No matter when or how it’s held, Ocean City needs an election terribly.
It’s the only way the town is going to be cleansed of all the nastiness that persists between the members of the Mayor and Council as well as the citizens and some council members.
In the newspaper business, tension, name calling and controversy in government make the work much more enjoyable, but the state of affairs in Ocean City has become despicable, and there’s plenty of blame to go around. It’s not in the bitter and dysfunctional realm that dominates Salisbury, but it’s getting disturbingly close.
That much is certain after the boisterous discourse that took place during Monday’s Ocean City Mayor and Council meeting regarding changing the town’s election date.
The endless interruptions, unprofessional rounds of applause, seemingly constant state of confusion on what is and is not being voted on, the open acts of disrespect, private conversations taking place while others are speaking (and being picked up by the microphone, nonetheless) and utter ignorance shown at times have got to go. It’s counterproductive and embarrassing.
A point that seemed to raise the most ire at Monday’s meeting was the alleged motivation behind the “flip-flopping” of some Mayor and Council members. The fact is Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin changed their minds last month and advocated for merging the city’s election with the national election after previously voting to retain the city’s municipal election in October.
After the issue of a two-ballot system was proposed, resident Jeff Thaler seemed to touch a nerve when he asked Joe Hall, who opposed the concept, why he had changed his mind and would not be voting in favor of changing the election date.
“I was at this meeting a year ago when this failed by a 6-1 vote and it wasn’t the money that Joe Hall brought up, it was the fact how embarrassing it was that we had 1,500 people vote. I don’t hear that coming up tonight. Fifteen hundred people voting in a town election, I agree with Joe, embarrassing,” Thaler said. “Where the flip-flop is coming, I’m not quite sure.”
Joe Hall’s response called out Cymek, Knight and Martin as being the actual “flip-floppers” and intimated they changed their minds after reading the political tea leaves.
“Everybody knows, Jeff, I’m not a flip-flopper. The fact is the last time this was discussed in this group there’s three people in here, and this audience was not as passionate and the same information was in the last presentation, so what’s changed is somebody else has figured out that they feel favored by this change, and that’s clear and it’s been discussed in here. There’s several motivating factors in why somebody now might want to support this change compared to what it was a few months ago. I haven’t changed, I haven’t flip-flopped. I still think it should be a consolidated election, all on one ballot … the three people who have changed their minds since that 6-1 vote have determined that it’s in their favor to make that change,” Joe Hall said. “Now it’s up to the voters to decide why those three people that moved this to this night and this discussion and why they’ve changed, but the facts haven’t changed since the last time this was discussed. I’m not the flip-flopper, the other three are the flip-floppers.”
While not taking kindly to the term, Knight admitted to changing her mind.
“I’ve never been called a flip-flopper, but the reason I flip-flopped was because of you guys,” she said, referring to the largely pro-minority voting block audience. “I have no other motivation. It’s all the people who have stopped me. I have to admit I was selfish before with the two prior votes because I had it in my mind it was my day, but it’s not my day. It’s your day. Call me a flip-flopper, say that I go back on things, that’s fine. But I’m representing you all and that’s what I’m doing tonight, and I apologize Joe to you for the two votes that I sat through here … because it would have been 5-2.”
This council and community are beyond the point of ever working together. There is a palpable resentment among many of the council members and several are so stubborn it’s disrupting their effectiveness. The same can be said for some residents as well.
No matter the outcome of this fall’s election or when it’s held or how many rooms or ballots it involves, it can’t get here soon enough for me.
It’s no secret segments of society in Ocean City want the four who voted to terminate former City Manager Dennis Dare voted out of office. Dare was pushed out last September, but it’s going to be the major election issue this fall. Votes and discussions are going to be rehashed. The ridiculously extreme financial cost of the move will be tabulated and advertised. Cell phone conversations are going to be recounted. Insubordination by Dare will be alleged, and other accusations will be hurled.
The bottom line is Ashley and Pillas are safe, as their terms are not up, but Joe Hall and Jim Hall are up for re-election. Joe Hall is running, but it’s unknown about Jim Hall at this point and he often waits till close to the filing deadline to decide. Four years ago, he decided to run again because of a weak candidate pool. That’s not likely to be the case this year, as several political newcomers are planning to seek seats, including Dare most likely. Although the former city manager has not made it official yet, I am confident he will run for a seat, and he is as close to a certainty as anyone.
My advice to voters is just get out there and express yourself — re-elect them all or vote them all out. Just vote so we can move on and hopefully return this town to the professional stability it needs.