Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

On the one hand, the fact street performing seems to be dominating Ocean City news these days is a good sign. There could always be much more intense and heavy issues to confront. On the other hand, I believe I echo the majority opinion here — enough is enough with the constant whining.

The Ocean City Mayor and Council and the Boardwalk Task Force have made a point of being responsive and courteous to the street performers whenever they express their concerns about the current regulations and even now with proposed adaptations to those rules. The time has come now for the city to move forward, enact the changes establishing a lottery of sorts and see how next summer plays out. It can always be revisited again.

This constant dialogue of the same concerns about freedom of expression being violated over and over again is no longer productive or interesting. The fact is the majority of street performers are going to be unhappy with whatever policies the city puts in place to govern them. They don’t want any rules.

What truly irks me is when the street performers put forward claims on how they were doing just fine through self-regulation. That’s simply false. The Boardwalk was not acceptable without any sort of restrictions and guidelines in place for the performers. That’s why a pole dancer was allowed to make a mockery of the town two summers ago. The status quo at that time — a free-for-all of performers of all types — could not be allowed to continue.

What’s not talked about much by performers is the fact the umbrage being expressed is a guise for what it’s really all about — the money. The new system is not allowing the buskers to make enough tax-free money on the boards as they were previously. That upsets them.

What aggravates me is the fact the lawsuit filed by the performers is seeking $1 million from Boardwalk store owners as well as $1 million from the city in compensatory and punitive damages. It’s one thing to question whether the most recent street performer ordinance is constitutional (I’m curious myself), but it’s another matter altogether to go after small business owners for no legitimate reason. The good news is these merchants will be fine, as there is no standing for them to be financially culpable. It’s a ridiculous claim actually.

Council President Lloyd Martin summed up the goal of this long process well this week.

“We have to be fair to our business owners and we have to be fair to our performers,” Martin said. “… I don’t think anybody here discounts any Boardwalk performers. It’s been said up here from the council the performers add something to the Boardwalk and give the Boardwalk character. Some are better than others and we all know that. We just need time to get this right and do what’s best for everybody and that’s where we are right now.”

There was some great news from the OC Air Show this week. It was expected the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds would be returning as next year’s headliner since the U.S. Navy Blue Angels had already announced they would be in Ohio the same weekend as the resort event.

However, the Air Show did pull a wonderful surprise with this week’s announcement that the Blue Angels will be returning to Ocean City in 2017.

It’s not official apparently, but Berlin could soon be home to a Dunkin Donuts with a drive-thru, filling a long-time vacancy in the Food Lion Shopping Center. That space has been vacant ever since the county moved its liquor store to Route 50 years ago and only has been used on a temporary basis for Senator Jim Mathias’ campaign.

This is one of many changes ahead for the center located at the corner of Route 113 and Old Ocean City Boulevard. Dollar General will be departing once its stand-alone building is completed less than a mile to the south sometime next year. Although it’s not official either, knowledgeable sources report Food Lion will expand into the discount store’s current space.

When News Editor Bryan Russo pitched Burley Oak’s Bryan Brushmiller as this week’s podcast and interview, I was skeptical at first because I wondered what else is there to say about the Berlin-based brewery that hasn’t already been overly documented. It turns out there was a lot, and it was most interesting to learn of the trends within the beer industry. It sounds a lot like the print industry actually when you have a big corporate company — Gannett — trying to squeeze out the local publishing companies with ridiculous pricing aimed squarely at reducing competing market shares no matter its own financial impact.

“We are starting to see large corporations make no money off of the (craft) beer they are selling to disrupt the small craft brewing industry. They are lowering the prices tremendously,” Brushmiller said. “… Basically, these corporations are worth billions of dollars, and for them to come in and say, we are going to make little to no margin off of this (craft beer) because the volume is there. They aren’t really looking at paying back stockholders because they have a corporation that basically will keep the coffers filled, and it’s disruptive to the craft beer industry.”