Voices From The Readers

Parking Decision
Justification Flawed

Since 1983, my wife and I have owned unit #308, Ocean Place Condominium, a 100-unit building between 145th and 146th Street. I am well-familiar with parking availability and usage in the area.

I am writing to oppose the city’s proposal to charge for parking on 146th Street, between Coastal Highway and the ocean. The proposal is based on erroneous facts, among them:

Erroneous Fact #1: Open spaces in the parking lot means that Ocean Place owners/renters do not have to use adjoining streets to park and will not be adversely affected by a parking charge.

Ocean Place’s legal structure differs from numerous other O.C. condominiums in that parking spaces are not a part of the common area available for use by all owners and renters as determined by the condominium association board (the “Board”). Instead individual parking spaces are deeded to unit owners (either one or two spaces per unit) and are available for their and their renters’ use, only. If a space is open in the lot, that space is not available for use by unit owners who have filled their one or two deeded spaces and other vehicles from those units must seek parking on the adjoining streets, 145th and 146th Streets. As a two-bedroom owner, I have two deeded parking spaces and frequently house three family members with vehicles; one must park on the street. Consequently, open spaces in our lot do not necessarily mean that parking is available.

Because the parking spaces are deeded to the owner, just as the condominium unit is deeded to the owner, the Board is without authority to alter this legal framework through the by-laws, and could not authorize “open” parking any more than it could authorize an owner to occupy another owner’s unit simply because it was not being used.

Erroneous Fact #2: 146th Street parking would target out-of-towners, not local unit owners/renters.

The fact that on any given day cars with non-Maryland tags are parked on 146th Street does not mean that they are not Ocean Place owners/renters. Ocean Place owners reside in Delaware, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and elsewhere in addition to Maryland; renters come from those as well as farther off locales. 146th Street divides Maryland from Delaware, a densely populated area from a (relatively) sparsely populated area. Ocean Place has 100 residential units on the block immediately south of 146th Street; private homes sit on the block immediately north of 146th Street. It stands to reason that Ocean Place owners/renters would be most affected by the proposed parking fee.

Erroneous Fact #3: The city may treat similarly situated individuals differently where there is no reasonable basis for different treatment.

As explained in Erroneous Fact #1, above, the Board has no legal authority to permit open parking on a parking lot consisting of deeded parking spaces. Other condominiums operating under the same legal restriction border streets where parking is free. The city may impose reasonable parking restrictions and rules; but it must do so in a nondiscriminatory manner. The city has articulated no reasonable basis for treating parking on 146th Street any different from 143rd Street, 138th Street, etc., etc. Defending a legal challenge to the policy would be costly for the city, and, I believe, ultimately unsuccessful.

I urge you to investigate, determine the facts of parking availability and usage in the 146th Street area and apply a city-wide parking policy that addresses the concerns of residents and ultimately treats them fairly and equally. The factual premises being used by the city to justify a parking fee on 146th Street are flawed, and it follows that the policy is a flawed one, in need of reversal.

Lawrence E. Rubin
Ocean City

Defending Council

Just prior to the election in November, Mr. Tony Christ, a supporter of the former council majority, made allegations against Mayor Meehan. He stated that the mayor had misused his city credit card at BJ’S restaurant and bar. He claimed that the mayor was partying up at BJ’S with his friends and put the entire bill on the city credit card. His tone was demeaning towards the mayor and he appeared confident he had the goods on him. The mayor refuted these charges, stating he rarely uses the credit card the city issued him except in rare events such as when he travels on city business. He then said Christ might be referring to a night not at BJ’S, but at Fresco’s in which the Mayor and Council was required to take the final candidates for city manager out to dinner in accordance with the terms of the scouting company that was in charge of the search. Christ was not satisfied with the mayor’s explanation and kept leveling charges against him. Finally, the mayor told Christ “keep throwing it out there hoping something will stick.” Nothing ever materialized from these charges and they call into question Christ’s creditability on other issues because he is constantly getting up before the council, claiming that city is on verge of fiscal collapse.

Christ states that his goal is to help the city save money and balance the budget. These are honorable goals to pursue. Who would not be in favor of them? However, almost all of his criticism is directed at Mayor Meehan and the new council majority who he refers to as “The Big Spenders” in his public statements and numerous letters to the editor. If it is the mishandling of city finances that is his great concern, let me point out a number of missteps taken by the former majority on the council.

First there is the incident when the former majority decided to change the benefits and pension plan of the police department. At this time, six new police officers were in the process of being hired. The new officers had completed school which the city had paid for. They had completed all of their tests and passed their background checks. These background checks are extremely detailed and expensive. They cost $10,000 for each officer. Keep in mind these six police positions had already been placed in the budget. All that was left was for the City Council to hire them. Instead, the former majority refused to hire them unless they were hired into a new benefit and pension plan. The problem was that there was no new plan. After being in limbo for so long and not knowing their fate, these officers found other jobs and moved out of the area. Roughly six months later after the former majority passed a new benefit and pension plan and then decided to fill these positions and paid for six more background checks. A wise and responsible council would have simply filled these positions and then changed the pension plan and this would not have cost the tax payers $60,000, money that could have been used for a number of better reasons other than trying to force a showdown with FOP. It is curious that Mr. Christ never referred to this clear instance of wasteful spending of tax payer money.        

When I last spoke before the council in January, I gave high praise to Mayor Meehan and the members of the new majority on the council for the leadership they had shown during the dark times of the previous two years. I spoke about the superb job the mayor had done when he served as city manager, saving the tax payers $850,000. I mentioned how former Council President Jim Hall showered the mayor with praise for the budget he and the employees prepared. I was in the audience that night when Jim Hall was practically falling over himself as he held up the budget stating this is the best budget that had ever been presented to him. He stated that in his 26 years on the council he had never seen a better budget than the one the mayor had presented, it was quite a show. What followed is disturbing, because at the 11th hour the former majority decided to reduce the tax rate by one cent. This reduction effectively wiped out the all of the savings in the budget that former Council President Jim Hall praised. It amounted to little more than a $20 savings for each property owner. This move was nothing more than an election ploy to win votes. It failed miserably while squandering all the savings achieved by the mayor and employees who worked on the budget.

I watched the Council meeting on television when Council member Mary Knight said that we had all agreed on the budget and at the last minute you want to add another line item to the budget, one that will cost over $860,000. She stated, this money is part of the reserve fund and we are just about to enter hurricane season. What if a storm comes in and does serious damage? The city will be at a severe disadvantage if this money is removed. It was apparent that she was utterly disgusted with this move. A vote was taken and it was along the same 4-3 line so familiar with the dark days of the previous two years.

Council member Knight’s warning was prophetic, because within about six weeks Super Storm Sandy hit Ocean City hard. Fortunately, we were spared the full force of Sandy; however the storm did substantial damage. Emergency crews had to work overtime for days to repair damage and remove debris. The boardwalk at Chicago Ave. was completely destroyed and the downtown and Inlet areas suffered heavy flooding. How much better off financially, would the city be if the former majority heeded the wise advice of Council member Knight? Tony Christ never mentions these facts in his pursuit of financial mismanagement.

The conduct of Mr. Christ is troubling. He has shown he will level unsubstantiated charges against public officials in an attempt to smear them right before an election, as in the case of Meehan. He says his motive for becoming publicly active is the financial security of the city.  Yet he refuses to acknowledge those who have done an excellent job with the budget, ones that had produced huge savings and warned against costly mistakes. He will not level any criticism against certain council members who are responsible for serious damage to the financial security of Ocean City, because he personally favors them. In his quest for financial accountability perhaps one day he will see the light and recognize the “big wasters” on the council.

Greg De Marco  
Ocean City