At last week’s organization meeting, the Ocean City Mayor and Council resembled the Worcester County Commissioners. The commissioners routinely make decisions in private before the issues are even discussed privately. The majority of the council did just that last week.
The vote for the council president was clearly orchestrated beforehand. Before outlining his position that Councilman Matt James should be the council’s new president, Ocean City Councilman John Gehrig called his colleagues out on the fact the decision was already made. There was no response to that charge because it was true. The group looked foolish. Gehrig knew he didn’t have the votes for James to become president, but he outlined his reasoning anyway.
The whole situation was strange. After Gehrig motioned for James to become president, Ocean City Councilman Dennis Dare made the motion for Martin to stay as president. Gehrig explained his view the people of Ocean City soundly endorsed James last week in the election as they did four years ago. He said the voters had spoken, making him the top vote getter by 600-plus votes, and they wanted change. He said, “The people up here must listen to the voters.”
James explained he was ready for the challenge of being president and then Martin stated his desire to remain as president, a position he has held for six years. What was especially odd was there were no reasons expressed by council members why Martin needed to stay in the presidency role. Gehrig and James were the only people who spoke highly of Martin. They both said it was nothing personal against Martin, who had done a fine job in their estimation, but they felt the people of Ocean City clearly expressed in the election they wanted a change.
With none of his colleagues explaining why they supported him, Martin was left to vouge for himself with no comments from his colleagues. The vote was 5-2 heading into City Hall that night for Martin to remain president, and it played out just like that when the vote was called.
This council should be embarrassed by how it handled that decision. Those who voted for Martin should have provided their reasoning publicly rather than staying conspicuously silent.
Gehrig he was right to criticize his colleagues on this process.
“None of the other candidates who won this election got more than 50 percent of the vote. One candidate got 70 (percent),” Gehrig said. “Are we going to listen or not? Are we going to have confidence in our youth and next generation of leaders? Are we going to be high minded or are we going to hold them back? That’s what this vote is about.”
It was a bad start for this group.
The Route 90 dualization is not happening. My guess is it won’t happen in my lifetime.
Despite the county reprioritizing Route 90 ahead of Route 50 but behind Routes 113 and 589, it became clear last month there was no momentum at the state level to study Route 90. An environmental study is the first step in a long process, but it’s been made clear there is no intention to go that direction anytime soon.
“State Highway acknowledges your concerns,” said SHA District Engineer Jay Meredith at this week’s Ocean City Mayor and Council meeting. “… it’s a very large project. A project of that magnitude has to go through the state queue for approval. … I just think you have to manage your expectations of what we can accomplish. Right now, zero bridges in Maryland are structurally deficient.”
A significant brouhaha surfaced this week regarding a new Main Street business seeking a liquor license.
The plan for months has been for the former Downtown Video space to be retrofitted into a new retail store called Viking Tree Trading Co., which is connected to the Brushmiller family and Burley Oak Brewing Company. When it was learned the store was seeking to add a beer, wine and liquor license for a 75-seat restaurant and 12-person bar, concerns began to emanate among the community. It’s important to understand Town Hall played a big part in getting citizens fired up about the license request. At least two individuals confirmed this week Town Hall employees were asking people to attend the council meeting Tuesday as well as the license hearing set for Monday to express opposition to the request.
When the matter came up during the public comment period at the meeting, town officials simply directed citizens to express their concerns before the Board of License Commissioners meeting. That’s all well and good, but it’s clear some leaders at Town Hall do not want this liquor license approved, and there was behind the scenes work to get that opposition out publicly ahead of the license board meeting.
Mission would appear to be accomplished at least in the short term, as the Brushmillers are reportedly pulling their liquor request at this time. Nonetheless, it’s important to understand the government played a role in this week’s opposition at the meeting. In the future, I would think a wiser, more transparent course would be to simply write a letter of opposition to the board.