Is Council Disconnected Or Being Responsible?

Good or bad, one thing that can be said about the current Ocean City Mayor and Council is it’s not stubborn when it comes to decisions.
That is in stark contrast to the previous council majority’s way of conducting business, which was more of a take it or leave it mentality, but the two bodies are similar in that they often make mistakes. The difference is the current council will reverse its course in the face of intense opposition.
The latest example of this ability to correct a misstep came this week when the council agreed to drop the off-season beach vehicle access plan after the idea was largely criticized in an online petition as well as on social media. This was similar to what happened in the spring when an online rally took place to keep the skate park’s hours the same as in previous years, rather than shutting it down for much of the off-season.
Last week, the council also backtracked after opposition and criticism when it repealed an ordinance that created new paid parking areas in Ocean City.
On the one hand, it’s a positive that the city’s elected officials are willing to listen to their critics and change their course on major issues, rather than simply ignoring the opposition and forging ahead. That’s what the former council majority preferred to do and that approach was largely why it lost its power in last November’s election.
While that ability to react to opposition and change directions is laudable, an argument can and should be made that the town’s council should have a better feel for what citizens and visitors want in Ocean City. Clearly, a disconnect exists between the council and the public at large.
With the beach vehicle access decision this week, some on the council alleged the uproar over last week’s decision to forge ahead with beach vehicle access was due to the media sensationalizing what the council did last week. While council members can say whatever they want about their intentions and nothing being decided officially, the truth is the council voted 6-1, with only Councilwoman Margaret Pillas in opposition, to allow vehicles on the beach with a permit fee structure contingent upon the state endorsing the move. The council even included in the motion a marketing plan of some sort to get the word about beach vehicles being allowed for surf fishing. That’s quite official.
It’s disingenuous to maintain the media misrepresented what the council intended. Make no mistake, the council was for beach vehicle access and that was the motion. It was clear. The only matter not making it official was the state’s okay. Although it’s common move when elected officials have their feet to the fire, it’s pathetic in the face of opposition to allege the media blew it out of proportion. We are certainly not perfect, but there was no mistake made in this paper’s reporting in this case.
Nonetheless, in the end, the right decision was made. The council should have listened to staff concerns over this proposal in the first place. Both the Ocean City Police Department and Ocean City Beach Patrol had major concerns with the proposal and in this case the staff’s reasoning was more in line with the general public’s views.