Much was said this week on the current street performer law in Ocean City and some changes appear imminent, according to comments made by the task force charged with monitoring busker rules and regulations.
Everything that was said this week by task force members and by performers themselves during last month’s hearing will be irrelevant if a federal judge finds it unconstitutional. That ruling is likely months away, as City Solicitor Guy Ayres reported this week the city has not even been served yet in regard to the recent challenge being led by Tony Christ. The legal challenge is of particular note because the city contracted a law firm, specializing in constitutional law, to ensure whatever regulations are passed would not be found unconstitutional if challenged legally. It will be interesting to find out if the law firm protected the city and whether the money spent was worth it.
Despite that proverbial elephant in the room, task force members outlined some changes they envisioned for next summer. Taking top billing was the registration process that saw people sleeping outside City Hall last summer to ensure a prime Boardwalk spot.
City officials have been intimating that changes to the registration process would be coming, as nobody wants to see people sleeping in front of City Hall on a routine basis during the summer months. The task force is suggesting to the Mayor and Council that a weekly registration process be implemented. The idea being sign-up day would be Monday mornings for all the designated spaces throughout the week. That way the performers would only be sleeping on the sidewalk in front of City Hall once a week.
“We need to have the registration once a week,” said Task Force Chair Greg Shockley. “That simplifies the whole thing. They’re moving every week and that will alleviate some of the concerns of the store owners.”
It’s designed as a compromise measure to address what was the biggest complaint from the buskers. It seems like a logical approach, one that’s contingent on council approval and whether the whole sign-up concept is constitutional in the first place. I sure hope it is.
During last week’s Q&A with Worcester County Economic Development Director Merry Mears, she was asked about an issue I have seen as a major concern for years. It’s this north-south divide that seems to be polarizing the county on some level. It has played out several times among the Worcester County Commissioners in public with the lone representative living south of Newark — Merrill Lockfaw — often pointing out the south end of the county matters and needs to be considered when amenities, such as the proposed ice hockey arena or excursion train depot, are considered. It surfaces in education discussions as well whenever capital improvements projects are weighed.
Mears didn’t shy away from the question, but was also probably a little rosy with her assessment from a realistic standpoint. That’s understandable, as a part of her job is to focus on the positives.
“I wouldn’t classify our county as divided by any means. I think individually, our municipalities and our different areas geographically have their own strengths and they all play off each other to attract visitors, provide jobs for our citizens and improve our quality of life overall. Of course, Ocean City is a huge draw for people to come here. Over eight million people ride through Route 50 and into Ocean City each year,” she said. “We still have the healthcare industry, manufacturing and other areas such as aerospace and agriculture that are thriving year-round. So, if we step back and look at it from a macro-sense, we can see all these different pockets of industry kind of complementing each other. And a rising tide like Ocean City lifts all boats.”