There appears to be an ongoing rub among Ocean City Mayor and Council members when it comes to the handling of matters at the subcommittee level.
Ocean City Councilman Wayne Hartman is the most vocal critic to issues being hashed out too thoroughly at the committee level before the full council hears them. He referenced his concerns this week during a discussion about two jeeps being purchased to pull the Boardwalk trams next summer.
Hartman is not alone in his beef, as Councilman John Gehrig recently took the town’s police commission to task over a draft action plan on motorized events that was distributed far and wide by hospitality officials before the full council reviewed it. He questioned the commission’s rogue drafting of the plan after a recent strategic planning session when there was a consensus, in his opinion, to form a task force of stakeholders to further tackle the complicated issues surrounding vehicle events.
These sorts of concerns have been heard before. In fact, it was these issues and fears of committees deciding matters before the full council is aware that led a former council to abandon all the committees save the police commission, which is required by charter. Once the council makeup changed in the next election, the committees were reformed.
We believe the committee structure in place in Ocean City represents solid government so long as there’s transparency and communication between committee members and the council members who do not serve on the respective committees.
On private sector business boards as well as those governing private nonprofits, much of the nuts and bolts of managing the operations are handled by committees, which is typically comprised of a mix of board members and staff representatives with a presentation accompanied by a recommendation to the governing board. This is a functional and efficient process that allows smaller groups to explore all angles of a particular matter of business and offer an educated and informed recommendation.
In the Town of Ocean City’s case, at this week’s meeting, we think the transportation committee’s report to the full council on a proposed new parking system in Ocean City was handled appropriately. While it came with a committee endorsement, the plan to present the idea initially followed by a full presentation from the vendor is a reasonable direction to take.
To answer these concerns, the issues must be timely shared with all council members to avoid the sorts of comments and concerns from Hartman and Gehrig in recent months. Ideally, the recommendation from the committee is agreed to by the full council because it’s the proper course of action. In the event there’s not a consensus, as was the case this week with the bike lights mandate, then it’s the proper process to further discuss the matter at the committee level before bringing it back to the council.
This committee structure can be a productive way of governing but the key is ensuring all members of the council are versed on specific matters and do not feel left out of the loop. That’s what appears to be happening of late. The solution is better communication of information through timely updates.