Year-in-reviews, lazy fillers for publications and media outlets, bore us. Therefore, we avoid them and instead focus on news reporting rather than simply taking the short week off. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t get reflective at the end of the year like everyone else. With that in mind, here’s our take on the top five news stories of the year.
This ranking is not necessarily about what stories got the most ink over the last year. These are the stories that had the biggest impact on the largest amount of people by our estimation.
- The Weather
Let’s face it nothing is more important in this coastal region than the weather. Mother Nature is always the top story around these parts because it rules everything and this year was no exception.
The weather dominated 2015, from the considerable amount of snow last winter that closed schools for several days, the rain that cancelled the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Ocean City and the washout the first weekend in October that kept a troublesome annual automotive event peaceful to the splendid weather that helped the Blue Angels dazzle at the OC Air Show in June, historic fishing records falling because of favorable offshore conditions from stable weather patterns and the unseasonable late fall and early winter temperatures that resulted in record-breaking attendance at Winterfest.
Many financial bottom lines are directly linked to Mother Nature with the majority of businesses thriving when it’s warm and dry in the summer months. The success or failure of most businesses can typically be determined by the tendencies of the weather. Without question, the weather cooperated when it mattered most, and nearly all business people would gladly take this past year’s weather again and again.
- County Budget, Teachers
The spring was a volatile time in Worcester County government, as the County Commissioners refused to fund the entire Board of Education budget, resulting in proposed pay increases not making it through the commissioners’ drastic budget cuts. After further review, the school board cut some positions and was able to approve a nominal increase for school system employees.
Nonetheless, the damage was done at least on the surface, as a strained relationship between some commissioners and teachers developed then and remains today.
Lost amid this controversy was one of the largest single-year property tax increases approved by the commissioners.
- Corporate Hotel Boom
There are as many as five flag hotel projects underway in northern Worcester County and expected to open next year, signaling an end to the common belief this seasonal area could not support the demands associated with year-round hotels.
This changing model is a good thing for Ocean City and West Ocean City, as new facilities are replacing outdated operations and providing a new appeal for visitors. They are significant economic stimulators on many levels, and it will be interesting to observe how long this corporate hotel boom lasts. As history indicates, all things are cyclical and soon enough it will be the condominiums that are the talk of the town. For now, it’s the hotel boom and it’s beneficial to Ocean City.
- City Manager Out, Search Nears End
It’s expected within the first quarter of next year that Ocean City will welcome its new city manager after former City Manager David Recor’s three-year stint came to an embarrassing close in July.
It’s big news whenever there is a vacancy at the top of Ocean City’s appointed leadership. As the chief executive officer, this individual is responsible for a major resort with a $150 million operating budget. The city is a major employer and proper leadership is important on many levels for residents, non-residents and commercial operations.
Ocean City needs long-term stability in this position.
- Street Performers
This gets in the top five based on the fact the city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this issue, volunteers have spent hundreds of hours trying to come up with solutions and hundreds of inches of copy in this publication have been devoted to this issue throughout the year.
The city has worked fervently to try and appease the street performers while also taking into account concerns expressed by Boardwalk business owners. The latest attempt at compromise was last month when the city further tweaked the regulations.
Much more is expected on the busker front in the coming year as the court system is expected to weigh in on whether the new rules are constitutional.
Honorable mentions for 2015 include the new smoking restrictions in Ocean City, Berlin’s planned purchase of the former Tyson poultry property, the Dew Tour not returning to Ocean City, the ongoing discourse over the future of Worcester County’s liquor department, the possible excursion train operation, the sports arena currently under consideration, an historic White Marlin Open with the first female winner and a number of noteworthy deaths of leading citizens.