Over the coming months, many steps will be taken to provide the mechanism for a room tax rate increase for Worcester County. The first step is for Worcester, Kent, Caroline and Queen Anne’s counties to agree to seek the enabling legislation for a room tax rate increase. Worcester County is on board with at least exploring raising the current 5% room tax to 6%, initiating the process of securing the other counties’ support. This has not been a problem in the past. If the other counties come on board, as expected, the legislation will likely cruise through the House and Senate because of local courtesy. This would set the showdown with the commissioners. Any increase in the room tax rate would need to be unanimous. This would seem to be a no brainer move for the county, but time will tell. A curveball is possible with the unanimous vote requirement to raise the rate, which is low currently compared to other resort destinations.
If all goes as expected, the new room tax rate, which would most likely not take affect until Jan. 1, 2024 due to timing, will be a significant revenue enhancer for the county eventually. For example, a 1% increase in the room tax rate on an accommodation of $300 per night would result in an additional $3 in revenue. Multiply the new revenue out over every night booked at more than 10,000 hotel rooms and 25,000 condominiums throughout the county and it’s going to represent a significant increase in dollars.
There was considerable public outcry in the spring when a horse was relocated from Assateague Island National Seashore to a Texas ranch due to some concerning human interactions. A statement at the time read, “Unfortunately, reversing behavior once a wild animal has learned to associate people with food is extremely difficult. Removal often becomes the only option to manage a highly food conditioned animal, especially one causing the majority of negative and dangerous interactions with the public.” The relocation was largely criticized by Assateague lovers and considered a result of human misjudgments along the way.
This week it was learned the relocated horse, named Delegate’s Pride but also known as Chip, was faring well at his new home, Cleveland Armory Black Beauty Ranch, a 1,400-acre ranch located in Murchison, Texas and home to about 650 domestic and exotic animals, most of whom have been rescued. A Facebook post on the ranch’s page this week featured photos of the horse at play and read, “Chip (Delegates Pride), the Assateague Pony who arrived at #blackbeautyranch in early June is living his best life here! Chip’s care team reports that he can be seen daily playing tag with herd mates and enjoying the pasture with his best friend Hamilton. Favorite pastimes include tossing his blue ball around, and being first in line for afternoon snacks. Chip is happy and thriving in pasture life!”
When it was first read Congressman Andy Harris was seeking a moratorium on offshore wind farm activity, I assumed he was breaking some news about the recent whale found deceased on Assateague. After reading his press release and statement further, I realized he was just playing politics and did not have new information about the whale’s necropsy. In a statement, Harris said, “We need to take the time to gather proper scientific data, act in full transparency and not relay of FAQ platitudes for these projects, their construction and the impact they may have upon our environment. Until such actions occur, I am calling for a complete shutdown of windmill construction.”
Surely most would agree further details are needed to definitively say what caused the whale’s death beyond the initial finding of a hemorrhage being consistent with blunt force trauma, such as a vessel strike. In fact, observers on Assateague Island reported the whale was severely decomposed and the trauma found could have been a result of the equipment being used to move the whale out of breaking waves. The early autopsy report was inconclusive as to whether the trauma occurred while the whale was alive or dead. This is a critical piece, but the likelihood is strong no confirmation will ever be known.
The statement from Harris has resulted in a minor storm of controversy with many organizations blasting his assumptions. For example, the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus, a frequent critic of Harris, took to social media this week to question the 12-year congressman. The statement read in part, “We know Congressman Andy Harris is lying about offshore wind being responsible for the whale death because the local company building the project, Ørsted is not currently conducting offshore survey activity for Skipjack Wind. Ørsted-contracted vessels concluded surveys off the coast in the Spring of 2022 and did not experience any marine mammal strikes during their activities. Not only that, but it is well established that the offshore wind industry is subjected to the most stringent level of protections for marine mammals and protected species. Every aspect of Off-Shore Wind surveying, construction, and operations are reviewed by multiple agencies and subject to protective conditions, including vessel speeds, time of year restrictions for construction activities, and mandatory protected species observers.”