‘Deep Decline’ Questioned
Thank you to all of the candidates who have chosen to run for City Council in Ocean City including both incumbent members as well as some new personalities that much of the community has recently come to know.
Most recently I appreciated last week’s publication of your paper where an expanded question/answer session was published for the several new candidates who are in the run and provides an excellent tool for us Ocean City voters to cast our ballots for those who we feel might best represent our town.
Earlier this month, it was decided upon from our elected officials that prospective candidate Philip Ufholz had been disqualified from running for council as a result of failing to prove grounded residence in Ocean City. Subsequently after reading about the meeting which led to the decision to disqualify Mr. Ufholz, I received some education regarding Proof of Residency.
My purpose for writing in was not to cast judgment on Mr. Ufholz personally nor to reflect my personal opinion on the outcome of his candidacy determined eligibility. What does concern me is why Mr. Ufholz feels as though, “The current crowd in charge of our beloved city is going to lead it into deep decline.” That quote was published at the end of Mr. Ufholz’s thoughts and opinion as to what ultimately led to his being disqualified from running from the Ocean City Council.
Respectfully, I can understand how this is very difficult for Mr. Ufholz. He obviously does not agree with the council’s decision to disqualify him from running. To suggest that the current membership of council will lead us into “deep decline”, as you refer to, I do not believe will happen. What I do believe is that all incumbent members, whether re- elected or not, as well as any running candidates who may be elected to council with this upcoming election, will all do their best to serve Ocean City the very best that they can.
This is to inform everyone that this year’s Ocean City Prayer Breakfast is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 12. Please mark this date on your calendars, additional information will be coming in a few weeks.
During a meeting this month, Tony Christ’s behavior towards the Mayor, Council President and the rest of the new majority was unacceptable. He has constantly harassed and been disrespectful to them for years. I believe all the anger he directs at them has to do with envy and jealousy. They are highly regarded by the citizens of Ocean City. This is evident by their landslide victory in the last election. The mayor received a staggering 2,238 votes to his opponent’s dismal 629 votes. Council member Dennis Dare received 1,952 votes, the largest number of votes ever recorded in Ocean City for a Council seat. Council member Mary Knight captured 1,853 votes. Joe Mitrecic took 1,778 votes and Doug Cymek received 1,680 votes. Their two primary opponents, Jim and Joe Hall, were far behind, Jim Hall only grabbed 929 votes while Joe Hall was far behind coming in seventh place with only 809 votes. Council members Dare, Knight and Mitrecic won more votes than both Jim and Joe Hall combined. Councilman Cymek was only 55 votes shy of beating the Halls’ combined votes.
Tony Christ cannot even get 55 people to attend his OC Taxpayers for Social Justice meeting. It is my understanding that only 25 people showed up at his last meeting and within an hour only eight people were left. Compare this pitiful showing to Joe Groves’ Citizens For Ocean City rallies that would easily attract 350 people at any meeting.
Mayor Meehan and this new majority are electable, credible, popular and relevant, four things Tony Christ will never be.
It is Tony’s inability to replicate that kind of political success that is the source of his rage. I want to emphasize that Tony’s primary purpose when he speaks before the council is not fiscal responsibility as he claims, but to discredit the mayor and new majority. Not to worry, because Tony Christ is losing on all fronts. His message that no one knows what they are doing except him and Council member Pillas is not well received by the citizens. All of his smears, false and slanderous statements, phony charts and statistics have gained no traction in the community.
Tony’s inability to generate any success in the public arena does not excuse his disgraceful behavior in this chamber. He has been accusatory and insulting to the mayor, the city manager and most of the council. He has been warned by the police about his conduct in the council chamber on a number of occasions. He has been ejected from the council chamber for cursing at the mayor. If Tony Christ cannot control his misguided anger in this chamber, then more serious considerations should be taken to keep him inline. It is necessary to have a thick skin for anyone who wants to enter public service. However, the mayor and members of the council do not deserve to be treated in such a disrespectful way. His conduct should not be allowed to continue.
Council Erred In
Being a non-resident property owner in Ocean City, I would not ordinarily be inclined to comment on local politics. However, the circumstances surrounding the Ocean City Council’s decision to disqualify Philip Ufholz’s candidacy for a seat on the Council is something that requires a closer look. Others have commented on the ethics of having council members who are seeking office being in the position of voting to disqualify competing candidates so I will limit my comments to the merits of the council majority vote to disqualify Mr. Ufholz.
Several arguments were advanced to prove or disprove Mr. Ufholz’s Ocean City residency. According to the articles that have been written, Mr. Ufholz offered his senior bus pass, his driver’s license showing an Ocean City address, his voter registration records showing that he voted in Ocean City during the past three elections, a copy of his State of Maryland Tax returns showing Ocean City residency, and a letter from his neighbor asserting he was a permanent resident. The chief arguments against Mr. Ufholz advanced by attorney Jay Phillips who represents a Group called “Citizens For Ocean City” was that Mr. Ufholz’s property tax records do not show his Ocean City property as his primary residence and that utility bills are mailed to Bethesda rather than his Ocean City address.
I strongly feel that we should question the motives of groups desiring to disqualify candidates just as we should challenge groups desiring to prevent citizens from exercising their right to vote.
However, for the moment, I want to focus on the council majority that voted 5-2 to disqualify Mr. Ufholz. The property tax record used against Mr. Ufholz was his failure to file for a Homestead Credit by claiming his Ocean City property as his primary residence. While it is a violation of law to claim Ocean City residency for property tax purposes when you live elsewhere, there is no requirement to file for the exemption when you become a resident. Frankly, there would have been no reason for Mr. Ufholz to file. From the time that he became a resident through the current assessment cycle, property assessments and resulting taxes have been on the decline. The Homestead exemption shelters residents from property tax increases but is useless if the taxes do not increase as was the case during this period. And the argument regarding where his bills are mailed is equally ridiculous. I have many items mailed to my P.O. Box rather than my residence, but certainly have not established residence at the Post Office.
The single piece of evidence presented which was largely overlooked by both sides in this debate was Mr. Ufholz’s voting record. Approximately 10 years ago, a group of non-resident property owners was formed in an interest to address the strangle hold Ocean City and Worcester County has on non-resident property owners — the ability to increase our property taxes without limit while sheltering Ocean City voters via the lowest Homestead exemption in the state. The group’s reading of the voting laws in Maryland was that if a Maryland resident owned property in Ocean City as well as another area of the state, that person could elect to register to vote in either Ocean City or the other area, but not in both areas. Several Marylanders who were non-resident property owners cancelled their voting status back home and registered to vote for the upcoming Ocean City election. Fearing that the non-resident vote would adversely affect their upcoming candidacy, the Mayor and Council sought and obtained a ruling from the Maryland Attorney General that it would be unlawful for someone to register and vote in Ocean City if Ocean City was not their primary residence.
Mr. Ufholz presented evidence that he had voted in Ocean City during the past three elections. Based on the legal opinion the Mayor, Council, and their attorney sought several years ago, Mr. Ufholz broke the law in voting in those three elections if he was not a resident of Ocean City. Yet the council majority chose to ignore the very legal opinion it desperately sought years ago and based its decision on a couple of meaningless allegations. Why?
Response To Story
On OC Homeless
Poor Ms. Groves, sitting in her warm, lush, privileged Penthouse at the Belmont Towers upset about the homeless men and women on the Boardwalk. Oh, wait, she doesn’t want a solution to their problem. Ms. Groves doesn’t want to help them rather she wants someone to “get rid of them.”
What would Jesus say? Get rid of them like they were cockroaches or lice. I think Jesus would want the citizens of Ocean City to find a way to help these poor unfortunate souls. They are after all, human beings with feelings and needs like hunger and housing.
When I did my research, I discovered that there was only one place that housed the homeless. That place was Diakonia but they are full and there is a waiting list. Various churches provide lunches but there is no lodging for the homeless. I think we need to form a committee and come up with some solution other than “to get rid of them.”
We who are more fortunate should have a moral conscience to help those less fortunate. If I were Ms. Groves, I would be embarrassed by my comments on this matter. By the way, I live one block from Belmont Towers.
Priscilla P. Zytkowicz