Family Grateful For
This is what our community really is. On Sunday, July 14, my husband, Steve Falck, lost his four-year battle with Multiple System Atrophy. When Steve was diagnosed in 2009 with MSA, which destroys all of your motor skills, we had no idea about the journey we were about to take, but we knew from that very first day that we would not be alone. On Sunday, July 21st, we held a celebration of life service in his honor and we were reminded again how incredible this community really is. We knew how lucky we were to spend the last 41 years living in this wonderful place (Berlin and Ocean City). We knew we had friends who became family and strangers who became friends and care givers. Our family and friends, too many to name, helped in keeping Steve at home. The visits, the food and wine, the laughter and tears kept us going. When Steve was diagnosed in March, 2012, with 4th stage cancer the obstacles grew larger and so did the support from so many. Dr. William Greer (one of the most compassionate men I know), Wendy Fitzgerald, and their staff became our life support and heroes. Dr. Preeti Yonker and staff gave Steve the strength to continue to fight the battles even when we knew he was losing the war. The staff at Atlantic General Hospital, where he spent months and months, gave him more time to live. We opened our home to the nurses and therapists from Chesapeake Health South and they opened their hearts to us. Our caregivers, Josie and Renee, from Thomas Patient Care and the V.A. made our day to day so much better with laughter and love. Martin and Kathleen Weinstein and their crew at Eastern Shore Physical Therapy kept him moving longer than we thought possible. The guys from the Berlin Fire Department rescued us in so many ways. Steve was a surfer all of his life. This disease tried to put an end to that, but his surfing buddies helped him keep going. They created a special board and gave him a helping hand into the ocean even when he couldn’t walk. When his other passion, coaching girls lacrosse, was threatened too, he never gave up. Even when he had to use a walker to get on the field he told his girls, "if I fall, just pick me up and laugh with me." They visited him in the hospital and at home when he could no longer make it on the field, which thrilled him. He taught them more than the game of lacrosse, he taught them how to accept and live with a tremendous disability and to do so with humor, grace and determination. We learned how difficult it is for people to see their friend and peer slipping away daily. But the love and support we received was wonderful whether it was one visit, a card or call or daily visits, food and hugs and many prayers. Seeing the support Steve received over the years, whether it was from his softball or sailing friends, parents from the lacrosse team, or people he built houses for, we knew that his celebration of life service would have to be somewhere with lots of seats, but also somewhere that meant something to him. In 1972, I started teaching art at Worcester Country School in Berlin. Steve coached baseball and girls lacrosse and our daughters, Blair and Brooke, received an amazing education there. Dr. Barry Tull and the staff opened the school and their hearts to our family that day, and we knew that we had found the perfect place. What we could never have imagined was seeing over 900 people there, in island attire, Hawaiian shirts and flip flops, who laughed and cried and relived many wonderful moments with us. Looking back on that day, I am so proud to have been Steve’s wife, and even more proud to be a part of this community. They gave and gave so much to us that the pain we suffered was so much easier to face. We can never thank everyone enough. We will always be grateful to this wonderful place that we are lucky enough to call home. Patty Falck Blair and Joseph Parsons Brooke and Bob Hahn
Ocean City Needs
To Rebuild Brand
In the print edition of last week’s “Between the Lines” column, you characterized the omission of Ocean City from the Baltimore Sun’s list of twelve hot summer getaways as “startling.” As someone who has worked at the front line of Ocean City’s tourism economy for most of my life, I am not at all surprised that Ocean City was left off of the list. The omission should be recognized as a wake-up call for the town’s leaders and stakeholders.
Over the past decade or so, the family presence in Ocean City has been slowly bleeding away. Many people who once chose our town as their vacation destination now go elsewhere. While at work at my family’s retail business, I am regularly asked by visitors whether the boardwalk “is always this bad,” or some other variation of that question. Can we reasonably expect people who ask such questions to return in the coming years?
Competition for the tourism dollar is fierce. Ocean City battles with more destination rivals than in years past, and internet-savvy vacationers will search out the best value and return for their buck. Information flies between strangers: people share their experiences through social media networks and look to the comments of others for guidance while planning their vacations. Maintaining a positive reputation as a destination is therefore of paramount importance. Indeed, we cannot afford to have our guests blog about their “scary” boardwalk experiences. Moreover, the combination of cell phones and the internet allows bad news to travel fast: consider the negative exposure generated by the video of the Division Street beach melee two weeks ago.
Some town leaders have maintained that our tourism economy is in fact healthy. At times, when business leaders have spoken of poor performance, their concerns have been dismissed as being the result of poor weather. We were told that violent criminal behavior would decline once we got through June. Do our leaders really believe their positions, or do they just hope that the rest of us are naïve enough to believe them?
Demoflush figures have been lower on average the past twelve seasons than during the 1990s—in spite of a construction boom that created many more housing units in Ocean City. Some people point out that the figures are not that much lower than they were before. However, counting how many toilets are being flushed is less important than knowing the identity of the people flushing them. The desirable vacationers seem to be flushing toilets elsewhere.
Mayor Meehan has noted that society is changing. He is absolutely right, and often such shifts are beyond the control of public leaders. But linking behaviors to societal trends doesn’t act as a viable excuse for not attempting to curb these behaviors. For example, Drew Haugh, who has worked on the beach for more than three decades, noted in a letter published last week that he had never heard so many “F-bombs” yelled on the beach and boardwalk as he has recently. I concur—reason in part that my wife and I do not bring our children to the boardwalk during the summer months. While such speech may be constitutionally protected, we should still be discussing ways to mitigate the problem. Certain “types” of people cannot be kept out of town, but their conduct can certainly be better monitored and regulated than it is now. Efforts must be made. Continuing to sidestep the issues is not an option.
We all know that neighboring towns in Delaware have banned smoking on their beaches, and that Wildwood now regulates droopy drawers. Those who question the efficacy or administrability of enforcing such statutes are missing the point. The true effectiveness of enacting such legislation lies not in enforcement, but in sending the message to visitors that their concerns are recognized and that steps are being proactively taken to address these concerns. Perception is everything; poor perceptions of Ocean City are likely the root of why our town was shunned by the Baltimore Sun. We need to change these perceptions.
Ocean City’s tourism economy is at a critical juncture. Those who do not believe so should consider the fate of Wildwood during the 1970s. Wildwood had allowed itself to be overrun by partying young adults, whose behavior effectively collapsed the town’s economy by encouraging families to seek alternative vacation destinations. Rebuilding the city’s brand took years of hard work, but today, Wildwood is widely acclaimed for its family-friendliness.
The future of Ocean City is not hopeless, but measures need to be taken now. The crucial first step is for our leaders to summon the courage to candidly, transparently recognize and address the problems that we are facing. If they cannot do so, they should step aside and let others take the lead in the interest of preserving our town’s economic well-being. There is no longer room for egos.
The actions that follow this step could perhaps return our tourism economy to the peak years we enjoyed during the late 1980s and 1990s. And maybe one day, the pride we feel from again being endorsed by media outlets as a worthy destination will replace our present, misguided feelings of being automatically entitled to such recognition.
Joseph L. Kroart III
OC Group Explained
OC Taxpayers for Social Justice has been in the news recently. This letter explains why the group exists and what it hopes to do.
Members of the group have spent months and even years working with the City Council and Mayor to address core issues like oppressive regulations, failure to control expenses, irresponsible tax policies and taking on irrational debts. We have not been successful. The quality of governance in Ocean City has deteriorated to such an extent that businesses are leaving, the tax base is weakening, vacancies are rising and adjacent communities are gaining at our expense.
Since the summer of 1776, Americans have declared the right to alter or abolish any form of government that becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The goal of OC Taxpayers is to stop the destructive governance being practiced in Ocean City in accordance with the law. The Council and Mayor have acted against the general interests of the people, pandered to very specific special interests, enriched the public bureaucracy at the taxpayers’ expense, and acted in blatant disregard of their own rules of governing.
OC Taxpayers have decided it is critical to address the issues immediately rather than wait for the next election. Ocean City is in the early stages of bankruptcy, when tax revenue peaks and the promises to the politically connected far outweigh the ability of the people to pay in the future. Think Detroit or Stockton, Calif. as being the logical end of the process. We must begin to turn the City around now and OC Taxpayers intend to educate the public on a long list of issues and then take direct action.
The simplest and clearest issue is the improper procurement and installation of parking meters. The acquisition process ignored procurement rules and the deployment strategy was arbitrary and capricious. OC Taxpayers for Social Justice and others have acquired adequate valid signatures to put a referendum up for vote at the earliest possible time. More will follow as the education process matures.
The members of OC Taxpayers are not partisan, not paid, and not trying to take office. We are merely trying to defend the people against destructive governance and bring back middle class vacationers.
We currently meet on Mondays at 3 p.m. on 60th St. at Hall’s Restaurant. Come join us!
I intend this letter to be in response to the letter last week about our Representative Harris and not in any way critical or argumentative.
One never “gets over” a tragic happening; one learns to live with it. If we do not learn to live with it, it can fester into an unmanageable experience and can remain with us for a lifetime. This is my take on Representative Harris’s remark and knowing Andy as I do, I am sure this is what he meant to convey.
I am always reminded of the Palestinians’ and Israelis’ situation that has been festering since 1948 … 65 years. Think of the thousands of lives lost since that time, not only by deaths, but in bitterness and hatred that comes from not being able or not caring to put it behind them. After a decision is made and the results filed in history, why continue to use vengeance instead of good sense, learning to live with it?
To speak to the Zimmerman/Martin tragedy today causes each side to say and do things that may be beyond their normal, good, Christian senses. Understood. However, if we don’t “get over it” and learn from the mistakes and lessons it presented, we will never learn to live with this tragedy, trying to prevent similar situations in the future.
What we say and do in important and tragic situations, teaches our children.