OC’s Response To Petition Disturbing

OC’s Response To  Petition Disturbing

The Ocean City Mayor and Council went the wrong direction this week in essentially ignoring a successful petition effort and its intention. It was a bad look for a representative government body at the same meeting to rescind the successfully challenged ordinance and then essentially outline a plan to accomplish the same goal.

There has been speculation the registered voters who signed last fall’s petition drive were unaware of what they were signing. There does appear to be some legitimacy to the claim, as the petition basically became more or less about the overall Margaritaville redevelopment project than the conveyance of property. Furthermore, confusion is evident, as two citizens who signed the petition argued with us this week the challenge was about an alley decision rather than the conveyance.

Nonetheless, whether people knew what they were signing or not, the petition clearly successfully challenged a passed ordinance. Normal protocol in these circumstances would have been a special election to garner the full citizenry’s opinion. Instead, likely fearing the vote’s outcome, Ocean City pulled the ordinance and is going a longer route to achieve the same thing.

The result of this week’s action will eventually be a new ordinance to accomplish the broader goal. Whether the petitioners have the energy and ability to initiate another petition drive is unknown at this time, but it seems clear Ocean City is playing politics, looking to essentially nullify the petition avoiding a special election by finding a new means to accomplish the same goal. This way if petitioners attempt another signature effort it will be the entire Baltimore Avenue redevelopment project at stake.

Reconstructing and reconfiguring Baltimore Avenue is a worthwhile goal and a good use of public funds, but new Ocean City Councilman Will Savage was right when he called the council’s action “absurd” this week. He’s probably right with his prediction, “It’s just going to go back to another referendum.” He added, “We have a successful petition with enough voter signatures. It’s just going to go back to another referendum.”

This is a political play by the city. We would oppose a petition effort to block a future ordinance starting a new abandonment process for Baltimore Avenue because it would likely slow and hinder the reconstruction effort from moving ahead. Council members seem to think this will be the majority opinion of the citizens, and they are probably correct. It doesn’t mean it’s the right approach though to disregard a successful petition.

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.