Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan was on the money when he pointed out the County Commissioners should consider televising their meetings. It’s long overdue and a philosophical shift on this issue is necessary. The county needs to make the small investment it takes to air its meetings on local access or at the very least make the meeting video and audio available online. There needs to be a formal record of the proceedings. Currently, the commissioners’ meeting minutes are posted online but they are mere summations of what happens and are not particularly specific. They provide the gist of what happens during the discussions.

In Ocean City, it was a simple matter when this change was made because Comcast holds the exclusive cable contract. With the county, it may be a bit more complex because a few cable companies operate in rural areas, and it may be sticky to get meetings televised through each company. However, offering it online would be an easy concept, and the cost would be minimal if the commissioners simply farmed it out to a local high school’s audiovisual department in exchange for student community service hours. Airing these meetings will surely educate the public on how the commissioners do business. Many folks I speak with routinely think the commissioners prefer to conduct their business in a vacuum and away from public scrutiny. Some commissioners vehemently disagree. Making the decision to record and offer the meeting video online, at a minimum, would be a step toward addressing that perception.

Unfortunately, the reality here is the county has no plans to tape its meetings and is actually trying to shield its operations even further from the public. That’s an obvious inference after a new measure, introduced last month and subject of an upcoming public hearing, expands the commissioners’ ability to make decisions privately on government structure and organization., similar to what happened last year when they consolidated some planning departments. Apparently, some commissioners were unaware of this new bill until this week’s meeting. Here’s to hoping they spike this bill. Approving it will confirm what their detractors say – they do not want to include the public in their decision making process.

It happens every year. Legislation is introduced bringing to light a certain current law that’s scary. Apparently, a motorist pulled over for speeding or some other sort of minor traffic offense can be subjected to a strip search or body cavity search if the cop deems it appropriate. Of course, most cops would not be overzealous and their training would tell them when this is necessary. However, this bill would never have been introduced if somewhere along the lines an abuse of power by an overzealous cop did not occur. The bill would make it illegal for an officer to conduct a strip search or body cavity search for a person facing a misdemeanor or traffic offense unless weapons or drugs are involved as well as require at least two officers to always be on hand. Hopefully it continues on a favorable track and is passed by the full legislature.

If you do anything long enough, you are bound to upset somebody. I think that applies to all of us, but I’m not so sure City Clerk Carol Jacobs falls into that category. Jacobs has been a mainstay at City Hall for more than three decades, and she has proven to be the consummate professional in all aspects. I have had numerous discussions with Jacobs over the years, ranging from the even-year elections and candidate filings to beach stands and petitions to referendum. Jacobs’ knowledge, friendliness and ability to work with folks from all paths of life will certainly be missed when she retires, but the city tapped the ideal person to assume her responsibilities with Kathy Mathias, the current assistant to the city manager. All of the commendable people skills and other superlatives assigned to Jacobs here and elsewhere apply to Mathias. She has some big shoes to fill but she will make for an excellent replacement.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.