Between The Lines

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Ocean City is about to increase its bus fare, and the general public seems okay with it, if attendance at this week’s public hearing is any indication.

Surely, there are people who will take umbrage at the increase in the all-day bus pass from $2 to $3 once its enacted, but the fact is ridership is on the decline, expenses are on the rise and something had to give. Logic dictates the fee must be increased or the service further watered down. The fee hike was the right call.

Though it will not be a popular move, contrary to what the dismal turnout at this week’s public hearing at City Hall may indicate, it’s still a bargain to ride a bus an unlimited number of times in a 24-hour period for $3. It’s also the first increase in eight years, when it was doubled from $1 to $2 per day.

Throughout the paper’s investigation of the LCB last summer, it was clear state laws governing the liquor industry were violated on a number of fronts.

LCB officials even acknowledged running afoul of the law, although they believed they were minor and technical infractions that in the big picture do not undermine their usefulness. The uncertainty centered around what kind of punishment would be given to the LCB for breaking the law. However, the severity of the infractions announced this week was worse than had been reported.

Throughout the coverage of the LCB investigation last summer, many readers questioned this paper’s intense coverage and affairs got particularly nasty at times. Numerous allegations were made about our then-staff writer, Bryan Russo, and myself during a two-month stretch that featured weekly stories on the LCB. Phrases like “baseless”, “biased”, “witch hunt”, “out of control”, “vendetta” and “retribution” were used to describe how we were reporting on the issue.

This week’s press conference and the report summary proves this paper was justified in chasing the story. I have to give us an “attaboy” for that because nobody else, for whatever reason, covered the situation with the vigor we did.

Ocean City is looking to seek sponsors to help offset some of the expenses associated with its large special events. This is a wise decision, although some will say it’s further commercializing the resort.

Ocean City recently sent a Request For Proposal for Sponsorship Solicitation for some of its larger events, including Springfest, Art’s Alive, 4th of July, Concerts on the Beach, Sunfest and Winterfest of Lights. Two proposals from companies were submitted, one from former Comcast executive Dean Langrall seeking a 19.5-percent commission and another from OC Air Show producer Bryan Lilley seeking a 30-percent commission

The Mayor and Council this week ultimately tabled a decision on the matter amid questions of whether city staff could handle this rather than outsourcing it. That’s a worthwhile discussion to have before making a decision, but we actually like the concept as a way to keep costs down and maybe make these events a little more sustainable in terms of money is concerned. It will not cheapen the experience for me to go to Winterfest of Lights if it’s called Winterfest of Lights by Swiss Miss in exchange for the event not costing as much money for the town to put it on each year.

Efforts at and around the Casino at Ocean Downs on Route 589 are entering the final stretch. It’s been interesting to watch the project take shape as well as the infrastructure work on the road itself, featuring a traffic light, among other things. Sources indicate the opening date of the facility has now been pushed back to the first week of January to ensure all loose ends are tied and punch-list items completed. Stay tuned.

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