Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – May 19, 2017

It’s welcome news to hear 20 new street lights are planned for West Ocean City north of Route 50 because they have been sorely needed for many years.

I drive Keyser Point and Golf Course roads multiple times a days and it’s remarkable to me there are not more pedestrian and bicycle accidents. A situation I observed Monday morning commonly plays out. Three young women, employees at Ocean City businesses, were walking south on Golf Course Road having a conversation. Rather than walking single file in the grass or even just part of the roadway they were three-wide walking in the roadway, for some reason, causing north-bound motorists and school buses to stop or inch over into opposing traffic lane. The result was a mess. The only good thing about that particular situation was that it was daytime.

The lights will certainly help improve safety along the roads in that area, but sidewalks will go a long way to improving the area as well. They cost a lot of money but it’s time for a long-term project to make its way into a budget because the area is only becoming more populated, particularly by seasonal employees who don’t always utilize common sense.

Most Mayor and Council meetings include a significant amount of time dedicated to public comments and that’s a good thing. It’s a healthy aspect of the Democratic process, promotes discourse and allows the public to be engaged in the decision-making process.

For the most part, the comments or questions are on point and germane to the topics being discussed in the meeting although sometimes they veer off in a different, unexpected direction. A public comment period, during which speakers are allowed five minutes, is included on every Mayor and Council agenda, and Council President Lloyd Martin allows members of the audience to speak on specific issues outside the designated public comment period and with few exceptions allows speakers to go beyond their allotted five minutes. Sometimes they are allowed to go well beyond 15 minutes.

Such was the case on Monday when the public comments accounted for over a third of the entire meeting, which went nearly three hours. Granted, the Mayor and Council were discussing the budget, which is perhaps the single most important thing they do as municipal elected officials, but a breakdown of the time allotted to the public leads one to believe the elected officials should have just come down from the dais and switched places with a handful of public speakers.

Out of the entire 170 minutes, members of the public had the floor for 64 minutes, or 38 percent of the time. One public speaker, who used his time to comment during the budget discussion and then returned for his five-minute allotment at the end of the meeting held the floor for 21 total minutes. By comparison, Mayor Rick Meehan, who spoke the most among the elected officials on Monday, held the floor for 23 minutes, but Meehan’s time included reading a lengthy proclamation and other mundane tasks.

The speakers can criticize the council members for a lot of things, but not giving them their chance to roast them is not one of them. That’s not the case with all governments.

A common concern heading into every summer season used to be gasoline prices. For about the last five years, the low nature of the fuel prices has made it a non-issue. However, it’s certainly not something to take for granted.

Back in 2011, then-Ocean City Councilman Brent Ashley proposed and the council subsequently approved a $100,000 gas promotional campaign aimed at reminding vacationers how close Ocean City is to them and how affordable it is to get here. It was a take-off of a former campaign highlighting the fact Ocean City is within a tank of gas from many metropolitan areas in the mid-Atlantic.

This year gasoline is not even a thought when it comes to tourism. In Maryland, the state average, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, is $2.31, which is six cents higher than one year ago.

What’s the point? Sometimes what’s not news is just as interesting.

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.