Between The Lines

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Ocean City Councilman Doug Cymek caused a stir this week with a plan he devised to merge two marketing plans — one on fuel and another on golf — together into a single discussion, surprising some of his colleagues at City Hall. Consequently, I called him yesterday morning to get a little insight into why he did what he did.

Acknowledging his idea to achieve a middle ground on the two seemingly unrelated matters ruffled some feathers, Cymek outlined his position, explaining he truly believes what he devised prior to Tuesday’s meeting will benefit the resort.

Cymek said he has always been a proponent of the proposed golf co-op marketing plan, believing it will boost the number of rounds played at the municipal golf course as well as others in the area. The co-op had failed to get council approval multiple times previously. He said the $1 million “free gas” promotion pitched last month is not something he supported, but he said he was okay with a $100,000 gas marketing proposal pitched this week so long as the golf co-op was funded for the proposed $60,000.

Consequently, Cymek said he worked privately with Councilman Brent Ashley, a major proponent of the gas marketing concept, to try and come to a middle ground on the two endeavors. It’s no secret Cymek and Ashley, who served together previously on the town’s noise board before both became councilmen, have not been on the same page regarding city matters since Ashley took office last fall. Specifically, Cymek and Ashley exchanged pointed barbs earlier this year when cell phone records revealed a series of lengthy conversations between Ashley and his “majority” colleagues, Jim Hall, Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas.

According to Cymek, Ashley asked him this week whether he would support the gas measure. That conversation eventually led to a concept where a diminished gas marketing initiative and the original golf marketing pitch would both be funded so long as Cymek, Ashley, Joe Hall and Pillas forged a partnership on the matters. It was already well known that Council members Jim Hall, Lloyd Martin and Mary Knight opposed any sort of funding allocation to fuel marketing.

“It’s one of the very rare occasions where the public with this new council has seen the giving and the taking out front,” he said. “It doesn’t normally happen in their view … In this case, I felt if I had to trade $100,000, even if the whole thing fell on its face, I think there’s a potential to put another $450,000 in the town coffers by doing the golf co-op plan. That was the tradeoff and I think there’s going to be a net gain just in that.”

Cymek said he has confidence that the town’s tourism department and ad agency can make that $100,000 gas campaign pay dividends for the resort. Regarding concerns that the money may be wasted if the promotion is launched in July or August, Cymek said he expects to “hear something very soon” from tourism folks about the gas initiative.

“I’m not in favor of putting a lot of gas in people’s cars, but I think there’s something good that can come out of this, and I have great confidence in Andy Malis and MGH that they can take that $100,000 and put a nice promotion together that will help put people here. There could be a lot of different facets to this program,” he said. “I saw an opportunity to get two things underway here …”

When asked if he thinks the measure of compromise reached this week on the marketing initiatives bodes well for the divisions among the council members, Cymek said time will tell but he’s more optimistic now that communication would at least be better between the minority (himself, Lloyd Martin and Mary Knight) and the majority (Ashley, Jim Hall, Joe Hall and Pillas).

“To me, it seems there is an effort on their [majority] part to possibly mend the fences a little bit,” he said. “There was some handshaking between myself, Brent and Joe and I can tell you since last October there has not been any handshaking. Maybe this is extending the peace branch a bit, but there has been some damage done along the way.”

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