Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – March 11, 2022

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – March 11, 2022

Some details were learned this week about the major beach festival slated for Ocean City the last weekend of September.

The inaugural Oceans Calling Festival will take place on three stages on the beach and Inlet parking lot north and south of the pier. Thirty bands will perform with O.A.R. tapped as an early headliner playing multiple sets. O.A.R. is no stranger to the area, having performed in the area at the Freeman Arts Pavilion twice previously and getting its start in Rockville. A high-quality promotional video released this week for the festival featured band members cruising through Ocean City.

There is some excitement surrounding O.A.R.’s announcement in the festival, but there is much more to hear about this festival before it’s confirmed to be a game changing event as it’s been referred to of late. The announcement makes it sound like O.A.R. will be the biggest name at the event. Though a big fan of the band, I’m hoping for some bigger names for this event. In fact, this week’s announcement was trumped on the excitement front by word country music’s Zac Brown Band will be appearing at OC BikeFest two weeks earlier.

There is good reason to have high hopes for a solid lineup for the first Oceans Calling Festival. It might be a while before the acts are known as the music industry is in a constant state of flux as band commitments are complicated while the touring business recovers from the pandemic’s impacts. Evidence can be seen in the fact Ocean City’s Springfest still does not have a Friday night headliner for early May.

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Along with the patriotic and moving light display on Jolly Roger’s Ferris wheel, a lasting memory from Tuesday’s vigil for Ukraine was the words of Ina Kiwiki, a native of Ukraine who immigrated to the U.S. Her brief message summed up what so many of us feel about this human rights crisis. It’s just more meaningful coming from someone personally affected.

“Thank you for coming out and supporting the people of Ukraine and people like me who were born and raised in Ukraine,” she said. “I am a proud American, but I remember where I came from, where I went to school and got my education, and that’s always going to be beating in my heart. I will always remember where I came from and to see that my family back home is going through such horror and having to deal with such unprecedented times in the 21st century is heartbreaking to watch, but also even harder to know that your family and your friends are living in that horror. In my mind right now, what we can do is show the people of Ukraine and around the world that Ocean City stands for what’s right, which is stopping the war and stopping this nonsense.”

It’s truly remarkable how fast the COVID-19 metrics have improved. Hospitals have returned to normalcy with reported cases on a rapid decline over the last few weeks. Worcester’s positivity rate was 3.18% Wednesday (statewide 1.58%). One month ago, on Feb. 9, it was 11.36% in Worcester (two months ago, 33.43%).

The same downward trend with cases is being seen in schools. In fact, for the week of Feb. 28-March 4, there was only one new case reported for the entire school system of nearly 7,000 students. On Monday night, Superintendent Lou Taylor confirmed updated guidance from state agencies now says contact tracing is no longer needed when positive cases do arise. This change of course is great news and was needed when masking was dropped.

Moving ahead, it’s going to be interesting to observe how the virus plays out next winter. It’s reasonable to expect warm weather cases to remain low as they have the last two years. Increased vaccination rates will only help keep the positive cases down and reduce the spread when flare ups do occur. With these assumptions in place, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky admitted her team is now viewing COVID as a seasonal virus. She said this week, “I do anticipate that this is probably going to be a seasonal virus. We may want to be more vigilant during some seasons. Maybe during respiratory season, if things ramped up, we would want to put on our masks again to protect both from flu and from COVID and from all other respiratory diseases.”

The upcoming discussion on short-term rentals in Berlin will be compelling because the residency requirement to operate a short-term rental in certain districts is expected to be a major issue.

The ordinance presented last week did not require short-term rentals to be at the owner’s primary residency. Instead, the proposed law would mandate a property manager be available at all times and live close enough to respond as necessary. Short-term rental proliferation is a concern in Berlin and many residents agree with the sentiments expressed in a letter to the editor from Edward Hammond.

Without the residency requirement or some sort of limitation, it does seem reasonable to conclude more AirBNB units will be popping up around town as properties change hands. For some it’s not a bad thing, but a short-term rental as an immediate neighbor does come with concerns. The ordinance as presented last week does seem to essentially be a money grab without the residency requirement. After the initial $350 application fee, the short-term rental license renewal would be $125 per year.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.