Not Passing Sense Test

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Editor:

Change is inevitable but when change does not register on the “common sense” barometer I have to ask what are the OC Mayor and Council thinking?

 Two years ago in July, local newspapers reported the safety concerns the Mayor and Council, Police Dept., Police Commission and citizens had about Scoop Coupes being rented and operating on our highways.

The Mayor and Council historically look out for the safety of our citizens and visitors.

However, the city avoided taking a stance this past legislative session when the scoop coup legislation was introduced in Annapolis this year by Senator Mathias. Our city wrote a letter saying they would not oppose Scoop Coupes if the state approves them to be considered the same as scooters/mopeds. This was all done quietly without general public knowledge of the situation. Therefore, if the state allows Scoop Coupes to be classified the same as a moped, the city can shrug and say, “Coastal Highway is a state road and as a city we don’t have a say what is allowed and not allowed”.

However, if the city does not have a “say” about what is allowed on a state road, such as Coastal Highway, why do they have a “say” about what is allowed on state or federal waters? A week or two ago, a parasail business was turned down by the Mayor and Council because it would be a “nuisance to neighbors” and because of congestion on the waters. These are state waters. Also when you go to the beach the city says you cannot throw a Frisbee or football along the waters edge. Too dangerous I guess with all the people along the water not paying attention. But the ocean is not city property. Surfing is controlled by our city for safety reasons in these waters that are not owned by the city.

So now the law has been signed by our governor, according to one councilman, as “emergency legislation” to allow Scoop Coupes on the highways. Our municipal busses will need to avoid one more obstacle in the bus lane. However, the new Scoop Coupe rental will be a large enough obstacle to cause the buses to merge/encroach further in to Coastal Highway’s slow lane when passing.

Now while visitors are driving their cars looking for their motel, restaurant or other landmark, they will have a large bus moving over and may not notice the encroachment. Also while delivery trucks maneuver about our city roads they may not see these “glorified go-karts” sitting low to the ground with people renting them for a “cruise” or pleasure ride.

Now our city will have rentals for our visitors along the ocean, beach, boardwalk, city streets and finally the last frontier, Coastal Highway. The city enforces their rules in all these areas except for killing the idea of renting scoop coupes on Coastal Highway. Why can’t we just allow only “tagged” vehicles on our highways and allow others to use taxis and bus transportation? Maybe it is time to move the beach chair rentals to the bus lane because I have noticed more visitors sitting in their chairs watching Coastal Highway during hot rod week etc. Maybe those who sit on the beach are missing the real entertainment on our roads.

Why would anyone want to enjoy the sun and fun on the beach with the rules of not being allowed to throw a Frisbee when you can enjoy renting a “glorified go-kart” on Coastal Highway? Why go to the amusement parks with this new level of entertainment? I hope the city sees the lack of common sense in allowing more rentals on our highway. The mopeds aren’t enough? There still are people who work and need Coastal Highway for transportation.

But as you know the city is concerned about safety, such as possibly changing where you can smoke on the beach to avoid the dangers of second-hand smoke. I know where the new outdoor smoking area will be — in the bus lane, of course. Not every square inch of this city needs to be a rental. Let’s get some common sense and courage to stand up for safety. But if we have to live with this new amusement rental on our public roads then at least let me rent chairs along the highway. Bring your Frisbee and cigarettes, too.

Reese Cropper, III
Ocean City

Setting Record Straight
Editor:

In response to last week’s article, “Maryland’s Tourism Budget Questioned,” I would like to address a number of errors and comments taken out of context. I would like to set the record straight on several issues.

First, let me make it very clear, that I was asked by Economic Development Committee Chair Michael James to give my thoughts on the end of the legislative session, as well as the end of my career as chairman and CEO of the Maryland Hotel and Lodging Association and the Maryland Tourism Council. I was not speaking on behalf of either of those associations.

I did not say that the budget for tourism will continue to dwindle. I did say the governor did fund tourism at $5 million this year due to legislation that passed several ago, $2.5 million of these funds must go into a grant pool that is shared among Maryland’s counties, Baltimore City and Ocean City for the promotion of tourism. I further stated that while I believe the destination marketing organizations throughout the state do a terrific job of marketing their counties, I thought the money for marketing the county should come from the lodging taxes and admission and amusement taxes already collected by those counties.

The reason I feel strongly about that is that the state should be able to use the entire $5 million to market Maryland’s tourism product and that $5 million ($2.5 million) is not competitive against neighboring states’ marketing budgets.

I also did not single out this present administration as underfunding tourism. I said that since 1999, the tourism budget had held steady at $6 million until the recent recession when we saw tourism’s budget cut drastically two years ago. We are grateful to this administration and legislature for bringing tourism marketing budget back to $5 million and we will look forward to a continuation of that growth.

In my final statement, I said it would be up to my successor and the entire industry to form a strong coalition to lobby on behalf of increased funding.

Tourism is a strong economic engine for the state and the entire state — the administration, the counties and the tourism should do all it can to insure the entire growth.

Thank you for the opportunity to “clear up” any misperceptions.
Mary Jo McCulloch
Annapolis

(The writer is the past president and CEO of Maryland Tourism Council and the Maryland Hotel & Lodging Association.)

Misleading Comments
Editor:

As the chair of the Maryland Tourism Development Board, and the owner of a tourism-related business in Ocean City, I would like to correct some statements attributed to Ms. Mary Jo McCulloch, the outgoing president of the Maryland Tourism Council and the Maryland Hotel and Lodging Association, in the May 6 issue of The Dispatch.

I would first underscore that the O’Malley Administration does indeed respect the power of the tourism industry and its employment of more than 134,000 Maryland citizens with a payroll of nearly $4 billion. The governor appreciates the significant local and state revenue visitor spending generates and the many small businesses which make up the tourism industry.  In recognition of tourism’s positive impact, the Governor increased funding for both the Maryland Tourism Development Board and the Office of Tourism in the recently passed Fiscal 2012 Budget.

Ms. McCulloch herself acknowledged the governor’s positive actions this past February, when she asked the Maryland Tourism Council members to write to the governor to thank him for fully funding the tourism budget for Fiscal 2012.

Tourism Office funding, including the dollars allocated to tourism marketing, does vary from state to state. The U.S. Travel Association works with each state’s tourism office to quantify these various models in order to make an apples-to-apples comparison report possible. The article mistakenly compared Fiscal 2008 marketing and operations budgets for Pennsylvania and Virginia to Maryland’s Fiscal 2010 marketing only dollars. An accurate and most recent comparison would be the Fiscal 2010 marketing and operations budgets: Maryland at $7.1 million, Pennsylvania at $11.2 million and Virginia at $14.7 million.

Ms. McCulloch’s statement that the state tourism office should receive appropriations based upon performance was central to the Governor’s approval of the Maryland Tourism Promotion Act of 2008. This legislation developed a performance-based formula whereby the office could receive additional appropriation based upon significant revenue growth from applicable sales tax codes. I am pleased to report that for the first eight months of this year tourism tax collections statewide are up nine percent from the previous year, a growth rate twice that of overall sales tax collections.

Ms. McCulloch has been a dedicated advocate for the tourism industry and I thank her for her years of service. However, I wanted to correct the misleading budget commentary and to assure Maryland’s tourism industry that it has a strong supporter in the State House.

Greg Shockley
(The writer is the chair of the Maryland Tourism Development Board
and owner of Shenanigan’s Irish Pub.)

Enough Or Predatory Gambling
Editor:

Service clubs celebrate as a victory the ability to offer slots to their membership. I don’t get it. Are not many members on a fixed income? Why would a service club want to cannibalize its own family?

Gambling problems were discovered to be more common than alcohol problems among adults in the U.S. Dr. John Welte, a recognized expert on alcohol and gambling pathology, in a recent study, concluded that problem gambling increases in frequency, dramatically when offered in local settings.

Now the Maryland legislature wants to consider that table gambling be made legal. The sad truth is that government partnership with casino interest, out of greed, is offering its public slot machines and lotteries, which no one denies is making thousands of people sick in a way that is drastically reducing their quality of life and that of their families.

This latest study provides further evidence why government partnership with casinos and lotteries represents one of the biggest public policy failures of my lifetime.

The time has come to get government out of the predatory gambling business, not get in deeper. If you agree, please contact your senators and delegates.

John Fager
Ocean City

A Baby Boomer’s Concerns
Editor:

For those of you that are monitoring the pulse of societal evolution staying fully up to speed with the affairs of Charlie Sheen and the Kardashians, allow me to interrupt your train of thought with our state of affairs.

America today is enduring a foreign invasion through our porous borders, tremendous dependency on foreign oil because of environmental extremist’s controls on drilling for oil and natural gas, piracy, a $14 trillion national debt, a declining dollar value, international disrespect inviting attack, a possible Iranian attack on Israel and an electromagnetic pulse attack on our mainland, the implementation of a healthcare system that will hire 16,500 IRS agents to enforce, take away many freedoms, and take $400 billion from Medicare doctor reimbursements, an approximate 18% unemployment rate with businesses afraid to hire because they don’t know what this administration may burden them with next, tens of thousands of Federal regulations and taxes, a vast Federal ownership of energy rich land, a taxation system that is tantamount to legalized theft, a Ponzi scheme Social Security system that is not only taxed but, along with Medicare and Medicaid, will soon collapse, a president who has been the first to release three budgets with over a trillion dollar deficit, treated our allies with contempt, ignored the Constitution with the implementation of a drilling moratorium and mandatory health insurance purchases, been indifferent to our national debt and the terrorist threat, not ever met with six cabinet members but met with union leader, Andy Stern three times a week, relied on 34 czars who circumnavigate the authority of the Congress.

America is also enduring skyrocketing food prices largely due to corn for ethanol, unions revolting because of budgetary limits that are trying to be placed on them to stop bankruptcies, rioting in the Mid-East threatening our best ally and our oil supply, self-serving politicians whose first concern is staying in power, Supreme Court justices and other judges that are concerned with their party rather than their country and the preservation of the Constitution, mind boggling waste, fraud and abuse, social engineering from tax manipulation, a biased media, jobs killing minimum wages, never ending lying and freedoms to kill 53 million babies but not the freedoms to choose a school, a nativity scene, a Christmas play, or the displaying of the 10 Commandments on public grounds.

We boomers don’t have to commit national suicide and be the first generation to hand off a worse America than the one we inherited. We can stop this perfect storm and make America great again but we all must get involved by educating others and voting for Constitutional conservatives.

Dennis W Evans
Berlin

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