Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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It’s unknown at this point how far this will go in the near future, but at this point it’s known a group of Ocean City employees are exploring the option of forming a union. The initial effort reportedly began about 18 months ago, but was stepped up early last year amid concerns over the division and unpredictability of the Ocean City Mayor and Council.

Currently, the rank and file of the police department has its own union, thanks to the collective bargaining referendum it fought so hard to get passed. A few years later, city fire and paramedic employees requested the same rights, but without the binding interest arbitration aspect, and the council granted it.

The Ocean City Mayor and Council could decide this matter if it wanted, but it seems the indication is council members would want the voters to decide this hot potato of whether to allow more employees to collectively organize. That’s a smart move, as clearly the residents should make this call.

This effort to explore the merits of unionizing should not be a surprise. It’s been known for at least a year employees are concerned about job stability and over potential changes the council could quickly pass regarding their pay and benefits. Numerous employees were shocked when the council majority decided to propose drastic changes to health insurance and pension policies last year.

Although most of those changes, many of which were vetoed by the mayor, were targeted at new employees, it scared the current employees over their livelihood. Morale hit its nadir last September after City Manager Dennis Dare was forced to resign amid rumors other department heads would be next.

All of this uncertainty coupled with the looming prospect of major budget cuts has resulted in a panicked workforce, which understandably is looking for protection. It’s going to be interesting to see if this effort mobilizes into an official petition drive or whether it fizzles out amid assurances from council members the fears are unnecessary and that their jobs and futures are safe.

Either way, the current economic climate and the concerns that plague many households currently could make a petition effort even more challenging than usual.

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 The controversy surrounding the Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast was unfortunate this week.

Organizer Bruce Spangler, a former Ocean City police officer, has done a marvelous job putting on this spiritual and uplifting event for the last two decades, but unfortunately the selection of retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin as the featured speaker resulted in Ocean City being put an unfavorable spotlight this week.

The good news is this will be forgotten in a couple days, but the storm did not pass without the city suffering public relations damage. This newspaper, and presumably all the others in this marketplace and surrounding areas, was inundated with emails and statements blasting the event and Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan for hosting Boykin in Ocean City. In yesterday’s editorial headlined, “Religious Bigotry In Ocean City?”, The Sun even went so far as to criticize the city’s elected officials for attending the event without acknowledging whether they support Boykin’s controversial religious views.

What’s interesting was there was not one phone call made to this media outlet from the opposing camps. Clearly, this was just an electronic protest aimed at getting press and painting Boykin as an extremist. That may or may not be true, but nobody at yesterday’s breakfast event could have walked away with that opinion.

It’s worth noting just minutes after Boykin wrapped up his speech in Ocean City, one of the most prominent organizations opposed to him speaking here sent out an email calling for the United States Military Academy at West Point to cancel his Feb. 8 appearance at its National Prayer Breakfast. It’s an organized effort that appears to follow Boykin wherever he speaks, and Ocean City got caught up in the mudslinging this week.

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