Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

It would be wrong to call what Ocean City recently passed and goes into effect today a smoking ban on the beach. However, it would be right to call it a Boardwalk smoking ban.

The new law restricts smoking to designated sites — marked by the ugly orange receptacles — on the beach. The new law, however, bans Boardwalk-goers from lighting up altogether and instead requests they use those same 22-gallon waste receptacles 15 feet away from the Boardwalk on the beach.

What will take place on the beach is largely the same. Instead of the black smoking receptacles, which I saw being tossed around last summer more than for cigarette disposal, there will be the orange smoking cans lining the beach with reminders on the street-ends as well as affixed to the receptacles themselves.

While the effort to stop smokers from lighting up in their beach chairs and near the water was lauded for the most part, the commenters on several photos of the new cigarette receptacles on our Facebook page were mostly disappointed by the city’s strategy after seeing the orange cans and the short distance between them along the beach. Most of the outrage seemed to stem from the bright color choice. I wrongly assumed the city would just use the blue it uses on its water towers.

One woman wrote, “Are you kidding me? We’re going to litter our beach with bright orange metal containers every 50 feet. Worst idea every — not just because of the smoke, but those things look hideous. Come on OC.” Another wrote, “I’m not debating the smoking issue but I’ve got to say this is the ugliest thing I’ve seen. The beach is so beautiful and now it’s littered with bright orange cans.”

In the interest of balance, there were several who had no problem with the color scheme or the location strategy. “Why can’t everyone realize that they are just trying to keep us from having a smoker plant their beach chair right next to us and then we have to suck their smoke all day. Also trying to keep all the disgusting butts from being stuck in the sand all over the beach. Cigarette butts are the biggest litter issue on the beach,” the post read.

I expect the great smoking debate to wage on all summer. It’s a passionate issue. The city did the right thing with its restrictive beach smoking and the Boardwalk ban and for now will have to stand behind the orange cans. At this point, the only positive thing I can say about them is they do represent the hometown baseball team well.

Zero is the number of municipal infractions I think will be issued this summer to smoking violators.

The ordinance that goes into effect today reads, “Any person who violates [the ordinance] hereof shall be subject to a municipal infraction of up to $500.00, which can be issued by an employee of the Department of Recreation and Parks, in addition to [law enforcement].”

Because at some point I think there will be some egregious violators fueled by vacation entitlement issues, I will realistically put the over-under at 10. In September, I will report on how many infractions were actually issued.

Ocean City is doing just what it needs to do with the street performer issue. The only non-option heading into this summer was to do nothing and simply maintain the courts mandate nothing can be done.

Although the recommendations are extensive, the most noteworthy in my mind is the fact the city is seeking to limit the number of street performers that can set up on the Boardwalk. The draft ordinance reads, “Persons who want to engage in expressive activity in the most congested areas on the Boardwalk [9th Street to points south] must conduct this activity in designated spaces for which they must participate in a selection process…” The idea proposed is high-priority areas can be reserved for street performers twice a week on Mondays and Fridays on a first-come, first-serve basis at a city office.

The legal experts will need to weigh in but judging by the town attorney’s report and recommendation on proposed legislation it looks like the city has covered all its bases here. If in fact the First Amendment attorneys sign off what was presented this week, major changes should be expected on the boards this summer. Street performers will essentially be regulated finally and that has been needed for many years.