Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – November 18, 2016

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – November 18, 2016

There were several surprises at last week’s typically predictable organization meeting at City Hall.

His statements were a little awkward at times, but Ocean City Councilman John Gehrig made it clear in his first meeting he will have a voice at City Hall. Based on his first meeting, it’s likely going to rub his colleagues the wrong way at times because he’s blunt.

Gehrig’s outspoken ways were expected, but to hear him challenge his colleagues in a specific fashion at the first meeting was unexpected.

The larger surprise, however, was Councilman Dennis Dare’s reaction to Gehrig. He took a condescending tone. After I read his quote while editing this week’s article about the meeting, I went back and watched the video to get a better context of the situation. Clearly Dare was frustrated by Gehrig questioning the leadership selection process and then was completely mistaken with his conclusion about the election results.

“Let me help you understand it better,” he said. “The top vote-getters have the privilege of sitting up here and then we have the privilege of selecting our leaders. Just because you’re the most popular doesn’t make you the best leader …”

As if that wasn’t out of line enough since Gehrig was the highest vote getter by 500-plus votes, Dare, who was the highest vote getter four years ago, continued speaking in an uncharacteristic fashion, saying, “The vote total on Tuesday I take exception to. Tony Christ’s lying, deceitful tactics and handing out this deceitful piece of garbage [holding up a piece of paper] to everybody effected the outcome of the election. That mean, deceitful act was carried out by Tony and some of the people sitting in here as well. I sure hope anybody sitting up here wasn’t part of that. That’s politics.”

Dare tried to back up his “exception” to Gehrig’s landslide win by pointing to absentee ballots having himself and Gehrig in a tight contest. Dare looked like the sophomoric official on this particular evening. Whether he intended it, he was insulting to the voters of the city while trying to deride Christ and seemingly educate Gehrig. To claim hundreds of city voters or even more were persuaded walking into the polls by one extreme individual or even a small group peddling beliefs about the city is ridiculous. It’s simply not true.

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 1,609 signatures on the National Aquarium’s online petition that hopes to garner support for getting the Baltimore Canyon named the country’s first Urban National Marine Sanctuary. The petition was launched a month ago and the current nomination process is one of the first steps in trying to encourage NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to take up the effort.

In the initial press release announcing the online petition, the aquarium described the process as beginning with a “nomination package, backed by widespread public support.” At this point, I would hardly call 1,609 signatures in one month a robust effort warranting “widespread” backing.

I can’t remember the last time a federal agency acknowledged it made a mistake, but that’s exactly what happened this month when FEMA acknowledged an error in revisions to Ocean City’s flood maps.

It seemed obvious a mistake was made in regard to the primary and secondary dunes in front of the high-rise condos in Ocean City, but getting FEMA to admit it and for property owners to be brought back whole with their flood insurance overpayments was another matter. In a statement, FEMA said, “This revision is based on updating the delineation of the primary frontal dune to include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Atlantic Coast of Maryland Storm Protection Project and excludes the secondary dunes that are non-continuous, private landscape areas.”

Now property owners must wait to get word on exactly how they will be refunded the money they overpaid as a result of the classification error. When they will get their money is unclear, but it will be spring at the earliest since the revision does not take effect until March.

Although Ocean City officials pressed the State Highway Administration a bit on trying to nail down a schedule for extending the median fence on Coastal Highway, the state folks are right to play the wait-and-see game.

Some details of the work were released this week. Construction on the $5.2 million median fence, which will run along Coastal Highway from the convention center to the Route 90 Bridge, will begin in January and it should be completed by late May.

Future phases have been discussed continuing south on Coastal Highway, but the state is noncommittal at this point as far as timeline. The plan seems to be to get the fence in place this summer, review whether it was effective in deterring jaywalkers in the offseason and then shoot for another round of fencing one year later.

I can’t blame city officials for seeking a commitment for a timely extension of the fence, but the state was right to adopt a review and evaluate position for the future. It’s not a certainty the fence will be successful in increasing pedestrian safety, but here’s to hoping so.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.