Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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It looks as if the Ocean City Mayor and Council will soon have a decision to make — hold a special election in the fall to determine if the new parking meter areas will be permitted next summer or hold off until the November 2014 general election?

At City Hall this week, petitioners turned in approximately 1,770 signatures, which clearly exceeds the required number of 1,226 to get the issue of the new meter locations before voters. If verified, and history shows us at least 10 percent of the gathered signatures will be rejected for a variety of reasons, the new areas of paid parking will be put on hold until the matter is determined by the electorate.

Considering it could be as much as $100,000 in lost revenue next summer, it’s going to be interesting to see what the Mayor and Council decides. Special elections on specific issues typically have poor voter turnouts and tend to attract those most in an uproar over the matter at hand. Special elections to fill elected official seats typically bring larger turnouts, on the other hand. In Ocean City, the most recent special election was in April 1998 when a Vince Gisriel-led citizens group petitioned a sizable addition at Northside Park. Voter turnout was 28% and the majority favored the expansion project. Back in April 1985, following Mayor Harry Kelley’s death, a special election was held to elect his replacement (Fish Powell) with a whopping voter turnout of 72%.

I do not think Ocean City will go the special election route in this case and instead will allow the issue to be placed on its next election ballot in 2014. However, the problem is the lost $100,000 in estimated revenue, and the city will need to find that somewhere and it could come in increased taxes or in service cuts elsewhere. Either way, if the signature minimum is met, the group behind the petition will have scored a victory.

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One of the fun aspects of working in the news media business these days is releasing information in real time as incidents take place. There is a major demand for timely reporting and up-to-date information is always coveted. Along with our print publication and our website, posting to our Facebook page relevant information and photos is our favorite medium to release content.

This week was one of the craziest from a viral standpoint I can remember since Hurricane Sandy last October. Here’s our top 10 posts of the week in ranking of “Total Reach” (the number of people who actually saw the post):

1.    Horses on the beach picture on our front page (601,088 people — that’s second only to the first image posted of the pier collapsing during Hurricane Sandy)

2.    Vanishing Ocean City With Bunk Mann’s feature on Boardwalk Elvis (50,336)3.    Dead shark discovered on Assateague (48,560)
4.    An album of photos of the humpback whale jumping offshore (17,088)
5.    Tuesday morning’s sunrise (15,464)
6.    Opening ceremonies at the Inlet of the USSSA Softball World Series (14,483)
7.    Cool ocean water temperatures surprise all (13,459)
8.    Scooter operator seriously injured in accident (13,023)
9.    OCPD vehicle strikes civilian motorist (12,990)
10.    Long-Time commissioner recovering from broken neck (10,908)
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I spent two nights in Virginia Beach last week and one of the aspects I looked forward to was comparing Ocean City and its competitor to the south.

Virginia Beach is much larger geographically than Ocean City, but its “Oceanfront” area is comparable to our resort area. The major difference on the Boardwalk is there is no retail. There are restaurants, but primarily the Boardwalk, which is concrete and features a bike-only lane, is home to hotels and condominiums only. The only aspect of Virginia Beach’s Boardwalk and beach that was favorable to Ocean City in my opinion was the designated play areas for kids on the beach. There were several huge playgrounds constructed on the beach between the ocean and the Boardwalk as well as a couple huge inflatables that were offered. Other than that, the beach was not nearly as pristine as Ocean City’s and the Virginia Beach Boardwalk did not offer as a whole the same level of amenities as Ocean City’s.

Oddly enough, there were two big stories in the news while we were there. Whenever I go anywhere, I am always snooping around with my reporter hat, playing dumb and asking lots of questions. One common topic people were talking about was the slower than usual tourism season that was confirmed by most businesses we frequented. Service industry workers were complaining about the lack of shifts being given to them by employers and the poor results from the hours they were working.

The other big news, according to the media, was whether there would be a repeat of the near-riot situation that happened in April on and near the Boardwalk during a social media-driven event called “College Beach Weekend.” Apparently, the organizers of that event, which attracted 40,000 to the “Oceanfront” and featured battery, shootings, stabbings and robberies, had planned a summer edition of the spring event. Nothing out of the ordinary took place apparently.

While Virginia Beach and Ocean City have multiple differences, it was more than a little bit interesting to me to see the same topics of conversation in both resorts — tourism and public safety.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.