There was arguably more discussion than necessary this week on the topic, but the Ocean City Mayor and Council should adopt a quality over quantity position in the future when it comes to scheduling its open meetings at City Hall.
Ocean City elected officials meet more than any other government on the lower shore, but it makes sense because it’s home to one of the largest budgets. Additionally, the weekly meeting schedule allows for more of the government’s business to be conducted in the public’s eye than is seen in other jurisdictions.
Since we are in the news reporting business, we want government to meet often in the public arena. We seek subjects and matters to report on in a timely fashion. It’s imperative the public know in detail what their elected officials are doing, especially when it comes to their tax dollars.
In Ocean City, the council officially meets 47 times a year (excluding budget sessions), as compared to about 26 times for Worcester County government. Add in the subcommittee schedules and it’s many more times of convening in smaller groups. The council decided this week in 4-3 vote to adopt a 45-meeting schedule in 2020, dropping two summer meetings.
An effort was launched by Councilman John Gehrig to further reduce the town’s meeting schedule to 42. Though Gehrig’s reasoning was different, we support that number over the approved 45 since multiple meetings this summer have contained one or two simple matters, resulting in meetings under 30 minutes with the majority of time devoted to standard matters like the pledge and prayer. The council majority did not favor the idea, arguing it’s more difficult to add a meeting than to cancel a meeting if there is not enough business to discuss.
This week’s discussion on the matter was a good start. We think the issue can be revisited this same time next year. If the summer plays out as it did these last few months with little to nothing of major importance being discussed at a handful of meetings, the council would be wise to cut further back for the next year.
Holding two or three weighty meetings a month in July as well as August is worth considering in the future. It’s more efficient for the city in all respects, and we agree it’s likely something officials will have to coordinate well ahead of time and plan accordingly.