Thoughts From the Publisher’s Desk

Thoughts From the Publisher’s Desk
  • Worcester County’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC) is in the news and it’s not good, despite the spin put on it this week by county officials.

    The fact is the county purchased alcohol from the Alabama version of a control board, which reportedly does not have the appropriate license or permit. The idea was to obtain alcohol at a rate lower than what was being offered by Maryland wholesalers, who the county maintains are not offering appealing specials and discounts at this time and have forced the DLC to look elsewhere for bargains so they can keep costs down for licensees and retail customers.

    To try and get their spirits at lower rates, the county purchased a bulk amount from the Alabama board. It’s in a Worcester County warehouse currently. The problem is the Alabama system did not have the required permit to do business in Maryland, and it’s baffling to me that the DLC was not aware of this law and did not ensure all was right with this deal beforehand.

    Readers will recall the former Liquor Control Board was fined for buying liquor from a non-state wholesaler last year. However, the rules have been tweaked since then and the county can now shop outside the state so long as the wholesaler has the appropriate permit. It’s clear the Alabama control board does not, but it’s in the process of scoring one.

    This should frustrate county residents and prove disappointing. When the county government took over the liquor industry — which it never should have done in the first place in my opinion — it assured all parties it would run a clean business. The acknowledgement that it executed this purchase contradicts that pledge wholeheartedly, even if it did admit jumping the gun.

    The ramifications of this are unclear at this point and more than likely will not amount to much for the DLC, which is to its credit making major attempts to lower prices, something it has been unable to do so far in its four-month existence, according to licensees.

    No matter how this issue is spun, and the intentions here do look legitimate, this is a poor reflection on the county’s fledgling department. It must know the rules and laws that govern the alcohol industry and be focused on following them at all times, particularly since their despised predecessors were busted and fined for violating state laws not too long ago.

  • It’s been two months since the Ocean City area escaped the forecasted wrath of Hurricane Irene essentially unscathed, and local business people feel the time is right to get some answers to some questions they have had ever since.
  • In an Oct. 17 letter to the Mayor and Council that was also copied to Governor Martin O’Malley, Senator Jim Mathias and Delegates Norm Conway and Mike McDermott, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) Executive Director Susan Jones expressed “a few concerns” on behalf of the association’s Board of Directors and requested Mayor Rick Meehan and Council President Jim Hall attend the next Board meeting on Nov. 10.

    The letter addresses 10 points of concern with the city’s Irene decision making process and is hoping to have a frank discussion.

    The first point dealt with the evacuation and the decision on when to do it. Many felt Ocean City ordered its evacuation prematurely (30-plus hours before it even made landfall in North Carolina), and it appears the OCHMRA Board agrees.

    “Was the evacuation decision made too early? Va. Beach evacuated 24 hours after OC,” Jones wrote. “Setting a uniform time for visitors and a different time for residents would alleviate the concern of the mass exodus. An appropriate visitor time frame would be at check-out time.”

    The letter goes on to address the order of closing the bars at midnight as “pointless” and questioning the “vagueness” of the town’s official press release and conflicting messages from town employees, such as the erroneous word from Maryland State Police and resort police officers that power would be shut off prior to the storm’s arrival.

    The letter also questioned the logic of evacuating the foreign student workers days in advance of the storm, leaving businesses with no employees to work, as well as the “virtual martial Law” that was put in place with those who chose to stay in Ocean City during the storm being intimidated.

    All of the points raised in this letter are legitimate concerns, and there were many in the business community, in particular hotel owners, who felt the town’s decision to evacuate the town so early cost them thousands of dollars. It’s a discourse that will serve legitimate purposes down the road when the area is faced with similar judgment calls.

    TOO LATE TO PRINT: In a late development Thursday evening, as a result of an erroneous resport in The Daily Times that the meeting was closed to the public, Jones and Jim Hall decided the matter would be best addressed at a work session on Nov. 15. The meeting was never closed to the public, as that matter was to be decided next week, and Jones specifically told me she would follow up with me on that request for the media to be present during the meeting. She and Events Manager Amy Tingle were in College Park the latter part of the week attending a state tourism summit.

    While it’s always best for matters like this to be addressed in the public arena, the accusations and false statements made on the social networks as a result of the false reporting deserve some better thought at best and censure at worst, as they lack basis and factual accuracy. There was no intent to hide the content of these discussions, as many alleged in inflamatory fashion. Nonetheless, the discussion will take place at City Hall, and these are talks that need to be heard as there were many concerns expressed regarding the town’s decision making, namely the evacuation timeline and an ambiguous press release issued by the city.

  • Connecticut Congressman Tim Larson wants his state to proclaim the observance of Halloween as the last Saturday in October annually, and I like the idea of always celebrating it on a weekend day.
  • It would seem Halloween would always have to officially be Oct. 31 because that’s known as All Hallows’ Evening, the night before All Hallows’ Day, which falls on Nov. 1. However, Larson wants to introduce a bill to make his state observe it on Saturday, for obvious reasons. The idea being it would be more like Thanksgiving, which is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

    "Halloween is a fun night for the whole family, but not so much when you have to race home from work, get the kids ready for trick or treating, welcome the neighborhood children, and then try to get everyone to bed for an early school and work morning. … This would be good for the economy and make Halloween a more family-friendly event every year. Everyone looks forward to Halloween a little more when it falls on the weekend."

    About The Author: Steven Green

    Alternative Text

    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.