What’s Your Sign?

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ARIES (March 21 to April 19): There might still be some uncertainty about the decision you made. But a quick check of the facts should reassure you that you’re doing the right thing.TAURUS (April 20 to May 20): The tidy Taurean needs to be a little more flexible about accepting some changes to those carefully made plans. You might be pleasantly surprised by what follows.GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): Consider stepping away from your concentrated focus on your new project for a bit so you can get some perspective on what you’ve done and where you plan to take it.CANCER (June 21 to July 22): The understandably angry Crab might not want to accept the reason why someone might have tried to hurt you. But at least you’ll have an insight into why it happened.LEO (July 23 to Aug. 22): There might be some facts you still need to know before leaping onto center stage. Best to move carefully at this time so that you can observe what’s happening around you.VIRGO (Aug. 23 to Sept. 22): It’s a good time to expand your outlook by getting out and around, whether you do some long-range traveling or just explore the great things to see closer to home.LIBRA (Sept. 23 to Oct. 22): Your wise counsel continues to be needed as that family situation works itself out. Meanwhile, the decisions you made on your job begin to pay off quite nicely.SCORPIO (Oct. 23 to Nov. 21): Your job situation brightens thanks to all your hard work. Now, spend some time repairing a personal relationship you might have neglected for too long.SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 to Dec. 21): Aspects favor action in the workplace. Line up your facts and show your superiors why you’re the one they’re looking for.CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 to Jan. 19): Your hard work pays off on the job. Personal relationships also can benefit from more of your time and attention. Spend the weekend with loved ones.AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 to Feb. 18): Early feedback on your project might be disappointing. But don’t be discouraged. Use it to make needed adjustments, then submit it to your superiors again.PISCES (Feb. 19 to March 20): Flattery could lure the otherwise sensible Fish into making an unwise decision. Be careful. All that praise might be an attempt to reel you in before you can learn the facts.BORN THIS WEEK: You have a wonderful sense of who you are. You are a shining example to others, helping them believe in themselves and what they can do.

(c) 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

Voices From The Readers

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Family Grateful For
Community Support
Editor:

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
Editor:

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
Ocean City

OC Group Explained
Editor:

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!
Tony Christ

Comment Reaction
Editor:

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.
Frank Vetare
Berlin

Voices From The Readers

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Boardwalk Concerns
Editor:

My family and I have been visitors to Ocean City for over 40 years starting at the Seascape Motel at 16th street. We stayed in many areas of town from a small apartment at Division and Philadelphia all the way up to East of the Sun.

We built a home in Ocean Pines in 1995 and still enjoy our time on the beach and fishing in the bay. When our kids were young starting at about age 12, we would allow them to go "up on the boards" for a couple of hours in the evenings. Depending where we were staying, they walked or took the bus and we were never concerned about their safety. Today after seeing the various gang members and other undesirables that congregate on the Boardwalk I would not allow my teen age grandchildren on the Boardwalk without an armed guard, it’s that dangerous.

It’s sad to see what has happened to the Boardwalk and the downtown area over the past decade, I wish you all the luck in the world cleaning it up but you have a tall mountain to climb.

Robert M. Bauersmith
King of Prussia, Pa.

Article Omits OC
Editor:

Talk about the beach bully who walks up to the skinny guy and kicks sand in his face. Well, if you happened to read the Baltimore Sun’s Travel section this week, that bully was the Sunpaper and Ocean City was the skinny guy laying on the beach.

The travel section article entitled "12 for the Road" listed 12 hot spots to visit this summer. After listing Cape May, N. J. first, the article mentioned the Delaware Shore. And I quote, "Dewey and Rehoboth are able to combine the laid-back beach town atmosphere without the obnoxious crowd and debauchery that a more popular beach destination brings with it." Ouch. Who around here upset the Sunpaper so much that they felt the need to kick sand in the town’s face?

Unfortunately, from what I have been witnessing this summer, they may speak the truth. Business is bad, at least mine is. There are more F-bombs spoken (yelled) on the beach and Boardwalk than I have ever heard. I and many families got to watch a mini-riot break out Sunday on North Division Street. Ironic that the new police chief is from Baltimore City, as it looked like a brawl in Baltimore City on the beaches of Ocean City today.

I will say kudos to the OC police who were on scene, as they needed to bring a very dangerous and out of control situation under control. And they did a great job doing it. It was getting ugly out there. Maybe Brent Ashley is on to something and it really is time to pull up our pants up. Oh, by the way, Ocean City, obviously, did not make the 12 for the road list, but amazingly, the city of Pittsburgh did.

Drew Haugh
Ocean City

Jaywalk Temptations
Editor:

We are very pleased with this year’s public service messages about pedestrian safety and using the cross-walks in Ocean City. This awareness campaign has probably already saved lives and prevented countless accidents and near-misses.

While driving down Coastal Highway, however, it becomes clear that many of the public beach access points do not actually align with the controlled intersections, nor do they have cross-walk markings.
These are obvious temptations to jaywalk and should be corrected. It is
commonplace to whole families – parents carrying beach furniture and
umbrellas, children carrying their toys – running across Coast Highway in the middle of a block to get from bayside to the beach. This might even be considered a legal liability for the Town of Ocean City, since these unmarked crossings might be construed as an "attractive nuisance".
As a related problem, many of the controlled intersections that do have "push to cross" buttons are not well coordinated. We applaud the recent efforts to review and the adjust the timing of the major intersections. However, it remains true that at most of the Coastal Highway controlled intersections, the buttons do not control both cross-walks simultaneously.
This creates a complex situation where one corner says "Don’t Walk" while the adjacent corner moving in the same direction says "Walk". This appears intentional at some intersections with dedicated left turn lanes.
But it does create both confusion and impatience among those who are waiting to obey the admonition to "cross safely".
Would it be simpler if the lights could be, and it won’t work everywhere, programmed so that pressing any of the four "push to cross" buttons would
activate both sides to cross Coast Highway at the same time?
Anything we can do to encourage safe crossing will save lives and these small additional steps should be a high priority for the Mayor, Council and the Town of Ocean City.

James Smirniotopoulos
Ocean City

Harris Out Of Line
Editor:

It is disturbing what Rep. Andy Harris said about the country’s discussion after the George Zimmerman trial. Harris is not just an elected representative but is also a medical doctor.

So, his advising us to "get over it" (the verdict) and move on is callous, unkind, insensitive and lacking medical wisdom. Would Harris tell a member of his family whose son had been shot and killed to just “get over it”? I think not.

This type of comment makes light of and diminishes the experiences of those who suffer or have suffered similar grievous losses in their lives. It indicates that Rep. Harris has no understanding of what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes in order to get an inkling of how a world view might be different from and equally valid to his own.

A boy has been shot in the heart and dies, the shooter goes on with his life and Rep. Harris/Dr. Harris cavalierly tells us to stop talking about it, stop trying to process this heartbreak, and "get over it"?

I think it’s time for the voters in Harris’ district to get over him and vote for someone else in the next election – someone with a better understanding of the human heart.

Ann Augustine
Berlin

Needs Vs. Wants
Editor:

Detroit has recently declared bankruptcy. Many other cities have followed suit. Is Ocean City leaning in that direction? Is our city living beyond its needs and beyond its means?

Our Ocean City government has reached a point where the City Council must make some essential and critical decisions regarding our city’s needs

In order to meet the financial needs of our city, we feel that raising property, food, or room taxes is not advisable. Conversely, we think that our city needs to cut expenses. Ask department heads to cut their budget 5-10 percent for the next fiscal year. It can be done by assessing the city’s needs, not its wants. Example: Was getting the fire boat a need or a want? Is it a need or a want to have over 250 full- and part-time Ocean City Police Department employees? Is it a need or a want that some city employees have salaries, pension plans, health care, etc. exceeding those of neighboring cities? These are only examples of what could be addressed.

City Council, we ask you not to borrow money for things that the city cannot afford. Take action now because we do not want to live in a bankrupt city.

John and Ann McDermott
Ocean City

Worried By Incidents
Editor:

Is it only a remnant of the town’s people that recognize how drastically Ocean City, Md. has changed? It seems that a floodgate has been opened with a large percentage of the lower socioeconomic inner city undesirable crowd being given a free pass to come to Ocean City, Md. And they bring with them their typical violent, aggressive and loud behaviors.

Simply following the news reported by The Dispatch, Ocean City Today and The Daily Times, anyone can clearly observe an intensity and frequency in the types of violent crimes our vacation resort communities are experiencing. Examine the incidents reported by The Dispatch concerning an altercation at the Denny’s Restaurant around 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 13 2013. The Ocean City Police responded to the parking lot of the Denny’s restaurant in the area of 112th Street for a reported weapons violation. A person identified as Stephen Dayaram Jagtiani, 30, of Falls Church, Va., threatened other visitors with a machete weapon because they questioned his aggressive driving through the restaurant’s parking lot, which endangered themselves and others. On Wednesday, July 17, 2013, during the midafternoon, Delaware State Police chased a dangerous man, armed with a machete down Coastal Highway. The chase involved other cars being hit before the man was apprehended for a hit-and-run accident in Rehoboth Beach. Albeit, this individual was not staying in Ocean City, his lack of regard for others adversely impacted our vacation resort communities. Just earlier this week, there were two additional fights involving knives.

Three men were arrested after a fight on a crowded downtown beach in the middle of a busy Sunday afternoon after an Ocean City Beach Patrol surf rescue technician was threatened. This reportedly occurred around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Ocean City Police responded to the beach at N. Division Street for a reported group of disorderly males. The request for assistance came from an Ocean City Beach Patrol lifeguard, who told police he approached the group to speak with them, at which time one of the suspects threatened him. An incident involving a Connecticut man, resulted in him being charged with first-degree assault this week after pulling a knife and nearly stabbing a resort bar owner during a scuffle. This particular incident occurred around 1:40 a.m. on Monday.

I suppose these four incidents should dispel the myth that seems to be held by OC Mayor and City Council that there is only an increase in crime during the month of June; then all peace and safety is magically restored in July and August. What a joke. When do they plan to wake up and take action to restore peace and safety in Ocean City, Md.?

I can’t imagine upper middleclass families wanting to continue coming to Ocean City to be exposed to these types of incidents.

Rachel Fiorello
Ocean City

Group Name Confusing
Editor:

After reading the article concerning the petition to stop the new paid parking areas two questions occurred to me that I would like to have someone from the Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice (OCTSJ) answer.

First is this petition demanding that all parking meters and paid parking be removed from Ocean City or are they just aiming to have the new meters removed. In other words, are they against all paid parking or only the paid parking that affects them? What about all the other people who have to pay to park?

It seems this petition is very narrow in scope and more like I don’t want my company to have to pay and the heck with everyone else. So it would be very informative to have someone answer that question.

Second, why is the name of their group Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice (OCTSJ). Why do all these new groups think it’s important to include the term social justice in their names? Just what does that have to do with paid parking?

Come on folks why not just name your group for what it is ..Ocean City Taxpayers for Free Parking Privileges?  Wouldn’t that be more to the point?

Len Bender
Ocean City

OCDC’s Importance
Editor:
Why should the citizens pay attention to who OCDC is and what they do?

Everyone has heard or read at some point about something that OCDC has done. But what are the real facts behind this organization that has been in existence for 12 years?

If we were to tell you that in the last 12 years, we’ve helped incrementally increase the property tax revenue by approximately $4 million it would certainly catch your attention. How, do you say, have you accomplished this?

The facts are that we are now completing our 140th Façade Project which by itself has increased the values of downtown properties by approximately $7 million. We have obtained 25 grants from the State of Maryland in excess of $1.5 million to help and encourage property owners to upgrade their properties.

How about public art in Ocean City? When you drive into town over the Route 50 Bridge, you see that marvelous statute of the white marlin. When you drive into town from the north, you see the wonderful statue of the eagle in flight on 142nd Street. At the new library on 100th St., there’s a statue of Mr. Soren reading to his daughter. As you park at the municipal lot on 4th Street, there’s the statue of a hawk. And not to mention the numerous utility boxes and walls that have been transformed with murals. These projects were done and paid for by OCDC and its fundraising efforts.

And what about the vision of transforming, altering and ultimately upgrading an open lot into what’s today the Sunset Park premier venue for free concerts, events and social activities that comes with those capturing sunsets? Somerset Plaza used to be a little used street that’s now a beautiful pedestrian area for exhibits, special events and strolls. These are a few of the many art projects of OCDC. Can you put a price on art, especially public one?

All of this was accomplished by the tireless efforts of citizens of Ocean City who really care about the image of the town not only today, but in the future. And this is only part of the challenges the group has faced and overcome.

I hope this will shed more light on the work of this group and better understanding of its accomplishments by the citizens of Ocean City.

Charlie Barrett
Ocean City

Voices From The Readers

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Reputation At Risk
Editor:
(The following letter was addressed to Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan.)

On July 12, 2013, I submitted a letter to your attention, and my closing statement was an indirect question, which stated, “At this time, as voters and permanent residents, we would like to know what actions you are taking to address these problems.”

Mr. Mayor, the question was indirect, not rhetorical; yet as of to date, I have not received a response from you as my mayor. The problems of increased crime, menacing and threatening, and overall low standard of behaviors from certain tourists persist. As permanent residents of Ocean City, we should not lower our expectations and standards of how people should behave simply because they visit our community for a brief period during the summer months. We live here all year round. This is our home and we have a right to want to see it protected, preserved and cherished. Just because the Town of Ocean City depends on tourism does not mean our citizenry should be victimized and intimidated by gangs, thugs, criminals and various undesirable inner city crowd who masquerade as tourists.

Typically, people rise to the level of expectation. So if we pass a decency ordinance that prohibits saggy pants, (or anything else that resembles indecent exposure in public), and public profanity; then we are at least beginning to voice our expectations of what we will and will not accept in our community.

I support you, Mr. Mayor, yet I do not know if it is a lack of leadership or denial that has hindered Ocean City’s politicians and law enforcement from galvanizing resources to stamp out these emerging problems that are clearly witnessed by your constituents. There is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Mr. Mayor, now is the time for you to lead Ocean City out of this mess by becoming proactive, while there is still time. I don’t believe you want your legacy to be remembered by Ocean City’s residents, and the general public, as the mayor who allowed Ocean City, Md. to be overtaken by ruffians.

If tourism money is a concern to the political leadership and businesses of Ocean City, Md., then let’s fast forward three years and recognize that without serious interventions to these issues, tourism in our town will tank. We can’t have a myopic view of these problems or be of the opinion that these are isolated incidents. We must consider the history of other vacation resorts that did take an early and aggressive stance with these types of issues. For example, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., took back Spring Break, Virginia Beach, Va. took back Bike Week and Wildwood, N.J. passed and is enforcing its city’s ordinance banning males wearing saggy pants. If these resort communities can take a stand and refuse to show cowardice in addressing criminal and offensive behaviors, so can we.

Mr. Mayor, people are looking for leadership on these matters. People are looking for political leadership in Ocean City, Md. to do the right thing. What is the right thing? Promote and provide public safety, and restore Ocean City’s reputation as a safe, clean, pristine and exclusive family resort. So, mayor, we are urging you to please take aggressive actions to resolve our community’s problems. In closing, I would like a response from you please to my question, “What are you and the council doing to address these concerns?”

Rachel Fiorello
Ocean City

Zero Tolerance Needed
Editor:
I appreciated reading about the Walk Smart Campaign last week.   

Encouraging everyone to use crosswalks via means of education such as the lighted signs and the newly painted "no pedestrian X-ing" on the seven-block stretch of Ocean City is a good start for sure, but I believe that more needs to be done in order to even begin to put a dent in this problem for us here in Ocean City.

As a resident here year-round, I continue to see people not using crosswalks. Young, old, people with small children, handicapped persons.  It pains me to say this, but it is only a matter of time before we experience other injuries and tragedies. I believe that very few individuals are choosing to abide by the painted “No Pedestrian Xing” signs and cross wherever it is simply convenient for them to cross.

Perhaps one idea that might curtail some of the j-walking in Ocean City is if some wall barriers were to be placed in various parts of Coastal Highway. This is a difficult problem to muster for sure. J-walking is something in many communities that is tolerated and not enforced and until there is a zero tolerance for j- walking, it will continue and we will experience additional injuries and losses of life.

Doug Antos
Ocean City

Smoke Alarm Law Change
Editor:

In an effort to help reduce fire fatalities, Maryland has put a stake in the ground. As of July 1, families that rely on battery-only operated smoke alarms in their homes need to upgrade to models with sealed-in, 10-year lithium batteries.

Working smoke alarms save lives. Nationally, two-thirds of all home fire deaths occur in residences with no smoke alarm or no working alarm. Last year, 53 Marylanders lost their lives in fires, nearly half of which happened in homes without smoke alarms or with inoperable alarms.  Already this year 41 Marylanders have died in residential fires. The main reason smoke alarms don’t work: dead or missing batteries. By installing alarms with sealed-in 10-year batteries, we remove the burden of homeowners having to remember to replace them, and provide families continuous protection for a decade.

It’s also important to have enough alarms. The law requires smoke alarms on each floor and in sleeping areas.  Studies show you have on average three minutes to escape from the time the first smoke alarm sounds. The sooner an alarm sounds, the more time you have to respond.

As a member of Maryland’s fire service for many years, I’ve seen too many fire tragedies. I urge you to not wait. Replace smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old with the new long-life sealed-in battery models and place them throughout your home.

These simple steps can help save lives.
Bruce D. Bouch

(The writer is the deputy State Fire Marshal Bruce D. Bouch and director of Public Education and Media Affairs for the Office of the State Fire Marshal.)

Where’s Compassion?
Editor:

Following a brief prayer opening the Mayor and Council Meeting on July 15, 2013, invoking the need for compassion on the part of those officials in carrying out their responsibilities, a public hearing was conducted concerning the partial elimination of overnight bus service from November to April. The issue was based on "budget discussions" earlier this year in which the council directed staff to review the matter for council consideration, Note that the paid parking issue also evolved during "budget discussions earlier this year and the council also directed the staff to review the matter for council consideration. Why does one issue require a public hearing while another issue does not?

Unfortunately the bus service reduction was approved, unanimously, largely because actual users of the service did not appear in person at the hearing to protest or speak to the issue. Several non-riders did speak suggesting alternative approaches but the council was not persuaded. Did the council consider that those who depend on the overnight service for their livelihood might actually be working at the time designated for the hearing? Do council members not recognize that they are responsible to all their constituents, not just those who show up or speak at meetings and hearings?

The staff, to its credit, did acknowledge that in fact there are approximately 40 or so actual users of the service, who will have to find other accommodations. So much for compassion for our fellow humans.

Joe Moran
Ocean City

A Way To Find Gross And Yield

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OCEAN CITY — With interest rates hovering around their historical lows, many investors in recent years have been looking beyond Treasuries and other high-quality bonds to dividend-paying stocks. But not all dividend-paying stocks are created equal. And in today’s markets, you might consider focusing on companies that are increasing their dividends. According to Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. Equity and Quantitative Strategy at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, these stocks have proved to be resilient during the volatility of the past several years.

Dividends were once associated with mature companies whose growth years were behind them. Today, however, increasing numbers of growth-oriented companies, including technology and service firms, have started to pay dividends. The current yields from those payments are often lower than the yields investors could get from more established stocks, but Subramanian says that in terms of total return potential, these younger companies might be able to outpace their more mature counterparts over the long term. "We’ve found that companies with lower current yields but growing dividends have historically outperformed higher-yielding stocks," she says. And dividend-growing stocks are currently inexpensive compared with high-yielding dividend stocks.

Subramanian and her team of analysts have identified four criteria that, taken together, may signal that a company’s dividend could be secure and likely to grow.

"You don’t want a company that has seen earnings jump around," Subramanian says. Wide swings may indicate that its profits—and the dividends that are paid out of those earnings — could be threatened during an economic downturn.

Payout ratios are the proportion of the profits that a company is currently distributing to shareholders. The advantage here goes to companies that are giving shareholders a lower percentage. "If a company is already paying out 90% of its earnings, there is no room for its dividend to go up," Subramanian notes. Instead, look for companies with dividends closer to 30% of earnings.

The lower this ratio, the more likely it is that the company will continue paying dividends. When the cost of financing rises, as it did during the credit crisis of 2008, highly leveraged companies could be forced to cut dividends and redirect those earnings to debt payments. In 2008 and 2009, more than 100 companies in the S&P 500 reduced their dividends.

To see how powerful such a record can be, suppose you bought a stock when its dividend yield was 3%. If the company then increased its payout by 15% each year for five years, the dividend yield on your original investment would double to 6%. Today, with average dividend payout ratios well below the historical average, "companies have the potential ability to deliver this type of dividend growth," Subramanian says.

As always, it’s important to work with your Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor to help make sure your investment choices are suitable to your needs and in line with your tolerance for risk, your long-term goals and your liquidity needs. While Subramanian notes that income from dividend-paying stocks may provide some downside protection—which could cushion the blow when stock prices fall—she also notes that they come with risks. "Dividends are not a guarantee that you won’t lose money," she points out. "But compared with focusing solely on capital appreciation, dividend-paying stocks may offer a defensive strategy for investors."

(A Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Advisor who can be reached at 410-213-8520.)

Voices From The Readers

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Arrogant OC Majority
Editor:

How very nice of our former City Manager and current City Councilman Dendis Dare to provide us with a basic civics lesson, thank you for the enlightenment.

In his long career as city manager, Mr. Dare was front and center and major author of our city operating budget along with the majority factions of the City Council, we all know how well that worked out (seen your real estate tax notice yet). The previous City Council attempted with some success to get a handle on employee salaries, number of employees, pension costs, interest on debt, etc. but were pillared by opponents including employee unions, chamber of commerce and the real estate interests for tightening the City’s fiscal belt. Then at election time these same interest groups rolled out the money to finance a "change" which we now get to pay for as taxpayers.

In the meantime, the council majority, here we go again, determines policy issues like paid parking, in the midst of budget discussions rather than in a public hearing. When called on this tactic, the majority claims that full discussion occurred (between council and staff) and now Mr. Dare assures us that the council directed the city manager to conduct "a comprehensive parking study" (unfunded of course), and in the interim assures us "no additional paid parking will be added … unless it is justified and widely accepted". Note there is no reference to a public hearing, funding or dates for a study; just trust us and quit complaining seems to be the attitude espoused by the council majority.

Well, folks, it is time for the resident taxpayers to say enough of this arrogance by the council majority, stop and listen for a change. The people elected you but still like to be included in discussion on issues, come down from your thrones occasionally, get practical and listen.

Joe Moran
Ocean City

Term Limits For OC
Editor:

Money, money, everywhere and all the bars did drink; money, money everywhere and all the crowds did shrink.

Fifty dollars to park all day at the Ocean City Inlet, on the 4th of July 2013? Unbelievable. And your Mayor and Council would have Ocean City residents and visitors look on this as a matter of convenience not for the revenue that will ensue. Come on people how naive are you/we expected to be? There’s the old saying about telling folks a tale like this, that there’s a bridge they’d like to sell you, if you’re this gullible.

Someone recently responded to this fantastic way out charge that the 4th of July is a national holiday and one, where in this instance, should be free parking for all who come into the resort area, to honor/celebrate our Independence from England. Not so, however, thanks to your money grubbing politicians.

Maryland is a Democratic state unfortunately and there is a clown in the Governors’ office named O’Malley who parallels his nibs in the White House — spend, spend, spend, tax, tax, tax.

As of July 1, already the local gas stations have jumped their price four cents per gallon; the Chesapeake Bay Bridge crossing was $4, is now $6 and these necessary items will get higher because of the philosophy of Democrats. It is a known fact that you cannot create prosperity by taxing the people, your base. This governor and the democratic legislators don’t give three hurrahs in hell about those they govern. When will you Marylanders awaken to what is happening to you and me and vote to the rascals out? You are too stupid to face the realities that are confronting you.

Here are some valuable facts: Detroit, Mich., first on the poverty rate list, hasn’t elected a Republican Governor since 1961; Buffalo, N.Y., second on the list, hasn’t, since 1954. There are a total of 10 major cities in this sad category of loving and fawning over their politicians, with Newark, N.J. being 10th, not electing a Republican since 1907. The famous Einstein once said, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Maryland voters, does this shoe fit? You damn well better believe it does.

Yesterday, I drove to the Wal-Mart large parking area where you can still recycle cans, paper, plastic, etc. No thanks to OC discontinuing this valuable service. Signs say please empty all bags, huh, these people who can’t read and understand, are voters, and more than likely voted for Hussein Obama, O’Malley, and how many other Damnocrats.? As I was driving to get on Route 50 from the parking area in my side mirror, I saw a car racing to pass me. When this Pennsylvania driver got to the stop sign, not a brake light was to be seen. Hey folks, that sign wasn’t there for him — I’d wager he voted for those D’s.

Ocean City needs/must have term limits for Mayor along with term limits for the U.S. Congress.

About taxes, as a non-resident owner, I pay OC taxes, county taxes, and state taxes and I can’t vote. Is this taxing without representation? There’s only one answer. Some years ago one of your council members, Margaret Pillas, wrote an article about the need to dissolve a tax differential system where Ocean City was/is paying a tax for services that are also being paid to Worcester County. A year later at the Caine Woods picnic, I questioned the lady about what relief had taken place following her desire to rectify this duplication, and she didn’t even know the name of the tax; she went to the mayor to ask him.

Finally, it has just occurred to me that aside from all the talk about placing parking meters almost everywhere, may I recommend two valuable sources for more, more money, that have not been discussed? There’s the valuable venerable Harry Kelley Route 50 bridge and the Route 90.These locations should have toll booths. What’s the matter with you grubbers? Why haven’t you thought about these? Just do it and depose Meehan for one.

Jerry Courtney
Ocean City

Cost Keep Climbing
Editor:

Last weekend we celebrated the 4th of July. The truth is the 4th of July is not a celebration of the birth of a nation, as many believe. What are we celebrating? It is the celebration of the birth of the revolutionary new idea that all men are created equal and are endowed with inalienable rights. Our birthright or endowment of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and equality under the law was declared in 1776 in our Declaration of Independence. For the first time, humankind was viewed as special and unique and recognized with inalienable rights.

Our endowment was given to all of us by God and our nature. It cannot be repealed by law or man. Based on these God given natural rights we were uniquely empowered to form a government. More importantly our declaration said "should any Form of Government become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter it or abolish it." These sacred rights, unique to mankind, was our precious endowment celebrated on July 4, 1776. Not the formation of a new government; that came later.

Endowed with these special rights, at last we the people were unique and special ourselves. From the beginning it was clear that our country was governed by the people, not the government. After our Declaration the people so empowered got together and first wrote, then ratified, our Constitution in1787, giving a stable governmental structure to our nation, eleven years after our July 4 Declaration. Key point: the Declaration for once and all settled it, the people were the boss, not the government.

It is important to recall these rights today, at this town meeting called to take our small town back from destructive governance. It is important to remember that it is not only our right it is our duty to purge the government from time to time as we deem it is needed.

The early stages of destructive governance always show elevated costs. Elevated costs largely come from extraordinary expenses to pay for unnecessary and destructive governance.

Increases in taxes, sky high assessments, fees, licenses, “use” taxes. Too many rules and ordinances to enforce equally!  If these symptoms of decline aren’t addressed, destructive governance always results in financial collapse, latter.

Tony Christ
Ocean City

Giving Back While Getting Away

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OCEAN CITY — Retired Americans are proving to be extremely generous, and their generosity extends far beyond money. They’re giving their time and experience in a very hands-on way to the causes they care most about. In fact, they have the highest volunteer rate of any age group — and any generation before them, according to Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering, a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Their desire to make a difference has also had a big impact on how they vacation. A safari, for instance, may include a week’s stay at a sanctuary to bottle-feed orphaned lion cubs. A trip to legendary Machu Picchu could extend to several months’ work helping to build schools in the Andes Mountains. Retirees who take on such projects are finding a warm reception for their efforts, particularly in such countries as Japan and India, which traditionally treat experience and age with reverence. "Volunteers over 50 often have an easier time integrating into the communities they’re assisting," says Doug Cutchins, one of the authors of Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others.

Many volunteer vacations sound alluring on paper, but midway through a backbreaking archeological dig you may have second thoughts.

As you research volunteer vacation opportunities, consider how many hours a day you want to work, the length of time you want to volunteer, the amount of physical labor you’re willing to perform, and the age range of the people you’ll be volunteering with, so you can find the best fit for yourself. Talking with others who have gone through the experience can help you get a better sense of each opportunity. Organizations should be eager to give you the names of past participants for reference, says Cutchins.

If you’re traveling abroad and you plan to stay in one place for several weeks, you may want to set up a local bank account. That way you can have the funds you’ll need to cover your living expenses.

"Since currencies fluctuate in value, it’s a good idea to arrange for periodic transfers of money rather than a lump sum," says Bill Hunter, director of Personal Retirement Solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Also, if you’re going to be away for a month or more, you’ll need to make financial arrangements to cover expenses at home and abroad. "You’ll have to continue to maintain your home and to pay property taxes and homeowner’s insurance as well as your utility bills while you’re gone." Depending on where you’re traveling and what activities you’ll be engaged in, you may also want to set aside extra money to cover emergency medical evacuation insurance. For those already retired, the timing of when you take extended travel can be critical.

"The market conditions under which you make withdrawals from your retirement accounts in early retirement can make a huge difference," Hunter says. "If the market is having a bad year, you’ll want to try to withdraw less" or at least slow your withdrawals in subsequent years so that your assets have a chance to recover. And make sure the cost of a volunteer vacation is in line with your long-term spending strategy, he says. "It’s natural to spend more in your early retirement years, but you also have to look down the road and anticipate higher spending later in life due to increasing health care costs."

Your financial advisor can help you create a thoughtful strategy for managing your income needs during your volunteer vacation, without jeopardizing your future security

(A Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Advisor who can be reached at 410-213-8520.)

What’s Your Sign?

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ARIES (March 21 to April 19): Your persistence pays off as the information you demanded starts to come through. The pace is slow at first, but it begins to speed up as the week draws to a close.TAURUS (April 20 to May 20): An unwelcome bit of news jolts the Bovine, who would prefer that things proceed smoothly. But it’s at most a momentary setback. A Leo brings more welcome tidings.GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): You need to pay close attention to the details before making a commitment. Don’t accept anything that seems questionable, unless you get an answer that can be backed up.CANCER (June 21 to July 22): Congratulations on getting that project up and running. But as exciting as it is, don’t let it carry you away. Make sure you set aside time to spend with family and friends. LEO (July 23 to Aug. 22): Be sure you’re part of the discussion involving your suggestions. Your presence ensures that you can defend your work, if necessary. It also helps gain your colleagues’ support.VIRGO (Aug. 23 to Sept. 22): A misunderstanding needs to be dealt with, or it can grow and cause more problems later on. Be the bigger person and take the first step to clear the air.LIBRA (Sept. 23 to Oct. 22): Set some strict guidelines for yourself so your heavier-than-usual work schedule doesn’t overwhelm the time you need to spend relaxing with loved ones.SCORPIO (Oct. 23 to Nov. 21): You might feel a little uncomfortable being among people you hardly know. But remember that today’s strangers can become tomorrow’s valuable contacts.SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 to Dec. 21): Reward yourself for all that you’ve accomplished despite some annoying situations that got in your way. Enjoy a well-earned getaway with someone special.CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 to Jan. 19): Realizing that someone else is taking credit for what you did is bound to get anyone’s goat, but especially yours. Be patient. The truth soon comes out.AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 to Feb. 18): Forget about opposites attracting. What you need is to find someone who thinks like you and will support your ideas, even if others say they’re too radical.PISCES (Feb. 19 to March 20): Workplace problems can affect your financial plans. Be prudent and avoid running up bills or making commitments until things begin to ease up by the 26th.BORN THIS WEEK: Your intuition helps you communicate easily with people and understand their needs.

(c) 2013 King Features Syndicate

Voices From The Readers

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Support For Veto
Editor:

While I applaud the Mayor for refusing to sign the paid-parking ordinance, he now looks askance at those who continue to oppose this ill-advised legislation, questioning their motives, etc.

The more direct approach of invoking his veto power would have effectively killed the ordinance since there were not enough votes to override his veto. The council majority now has the votes to rescind the ordinance and start afresh. Does it have the will to do so? We shall see. This latter approach would short circuit the supposed opposition that the Mayor and Council now seem to see lurking in the shadows and provide an opportunity for a fully open hearing on the matter, to permit public input on the issue and remove it from the budget process where it didn’t belong in the first place, effectively hidden from public view. The recently purchased meters should be moved to the surplus list, as was done years ago, in a previous aborted attempt to impose paid parking, or to the Boardwalk Museum with other relics, (Interesting how that purchase sped through the process when other things take so long!!) Those residents who so recently and effectively sought to change the Council makeup may now be wondering what happened on the way to "change".

Joe Moran
Ocean City

Parking Pass For
Residents Needed
Editor:

I am sure I am not the only unhappy resident that you are hearing from, but these new parking meters are going to severely hurt those of us who live here all year-round.

I understand there needs to be a way to make some revenue, but why can’t we be offered a seasonal parking pass? Clearly, spending $1.50 an hour is an outrageous price for us to have to pay to enjoy our beaches. This is so disheartening to know that I no longer can afford to just take a few hours to read a book in one of my favorite places because I can no longer afford it. I am not opposed to pay-to-park, but I am opposed that those of us who live here cannot get a break to do so.

I would hope that at some point in the future, a seasonal parking pass could be offered, so we can continue to take advantage of the beauty that is before us without breaking the bank. What can be done to make this happen?

C. Hansbury
Ocean City

Dissatisfied In OC
Editor:

Attention parents and grandparents, Ocean City is no longer a safe place for your children and grandchildren and has lost sits family friendly image.

Drive a few miles north to Bethany Beach and experience a safe, smoke free, family resort, where you can feel comfortable leaving your pre-teen and teenagers to roam the Boardwalk and streets in the evening without having to deal with the gangs, drug dealers, and violence that has become prevalent on the Ocean City Boardwalk. The beach and boardwalk in Bethany Beach is smoke free, so your children will not be exposed to second hand smoke, which causes cancer and respiratory diseases. You will also save money by doing your shopping and dining in Delaware resorts, where you avoid the 6% Maryland sales tax and the Ocean City restaurant tax. 
Ocean City elected officials appear to be unwilling to return the city to a family friendly resort. They sponsor motorcycle weekends and hot rod car events that attract a bad element to the city and generate a noise problem throughout the city. They refuse to address the second hand smoke issue on the beaches and Boardwalk as well as the liter problem that cigarette butts generate. They raise taxes that increase your cost to vacation in Ocean City.

Most of you who come to Ocean City to vacation cannot vote in Ocean City elections. The only way to show your dissatisfaction with the lack of action by OC officials to again make OC family friendly is to vote with your feet and your wallet. Nearby Delaware beckons you.
David Fox
Ocean City


Parking Stance Explained

Editor:
I would like to explain my support of the minimal increase of paid parking spaces in Ocean City.

Balancing the needs and wants of residents and visitors with the ability to pay for them is difficult. During this spring’s budget process, the City Council contemplated several relatively small measures to bring some services more in line with needs and to expand some revenue in a way that would better serve everyone.
The town’s revenue sources can be roughly cut in half: property taxes account for half, while the other half comes from assorted user fees.

If you enroll in an activity at Northside Park, you pay a user fee. Stay in a hotel and the user fee is in the form of room tax. Build a house and you pay a permit fee because you are using the services of the building department. Board a bus and pay a user fee in the form of bus fare.
Property taxes are collected from property owners and go toward services that benefit everyone, such as police and fire protection and trash collection. On the other hand, user fees such as from parking meters are paid only by those who use the service.
Adding paid parking to South Philadelphia Avenue, 131st Street bayside and the lots at City Hall and the Public Safety Building promotes the turnover of spaces for customers in commercial areas, instead of those spaces being used by employees and others who may park there all day.
Adding paid parking to 49th and 146th streets oceanblock provides spaces for the many visitors who drive into town and need a place to park while they enjoy our world-class beach.

When this very limited number of new paid parking spaces was approved, the Council directed the City Manager to prepare a proposal for developing a comprehensive parking study.

No additional paid parking will be added in Ocean City unless it is justified and widely accepted.
If services are cut, some complain that they should not be; if taxes are increased, others complain about over-taxation. I believe that user fees are a fair way to pay for services being rendered. You just can’t have it both ways.

Dennis W. Dare
Ocean City
(The writer is an Ocean City Council member.)

What’s Your Sign?

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ARIES (March 21 to April 19): Don’t be Sheepish about asking questions and demanding answers. You not only gain needed information, but also respect for your steadfast search for the truth.TAURUS (April 20 to May 20): A money problem that shows up early in the week is expeditiously resolved by savvy Bovines who know how to turn a momentary financial lapse into a monetary gain.GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): It’s a good time to shed negative energy-draining forces and develop a positive approach to handling current, as well as upcoming, personal and/or professional situations.CANCER (June 21 to July 22): Your urge to do your best on a current task is commendable. But don’t let it become all-consuming. Spend some spiritually restorative time with those who love you.LEO (July 23 to Aug. 22): This could be a good time for all you Leos and Leonas to take your bows for your recent achievements and then go off to enjoy some fun times with your prides and joys.VIRGO (Aug. 23 to Sept. 22): A negative response to a well-intentioned suggestion could communicate a sense of distrust you might later find hard to refute. Think carefully before reacting.LIBRA (Sept. 23 to Oct. 22): Your loving attention comforts a family member who is feeling a bit out of sorts. But be careful to prioritize your time so you don’t neglect your work duties.SCORPIO (Oct. 23 to Nov. 21): Your curiosity might be resented by some. But those who know you will support your penchant for never settling for less than the truth. So stay with it.SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 to Dec. 21): A pesky situation from the past recurs, albeit in an altered form. Deal with it promptly before it can go from merely irksome to decidedly troublesome.CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 to Jan. 19): Don’t wait too long to submit your proposals after giving them a last look-over. If necessary, you should be able to defend any portion called into question.AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 to Feb. 18): A bid to use your workplace dispute-settling skills in another situation is tempting. But be careful: You might not have all the facts you’ll need if you agree to do it.PISCES (Feb. 19 to March 20): That sense of self-doubt is so untypical of you, you should have no qualms in shaking it off. Remind yourself of all you’ve done and can do, and then do it again.BORN THIS WEEK: Your ability to charm others without sacrificing sincerity is what makes people want to follow your leadership.(c) 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.