As if it were not clear already, Gov. Martin O’Malley proved this week how different he is than his predecessor. It’s become an annual tradition in recent years for the state’s governor to take a boat tour of the coastal bays during the week of the Maryland Municipal League convention. It’s a casual event, one that’s usually long on fluff and compliments and short on substance and policy. Over the past few years, Bob Ehrlich, who O’Malley defeated handily in last November’s election, was the man at the center of attention. This year it was O’Malley. There are lots of differences between the two men and perhaps the most noticeable on this week’s boat tour was their choice of attire. Ehrlich typically chose the preppy look – something along the lines of khaki pants or shorts with a collared, polo shirt of some sort tucked in. On Tuesday, O’Malley went with the look similar to what he usually sports on stage with his band – a T-shirt with no sleeves, shorts and a ball cap (see page 6A). One day later, however, on a tour of Trimper’s, O’Malley was back looking like a politician with the customary collared shirt look (see page one).
Local tourism folks had an opportunity to take their oft-heard message of late to the governor this week. The Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, along with most in the local tourism community, believes more advertising dollars need to be spent outside the area to promote Ocean City as a tourist destination. While the message was seemingly heard loud and clear by state officials during a short meeting at Harrison’s Harbor Watch, the governor said state help would have to wait at least one entire year, meaning in government terms it will be fiscal year 2010 before the state is able to buck over any additional state funds to advertise Ocean City because fiscal year 2008 starts next week and the governor said no more funds should be expected in the next budget, which is fiscal 2009.
Although the governor said no additional advertising dollars would be coming from the state in the immediate future, local governments seem at least willing to entertain discussions for next year. One suggestion I heard last week was nixing a proposed restroom facility on the Boardwalk at 4th Street and using that $350,000 proposed to build it on advertising the town. It was suggested that money could be much better spent on promoting the town and trying to attract people to the area than on elaborate sinks and toilets. There may be something to that, although capital improvement funds typically are not just redirected to tourism. Nonetheless, it’s a thought.
Exactly one year ago, it was a memorable week for all the wrong reasons. Simply put, all hell broke loose in Ocean City at the worst time of year. While tragedy is a reality in this resort each summer, for one week last year, the circumstances were beyond anyone’s imagination as four people died in a series of unusual incidents – a plane crash killed a pilot in West Ocean City, a father and daughter succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning at resort hotel and a missing teenager’s body was found off the coast of Cape May, N.J. after celebrating his high school graduation in Ocean City. All this occurred within a four-day stretch and it was this week. Although the three incidents are unconnected, the bizarre timing was unbelievable.
This week’s poll question on our website had some intriguing results. The question was “What should be in downtown Ocean City that’s currently not?” With about 150 people voting, the results were: 52 percent, a bayside Boardwalk; 26 percent, a parking garage; 15 percent, an IMAX; and 7 percent, a large pool.