A quality lead on a newspaper piece is important, but one recently in an editorial in The Baltimore Sun takes that concept way too far. An editorial by Deputy Editorial Director Tricia Bishop began with, “Did I ever tell you about the time the governor broke my daughter’s collarbone?” It continued with, “That may be a slight exaggeration. It was more a joint effort by the governor, the comptroller and the summer camp planners at the Orokawa Y in Towson, which was, a manager eventually told me, uncharacteristically understaffed when my kid arrived in late August 2017. They weren’t typically in session then, I was told, and many counselors had left for college.”
The editorial represents the line of thinking that’s pervasive among opponents to Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order requiring schools start after the Labor Day holiday. Detractors are resorting to specific and absurd scare tactics about education suffering and general comments that it’s only to boost Ocean City tourism. If the Labor Day mandate was removed, the editorial continued, “Yes, Ocean City would likely lose out on some revenue if school districts decide their needs are better met with an earlier start date or later end date. But perhaps that’s as it should be in a state that’s falling behind its own standards in education. I don’t doubt that many families throughout the state had a lovely time in that extra week before school began. But is that time worth the hassle, if not hardship, so many others faced?”
The bill seeking to overturn the Labor Day mandate was approved by the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee in a 7-4 vote earlier this week. With the assumption it would then be approved by the Senate and the House, Hogan held a press conference Thursday saying not so fast, announcing his plans to thwart any efforts to undermine his three-year-old executive order through a petition to referendum.
“Let me also be clear,” he said. “If their bill passes without giving local citizens control, there will be a petition to referendum. It will get the required number of signatures from one corner of the state to the other. It will be placed on the ballot and there is a 100-percent chance that the voters will overturn any action by the legislature with more than 70 percent of the vote and school after Labor Day will remain the law in this state.”
I liked his aggressive response to the legislation because it’s almost a certainty the majority of lawmakers will vote to end the post-Labor Day start.
Parking will always be a problem in Ocean City in the peak season. There’s simply not enough land mass for all the visitors who are married to their vehicles and resist the convenience of mass transit options.
While city officials probably agree with my sentiment, they decided this week to spend $21,000 on yet another parking study and to bring a noted municipal parking consultant to evaluate all of Ocean City.
I have long believed Ocean City should have more paid parking on oceanside blocks. This would encourage turnover and force hotel guests to use parking assigned to them by their individual hotels. Additionally, it would raise new revenue for the town during the paid parking season of May 1 through October.
It’s beyond reasonable for travelers to have to pay to park close to the beach. For example, I often go to the beach in front of the Grand Hotel on 21st Street. Hotel guests are commonly seen walking to and from their vehicles parked on the street to put away beach toys and chairs, despite a large parking garage for the hotel being on the south side of the street. These sorts of situations play out routinely during the summer months. They arrive at their hotel, grab a parking spot and stay put.
Five years ago, when Ocean City was last considering expanding paid parking, it was reported by city staff there are 3,294 additional parking spaces on ocean blocks throughout the town that are not currently paid spots. It was estimated expanding paid parking to all those spots would generate $1.7 million in new revenue. Last spring a report was issued that found expanding paid parking from 11th to 33rd streets on ocean blocks would create about $622,000 annually. I think that’s a concept Ocean City should consider.
Last spring when that oceanfront parking analysis was reported to the council there was some concern about how local property owners would feel about it. There was talk of a resident pass that could be used by property owners on certain streets near their homes. The concept of a resident pass seemed to have support from the council at that time.
Councilmember Mary Knight spoke at the time of a task force taking a look at this idea. The task force was formed this week.
“I’m hoping with this task force, and we have new management and a new city manager and new councilmembers, that we can come up with some solutions,” she said. “I think we would be irresponsible not to look at it again. If it comes back with not a good recommendation, at least we have done our due diligence and we’ve studied it … When we look at going to 32nd Street, that’s about $600,000, and that’s with giving residential passes in those areas. I would hope people would be respectful to the idea and at least let us look at it. In 2013, we did not do it well and I think a lot of us learned from our mistakes.”