Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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Ocean City Mayor and Council members’ cell phone records will likely be returning to the news later this month, as Citizens for the Preservation of OC spokesman Joe Groves said this week he has requested all the council members’ phone bills for the current month.

Groves said he wants to see how much the council members communicate with each other and whether it’s still as much today as it was over the winter when it was revealed the council majority spent hundreds of minutes talking on their cell phones to one another. Some conversations even totaled more than 10 hours in a single month.

Sources also indicate citizens will undergo a specific examination of the phone records from last week when the council majority reportedly hatched the specifics of the plan to unseat City Manager Dennis Dare.

Surely, the phone records will show numerous conversations among all the council majority members, particularly between last Tuesday night’s meeting and the closed sessions held on Thursday and Friday at City Hall. No matter what the records show, the council majority will likely dismiss the findings as inconsequential, as they did last winter when Councilman Doug Cymek probed the records.

Since I spent the better part of three hours last Thursday afternoon and early evening stalking the council members in the City Hall parking lot while they met behind closed doors, I am particularly interested to see who each of them called after they left last Thursday’s closed session that called for Dare’s resignation by the end of the next day.

For instance, Council President Jim Hall was on his phone before he even exited the City Hall parking lot after the meeting, and it will be interesting to see who he called. Since City Solicitor Guy Ayres appeared just 10 minutes later, with Jim Hall on his tail, it would seem it was Ayres who Hall likely phoned, but we will find out for certain later this month.

The Baltimore Sun’s Michael Dresser reported yesterday the Maryland Transportation Authority Board has apparently reached consensus on what to do with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tolls next month.

On the table for months has been a plan to double the toll from $2.50 to $5 this fall and then increase it again next summer to $8. However, according to Dresser, the board will hold a formal vote next week on increasing the toll to $4 on Nov. 1 and then to $6 in 2013.

Special sessions are never a good thing for the taxpayers.

Originally, the Maryland General Assembly was expected to convene this fall to redraw the state’s congressional districts, a result of the 2010 Census figures showing certain shifts in population.  That will still be a major point of discussion.

Also expected to be talked about in some fashion is the state’s finances, particularly the anticipated $1 billion shortage between revenues and expenses and the problems plaguing the state’s transportation department.

Another topic could be the disappointing liquor tax revenue numbers released this week

Beginning July 1, the state’s liquor sales tax was increased by 50 percent, from 6 percent to 9 percent. The state reported this week the increase resulted in roughly $6 million in new revenue compared to July of last year.

That means approximately $72 million could be raised annually at the most if all the months match July’s sales. The problem is the state was expecting an $85 million annual surge. It’s worth pointing out the July $6 million revenue figure will more than likely be the highest number of the year, as consumption is known to be at its highest during the summer months.

It will be interesting to see how this difference is made up, and some are privately muttering gasoline could be targeted with an increased tax as well as cigarettes yet again.

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