County’s Arts Funding Cut Disappointing
Last week at a budget hearing, the Worcester County Commissioners voted to discontinue funding to the Art League of Ocean City, thereby ending the public-private partnership that was established between The State of Maryland, Worcester County, the Town of Ocean City, and individual donors. This type of cooperation is rare, and it has taken decades to bring it to fruition.
Since opening the new Ocean City Center for the Arts in 2013, the Art League has filled a cultural void in the area, and has become a place where people of all ages come for personal growth, creative expression, and community involvement.
The facility is open every day year-round and admission is always free. In 2017, over 20,000 people visited the art center, with 3,050 of them taking classes and more than 350 artists exhibiting their work there. There is no other facility of its size and scope in Worcester County, and the members include 60 local business. It draws residents and visitors from throughout the region who hunger for cultural experiences.
Without the funding from the County, the Art League would not be able to offer many of the free programs to those who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity. These include: After School Art Academy at Buckingham Elementary, Exceptional Abilities with Pocomoke and Cedar Chapel schools, and art classes for the Berlin youth group of Worcester County Youth and Family Counseling.
However, perhaps the most compelling reason for Worcester County to continue its contribution to the Art League is the value it brings to tourism. Events like the Ocean City Film Festival, Artists Paint OC, and the Sand Castle Home Tour bring many visitors to Worcester County and support local businesses.
An investment in the arts is an investment in both the community and the economy. We respectfully ask the Worcester County Commissioners to continue to honor the public-private partnership that has been formed to give our children the opportunity experience the arts and to keep our economy growing.
(The writer is the executive director of the Art League of Ocean City.)
Survivor’s Motto: Hope
Hope is a wonderful word that has many meanings to everyone. One is to cherish a desire with expectations of fulfillment. In other words, we hope what we want comes true. Every day, I hope that some person or an organization, discovers the cure for cancer. I hope that friends and relatives won’t contact cancer, I hope that cancer survivors stay in remission and I hope I can comfort someone who has lost a love one to cancer.
As a cancer survivor of 15 years I preach to people get a checkup, give love and care to patients suffering from cancer and give compassion to people who have lost loved ones. Also, I try to raise funds to help eradicate this disease.
American Cancer Society Relay for Life is a special event. It took place on May 11 at Frontier Town in West Ocean City. It was a celebration of life for people who have survived this disease. It also had an atmosphere of hope, faith and love. Hope for the survivors that good health continues as they walk the first lap, hearing cheers and applause from the audience, faith that someday this dreaded disease will be cured and the love that pours forth from the crowds of people, saying keep fighting, we love you. The emotion during this lap was overwhelming. There are hugs, tears and feelings of love, so hard to describe. There were close to 100 survivors at this event.
A week or so ago, I was out at the store. I saw a lady wearing a sweatshirt that said cancer will be beaten. I went over to her and told her I liked her shirt and that I am also involved in the Relay for Life. In talking to her, she said she was with a group from North Carolina. After we finished talking, she said “can I give you a hug?” Here we were, a black lady from North Carolina hugging a white man from Delaware saying we got to work together to beat this disease. We left each other smiling and feeling a little more hopeful.
My hope and wishes are to raise funds for the Relay, no matter what amount. We need the entire community to help. There is a quote by the great Helen Keller, “I am only one, still I am one, I cannot do everything, still I can do something, I will not refuse to do something I can do.”
To all my friends and loved ones who have endured such suffering from this disease, May God bless you.
Sheriff Responds To County Criticism
I would like to take a moment to address the County Commissioners meeting regarding our budget and the comments that were made.
Last week Charlene Sharpe of The Dispatch published an article reporting on the County Commissioners meeting where the commissioners were reviewing the Sheriff’s Office budget.
She published this article without making any attempt to contact me, or members of the Sheriff’s office staff, to validate or discredit the statements made by the commissioners and the County Administrator. In today’s environment, this appears to be the standards the media are working under. It is a shame and a disappointment.
I am very disappointed in the comments that the Commissioners and the County Administrator made during that session implying that we operate a slush fund and they have a trust issue with me. I will be perfectly clear we use the seized asset money in accordance with federal and state rules. Items purchased with those funds directly support the mission of law enforcement in Worcester County. The majority of the money spent is to fund the criminal enforcement team’s day-to-day operations. The purchase of items such as computers, electronic forensic equipment, telephones, down to paper. Calling it a slush fund is disrespectful to those deputies that rely on those monies to do the job that the commissioners do not fund. That unit is a highly performing multi agency investigation team that has received several awards for their performance.
As far as Mr. Higgins stating there is a trust issue, I am offended that he would make that kind of statement in an open meeting about an elected official that the citizens of this county have put their trust in to keep our community safe. Not only does he offend me but also the deputies that give up their time with their families day and night to patrol our county and apprehend those who are engaged in criminal behavior.
Trust is a two-way street. Mr. Higgins and the commissioners sat in a meeting with me and promised six additional deputies to help us serve you our citizens. We have only seen three and they are cutting any new hires for patrol in our budget. We have a citizen to deputy ratio of 4,216 to one during the summer season in Worcester County. The summer season has now expanded from late April to November. During the off season, we are at 621 to one. With the ever-growing population brings more problems and new problems. We have criminal activity that reaches beyond the simple drunk and disorderly to computer crimes victimizing the most vulnerable of our community, our children. More deputies are needed to combat crime that is always evolving.
You have seen that law enforcement officers are being targeted and killed. We have lost two deputies in the line of duty. We are now finishing police week where the sacrifices of those officers who gave their life in the protection of their communities were honored in D.C. and in other communities throughout the country. I did not see our commissioners make any overt gestor to honor Worcester County deputies or any other law enforcement officers that have lost their lives, or have had career ending injuries while serving the citizens of this county.
Mr. Higgins wrote an apology letter to me for his statements that were reported by Charlene Sharpe. He states that his words were taken out of context. I read the transcripts of that meeting and they were not taken out of context. As much as it disappoints me that Mr. Higgins made those comments, I do accept his apology.
I have offered, and still do to this day offer to the County Commissioners and Mr. Higgins to come see the operations of this office and what it takes to run a law enforcement organization. It is complicated and evolving. Some commissioners have come and learned. It is apparent that some of the most critical of the commissioners have never come down and learned what it takes to lead a law enforcement organization.
I was elected by the great citizens of this county and have the honor of serving them with the utmost dignity and trust. The citizens have put their trust in me I intend to serve with integrity and upstanding character that will be unwavering.
(The writer is the sheriff of Worcester County.)