Council Intent On Growing Overspending
The City Council of the Town of Ocean City voted unanimously to pass Ordinance 2019-12 on first reading. Upon final passage scheduled for Aug. 5, 2019, this ordinance will provide the Mayor & City Council (M&CC) the authority to establish a line of credit with a local bank for up to $2.5 million dollars. Their intent is to provide a new tool for short term borrowing.
We have a M&CC that has a long history of overspending. They also have a long history of adopting annual budgets which overestimate expenses and underestimate revenues.
The M&CC continue to end each fiscal year with excess unassigned fund balances or reserves, well above the written policy of 15% of the operating budget. More recently, our elected leaders have expressed a desire to raise this policy to 20% of the operating budget. However, excess reserves have exceeded 20% for four previous fiscal years. FY15 ended with a fund balance of 21.6%. FY16 ended with a fund balance of 23.1%. FY17 ended with 25.7% and FY18 ended with 25.8%. Each year, there is ample money in the reserves for periodic short-term borrowing.
If this ordinance is adopted, it will provide our elected officials with yet another opportunity to overspend and continue to overburden our property owners. This line of credit will give our politicians easy access to funds to continue their out-of-control spending habits.
Furthermore, any new borrowing mechanism should be adopted by an amendment to the Town Charter, and not by an ordinance.
Finally, while the M&CC boast a healthy financial picture each year, they continue to overtax the property owners by at least 7 cents on the tax rate, but they always find ways to spend any excess funds.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.
Safety Improves When Rules Followed
As a frequent summer visitor to Ocean City, and one who spends a lot of time downtown, I am frequently vexed by the disregard for the “rules of the road” when it comes to vehicular and pedestrian interaction. Maybe we need some simple education – or reminder of what we all learned in driver’s ed.
There are three things to remember:
At an intersection, a pedestrian is subject to all traffic control signals, whether or not there is a pedestrian control (walk/don’t walk) signal. Just like cars should not run red lights, neither should pedestrians walk against a red light, even if there is a marked crosswalk.
Where there is no traffic light, a driver is required to stop when a pedestrian is crossing the roadway in a crosswalk.
If a pedestrian crosses a roadway at any point other than in a marked crosswalk, the pedestrian must yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching the roadway.
If I, as a driver or a pedestrian, have confidence that other people using the roadway understand and will follow these rules, I would never be surprised by the actions of others or wonder what they might do. I would know that if I’m at a crossing and the traffic moving in the same direction I am has a red light, I do not cross, because I have no expectation that the cars with green would stop. I would know that, upon giving a driver ample time to slow down or stop if necessary, I can cross at an non-signalized intersection within a marked crosswalk, because the driver is required to stop. And I would know that if I choose to cross between corners or at a corner where there is no crosswalk, I bear the responsibility for my safety and should not expect a driver to stop for me.
As an added benefit in the downtown area, the crosswalks are intentionally marked to allow free movement of both cars and pedestrians. Where one of the streets is one-way, the crosswalk is on the side of the intersection opposite where turning vehicles would access the one-way road. This allows cars to turn while pedestrians are crossing. The pedestrian in effect holds the traffic to allow time for the turning vehicle. Yes, it makes for a zig-zag walk when you’re going a couple of blocks, but traffic planners have marked them that way for a reason: everyone gets to keep moving.
Everyone ultimately has responsibility for acting in a safe manner. Pedestrians do not have license to dart out from a curb in such a way that it’s impossible for a driver to stop. Drivers should always have sufficient control of their cars that they are able to reasonably stop. But we shouldn’t have to guess what the other person is going to do. The rules aren’t complicated, and if we commit to following them, we all will have a safer and more enjoyable summer.
Harris Vote Appalling
On July 12 the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR1327, the “Never Forget the Heroes Permanent Authorization of September 11 Victim Compensation Act.”
This bill is intended to provide additional funding for medical care to the 9/11 First Responders who have suffered from incident-related illnesses. This bill passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 402 to 11. Among those 11 representatives who voted against the bill is our very own Representative Andy Harris.
Harris, a physician and a vocal and persistent advocate of “right to life” positions, seems to have gotten his priorities mixed up, disregarding the life and health of the currently living. His negative vote, whatever the fiscal reason, shows the hypocrite he is and shames the First Congressional District for having elected him.
Harris Thanked For Vote
Last month, Congressman Andy Harris stood with his constituents by voting to block expanded offshore drilling for the next year via the Interior-Environment funding bill (H.R. 3052). Thank you, Congressman for protecting our coast.
Any expansion of offshore drilling is a permanent decision with real consequences. This practice is dangerous, and we are concerned about how it might impact out industry, as well as the Eastern Shore’s economy as a whole. If the tourism and fishing industries are negatively impacted by offshore drilling, the real estate industry will suffer. We rely on the success of local businesses, as well as the area’s appeal to tourists, high quality of life for residents and the health of our natural assets. Offshore drilling would irrevocably damage our coastline, our way of life and our livelihood.
There’s also a parallel effort to permanently protect our coasts from offshore drilling. Congressman Joe Cunningham (D-SC) has introduced H.R. 1941-Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, which would place a permanent moratorium on offshore oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic Ocean, Straits of Florida, and Pacific Ocean. Congressman Francis Rooney (R-FL) has introduced H.R. 205-Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019, which would amend the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 to make permanent the current moratorium that prohibits offshore oil and gas leasing off Florida’s Gulf Coast through June 30, 2022. This means that Congressman Harris will have two more chances to vote and we’ll need his support again.
Local REALTORS® are grateful to have people like Congressman Harris advocating on behalf of coastal communities in Congress. Together, Maryland is united against offshore oil and gas activities. Thank you, Congressman Harris for standing with Marylanders and for your leadership as we all work together to protect our coast.
(The writer is the president of the Coastal Association of REALTORS®.)
Town Actions Troubling
I am still very upset and troubled at Berlin’s mayor, councilmen and town manager in their ineptitude at handling the town’s citizens’ tax money. Especially the purchase of the defunct Tyson chicken plant’s property soon to be renamed “Heron Park” (a far better choice would be “The Money Pit” since it is going to cost millions of dollars to turn that property into a true park… where is that money going to come from… continual raising of property taxes and other utility fees?) Our existing Stephen Decatur Park seems perfectly capable of handling the town’s recreational needs.
Also, I’m wondering why we even have a town manager, since the current one did not steer the mayor and council in prudently spending our money. I am at the point now that I feel we should add to the town’s Charter that any capital improvements and/or expenditures over “x” dollars (amount to be determined) have to be voted on by the town’s citizens. We had no say in the $2.5 million-plus purchase of the Money Pit, which was bought by the town from one of its own council members (cronyism?) and is costing us $75,000-$100,000 at least just in annual interest payments.
It’s time that we, the town’s citizens who really employ the mayor and council, have a say in how our town is being run fiscally and otherwise.