Discretion Critical With Auto Events’ Ordinances

Discretion Critical With Auto Events’ Ordinances

Ocean City’s proposed ordinances — reactions to concerns over disturbing antics at recent automobile events — are intentionally heavy handed. They can be successful if the proper judgment and discretion is used by the Ocean City Police Department.

The proposed ordinances make drinking alcohol from open containers illegal on private business lots, extend the summer-time ban on trailer parking on city streets to the spring and fall months and crack down on common public nuisances, such as groups gathering in parking areas for unauthorized uses and being destructive to private and public property.

The Mayor and Council is right to move forward with these ordinances and the changes will be in place in time for the H2O International and Cruisin’ events next month, but we understand the concerns from the business community. There appears to be two major beefs with the city’s direction.

One is the current laws on the books are not being enforced as it is — such as public consumption on alcohol and robust littering on the sidewalk along Coastal Highway during these automotive events — and how is adding new ordinances going to bring about the calm and better behavior that’s sought by the majority of people.

Secondly, there is the public relations impact of whether these changes will result in negative emotions from the auto events’ attendees who have good intentions when visiting. One hotelier reported this week he will lose 90 room bookings at one of his properties if the changes are approved as expected. It’s feared a major economic backlash will occur once word spreads about the new laws.

We believe overall the loss of sales will not be serious as a result of a few changes aimed at heightening peace and order.  These ordinances should not deter people from coming here. In fact, it may do more to keep people from staying away from Ocean City on these weekends over the long run.

Nonetheless, we believe the business community expressed logical fears this week that these ordinances will send the wrong message to their customers, the event attendees, and that more law enforcement is needed to address the laws already in place. Adding these new ordinances will only put more of a focus on the importance of proper police resources during these weekends when the crowds balloon.

As when any new laws are approved, the enforcement component must be there and that has simply not been the case because police have been overwhelmed to extreme levels during these events.

Rather than the new laws, a more significant concern we have with these events approaching in October is an adequate police presence. That in the end will go a lot further than these new ordinances, which if handled the right way by the individual businesses if and when customer concerns are expressed should be an overall benefit.

There is a certain amount of police discretion built into these ordinances and it’s the troublemakers — those individuals pouring beer on the roadways to encourage spinouts, for example — that are being targeted. Most rational visitors will understand that and we believe a majority will embrace the city’s efforts.