As members of the media, we find current affairs at City Hall in Ocean City these days to be entertaining. However, for property owners in the resort, visitors to his beach town and business operators who depend on a healthy resort economy to make a living, the extreme divisive nature of the current Mayor and Council should be concerning.
Many people feel the sweeping changes to pay, benefits and retirements for new employees as well as current employees recently authorized by the City Council, in 4-3 votes, are moving at too brisk of a pace.
There are others who maintain these changes should have been made years ago and that Ocean City has been living beyond its means for far too long. Surely, the majority of the folks who voted in last fall’s election believe this to be the case.
In many ways, the division of the current Mayor and Council – Mayor Rick Meehan and Council members Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin on a side opposing Council members Brent Ashley, Jim Hall, Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas – is representative of the town’s citizenry.
Subsequently, one could surmise these differences are healthy and reflective of the town. We believe there’s something to be said for that. With disagreements often come pragmatic resolutions, and it’s our hope the mayor’s vetoes this week of seven of the 11 ordinances will result in precisely that.
While there appear to be a will among many to see these changes approved to lower the city’s expenditures in the years to come, it’s the means in this case that’s most worrisome. Indeed, the end goal is valid and reasonable – keeping costs low in uncertain times. It’s the speedy process and the rubber stamp of 4-3 votes along the way that’s been the most troublesome.
That’s why Mayor Rick Meehan chose the correct path when he vetoed a majority of the ordinances that have been passed in recent weeks. He thoroughly laid out his reasoning and approach at Tuesday night’s meeting, which attracted a room full of veto cheerleaders, many of whom take issue with the closeness among the “new majority”.
Last week, that tight knit camaraderie among the leading foursome was confirmed when 17 hours of talks over a three-week period were revealed through city cell phone records.
When questioned over their long cell phone talks, a handful of which were over 100 minutes in duration, the “new majority” all seemed to have the same reaction – what’s the big deal? Additionally, the prevailing opinion was these long talks will continue and there’s nothing wrong with that.
We understand why the reigning four would dismiss the claims that they are operating covertly and together deciding privately how they will vote and run meetings, but the excessively long talks suggest otherwise. When was the last time you talked to somebody for almost two hours on the phone?
Regardless, while the divisiveness of the council may be entertaining for discussion purposes, what cannot be lost is the general welfare of the town.
After speaking with each member of the council over the last month or so, we feel certain each wants what’s best for the town. They simply differ on what exactly that may be. That disagreement may persist for the next two years, and that’s fine.
However, it’s our hope a sense of teamwork does develop with the council in the near future, and that compromises can be reached over the ordinances vetoed this week. A meeting of the minds can only happen through a respectful and open dialogue, which everyone – including town citizens, business owners, visitors and employees – should see as a positive necessity.