The Worcester County Teachers Association, joining the cops and paramedics unions in Ocean City, demonstrated last week it understands the gravity of the financial strain on local government.
The teachers announced last week they were okay with not getting any kind of salary raise for the next fiscal year and proposed the elimination of 29 teaching positions, which would save nearly $1 million. Congratulations to the teachers union on doing the right thing. It seemed like an obvious concession to make before it was confirmed this week, considering the stress on the county as a whole and specifically the school system, but still credit is due to the teachers for seeing the big picture.
It’s worth pointing out this is the first time anyone can remember the teachers union agreeing on a collective bargaining agreement that did not include any kind of step or cost of living raises for its membership. “I think everyone understands the economic challenges we are facing in the current situation. Our employees recognize that and are willing to contribute by not seeking a pay raise, either a step increase or a cost-of-living increase,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes said yesterday. “This is the first time since I’ve been here (13 years) that the collective bargaining units have negotiated a contract with no increases.”
The County Commissioners’ position on the Route 50 Bridge’s future is quite different than the stance taken by the Ocean City Mayor and Council. It’s the latest example of how different these two bodies view matters. In this case, the commissioners’ skepticism over a radical plan for the bridge is warranted. Last month, the City Council surprised us, voting 5-2 to support a new, elevated bridge that would displace dozens of residents and condemn numerous properties, despite the fact it was the most criticized during a series of public meetings outlining potential bridge alternatives. The council maintains the decision is not binding and that any significant action on the new flyover span is at least a decade away. That’s true, but it was shocking to see the council publicly vote to support the plan. The commissioners took a different route this week when asked to support the State Highway Administration’s preferred alternative for the bridge. They withheld an endorsement in favor of seeking more comments on the matter. When that hearing will be held is unknown, but I hear the commissioners are unlikely to publicly back this proposal.
The bill seeking a ban on driving while text messaging sailed through the Senate this week. The legislation, which must now be approved by the House of Delegates, reads, “A person may not use a text messaging device to write, send or read a text message while operating a motor vehicle in motion or in the travel portion of the roadway.” Violation of this law, should it be approved by the House as written, could mean a fine of up to $500. If passed, Maryland would be the 11th state to enact a texting ban, following on the heels of Virginia, which passed similar legislation last week. In contrast to Virginia’s law, Maryland’s bill calls for the ban to be a primary offense, allowing for police to pull over a vehicle if the driver is spotted texting.
Though his Boathenge concept ran aground a couple years ago for environmental reasons, idea man Joe Kroart is still trying to find creative ways to keep Ocean City in the news. His latest concept is a “car jump” into the ocean. He wants to drive a car off the downtown pier, in an effort to get the town some national publicity. According to Kroart, “horses jumping into the ocean were a huge P.R. attraction on Atlantic City’s Steel Pier in the 50s and 60s. No one uses animals anymore, now the big attraction is jumping cars and the ‘mind image’ of a car jumping off the pier into the ocean is truly spectacular.” Kroart has reportedly contacted Red Bull to see if the company is interested in sponsoring the event. Kroart’s Boathenge idea gained some support and made it to the City Council before the idea was dismissed by the state. Time will tell if this concept gains any traction.