Early voting began yesterday across the state and in Worcester County the site is the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City. This is the first time early voting will not be held in Berlin since it began. In the years since early voting was initiated by the state to provide greater opportunities for citizens, the numbers have trended up for each election. Last summer’s primary was the outlier with just 1,208 people turning out to Worcester Prep to vote. This was clearly a time of year issue as well as the lack of challenged races on the Democrat side because early voting has generally been gaining in popularity.
For example, in the 2020 general election, 13,174, or 32% of total voters, took part in early voting, compared to 6,743 in the 2018 general election. Due to the location in Ocean City, it seems unlikely the positive early voting trend will continue. I suspect most folks will wait until election day to vote. A more centralized early voting site in the future would be ideal, but it’s easier said than done due to suitable space limitations. The former site of Gull Creek is no longer an option, and Worcester Prep has understandable school activity conflicts every day.
Looking ahead to the election on Nov. 8, latest data from the State Board of Elections shows 42,116 registered voters eligible in Worcester County including 14,863 Democrats and 19,122 Republicans and the rest unaffiliated or smaller parties. By comparison, as of the July primary, there were just 32,654 eligible voters because only Republicans and Democrats could vote, leaving out the unaffiliated and other smaller party members.
As far as special events go in Ocean City, it has been a year of bad luck with the weather. A quick review of the year confirms how foul Mother Nature was to the resort through the course of the year.
The unlucky streak began in March with the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, a highlight of the offseason, being called off due to the weather. The latest cancelation means the event has not been held since 2019 in Ocean City due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 and Mother Nature this year. The bad luck continued with the four-day Springfest in May being cut short Saturday afternoon and Sunday being canceled due to high winds and flooding.
The Ocean City Air Show in June was also impacted by weather with a wet Sunday morning forcing some schedule changes and a later start. A few weeks later, the vendor selected to conduct the fireworks shows on the Fourth of July mysteriously pulled out of the resort’s contract due to manpower issues. With the holiday seemingly sneaking up on the vendor, this marked the third year in a row Ocean City did not have fireworks on Independence Day. City officials were able to scramble and offer fireworks on July 3 and July 5. The unfortunate weather impacts hit again in late September when the remnants of Hurricane Ian spun into a nasty Nor’easter canceling the Oceans Calling Festival, arguably one of the most anticipated special events in recent history.
Finally, last week’s Sunfest had a glorious three-day run with crowds enjoying lovely fall weather Thursday through Saturday. The looming weather forecast for Sunday was a concern all week, however. The decision was made Saturday afternoon to cancel Sunday. It was the right call because Sunday was a wet mess. Additionally, and nothing to do with the weather, President Biden’s weekend in Rehoboth Beach canceled the drone show planned for Friday night. The O.C.Toberfest’s pet parade and beach maze were also washed out Sunday.
With a glass half full perspective, the chances surely are slim the same bad weather fate will impact Ocean City’s special events next year.
Once the calendar flips to the new year, municipal and county governments will begin focusing on the next fiscal year’s budget. It’s not going to be pretty for two reasons.
First, inflation is out of control and shows no signs of easing. The out of whack supply-and-demand model is creating soaring prices on just about everything. Examples are seen every day, including a recent trip to a car dealership showing a “supply charge” of $10,000 over and above the MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price). This is pure gouging, but the reality is prices are ridiculous for all consumers. Government is not immune to these soaring costs and in more of a precarious situation in some ways because public dollars are the source of the expenditures.
Secondly, many governments in the region – and across the country – were thrown a lifeline with the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Many government budgets were balanced without significant property tax increases because of the bonus funds from the government. Many towns and counties used these funds to pay for major capital projects while others plugged the funds into boosting public safety areas of concerns. These funds were critical additions to many budgets, and they will not be in place for the next year. Exacerbating the gloomy situation is some capital projects identified for ARPA funds are now coming in far over budget, resulting in governments scrambling to find the extra dollars needed.
There is talk of the federal government stepping in with a robust anti-inflation plan, but it seems to revolve around slowing the economy at the risk of a recession. Complicated budget work lies ahead with difficult decisions.