The Ocean City Police Department held a series of gang recognition training sessions for residents and businesses this week. The training, a good thing if it educates the public, is noteworthy for a couple reasons. First, it’s the first time the g-word has been broached publicly in Ocean City, and, secondly, people are taking it seriously because they have concerns, largely a result of recent incidents. Although it was made clear this week’s meetings were not a result of the near-riot outside the underage clubs in downtown Ocean City two weeks ago, we heard from some readers inquiring about whether it was true Ocean City had gangs because it was reported in that story members of rival gangs from Salisbury were involved in the melee. In an email, one resident, remarking how he had just built a home in town, seemed especially concerned and questioned what the paper knew about gangs in Ocean City. The fact is Ocean City does not have gangs running the streets. However, there are questionable individuals who visit Ocean City with ties to gang activity and when one man with links to one type of gang runs into another with an interest in a rival group it can get ugly. That’s what reportedly started the brawl downtown on July 4. The unfortunate aspect is it happens in Ocean City during the summer months, but that does not mean gangs are operating in Ocean City throughout the year. When hundreds of thousands of people come to a beach town, there are bound to be some bad seeds in the bunch. Check out page 20A if you don’t believe me.
For the second consecutive mayoral election, Berlin has a competition for the town’s top seat. There are a lot of interesting aspects here to note. By announcing he will run for the seat in grand fashion on Wednesday, interim Mayor Gee Williams will be giving up his council seat officially. That means at least one new face will be joining the council in the fall. Lots of names have been floated about in recent months, and it will be interesting to see who comes off the sidelines and gets involved. Standing in the way of Williams removing the “interim” from his current title is former Berlin Mayor Rex Hailey, who is beginning to campaign for the seat he lost in a landslide to Tom Cardinale in 2004. Hailey is confidant he can win back his seat, riding the change is a must mantra. Overcoming that lopsided loss four years ago as well as Williams, a former colleague on the council, will be a daunting task. His title may say “interim mayor”, but Williams is not acting like a man who is simply filling a void. That’s why it’s no surprise he is seeking the mayor’s seat. He has been aggressive since taking office, filling the town’s numerous staff leadership positions needs to be a priority. With Administrative Director Linda Bambary’s resignation taking effect on election day, Berlin will need strong leadership to get it through the transition. It’s good to see Berlin voters will have a choice to see who will be the leader during that critical time.
Ocean City jumped on board the inflation wagon this week, increasing the price of a 12-ounce beer at Springfest and Sunfest to $3, from $2. Although it’s ridiculous how everything is more expensive today than it was yesterday, this hike is actually a good thing because it does ultimately help various aspects of the local community. The beer trucks on hand at these annual festivals are manned by volunteers, who are members of various civic clubs, most of which give away the money they raise throughout the year to local students in the form of scholarships or other non-profits. The city utilizes a rotation schedule to determine which organization gets to work a beer truck at any given event. It’s a fair system that results in a lot of community good will, which is another way of saying it helps funnel a lot of money to local causes.
In this case, the numbers do not lie and only one conclusion can be reached: Worcester County students are excelling. The 2008 Maryland School Assessments, administrated to students in grades 3-8 each year, show Worcester has confirmed once again it’s among the best school systems in the state. Here’s some numbers to illustrate the point: 88.2 percent of Worcester’s grade 3-8 students scored at proficient/advanced on the math test compared, compared to state average of 76 percent; and 90.1 percent of Worcester students, on average, scored at proficient/advanced in reading compared to 82.5 statewide.