The reprint of the 2005 interview by Shawn Soper with The Dispatch founder Dick Lohmeyer in the Aug. 29 issue was pure joy to read. Dick was one of a kind.
I worked for him as a reporter and then editor of the Maryland Coast Press during the mid-70s, when Mayor Harry Kelley was, indeed, the paper’s nemesis.
We dueled with the mayor almost weekly, with the unsigned Insider column taking the shots that most incensed Mr. Kelley. Although the authorship will remain a secret, the column’s content certainly reflected the publisher’s irreverent views toward posturing politicians and the insidious growth of government bureaucracy at all levels.
To be fair, looking back years later, I would now actually agree with some of what the mayor did, such as cracking down on indecent and obscene T-shirts on the Boardwalk. The Coast Press newsroom at the time was abuzz with high-minded talk about “censorship” and the First Amendment. I don’t recall Dick, however, getting exercised like us whippersnappers who were fresh out of college. He knew Ocean City thrived as a family-centered resort and chose to pick other fights with the mayor. A fierce defender of freedom of the press, he nonetheless did not fall for the fiction that the Constitution prohibits public decency laws.
In the same vein, I see the current City Council doing its best to protect civility within legal boundaries.
Good for them. And good for The Dispatch’s measured editorials on the issue.
The Dispatch is, as Dick had envisioned, 30 years after its founding, still chockfull of news, colorful ads and all things Ocean City.
I look forward to my mailed copy every week. Keep up the good work.
(The writer is a Washington Times columnist and Senior Fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.)
Better Vetting Will
Help Rental Issues
At the public hearing on R1 and MH rentals held by the Planning and Zoning Commission, most of the real estate agents and owners that rent expressed a desire to enforce the existing codes and not make any changes. Interestingly, all of their comments concerning enforcement dealt with the police department’s enforcement of the codes. None of them mentioned that enforcement should begin with them when they continually rent to more than four unrelated people or to more people than the codes allow.
To the R1 and MH home owners that have been impacted by rentals that exceed these, it seems to us that the agents and owner/renter must do a better job of vetting and be held accountable.
If you read the websites of the rentals for R1 and MH, I have yet to see these limit restrictions. I believe the websites should be immediately changed to reflect these code restrictions. Additionally, some change must be made to eliminate mini-week rentals. These seem to attract large groups who individually spend less than a good hotel or motel and exceed the occupancy limits and unrelated status.
If no changes are made, we can expect to continue to have the same problems. Is better enforcement required? Yes. But it has to begin with the agents and owner/renter.
Gerald T. McAllister
Pines Should Weigh
Beach Alcohol Service
(The following letter was also sent to the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors.)
I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to all members of the Board for your service to our community.
I’m sure you all have agendas for continuing to make Ocean Pines a great place to live, but I would like to offer a few ideas for your consideration, particularly in the area of increasing our revenues.
You are probably aware of the legislation extending gambling in the Maryland casinos to include table games. The legislation distributes 80% the table game revenue to the Casino Operators and 20% to the State Education Fund. However, a little known provision in the legislation changes the distribution in 2017 to 15% to the State Education Fund and 5% to local jurisdictions. That can all change with a stroke of the pen between now and 2017. So I ask the Board to monitor the issue to ensure Ocean Pines continues to get their fair share of the revenue and to ensure the revenue continues to be distributed directly to us and is not distributed through the County as was originally proposed for slots revenue distribution.
When the Ocean Club next door to our Beach Club closed, it resulted in a void in available alcoholic beverage service for the beach goers in the area. By not modifying our Beach Club liquor license to an unlimited license to take advantage of that void and to enable us to serve alcoholic beverages not only to OPA members and their guests, but all adult beach goers, I believe our Association has allowed tens of thousands of dollars to slip through our fingers.
Now is the time to modify our liquor license to increase Beach Club revenue because currently there are no nearby competition on our side of the street that can object to our license application. That situation can change at any time. For example, our next door neighboring condo has restaurant space for sale or lease. That restaurant will surely have a license to serve alcoholic beverages. I also believe that we should endeavor to protect our interests. If the licensing authority was to discover that one of our employees served alcoholic beverages to someone other than an association members or guest of a member, even inadvertently, at the very least we would be subjected to fines and it would jeopardize our current liquor license as well.
Ocean Pines being Ocean Downs’ close neighbor puts us in a unique position to jointly promote our facilities. The owner of Ocean Downs also owns Delaware Park and a nearby golf course. Delaware Park offers casino, golf, restaurants and hotel packages. Ocean Downs only has a casino and Ocean Pines has the rest, golf, restaurants, swimming, tennis, and even rentals. We should be partnering with Ocean Downs for our mutual benefit. This is an opportunity for new revenue and we should expedite that before other facilities and/or municipalities beat us to it.
For the past two or three years, the OPA has requested a recreation grant from the county. That’s something we richly deserve with all of the facilities we make available to the general public. I hope the Board will continue to pursue a recreation grants in the next budget period, and going forward as well.
Some would say that the fees the general public contributes to our amenities subsidizes our Association, while others would say that the Associations assessments are subsidizing our amenities for the general public. Either way you want to look at it, I think it is only fair that the general public’s fees should represent our actual cost of their participation in each specific amenity. It appears to me that the general public now pays a very nominal fee, slightly higher than our Association member’s fees. With that in mind, I suggest we study our amenities and develop an allocation of the actual individual’s operating cost for all of our amenities. That would also be valuable information to have for controlling costs and developing all fees.
Enforce Existing Laws
Decades ago, Ocean City adopted zoning laws to preserve a few residential neighborhoods with R-1 designations. The entire town was never intended to become a single commercial rental district. Even in R-1 areas, those seeking rental income to offset the expense of ownership have bent the rules and prevailed over residents’ desire for a peaceful community. Year-round residents just had to “suck it up” and most did, understanding the nature of a visitor oriented economy.
The town has not enforced current R-1 zoning laws which limit renters to no more than “four unrelated people.” For various reasons the long intended protection for R-1 communities has lapsed. We are told the town administrators can’t enforce R-1 zoning. The zoning code could be enforced through steep business license penalties and fines to both rental managers and absentee owners. By contrast, the alcohol licensing board enforces liquor laws with fines and penalties to license holders.
Any new “special” zoning as has been suggested would only be to accommodate those abusing current laws. Residents are already protected under existing zoning.
Mrs. Gorman complained in an Aug. 31 issue of The Washington Post article that her business license has been threatened and her renters harassed. Mrs. Gorman needs to understand that her actions and those of her tenants and her rental agents have caused her problem. She is not the victim, she is the perpetrator.
(The writer is a former member of the Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals and a former Mallard Island resident.)
IRS Issue Needs Attention
I have to wonder why there are more investigations being done by the press, T.V. reporters, women’s rights groups, the FBI, politicians, talk show hosts, and independent investigators, and other groups into finding out the timeline when the Baltimore Ravens organization, the NFL, and Commissioner Roger Goodell and other parties had seen the newly released tapes of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident. It is being covered around-the-clock by the all of the media.
Meanwhile, a very serious matter within the United States government concerning the IRS and Lois Lerner has been practically ignored. Ray Rice is out of football. Lois Lerner chose to exercise her Fifth Amendment rights and declined to answer questions at a congressional hearing regarding the manner in which she treated perceived members of the “Tea Party” and “patriotic” groups. Following the hearing, she took a vacation to Canada. Emails are finally being uncovered that outline her treatments of members of these groups. She has since received a promotion. Her delays helped in the last election and have been going on for years. We still do not know from how far up the political ladder her orders came.
Sports are entertaining to many and sports figures are constantly in the spotlight. Ray Rice will soon be forgotten. Lois Lerner and the treatment of U.S. citizens by the IRS while under her leadership has received very little attention. The IRS knows everything about you and me.
Are we the next “target” for such treatment? And to make you even more comfortable, remember that the IRS will control Obamacare. I hope you can sleep well tonight.
John F. (Jay) Stulz
(The following is a copy of a letter addressed to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.)
I don’t see why you would hesitate to accept our offer to help to purge the Ocean City, Md. voter roll? Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice would request that you instruct Snow Hill to mail a change of status voter confirmation to each person that we discover to be deceased or no longer living at that address. If there is no response within a reasonable period, we would request they be purged. This would be a simple cost effective way to come up with a list with reasonable errors. It should not be up to us to submit a so-called “administrative complaint” and attend a hearing on more than 1,000 names we believe are bogus. This would be costly for the state and costly as well as unreasonable for us. Governor you keep the list, we don’t.
1. We came up with our claim of 22.3% erroneous names by extrapolating from our sample of 15.2% of the total voter role. We used the 5,100-person active role. We did not use the 1,700-person inactive role, which presumably did not vote in the last election and were sent confirmation notices and did not respond.
2. Our study did not cross reference the 5,100 active voters against those that voted in the 2012 presidential election.
3. Our study did not cross reference those who voted to see if they were actually residents of Ocean City.
4. Our study did not account for those who have died, say within the last six months and might be subtracted from the voter roll. However, it did discover more than 10 who had died before 2000 on the active voter role.
5. Our study did not, we believe, overstate erroneous names on the list, however the law allows erroneous names to exist on the active list for at most two years, until the second election when they do not vote at which time they should be purged. We believe a fair number of names on the active list have been inactive for more than four years (two election cycles). Two election cycles is the rule for purging from the inactive list.
6. You must remember that we only were able to make contact with on average 50% of the voters on any given street. This despite returning twice or more to a fair number of our streets. We assume that these people that we can’t contact as well as the inactive list will mimic the profile of those that we did contact on the active list. In fact, I believe the reality of the inactive list as well as those we are unable to contact will prove to be worse than the 22.3% we found to be erroneous.