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Look at Atlantic City: It’s Like Taking Another Look at Donald Trump

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Sign at entrance to Trump Taj Mahal Atlantic City, NJ (photo taken December 19, 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

Look at Atlantic City: It’s Like Taking Another Look at Donald Trump 

 

Atlantic City, NJ is a beloved place. It is a small beach town on the Atlantic Ocean, known for years as America’s Favorite Playground. Thanks to my family’s migration there in the 1930s, I had first-hand knowledge of the magic and charm once held by this city. I spent parts of several summers there in the 1970s, and it was quite a treat to take the 100-mile drive south to get away from the hustle and bustle of the New York City metropolitan area. I was not alone. Many people felt the same, and every weekend they doubled Atlantic City’s population. It was a great place to visit.

In the mid-1970s, the idea to recreate Atlantic City started to gain steam. Up to this point, America’s Favorite Playground was primarily dependent on tourism derived from its world-famous beach and boardwalk. The city could attract even more tourists for a different reason: casino gambling. Atlantic City could become the Las Vegas of the east, and casino gambling could supplement, if not someday surpass, family fun on the beach and boardwalk. The plan seemed like a winner, although many residents of the city did not agree.

If you knew Atlantic City, you could easily figure out it did not have the infrastructure to sustain its residents, regular tourists, and casino gamblers. The city itself is only 18 square miles, and navigating the city streets was challenging enough during the regular tourism season. Casino gambling would make the tourism season last 365 days a year. Yet those who knew the city’s urban issues and slow decline saw this as the shot in the arm Atlantic City needed. They were right. They were also wrong. It was widely believed the casinos, and the revenue they brought in would revitalize the city’s economy and “trickle-down” to the neighborhoods and citizens who called Atlantic City home. It would also bring jobs, another boost to the local economy.

In 1978, the first casino opened. Soon others followed, and Atlantic City changed forever. For a while it was Las Vegas east. It was glitz and glam. It was show time. It was the new mecca of the east coast. Atlantic City was hot! However, those who lived there, who saw the continuing decline of the infrastructure of the city saw a different picture. The tourism dollars the casino industry brought never “trickled down” to the residents of Atlantic City. As a result, they reaped minimal benefits of having casinos operate blocks away from their slowly decaying city. In fact, you could almost draw a line between the haves and have nots of Atlantic City (Pacific Avenue).

So what does this have to do with President Trump?

Trump is the epitome of the outsiders who saw Atlantic City as a gold mine. For quite some time he was a major player and the face of Atlantic City and its casino gambling scene. It was an opportunity to get in, and make a lot of money. He took advantage of it. It was also an opportunity to transform a struggling city. He did not take advantage of it.

In fact, he was one of many who sought to push aside those whose lives and property did not fit into his plans to make Atlantic City great again. I know because of my grandmother. She lived in a senior citizen complex in Atlantic City during the rise of the casinos. She talked about friends and other seniors who were afraid their properties would be seized to make room for yet another casino. One such property was (modern-day) Best of Life Park. This was a building that sat adjacent to Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal casino. There were several attempts to buy the property and other attempts to seize it through eminent domain (or taking property from owners and offering compensation).

A compromise was reached and the residents got to keep their property. It was painted white to match the behemoth casino that stood behind it. However, the fight for the property wasn’t over yet. The Taj Mahal, already known for the amount of fixtures and lights it would have, seemed to get a little extra decoration on its east side. Brighter, more frequently flashing, multicolored light bulbs adorned the east side of the property. Of course, this was directly of Best of Life Park. I wonder if it was a way to “force” the residents to give up their property? By the way, Trump also lost another eminent domain flap with resident in a different area of the city who refused to sell her property.

So over the years Trump opened several casinos: Taj Mahal, Trump’s World Fair (former Playboy casino), Trump Castle (which became Trump Marina), and Trump Plaza. One by one, these majestic Trump properties closed. Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed “biggest player in Atlantic City” managed to mismanage five casinos. Now Trump deserves plenty of credit for employing thousands of people while these properties thrived. But he also deserves plenty of blame for un-employing thousands of people when these properties folded. His last stand, the Taj Mahal closed abruptly, leaving many stakeholders and employees left out in the cold.

I know it is all about business. I also know Donald Trump knows more about business than I ever will. Those are facts. However, take into account how Donald Trump summarily dismisses his time in Atlantic City: “Atlantic City fueled a lot of growth for me,” Mr. Trump said in an interview in May, summing up his 25-year history here. “The money I took out of there was incredible.” Analyze those two statements, and you will find two of the biggest criticisms of our current President.

“Atlantic City fueled a lot of growth for me,” Translation: it was all for his benefit.

“The money I took out of there was incredible.” Translation: I made money and got out.

Once again, this is how a lot of business is conducted. People get in to make a profit, then exit when the profits are no longer there. I understand. Yet, in my opinion, the man who should be the leader of the free world should not have anything like this on his resume. He should not be a person who got in, and then got out while the getting was still good. Especially when he left behind so many broken promises, along with a trail of contractors, employees, and businesses who never received the compensation they earned. He never should have left Atlantic City worse than it was before he got there. After all, he was the “biggest player in Atlantic City.”

Recently I laid to rest my mother in the same Atlantic City church where I laid to rest my grandmother. Both of them loved Atlantic City. For me, it is still home away from home. When I drove up and down the streets of the city I was deeply saddened. Many of the areas where Trump casinos stood are barren and desolate, or haunted by what used to be. Trump’s World’s Fair was demolished years ago. The Trump Plaza is an empty shell that blights numerous Atlantic City streets. Trump’s Castle (Marina) is now the Golden Nugget. And the kicker… the lettering on the side of his Taj Mahal was being lowered ON THE SAME DAY (December 19, 2017) I sat in the Best of Life parking lot to take the following photographs.

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Removing the “J” from the Trump Taj Mahal

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Best of Life Apartments (front) with Trump Taj Mahal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Former entrance to Trump Taj Mahal (with Best of Life Park on left) 

 

Just in case you have not figured it out, this is personal. For the sake of the American people and our great nation, I hope Donald Trump does not do for America what he did for Atlantic City. For me, Atlantic City is like taking another look at Donald Trump. I don’t like the view, but at least “Atlantic City fueled a lot of growth for (him) and “the money (he) took out of there was incredible.”

 

Reference:

Buettner, C. & Bagli, C. (2016). How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic

City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions. New York Times. Retrieved from

     https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/nyregion/donald-trump-atlantic-city.html

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Join the Political Debate

Join the Political Debate: a chapter from the book:

Rise Up! 42 Additional Ways to Improve Black America Now, written by Gary A. McAbee

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NOTE: this excerpt was written in 2012, when I encouraged all people to get involved in the political process. It was an attempt to get people to wake up, and learn about the ways politics affect our daily lives. Today, the idea that people should pay closer attention to politics is more important than ever. As a country, we need to read and educate ourselves every day to join the political debate…

 

Now that we have an African-American President, there really is no excuse for black people to doubt the validity of the political process. The system still has subtle inequalities and injustices here and there, but for the most part we can believe that it works. We can believe that our votes are counted and they have meaning. We can believe that our voices, so often ignored in the past, have been heard. Now there is no excuse why we should not be more involved in politics, and issues that shape our communities, and nation as a whole.

How many ways are there for African Americans to contribute to the political process? We can start by voting. Barack Obama’s candidacy energized a new generation of voters while reawakening so many disenchanted ones. Let’s face it: many blacks were turned off by politics until Barack Obama came along. As a result, our voter turnout results were among the lowest of any race people until 2008. This is a trend that can continue if we ride the political wave that we are currently on.

We cannot forget the sacrifices that our predecessors made so that we can vote today. By voting, we can validate their efforts and the hardships they endured for future generations of African Americans like us. Until recently, our heroes such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Frederick Douglass would have been disappointed in us because of our spotty voting history. However, this disappointment would undoubtedly be turned into pride now that we voted en masse and helped to elect our current leader. In the future, we must continue to honor the legacies of those who paved the way for us to vote today by filling the ballot box.

African Americans can join in the political process by remaining aware of the decisions made on the local level. The decisions made by our city councils have long-lasting impacts on the issues currently affecting our lives. For example, I spoke in this book about the amount of bars and liquor stores in my old neighborhood. It takes licensing and zoning laws to operate businesses, so how can we have so many operating in a given area? The answer is because it is legal and allowed to happen. What can we do to change this?

We can start by getting involved by letting our local elected officials know that this is not acceptable. One thing we can do is voice our displeasure so that more of these places are not allowed to open in our communities. Take this action a step further. If we are not satisfied with our local representatives, we can email, call, or visit them! After all, they work for us and we can vote them out. Our strength lies in the fact that they are aware of this. So, if enough African Americans in Jersey City, NJ choose to complain about the establishments in our neighborhoods, changes would surely follow.

Moving on, education must become a part of the debate when joining the political process. Our schools do not place enough emphasis on the workings of government; therefore, we are left out of the loop when it comes to political matters. We can easily overcome this by using a very powerful tool at our disposal: the computer. With the advent of the computer, there is no excuse for a lack of knowledge in today’s society! We can learn about politics, the legal system, and policy formulation all by accessing the internet. As a result, we can be better prepared to join the political debate.

Increasing our knowledge base would lead to more African Americans who can become involved in the political process as candidates. A great way to influence and direct change in our communities is to elect our own officials. Our elected officials are vital to our agenda of better education, better and safer schools, and cleaner communities just by their presence alone. Their voice in government is better than having no representation at all. Therefore, we need to be sure that we are raising our next generation of politicians who will shape the future of African Americans.

This influx of talented minds would help to close the gap of a lack of African Americans on the national political scene as well. We are not visible enough in national politics. An illustration of this point is from studies of the Sunday early morning and daily cable news political shows and roundtable discussions. These are the best opportunities for elected officials to join the national political debate in front of millions of interested viewers. The studies paint an interesting picture.

I am one who hates to use statistics, because statistics can be analyzed from many different viewpoints. However, the following statistics about the lack of African-American viewpoints cannot be denied. For example, during a 16-month study on the Sunday morning talk show circuit, only 1 out of every 10 political figures invited was African-American. In fact, 60% of these shows had no black guests at all during the study. As a final thought, 69% of all African-American appearances were made by only three people: Juan Williams (author and FOX News correspondent), and former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

This lack of representation points to the fact that our underrepresentation must be challenged and improved. Even if these political figures could push an agenda favorable to African Americans, how much impact could they really have on today’s political discussions? Therefore, we need more African Americans in politics to keep issues that affect us on the table.

There is one last point to be made about today’s political landscape. This is a reminder to our people, as well as our politicians, not to get caught up in the typical gridlock in our politics thanks in large part to political affiliations. It shouldn’t matter that Barack Obama is a Democrat. Nor should it matter that JC Watts is a Republican. It should not matter to us that Al Sharpton attracts negative publicity. Nor should it matter that Clarence Thomas possesses conservative views. They are all African-American political leaders that we can learn a lot from if we are open to joining the political debate. Their ideals can help us become more interested and educated about the political process.

Just in Time for the State of the Union Address

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The Presidency of Barack Obama: Bringing Out the Best and Worst America Has to Offer

Although it would be difficult to prove, I believe that Barack Obama will go down in history as the most polarizing president in American history. I am a supporter and advocate for President Obama, but I will not say that he has been successful or unsuccessful, nor does that concern me. Instead, I am looking at the current state of our country and our current situation. We have come to an interesting crossroads in our history, and I believe the Obama Presidency has led us there. In my opinion, Barack Obama has brought out the best and worst America has to offer. The question is: which will be the enduring legacy of his presidency?

Barack Obama’s Presidency has brought out the best in America. His election brought many people together and united our country. President Obama raised the call for service-oriented Americans to sign-up and volunteer. Many Americans heeded the call and accepted the challenge of helping others and pulling together to face the economic crisis head-on. Meanwhile, Obama called for a recommitment to education and continuing to fund educational programs. The objective is to use education as a way for Americans to become self sufficient during these rough economic times. Who can question the positive impact these two initiatives can provide? Both are examples of the best America has to offer.

President Obama’s election and re-election has brought out the worst in America. The amount of internal opposition to his presidency continues to rise one year into his second term. The Tea Party has gained a small, yet influential foothold in American society. Their objective is to limit the role of government, even if it means taking America back 50-100 years to achieve their objective. Meanwhile, militia groups and their numbers have exploded since President Obama took office. It is estimated that militia groups have membership in the thousands, fueled by the belief that the government led by Obama is coming to take their guns and guaranteed freedoms. Both are examples of the worst America has to offer.

Barack Obama’s Presidency has brought out the best and worst America has to offer. When weighing the two issues, I believe that the Obama presidency will be judged more because of the rise of internal opposition, instead of the amount of positive change during his years in office. My biggest fear is that the Presidency of Barack Obama will not be viewed in its proper context until the next African-American President is elected. Then, we will see if the election of the second African-American President brings out the best and worst of America. Until then, this Obama supporter can only hope that fair-minded people judge his Presidency on the results of his record.

This is my opinion. In your opinion, has the Presidency of Barack Obama brought out more of the best or worst our country has to offer?