Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Ocean City is in the crosshairs of a robust political debate and it’s not fair at all.

As a result of Congressman Andy Harris’ amendment to a House budget bill that would overturn Washington D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law, Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who last week lost in a primary election, and an activist group are encouraging vacationers to boycott any tourist destination in Harris’ district and are specifically targeting Ocean City.

The website argues, “Rep. Andy Harris, the Congressman for the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Ocean City, MD wants to look important by violating the Congressionally authorized Home Rule Charter and bullying DC residents. He is forcing them to change their laws. I guess that’s pretty easy for a politician who is not accountable to DC voters. Well, here’s our chance to hold him accountable. Let’s Boycott the Beach – at least if that beach is in Representative Harris’ district. Pledge today to boycott Ocean City and defend the rights of DC residents!”

Once you vote, a message reads, “Thank you for pledging to Boycott the Beach. We are sending a powerful message to Rep. Andy Harris that as long as he continues to disrespect DC residents we will take our business elsewhere.” It’s unknown how many people have signed up via this online boycott.

It’s a ludicrous campaign and Harris’ camp maintains it should have no impact on Ocean City.

“I would be shocked if you could find a single hotel or restaurant in Ocean City that had a cancelation due to this,” a representative told this newspaper. “We just don’t think this will have any impact at all in Ocean City or anywhere in our district. The mayor lost his primary with a 33-percent vote and this is just some blathering on his part as he plays out his term.”

No matter the merits of either side of the political debate, it’s ridiculous for this website and its organizers to try and hurt innocent Ocean City businesses, many of whom are simply at this point in the season focused on their operations and have little to no interest in their congressman’s political position on pot. The good news is it will most likely have no impact, but it’s the intentions here that are disturbing.

July 1 was a big day on the local liquor front in Worcester County. For the first time, restaurants, bars and retail outlets have a choice on whom to buy their products from. While many will still utilize the county-run Department of Liquor Control, the marketplace has effectively opened up and the county’s monopoly has ended.

Additionally, two stores in Berlin can now sell liquor, as Cheers! and Pitt Stop have added liquor to their former beer and wine offerings.

Prior to last week’s Board of License Commissioners meeting, it was looking like there might be three options in Berlin, as a new operation called Berlin Liquor was proposed for the old county-run liquor store site near Route 113 in the shopping center anchored by Food Lion. That store’s location is still vacant, although Sen. Jim Mathias is utilizing the space as a campaign headquarters currently on a temporary basis.

The proposed store is less than a mile from Cheers!, which understandably so objected to the new license being issued because a need had not been proven. The meeting took place less than a week before Cheers! and Pitt Stop were permitted to start selling liquor at their respective places.

Fortunately, the Board of License Commissioners did not buy the licensee’s bogus assertion that the public need was not filled by nearby Cheers! and the Pitt Stop and rejected the license application. It was fitting that there was not much discussion on the topic because it was baseless.

“This was definitely a calmer June than most.”

That’s what Ocean City Police Public Information Officer Lindsey O’Neill had to say about last month, and there is no question that was the case.

Although crime statistics show last June was not nearly as bad it seemed, the perception was the first true month of the summer last year was a nightmare. It was because of the high-profile nature of the incidents — a double shooting, multiple stabbings, armed robberies and a Boardwalk brawl that ended with a stabbed man being dumped in a hotel lobby. These are major incidents that are unusual for Ocean City, despite the fact it’s an urban area three months of the year.

With June now in the books, there’s no question it was a quieter one from a police perspective than most in recent memory. Whatever the reason, it’s a good thing and now Ocean City moves into the meat of the season — July and August.

The only aspect that made this June memorable in anyway was the unusual drownings that occurred in Ocean City while the lifeguards were on duty. In separate incidents, two 17-year-old men lost their lives in the ocean, one on 92nd Street and the other on 137th Street.

As if those were not unfortunate enough, it was confirmed this week that the 69-year-old man who suffered a major neck injury while bodysurfing on June 25 died earlier this week. The man was pulled from the ocean by lifeguards after being seen facedown in the surf. Initially, he did not have a pulse, but first responders were able to revive him and he was transported to the hospital.

While the initial prognosis was positive, the severity of the injuries became clearer as he spent more time in the hospital and he died surrounded by family, according to sources.