Council Guilty Of Inconsistent Approaches

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Parking has and will always be a hot issue in Ocean City, but last week’s discussion of a potential elected group being appointed to review relevant issues was an example of hypocrisy. A legitimate idea, worthy of debate, was simply lost in an informal proposal to add paid parking in other areas of town besides the downtown core.

The idea of a Parking Commission came from Ocean City Councilman Joe Hall, who mentioned this desire two years ago during his successful campaign bid. At last week’s meeting, a proposed addition to the code was presented. Similar to the various other town subcommittees, the commission would consist of the mayor, three council members and the city manager. It would hold meetings to address “all matters relating to traffic congestion caused by vehicle parking, on-street and off-street parking, municipal parking lots and related parking problems; and to advise and to make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council of Ocean City …”.

The code amendment was as innocuous as it comes, but the conversation at City Hall last week was dominated by talk of expanding paid parking on city streets to other areas of town besides the southern core. “The majority of paid parking is downtown, and I envision creating an advisory committee made up of community members, town staff and council members, which could provide guiding points about where we need to add or perhaps remove metered parking in the town,” said Hall.

A majority of the council seemed adamantly opposed to any expansion of paid parking to other areas of Ocean City and subsequently said any type of consideration or study on this controversial matter should come before the entire Mayor and Council and not be relegated to a subcommittee, consisting of a minority of council members.

That seems logical, but it’s more than interesting that the council feels this way when there’s a handful of other current subcommittees that review pertinent matters every month before the full council gets to hear the proposals.

According to some outspoken council members, parking is an exception and all matters on that subject need to be heard by the full council. That’s an incongruous position to adopt, considering weighty issues are often handled at the subcommittee level, most notably of late the entire guns and off-duty cops issue originated at the Police Commission level, a proposal to raise fees for Winterfest of Lights admission originated at a Recreation and Parks Commission meeting and most of the marketing plan is openly discussed at the Tourism Commission level before the full council is privy to details.

In this case, council members felt the Parking Commission was a ruse and an obvious attempt to gain support for more paid parking on blocks north of traditional areas. That might be true, and we would not support a large-scale expansion of parking meters on beachfront blocks opposite the Caine Woods or Little Salisbury neighborhoods, for example. That’s not appropriate in any economy and certainly could open up the city to further price gouging accusations and would hurt the locals more than anyone else.

Since there’s not enough of it to meet demand in high-volume times, parking is an excitable topic in this resort. That will always be the case because supply will never be acceptable in the peak season, but creating a commission to oversee parking issues deserves another look. If the council sticks with its opposition, logic tells us the other subcommittees and the key role they play in government deserve a review.

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