Four years later and the Town of Ocean City is still spending money on legal fees defending its ban on topless women. The attorneys on both sides of the argument laid out their positions this week during the appeal of the U.S. District Court’s dismissal of the civil suit was heard.
Representing a small group of women who want to go topless in Ocean City, attorney Devon Jacob said, “This lawsuit is about confirming the legal right of women to be bare-chested in public in the same places that men are permitted to be bare-chested, for purposes other than breastfeeding. This lawsuit seeks a declaration from the court that Ocean City’s ordinance violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution. … This ordinance is based on sexist ideology. The fact that something makes somebody uncomfortable is not a reason to make a law. The public has consistently been demanding more and more equality under the law. Here, this government objective of public sensibility is an amorphous term that nobody seems to be able to define. When you look at Ocean City, basically, their argument is it would make people uncomfortable.”
Defending the Town of Ocean City, attorney Bruce Bright wrote, “The Mayor and Council are well known in the community. Everywhere they go, people come up to them to address public issues. By nature of their positions as elected officials, their job is to take the temperature of the public on a whole host of issues. They evaluate what the public view is, and they legislate on that basis. That’s what they did in this case. … Prior to then, the Mayor and Council did not see the need to specifically legislate on that issue because the sensibilities were what they were, and people conformed themselves to that. Now, in the more modern era, someone came along saying they wanted to go topless on the beach in Ocean City and that necessitated addressing this issue legislatively.”
The town is certainly well within its legal right to enforce this topless prohibition, and the women are within their rights to challenge the issue to the farthest extent possible. Unfortunately, the taxpayers are left holding the cost of defending the ordinance.
The Worcester County Commissioners heard a bit of a different message at this week’s annual public budget input session. Typically, education supporters carry their organized message of the critical importance of funding support from the county for public schools to the commissioners. While there was some of that to be certain, the predominant concern seemed to be more about increasing funding for law enforcement.
In his budget for the next fiscal year, Worcester County Sheriff Matt Crisafulli is seeking an almost 30% increase in funding to hire three new deputies and convert seven part-timers to full-time personnel as well as replacing 18 vehicles. In total, he’s seeking $2.2 million more than his last budget.
While the commissioners are not likely to meet the request entirely, FOP Lodge 50 President Chris Larmore, a sergeant in the Sheriff’s office, said the county should give the critical funding request all due consideration. He said the county’s population has grown while the sheriff’s office remains about the same size as it was back in 2000 when Deputy Brian K. Heller was killed in a car accident.
“We have a right to be heard and you have a duty to the people … There were only two deputies working that night. After 20 years, we’ve increased that number to three. One deputy for each end of the county, with a supervisor racing from one end of the county to the other to back those deputies up … This is a huge financial burden for you to bear and pass on to the taxpayers of this county,” Larmore said. “We understand that. It’s not a want or desire — it’s an absolute need.”
The financial numbers for Maryland casinos continue to impress. Some of the highlights included in this week’s monthly report were:
•For the month of April, the Ocean Downs Casino, home to 604 slot machines and 18 table games, recorded $7.68 million in revenue, which is a 30% increase from April 2019. The 2020 numbers are tossed out because it was shuttered due to the pandemic.
•In April, of the casino’s total revenue take, 89% is derived from slots with the remainder coming from table games.
•As far as the six casinos in Maryland, Ocean Downs ranks fifth in revenue. For the month of April, the casinos in order of total revenue are MGM National Harbor (2,017 slot machines and 198 table games), $62.3 million (up 2.5% from April 2019); Live! Casino & Hotel (2,879 slot machines and 185 table games), $58.2 million (up 22% from April 2019); Horseshoe Casino (1,035 slots and 16 table games), $8.5 million (down .1% from April 2019); Hollywood Casino (604 slots, 16 table games), $8.52 million (a 37% increase from April 2019); Ocean Downs Casino (above); and Rocky Gap Casino (528 slots, 16 table games), $5.65 million (up 19% from April 2019).
•Where does the casino revenue go? For Ocean Downs, 53% of the slots revenue stays with the casino, meaning for April the company keeps $3.64 million. The remainder of the slots revenue is distributed like this for April: 32% ($2.19 million) to the Education Trust Fund; 7% ($480,969) to horse racing; 5.5% ($377,904) to local impact grants; 1% ($68,709) to ML&G operational expenses; and 1.5% ($103,064) to small, minority, women businesses.