This is what people power looks like.
The grassroots campaign to protect Atlantic City’s public water system from a corporate takeover delivered petitions to City Hall, demanding that the public have the final say over control of a public utility.
After a press conference with city leaders and community activists, the campaign submitted over 2,400 signatures to the City Clerk’s office on a petition demanding the full rights of participation on the future of the city’s water—the same rights the residents of any other city in New Jersey have.
This action puts serious pressure on state officials who could use the state takeover of Atlantic City to grab its valuable water system. The takeover, engineered by Governor Chris Christie, empowers Trenton to sell off city assets, and the water system has long been an attractive target for private companies with deep political connections to state lawmakers in both parties.
So what comes next? Because the citizens have submitted more than enough petition signatures, the City Council will get a chance to vote on the ordinance in the coming weeks. If that succeeds, the ball is in the state government’s court. If Governor Christie and his overseer try to veto the law under the state takeover, they would have to explain why they are acting contrary to the public will. Moreover, this would simply send the question to the ballot for a citywide vote, giving the citizens the chance to override that veto.
It is possible that the state might still try to impose its will on the citizens under the takeover law, and steal this valuable water system to hand it over to a private corporation. But this initative is a clear shot across the bow that public opposition to the takeover is building momentum. If the governor decides that the residents of Atlantic City do not have the same democratic rights as all other state residents, he can expect a serious battle.