Concerns Over E-Bikes
I have recently been following the debate surrounding the allowance of e-bikes on the Boardwalk and I wanted to offer a word of caution to all those involved. I feel like this debate has been somewhat short-sighted about the full ramifications of what this change will involve while arguments in favor have been couched in language surrounding ADA compliance. While I have the utmost compassion for those with limited mobility, both temporary or permanent, I don’t see this as argument enough to make this change in favor of ADA access and accommodation that already exists. There is much more to it than providing folks needing additional accommodation to enjoy bike-riding. These are arguments made when the reality is that it is motivated by business interests that want to change regulations to allow their businesses to open new monied opportunities without regard for the full consequences of their enterprise.
Allowing e-bikes on the Boardwalk will open up Ocean City to a proliferation of motorized or pedal-assisted motorized vehicles operated by any and all, regardless of disability. This has been shown to be problematic in environments like Ocean City’s downtown in numerous locations across the country. The problems are numerous, but follow four major issues:
- Pedestrian Experience: Motorized vehicles such as e-bikes or scooters, operated at higher than walking speeds, degrade the experience of the pedestrian as they rapidly swerve in and out of traffic. While a benevolent hope would be that these would be operated with respect, it does not occur, as any push-button acceleration becomes amusement and boundary pushing within those speeds and spaces among other flows of traffic becomes a very definite outcome by users. It’s fun! But dangerous, and not enjoyable to those seeking an enjoyable work.
- Enforcement: Speed regulations in mixed use situations as the Boardwalk are nearly unverifiable and unenforceable to a specific rate of low speed and enforcement requires enforcers moving at the same rate. Think about it….now officers will need well-calibrated radar guns and e-bikes to provide any enforcement beyond verbal signals that can easily be ignored.
- Safety: Increasing the rate of travel for some WILL result in increased collisions. With pedestrians and for the users themselves. These mixed flow rates are not complementary and good judgement is not always high.
- Spillover – The allowance of these motorized forms on the Boardwalk will ultimately spill over into surrounding areas…sidewalks, streets, and traffic patterns. Ocean City is already lacking in good infrastructure to support multiple forms of mobility and the behavior of existing cyclists or those operating these types of motorized transport regularly shows ignorance of traffic rules because they are either not clear on how to behave correctly, signage or infrastructure is lacking to encourage them to do so, or enforcement is nonexistent.
I encourage the folks at the City to strongly consider the full ramifications of allowing these types of transport on the Boardwalk or throughout the City itself. Think about what the Boardwalk experience is for all, what the existing state of transportation in the city is in terms of mixed transport types, and strongly weigh these issues holistically as they relate to an overall strategy of increased safety and enjoyment with what we have. Just because something new comes along does not mean it needs to be fully integrated if it means the diminishment of many for the enjoyment of some.
Thom Epps, PhD
Where Is Driver Patience?
On Monday, October 3, I was attempting to exit my veterinarian’s office on Old Ocean City Boulevard after having my dear dog treated for a terminal illness. Coming out of the parking lot, after looking carefully in both directions and yielding to oncoming traffic from both directions, I exited onto Old Ocean City Boulevard going toward Route 50 East. First one car, then another, that were at least two blocks away from my position almost ran into me. Is there no more driver courtesy or concern for safety, or are drivers so concerned with their “need for speed” that they will run other cars off the road rather than slow down?
I thought I left the inconsiderate drivers behind when I left New Jersey three years ago. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe more enforcement of traffic laws is needed.
Support For Question A
I am writing to express my support, and encourage others, in voting yes to Question A for the proposed sports complex in Worcester County.
A number of years ago, I was involved in amateur soccer organizations. First in the Baltimore metro area, and then statewide in Maryland, and then nationwide with the United States Soccer Federation. In my travels to various meetings and conventions across the country, I have met numerous organizations that have complexes built in their areas.
These facilities have proven to be very successful in providing safe and convenient areas for competition, while being a source of fundraising for their communities. The fact that this complex would be closely located to Ocean City, a popular family destination, and the area nearby, should help in its overall success and sustainability, and would attract teams and competitions from various areas of the country.
I certainly understand concerns such as startup costs and traffic. Any project this large will have an initial price tag that gets your attention. However, to be as successful as possible, a plan like this must be large in scale. As far as logistics such as traffic concerns, these can be worked upon and, with proper scheduling, can be minimized.
I truly feel this project would be a huge asset, financially and sports accessibility, to our area. Again, I encourage my fellow voters to vote yes to Question A. Thank you for your attention.
No Place For Political Games In Human Rights
An open letter to America’s leaders:
What is the true value of human life, especially those seeking to live freely here in the United States? Apparently, it is not much, or considered as important, by the leadership of both major political parties. I say this as the continuing immigration issue on our Southern Border has become a humanitarian issue. The sad part of all this is that our elected officials are using these innocent people as political pawns in their chess game of control over American politics.
People are not pawns to be used in the advancement of one’s ideological leanings. I am disgusted and ashamed of the leaders of all parties. We send immigrants via plane and bus to cities and areas in an effort to gain political points or to play a game. All sides are guilty of this. Governors Abbott and Desantis and well as the current Presidential Administration have sent those seeking a better life to areas without telling those going and those to where they are being sent what is going on. Where is the decency and humanity in all of that?
Is it not inscribed on the tablet that the Statue of Liberty, the very worldly symbol of freedom and hope, say “Send me your poor, your tired, your hungry”? While those on the Southern border and coming across it may not be doing so through the proper means, they are still human beings and need to be treated with the respect and dignity that is due all of mankind. Yes, there may be some within their ranks that are not coming here with the best of intentions. However, that is the case with any type of immigration.
We are faced with a humanitarian crisis that the Western World has never seen before. It is one that our failed political leaders have brought upon us. Instead of ignoring the problem or trying to twist the situation to make you or your political party look good, how about you do the job that WE, the American Public, elected you to do. Instead of wasting our tax dollars on your pet projects, how about you use it to hire more immigration officials and judges so that we can better help those who need it. At the same time how about we use some of that wasted money to help the situation in those Central and South American Countries from which these people are fleeing? Why are we sending a good chunk of our tax dollars to countries that don’t truly need it or that are not friendly to America? Why is it that only the crisis in Ukraine is getting attention? Do we not have similar issues in Africa? Is not the crisis on our own border worth the same attention?
All life has value and deserves respect. America is a land of immigrants. Not all of us in the early days of this country came here legally. We must remember that. We must also remember that human life is not to be used as a political pawn in your power struggles and games. It is time for the people to speak up and for our elected representatives to do their job. If they can’t or won’t, then we need to fire them and get in people who will seek to value human life and not just see it as a tool or pawn to use in their twisted games.
The Very Rev. Fr. Larry Barnhill
Important Election Issues Need Attention
Imagine just for a moment that We the People of the United States had the ability to reign in out-of-control spending by our federal government. I suspect that we would quickly jump at that opportunity. Likewise, it would be great to be able to curb exorbitant spending in the State government as well. Unfortunately, our only option is to elect fiscally responsible candidates who will do it for us. Historically however, that does not happen with much success.
While we cannot change some things in Washington and Annapolis, we can make a difference at the local level. Thanks to the power of the Petition to Referendum, we can stop overspending by County and Town elected officials.
On November 8th, the voters of Ocean City will have the opportunity to send strong messages to both our County Commissioners and to our Mayor & City Council (M&CC). On the two separate county and town ballots, there are two separate and distinct Questions “A.” The County ballot Question A pertains to the Bond Bill to construct the proposed Sports Complex next to Stephen Decatur High School. The Bill obligates our Commissioners by providing “…an irrevocable pledge of the full faith and credit and unlimited taxing power of the County to the payment of the maturing principal of and interest and premium (if any) on the Bonds as and when they become due and payable.”
A vote Against Question A on the county ballot is a vote against an ill-conceived and poorly planned multi-million-dollar sports complex which never appeared on a County Capital Improvement Plan until less than a year ago. It is a project with no business plan in place. The cost of the land alone, which we later learned is not part of the bond bill, should provide enough cause for concern. A slim majority of Commissioners voted to pay nearly $75,000 per acre, while land is available throughout the county from $10,000 to $19,000 per acre. We the People have the opportunity to curb the Commissioners’ overspending by voting Against this Question A.
On another front, the voters of the Town of Ocean City have an additional opportunity to curb spending by our local officials on yet another Question A. Passage of Ordinance 2021-24 by our M&CC, calls for a phased-in increase in Room Tax revenue designed, in part, to increase Marketing & Advertising spending.
From Fiscal Years (FY) 2007 to 2022, the Town’s advertising budget, funded by the room tax, increased from $1.76 million to over $8.8 million, an increase of 400%. That $8.8 million could have almost fully funded our Career Fire/EMS Division. In FY22, an additional $1.4 million in advertising revenue rolled over from the previous fiscal year. Unlike other departments, where unspent funds go into the Town’s fund balance at the end of the fiscal year, unspent advertising funds carry over into the next fiscal year.
The total $10.2 million available in FY22 for advertising is the equivalent of 11 cents on the town property tax rate. In retrospect, the M&CC could have lowered our FY22 property tax rate by 24% and still generated sufficient revenue to meet our town’s obligations. Both residential and business properties would have equally benefited in that reduction.
We often hear from elected leaders that our only industry is tourism, and that money spent on tourism helps to keep our property taxes low. Note however, the residential community is already helping the tourism industry by subsidizing the Convention Center, the airport, the golf course when needed, the mass transit system to move our many tourists, as well as many special events. In the case of advertising, we are not just subsidizing the tourism industry, our local government is essentially paying the entire cost for the business community.
The Town of Ocean City should not be in the advertising business. Advertising and marketing are not functions of government. Businesses in the private sector should be doing their own advertising, via the Chamber of Commerce, the Hotel Motel Restaurant Association or their own individual budgets. It is not the responsibility of the local government to subsidize tourism, but to facilitate it by providing a clean beach, a clean environment, sound infrastructure including water, wastewater and trash disposal; and essential services such as police, fire, EMS and beach patrol.
A vote Against Question A on the Town ballot will force our elected leaders to come up with a more equitable plan that does not benefit the business community, at the expense of the residential community. A vote Against Question A on the Town ballot is a vote against the out-of-control spending of our Town elected officials.
I urge all Ocean City voters to vote against both Questions “A”. Thank you.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.