OCEAN CITY – For Joe Hall, running for City Council may not totally be a numbers game, but there’s one that he’s keeping in the back of his mind: the number 74.
Back in 2006, he fell just short in his re-election bid, coming in fifth place in the voting, losing by just 74 votes to Mary Knight.
Hall is one of eight seeking the four open council seats. He is competing against incumbents Jay Hancock, Jim Hall and Knight as well as residents Brent Ashley, Doug Cymek, Sean Rox and William Steiner. Councilwoman Nancy Howard stayed true to her word that she would not seek a fourth council term.
This time around, Hall hopes that things turn out differently and seems driven to make up for lost time out of public office.
“I value public service, and I find it very satisfying. I’ve lived in Ocean City since I was 6 years old, and I want to help guide it towards a promising future, even though I know that tough times are ahead,” he said.
Hall, whose family owns Hall’s Restaurant on 60th Street in Ocean City, has six years experience on the council.
Some criticized Hall as “flip-flopping” before the last election, as he waited until the waning moments before the filing deadline to decide between running for mayor, council or potentially not running at all.
“I think that maybe people thought that I showed weakness because I made the decision to run for City Council at the last minute”, said Hall. “I had a young child at the time and wanted to be home as much as possible, but still felt a need to serve the community. I’m sure that I lost 74 votes right there with my last-minute decision.”
As a long-time resident and business owner, Hall wants to preserve the traditions and values of the “old ways” of Ocean City.
“There’s a certain feel and appeal about why people keep coming to this area, and a lot of that has to do with the way things were done in the past, but I want to preserve those things but be a free thinker on the council when changes need to be made,” he said.
Hall said he envisions a few rough years ahead with the nation’s financial crisis looming above everyone’s heads, but believes that though “people value their vacations to Ocean City, they are certainly going to be a bit more frugal when planning that vacation, so we need to be ahead of the curve and plan to deal with these tough times ahead, rather than just hope for the best.”
Hall’s first plan of action, if elected, would be to focus on protecting the funding of the town’s essential services, such as law enforcement, waste, water and energy. Hall said, “we need those things, in fact, we just have to have them and once we deal with the things we need, we can trickle down to dealing with some of our wants.”
Of course, as with any tough financial time, money has to come from somewhere and sometimes that equates to local government raising taxes. However, Hall says he thinks that the council should do its best to “hold the line on taxes”, and that includes both year-round residents of Ocean City and to those who own property but live elsewhere throughout the year. “We can’t go dipping any further into the pockets of the second home owners and we can’t make year round residents who may already be struggling make up the difference,” he said.
Hall cites a comprehensive plan that he had proposed in his last tenure in office to be instilled with minor changes to compensate for the changes in the times. Hall blames the current council for being a bit too “optimistic” about the lagging real estate market rebounding and spending with that same optimism in mind.
“We have enough well-paid people in the Ocean City staff that were in power when the same type of financial crisis happened in the 1980’s, and someone should have said, ‘hold on, wait a minute, we might be in for a wild ride here,’” he said.
Regardless, of the looming financial times ahead, Hall claims he is the guy that will help Ocean City not only survive the tough times ahead, but to get it back to where it needs to be, “sooner than later.”
Hall cites advertising the town in a more efficient way, such as showing what visitors can get for their dollar in Ocean City, would be beneficial to drawing visitors to town. He supports “properly planned construction that will increase capital improvements”, wants to be environmentally conscious, and keep Ocean City up to speed in the race to be on pace with technology and energy.
Arguments can be made whether advertising OC as a bargain destination is possible as many have criticized the town in recent years as being overpriced.
Hall says that people must remember that, “Ocean City makes its living in essentially 120 days, but the bills come all year long. We need to realize that visitors are paying a premium for the off months in Ocean City, but we need to plan accordingly to make people think it’s worthwhile to pay that price.”