While there have been plenty of negatives in 2020, one of the positives in the Berlin community has been a renewed sense of involvement from citizens.
It’s not hyperbole to say next month’s election in Berlin is historic. There are an unprecedented 10 candidates seeking elected office. Five individuals are seeking to become the town’s next mayor. Incumbent Mayor Gee Williams has held the seat since the spring of 2008 when then-Mayor Tom Cardinale passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack at his home. As the vice president of the council at that time, Williams served as interim mayor until being elected officially to that seat five months later when he defeated former Mayor Rex Hailey. Williams has cruised to re-election in the last two elections, but will clearly face a tougher road this fall. After one term in office, Councilman Zack Tyndall has opted to give up his seat for a shot at knocking off Williams. Tyndall clearly is politically ambitious and just two years into his term in 2018 unsuccessfully challenged County Commissioner Bud Church.
As far as the council races, there are two candidates looking to replace long-time District 3 Councilman Elroy Brittingham, who has been in office since 1988. Brittingham deserves a salute for his amazing 32 years of service to the Flower Street community. The at-large district – occupied by Paula Lynch for 26 years and the last six by Thom Gulyas – also has two candidates. For most of Lynch’s political career, she was unopposed for her seat. When she retired in 2014, Gulyas was handed her seat by virtue of being unopposed. He was once again given the seat in 2018 when he was unopposed for re-election. Gulyas announced he is relocating elsewhere in northern Worcester County earlier this year so the remainder of his two-year term could be filled during the fall election. The only seat up for grabs without a contested race is in District 2 where Jack Orris, who lost a bid four years ago for the same seat to mayoral candidate Tyndall by a vote of 185-116, has essentially been elected.
These are exciting times in Berlin. Consequently, this newspaper is hosting an online town hall next Tuesday with mayor candidates and the following Tuesday, Sept. 22 with the council candidates. The town hall videos will be released the day after the individual events. In advance, questions from citizens were sought as part of the town hall. In total, we have received more than 80 questions from local residents. It’s impressive to see such an active citizenry because this was not the case in Berlin for many years. In fact, the voter turnout in the 2016 election was a paltry 23% with just 740 residents turning out of the then-3,172 registered voters in town. Far more participation is expected Oct. 6.
The City Watch program in Ocean City is the camera system used to help police keep an eye on the Boardwalk. In the case of an assault on the Boardwalk last weekend, the surveillance system allowed police to quickly locate the suspects and make arrests in a brutal two-on-one attack and robbery.
Because the suspects denied any wrongdoing and the lack of witnesses due to the incident occurring after 2 a.m., police may well have not been able to charge the two Delaware men in the vicious assault and robbery. Police were able to quickly review City Watch footage and see the two men beat the man repeatedly with one of the suspects even body slamming the fleeing victim on the beach before stealing about $2,500 in cash.
Why the victim had that much cash in his pocket in the middle of the night on the boards is unclear and surely a subject of investigation by police, but the surveillance system is to credit for aiding police in making the arrests.
As the dreaded pop-up vehicle event approaches Ocean City in two weeks, social media activity has heightened. It’s equally entertaining and frustrating to read what this lame-brained lot has to say about Ocean City and the misperceptions many have. It’s interesting as the group maintains participants in the unsanctioned event bring needed revenue to the town, painting a picture of the business community welcoming them but the town’s elected officials and police officers hating them. I tend to think everyone dislikes the element the pop-up weekend brings.
The Town of Ocean City recently added some new information to its website about the Special Event Zone and what it entails. A page focuses on Frequently Asked Questions. One of the questions was, “Does the City Council realize how much money it stands to lose if the unauthorized event stops?”
The response was appropriate and on the money. It read, “Yes, the City Council is aware of the economic impact of the Pop-up Rally event. The Pop-up Rally also costs our community more than just money. The Town also pays a substantial cost in staff time and resources to cope with the rally. But perhaps the biggest cost of all was the effect the rally had upon our quality of life for our residents and visitors. In 2020 specifically, we are working hard to keep Ocean City moving forward amidst the challenges we’ve all faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and given that the Pop-up Rally does not have a designated event promoter for the Town to communicate with like authorized Motor Events do, we are concerned whether the Pop-up Rally participants will consider the importance of following health and safety guidelines during these times.”