On November 19, 2016, I had the privilege of interviewing Valeria. She is a social worker who deals with child abuse cases in Atlantic County. She explained how Atlantic County is among the top 5 counties in New Jersey for child abuse. Living in Atlantic County over the past few years hasn’t been an easy journey. Valeria spoke of the takeover, not having a voice, and the need for employment opportunities. The challenges that many people in Atlantic County have faced are all surrounding employment. The takeover has taken jobs from the people of this area. Without these job opportunities, many people had to give up their places in this county. She had some interesting points about the Takeover and how the “takeover talk” has been happening for the past 20 years. This wasn’t news to her and the people of her age group. They all new it was coming; it was just a matter of when. The state now has authority to undertake an enormous amount of power usually held by the city’s leaders. This includes the ability to break union contracts, hire and fire workers, sell city assets, enter into shared services agreements, restructure debt, and much more. The only thing that the state can’t due is file for bankruptcy on behalf of the city.
Valeria has many connections with politicians and the local government of Atlantic City. She interacts with these people during church, school outings, protests, and forums that she attends. Some of the questions that were asked during the interview, Valeria explained how the “church was solid on many topics”. Most people didn’t want to hear what others had to say and ways that things could be changed. Valeria explained how the laws for employment, wages, and housing need to be changed. The residents of Atlantic County get the crumbs. These residents have a voice, but some choose not to use it. Many of these residents had to leave their homes because of the tax increase. They could not afford to live in this area or find employment. While Valeria says she voted for Hillary in this past election, she explained “Trump won the election because he spoke about jobs”.
In Atlantic County, many people feel like they do not have a voice. There is inequality throughout Atlantic County, especially Atlantic City. The politicians and people in higher status positions have no idea what they are doing, according to Valeria. The people who are unemployed have a better story to tell because of the daily struggles they face. Their voices deserve to be heard in the community. This Takeover has greatly affected those who are homeless and low income families. Many people from low income families worked in the casinos that have been closing rapidly for the passed three years. The casinos were a large part of the job opportunities in Atlantic County. Many people are worried that without these casinos, people will stay away from this area. This redevelopment of the area will cause changes in the culture of the neighborhoods. There will be no money coming into this county because people simply cannot afford it. Atlantic County was once a place that attracted many people, but now people are staying away.