Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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At the end of every year in this space, I put forward some predictions for what I think will happen over the next year.

I looked back this week to grade myself and see whether I was on the mark with my forecasts or way off on what would happen in 2009. By far and away, it was not a good year as far as my predictions go. Here’s a run down of my embarrassing performance.

On The Money

– I suggested “bureaucratic delays and other practical obstacles” would lead to not one slot machine being used at any of the state’s select sites in 2009. It was not a huge leap to make this prediction, considering it’s only been 13 months since voters approved slots in a referendum. Nonetheless, it did turn out accurate. What will be perhaps even more interesting is seeing whether a slot machine is pulled in the state even in 2010. That’s not exactly a certainty, although Ocean Downs appears to be the most likely site to see the one-arm bandits.

– It took a little longer than anticipated, but Berlin, as expected here, voted to annex the Tyson poultry plant property.

– “No formal action will take place on a proposed wind farm off Ocean City’s coast,” I figured this time last year. That was true, although a group of environmental folks teamed with local business leaders last week called for an expedited look at the proposal.

– As I expected, 2009 closed with no further action taken on a downtown parking garage. In fact, I do not recall one public discussion on the topic this year. I personally do not think there will ever be a parking garage in the downtown area.

– I was right when I suggested the federal government would lend billions of dollars to auto companies rather than force them to make tough decisions like other businesses across the country.

– I predicted by the end of 2009 that a minor rebound would be felt in the real estate market. This is an interesting one and conclusions can vary, but overall indications show there’s been some minor improvement.

Off The Mark

– It was incorrectly forecast here that the Ocean City Council would approve in a 4-3 vote an upgrade to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. That vote turned out to be 5-2.

– Ocean City officials did not increase the Inlet parking rates in 2009 as I predicted they would. It’s worth noting they are planning to implement hikes next year, and some on the council say it was a mistake to not have increased the user fees this year.

– I wrote here, “Ocean City, Berlin and Worcester County will keep the same property tax rate as last year, while Maryland will increase the levy.” In fact, Ocean City actually lowered its property tax rate, while the rest held steady.

– Although it was briefly broached, the General Assembly did not, as I predicted, raise the liquor tax to address a budget shortfall. It’s worth noting here that it’s already being discussed for 2010, but a major lobbying effort is already being organized.

– I was incredibly naïve when I suggested that unleaded gasoline gallon prices would remain below “$2 all year.” That was a big miss.

– I blame this prediction on wishful thinking. Berlin electric rates did not drop significantly this year. To be fair, there were some savings but I would not call them noteworthy.

– Ground was never broken on the new Route 50 surface road as I anticipated.

– Berlin did not move to begin televising council meetings in 2009 as I thought might happen.

– Contrary to what I am anticipated, Vice President Joe Biden was never accused of insubordination by administration officials.

– The State Highway Administration did not side with rehabilitation for the Route 50 Bridge as I predicted. The agency has a clear preference in mind to build a new span, but I am skeptical that it will ever happen.

– I was wrong again when I predicted that Ocean City would reduce the days the Winterfest of Lights was open this year. However, in my defense, they did reduce the scope of the citywide campaign, keeping the Inlet mostly dark this year.

– Another prediction that went awry was the state proposing to increase the fare crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from $2.50 to $3. I suggested a bill would pass the Senate but fail in the House. That was never proposed publicly, and there’s no sign that will be discussed in 2010.

– Rather than ban handheld cell phones in vehicles, as I predicted, the state prohibited text messaging while driving.

– The deadline was made, and I didn’t think it would happen. The town’s newly redesigned website was up and running prior to the Memorial Day weekend, rather than troubled by tech issues as I surmised.

– This one was another black eye for me. The Colts did not defeat the Panthers in the Super Bowl in February. In fact, the Steelers pulled off a stunning victory over the Cardinals.

Hanging In The Balance

– I predicted the county would have to shell out more than $1 million in damages regarding a lawsuit between the school board and a building contractor for the Ocean City Elementary School project. The county did not have to come up with the money yet because the case is still going through legal obstacles.

Stay tuned next week for 2010 predictions.

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