Between The Lines

If all plays out as warned by an organized group of street performers this week, Ocean City could be headed this summer toward a true mess, one that could get extremely expensive.

It may just be a warning at this point, but several street performers seem to be planning to illegally take their acts to the Boardwalk this summer, leaving Ocean City in a unique position of having to respond with police action.

This is a potential nightmare for Ocean City. No matter how you feel about the street performers and their role on the Boardwalk, the fact remains they are to a certain extent protected by the Constitution, and City Solicitor Guy Ayres knows this. He has been warning the Mayor and Council not to be too restrictive and has previously cited constitutional concerns over the busker issue.

The resort needs to loosen some of these restrictions because nothing good will come from the performers blatantly ignoring the city’s new rules, leading police to get involved. While it will make for some great photo opportunities for us, it’s a potential nightmare that will necessitate a lot of police manpower over the course of a summer and could open up the city to potential civil action.

The city’s intent here is sound and logical. The ordinance states the goal here is, “to balance the interests of the street performers with those of the residents and businesses within the town.”

The city is right that something needs to be done because there have been too many street performers on the Boardwalk during the summer and there are instances where they hurt the experience, as far as I’m concerned. However, the weekly lottery idea may be going too far, when coupled with all the other restrictions that are included in the ordinance.

As is often the case with government, the answer may be some sort of compromise.

Strangely enough, Worcester County ended up on a list it may not be that thrilled about, but it’s something that can largely be discounted based off the seasonality of the area and the fact this is a major second-home market.

Worcester was recently ranked fourth on a listing of “American Ghost Towns of the 21st Century,” although the reasoning is somewhat suspect. It seems the idea behind this shallow examination was to look at the number of homes in a given jurisdiction and its population and compare it to its vacancy rate, based off 2010 Census information. As far as Worcester goes, the study finds 55,740 homes; a population of 49,272; and a vacancy rate of 60 percent.

The top 10 looks like this: Lake County, Mich.; Vilas County, Wis.; Summit County, Colo.; Worcester; Mono County, Calif.; Dare County, N.C.; Dukes County, Mass.; Sawyer County, Wis.; Burnett County, Wis.; and Aitkin County, Minn.

A survey of the Ocean City business community on some major legislative issues was recently conducted by the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce. The response rate was 12 percent.

Here’s a look at the questions posed and the results:
When asked if they would like to see table games available at Ocean Downs, 62 percent said yes.

Fifty-three percent said yes to allowing slots at non-profit fraternal organizations in Worcester County, while 34 percent expressed opposition and 13 percent said “maybe.”

Regarding the proposed increase in the minimum wage, 55 percent said no.

Although the “dime a drink” alcohol tax increase met its demise, 68 percent weighed in before it was spiked saying they were opposed. Although this specific bill did not pass, an increased alcohol sales tax in another form is still being considered.

The chamber used these results as the basis for letters to legislators expressing the organization’s view on the topics.

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.