Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – November 24, 2017

As expected, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza announced she will challenge incumbent Senator Jim Mathias next year. Although they may be contested in next June’s primaries, it’s a certainty it will be Carozza against Mathias next November. That means Mathias, a registered Democrat, will once again have to campaign heavily to retain his seat against a formidable Republican foe. Mathias has faced robust opposition – Michael James and Michael McDermott — in his re-election campaigns for delegate as well as senator.

This will be a fascinating matchup of two political heavyweights on the shore. It’s sure to be a tough campaign with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent throughout the district. The result of which will almost certainly be another tight contest on election night.

Although she has only been in elected office one term, Carozza is no stranger to politics, having served in former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s cabinet, working for the U.S. Department of Defense under President George W. Bush and serving in a variety of roles for other elected officials. Carozza has the backing of Gov. Larry Hogan, who was effusive in his praise of her at Sunday’s well-attended campaign announcement.

Hogan, who will be seeking his second term as governor next year, made it clear he will continually campaign for Carozza in the year ahead. He views her getting elected as a Republican and bumping out a Democrat as a key to his future issues getting through the Senate.

For his part, during his two terms as senator and five years as delegate, Mathias has a record to combat many of Hogan’s accusations that he always votes along party lines and contrary to his constituency’s desires. Mathias is an ardent campaigner who will be put to the test by Carozza, who has the prowess to match his unrivaled energy on the campaign trail.

There’s a little under a year before voters will head to the polls and I’m interested to see how much the political landscape changes in the months ahead. There have been mid-term elections in the past when the unpopular actions of the president have backfired against his own party in state and local races. Unhappy with the decisions of the ruling party in the White House, voters have expressed their feelings by voting in the opposing party. Given President Trump’s polarizing nature and his irrational and immature penchant for tweeting embarrassing nonsense on a daily basis, the Republican Party has good reason to be concerned on the national level. I expect many of the contested seats in the mid-term election across the country to swing to the Democrats as a simple rebellion to Trump.

The question is whether this general distaste for the commander in chief is enough to affect a state election like Hogan’s and if the shore is insulated from what will surely be an anti-Trump sweep because of its rural nature and conservative voting history.

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The first time I recall hearing about the “model block” concept for downtown Ocean City was from the International Waterfront Group (IWG), which prepared in 1999 an ambitious plan for downtown Ocean City. The early work of IWG was important for the downtown area, despite the fact the group made some recommendations – such as developing the Inlet parking lot into a hotel and mixed-use project – that resulted in heartburn for many officials.

Despite some of these ill-conceived notions, much of IWG’s plan became part of what the Ocean City Development Corporation was based on when it was formed. One of these long-term recommendations was the concept of identifying a model block that would be targeted for a major revitalization project. The city identified the block between Somerset and Dorchester streets and Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues as the goal. Eighteen years later, the city has nearly achieved its goal of owning the entire block.

The model block was back in the news this week when it was learned preliminary talks between Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and the National Aquarium in Baltimore have taken place on a possible marine animal rescue facility as the anchor redevelopment tenant on this block. This is exactly the type of development downtown Ocean City needs and has never had.

“It would be a unique facility and a tremendous tourist attraction. It’s environmentally-friendly and green, which people are looking for in their tourism destinations, and it could be something that really sets our downtown area apart from other tourist destinations,” Meehan said.

The potential for this type of project is exciting and here’s to hoping it remains on the front burner as a possible key part of the model block development. It could be a huge positive for downtown Ocean City.

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.