The unruly and unsafe atmosphere that has dominated Cruisin weekend in recent years must be addressed in some fashion, but the reality is impact changes will prove difficult. The key here is bringing some sense of control to the mayhem because currently the weekend has spiraled into craziness.
There has to be some way to reach the troublemakers, which largely consists of the entitled bunch who come to Ocean City to wreak havoc. It’s the same sort of societal problems associated with the unregistered participants with the VW event in the fall. Generally, young people lack an appropriate moral compass, and there may be no greater and disturbing place to see this on display than in Ocean City, a melting pot of socio-economic profiles on a tiny land mass.
The main three issues I observe from this weekend have to do with the three T’s — traffic, trash and trouble.
Traffic: This is probably the least controllable aspect of the event. It’s a matter of critical mass overwhelming the infrastructure of Ocean City. When it gets jammed up like it was last weekend on Friday and Saturday, there’s simply nowhere to go. The immediate concern has to be emergency response times and how if a major situation unfolded on 100th Street bayside at 4 p.m. last Saturday how would responders from either of the two fire houses a couple miles away be able to provide any sort of timely response. The bus lane was not an option last weekend.
Trash: On Sunday morning, specifically, the town was literally trashed. Excluding the side streets, which were also in various states of disarray from litter, the amount of beer cans, disposable food containers and other garbage was disgusting. It’s simply unacceptable. There’s an open container law in Ocean City that’s unenforceable apparently on this weekend because law enforcement is stressed in other areas.
People were seen all over town with coolers full of beer watching from the sidewalks on Coastal Highway. More often than not, they left their cans behind in landscaping or on the street and sidewalks. The only way to reach these people is to put feet on the streets. Ocean City doesn’t have the personnel to do it. Therefore, other agencies need to be brought in to provide personnel to patrol the highway. It will cost money, but it’s the only way to combat this issue.
Trouble: It’s broad intentionally because there needs to be a catch-all for all the associated ill-effects, such as the blatant violations of the noise code and traffic, parking and open container laws and destruction of property and public decency. More than 1.5 million people saw the video posted on social media of a corvette entering Coastal Highway, doing a donut and spinning out for a block. The skid marks are still there today as well as all over the rest of town. That was just one of many videos that should disturb everyone, even those profiting from the event. There has to be a happy medium.
Cruisin weekend is a sticky wicket. There’s no question it’s an economic benefit for most businesses, particularly the hotels. Officials seemed to say all the right things this week. There was some lipstick put on the proverbial pig, but most seemed to agree adjustments are required. Whatever changes were put in place in between the 2014 event and this year went largely unnoticed. Instituting moves between now and next spring resulting in the same lack of progress is the only unacceptable conclusion moving forward.
There was never a doubt Worcester residents would be forking over more to their government in the coming months, but this week the cloudy picture cleared a bit. The news is bad, but it needs to be balanced with the fact most of the so-called “new money” the county will be receiving is needed to continue to support public education at levels supported by the most vocal members of the community.
Even with the 6.5-cent property tax increase and 40-percent jump to the county’s income tax rate, which will remain the lowest in the state, the county school system’s budget request had to be trimmed by more than $3 million.
This week’s tax increases can be best grasped with an example to keep it simple. For a married couple making a combined $75,000 a year with a home valued at $300,000, their bill to the county will increase by $477 annually — the income tax adjustment will mean $282 more will come out of their paychecks and the property tax hike will mean forking over $195 more.