Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

There has been one obvious question looming ever since the new street performer ordinance was enacted in Ocean City. Is it constitutional?

It looks like that question will be answered soon enough now that an official challenge has been filed before U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Hollander, who has twice before struck down Ocean City’s street performer ordinances for being unconstitutional.

Although the legal challenge is ridiculous in some ways, such as seeking a three-month suspension of City Solicitor Guy Ayres like he is some college athlete who tested positive for steroids, it was inevitable. There were too many buskers crying foul to just accept the registration process and move on.

At the heart of the matter is whether this registration process violates the buskers’ First Amendment rights. Ocean City spent a lot of money on attorneys — including a firm that specializes in First Amendment issues — to make sure it did not shoot too far with its restrictions on street performers. It did that twice before and was embarrassed both times by Hollander’s verdict.

This judge knows Ocean City’s struggles well and it was the previous sign-up process that she rejected. The key here is whether the city tweaked that former process, which was found to violate the Constitution, enough to pass muster. The city had better hope so because if the ordinance is struck down again it will look incredibly foolish because of all the money that was spent to specifically ensure it was legal.

Although the county would not release the numbers or comment, numerous sources have confirmed this week the first quarter of the Department of Liquor Control’s fiscal year — July, August and September — saw significant revenue declines from last year. The numbers will be discussed at a meeting this month. This latest decline in sales is relevant for a couple reasons.

First, if the first quarter of the fiscal year was down, that means it’s only going to get worse. If the summer months show a downward trend with the volume of tourists here, then it will only get worse as the year continues through the doldrums of winter. Secondly, if revenue is down considerably from last year, the first fiscal year of an open market, the predicted trend is playing out exactly as the county feared. It’s continuing to lose more and more of the market share on the retail and wholesale side, bringing into question its solvency.

During the next budget process, the County Commissioners will need to craft a formal exit plan for the Department of Liquor Control. Its’ days are numbered. The county just needs to find the most painless way out in the quickest amount of time. It might take a couple years, but the county needs to get out of the liquor business as quickly as possible and putting something down on paper outlining that plan is a must.

One of the long-term goals when it comes to downtown revitalization has always been to get people off the Boardwalk and traversing through the downtown core. The past has shown us that’s easier said than done. There needs to be a reason for them to do it, and I have always thought the key to a true revitalization of the downtown area will be a private sector attraction.

That’s why news of a modern haunted house being planned for the former H2O underage club property at Worcester Street and Baltimore Avenue should be encouraging. If all goes well and the plans progress, it will surely be a popular summertime option and could be a unique attraction that gets people moving west off the boards more so than an underage club.

Salisbury Mayor-Elect Jake Day has a difficult job ahead of him, but he does not appear to be shirking from what will be a burdensome role. Day is right on the money when he says Salisbury needs to find its identity. Is it a college town? Is it a shopping mecca? Is it a dangerous place? What does the Crossroads of Delmarva even mean?

How will he go about establishing this identity — or brand in his terms? Based on this week’s interview, it appears through hard work and a no nonsense, albeit realistic approach.

“We don’t know our own brand, and we haven’t identified it, nor embraced it. So, one of the things we have to do right away is go through a branding process and bring people in and find out what Salisbury means to them. What makes us special? What is our brand? We have to identify that. Once we identify that, we have to turn that into the message, and then the layers of the onion that you have around that core, we’ll find the layers that resonate with people about this place,” Day said. “Is crime one of them? Absolutely not, and that will never be the message. So let’s eliminate that, and not talk about that, and talk about the good things. Hopefully, through proactive policing we’ll simultaneously continue to reduce the association of this place with crime.”