We are currently in the midst of profiling Ocean City Council hopefuls, and we will eventually get to each and every one who runs. This week I sat down with former Council President Joe Mitrecic (see the article on pg. 15A). Candidate Robert Baker’s profile can be found on page 21A.
During these articles, candidates often toss out a lot of concepts, some of which have merit and some of which will likely never see the light of day. However, Mitrecic touched on something this week that I have long thought would be a great off-season initiative. The idea of allowing vehicles on the beach to surf fish has been bantered about over the years, and Mitrecic thinks it could be an idea worth considering.
“We spent a tremendous amount of time on horses on the beach. Is it a good program? Time will tell, but something like allowing surf fishing on the beach in the winter time would actually bring people to town and do something. Fishing is a billion dollar industry and someone who comes in and fishes may go have lunch at one of the restaurants, buy fuel, purchase snacks and sodas at convenience stores, buy bait and tackle at the tackle shops … they’re going to make an impact far greater than something like horses,” Mitrecic said.
Personally, I like the idea of horseback riding on the beach, but Mitrecic is on target about the economic impact. Horseback riding on the beach will never pack much of a financial punch. Instead, it’s a warm and fuzzy activity that will surely appeal to some. To me, it’s a nice value-added concept for the slower months.
Allowing four-wheeled drive vehicles for the purposes of surf fishing on the beach could be something that does help bring in some off-season sales for some businesses. The annual event in October, the Annual Mid-Atlantic Surf Fishing Tournament, is usually successful in doing that to a degree, but creating a fee-based system during the fall, winter and spring months could be a good thing.
It’s illegal to drive on the beach without a permit. Selling these permits in day, week or month increments could bring a little bit of cash to the city, but the real value will be in the ancillary business brought to other operators.
With Assateague limiting its OSV area during the winter months, this might bring some of those folks over to Ocean City looking for a different experience. It’s worth looking into.
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams got the ultimate vote of confidence Monday when the candidate filing deadline came and went. No town resident signed on the bottom line to contest him, meaning he was re-elected at 5 p.m. on Monday to his second, four-year term as the town’s mayor.
While Williams’ term has not been without controversy, including the Atlantic Hotel window situation and the recent dissociation with the Berlin Fire Company, the mayor deserves to stay in office. From a general sense, Berlin is in better shape today than it was four years ago and ultimately that’s what matters when evaluating a leader. Williams deserves another term.
Ocean City’s election season is now in full swing, and the most divisive issue seems to be the proposed unionization of the town’s general employees.
That’s why I felt it appropriate to speak last weekend with one of the most outspoken members of the city’s rank and file, Greg DeMarco. That interview appears in this week’s issue on page 14A. It was released online Tuesday and upset Councilmen Brent Ashley and Joe Hall, who cried foul over the fact their anti-union point of view was not represented. In this case, they took umbrage they weren’t given an opportunity to express their views on the matter. I will give them their chance to address the issue in the coming weeks.
During the interview, DeMarco reported the union effort was a result of a multitude of factors. He acknowledged ever since the police secured collective bargaining with binding interest arbitration in 2002 there has been a desire for equality among the city’s non-public safety staff. That undercurrent however had stayed in check until two years ago, according to DeMarco, when then-Councilman Joe Mitrecic was replaced by Councilman Brent Ashley and the power changed hands from a Mayor Rick Meehan-led majority on most votes to a Council President Jim Hall-led majority.
That shift in leadership led to a slew of proposed changes in the pay and benefit structure of the city and later to the ousting of long-time City Manager Dennis Dare. All of these moves resulted in a lack of trust of the council and a general feeling of fear among city employees, according to DeMarco. “It’s always been a consideration, but the council majority breathed new life into it like never before with their actions,” he said.
Whatever their reasons, it’s going to be an interesting seven weeks leading up to the election on Nov. 6. My guess is registered voters sympathize with the general employees and understand why they are scared of the council majority, but I don’t think they will endorse this change in November, even though it’s not calling for collective bargaining with binding interest arbitration as the police have.
It’s impossible to say for sure because voter turnout will be high on Nov. 6 since it’s a presidential election. The petition effort was a robust success, obtaining more signatures than there were voters in the last election in 2010, but it’s one thing to sign your name to place it on the ballot for a decision and another to endorse it when it comes time to vote.