Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

The signs Ocean City wants placed in visible spots in all businesses in Ocean City will not accomplish much in the way of controlling unruly behavior. However, it’s a start and a logical reaction to what all agree is increased disturbing behavior from guests during the major automotive events. The newspaper’s position has always been the only unacceptable reaction to the myriad of concerns expressed over these events is to do nothing.

As is the case with the “no profanity please,” littering and restricted smoking signs, these new reminders of current laws and expected adherence that become mandatory next spring will not have any measurable impact on those who plan to violate city laws and even some with no intentions of doing such a thing.

The real answer to combatting the violators is enforcement of what’s on the books already. That’s my big question after all the hubbub over the last couple months about the proposed laws aimed at helping give the city some “tools in the toolbox” to crack down on rowdy visitors here for automobile events.

Why have police not been enforcing existing laws already? Why are people sitting along Coastal Highway allowed to drink alcohol out of open containers and dump their suds on the roadway to improve burn out potential? Why are certain streets treated like personal drag strips with no authorities around? Why every Monday after these automobile events is Baltimore Avenue full of skid marks?

The only reasonable answer is lack of resources. There must not be enough manpower to handle the crowds. That’s where the focus must be directed and why I think the city’s decision to direct all funds from trailer permit fees from official participants in the Cruisin’ events to additional law enforcement is the proper course. More police officers are needed.

It’s a shame Worcester County Economic Development Director Bill Badger and high-ranking staff members within the county were not on the same page.

Badger’s departure after four years comes at a time when his department has a lot on its plate. The most high-profile issues are the ongoing train excursion study and the northern Worcester County sports arena concept that’s under review by the state.

The bigger issue in my opinion during Badger’s time with the county involved Route 50. There is much disagreement on what needs to be done along this corridor. Badger advocated for reducing the initial development fee — EDUs — to entice more commercial development along the road. After considering it and reportedly hearing advice from some county staff that ran counter to Badger’s views, the commissioners decided to leave the EDU price at $24,535, which is apparently too high and chasing off prospective commercial developers.

I think the majority of the county’s decision makers do not want to make it easier for more commercial development along the area between Holly Grove Road and Route 589. It’s the whole “Ritchie Highway” example that was often touted as what Route 50 should not become during corridor plan and “Worcester 2000” brainstorming sessions back in the early 2000s.

That flies directly in the fact of smart economic development and therein is the rub and was likely the biggest source of frustration for Badger. There does not appear to be anything changing on that front and that’s why it will be interesting to see who wants the position when a fundamental part of economic development does not have support.

In the Q&A with Bob Rothermel this week, I was particularly interested in the bit about the Performing Arts Center, the fledgling, state-of-the-art facility opened last year inside the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.

I admit my expectations were a lot grander for this center. Perhaps they were too elevated this early on, but I expected more events to be lined up at this beautiful addition to the city by now. I never would have imagined a cover band would be playing there in the middle of the summer and that sound issues would seriously hamper the experience at some events.

Rothermel, who is booking events at the Performing Arts Center, was asked about those sorts of expectations this week.

“I think people’s expectations are always higher than what reality is, and we have to temper that reality with good economic parameters for picking and choosing the date, the timeline and the artist wherever it happens,” Rothermel said. “One of the big variables in the Performing Arts Center is there isn’t one promoter. There are multiple ones. Often times in Performing Arts Centers, there is a foundation that is endowed with a certain amount of money that gives it the opportunity to ‘play’ in the market and pick and choose artists at various times. I think over time, we will find that there will be a foundation; some philanthropic organization that creates the nucleus so events start happening in the town, but doesn’t stop private promoters either.”