While there will be no acknowledgements of it in legislative recaps from local lawmakers, it was clear Ocean City was sent a message in Annapolis during this year’s General Assembly session.
There was a lot of tough talk from Republican legislators last year during election season about the dysfunction in Annapolis and how legislators often ignore the shore. Senator Mary Beth Carozza and Gov. Larry Hogan went after Jim Mathias and painted him as a Democratic rubber stamp for Senate President Mike Miller and the late House Speaker Michael Busch. Mathias was one of the Democrats Hogan had targeted to oust last year in an attempt to prevent the left-heavy legislature from overriding his vetoes. That effort failed and Hogan once again was powerless this session and had several key vetoes – the post-Labor Day school start and minimum wage bills were two of the more high-profile – struck down easily by Democrat. It was evident throughout this session Ocean City matters were going to get little consideration in this session by those very leaders who were blasted routinely last year. It was payback and consequently Ocean City-related issues received little attention from senior leadership.
Perhaps no better example was the surprising and abrupt rejection of revisions to the special enforcement zone. The bill, which was classified emergency in nature so it could be enacted before Cruisin next month, never got any traction. Officially, it received an unfavorable report on March 11 by the judicial proceedings committee, but the reality is it was dead before it was even introduced. What was expected to be a routine local courtesy bill clearly got caught up in politics.
The good news, and probably the biggest highlight for the resort area on the legislative front, was the last-minute approval of a bill authorizing the state to issue up to $24.5 million in bonds to fund another expansion of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. While I may be overly intuitive here, I think the legislators in power wanted to make our Republican elected officials as well as Hogan sweat until the last night of the session before approving this funding.
Ocean City representatives visited Boring, Md. last weekend in an attempt to bring some fun in an obvious play on the town’s name. It was a creative marketing play for Ocean City to visit the Baltimore County town weeks ahead of the summer season.
I was unaware of the effort until I read an article in The Baltimore Sun about Ocean City’s visit on Sunday. The article was short on details about the event itself in Boring and instead long on the post-Labor Day school start mandate that was reversed this legislative session. A line in the article, which reported a few dozen families attended, read, “Meehan used the event to preview the last summer season that was extended by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2017, and reinforce the link between the resort city he leads and the Baltimore area, which he said supplies more than a third of its tourists.”
The tone and slant of the article fired up Ocean City officials enough to draft a letter to the editor to the paper. Ocean City Tourism Manager Donna Abbott said this week, “[the article] was just ridiculous. First, they said it was attended by a couple of families and there were at least 300 people there. Then, they turned it around and made it all about the post-Labor Day issue.”
In his letter to the editor, Mayor Rick Meehan addressed similar points.
“I’m always appreciative of any news coverage The Baltimore Sun can provide about the countless reasons Ocean City is a fun place for millions of families to visit each year. While we appreciated having a Sun reporter cover our “Boring Gets Fun” community outreach event in the Baltimore County community of Boring, I speak on behalf of many in Ocean City who were disappointed with factual inaccuracies.
“Our wonderful partners at the Upperco Volunteer Fire Department, which hosted and raised funds for its planned new fire house at this family fun event, tracked attendance at more than 300 people (a great turnout for a rural area), far more than the few dozen families cited in the story. We provided this revised number to the reporter immediately upon seeing the story appear online, but, unfortunately, The Sun elected to not change this fact either online or in the print edition.
“Additionally, while we understand how important and newsworthy the topic of school start date is across the state, it was inaccurate for The Sun to describe this event’s purpose as “to preview the last summer season that was extended by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2016.” Ocean City continues to stand in line with the majority of Marylanders who support school starting after Labor Day, but this issue was not the purpose of our visit to Boring.
“Our goal in coming to Boring was to showcase the importance of adding a little bit of fun to your life (which we in Ocean City are experts on), whether you live in a place called “Boring” or anywhere else within a short car ride from Ocean City.
“We hope to see The Sun in Ocean City or on our future visits to the Baltimore area, but our hope is that future coverage is fair and accurate.”