With the paid consultant offering his recommendations this week on how to raise $1.8 million in new revenue, the Ocean City parking task force will soon need to make some recommendations to the Mayor and Council.
Paid parking begins in Ocean City on Monday. Therefore, it was made clear this week whatever the task force decides this week will not be implemented this summer season. I was honestly surprised to hear that this week because it seemed officials were trying to raise new revenue for the next fiscal year’s budget.
While it’s disappointing none of this work will bear fruit until 2020, the task force should still come to a conclusion soon on what to recommend to the Mayor and Council. As history shows us, there’s no guarantee the task force’s chosen course of action will be what the full council approves, particularly once the full business community weighs in at future public hearings.
The city’s paid consultant basically suggested adding paid parking to all ocean blocks where there currently is none. First, there was adding paid parking in the ocean blocks from 11th to 33rd streets with 50 percent of the spots possibly being available for property owners through a permit system, resulting in an estimated $600,000 in new revenue. Secondly, using a similar 50-50 split with spots reserved for permitted property owners, the consultant suggested paid parking in the ocean block from 34th Street to the state line, raising an estimated $1.2 million. Together, the two proposals would generated $1.8 million in revenue in the first year, according to the consultant.
Although no vote was taken, neither measure appeared to have the support of the majority of the task force members, especially the broader concept.
Ocean City Councilman Dennis Dare is where I am on paid parking. He knows the final solution will ultimately be a compromise and used an airline passenger analogy to sum up the parking discourse.
“Some people ride coach and some people pay more to go first-class,” the former city manager said. “Some people will pay for oceanfront parking if they want premium parking and some people will stay in coach and drive around and park on the bayside. If there are 50 spaces on a given street in the ocean-block, maybe a dozen closest to the beach are metered. That can be the premium parking and there is a cost associated with that. Maybe that’s a first step.”
The public hammering of the Berlin Mayor and Council continued this week at Monday’s regular meeting and Tuesday’s listening session.
It was nice to see some passionate residents questioning their elected officials, who deserve a nod for taking the oft-harsh criticism in stride and not getting overly emotional. The robust criticism was not lost on the elected officials. Councilman Dean Burrell even said the town has taken the silence from the community over the years as a show of support for their actions and direction. The reality is it was just apathy. That’s why I always giggled to myself when unopposed town council people maintain in interviews they must being doing a great job since nobody opposes them. It’s not the case at all. The people just weren’t interested enough to run. I don’t think that’s the case any longer.
“I wish that we had been getting this type of input for those years that have passed,” Burrell said. “Hindsight’s 20-20. When you have public meetings — two public meetings a month — and except for the newspaper the attendance is three to four individuals, we think your silence is your approval. That has evidently been a misconception.”
A majority of the criticism expressed at Tuesday’s budget listening session was warranted, but there were many off-base comments that were completely false. The new Berlin library was caught in the crosshairs at one point. At one point, I began to wonder if anyone was going to pounce on the town officials for the ridiculous signs on Route 113 that warn motorists they are entering an “urban area.” Like the library, which is county run, the town had nothing to do with this decision. The call on those lamebrained signs – well-intended to get drivers to reduce their speed, of course – was the State Highway Administration’s.
Despite all the rhetoric and wishful thinking boasted by state Republicans, the same old scenario is playing out in Annapolis. The governor is largely powerless on most matters, including the minimum wage increase and the post-Labor Day school start bill.
On his Facbeook page yesterday, Hogan seemed to show his frustration, saying, “Inexplicably, the Senate just voted against the will of the overwhelming majority of Marylanders – they have overturned my veto of legislation that reverses our common sense initiative for a post-Labor Day school start.
“In 2016, after years of public outcry, I took action to return to the tradition of starting school after Labor Day. These partisan legislators are now turning back the clock on years of bipartisan recommendations, including a 12-3 vote by an expert task force created by the legislature and the previous governor. What is even worse: beyond this reversal by the legislature are heavy-handed tactics to unfairly influence the ballot process and any petition to bring this issue directly to you, the Maryland voters.
“Legislators in the Maryland House of Delegates should heed the calls of the overwhelming majority of Marylanders and uphold my veto.”