Voices From The Readers

Thanks To OC For Anti-Smoking Talks


I enjoyed reading about the Mayor and City Council again discussing the issue of banning/restricting smoking access to our Boardwalk and beaches.

The comment fromC ouncil Secretary Mary Knight I think said it best — 17% of the population in the northeast USA (our visitorship) smokes. With 40% having smoking areas on the Boardwalk, we’re legislating to a minority. Also, thank  you to Councilman James for proposing an outright ban on smoking on the Boardwalk. It was ultimately decided that some additional studying and surveying will be taking place before any future decisions are issues.  I support this as well.

Of course, it goes without saying that there will be some who would not be receptive to any restriction or ban of any kind. When the day does come when certain restrictions do come about, these individuals will find a way to adapt. More and more beaches are implementing restrictions or bans on smoking on their beaches and or Boardwalks these days including some of our beach neighbors to the north, Fenwick, Bethany and Rehoboth.

I am aware of a town in Upstate N.Y., a college town where it is illegal to even smoke anywhere on the sidewalk and street within 500 feet of a known shopping area. This being a resort town, I understand we are not quite here at this point yet, but in time this day may come, too.

Thank you for your efforts Mayor and City Council.

Doug Antos

Ocean City

Voting Change Needed


In regard to last week’s story, “Touch Screen Votes No More For Md.,” wonderful news and long overdue.

The legislature voted overwhelmingly to move to paper ballots in 2007, after a multitude of computer scientists proved that the touchscreen system could be easily hacked and that fraud, or just plain errors, could go completely unrecognized because of the lack of a paper ballot that the voter could verify.

Many people, especially election officials, say that “no problems occurred”. But the point is that with a paperless system, you may never know when a problem happens. There is no way to audit a system that only records votes electronically. This move is a big step forward for democracy in Maryland.

Now we can be sure that voter’s choices will be recorded accurately and we can verify that the tabulated results of an election are correct. Neither of those things were possible with the old system.

Robert Ferraro

(The writer is co-director of SAVEourVotes.org.)

OC Assessments Lag Behind Others In Md.


It is good that Zack Hoopes wrote a comparative article last week on property tax, contrasting the anemic growth in values in Ocean City with more robust areas in Maryland. While the entire state gained 8.1% in residential and a whopping 18.1% increase in commercial, Ocean City increased 2.6% residential and -1.1% commercial over three years. Mr. Hoopes also notes the slower growth areas were the rural ones. The obvious question is why has Ocean City, a non-rural area, so substantially lagged?

First, let’s adjust the 2.2% overall growth number for inflation and recognize that new structures over the last three years must be subtracted from assessment totals to determine the actual decline in values. When we adjust for inflation, which averaged about 1.8% a year, over a three-year period, this totals approximately 5.4%. This reduces the 2.2% growth to negative -3.2% after inflation. We also have to take new structure values out of the assessment number to compare past values with values today.

I can think of two new hotels right away that should be backed out. This would make the -3.2% decline in value even larger. Oh well, you get the point. Now let’s ask why has Ocean City declined in light of advances in the rest of the state?

Could cost increases induced by our local government, both intended and unintended, explain the decline? Let’s take a look. If the total costs to live somewhere get high enough, people are dissuaded from moving there and some people leave. If the total costs to vacation somewhere get high enough, people don’t go. Lastly if the costs to operate a business are high, businesses fail or don’t open. We must understand that decreasing property values go hand-in-hand with decreasing jobs. The whole Eastern Shore is highly dependent directly or indirectly on jobs in Ocean City. Let’s look at some local government-imposed costs over the last few years:

  1. 23.5% increase in the nominal tax rate over 6 years.
  2. Increases in bus fares have led to fewer riders. With fewer riders, what are the secondary costs to business from tat loss of riders?
  3. Increase in water bills: Water bills in Ocean City, including fixture charges, are 300% higher than Falls Church, Virginia, a suburban community eight miles outside of Washington, D. C.
  4. Increased parking meters and fees.
  5. Increased Comcast bills, of which the city gets a percentage.
  6. Special trash pick-up charges more than doubled.
  7. Permits required for more things, thus increasing costs—example: glass and frame replacement requires permit, shingling a roof requires permit.
  8. In 2012–2014, it appears that 27 ordinances were passed that added costs to business, vacationers, or residents in Ocean City. Some are listed above. Often the benefit appears to be psychic while the costs are real. That is why I call them destructive governance: ordinances in which the costs exceed the benefit. More importantly, the costs of implementation as well as the secondary costs on citizens are never measured, so no one knows what the real total loss inflicted by the ordinance is. However, we do know these costs exist and that costs extract vitality from the economy. The noise ordinance, noise sticker, and the fees and fines associated with this silly rule are an example of an ill-defined social cost, particularly since there have been other laws, like disorderly conduct, that could largely cover the concerns.

The above cost increases come to mind quickly and are either new costs or are costs that have increased over the last three years. They represent taxes and costs on citizens, just like a property tax. I am unaware of any government-generated costs that have gone down over the last half decade.

If this council does not address Ocean City’s cost increases that have increased expenses to the point that many vacationers are dissuaded from coming and are seeking out either shorter stays or different, less expensive beaches, the downward trends will be there. During the next recession we will suffer hugely. To lower expenses we must lower costs, but first we have to understand how all these well intended rules and ordinances contribute to the problem. Again I say this window of lower gas prices is a God-sent period that should be used, before it is too late, to reduce and eliminate these structural boondoggles prior councils have created that are quietly eroding our visitor base, undermining our values, and destroying Eastern Shore jobs. Hopefully Zack’s article will open productive discussions on how to increase both jobs and property values on the Eastern Shore such a discussion should include reducing government induced costs.

Tony Christ

Ocean City