The street performers need to go about their gripes in a different fashion. Playing the victim through a bitter approach — a result of an “us vs. them” mentality — is not helping them in the public arena. The fact is Ocean City is willing to work with the performers and officials have demonstrated that over the last few weeks.
Most people support what Ocean City has done with the street performers. Instead of it being just a free-for-all, as it has been the last couple summers, there is now some order on the Boardwalk. The registration process for select sites is working and achieving the goal of maintaining the integrity of the Boardwalk and ensuring public safety.
Additionally, contrary to what the street performers allege, the city has shown a willingness to listen to concerns expressed and to make changes that do not require any action on the ordinance approved in July. There are several examples of this, including the city choosing to remove a sign on Talbot Street that made performing in the designed location troublesome as well as leaving some wiggle room on the 15-minute rule.
Mayor Rick Meehan was right this week to dismiss a speaker’s accusations the city crafted the regulations to ruin street performers.
“It was commented that we did this to make your lives miserable. Well that is ridiculous. We spent hours upon hours working with a committee, attorneys and listening to all the street performers in trying to put an ordinance together that worked,” he said. “Nothing was meant to cause problems for the street performers. They [regulations] were meant to try to make it better up there for everybody.
In fairness to the street performers, I understand their basic umbrage. In essence, the rules were changed in the middle of the game on them. That’s been my only reservation with this entire street performer process. The new regulations were not approved until June and didn’t go into effect until late July — two thirds of the way through the peak season.
However, the street performers should have been aware of the looming changes. They have been under discussion for months with considerable media coverage along the way, and there was ample opportunity for concerns to be expressed ahead of time. It was those numerous chances to weigh in on proposals on the table that helped lead to the delay in implementation in some cases.
It seems to me the street performers will not be appeased generally until the registration process at City Hall is stopped. It’s the fact twice a week they have to go to City Hall and reserve their spaces that has been their biggest beef. The fact is that’s not going anywhere anytime soon because it’s critical to allow the city to maintain some order on the Boardwalk.
Worcester County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic is right to use his experience in Ocean City to encourage his fellow commissioners to change the way the county handles health insurance for retired employees’ spouses and dependents.
Back in late May, Mitrecic and Commission President Jim Bunting were unsuccessful in their bid to eliminate dependents from retired employees’ health insurance coverage. The issue resurfaced this week with the county not able to come to a consensus after reviewing potential savings from the move.
As it stands, if a worker retires from the county after 15 years, he or she will be under the county’s health insurance plan for life at the current 10 percent rate (county covers remainder of premium). In addition, the employee’s husband or wife (as well as children until the age of 26) also get life coverage at the same 10 percent rate. At budget time, the commissioners increased it to employee share to 20 percent for new employees, but would not touch the retiree dependent component. It was said it could hurt employee recruitment.
Mitrecic pushed for the spouse and dependents to be eliminated as a retiree perk again at this week’s meeting, referring back to how Ocean City did it while he was a sitting council person. At this week’s meeting, it was reported long-term savings would be significant under this change for new employees with savings in 2035 coming in at an estimated $458,000. That number will only build from there as more and more new employees are hired.
The county needs to make this change and it shouldn’t be a difficult decision. It’s incredibly generous and out of line with private and public employee policies.
Macky and Pam Stansell have raised the bar of philanthropy with their donation of $100,000 to the Worcester County Educational Foundation. It’s truly a miraculous contribution based on the dollar amount alone, but there’s more to it here.
Known for years for their support of the Worcester County Humane Society as well as Coastal Hospice, the Stansells made their most recent community commitment without even having children or grandchildren who would benefit from their financial gift. That willingness to help the youth sums up their charitable spirit perhaps better than any other contribution they have made over the years.
Congratulations to the esteemed restaurateurs on setting the supreme example of generosity.