Petitioner Weighs In
On Oct. 7, 2013, Ocean City passed on a second reading of Ordinance 2013-13 to raise, through the sale of a bond, $12.7 million for five projects. Buried within the ordinance was the largest project, an $8.3 million expenditure on a Performing Arts Center being foisted on the public. This structure would destroy half the Convention Center and build a theater within the building with 1,200 seats and about the size of the high school auditorium.
Moreover, this excess would disturb some of our biggest present users, including our top two users, the firemen and the cheerleaders, and risk losing their business when convention business is hard to get.
The town started spending on the Performing Arts Center project following a resolution some weeks ago. Oct. 7 was the first opportunity that the public had a chance to voice an opinion through a petition. The public cannot petition a resolution, only an ordinance.
Over the last week, the town government has misused its position of service to scare the public. First, there was the mayor’s mouthpiece that, like Little Red Riding Hood’s charades, was a purported citizens’ group scaring people by wrongly saying that signing the petition would cost the city millions. Next, the rarely political city solicitor threatened more taxes if people signed the petition.
Don’t worry if it happens before the election; we can petition that, too, and at the election you can remind the politicians whom they work for by voting them out. Oh say people, if the Mayor or Guy Ayres come by on Halloween with this shock and scare nonsense don’t give them any candy.
The government, through reckless disregard of the petition period, puts something at risk here profoundly more important than the Performing Arts Center. The shining difference between Americans and all others is our belief in the unique value and importance of each person. This cherished belief is being trampled, sullied, and ignored by our local government. We the people are being punished by the town government’s hasty and reckless spending of our money.
Worse than that, the government is blaming the petition-bearers for spending the public’s money, threatening citizens that; “the City will lose millions if you sign the petition,” and “taxes will go up if you sign the petition.” When we are intimidated by government, then, my friends, I fear we have lost much more. Are we the people so scared that we have to listen to this nonsense from the government, our employees and their mouthpieces?
Since our Declaration in 1776, the people have been the boss, not the government. The referendum, unique to America, is the way that people remind government from time to time who the boss is. The right to petition is allowed by law after every ordinance. The law also provides for three days following the ordinance’s passage to submit a referendum, five days for the city solicitor to approve it, then forty days to allow the people, should they choose, to sign a petition to take the matter to a public vote.
When government disrespects this time frame by starting to implement the law and spend the public’s money before the time is up, government shows disregard and disdain for not only the people’s right to petition but the people’s money as well. At that point we lose something much more precious than a Convention Center. We lose the unique foundation of our republic, that people are the boss, not government, which separated us from all the other countries through history and made America special.
When the Mayor/Council disrespect that hard-earned right of the American people by spending public money before the legal time has passed, then this is not about Tony Christ; it is a grave loss for all of us. In his leadership the Mayor has twice shown a brazen disregard for this precious right, unique to our democracy and toiled for by countless generations of Americans.
First, in reckless disregard of the people’s rights, the Mayor ordered parking meters before the final reading of the ordinance, wrongly spending scarce public money and, more importantly, disrespecting the people. Ninety thousand dollars of parking meters still sit without any accountability due to a lack of respect for the people’s right to petition.
Second, now, the day after our petition to put the Performing Arts Center financing on the ballot, walls at the Convention Center were felled and money continues to be spent. The Mayor, immersed in pandering to a few wealthy individuals, who would rather use the common man’s money than their own to build this ego edifice, recklessly spent public funds with full knowledge that a lawful referendum had begun, merely to assert governments power over the people. Than in a cowardly manner blamed the petitioners for his destructive acts. When local government recklessly spends scarce public money then deflects responsibility, its actions are diabolic and against our interests.
It is not the walls or the meters or even the money (although it is scarce) that is at risk here. Meters can be bought and sold, walls rebuilt. It is the reckless disregard of a sacred responsibility to the people. Referenda are needed from time to time, to remind government who is boss.
It’s the people, not the government. When the council ignores the people’s 40-day right and acts on an ordinance under petition by spending public money then citing their spending as a reason to disregard the petition, our unique democracy is gravely impaired if not completely trampled.
Although we have elections and we grant the right to govern to our elected officials, we Americans have always reserved the right, through referendum, to remind our elected officials who the boss is. We the people are the boss. The government is in place to serve the people. We Americans can choose when, at any time, we wish to exercise our right to collect signatures to put any lawful item on the ballot. It is up to elected officials to respect this hallowed right, not to obstruct it or bulldoze it.
When government brazenly ignores this right and recklessly spends the public’s money before the loan is approved by the people, it should be of great concern to all. Blaming Tony Christ for the reckless spending by the Mayor and Council before the financing passes referendum wrongly deflects responsibility from the perpetrator and ignores and disregards the people’s cherished right to challenge. Subterfuge tragically obscures the truth for all except the keenest observers.
Say No To Petition
As the current President of the Ocean City Economic Development Committee (EDC), I am writing in support of the planned expansion of the Ocean City Convention Center with the addition of a Performing Arts Center. I am also writing to voice strong opposition to the organized efforts that are now in motion with the intent to delay the expansion and potentially stop it through a referendum. The EDC encourages Ocean City voters to not support this referendum.
The conceptual and planning stages for the addition of the Performing Arts Center were done in a methodical, open, and inclusive manner. Those in favor of the project built their case by utilizing research and by developing support from both Ocean City residents and the Ocean City business community. The current City Council and the preceding City Council both voted in support of the project, and our state legislators worked with the mayor and council to secure support from the Maryland Stadium Authority. There were many opportunities during the last five years for citizens or interested organizations to express their support or opposition.
The economic benefits and the future enjoyment our citizens will experience from the Performing Arts Center in Ocean City are the reasons this project is supported by the Stadium Authority, the majority of our local elected officials, our business community, and the residents who have shown their support for several years.
The Town of Ocean City holds elections every two years, giving voters ample opportunity to make changes and to hold the Mayor and Council accountable for their decisions and actions. Moving decisions on important issues to referendum that have so clearly been vetted and have successfully moved through the political process only weakens our system. The Ocean City EDC supports the expansion of the Convention Center and the addition of the Performing Arts Center, as well as the political process that makes Ocean City a great place to live and do business.
(The writer is the president of the Ocean City Economic Development Committee.)
Play It Safe Thanks
On behalf of the Ocean City Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee, we would like to thank the Ocean City community for their enduring support of our Play It Safe project. Each year thousands of recent high school graduates flock to Ocean City to celebrate that milestone in their lives. They truly drive the economy during that time of year before the summer season begins. Our committee works tirelessly and plans for a year to help entertain and occupy the young grads with wholesome, healthy activities. It is the purpose of the Play It Safe project to encourage these young adults to make informed, healthy choices and to have fun without the use of alcohol or other drugs.
In June 2014, we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of Play It Safe. This would never have been possible without the generosity of the Mayor and City Council, the Ocean City business community, the Worcester County Health Department, numerous service and civic organizations and many citizens. Each year, too, we have wonderful volunteers who help us chaperon the nearly 60 events that are held over a two to three week period.
Again this year on Columbus Day, we held a fundraiser dinner and silent auction at Hall’s Restaurant. We are so very grateful to the Hall family for donating all of the food, for allowing us to keep the entire proceeds from the ticket sales of the dinner and for giving us the Kickoff Breakfast for our project every year. We would like to express our most heartfelt appreciation to all the business and people who donated items for our silent auction, all those who attended the dinner to support Play It Safe, those who stopped by just to make a donation and to the Stephen Decatur students who volunteered to work at the dinner.
We are especially grateful to The Dispatch for the wonderful, comprehensive article written by Shawn Soper just prior to our event. He did quite a bit of research and provided much accurate information about Play It Safe.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about the Play It Safe project, volunteering to help with the events for the grads, taking part in our Miniature Golf Tournament in March at Old Pro or making a donation, please go to our website—playitsafeoceancity.com. Once again, many thanks to all who have supported Play It Safe in the past 25 years!
(The writer is the chairman of the Ocean City Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee.)
The third Annual Ataxia Awareness Bingo in honor of Dana Simpson was held on Saturday, September 28,2013. Once again we had a successful event and want to thank everyone who participated in our efforts to raise funds for the National Ataxia Foundation. We greatly appreciated having our event at the Berlin Fire Hall. Sincere thanks go to all our family and friends who volunteered in the kitchen and with the bingo. The local community was very generous with civic groups, churches, business owners and individuals donating to the event. The proceeds have been sent to the National Ataxia Foundation (www.naf.org) to fund research for this rare progressive neurological condition. We would like to publicly thank the following:
ABC Printers, A Little Bit Sheepish, Barrett’s, Bayside Gazette, Ace Printing, Burley Oak Brewery, Cheers, Deer Run Golf, Mary Lynn Donaway, Frontier Town Water Park, Joyce Edwards, jj Fish Studio, Lombardi Pizza, Harmony Wellness Spa, Patrick Henry Fine Arts Studio, Nicks House of Ribs, Old Pro Golf, Outback, Seacrets, Siculi / Tex Mex, Stewart’s Antiques, Treasure Chest, Wainwright Tire, Venable Cleaners. Also, Dee Altobelli, Kay Bromley, W. Kirk Burbage, American Legion Post 136 Berlin, American Legion Auxiliary 136 Berlin, American Legion Post 166 Ocean City, Faye and Norman Cathell, Don Chelton, Atlantic, Smith,Cropper and Deeley, Decatur Investments, Church Mouse Thrift Shop, Friendship Methodist Church’s Men, Ladies Circle and Young Adult Class, Geri Ann Gray, Moore Companies, Dot and Gill Simpson, Lori Hellman, Linda Mariner, Jim Mathias, Buzz and Rita Taylor, Taylor Bank, Jim Welsch, Joan and Charlie Townsend, Lois and Rick Wells. Special thanks to Debbie and Steve Frene at Victorian Charm for their continued support.
Friends of the N.A.F.
Joann Simpson and family
Arts Center Support
The Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) wishes to publicly state its support for the Ocean City Performing Arts Center project (Phase II) currently under construction at the Ocean City Convention Center. This new facility, once completed, will have substantial benefits to Ocean City residents, visitors, and businesses. This new Center will provide musical and theatrical performances never before seen in Ocean City. Ocean City restaurants and hotels will receive more business directly from this additional arts venue.
The project is consistent with the OCDC’s objective of increasing artistic opportunities throughout Ocean City. The OCDC Public Art Program has brought various public art projects to Ocean City such as the White Marlin Sculpture at the base of the Route 50 Bridge, the “Spillin’ the Wind” bronze eagle sculpture at 144nd Street, and numerous painted wall murals and utility boxes.
The State of Maryland has provided matching grant funds towards the completion of this project. A stoppage or delay of this construction project will cost the Town of Ocean City substantial monies. It is important the Town of Ocean City proceed with the issuance of the bonds to allow for this project to be completed. It is also important that Ocean City residents become familiar with the issues related to this project and the petition that is being circulated to oppose this bond issuance. Residents with questions on this issue should contact their City Council members.
(The writer is the president of OCDC.)