Discuss issues in public
Posted On: 8/11/16
This paper took some criticism this past week for publishing an article regarding Berlin Councilwoman Lisa Hall’s remarks to our reporter while in the midst of a taped interview on an unrelated topic. Some felt that her remarks should have been considered off the record as Hall has personally suffered a difficult year. Unfortunately as a public official there is no automatic pass for that when serious accusations are put forth of other public officials. While Hall may prefer those accusations to be shared behind the scenes with neighbors, friends and other townsfolk willing to listen, there was a time and place for her to air any concerns she may have had. Hall, as claimed in her remarks, was under no duress to remain publically silent if she legitimately felt others were operating corruptly. Moreover, Hall had a responsibility to the citizens of Berlin to act by going on public record at the Town Council meeting. She could have asked the town’s attorney, David Gaskill,...» Click here for the full story.
Don’t blame messengers
Posted On: 8/4/16
Nothing rankles someone who is pledged to impartiality more than the suggestion that he or she is not. It’s no wonder then that Bill Wentworth and associates on the Ocean Pines Elections Committee have just about had it with this year’s political carryings on and have declared that this might be the end of their service as election management volunteers. No matter what anyone says, the demand for transparent ballot counting suggests that committee members are suspect in terms of honesty, integrity and impartiality. It’s not just politics, in their minds anyway, it’s a personal affront. This is not to say that closed-door ballot counting is right or wrong, but it does explain why elections officials feel they are under siege and have reacted accordingly. As it is, and as we have mentioned before, Maryland election law has specific rules regarding who may observe what during the process and when they may do it. More importantly, elections officials can have ej...» Click here for the full story.
Mending fences right call
Posted On: 7/28/16
The town of Berlin had one other option it could have pursued this week instead of dipping into the treasury to pay for the construction of a fence and a walking trail between unhappy neighbors. It could have done nothing, but said otherwise. That’s what governments often do when they have little authority to intervene in an argument over the unforeseen consequences of their own actions: insist their hands are legally tied, but vow to negotiate a deal that, more often than not, never quite works out. This politically expedient angle shows government doing something when it really isn’t. In this case, as Flower Street residents ask for some separation between their properties and the Cannery Village project that abuts their backyards, the town took the direct route and dealt with the problem. The essence of the issue was that the residents had no actual control over what was built next door, while Cannery Village did what local government gave it permission to do, ...» Click here for the full story.
There’s no perfect time
Posted On: 7/21/16
The pursuit of a good idea is often delayed by the belief that waiting a little longer could result in something better, even when that something better has yet to be defined. Many a solid project has languished or faded away because of that inaction, as decision makers wait hopefully for the perfect solution to manifest itself. That assumes, of course, that everyone would recognize an undisputed winner if it did materialize. That’s why Snow Hill town officials did the right thing when they agreed to a deal with Richard and Debbie Seaton that will bring their shop, Toy Town, to the empty building on the corner of Market and Washington Streets. While some might contend that the Seatons are getting a sweetheart arrangement, the fact is they have committed to quite an undertaking, as they will be responsible for major — and expensive —renovations and upgrades to a structure that has been vacant for 30 years. Besides, no matter what anyone says, no one gets anything f...» Click here for the full story.
One-note harping tone-deaf
Posted On: 7/14/16
Ocean Pines residents, and voters in particular, are more fortunate than they realize: while other towns, communities and even hamlets have multiple issues with which to deal, Ocean Pines apparently has just one: the general manager. That would be judging from comments at a recent candidate’s forum, where it was asserted that every problem could be fixed, every question could be answered and every needed improvement could be accomplished by making just one personnel move. Other communities, by contrast, have to slog through myriad meetings, discussions and strategy sessions to find way to address multiple unrelated issues. But not in Ocean Pines, where the simple act of firing General Manager Bob Thompson will take care of everything. Or so some have suggested. The simplistic nature of this argument, however, suggests that these candidates are so focused on dumping Thompson that either they haven’t thought about other matters relevant to Pines voters or they have a lim...» Click here for the full story.
Gazette letter policy redux
Posted On: 7/7/16
One might suppose that we asked for it, when we ran a letter to the editor harshly criticizing statements made by one candidate at a forum for the then 12 candidates seeking a seat on the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors. The policy of the paper has been not to publish denouncements or endorsements of candidates, because it undoubtedly would lead to a deluge of similar letters or letter-writing campaigns orchestrated by foes and supporters of those seeking a post on the volunteer board. In this instance, however, we elected to publish a letter castigating candidate Pat Supik for her remarks at the forum, as we decided that anything said in a public arena is fair game for public comment. It is not the job of the paper, after all, to protect candidates from their critics. To do so would stifle public debate of matters that Ocean Pines residents, or some of them anyway, believe are of critical importance. What we do strive to do, however, is to be fair. Consequently, a lette...» Click here for the full story.
Much ado about ballots
Posted On: 6/30/16
Ocean Pines Board of Director member Cheryl Jacobs has a good point: an elections committee gathered for the sole purpose of counting ballots does not constitute a meeting in any legal sense. The committee isn’t empowered to take any action other than to assure ballots are valid and to count them. It does nothing beyond those two functions, so there is no meeting according to the law. Committee members have rightly taken umbrage at the suggestion, however faintly whispered, that this closed-door process opens another door to election rigging or some other nefarious scheme. Even the mention of that possibility questions the integrity of each individual who volunteered for the job and would be considered by just about anyone as a personal affront. In fairness, we wondered as well why the ballot counting should be closed until Jacobs offered her opinion to the contrary. That prompted the realization that ballot counting in municipalities is closed to the public, as is allowed b...» Click here for the full story.
Sky not falling in Pines
Posted On: 6/23/16
Ocean Pines residents rest easy — the community is not collapsing into a black hole of despair and destruction. Yet, to listen to the comments of some of the candidates for the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors, one might easily come to that conclusion. Contrary to what people might think, or say, Ocean Pines is not the laughingstock of this or any other area. Were that the case, the real estate market there would have imploded long ago and people would be fleeing for … where exactly? That’s the point. There is no place that doesn’t have its problems, many of which far exceed the nature of any difficulty that Ocean Pines might experience. The relative absence of crime comes to mind. And there are trees, safe streets, pools, clubs, and quiet. Lots of quiet. Trade that, for instance, for a place in Salisbury. Ocean City is a nice place to live, but then there is the business of sharing it with a couple of hundred thousand visitors every year and the ...» Click here for the full story.
Voting for boating goating
Posted On: 6/16/16
As turbulent and divisive as the national circumstance is these days, it’s nice to see a healthy appreciation of silliness still exists. That would be in reference to, of course, the idea that goats — they’re not just for lawn maintenance anymore — could be a vital ingredient in the economic resurgence of the Town of Snow Hill. Yes, by establishing a small population of capra aegagrus hircus, or pygmy goats, on the Pocomoke River’s Goat Island and reworking it into a park-like setting, the town’s ever-creative economic development people believe this might become something of a tourist attraction. It’s just different enough to draw more attention to a town that needs it. Ocean City, after all, may be the “White Marlin Capital of the Word,” but it doesn’t have any you can pet. Silly ideas also can grow into something much more. “Punkin Chunkin’” up in Delaware, for instance, did not start out as anything m...» Click here for the full story.
No comp plan for Pines
Posted On: 6/9/16
For all the discussion of how to create a comprehensive plan for the Ocean Pines Association, the critical point that most people seem to miss is that the homeowners association doesn’t need one. Maybe OPA officials are just using the wrong label for what they really want, which would be a decision-guiding vision statement that reflects the opinions of a majority of property owners, not unlike the strategic plan that Ocean City created for itself three years ago. The purpose of that particular document was to recognize in writing the resort’s priorities and objectives, along with actions that might be taken to achieve them. That’s much different from a comprehensive plan, which is mostly about land use and development, and which is already addressed in Ocean Pines’ covenants, restrictions and bylaws. A strategic plan also is easier to do, since it’s based almost entirely on public opinion and, unlike a comprehensive plan, does not obligate anyone to do...» Click here for the full story.