"Just the good ol' boys"
They were popping bubbly in the Country Clubs and retirement villages all over town this week, as the Angel of Death that had taken the form of a slot machine had apparently passed over us here in Worcester County.
Nobody even had to put any blood on their doors, opting rather to do the more politically correct 'sending of a letter' expressing their disdain for proposed slots in the county.
Way to go gang, you sure showed •€˜em, so treat yourselves to another round of pats on the back and perfect martinis.
To be honest, I wasn't exactly a proponent for slots in the county, but I really don't share the opinion that having slots at Ocean Downs would be the worst thing on the planet. It can't be any worse than the direction things have been going in the past year, regardless of however the City Hall 'spinsters' are spoon-feeding us 'every-little-thing-is-going-to-be-alright's.'
Despite my parents living in Vegas, I don't gamble, and as a result, have never gone to Ocean Downs, even when they had two members of the Marshall Tucker band and a bunch of studio musicians rocking out for Bike Week one year. It's almost comical to watch everybody's panties get all in a bunch over the 'undesirable' crowds of gypsy druggies that would be following the slot machines like the Grateful Dead was rolling into town for an extended stay. If you've ever gone to a place that has slot machines, like Midway Slots in Harrington, Del. for instance, you'll most likely see 10 old ladies on a bus trip and two or three blatant rednecks to every one shady individual.
What happens if those shady individuals are redneck old ladies? Well, the town will most likely implode or spontaneously combust. So, in retrospect, it's probably a good thing that our leaders wrote that letter, because who wants to chance that?
What troubles me about this whole situation is how we got to this point in the first place. The issue that is scaring people shouldn't be whether or not you can stick a nickel into a machine and potentially win more nickels, it should really be 'how did our resort get to a point financially where slots even had to be an option?'
You can blame it on a bunch of things: A slowing real estate market, too much development, out-pricing our targeted consumers, high gas prices, or even the writer's strike that is causing every show on television to resort to the rerun vault.
Who knows if it's even just one thing, but the point is we are here, faced with the daunting task of trying to keep our livelihoods and keep people coming to the Eastern Shore and spending their hard earned money. And quite frankly, the question that we should be posing is: if slots aren't the answer to turn this thing around then what the hell is?
Which leads me to this room tax increase which was, in the same week as the letter was written to thwart the slots, unanimously approved which in turn will raise the price of the rooms that our tourists will be sleeping in when they visit our little town by the sea.
Charging people more to come to an already over-priced market (which has far more supply than it has demand) just seems like a dumb thing to do. Perhaps on paper it is a smart thing, what with all the money that it will free up to advertise this town to potential vacationers, but in reality, I am not really that trusting that the 'wordsmiths' that handle our advertising will use that extra money to come up with anything better than 'More Fun Here.'
It seems to me that what people need as this country heads toward a recession is simple: savings.
I'm not saying that we become the Wal-mart of resorts, but perhaps you need to get the 'butts in the seats' at any cost. If everyone is scared that we are going to turn into Atlantic City the moment the first slot machine is turned on, then maybe we need to give people a reason to come here, rather than just depend on history, tradition and yesterdays.
Perhaps offering up discounted rooms so that the hotel books more rooms more of the time (off season too) would be a better route to take rather than charging people what equates to something totaling a literal 'arm and a leg.'
It is cheaper to go to an island that it is to come to Ocean City, and as much as I love this town, and as many of the millions of people that visit here may as well, everyone would rather save a buck than have to spend more.
It seems so obvious, and I just don't understand why most of the people that have the power to change anything are so oblivious to needs of the targeted tourists.
The biggest thing that bothers me however, is the transparent reasoning that opponents of slots were giving to reporters over the past few months. Aside from the ridiculous clichÃ©s, I get the biggest kick when powerful, rich people (who around here are never young) say that they have the best interests of the children in mind. That might be true on some levels, but lets call a spade a spade here. Slots would make you less money and that's that. Don't try and all of a sudden hide your agenda behind a moralistic ruse. It's as laughable as a multi-million dollar a year pro-athlete taking his team to arbitration because he has to 'feed his kids.'
I've had people tell me before that this is a 'good ol' boys' kind of town. That mentality isn't really hidden, it's worn more like a badge most of the time. But in times like these, when the good ol' boys puff up their chests and make the decisions, or at the very least influence the rest of the folks with their big wallets and 'Big Man on the Island' demeanors, it makes you realize that there is a divide in the public, and things are done to sustain the lifestyle of the already wealthy rather than help people that are trying to make a living.
The public servants have become removed from the needs of the public, partly because the public either A. doesn't believe they will do anything for them or B. the public is too busy trying to make ends meet in this market to go to a County Commissioner meeting and not get heard.
Slots weren't the answer, but neither is the room tax.
Hopefully someone will come up with a direction for the town, and maybe that means putting down the bubbly and getting back to the drawing board so this ship gets back on course.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.