Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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After months of relief, that nauseating feeling so common last summer is starting to resurface at the gasoline pump. According to the folks at AAA Mid-Atlantic, who track this sort of thing, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline as of June 1 was $2.45, a 55-percent increase since the start of the year when it was $1.58. Coincidentally, or more likely not, it comes just in time for the peak summer travel season. If there is a blessing, it’s in the prediction by knowledgeable folks that prices will not return to last year’s $4-per-gallon levels. Most seem to think they will not eclipse the $3-per-gallon mark. Here’s to hoping that’s true.

The decision to move the offshore powerboat races closer to shore seems to have worked out well for all involved in Ocean City. The only negative reported to me was the noise level, which was considerably louder than years past when it was further off the coast. However, by nearly all accounts, the increased noise was outweighed by the improved visibility. There were even some “oohs and aahs” heard along the beach when the boats surged completely out of the water. Months ago, during a discussion of whether to allow the boats to move closer to shore, the Ocean City Mayor and Council had to decide whether to allow swimming along the race course, roughly 6th to 22nd streets. The council ultimately decided it was appropriate to close the ocean to swimmers in that area. That apparently was no big deal either for beach-goers, thanks largely to the fact the ocean temperatures remains in the mid- to upper-60s at this point.

Speed cameras may be coming to a traffic light near you. As current plans go, they are definitely going to be showing up in metropolitan areas, but it’s unknown how many will appear around these rural parts. Some folks are so outraged at the move they tried to take the law, approved by the General Assembly earlier this year, to referendum through a petition drive. It was learned this week that effort failed, falling about 1,600 signatures short of the required 53,000.

It’s no surprise the petition signature total fell short, as that’s a daunting number to reach, but a new standard created by a recent Court of Appeals ruling has made petition drives particularly difficult. That will matter on the local front. It’s been years since we have had a referendum on a local ballot that’s been the result of a successful petition drive, but former Ocean City Councilman Vince Gisriel, and his team of citizens, were fairly adept at gathering signatures and getting issues before the voters. The recent court ruling will hamper future citizen effort. It basically confirmed what many local boards of election had been doing for years. The signature on the petition drive must match exactly the name on the voter’s registration card. For example, if Mary Jane Doe appeared on the registration card, M. Jane Doe, M.J. Doe, Mary J. Doe or any other form, would more than likely be ruled out on a petition drive.

This seems too stringent to me. While there needs to be some measures taken to ensure fraud is not taking place, it’s reasonable to think some people do not always sign their names the same way, particularly since the registration card could have been penned years ago in many cases. People have the right to mobilize and seek change if they take umbrage at a particular law. This ability to petition provides a system of checks and balances. The court’s ruling could go a long way in unfairly silencing voices of opposition.

Some rumors deserve attention and some do not. News Editor Shawn Soper investigated one this week that turned out to not be true, but it was worth the time to look into. Word had been received that a merchant at the Berlin Farmers Market had been busted for selling pot on a recent Friday. Subsequently, word on the street was the market, a mainstay at the parking lot on the corner of Main and West streets on Fridays, and soon Wednesdays as well, had been shut down. When reached this week, Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing dispelled that rumor, saying he would most certainly know about any such occurrence and that it had not happened.

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