You can’t make this stuff up. As part of an ordinance this week drafted as a result of the controversial dollar taxi medallion sale, the Ocean City Mayor and Council added an amendment requiring a taxi operator issue a public apology regarding the comment he made last week in this newspaper. Classic Taxi’s Ray Godman called city officials, “greedy bastards” in last week’s issue.
In what seemed akin to how an elementary school teacher would discipline little Joey after he ridiculed Jimmy for having a cheese puff stuck in his braces, the council ordered Godman to issue a public apology for the harsh choice of words. Sure, Godman never should have resorted to the self-proclaimed “childish” claims. He was out of line. That’s obvious, but it’s also true the council was being equally sophomoric when it officially voted to make Godman issue a public apology and retract his statement. The council should have been more mature and less sensitive than make such a demand. Ignoring the silly comment and demonstrating some thick skin while swimming in the proverbial fish bowl that is elected office would have been a better approach.
All this did is reveal the absurdly sensitive nature of these officials and resulted in an obviously scripted letter with questionable sincerity (see the letter on preceding page). Additionally, it allowed the phrase in question to be used again multiple times in this week’s issue, rather than just allowing it to go away.
If I am hearing him correctly, Dennis Dare, city manager for Ocean City, believes there’s little left to cut from the town’s budget unless further services are compromised. With assessments on a steep decline and new revenues becoming difficult to come by, there’s a potential his budget may suggest a slight increase in the current property tax rate.
In an interview this week, Dare said, “The things we may have to look at next are probably going to have to be reducing services that we offer the public, and I know the council isn’t going to like that, but running a bus up and down Coastal Highway at 4 a.m. in the middle of winter is nice but we are losing money. Winterfest of Lights is great, but we are losing money, and running the Boardwalk tram at certain times in the day is losing us money. So if we have to reduce the operating expenses more, we will be forced to look at all the services we provide, however popular they may be.”
How the Mayor and Council responds considering it’s an election year should prove compelling, particularly if it comes down to trying to cut some expenditures to retain the same property tax rate. Last year, the council was able to trim some money to post a tax rate below what Dare proposed. This year, that will be even more difficult, Dare seem to be intimating this week. Although these are unique times, political logic says no tax increase will be imposed months before an election to decide the future makeup of the council. Up for re-election this fall are Councilmen Lloyd Martin and Joe Mitrecic and Councilwoman Margaret Pillas. Since Pillas has already announced she’s retiring from politics after one term, it’s going to be interesting to see how all this unfolds.
On the statewide election front, it didn’t take long for Bob Ehrlich to start digging at Gov. Martin O’Malley, who defeated him four years ago to take over as the state’s chief elected official. At a news conference this week, the Republican Ehrlich set his sights on reminding citizens it was the current Democratic governor who authorized a 20-percent hike in the sales tax in 2006, months after Ehrlich left office. He said his campaign announcement was the first step in rolling back that hike, which was pitched at the time as helping to balance the budget. That sales tax increase never materialized on the revenue front because citizen spending fell to historic lows and reports show less sales tax revenue is coming in now than it was before it was increased.