OCEAN CITY – In a letter this week, Councilman Joe Hall said he will only be voting for two candidates out of the three choices on his ballot this election and is encouraging citizens to follow suit.
“The town as a whole has become dependent on the government to do for it instead of empowering property owners to do for themselves,” Hall said in his letter, which was not published as a letter to the editor in this week’s issue as requested because The Dispatch does not publish election endorsement letters.
According to Hall, him and fellow Councilwoman Margaret Pillas have joined ranks. Pillas supported Hall in gaining his position on the City Council during his 2008 election. Hall and Pillas both share a common belief that a smaller, more empowering local government is for the better.
“Together along with Jim Hall, we have supported and push forward a plan of reducing costs and lowering property taxes by limiting unnecessary and unproductive functions of the town’s role,” Hall said.
Joe Hall has chosen not to endorse any other of his fellow council members up for election, Lloyd Martin and Joe Mitrecic, as well as unopposed Mayor Rick Meehan. Instead, he is encouraging voters to support Pillas and Brent Ashley, who unsuccessfully sought a council seat two years ago.
Typically, in politics, unopposed candidates do not actively campaign for newcomers and against their colleagues. However, Joe Hall felt compelled to go the unconventional route this week.
“On Oct. 19, I will be voting for Margaret Pillas so that we can continue the hard work and vision of a smaller and productive local government,” Hall said. “I will also be voting for Brent Ashley. Brent is also committed to a smaller more viable government and will give us the necessary fourth vote that will unclog and enable us to move closer to a sustainable Ocean City.”
Hall claims that the mayor and the remainder of the council do not share his vision for improving the economy in Ocean City.
“My other fellow council members and mayor running have not shown the same commitment to down sizing local government, instead have openly expressed the cost reductions are mostly temporary in nature until a more robust economy comes back,” he said. “I don’t share that vision.”
In response, Mitrecic, current council president who has been on the council since 2002, said, “That is not true. Every cut we have made has been a sustainable one.”
According to Mitrecic and fellow council member, Martin, who was also elected in 2002, there has been a list of actions made to reduce spending and sustain funds to help benefit Ocean City.
“We have used no stimulus money or grants to reduce the spending. We have had a hiring freeze in effect. We have not given raises for two years, and there are no plans in giving raises unless things turn around. There is no plans on mass hiring, and we are in the process of right sizing the government,” said Mitrecic.
Martin said the city has been diligent in moving forward with considerable cost saving measures.
“We have been meeting for the last couple years and downsizing the government by buying out our employees in early retirement … we worked on health insurance, we started an HMO recently, which will cut the costs of insurance for the town,” Martin said.
The government works with the town’s rise and fall in its economy in order to make the necessary changes to fit those needs, according to Mitrecic.
“The town of Ocean City went through some booms where we have needed more employees to run the city. Since then, we have completely done away with the construction division of public works because we are not on that mode anymore. We are now in more of a maintenance mode,” Mitrecic said.
Mitrecic and Martin feel that Joe Hall makes motions to move towards his “smaller more viable government“ theory, but in doing that he would negatively affect others.
“Joe Hall wanted to cut salaries at budget time and had no idea a cut of certain percentage would impact the budget. He was throwing numbers out that affected these people randomly,” Mitrecic said.
Martin specifically mentioned Hall’s call for doing away with the town’s advertising agency and allowing the local business community to handle it.
“A lot of what Joe [Hall] wants to do is turn over a lot of the advertising to private industry. What happens with the tourism commission is that everyone there has a part of what goes on in the town and what those dollars are being spent on. Instead of turning it over to private industry, you’re better off to have one central location it runs through,” Martin said. “We are advertising in the right location, we’re getting people coming here that have never been here before.”
Martin thinks that Joe Hall is only focusing on a small portion of the battle that has been going on in the last few years and is forgetting to look at the entirety of it.
“I think he is being short sighted,” Martin said. “He is not looking at what we did in the last eight years. We have put in money to infrastructure that needed it. Our roads are still failing … we have failing streets we need to take care of, and a lot of projects that we cant be put on the back burner forever.”
At the end of his letter, Joe Hall concluded his statement by saying, “I feel a smaller more empowering government is good in a bad or robust economy and don’t wish Ocean City to resume a bigger government once things get better.”
Although he had not seen the letter, Mitrecic, who has served with Joe Hall for six years, said he feels confident the town’s citizens will make the right decisions next week.
“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I’m willing to let the people of Ocean City decide if they want to move the town into the future, whether they want somebody who sits around and criticizes the past or somebody who is working every day to move us forward,” Mitrecic said.
Martin said he would be going the opposite direction when he goes behind the curtain on Tuesday to cast his votes.
“I am voting for Mitrecic and myself,” Martin said. “I don’t think we are short sighted. I think we’re both dedicated and I think we have the experience to go through the budget. We want to move Ocean City forward and use common sense.”
Council Election Tuesday
(Names To Appear On Ballot)
Ocean City Mayor
Richard W. Meehan (I)
Ocean City Council
(Vote For No More Than Three)
Charles Paul Borchini, Jr.
Warren James Disbrow
Lloyd Martin (I)
Joseph M. Mitrecic (I)
Margaret Pillas (I)
The polls at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.