Enough is enough with Ocean City’s attempts to regulate street performers on the Boardwalk.
The city must accept what it wants with the buskers is simply not constitutional in the eyes of federal judges. The only means Ocean City has as far as limiting the performers’ locations is directly connected to public safety, according to U.S. District Court Judge Richard Bennett.
“This court recognizes Ocean City’s substantial interests in making the Boardwalk safe and orderly for its citizens, personnel and visitors,” the opinion reads. “However, with the exception of three provisions, Chapter 62’s restrictions place a substantial burden on speech that does not implicate or hinder the city’s interests.”
Those three aspects are no performers can restrict emergency vehicle access at North Division Street where the Boardwalk Arch is located and Dorchester Street, which is often used by police and the beach patrol; all performers must be off the boards by 1 in the morning; and no advertising or signage can exceed six feet in height.
Eliminated is just about every intention the city had of regulating the buskers, most importantly the pre-registration process for a set number of designated spots on the Boardwalk.
With this latest court rebuke of the city’s well-intended crack down on street performers, the city needs to move forward. A clear opinion has been given on how far the city can go with regulating the performers. Once again, with this latest ordinance, the city went too far. It’s happened at least twice before.
Unfortunately, these hand slaps from federal judges come after hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent by the city on legal fees. The time has come to stop fighting this battle. The fact is the city and the impacted Boardwalk business owners will just have to deal with them. It’s a tough pill to swallow but it’s the reality.
Ever wonder what an oceanfront hotel would cost to buy?
While every property would surely vary, records confirm the five-story, 63-room Atlantic Oceanfront Inn at 45th Street has been sold for $10.5 million three months after being listed at the same price.
Besides the sales price, I found it interesting that the property has an annual county tax bill of $80,700.
The signs on the Boardwalk say, “no smoking or vaping.” That seems clear to me.
That’s why the ongoing dialogue in Ocean City about adding marijuana, because of its recent decriminalization to a degree, to the town’s smoking ordinance is confusing to me. I’m glad to see I’m not alone.
Councilman Matt James has been hitting a similar note on this issue in recent months.
“I brought this up the last time we discussed this,” he said. “I still think it would be easier if we said no smoking of anything. If they can’t smoke anything, they can’t smoke anything. Something new is going to come up and we’ll have to change it again. It might be some kind of chemically-engineered substance. … Why not just say smoking? If they are smoking a pencil, that’s still smoking. Right now, if they are smoking something not listed, they are all clear and good to go. A blanket ‘no smoking’ covers everything they want to do. Does that make sense to everybody else?”
For what it’s worth, it makes sense to me.
Homelessness is often a mental health issue, and that’s what makes Ocean City’s problem so difficult to tackle.
When this week’s story was posted online, there were a lot of comments made on Facebook. Some of them were predictable shots at Ocean City, but a long comment from resident Bonnie Stone caught my attention. As an example that many homeless people suffer from mental illness, she pointed to the tragic fire at St. Paul’s by the Sea Episcopal in 2013 when a homeless man, obviously not of sound mind, intentionally set himself on fire and entered the food pantry that had been helping him for months.
“I know each and every one of these people. They pretty much live at the bathroom on the Boardwalk on the street I live on. They are constantly arrested, cleaned up and come right back and start drinking all over again. Part of me wants to feel sorry for them but I know them so part of me does not. They are offered jobs but they make more money panhandling and will just laugh at you,” she wrote. “Most get disability and spend it on drinking instead of a place to live. This particular group of people, this is their choice to be homeless and be here. I have sat down and talked with each and every one of them. Some have mental illness. Some have terrible fears of being inside. But everyone of them knows how to panhandle. They can get hundreds a day in handouts in season … And yes I am compassionate and used to cook nice hot meals for them every day until one of them I knew very well set himself on fire and burned down the church that was helping him, killing the priest and disfiguring a volunteer. That is when I stopped.”