Ocean City Council Overhaul Not Merited

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Is wholesale change needed on the Ocean City Mayor and Council?

That’s the question we deliberated before offering endorsements for the three open City Council seats in next Tuesday’s election.

The outcome we arrived at was it’s not. Sure, we find fault with some of the Mayor and Council’s actions, such as the plan to increase the all-day bus fare next year, as we do with every elected body in this area. However, when we look at the big picture of what the council has done of late, cutting costs, freezing salaries and outsourcing expensive programs, we do not feel an entire shakeup of the body is needed at this time.

The current council is a divided body. That will not change, no matter what happens on Tuesday. We like the division currently present on the council. It makes for an interesting dialogue and results in compelling arguments, some public and some private. There are times when we think the majority is on the mark and other times when the minority is on target.

There’s no debating a clear voting block exists on this council. On the minority side currently on many matters, particularly those of a fiscal nature, are Council members Jim Hall, Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas. This trio wants to get Brent Ashley elected to sway the majority to their side. However, that will not be possible if Pillas does not secure her second term next week. Ashley and Pillas are running as a team in an attempt to dethrone at least one of the two-term incumbents up for re-election, Lloyd Martin and Joe Mitrecic. It’s a bold move that will either look masterful or foolish on Tuesday night.

It’s an interesting election in the regard that the balance for power is up for grabs. If Martin or Mitrecic is knocked off, there will likely be a new council president and the direction of the town will surely be tweaked a bit. That needs to be taken into consideration when voters head to the polls on Tuesday.

In general, we like the track the town is currently charting and feel two of the three incumbents should be returned to office.

Here’s a look at our endorsements:

(BULLET)Mayor Rick Meehan received, once again, the ultimate vote of confidence when he was unopposed for another term. Meehan, who marked 25 years in Ocean City public office last April, serves the town well as its chief spokesperson and offers guidance and experience to the council, though he doesn’t have a vote on most deliberations. Meehan’s top quality is he’s a strong leader, and the resort town benefits from the stability and experience he provides at the top.

For the three open City Council seats, we support Mitrecic, Martin and Ashley in their bids for office.

(BULLET)Mitrecic and his eight years of experience get the nod for a third term. The current council president has a level-headed presence on the council that needs to remain. It’s no secret the city will have to continue to find ways to trim the budget in the face of declining property values that will return less and less tax money to town coffers. Mitrecic’s leadership will be important. What we like best about Mitrecic is his widely acknowledged distaste for closed meeting conversations that should be discussed in an open forum. Government cannot be trusted if transparency is not evident in its dealings, and Mitrecic, as council president, seems to take that role seriously, as do we.

(BULLET)Martin, current chair of the town’s police commission, may not be the most outspoken on the council, but many respect him for his quiet voice of reason. Martin’s reserved manner at times should not be mistaken for a misunderstanding of the issues. He is widely considered the people’s representative in the populated Caine Woods neighborhood and often fields questions and comments from citizens at his north-end convenience store. Perhaps no council member converses more with city voters on a daily basis than Martin, who understands the issues of the day and is able to explain them to citizens when confronted, whether in a pleasant or unfortunate manner. A third term for Martin seems appropriate to us.

(BULLET)Ashley gets the edge here over Pillas, who has served the town well over her four-year term. We would like to see Ashley given a chance to express his conservative voice at City Hall. We think he may be able to offer rational, and maybe persuasive, views on fiscal issues as they arise. We particularly like that he’s not going to make the taxpayers fund his health insurance and will return a portion of his council salary to the city. We think there’s a place for him on the council moving forward and that he would be a nice addition to the mix. He will surely be unpopular at times with his colleagues and city staff because he has a candid way about him, but we like that about him.

Agree or disagree with these endorsements, which are not intended to be predictions and are our educated suggestions based on current events, candidate backgrounds and future decision making abilities, our hope is residents surprise many by turning out in solid numbers.

History says unchallenged mayoral elections coupled with no controversial referendum questions will result in poor voter turnout. We hope that trend is bucked next Tuesday, no matter who gets voted into office.

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