Senator Jim Mathias was active on the legislative front last Friday with three bills of significant local importance introduced.
One of the bills seeks to right a wrong that could have major ramifications on Boardwalk arcades. The legislation seeks to rewrite a controversial piece of a bill passed four years ago that would place amusement games, like those commonly found on the Boardwalk, in the same category as slot machines, subjecting them to a new regulations that will make it tough for these operations to stay in business. The senator’s bill would take the coin-operated games out of the legislation and will be heard next month. It’s a shame this effort is even necessary because it was a ridiculous oversight by legislators in 2012.
On the liquor front, Mathias is seeking to establish a new class of license that would essentially allow existing beer and wine stores to apply for the ability to add liquor to their offerings for a flat annual fee. This is a regulatory move in response to Worcester County planning to dissolve its liquor department. Contrary to the County Commissioners’ wishes, Mathias, rightly so, was not willing to put into the legislation language that requires the beer and wine places seeking to add liquor be more than 10 miles from an existing county-owned store so as not to make selling off remaining inventory more challenging. That was a ridiculous, anti-private business request and Mathias was right to overlook it.
Mathias also put forward another bill on the post-Labor Day school start effort, which went nowhere last year. He revealed a little bit of a different strategy this year when he talked about the economic and family benefits from starting school after Labor Day. He also mentioned tying a jobs program to it potentially. It’s no secret the effort faces an uphill fight against an organized group of opponents, and that should be evident on March 2 at its first reading.
Constance Sturgis, known best as Miss Connie, is a true community treasure and she has been so for many decades.
News Editor Bryan Russo had the privilege of sitting down with Miss Connie, a retired long-time teacher who is now 90 years old. Like many others her age, Miss Connie expresses her opinions without any reservations and people listen. She has earned that respect through her long life and many years of educating young and old minds. Her blunt talk and strong opinions are part of what makes her an inspiration to many in the African-American community, and there’s no better time to spotlight her than in February, which is Black History Month.
“These kids today are crying out for our help. Our youth want to escape from using drugs, alcohol, gangs, and they really need boundaries within their lives that provide structure and safety. They are entering into adulthood unprepared and failing at alarming rates because of violence or a lack of resources,” she said. “I think kids today lack manners, and they don’t understand the importance of a good vocabulary and hard work,” she said. “Yes, February is Black History Month, but I wonder if kids today realize what that means? I’m proud of who I am, and they should be too. We aren’t just African-Americans during the month of February. We have to be the best representation of our families, our community and our culture every day of the year.”
I recently spent nine days in Deep Creek Lake and enjoyed getting to know the area. It struck me the similarities between that tourism area and here in Ocean City.
Although they couldn’t be different geographically, considering they are in the same state after all, Deep Creek Lake and Ocean City have much in common in that tourism is everything.
Prior to our stay, the area had only received about five inches of snow and it clearly had hurt the region and its major employer, Wisp Resort. Being a newspaperman, I’m nosey and I like to start conversations with strangers to learn about the area. One of the most memorable talks I had was with a worker at the resort and it reminded me of so many conversations I have had around here with business owners and hospitality workers when the weather is not cooperating in the summer months.
As is the case in Ocean City, the most critical impact to tourism in Deep Creek Lake is the weather. In the summer, Ocean City, by and large, needs sunny and dry weather to be prosperous. That’s essentially the case for Deep Creek Lake in the summer, but in the winter it needs snow and the more the merrier, according to the locals I spoke with. While he may not have been the most eloquent of speakers, this man, who seemed to be in charge of clearing the parking lots at Wisp, told me how rough the season had been there around the holidays and early part of the winter, and what it would then be like after the area received three feet of snow in 48 hours. That happened the first couple days of stay we were there.
“We spent all winter waiting for the snow, and we got a season’s worth in a weekend. All we can do is thank God because we have been praying for it,” he said.