benefit coverage, inheritance designations, and death bed guardianships conditions and regulations are all set by some State or Federal authority.  The right to call such a union a “marriage” ought lie someplace else.

Religious organizations normal race to the front and claim some divine right.  I would think the Elks Club could claim the right to designate someone “married” just as well.  Religious organizations and the Elks are private organizations and if they chose not to marry same sex couples, well so be it.

Well, I don’t think Governor Christie was thinking about the Elks Club when he said he would veto the same sex marriage bill.  He was thinking of Iowa, South Carolina, and maybe Texas.

My guess is, however, that marriage will still be the preferred name for civil unions for many more years, but that by 2016, the tide will be clear that the marriage label will replace civil unions for same sex couples’ civil unions.

 

 

Words Mean A Lot, Actions Speak Even Louder

January 18, 2012

Philadelphia is a large city with a famous past.  America’s first large city, home of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the site of America’s first zoo, among other firsts.  Today it is a typical large city with a split personality.

In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, a story recounted the city’s 2011 homicides.  Philadelphia is a “one a day” city where the only question on January 1 is whether the city will register less than 365 killings or more.  In 2011, the number was 318.

The newspaper also published a map of Philadelphia and plotted where the killings to place.  It almost exactly conformed to the economic demographics.  If the area was one where people had average to above income, there were few if any homicides.  If the area was where high unemployment and poverty existed, there were dead people to count.

In the same Inquirer edition, there was a report on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s state of the State.  Christie like any good politician was buoyant over the State’s condition and attributed the State’s recovery to his efforts.  As a consequent he was recommending a tax cut for everyone, including job creators.

We can overlook the Christie’s personal attribution of the State’s recovery since all politicians take credit for the sun rising.  What can’t be overlooked is that New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the country.  Why not apply any State largess to reducing them?

But even more glaring is the situation in Camden, New Jersey.  This poor “suburb of Philadelphia” has a 2011 death rate about the same as Philadelphia.  Due to financial difficulties, the city had dismissed half their police force.  Why doesn’t Governor Christie use the proposed tax reduction money to put more police in Camden?

So when the GOP candidates speak of “jobs not food stamps”, what exactly do they mean?  Does Newt mean he will cut food stamps and let those people now using food stamps find jobs?  Does he mean he will cut food stamps, and give that money back to other Americans?  Does he think the people now on food stamps prefer stamps to working?

I am sure Newt doesn’t care whether his words are clear.  What he wants is for them to resonate in voters, most of whom do not see the poverty of large cities.

These are complex social problems where there are no silver bullets.  Solutions that might work in Iowa’s corn fields or the rural areas of South Carolina are unlikely work in North Philadelphia.

Gingrich’s rhetoric is shameful and he knows that.  He may claim these are desperate times (for him to get the nomination) as justification.  Unfortunately too many other politicians may try to emulate this rhetoric if it works politically.

Lost in the mess will be a serious social situation, which like a cancer, is spreading within America.