Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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If he is following the ongoing situation here in Ocean City, a guy named Joe Lathrop is most likely continuing to shake his head in bewilderment.

President and founder of OCG, an independent consultant hired last year to study Ocean City’s tourism structure and make recommendations to improve it, Lathrop found in his research that resort tourism is essentially dysfunctional. He discovered what many of us have known for years — there’s a lack of trust between the city and the private tourism industry and that city tourism-related departments need a structural realignment to optimize communication and prevent splintering of efforts.

Lathrop provided three options for the fledgling Tourism Advisory Board, which replaced the former Tourism Commission, to consider in re-organizing Ocean City into a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) — privatization, the creation of a 501c6 organization or internal realignment, which was essentially decided as the best course of action.

Seven months after that report was presented, basically nothing has been done and frustrations are running rampant from all sides. In some cases, tempers are beginning to flare, causing for strained feelings among the stakeholders. TAB appears to be floundering in a state of confusion, and the council members who wanted to dissolve the former Tourism Commission because elected officials sat on it are not being clear in their direction.

The pot was further stirred at this week’s Mayor and Council meeting when Carousel Hotel managing partner Michael James broached the subject of TAB and its future.

“I would request the Mayor and Council consider reinstating the Tourism Commission like we used to have. As we work with TAB and without having elected officials, it’s just very difficult. I have served on both — the Tourism Commission and TAB … ,” James said. “It’s really imperative in my opinion that we have elected officials there. I have struggled with these TAB meetings. They go on and it’s hard to communicate with the council. It just seems to me to get back to the structure that seemed to be more effective in my opinion.”

While politely shooting down James’ suggestion to reform the commission, Councilman Joe Hall, an ardent opponent over the years to most city subcommittees such as the former Tourism Commission, pointed to an upcoming meeting as a chance to clear the air on the matter.

“I don’t know that it’s to go back to the old Tourism Commission as it existed but we have TAB on the agenda [next month] and we will talk about the MOU and how that functions. I think part of the discussion needs to be on an agreement with how the council is going to work with the business community,” he said. “I think we should inform TAB that will be part of the discussion along with what the mayor reported as far as they were going to be discussing how the money was going to be spent. I think part of the agreement needs to be how we are going to work together and how all aspects of the business community have a voice.”

That seems to be what all involved desire, but it’s been elusive to this point, largely because there is no agreeable means to get to that end. How to get to the point where the micromanaging and distrust abates seems to be the root of the problem, one that still exists today as much as it did seven months ago when the specific issues were outlined by Lathrop.

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Funding for education continues to dominate the news cycle around here these days.

The bottom line today is residents in Worcester and Wicomico counties are going to have to pay more in taxes and providing suitable monies to the respective schools systems is the main reason, driven by depressed property values leading to major reductions in property tax revenue.

Although their makeup and approaches are as different as they come, the Wicomico County Council and the Worcester County Commissioners made it clear this week that taxes will be rising.

In Wicomico, it appears the amount of taxable income citizens bring in will be increased as a result of some stiff state legislation aimed at ensuring individual jurisdictions do their part to fund education. That might not be the end of the increases in Wicomico, but that much looks like a certainty.

For Worcester, a 7-cent property tax increase appears to be on the table or has at least been identified as what it will take to bring in the same revenues as the prior year. Some sort of take increase will be approved and what exactly that new revenue will be steered to is unknown, but we believe it will more than likely help fund a pay increase for all employees as well as getting close to the level funding request from the Board of Education.

These neighboring shore counties do not have a lot in common, but one thing residents do appear on the cusp of sharing is the fact they are going to have to pay the government next year than they did this year.

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Being a typical guy, 2,000-plus bikini clad women walking the beach in North Ocean City in a parade sounds pretty good to me.

The idea that it would be open to all age groups with prizes for different categories should be appealing to many, but perhaps the event should be a simple swimsuit parade. That way men and women can participate and there would be interest from all sexes as well as age groups.

And no the guys should not be wearing bikinis, but surely there will be a few willing and able to get in touch with their feminine side.

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