Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – February 3, 2017

What’s new in Ocean City for this summer?

That’s a question Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and tourism officials get asked often on marketing trips and media interviews in advance of the summer season. During these appearances, Meehan typically recounts new wrinkles on the town’s free special event offerings, headline acts for the OC Air Show, any notable infrastructure improvements and sometimes even talks about new private businesses of note that have opened.

It’s important for Ocean City to stay fresh and add new things to keep the interest of the vacationing public each year. There’s a charm to keeping a lot of the traditions intact, particularly for a place like Ocean City, but it’s equally important to understand many people like to see changes and additional activities.

Along those lines, the Mayor and Council heard a proposal this week for 100 Nights of Lights, a free nightly series from Memorial Day to Labor Day that would feature large spotlights set up along the Boardwalk with color filters illuminating the sky. The show, which would run six times each night and last about 20 minutes each time, has the potential to be a remarkable visual.

The issue here is the new event will push the town’s tourism special events budget beyond the current $300,000 allocation to more like $350,000. As a result, the council opted to remand the event and funding issues to the tourism subcommittee for further deliberation.

Although $50,000 is nothing to sneeze at, I think the city can find a way to make this happen. Whether this light show will attract people to Ocean City is anyone’s best guess, but it will surely add to the experience of those who have already chosen to vacation here in Ocean City. That’s important. Additionally, it’s a wonderful talking point for Meehan and tourism folks to discuss when pitching the merits of an Ocean City vacation.

As is usually the case, there was a lot of rhetoric and boasting in Gov. Larry Hogan’s State of the State Address on Wednesday. However, there were also some meaty comments that seem to outline what Hogan wants to accomplish within the legislature.

It was strange to me to see liberal newspapers in the metropolitan area blast Hogan for ignoring the president’s recent executive orders and not jumping on the anti-Trump bandwagon, rather than focusing on what his intentions are for Maryland over the final two years of his term. It’s the Trump obsession.

It appears a focal point for Hogan’s administration will be a reinvigorated approach to the opioid crisis tearing families apart across the state. Although he was long on generalities and short on specifics in his address before the legislature, Hogan said all the right things and was correct in pointing out the federal government needs to step up its efforts.

“We have made strides, but this crisis continues to grow out of control all across our country. We can – and we must – do more to save the lives of Marylanders. We need your help to enact the multi-pronged Heroin Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement Initiative and to pass the Prescriber Limits Act of 2017 and the Distribution of Opioids Resulting in Death Act,” Hogan said. “We must commit to doing whatever it takes to address this crisis, and no state can do it alone. Nearly all of my fellow governors of both parties have joined with me in asking that the federal government finally get engaged in this national crisis.”

Since the governor is not afraid to issue mandates for the education sector, we think part of this new effort should include requiring public school systems to at least twice a year feature speakers to address middle and high school students about the dangers of these drugs through personal reflections. We need to scare these kids for their own good.

In other news, it’s always interesting to visit other tourism destinations and get to know people in the hospitality industry.

When I vacationed in Deep Creek Lake last week, I made a point of talking to employees at the various businesses to see what the unseasonable winter — too warm — to that point meant for the area. It had been crippling apparently.

“It would be like you guys getting a month of nothing but rain in July,” a restaurant manager told me after he learned I was from the Ocean City area.

The week prior to our vacation had seen several days of rain and high temperatures in the 50s and 60s. It apparently had been that way for much of January. Even when it would snow, it would warm up the next day and rain, melting it all away. That left the mountain resort in dire straits.

On the fourth day of our vacation, after a few warm days, it finally snowed and it basically has not stopped since. For example, according to Wisp Resort’s website, 15 inches of snow has fallen over the last week as of Thursday and nearly 30 inches over the last two weeks. As the snow fell day after day at Wisp last week, it was impossible not to notice a general change in the emotion of everyone involved. In fact, as an employee was fastening my seatbelt on the mountain roller coaster at Wisp, his giddiness was contagious as the wind picked up and snowfall limited visibility.

When I asked why he was so excited, he said, “It looks like I have a job for another month at least.”

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.