There is nothing official about online petitions through the website change.org, but there’s no question they can be an adequate barometer to gauge public sentiments on a particular issue. In Ocean City, specifically, the recent past has shown these petitions do have an impact on public policy.
Over the last couple years, several petitions have been started with the most recent being started by a young resident, Matt Landon, who took exception to Ocean City’s plan to allow beach vehicle access for surf fishermen in the slow season. Landon expressed his views on the matter and asked for a show of support from residents and visitors against the initiative. It received more than 900 signatures within a week and clearly had an impact on the Mayor and Council’s decision to abandon the effort altogether.
Other petitions started through the website involving Ocean City issues did not have the same volume of support, but were still effective in ultimately changing city policies.
In the spring, a petition started by then-high school senior Mike Durkin to stop the planned operation reduction of the town’s skate park received a little less than 500 supporters. Prior to that, the initiative led by Mick Chester to change the town’s surfing beach policy received about 470 signatures. Chester previously launched a different online petition to legalize skateboarding that garnered about 300 supporters.
I happened to be on the beach on 21st Street last Saturday when the boat caught fire just a couple hundred yards from shore.
Because of my profession primarily, I watched the scene attentively to observe the fire boat in action. What was more entertaining to me than anything was how the people on the beach reacted. They were a disinterested bunch by and large. Generally speaking, they could have cared less, confirming for me how serious people take their vacations these days. In my immediate vicinity, dozens of people didn’t even lift their heads from their books and many body boarders never even acknowledged what was taking place.
There was no disbelief or amazement at the sight of a boat on fire and the fire boat looking to extinguish it. A few folks stood up and walked down to the water’s edge to get a clear look, but it was all taken in stride, particularly by the children, most of whom were bored by the incident in short order.
When the boat eventually sank, it was amazing to see those people with an interest simply return to the chairs and playing with their kids. A few minutes later, a pod of dolphin were spotted jumping in the ocean and that clearly received more attention from beach-goers, for what it’s worth.
In Berlin, one of the biggest controversies in recent town history appears to be coming to a head on Monday evening.
The Berlin Fire Company (BFC) will learn from the Mayor and Council exactly how much the town will provide in funding to the company. Last year, $600,000 in town funding was pulled for a variety of reasons stated by the town, including objections over present leadership, policy decisions and employee treatment.
While Mayor Gee Williams would not disclose the amount of money the town has decided on in advance of next week’s meeting, he was willing to reveal it will not be restored to the full amount. “It’ll be less than full funding and we’ve informed the fire company of that,” Williams said.
Speculation for months has been that the town will restore about half of the previous allocation, and that realization could be why the BFC penned a two-page letter to town residents this week. The letter starts with “We Need Your Help” and seeks to explain to residents the importance of the BFC getting its funding restored to previous levels.
The letter reads, “The fire company is unable to plan its future public safety and business operations due to the uncertainty of the financial support from the Town of Berlin. … If our requested level of funding is not restored, the Mayor and Council will force us to consider which items to sacrifice. Is it the safety of our members? Is it the 24 hour paramedic level ambulance crew? It is our plea to the Mayor and Council that we not have to make these hard decisions due to their funding reductions.”
While the letter clearly seeks to rally support for the BFC with a large turnout on Monday, Williams made it clear pressure from pro-fire company citizens will have no bearing on the council’s decision, which clearly has already been made.