False Claims Disturbing
As much as I promised myself that I would remain a spectator of local politics, I find myself unable to stand by and let the misinformation put forth by Council President Jim Hall in an article dated July 19, “Costs To Remove Former City Manager Estimated At $252K” go uncontested.
The 2007-2008 budget was the last budget in which employees of the Town of Ocean City received a raise. Even after giving raises to town employees, the tax rate was lowered without cutting into the fund balance. In August 2008, then-City Manager Dennis Dare asked department heads who had requested to replace employees to wait until the 2009-10 budget meetings to do so. In October 2008, Dennis brought to the council a formal request to institute a hiring freeze, resulting in the town’s staff being decreased by over 100 employees. The 2009-10 budget was also the first look at staff-recommended voluntary cost-saving measures, which ushered in a philosophy of adjusting small spending problems to better the town on a large scale. The resulting savings discussed during the budget talks allowed the tax rate to be cut once again with no impact on the fund balance.
After the budget hearings, more cost-saving ideas generated by the employees were brought forth in work sessions on a monthly basis. Many were instituted immediately and others were discussed at subsequent work sessions and some eventually adopted. Payroll and medical insurance benefits were two of the items that were discussed at length. There were no less than three meetings with consultants hired to present the facts, and no action was taken. In the hearings for the 2010-11 budget, all cost-saving measures that didn’t affect services had been exhausted. The council made some hard decisions and cut some non-essential services, once again lowering the tax rate without raiding the fund balance. These reductions were all made well before there was a self-proclaimed “Conservative Council Majority”.
The “Majority’s” (Council members Hall, Hall, Pillas and Ashley) ideas of cost-savings came in January of 2011 affecting only employees. These changes included changing the pension plan, medical insurance, lowering salary base, ending the sick leave pool, etc. One of those new cost saving ideas, the pension change alone, cost the tax payers of Ocean City $353,000.00 dollars last year, and will continue to cost the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for who knows how long into future budgets. Even after their so-called cost-cutting ideas, the “Majority” was unable to lower the tax rate during the 2011-2012 budget hearings. The other cost saving idea was to terminate Dennis Dare after the summer of 2011 at a cost to the taxpayers of well over $250,000. As a taxpayer, I don’t know if I can afford any more of these types of cost cutting measures.
One would think that after serving on the council for over 20 years Mr. Hall would understand the difference between rolling up your sleeves and making hard decisions to lower the tax rate and raiding the fund balance of $860,000 to do so. Yes it was a savings, $20 to the average taxpayer, but it remains to be seen how this decision made in the 11th hour after almost no discussion, will affect future budgets and tax rates.
Read The Constitution
In the July 20, 2012 issue of your Dispatch, James A. Hoage of Severna Park again materialized to spout inflammatory and nonsensical extreme left wing views. This time, he has a new list of grievances against moderate and conservative Americans. Now, he approaches preposterous heights when he starts his diatribe by accusing non-socialists of horrific excesses. His first example boggles the mind and invites litigation. Mr. Hoage has determined and now reveals that Ron Paul, Texas Congressman (who has held public office since 1976) is not simply your run of the mill bigot. Oh no, much worse, he is a “racial, sexual, ethnic, and religious” bigot.
And then come his expected socialist talking points: “Wyoming rednecks” do nasty things; Hoage now fears we are headed “back to the coat hanger” abortion era; then to his fear of an “established faith” (already prohibited by the First Amendment which I suggest Mr. Hoage attempt to read because it’s only one sentence); then we must expect, “Censor TV, radio, and Internet;” (for some reason, I couldn’t find that in the Republican platform). Mr. Hoage hates that “corporations give limitlessly to campaigns,” but never decries the ability of unions to do likewise. There were a few other demented points in his rant, but I think you get the picture. Oh, I almost forgot the unhinged but obligatory socialist fear that Republicans would, of course, “Put Grandma back on dog food.”
I have read and responded to Mr. Hoage’s harangues before, and now have a simple suggestion for him. Read our founding documents. Our Declaration of Independence promises (and delivers) “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and our magnificent Constitution (made even more so by 27 upgrading amendments), should give even embittered ideologues like Mr. Hoage a chance to find peace in their comforting words.
Fair To Divide Beaches?
As a smoker and an Ocean City local who does indeed use a trash receptacle when available (or a pocket when not) for butts, I take offense to the fact that most of the trash found on the beach is packs and butts. I see more soda cans and water bottles and just general paper.
Stating that 69,000 butts have been collected tells me that the receptacles are working.
To say that most of us (smokers) do not use receptacles is unfair. Let’s say fairly that all non-smokers want to take our (smokers) rights away. We’ve lost hotel rooms, we’ve lost bars, we’ve lost restaurants and now you want to take the outdoors. I was at work one day on my break smoking outside and a lady came up to me and said, “I am allergic to smoke. Please stand somewhere else to smoke.” The problem is I was there first.
Did you also forget that smokers pay the same taxes non-smokers do? So we have the same rights. Also, we pay an awful lot of tax on a pack of cigarettes, so if we all quit, where is that money coming from? Higher sales tax, higher property tax and so on.
Now let’s talk about the children seeing smokers enjoying a cigarette — do you really think that this has caused them to want to become smokers? No way. Do we do drugs on the beach? No. Do they see us drinking beer on the beach? No. So then please tell me why it is we have kids doing this? Well, let me tell you, kids just have to try it all. So please let us not say that kids seeing an adult smoking on the beach is going to cause them to smoke. It is just wrong.
To tell me I have to sit behind a lifeguard to smoke is also not fair. Sounds more like the ’50s when blacks were forced to sit on the back of the bus. If we have to split the beach, give smokers odd streets and non-smokers even streets. This sounds fair.
Dean Germann Ocean City
Union Talk Disturbing
So, the City Council has decided to allow a referendum for unionizing of city employees on the voting ballot this November. I’m not too sure this is a good thing and it’s nice to know that at least two of the Council members, Joe Hall and Brent Ashley, were against the concept. It shows that they’re aware of the financial problems towns, cities, states and countries all over the world are facing due to government acceptance of arbitration agreements with union bosses on the unionization of public employees.
As for Mr. DeMarco’s desire for fair and equal representation rights for the town employees, what about the second home owners, who have no voice in this decision whose money you’re willing to commit to future financial requirements? Maybe, before you commit to unionization of public employees, we should first have on the ballot a referendum for the rights of these owners to have a voice in such matters. After all "It’s Their Money"!
Regarding Ms. Dahan’s feelings that having representation rights would make this a better place to live and work. A better place for who? Considering the difficult financial condition that Maryland and the country is faced with today anyone with a job should be happy and not asking for more.
A couple more questions regarding this issue: How closely have all the remaining names been checked and by whom? If it’s people in the government, who might be predisposed on the matter, wouldn’t it be better to have it done by an outside source that would not benefit by such an agreement. The reason I asked this is because I talked to some of those signature collectors, some of whom were bussed in from outer state and paid by the AFL-CIO, and they felt that many of the signers were not residence of the city.
Let’s hope the small percentage of registered voters who will vote understand that union bosses who require members to pay membership dues don’t invest those dues into a retirement benefit plan but use the money collected to advance their own political agenda. Any benefit promise they gain agreements too are usually paid for out of future collected taxes. Now, if you could get guarantees from the union bosses that total membership dues would be invested through an unaffiliated investment firm for each union member, as private industries have done for their employees for years, then unionization might be an acceptable concept. Until such a guarantee can be achieved I would advise each individual worker to not consider unionizing. It should be obvious to each of you that promises made by union bosses have proven to be an unaffordable financial burden to the communities where they have been authorized. Let’s not go down that path in this city.
Paul St. Andre
Vote Against A Failure
Ocean Pines Association General Manager Bob Thompson’s presentation at the Yacht Club public hearing Saturday implied that the only choice we have is either an inadequate rehab of the present building or a $4.3 million new building. In fact during questions and answers it was stated that the Board has no alternative plans if the referendum fails. But we do have an alternative. The very Community Center where the hearing was held is testimony to that. It was “nick-named” the Taj Mahal until the membership defeated it in referendum. Then we went on to build a very attractive and functional building for less than half the cost of the Boards original proposal.
I have lived in the Pines for about 14 years. During that time we had three general managers, we are on our third Food & Beverage manager, and we had about 13 different elected Board of Directors. That’s six well paid managers and 21 supposedly intelligent elected officials, supported by a comptroller and an accountant. They were all well-meaning with various business plans that always lost money. Some years more, some years less, and some years it was just horrible. I won’t argue with those that say the Yacht Club need not be profitable. Coming close to breaking even would be fine by me. But the Yacht Club is an ongoing financial burden.
It is abundantly clear, what we have been doing year after year just doesn’t work. Logically it at least suggests trying a different approach. Throwing good money after bad to perpetuate the same misguided food and beverage operation makes no sense at all. The referendum advocates that we spend $4.3 million to build an upsized replica of an unsuccessful business.
In my opinion, a rational solution to our food and beverage deficiencies is a down sized building operated seasonally. That would be a true amenity because it will be supported by those that utilize it, and it will not be a never ending financial burden on the association members.
Our Community Center is a testimony to the choices we do have. A vote Yes is for another failure and perpetual financial burden. Vote No and we can go forward with an affordable, functional, down sized seasonal Yacht Club and permanently remove the financial yoke from around our necks.
Road Litter Appalling
Route 54 is littered with trash. Two years ago I sent an email to Deldot who responded that the area was self-flushing g due to the bay. I responded that the same garbage, i.e. glass, was on the bridge outside of Harpoon Hanna’s for weeks. I was told that some of the trash was from vacationers and some from Harpoon Hanna’s trash cans. Dukes Rd is often littered.
Municipalities are working on tight budgets for trash pickup but booming businesses such Harpoon Hanna’s have a responsibility to keep their trash under control and to keep the property around their establishments clean.
Ocean City’s water and beaches have recently been rated 4 star for cleanliness. Now we need the streets and highways to be clean as well.
I hope that you can publish this letter. Thank you for a great paper that I look forwarding to reading when I come to our house here and for your time.