Nearly 60 years of experience in elected office were reflected on this week in Snow Hill, as Worcester County Commissioners Judy Boggs, elected back in 2002, Louise Gulyas, in office since 1998, Jim Purnell, sworn in back in 1996, and Virgil Shockley, elected in 1998, attended their last meeting. Gulyas, Boggs and Purnell are retiring, while Shockley lost his seat for District 4 earlier this month.
I expect some big changes with the County Commissioners over the next year. The seven-member commission, featuring four newcomers, is now as top-heavy as it has ever been with only one commissioner residing in the south part of the county. In fact, as a result of Shockley’s defeat to Whaleyville resident Ted Elder, Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw is the only commissioner residing south of Berlin. It will be interesting to observe whether this has any bearing on votes and discussions in the coming months.
One matter I expect to get immediate attention is the televising of commissioner meetings. Commissioner-Elect Joe Mitrecic, the former Ocean City councilman who will replace Gulyas as Ocean City’s representative on the commission, has made no bones about his intention to make the elected body more transparent. The first goal is to explore the technology needed to begin videotaping the meetings and having them available at a minimum on the Internet and possibly on public access channels. Mitrecic would like to see Worcester County operate in a similar fashion as Ocean City when it comes to televising meetings and have them archived on its website.
This topic has surfaced in the past and it was widely known there was major reluctance among some of the senior commissioners, particularly the one who frequently slept through the meetings behind the dais.
With that obstacle out of the way, the commissioners would be wise to make this happen immediately. There’s no need to overthink it. Mitrecic plans to seek a public vote on the matter soon after being sworn in next month and that’s a good thing. A no vote on this matter would be unacceptable. It would mean opposing increased transparency and improved citizen knowledge as to how the county operates from a government perspective.
When Mitrecic first took office in Ocean City, he was a quiet councilman who was reserved for the most part. I don’t expect him to follow that blueprint in his first days on the County Commission as he has been outspoken on three goals — getting the meetings recorded and available for public consumption in some form, resolving the oft-discussed tax differential matter and having Ocean City answer its own 911 calls rather than they be routed first to Snow Hill and then transferred to Ocean City.
Shame once again on the real estate company that continues to make waves for Ocean City on the Internet. To be honest, I was conflicted on an article even be written on this flawed report, which calls Ocean City the fourth most dangerous places to live in Maryland based off crime data compared to population.
On one hand, I felt like we were simply feeding into the company’s goal — bringing traffic to its website and gaining notoriety. On the other hand, since the information was being disseminated across several Internet platforms and shared on social media, I felt the situation needed some balance and the city deserved a chance to rebut the claims once again. In the end, the latter won out and a predictable story was published.
The city spokespeople were right in calling the survey “misleading” and “inaccurate” because it does not account for the major population shifts during the various weather seasons. It’s that simple. I hope this is the last story written about it.
The ramifications of this month’s election are being felt across the state. Locally, the most significant result was arguably long-time Delegate Norm Conway’s loss to Delmar Mayor Carl Anderton.
Conway, the former educator and Wicomico administrator, was defeated as a result of the largely anti-Democratic wave that ruled the state. Prior to his defeat, Conway was the second most powerful delegate in Maryland behind House Speaker Michael Busch as chair of the critical House Appropriations Committee, which basically decides how the state’s budget is organized and allocated. Although there’s no disputing the political winds had much to do with his defeat, others in his home district argue Conway was focused too much on matters in Annapolis and did not spend enough time mixing it up with his home constituents.
All of that is history now and this week the other proverbial shoe dropped, as Busch named Baltimore Delegate Maggie McIntosh to replace Conway. McIntosh was essentially promoted from chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee to the new role.
What will be interesting to see from here on out is how this change affects funding for shore projects. In unprecedented fashion, Conway’s staff sent a letter to the editor to this paper this week along with an extensive outline of projects he has helped secure funding for on the shore to demonstrate the impact of his defeat.
Does one person make that much of a difference? By the end of the next legislative session in April of 2015, the answer to that should be well known.