Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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Ocean City Councilman Joe Hall knows he’s out on an island, but he’s hopeful for some company.

The resort restaurateur wants to know how the town’s Tourism Commission defines the Rodney advertising campaign as a success. Hall is aware some of his colleagues may think of him as a “Debbie Downer” of sorts, but that’s a label he’s fine with so long as he gets the facts he wants. He also realizes he has been the most vocal critic of the town’s advertising company, its message and the targeted demographic. Additionally, he disagrees with the notion that the “Rodney” campaign was successful in bringing people to Ocean City. He thinks the town can do better than the current advertising agency and hopes others feel the same way. In fact, he’s hoping some of the people he has spoken to in recent months will share with the Mayor and Council what they have been telling him privately.

“I have not heard from anybody in my circle that I got it wrong and that Rodney is a success. They say it’s cute, it’s great, but they don’t believe it’s put a head in the bed. I want to know how the Tourism Commission considers this a success,” Hall said. “I am not sold. There are significant business people who privately tell me it’s a total waste of money. These same business people need to stand up and say it for themselves. They are telling me and encouraging me to continue to question it, but some of them just don’t think they can make an impact. … I’d like to be proven wrong, but there is absolutely nothing that has been presented to me that shows this campaign has brought people to Ocean City. Where is the data? Again, I want to be proven wrong. I just want to see what the basis is for this conclusion.”

When a health summit is called, people listen. This week’s meeting in Ocean City confirmed what most already know – everyone needs to be aware of what’s happening regarding the H1N1 virus. However, it was a worthwhile exercise to get all the community stakeholders together and hold a public discussion on the matter.

After reading this week’s story (see page 3A), it would be understandable if folks overreacted and rushed to the grocery store for those masks you see in hospitals. The situation is not that grave, but health officials this week got their points across. It’s something everyone in our county needs to be prepared to address. “If we had a guarantee H1N1 would remain a mild illness, we wouldn’t be here today,” said County Health Officer Debbie Goeller. “The fact is we have no such guarantee. While the opinions vary, most experts tell us to expect greater impacts and to be prepared.”

Perhaps the biggest news coming out of this week’s summit is the fact the vaccine, recently approved by the federal government, will soon be released to Maryland and subsequently disseminated to the local jurisdictions. The hope here is the state does not follow its recent tendencies regarding finances and shortchange local jurisdictions with the distributions.

Although it was a night for mostly pomp and circumstance, there was an air of politics floating around the Clarion’s ballroom at the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce’s Grand Ball last weekend. At one point, I saw Delegate Jim Mathias and Ocean City hotelier Michael James having a candid conversation. Though there were cocktails flying around the room, many others noticed it as well. One attendee, who will stay anonymous, said to me, “do you think that’s our next senator and delegate?” My response was, “that’s a loaded question.” She said, “all I hope is they don’t run against each other.” I heard that often during a few other conversations that night. In his press release this week, Pocomoke Mayor Michael McDermott seems to think it will be Mathias and James, among potential others, vying for the Senate seat vacated by Republican stalwart Lowell Stoltzfus. That may be the case, and only time will tell if that’s true, but some of Ocean City’s leading business people that I talked to at the chamber event are sure hoping that’s not the case.

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