Franchise Deals’ Inequities Confirm Need For Change
I have criticized the Mayor & City Council (M&CC) of Ocean City for the way they handled the pier franchise ordinance. They negotiated the repeal and replacement of the previous ordinance over an 18-month period, all behind closed doors, leaving the public completely out of the process. Maryland’s Open Meetings Compliance Board found multiple violations of the Open Meetings Act, and has advised the City Council of those many violations in a scathing opinion issued on June 3, 2020.
In addition to the way the City Council secretly negotiated the revised pier franchise agreement, I have questioned the financial compensation in the fee structure paid to the town as a result of the new deal. Upon learning of the new ordinance, I questioned whether the town is being adequately compensated for the pier franchise. Earlier on, I suggested that an independent audit and an independent appraisal be conducted to determine the true value of the franchise. Had the pier franchise been put out to bid, we would have learned what open market competition would have garnered for the town. The M&CC ignored my suggestions.
The new ordinance changed the terms of the remaining 10 years of the original 50-year agreement set to expire in 2029. It further added at least 25 years to the previous term. During the first nine years of the new agreement, the franchisee pays $1,900,000. There was an initial fee of $1,000,000 to be paid in March of 2020, followed by an annual fee of $100,000 due on March 31, 2020 through March 31, 2028. Spread over the initial nine years, this amounts to the equivalent of a fee of $211,111.11 per year.
Now, compare the average annual fee of the pier franchise for the first nine years to the Beach Equipment Rental Franchise fees. In 2020, 11 beach parcel operators paid the town a combined $1,318,493 in beach parcel fees to operate approximately four months in the summer. The Beach Photographer Franchisee pays $228,750.02 each summer during the current franchise agreement. Something is out of sorts.
The current City Council created this inequity. Perhaps, the voters of Ocean City will see the need for change.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.
Ocean City, MD 21842
Time For Change Part III
I voted last Friday in our municipal election as a resident for the first time since arriving in 1954. I voted for change, I voted for Nico Eastman, Daniel Hagen and Peter Buas. Although I had doubts about Peter, I decided to give him a chance. I will explain later.
First the mayor and the existing council spent over $6 million in tax dollars on advertising and brought every wretch on the planet to town this summer. They didn’t deserve our vote. Peter Buas and Matt James are rich kids but most of their millennial cohort are not rich. Therefore, in an effort to level the playing field, I have donated money to Dan Hagen and Nick Eastman and believe they are good young capable men and more representative of the younger generation. They just don’t have money. They are not supported by the union. They don’t have as many signs as DeLuca, Gehrig or Buas and they are not being supported by the unions, but I am trying to help them level the playing field to give them a chance. They would be two out of seven good councilmen that are not in the current entrenchment.
Let’s talk for a moment about Gehrig and DeLuca, neither of which I voted for. At least one of which will get in no matter what. The Buddy Jenkins Pier deal is being investigated by the state prosecutor. The investigation will take months. It was a terrible deal for the Town of Ocean City. Both DeLuca and Gehrig voted for it. Moreover, Gehrig, Mary Knight and Dennis Dare were on the committee that repeatedly met with Buddy Jenkins in closed session for 18 months and was cited for numerous violations. Both Mary and Dennis have jumped ship. Gehrig is the only one of three left seeking office, and he has sought no remorse for scandalous 25-year lease which begins in eight years, John never entertained a single competing bid. Moreover, no one knew it was done in a back room.
I could accept it easier if John Gehrig apologized and acknowledged that he made a mistake. Gehrig went into a passionate appeal for your votes, yet but his actions alone, we deserve an explanation that explains his mistake. Numerous violations have been cited by the State Open Meetings Commission. The State Prosecutor’s office is investigating. The entire council and mayor are complicit should it be determined to be a crime. The matter is with the state prosecutor for consideration. If a misdemeanor is charged against the mayor and the entire council still in office will have to resign If the prosecutor finds more serious violations, for example they received money, they will go to jail. Mayor Rick Meehan has been a longtime supporter of the Buddy Jenkins sweetheart deal. Rick, why aren’t you married? You’re not hiding any assets from the public, are you? Court Commissioner Joe Potter should be applauded for his courageous action submitting the original complaint to the prosecutor.
DeLuca has been equally disappointing with his lengthy experience and keen understanding of business and costs I had expected him to be a louder voice on holding down spending and the present mismanagement unfortunately he wasn’t, often deferring to the mayor. Excuse me for saying so but Mayor Rick Meehan is as misplaced in business decisions as a turd in a punch bowl.
Frank Knight and fake Mary are covering for their move out of town. “If Frank wins, we will buy or rent a place in town,” Mary says. Yeah but will they live there as is required? Doubtful. Frank, who I consider complicit in all the council’s current mismanagement, says he wants to fix the mess, he just doesn’t want to live in it. Rather than listen to the banter, I would rather follow the money. According to property records, Frank and Mary borrowed $550,000 from Taylor Bank in August to buy a property at 10107 Sweet as Sugar Lane (what a name) in Glen Riddle. Their money speaks louder than Frank’s words. He intends to work on the current problems of the town but just doesn’t want to live in town.
The new kid, Nico Eastman, beat everyone at the Maryland Coast Dispatch’s candidates’ debate online. If you haven’t seen it you should watch it. Nico, short for Nicholas is 25 years old. He received a criminology degree from West Virginia University in 2016 spent two years working in Gaithersburg the best run city in the State of Maryland. Gaithersburg is the only city in Maryland I know of with a large surplus and no debt. Nico presently works for the Salisbury government. When asked about back room politics, he said. “You don’t have to worry about me I have a day job till 5 p.m. I won’t have time to meet in a backroom,” Nico says.
Daniel Hagen also held his own among seasoned politicians. Facing a room full of seasoned politicians, he emerged as the clear winner. Unlike the union endorsed four Buas, Knight, Deluca and Gehrig, who embraced hiring 10 new police officers as a solution to the town’s decline at a huge expense, Nico Eastman and Daniel Hagan talked about returning to a vibrant economy as an antidote for crime, not pandering to the unions. Nico talked about the “broken window theory” having a vibrant economy that eliminates all vacancies, no graffiti, a well-lit town, getting rid of the rust on the rails at the Boardwalk and, of course, no more broken windows. This will be achieved by reducing government not adding 10 more police officers which the mayor and the four union endorsed candidates for council embraced reaffirming the status quo at a time we need change.
From 1987-91, I ran a small breakfast luncheon dinner in Northeast Washington DC at Dupont Circle in the NRECA building called US Deli. We were open from 5:30 a.m. till 4 p.m. and were very busy. During those years Washington DC had the most police officers of any city in the nation and the highest paid police. Washington DC was also the Murder Capital of the Nation.
Nico and Dan are right contrary to what the mayor and council are pushing the mess we had this summer can’t be corrected by more police. In academia it is no secret that more police and higher paid police do not reduce crime. I was robbed three times at US Deli. Broken window theory in part says a vibrant economy is the best way to fight crime. Vacancies, graffiti, unlit areas and yes “broken windows” need to be eliminated. The rust on the rails on the Boardwalk would be a start. The vacancies at Gold Coast need occupants.
Come to a meet and great this Sunday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Johnny’s Pizza (see ad on page nine) let Dan Hagen and Nico Eastman explain what we need to do to restore vitality, bring families back and reduce prices in Ocean City and, of course, no more closed backroom politics.
The local union is endorsing four candidates for council. All four plus the mayor are advocating for hiring 10 new policemen and raising the room tax to cover for their mismanagement. Take it from an Ocean City cop, 1972, hiring 10 officers is just passing the buck for the political class’s mismanagement of the city.
I was at a fund raiser for Peter Buas at Omega Eats last week. I donated $200, mostly Greeks attended. I got Nico in after overcoming objections from Pete. I was shocked to see that Ryan, the union head, was Pete’s campaign manager. At one-point Nico and Pete, (two half Greeks make a whole right), were standing close enough that I wanted to get a picture. I stood up with my phone, immediately Ryan cut me off by physically getting in my face to prevent a photo. “I said what do you think I am going to do with the picture Ryan?!” Ryan said, “I am not talking.” I had not seen Ryan since giving him free tickets to our children’s concert last December. We also gave police, fire and EMT free tickets. Then Peter Buas chimed in, “I am running independent not with anyone else.” Really Pete with the union as your campaign manager, independent really?, I said.
Two final points that totally surprised me that I would like to make the electorate aware of regarding the other rich young councilman, Matt James. Matt allowed the four union endorsed candidates for our council to put signs up at 118th Street along the Carousel parking garage, so I took our two candidates for the people Dan and Nick up to put signs. I had worked with Matt a number of times and never would have imagined what was going to happen next. I helped Dan dig pilings and we put his sign and Nick’s small signs up, never thinking Matt would discriminate against these two young fellas his age. I am 71. Matt called me within 20 minutes his minions had removed these two young men’s signs, so disrespectful. I was surprised by his behavior given all the support I had given him, I guess he gets it from his dad.
In September, Matt was thinking of running for mayor. I decided not to run after changing residence to Ocean City to support the young man. My daughter and wife did not want me to run but I was preparing to do it. I believed the mayor should not run unopposed. In early October Matt called me saying, “I have made a deal with the mayor and Lloyd Martin, to be council president and John and Tony support it,” referring to Tony DeLuca and John Gehrig. The election of the council president is supposed to occur with the new council after the election not in a backroom deal with the mayor who can now run uncontested. Is that what the voters want? Nico’s sign was also torn down on Division Street also.
Finally, while writing this Part III, Time for Change, I got a call from Dan Hagen, Mark Paddack, the psychopathic liar, was trying to stop Dan from putting signs up saying, “where is your permit.” You don’t need permits to put signs up. What I might expect from that wacked out councilman. Shouldn’t everyone with a clean record have an equal chance to run for office? Regardless of whether they are rich or poor? Isn’t that an American right?
You don’t have to vote for four council members and you certainly don’t have to vote for the mayor even though he is uncontested. A no vote sends a message. Let’ send them a message even if they get in.
Falls Church, Va.
History Week One To Remember In OC
On behalf of the staff and board of the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum, we would like to thank everyone who participated in our recent History Week. Although 2020 was a challenge, we were able to restructure History Week using social media, virtual tours and collaborating with other organizations to reach as many people as possible. And, of course, we appreciate those folks who participated and our sponsors Dunes Manor Hotel and Dolle’s Candyland.
When the Mayor and City Council declared History Week to be Oct. 10-16, they proclaimed “the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum has been preserving, exhibiting and disseminating the physical, cultural and natural history of Ocean City for 41 years.” We are grateful for their confidence in the museum and believe History Week raises the level of awareness of the Museum’s importance to our community.
I think our major disappointment was having to cancel the Historic House Tour. Our previous tours have shown there is an appreciation of an Ocean City of past times. We want to thank those folks who were willing to be a part of the tour and trust they will choose to participate next year.
We were delighted to have Anna Dolle Bushnell hold a book signing of her new Dolle’s Candyland, Inc. There is so much history in that 109-year-old Boardwalk business.
As is true of all museums, there are too many artifacts and too little display space. So thanks to our Curator Sandy Hurley and Ocean City historian/author Bunk Mann for giving the public a look into our closet during our live broadcast Pieces of our Past.
We are always happy to work with our good friends at the Worcester County Library and thank them for presenting a virtual tour of the museum and showing what life was like for the Life-Saving Station keeper. We also are indebted to them for showing the Ash Wednesday Storm. An event that changed the course of Ocean City’s history.
Lastly, we want to thank the Ocean City Development Corporation for nominating this year’s Spirit Award winner, St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church, for the restoration that will preserve this oldest building in Ocean City.
Funds raised during History Week are dedicated to the George and Suzanne Hurley Memorial Scholarship. Two-thousand dollars is awarded to a graduating senior of Stephen Decatur High School who plans to further his/her education in the fall at Wor-Wic Community College, Salisbury University, or the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Here’s keeping our fingers crossed for 2021.
Nancy L Howard
(Okerblom is the museum’s assistant curator, while Howard is president of the museum society board.)