Between The Lines

There were a lot of reactions to the plea arrangement announced Tuesday with Thomas Leggs, who plead guilty to kidnapping and murdering 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell days before Christmas in 2009 in exchange for having the death penalty removed from the equation.

It may be an unpopular opinion, but I was relieved that was the ultimate outcome to this horrifying case. I have no interest in hearing the grisly details of what that monster did to that little girl. It’s already known he took her from her home, abused her in a number of heinous and disgusting ways and then killed her. Those facts are all I need to know to realize the man needs to die. However, I understand why Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello struck the deal, removed the death penalty option and instead went for life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Foxwell family, who sought this resolution from Maciarello, would have gone through a terrible ordeal during the trial of this disgusting human being, reliving all the details of what he did, why he did it and maybe even how he did it and then years and years of death penalty appeals where it would all be rehashed over and over again.

This was the right decision.

Maryland just doesn’t get it. The state’s philosophy of when in doubt, raise taxes is just not the answer. The latest example of this approach involves a sales tax increase on alcohol.

For years, it was the cigarette tax that was targeted by the legislature to help raise money for the state. Now, alcohol seems to be in the crosshairs, as the Senate passed a bill that raises the sales tax on alcohol 1 percent annually for the next three years. Analysts said these hikes will raise about $29 million the first year, $58 million the second year and $85 million the third year. It’s worth noting most of that money will not be seen here on the shore.

If passed by the House, and it’s unclear at this point whether the legislation has the needed support in that chamber, this bill will hurt small business in a number of ways. While bars and restaurants will surely be hurt by the increased tax, it’s the retail stores that will be most impacted, particularly those around here that are within a short distance from Delaware where there is no sales tax.

The so-called sin taxes are an easy target for legislators, as they offer the path of least resistance to raising much-needed revenue. However, what officials who support this measure may not realize is it also comes across as anti-business, and Maryland already has that reputation as it is.

Ocean City has always struggled with how to handle Boardwalk street performers, and no matter what the City Council does there are going to be folks upset.

For many, street performers add charm to the Boardwalk in the summer, while for others they are simply an annoyance that cheapens the experience. I land in the middle somewhere, as some I enjoy, such as the talented harmonica player, and others I could do without, such as the folks who dressed up as cartoon characters and just stand around.

Although there are constitutional issues involved, I think the city needs to cap the number of street performer permits granted. Last summer, there were reportedly 555 permits issued. Apparently, the city can’t limit the number of permits it issues and subsequently is considering a daily lottery for designated spots. Additionally, the city is looking to define what a street performer truly is, seeking perhaps to put an end to the costumed characters, like the Cookie Monster, that simply invite kids to get their pictures snapped with them in exchange for tips.

There’s a place for street performers in Ocean City, but the council was right to come up with some kind of limitations. I think these performers are meant to be added entertainment to Boardwalk-goers, not the centerpiece of the visit, and that’s the way it’s been the last couple years.

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