Between The Lines

It’s been four months since Ocean City’s municipal election, and it’s not been made official because of two votes. This is not a huge deal because it will not impact the outcome, but it’s been an unresolved issue at City Hall for some time.

According to City Clerk Kathy Mathias, the delay in making the election results official has become a complicated matter, stemming from city voter figures not matching up to electronic voter books maintained by the state and county. There are apparently six people that are registered to vote in Ocean City but not with the county or state. They are on what’s called a supplemental list.

“We think this comes down to two people because our numbers don’t match what the county has, and they can’t put in somebody who is not registered with them in the final figures,” Mathias said. “It’s frustrating because we thought buying these electronic poll books was going to be the solution. Of course, this being my first election as a city clerk and a novice to the process has put a little delay on it, but that’s not the reason for all of this and getting it to accurately reflect what our voter rolls say.”

When reached yesterday, Teresa Riggin of the county’s Board of Elections feels confident she and Mathias can work through the matter. Riggin said the issue of the supplemental list voters — those who did not register with county and two people in this case — should not hold up the city from certifying its election. She said the county has already closed the city’s election and is merely now updating the city’s voter history.

What does all this mean? For Mathias, at least, the experience has demonstrated to her that perhaps the city should reconsider last year’s decision to keep the town election separate from the General Election.

“All this has reinforced for me that maybe having an Ocean City election combined with another election is not a bad idea,” Mathias said. “It gets confusing for us when people call and want to register to vote or fill out an absentee ballot and we have to ask them which election and remind them they are just registering for Ocean City and have to go through the county for everything else. It would certainly make things easier.”

The spat involving Ace Printing & Mailing owner Thom Gulyas and State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby came to a quiet resolution last week.

The dispute involved campaign literature Oglesby used in his unsuccessful 2006 campaign that Gulyas alleged was never paid in full. Oglesby believed the materials were a result of an in-kind contribution from Gulyas, a claim Gulyas denied and subsequently filed suit during the 2010 campaign season for the amount due.

A settlement was reached out of court last Thursday that includes a confidential accord that neither side would disclose the amount of money that may or may not have changed hands.

“I can’t say anything specifically, but all I can say is I’m elated,” said Gulyas.

The local supermarket scene in Ocean City will be altered significantly within the next month, as Superfresh in the Gold Coast Mall is y closing its doors. Exactly when it will shutter is not clear, but it will happen in the company’s first fiscal quarter.

This is part of a larger move announced last week on the heels of last year’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by parent company A&P. This week, it was announced 32 stores in six states will be closed in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and here in Ocean City.

The Worcester County Department of Liquor Control appears inevitable, as legislation has been introduced in Annapolis for the creation of the new version of the government monopoly.  Much of the bill is standard stuff, but there’s one particularly compelling clause within it.

It involves the so-called “opt out” or “sunset” provision that would essentially end the liquor monopoly in Worcester County, giving liquor license holders the option of buying their spirits from other wholesalers, rather than having to go through the county, which essentially will continue to serve as the middle man and mark up the costs.

The House Bill reads, “Beginning in 2016, all licensees may elect to purchase wines and liquors from licensed wholesalers …” given certain conditions are met and that the businesses are willing to pay a flat fee to be determined by the department at a future time. Apparently, the Senate Bill doesn’t include that fee, and that’s the measure of significance here.

The provision that allows an opt-out in five years should scare all county licensees because there’s no guarantee it will still be offered when the time comes. The terms of all the current elected officials — state and county — will expire in 2014, and this legislation could easily be rewritten either way. My bet is 2016 will come and go and the monopolistic system will remain.

Unemployment rates on the lower shore are always startling this time of year, but recent figures are truly concerning.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Worester County’s unemployment rate for December 2010 was 16.3 percent, compared to 15.6 percent in December 2009 and 13.2 percent in Worcester. If December’s figures hold true, that means one out of six people in Worcester are currently jobless. That’s frightening if you ask me.

In Wicomico, the picture is not so bleak. Nonetheless it’s still above the state rate of 7.1 percent. In December 2010, it was 9 percent, compared to 9.1 percent for December 2009 and 7.4 percent in December 2008.

For Delaware’s Sussex County, the rate was 8.8 percent in December 2010, down from 9.8 percent in December 2009 and 7.2 percent for the same month two years ago.

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.