The Ocean City Mayor and Council made the right call this week when it decided to not include a few ballot questions, or straw polls, on next month’s ballot.
Electing to put a few non-binding questions before Ocean City voters to gauge electorate sentiment would have set a dangerous precedent and led to trouble. It would have resulted in the inevitable calls for similar issues to be put on the ballot and essentially pressure the elected officials into going along with whatever the voters wanted.
For instance, if a majority of voters want smoking banned on the beach and Boardwalk, as we suspect, the city’s elected officials will be put in an awkward position. Based on public and private talks, it’s clear a majority of the council does not have the stomach to expand the existing smoking ban to neither the beach nor the Boardwalk. This council understands it does not want to be put into this position of scaling the wishes of the electorate against the business community, which by and large would rather not jeopardize travel figures.
The council will hold its public hearing in the near future and will surely hear a mixed message. That will essentially leave the council with the option of doing nothing and sticking with the status quo, and that’s exactly what the majority wants in this case.
Regarding moving the town’s election date from October to the same as the General Election in November, that issue is dead. The council already weighed in on this and the idea that it’s a non-partisan election seemed to prevail among officials. Additionally, some officials want their day to shine, but that’s just self-righteous malarkey.
The election issue is about separating the municipal vote from what’s typically a heavy General Election ballot with multiple decisions to make. Lumping Ocean City Mayor and Council elections, and possibly binding referendum questions, with a General Election provides too much to deliberate on for voters, although it would likely bump up the city’s embarrassing voter turnout rate of late.
The final issue that almost made it on to the ballot is the measure put forward by Councilman Jim Hall about increasing council member salaries. This was an absurd suggestion given the times, particularly when Ocean City is cutting services, freezing salaries, shifting more of the health insurance expense to the employees and leaving vacant positions open.
There is no question this question would have been soundly defeated at the polls. People should not and do not run for public office for the money. It’s a volunteer job and folks know this before they jump into the proverbial fishbowl. Increasing council member pay is a terrible idea, one that stinks of hypocrisy.