Shortly after the municipal election last October, we heard a lot of nonsense about unity and putting aside differences from some members of the Ocean City Mayor and Council.
At the time, it was obvious this was a hopeful load of hogwash and soon after the divide between the voting seven, plus the mayor, became crystal clear. That division has revealed itself repeatedly in the two months since that election and spiked this week during a discussion of changes to employee compensation.
It’s no secret Ocean City was living beyond its means within the last couple years. The resort had been riding a wave of booming property assessments for a couple cycles, resulting in large increases in property tax money flooding city coffers.
However, the boom times came to a disturbing halt in 2008 when the real estate market unraveled and tourism declined, all the while the cost of everything from power to gasoline to simple consumer goods went through the roof.
Ocean City needed a host of major changes to reflect the times. “Right sizing” has been a term thrown around a lot the last couple years, and that’s a fine way to describe the cost cutting the town has experienced in recent years.
What’s happening now at City Hall is scary. It’s not so much the fact that employee compensation changes are being made because that needed to happen. It’s the pace that has us concerned and is sending shockwaves throughout city departments and trickling down to families. People are worried about the direction the town is heading, largely because it’s happening at a frenzied level.
We have long dreaded the amount of time it takes for government to make a decision. Most matters need to be evaluated through a taxpayer-funded study, debated by appointed and elected staff and then reviewed again. The process can be frustrating and exhausting for those of us who operate in the private sector. However, there are times when a little bit of time to examine and learn more about the situation is needed.
That’s where we are currently in Ocean City.
The new majority – Brent Ashley, Jim Hall, Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas – are dominating everything at City Hall, and that’s okay. Pillas and Jim Hall and Joe Hall have had little to no power over government for years as they were often in the minority. They can now take the city in the direction they wish. Their time has come to decide the course the city charts, while Mayor Rick Meehan and Council members Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin are essentially powerless.
Politics is an interesting game at times and it often clouds the big picture. We believe politics and maybe even some revenge is guiding the way here.
The new council majority would be wise to take a step back and at least re-evaluate the retirement changes currently being weighed. These are drastic moves that may or may not be acceptable. They need to be further studied to allow the facts to be presented by an objective body and sufficiently explained to the employees.
Taking a month or two to review some of these changes would be wise. After further examination and all seems tidy and fair to current and new employees, then the changes can be put into motion in time for the fiscal year’s new budget.
To not take some time to further understand the trepidation in the voices of the city employees brave enough to challenge the council and help quell the fears from other workers would be regretful at best and reckless at worst.