By Lauren Wanko
How do we change folk’s mental model of Atlantic City or how do we attract new business to AC? Just a few of the questions that sparked conversation at the Creative Atlantic City Call to Collaboration.
“We believe that at the intersection of diverse points of view and diverse cultures and cross sectors, we believe that the spark of creativity lies right there in at that intersection,” said Creative New Jersey Director Elizabeth Murphy.
There’s no set agenda at this conference. The participants create it themselves. They write the questions that they’re passionate about and post in on the wall. All of the questions becomes a topic in a breakout session.
For one group, the question was about changing people’s perception of the city, including concerns about safety.
“There is crime here. There’s crime everywhere, but you can walk safely around the city and that’s something that needs to be brought to the forefront,” said Atlantic City resident Joshua Cervone.
“Crime is down tremendously here in Atlantic City, so we’ve accomplished that task. Now we have to work on the fear of crime,” said Atlantic City Police Chief Henry White.
Everyone from the police chief to business owners, local leaders and residents joined together to share ideas and discuss possible solutions.
“There should be more flower stores. There should be more stationary stores, there should be more card shops and local food service businesses and restaurants that locals and visitors can visit,” said Joe Molineaux, director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Stockton University.
Armed with a blank canvas and Sharpie, the ideas were brought to life.
The Hispanic Alliance of Atlantic County’s Bert Lopez wants to explore ways to ensure there’s more diversity within the community’s decision making boards.
“This city’s is a melting pot. We have a lot of different communities and just having that community or those communities included in the decision making positions is very important,” Lopez said.
Improving quality of life was an important issue for many of these of residents.
“It’s all about perception, it’s clean neighborhoods, looks great. Nobody wants to see trash. Pick it up, clean up your sidewalks, clean up your curbs,” said Dennis Konzelman, president of the Westside Neighborhood Protective Association.
“Better access to health care for one thing. People to get more involved with our local law enforcement,” said Atlantic City Housing Authority Executive Director Pamela James.
Creative New Jersey — a statewide initiative — has organized similar meetings throughout the state on a regional, county and community level.
“To see the energy that comes out of these conversations, where people really feel that they’ve been involved, that their voices were heard, very important for getting people charged up about how to improve their communities,” said Chris Daggett, president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
“Gives people all an equal role in being part of the solution, being part of the team,” said Buena Vista Mayor Chuck Chiarello.
Creative Atlantic City Call to Collaboration continues tomorrow.