Voices From The Readers
Man Should Pay Attention To Own Life
As a subscriber to the Maryland Coast Dispatch, I eagerly look forward to receiving each issue in the mail. Although I reside 500 miles away, The Dispatch allows me to stay on top of things and does a tremendous job of keeping me informed. This is important to me, not only as a news junkie which is often homesick for his favorite town, but also because I am a property owner who wants to be knowledgeable about issues that may affect my investment properties in town.
On Monday, July 30, I was happy to see that my new issue had arrived. As always, I read it from front to back. Because I value the viewpoints and opinions of others, I especially like to read the 'Letters to the Editor'. I read with great interest a letter written by a gentleman who seemed to believe he had answers to the difficult issues that Ocean City faces as a tourist town in a financially strapped state.
In his article 'Ideas to Bring People to Town Need Attention', he took numerous shots at what he called 'higher ups'. He was unhappy with the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, Town Maintenance Guy Bruce Gibbs, the elected members of the Ocean City Town Council and others that he deemed to be 'higher ups' in the town. As a proponent of entrepreneur Joe Kroart's Boathenge idea, the writer stated that 'Nationwide coverage will make or break this town'.
It was the very next day that I was in my office and I noticed what appeared to be a picture of an Ocean City Police car on CNN. I followed the tragic events on Sunset Drive involving Christy Freeman and the alleged atrocities for which she has since been arrested. As the news unfolded, Ms. Freeman's long time male friend was identified as a Mr. Ray Godman. I knew I just recently heard of his name and I quickly realized that he was the writer of the article that I read in The Dispatch.
It seems to me that Mr. Godman would have been better suited to know what was going on in his own house instead of trashing all of the town's 'higher ups'. His inability to handle matters in his own personal life resulted in having CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Headline News and even the dreaded Nancy Grace all reporting on a tragedy in the resort. The Nationwide coverage Mr. Godman referenced has become a reality, in large part to him being oblivious to events in his own home. This has to be the most ironic thing I could ever imagine.
I am confident we will overcome this terribly unfortunate occurrence just as we did with the Sifrit case of five years ago. In the future, I would hope those who choose to throw stones would distance themselves from their own glass house.
M. Scott Chismar
Lake View, N.Y.
Spending Money On Airport Is Foolish
On June 28, there was a public hearing at the Ocean City Convention Center regarding expansion of the Ocean City Municipal Airport. An approximate crowd of 200 people were on hand. Only one person at the hearing was in favor of the airport expansion. Rounds of applause echoed through the Convention Center as the 19 speakers, one by one, voiced their outrage against any proposed expansion pertaining to longer runways and the re-alignment of Route 611. The destruction to the environment, wetlands, forests, coastal bays and decreasing property values for homeowners were paramount concerns of the people. Other concerns were planes, more noise, pollution and safety. Route 611 is also a hurricane evacuation route and gateway to Assateague Island.
Representing Ocean City was Hal Adkins. The Mayor and Council of Ocean City did not attend the public hearing or care to hear what the people of Ocean City and West Ocean City had to say about the airport expansion. The arrogance of the Mayor and Council with their we don't care what people think and desire is unacceptable. The people have spoken. The Worcester County Commissioners have spoken and voted 6 to 1 against airport expansion. Dave Wilson and Maryland Coastal Bays Program, against expansion; Kathy Phillips, Assateague Coastkeeper, against expansion, and Spencer Roew, Environmental Consultant, an expert in the Ocean City/Worcester County area, against expansion. Do our politicians listen?
Now the Mayor and Council by-pass the Army Corps of Engineers in keeping with their we'll do as we please attitude. The Army Corps of Engineers regulates any and all work pertaining to our nations wetlands. I read the Corps letter sent to Hal Adkins. The Army Corps of Engineers is extremely annoyed. Paul Wettlaufer asserts that the Corps will have the final word on how the expansion is handled, if it passes muster at all.
Our ocean, beaches and coastal bays are the magnet that draw people here to live and visit our resort. Destroy or alter the above and people will look elsewhere to live and vacation. Do not ruin our environment. Per Kathy Phillips, 'our coastal bays generate far more income and economic impact in this community through fishing, crabbing and recreating than any more business that might come about as the result of this expansion.'
Our airport is for small plane usage. Salisbury is the site chosen by the FAA for commuter aviation. It has all the facilities for larger business usage and is the business and economic hub for Wicomico and Worcester counties. Salisbury airport has the larger runways that Ocean City is looking to duplicate. Duplicating tax dollars on the Ocean City Airport when our government desperately needs money is criminal. Use the money for good use such as new bridge replenishment and repairs which every state in the country is in dire need of. People in public office should be responsible for using our tax dollars wisely.
Saddling The Poor With Deficit Burden
Governor Martin O'Malley wants to ease the state's deficit by not letting the rich pay just the 4.75 percent that everyone now pays who earns $3,000 or more, a set-up he calls 'patently unfair'.
Why not have the rich pay 10 percent for incomes over 100,000 and 20 percent for over 200,000? This 'progressive' taxation is based on Constellation Energy's CEO taking home $20 million a year - the fact that the rich get a lot of money out of the middle class and the poor.
Meanwhile, Senate President Mike Miller wants to hike the 'regressive' sales tax, which is hitting all buyers at the same rate, hurts the rich less, the middle class and poor more.
And House of Delegates Speaker Mike Busch wants another regressive measure, a 5-percent hike in state college tuitions. His opposition to this was one of the big reasons many of his constituents campaigned and voted for him in 2006. Former Governor Ehrlich was voted out in large part because he had raised these tuitions 45 percent over his four years in office.
Many parents and students have already been forced into debt to meet Ehrlich's raises. Busch's hike would be a vicious blow to lower middle class and poor families who struggle as it is to get their kids through state colleges. Busch's hike is both wrong and mean.
Back across the hall, Miller is pushing his favorite plague on the poor, slots. It's a bald face lie that slots will ease the deficit when the state's take must finance more regulators/inspectors and counselors for gambling addicts and for families of gambling suicides.
The two Mike's knee jerk reaction to the deficit is to saddle it on the weak/poor. Where are their ideas for making the strong/rich, the corporations/developers/utilities shoulder some of it? Half of Maryland's largest for profit corporations pay no income tax at all!
A Cracked Golden Egg
I've seen a lot of vacancy signs down Coastal Highway this summer which is not surprising because Ocean City has become over saturated with all the new construction. I am perplexed because all these new high-priced units are paying real estate taxes and this year my taxes skyrocketed on my 35-year-old building. I spend five months a year here along with 90 percent of the seasonal owners and we are paying for 90 percent of the services that we do not use for most of the year.
We are discriminated against because the taxes for the 10 percent of permanent residents can only go up 3 percent. Two units on my street have been for sale for the past two years and they cannot even get the price that they are assessed at. There are for sale signs all over the city.
I hope city officials are taking notice because Ocean City is undergoing a dramatic change and the owners are becoming disheartened. The goose's golden egg has cracked and has flown to more affordable areas.
Assateague Guards Could Learn From OC
In the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 4, while on the beach at the National Park at Assateague Island with my family, we heard thunder off in the distance and the sky began to get dark north of Assateague.
It wasn't until a little while later when I noticed that the beach patrol had loaded up all their gear, closed down their lifeguard stands and deserted the beach. Obviously, the beach patrol knew something about the weather that the thousands of beachgoers didn't.
Did the beach patrol bother sharing this information with the beach goers? No. Did they bother announcing to the public that they were leaving the beach? No.
The weather forecast must have been so bad that the beach patrol decided to run for cover, deserting their posts, leaving the beachgoers unguarded to fend for themselves. Evidently the safety and welfare of the National Park Beach Patrol comes before the safety of the public they are allegedly paid to serve.
I can guarantee you that this sort of behavior would not have happened in Ocean City. If management of the guards received information of a storm coming, they would have announced this information to the beachgoers and depending on the severity of the storm, would have had the beachgoers leave the ocean and even vacate the beach if necessary. The Ocean City Beach Patrol would be the last ones to leave the beach, not the first.
To the management of the National Park Service, if you want to see a professional beach patrol in action, I suggest you spend the day with the beach patrol in Ocean City
Digging Deep Into Trimper's Situation
I recently sent a letter concerning my vision for the Trimper's property in Ocean City and their request to have their tax burden relived to my state legislators, County Commissioners and every Ocean City official. A total of 18 letters were sent. Sadly, only five of these elected officials responded. I have to publicly commend Delegate James Mathias, County Commissioners Judy Boggs and Virgil Shockley and City Council members Margaret Pillas and Mary Knight for taking time to not only read my letter but to also personally respond. At first, I wondered why the other elected officials choose to ignore the opinion of the average voter and taxpayer, until my own investigation told me where the money, power and influence was coming from.
Delegate Jim Mathias said to me that these issues usually work themselves out by 'adhering to the laws of a free market economy' and sometimes because the government intervened, 'with a responsible dose of public policy'. The average taxpayer has not been informed of the complexity of this issue; instead we have been led to believe that our initial nostalgic reaction to save this property is what's best for all.
Mr. Mathias was so correct when he said 'Ocean City is a successful city/town to both live and vacation' and that is 'a resort for many different types of families to a more affluent group that still is impressed with our cleanliness, safety and humble values.' That is why I think my vision for this property is a win, win, win for the Trimpers, the city and all those that live, work, or vacation there. The Trimper's could walk away from this with what I call 'life changing money' and assurance from the city and state that their legacy will be preserved for all time. Ocean City gets world-class restaurants, shopping, clubs and condos with plenty of parking. What's not to like? Trimper's website quotes total employment currently at '38 people are employed year round with 300-500 employed in the summer. Annual salary is $2.6 million. Even with the most conservative estimates, employment and salary numbers would be 10 times present numbers if this property was to be developed in another productive way.
My own investigation into this matter also uncovered a few facts that are not being accurately reported by the Trimpers web site or in the press. All of us, including the Trimpers, that live, work and pay taxes in Worcester County already enjoy the second lowest tax rate in the state. Ocean City has lowered its tax rate three years in a row including two cents in the 2008 city budget. The Trimper family claim that they face 'taxes that will double in the next three years' may be true but that assessment is for a maze of 24 properties owned by the family, not just the two properties that they have their carnival rides on. It has been estimated that those properties have a combined resale value of close to $100 million. Giving the Trimper family a tax break should become the textbook definition of 'giving tax breaks to the rich'.
A related and very critical issue is the division within the extended Trimper family whether to sell properties. I understand from confirmed sources that of the 14 controlling family members, a swing of just one vote would bring about the sale of the properties, regardless of any action by the state.
The Trimper family lobby is very strong and already has the upper hand on the average taxpayer at this point. The Trimpers have created what looks to be an independent website with a nostalgic look and an appeal for you to tell your story and appeal on their behalf for help from the city, county and state.
Worcester County Commissioner Judy Boggs told me that after receiving just 350 e-mails from the Trimper sponsored website, the 'Commissioners wrote a letter to the Governor and various State agencies supporting some special State consideration for Trimper's.' Such pandering to a special interest is an outrage.
In a letter to the Trimper family parent corporation, John Sullivan Jr., Director of the MD. Dept. of Assessments and Taxation, stated, 'I expect that my department and members of the General Assembly will be reviewing the possibilities for special legislation in the 2008 session to grant property tax benefits to historic tourist uses such as the amusement rides'. The Trimper family has, in a very calculated manner, leaned on and influenced every level of government all the way to the governor. A full audit of the Trimper family ties to local and state government shows plenty of cause for concern and more than just the appearance of impropriety.
It is time that the average citizen let the local and state government officials know how you feel about giving a special tax consideration to a group of wealthy landowners. If you have an opinion please let your local and state elected officials know. You can find all of their addresses at www.gov.state.md.us/.
Delegate Mathias told me, 'Resisting change can be like defying gravity, an exercise in futility only to result in the law of nature'. Even with that said I sense a groundswell opinion of average people that are fed up with tax cuts, special exemptions and benefits to the connected and rich. If you feel the outrage that I do, please let someone know.
Act Needs Support
The work of local charitable organizations is critical to efforts to make our lives safer, healthier and happier. Local charities strengthen our communities by working with families, faith-based organizations and government.
Legislation, important to the long-term health of the nonprofit community, is now being considered by Congress. In the growing and changing world of philanthropy it is important for legislators to help charities grow new philanthropic resources to enhance the public good.
The federal Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), contained a provision that allows a donor to make a gift from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) directly to a charity with no tax consequences under certain circumstances. This law has been good for nonprofit organizations and communities across the country. However, this provision of the 2006 law will expire on Dec. 31, 2007.
The "Public Good IRA Rollover Act of 2007," which was recently introduced in both houses of Congress (S. 819, H.R. 1419), would make the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent, lift the cap on distributions, allow planned gifts and allow gifts to donor-advised funds, supporting organizations and private foundations to qualify for the incentive.
The IRA charitable rollover should be permanently extended. We need our congressional delegation to support these bills and extend the IRA charitable rollover before it expires at the end of this year.
Join me in writing to our Members of Congress and Senators and urge them to get behind this important legislation.
(The writer is the president of the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore.)