Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – September 30, 2022

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – September 30, 2022

Gavin Knupp’s death in a horrific hit-and-run in July continues to occupy the attention of many. The prevailing concern is whether justice, or at least something resembling it, will be served.

Time will tell what justice looks like in this specific case, and the worry for many is justice will not be the reality because of the long investigation. I think charges will ultimately be filed but whether they bring the consequences many seek for a lost young life remains unclear. A potential charge against the motorist who struck and killed Knupp and fled the scene could be leaving the scene of a fatal accident. State code says,  “A person who violates § 20-102 of this article (“Driver to remain at scene — Accident resulting in bodily injury or death”) and who knew or reasonably should have known that the accident might result in the death of another person and death actually occurred to another person, is guilty of a felony and on conviction is subject to imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $10,000 or both.”

After speaking with four attorneys and multiple police officers, the reality is the investigation is not taking too long. It’s been about 11 weeks since the fatality. Because the case is near and dear to the community’s heart, tensions continue to run high amid conspiracy theories. Drawing some fire this week was Worcester County State’s Attorney Kris Heiser, who in early July – before the fatality – posted a happy birthday message on the Facebook page of an individual connected to the case. A letter-writing campaign ensued calling for her to step away from the case entirely. She could not comment on the matter this week, but the Knupp family attorney Neil Dubovsky released a statement expressing full confidence in Heiser. The statement read, “Having had the opportunity to meet with the State’s Attorney and others in her office, we believe more strongly than ever that those responsible for Gavin’s death will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We thank Kris Heiser, her team and law enforcement for all their hard work to that end.”

The goal here is a conviction, not charges. A rush to charge benefits nobody. If the family can be patient, the community should as well.

When they go to the polls in November, Ocean City voters could face four local referendum questions. There are three matters for voters to decide already, but another petition effort was recently launched.

Former Ocean City Council member Margaret Pillas, who served two terms from 2006-2014, is spearheading this latest petition drive. Pillas is concerned about the recent ordinance that conveyed 6,000 square of city land between 13th and 14th streets along Baltimore Avenue for the Margaritaville redevelopment project. For his part, former Councilman Vince Gisriel, a petition expert who played significant roles in getting the sports complex issue and the room tax matter before voters, said he is “supportive” of the latest petition effort but is not actively knocking on doors.

In her “call for action” advertisement this week, Pillas wrote, “This 20 foot right-of-way conveyance is just the latest concession. Earlier, the Council allowed the alley within this block to be moved closer to Baltimore Avenue to enhance the project’s architectural design. The City Council also conveyed air rights above this alley providing 720,000 cubic feet of additional bulk/mass allowing for greater density. When the city redeveloped 18 blocks of Baltimore Avenue from 15th to 33rd streets and utilized the excess right-of-way for free parking. Parking is greatly needed for the downtown area. The ‘highest and best’ use for these 16 blocks, where the easement allows, would also be to provide additional needed parking. Why prematurely abandoned this city property when we do not even know when the enhancements to Baltimore Avenue will be done due to the exorbitant cost estimates?”

Already on the ballot in Ocean City are three referendum questions — whether the county can finance the sports complex project development (a countywide referendum); increasing the annual salaries for Ocean City Mayor and Council members; and a challenge to the approved increase in the percentage of room tax dedicated to marketing and advertising.

It looks like Ocean City might allow electric bikes on the Boardwalk after all. Two years ago, a 4-3 vote prohibited e-bikes over concerns about their speed and mixing them with the crowds of summer bikers. The issue arose again this month when Councilman Tony DeLuca brought the potential conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act up at the subcommittee level. It reached the council last week.

It seems to me Ocean City ought to be careful here and allow the lower-class e-bikes on the boards. This is the recommendation of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The last thing the resort needs is a civil rights allegation through the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Baltimore Sun chimed in on the matter in a sound editorial this week. An excerpt read, “Might just the small e-bikes be permitted? Might all be restricted to going no more than 10 miles per hour? Might people with disabilities be provided a sticker for their bike to demonstrate its necessity? All are possibilities that could yet be presented to Ocean City’s mayor and council in the coming weeks, but here’s what we would humbly recommend: Let the e-bikes be. All bikes, whether powered by pedal or motor, can be operated irresponsibly. Ocean City should simply set standards for the operation of permitted vehicles no matter their physical capabilities (or those of their riders).”

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.