President’s Vote Concerning
I am a 25-year resident of Ocean City, and I have always paid attention to who represents us for Mayor and City Council. In the interest of transparency, I have known Councilman James for 17 years. I have actively worked with his campaign for City Council twice in the last four years and I am very proud of his leadership and accomplishments.
With that said, I write this as a concerned citizen. I watched the Ocean City Council meeting on Thursday night (Nov. 8) where the council members were sworn in and where the City Council nominates and votes on their new president. Councilman Gehrig nominated Councilman James for council president and was seconded by Councilman Paddack (and Paddack pointed out it was for discussion purposes only). Councilman Dare nominated Councilman Martin and was seconded by Councilman Paddack.
Councilman Gehrig then gave an impassioned and convincing speech about why he was nominating Councilman James. His reasoning was that Councilman James’ 600-vote margin of victory was significant and he has received 70% of the vote each time he has run for office. The other council members who ran did not even receive 50% of the vote. Councilman Martin received 46%. He stated that he believes the voters of Ocean City have spoken. He believes that it is the responsibility of good government to make sure that leaders with the right skill set and who are ready to lead are given the opportunity which James clearly is. His speech was not only good and thought provoking, it was very convincing and reasonable.
When given the opportunity, no other council member chose to speak about why either candidate would get their vote. As a citizen, I wanted to hear their reasons one way or another for each candidate and none were provided.
The Mayor and City Council had no problem sending me a letter (at the taxpayers’ expense) three days before the election to tell me not to vote for the Charter Amendment but all of a sudden there is a vote for council president and no one with the exception of Councilman Gehrig explained their reasoning for their vote.
Councilmen James and Martin each stated why they thought they should become council president and the vote was taken. Councilman Martin was elected president when council members Martin, Dare, Paddack, DeLuca and Knight voted for Councilman Martin. Councilman Gehrig and James voted for Councilman James. The vote was 5-2.
I am not concerned because Councilman James did not become council president and I truly appreciate all of the years that Councilman Martin has served us as council president. I am concerned because I believe the council is not listening to the voters of Ocean City. I am concerned because with the exception of one council member, no other council member had anything to say on such an important topic. It’s as if this vote was a backroom deal already pre-determined to keep the status quo.
I’m thankful for Councilman Gehrig’s forward thinking on this matter whether it was for Councilman James this time or for critical votes in the future. He is listening to the voters and that is exactly what we elected him to do. The other council members should take note and try to be a little more transparent next time.
Irony On The Red Shore
Last night, I had an in-depth conversation with a Republican voter from Wicomico County. To me, it was quite ironic to hear someone from the right side of the aisle tell me that it didn’t matter, for example, that Andy Harris wouldn’t work with the Democratic majority on anything, it was more important to vote for someone who had the same values. In other words, it doesn’t have anything to do with governing for this person, in their words, “everyone on the other side of the bridge is corrupt.”
People on the Eastern Shore often say they feel left behind, yet all you have to do is listen to the rhetoric to know why that is indeed the case. Mary Beth Carozza just won a seat in the state legislature by saying she’d vote with the governor every single time. Somehow, Mary Beth and each of the roughly 24,000 people who put her in office forgot that the governor faces a veto-proof Democratic majority in Annapolis and Andy Harris is the only Republican member of the state’s congressional delegation. So no one knows what voting with the governor even means, but what’s clear is that a vote for the governor and Mary Beth Carozza is a vote to abstain from our state’s politics. There isn’t an attempt to engage, or even reform or even understand. Republicans on the shore heap misery upon themselves by stupidly heaping everyone on the other side of the bridge together.
Irony is everywhere on the Republican shore. How about the fact that Any Harris’s district doesn’t require the Bay Bridge at all? It’s a straight shot up Route 40 and then down 301. For people in mostly rural areas to fall for big city “Us Against Them: talk, when the very roads that crisscross the Eastern Shore pre-date that bridge, and some even pre date America. Aside from the Indians, the other early settlers around here came up from the original colonies to create the counties we know today. So we’re going to ditch all connections to the founding of our country, to the beginning of all that we hold sacred, in order to be spiteful, jealous and downright hateful towards those who we feel are different from us “over there?” And right there, right on the cusp of this thought is where you stop wondering why there are areas that have been virtually and literally left behind while the median incomes and schools in Maryland have risen toward the top.
When you frame the old school Republican shore mindset into the landscape fueled by the current president, you find that what Republicans have done to the shore is the same sham job they’ve pulled off all over the rural south. Yes, there is a collective power that the national Republican party utilizes by having a red south with red state houses, but the levels of poverty and the level of income in the rural Republican south is not the same as areas who are represented by Democrats. When I made this point to my friend from Wicomico County, the response was, “yeah that’s because all Democrats are sleazy crooks.” It pretty stunning that Route 50 cuts right across the shore before it winds through super wealthy Annapolis and into DC, the most important city on planet Earth, yet Republicans on the shore are content with their people making $18-$30,000 a year while $200-300k might not be enough to survive right down the road. And they don’t even hide from this, they just join the “Lock Her Up” chorus and claim that Democrats just steal everything they have.
The truth is that the poor people of the shore are the same as the poor people in Baltimore City and Washington D.C.. The truth is that the way to be a raging capitalist on one side of the bridge is the same over on the other side. For 50 years, people from one side of the bridge with much deeper pockets have been invading the shore, buying it up and then only hanging out for a matter of weeks. Instead of discerning how they have all this money, folks on the shore have just been content to get a little bit of the crumbs. The majority of wealth on the shore has always been held in very few hands and its conservative Republican politics have served those folks very well. So while Baltimore went from a derelict Rust Belt nightmare to the vibrant downtown of today in 35 years, and Washington DC has redeveloped itself into a world class city, the Eastern Shore of Maryland is reliant on Tyson, Purdue and the tourists, still. It’s the difference between Democratic crooks and Republican crooks, I guess.
Rising tides should lift all boats. If all your politicians have asked you to do for 40 years is be angry at the success somewhere else in your own state, wow, that’s totally pathetic. When I drive old Route 50 through the center of Salisbury, once solidly the second largest city in the state, I cannot help thinking that I am driving through Salisbury, Miss. or Salisbury, Ala. Despite my undying love for LA (lower Alabama) and Hill Country USA (northern Mississippi), that is not a compliment. The shore got left behind around the time of the Voting Rights Act. We are not in Mississippi, nor are we in Alabama though. It’s stunning to see how the Republican voters on the shore still frame their vote in those 1964 terms. This is Maryland and the people here on the shore should start acting like it.
Logic comes from accepting reality. If the reality is that Thomas Mike Miller, famous Annapolis Party Boss, hasn’t lifted a finger to help the shore since the shore never lifted a finger to help him, it stands to reason that even a Republican running for office on the shore should at least forward a plan for how they are going to make nice with Mr. Miller, right? Is it realistic that someone can help the shore by joining the current president’s chorus of tragic lies and blatant white nationalism? Maryland is a pretty Democratic state, see Ben Cardin, see Chris Van Hollen — if all you want to do is cut these men down, you are not interested in government, but worse, you are guilty of sentencing you and your neighbors to yet another generation of low expectations. But forget that, this state has the very best of everything because we are the best. The best schools, the best universities, the best jobs, the best quality of life, we are the best. Let’s act like it.
Change Is Necessary
“… There are only four things certain since Social Progress began. That the dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire, And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire; When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins.” This from my all-time favorite poem, ‘The Gods of the Copybook Headings’ by Rudyard Kipling.
Often as we pass through the days of our lives we tell ourselves that every day is the same. Familiarity and repetition allow our self-deception that things remain the same. Yet our habits even if not in our interests are resistant to change. Once repetition fosters familiarity, the behavior often becomes entrenched and even when faced with reason rarely changes. This was the case with Lloyd Martin’s re-appointment to the presidency of the council at the organizational meeting, post-election on Nov. 8. I can understand both sides the rigidity to change and the call for change that was issued.
One thing I am certain of change is coming to Ocean City politics. The last three elections the council has denied the high vote getter the council presidency re-nominating Lloyd Martin, the lowest elected vote getter, to the presidency three consecutive times. Ignoring the electorate’s overwhelming choice just underscores the council’s resistance to accept change.
Over the last three elections, Matt James was the high vote getter four years ago then John Gehrig two years ago and now Matt James once again garnering 1,787 votes, a dominant 70% of the outstanding voters at last Tuesday’s election. Ironically the last two seats for the council were closely contested, between three people Emily Nock 1,179, Lloyd Martin 1,183 and Mark Paddack with 1,187. Chris Rudolf, arguably the most experienced, came in last with 848 votes. None of these candidates could garner even 47% of the vote.
This time was different, Lloyd, despite his marginal voter approval, was appointed for a third consecutive term to the council presidency. The council for a third time defied the peoples will as evidenced by the popular vote. Lloyd stated that his poor showing at the pole, was offset by better showings in the past. Although it should be noted that the council is not obligated to appoint the top vote getter to council president, the council should be representing the voters’ will in all matters.
It was a bit telling to hear Mark Paddack, who could only garner 47% of the vote himself, lecture the people’s high vote getter, Matt James, telling Matt he needed to be on “more committees” and “Matt doesn’t have the experience,” he is “too young” as if Mark Paddack had even troubled himself to come to a meeting this year. A sad start for the long-time police sergeant and for the majority of voters who supported Matt. Mr. Paddack instead of showing fresh new leadership defaulted to the long-term incumbents’ position in favor of no change. Thereby denying the vast majority of voters will to change. Mr. Paddack will have other opportunities to show new leadership going against the people’s will on his first day, to preserve the status quo was a weak start.
Yes change is in the air. But it may not manifest on the council till the next election. Representing the voters, Matt James and John Gehrig tried to change yet the incalcitrance of the entrenched council repelled the voters will. While in the meantime Emily Nock and Christopher Rudolf sit in the audience knowing full well that in two years, it will be their turn to introduce change and they won’t be denied. Neither will Matt or John the people’s top vote getters for the last three elections (Matt on two occasions) forget longtime incumbents choosing once again to avoid the voters will. Let’s defer once again to Kipling.
“… peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall, And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all. . . That all is not Gold that Glitters, and two and Two make Four And the Gods of the Copybook Headings Limped up to explain it once more.”
Election Process Impressive
On Election Day I had the privilege and pleasure of serving as an Election Judge at the Showell school polling venue. It was my first such experience. The opportunity to serve with a dedicated and tireless team of volunteers and Election Commission staff gave me a new perspective on the polling process, and confidence in the effectiveness and integrity of the process. I particularly enjoyed greeting neighbors and business people with whom I have interacted, as well as the many first-time voters, some nervous and all excited to be voting.
Although your paper ably reported on the results of the election, it also should express the public’s gratitude for the hard work and professionalism of the Election Commission staff and the volunteers they enlist. On election day alone, the people who make the process possible arrive at the polls before 6 a.m. and do not leave until after nine in the evening. That is over 15 hours with little break time. Their efforts ensure that everyone who wants to vote is able to do so, even if there are questions that need to be resolved concerning their records.
For those who fear stolen elections and fraudulent voting, so much in the news after reports of hacking in 2016, discarding of one type of voting machine in 2017 in Virginia because it lacked paper backup, and the President complaining about Florida (but not Georgia where others pick up the charge), from my first-hand observation of the detailed, complex procedures used in Worcester County to assure a valid poll, your readers need have no such concerns. And if there ever is a concern, the ballot scanning machines automatically feed the paper ballots into sealed boxes to preserve them should a question arise about the accuracy of the scanning machines.
Armin U. Kuder
Successful Craft Beer Fest
On behalf of the Ocean City Development Corporation, I would like to thank the many businesses and individuals that made our 4th Annual Craft Beer Fest held on Oct. 27 at Sunset Park in downtown Ocean City such a big success. At least 1,400 attendees enjoyed this event which continues to get more popular each year.
This success includes our event partners, Shorecraftbeer.com and the Town of Ocean City, the 16 breweries with their seasonal craft beers, Eastern Shore Distributing, Carey Distributors, Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli, Street Kitchen and Mother’s Cantina food trucks, retail vendors, Johnny Bling Band, and our many volunteers. Backshore Brewing and the Town of Ocean City sponsored the commemorative pint glasses. We wish to provide a special thanks to the adjacent project owner to Sunset Park, Wilde Daug’s On Lost Lady Beach, who allowed this year’s festival to use their waterfront property.
In addition to this event bringing many people to the downtown area, it is also a fundraiser for our nonprofit organization. We look forward to seeing everyone next October for our 5th annual craft beer fest.
(The writer is the executive director of the OCDC.)