Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – June 16, 2017

Holding a special election in the summer months in Ocean City to decide a single referendum should not even be an option. It’s amazing to me it’s even being discussed.

When the issue returns for more discussion next week and a final vote, it’s my hope the Mayor and Council has a different take on the issue. At a minimum, I would expect Council President Lloyd Martin to vote for the paramedics’ collective bargaining with binding interest arbitration referendum to be decided at the next election in November 2018. That would break the 3-3 stalemate, assuming all seven council members are in attendance.

Although their opinion doesn’t really matter now, my guess would be that the town’s paramedics would not want this issue decided in the middle of August either when turnout will surely be poor. Along with concern of voters caring enough in the summer to actually vote, it’s important to remember voters may not be willing to invest the time in learning more about the subject given the hectic pace of the summer season around here.

On this issue, Councilman Dennis Dare is right when he says, “I don’t think we’d be doing the public a service by holding a special election in August. … Moving it to the next municipal election will allow the public to become familiar with this issue. That would give them a year.”

It’s a simple decision — put the matter on the November 2018 ballot when it will receive the attention it deserves.

There have been lots of opinions expressed regarding the topless issue that surfaced in Ocean City over the last month. One that I think was completely inappropriate and off the mark entirely came from The Baltimore Sun. In an editorial, “OC officials: The boobies are coming!,” the newspaper took the town to task while trying to be clever evidently.

“In their continuing efforts to make Ocean City more ‘family friendly,’ officials there are going after what’s arguably the most family friendly body part of all: breasts — specifically those of the female variety,” the editorial reads. “Female breasts are so sexualized in our society that it’s not just straight men who are obsessed with them — many women are too, fretting over their size, shape and general attractiveness. To avoid emotional discomfort, then, breasts must only be bared behind closed doors, according to Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, who declared in a statement to media that he and the City Council ‘are unanimously opposed to women being topless on our beach or in any public area.’ He added ‘Ocean City is a family resort, and we intend to do whatever is within our ability to also protect the rights of those families that visit us each year. He’s apparently forgotten that the main function of the female breast is to provide a source of nutrition for babies. If that’s not family friendly, we don’t know what is. … We would respectfully suggest that if Mayor Meehan and the Ocean City Council members are really concerned about equal protection and ‘those families that visit’ each year, they would hold an emergency meeting this weekend to urge everyone to cover up — men too. Sun damage is no joke.”

Apparently the editorial was just that, however.

On the surface, it may seem odd of the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) to issue a warning five weeks ahead of time about a planned “College Beach Weekend” event July 21-23. However, the reality is last year’s incidents confirm it’s the right approach to get out in front of it early and often.

Back in 2014, this paper took some lumps from readers and officials for covering intently this planned event coming to Ocean City after years of wreaking havoc in Virginia Beach. When the weekend passed and not much happened, there were a lot of people pointing fingers at the decision-makers here saying it was much ado about nothing. I defended us at that time, opining the advanced media attention likely went a long way in deterring troublemakers or at a minimum informing them police were aware and ready with a zero-tolerance approach to reckless and intimidating behavior.

In advance of a planned 2015 event, this paper did the same sort of early coverage of law enforcement’s plans and the like. It was a fairly quiet weekend again. Last year there was no media attention given to the 2016 planned event. I admit it just wasn’t on our radar. The result — whether directly related or not — was a major event on the Boardwalk with dozens of police officers put in harm’s way after a mob-like crowd starting trouble. A video of a disorderly crowd of more than 100 circulated the Internet and raised understandable concerns about safety on the Boardwalk. While it was not a riot or even close to it, it was an ugly scene that could have easily gotten out of control.

When it comes to public safety in this day and age, it’s better to hedge on the side of overkill than ignoring and hoping for the best. That’s essentially what the OCPD did this week and it’s good policy.

“With the expectation that this event will bring an influx of young adults, residents and visitors can anticipate increased enforcement and high visibility, OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the business community and our residents as the event approaches. We’re optimistic that the majority of people that are planning to come to Ocean City throughout the summer months are here to enjoy the beach and everything our town has to offer.”

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.