Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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At this week’s tourism recap meeting, it was refreshing to hear comments about how important events are to tourism, specifically the summer months.

For years, it’s been known that successful special events are what drive shoulder season business. Weather surely plays a major role as well, as it does in any beach area, but it’s imperative that reasons be given for people to travel here throughout the year.

What’s bothered me over the years is what I have perceived as a reluctance to accept events also must be held in the summer to ensure large crowds. The notion that the summer will take care of itself so long as the weather cooperates is antiquated now. There’s too much competition in the vacation world, and Ocean City recognizes that now.

These events do not have to all be the magnitude of the Dew Tour or the proposed music festival for next June. Actually, they shouldn’t be. Those are tremendous events that require large private companies to operate. While they provide significant returns for all involved, smaller niche events, such as the soccer and lacrosse tourneys, also contribute mightily to the Ocean City area’s success.

In my opinion, a successful special event calendar for Ocean City would feature a multitude of significant events every week of the year. That should be the goal, even if it’s a long-range one.

I commiserate with guys like Chris Denny, owner of Cheers! in Berlin, and others like him in the convenience store business who have every right to take personal what’s happening in Annapolis.

Within the last decade, Denny and his colleagues in the convenience store industry selling anything from soft drinks, snacks and cigarettes to beer, wine and gasoline have been dealing with government’s increased intrusion in their daily operations. For consecutive years, these owners have had to deal with the rising cost of taxes and fees on their goods and the subsequent fallout of seeing their customers go elsewhere.

First there was the $1-a-pack cigarette tax increase in 2002, which Denny said resulted in a 80% single-year drop in cigarette sales the year following the increase. Next came the sales tax increase and then this summer’s spike in the alcohol tax. All of these decisions resulted in lost sales, as consumers went elsewhere to buy those goods (Virginia and Delaware, most notably, and the Internet in some cases). As if that wasn’t bad enough, a surge in the state’s gasoline tax next year seems all but certain.

A blue-ribbon commission on transportation and a committee examining growth issues recently urged Gov. Martin O’Malley and state legislators to consider a 15-cent-a-gallon increase in the state’s gasoline tax, higher vehicle registration and emission inspection fees and a tripling of the so-called flush tax.

The gasoline tax is the sexiest of these issues because it impacts all of us and fuel prices have not exactly been easy to swallow in recent years. The current gasoline tax is 23.5 cents per gallon. The proposed increase would be the first in 20 years if it’s approved next year, proponents like to point out to critics as often as possible.

The chances are solid some sort of increase in the gas tax will be approved by the legislature next year. It’s more a question of how much than if, leaving business owners like Denny and others scratching their heads wondering what’s next.

It has been suggested by some retiring Worcester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes could be leaving his local post for the vacant state superintendent post. In an interview this week, Andes was quick to laugh that rumor off.

“No. I’ve worked with Nancy Grasmick for 16 years. She was a phenomenal leader, a wonderful educator and dedicated to children, but I have no interest in being state superintendent of schools,” Andes said.

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