Voices From The Readers
Tax System Unfair To Non-Voters
Over 200 years ago, this great nation rallied to the cry of 'no taxation without representation!' America is built on the ideal of equality and a sense of fairness. Our present tax system, however, leaves much to be desired when it comes to this ideal. On that, most will agree. Most, however, disagree on what to do about it.
Maryland has a Homestead Tax Credit (HTC) going back to the mid-1970's. Established as a land-use policy, its purpose was to prevent decay of urban neighborhoods and foster historic preservation. Some 30 years later, the HTC doesn't seem to have that result in Ocean City and Worcester County. Instead, historic buildings fall like dominoes. The effect the HTC has had, however, is in the form of a gift to eligible residents (voters) who have a cap of 10 percent on assessment increases while non-residents have no assessment cap at all. In our own situation, this means that we currently pay nearly $11,000 (from $3,000 five years ago) for property taxes while a nearly identical home across the street with a higher assessment is taxed at $3,700 due to HTC. This scenario occurs throughout Ocean City and Worcester County.
A whopping 75% of the Ocean City and Worcester County budgets is funded by non-residents who receive a smaller portion of the services. Resident-owners pay the remaining 25 percent yet education expenditures alone make up 50 percent of the budget. The assessment caps effectively insulate them from the skyrocketing property taxes. A wise man once said that, 'a government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.' This system is tantamount to vote-buying and has created an 'us vs. them' attitude which runs contrary to building a sense of community.
Ironically, the Ocean City Council questioned the county earlier this year on the fairness of paying for services, which it had already provided. How different is this from paying more than the guy across the street for services that you cannot receive? You will recall their cries fell on deaf ears.
The same County Commission boasts in its FY2009 Budget brochure that we enjoy the second lowest property rate in Maryland. They don't explain that the other half of the tax equation is the assessment and that Worcester Co. is unique in having 75% of its property taxes funded by non-residents denied the right to vote. Don't the commissioners realize that property taxes are an important consideration when families or businesses decide to locate to an area? Step across the line from O.C. into Sussex County, Del., for instance, where property taxes are 80 percent lower. And that's without a Homestead Tax Credit. Has anyone noticed that California and Florida, which have Homestead Tax Credits, have severely collapsed real estate markets? Raising taxes stifles growth. Why aren't local Realtors and other business owners up in arms?
My grandparents (Connor) had a long history in Ocean City owning businesses here and raising seven children. I began coming to Ocean City over 50 years ago. Six years ago, we purchased our 1928 cottage on Baltimore Avenue from the Trimper/Burbage Estate and have been restoring it ever since. Our investment in Ocean City is measured in much more than dollars. Retiring here, however, may not be an option for us if taxes continue to spiral out of control.
Balancing a budget by simply raising taxes is not the answer. Taxes need to be reduced. The system needs to be administered fairly. Politicians need to be responsive to the non-voters who contribute heavily to this fine community.
Don and Nancy Bloom
Critical Practices Pay Dividends For All
I read with interest your Aug. 1 article, entitled 'Resort's Beach Earns Top Rating,' which noted that Ocean City's water quality just receive a perfect five-star rating from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). As someone who has made annual trips to go 'down the ocean' for pretty much every year of my life, this sort of recognition just confirms what I always new: that Ocean City is truly a special place.
As anyone who frequents Ocean City knows, the beaches and surf are always clean and inviting. Ultimately, this sort of environmental quality can only serve to attract more seasonal visitors to the town, thereby ensuring a positive economic climate for Ocean City as a whole. Perhaps more importantly, the ability of your community to achieve recognized results in environmental stewardship will pay broad dividends for all of us - tourists and permanent residents alike.
To be sure, credit must be given to local and state leaders, who have committed themselves over the years to the sustained collaboration necessary to make a clean environment a reality, and not just a pipe dream. At the end of the day, people come to Ocean City for warm sand, clean water, and inviting scenery. But it certainly does not hurt for the resort to have a certified 'green' reputation, courtesy of this well-deserved top honor.
Resort Has Chance To Distinguish Self
It seems curious that Ocean City would be concerned that a wind farm would detract from beachgoers' enjoyment of the ocean. Far off shore and unobtrusive, it would illustrate the town's environmental consciousness and be a tourist attraction.
The curios part is that for years I have been subjected to an ugly diesel-spewing, floating ad boat idling within 100 yards of the beach blowing an air horn every block. It advertises a chain of crab shacks housed in some of the most garish, unattractive buildings on Coastal Highway.
I appreciate Ocean City being concerned with my view of the ocean but suggest that they start closer to the shoreline.
City's Approach To Tasers Appropriate
I read with interest, the Aug. 1 letter to the editor from Steve Whitmer relative to the use of Taser Electronic Control Devises as part of the police arsenal to combat and subdue combative subjects. If his name had not been appended, I would have thought it was a promotional ad for Taser International, the Scottsdale, Arizona, stun gun manufacturer. In the July 28, 2008 edition of Lawyers USA, a Dolen Media Company, it was reported that there are currently pending 37 claims against Taser International. In June, a California jury delivered a liability verdict against the company, awarding $6.2 million to the family of Robert Heston, a methamphetamine user who died after being repeatedly 'tasered' by police. Therein lies the problem.
In many instances, the combative individual the police need to subdue by a stun gun is under the influence of controlled dangerous substances. All too often, these individuals are unresponsive to a shot from a stun gun. Thus, police officers resort to multiple 'Tasers' in order to subdue the individual. Typically, this is when the individual goes into cardiac arrest. There has been insufficient research conducted to document the effects of cumulative 'Tasers' on the human heart.
Thus police officers cannot be adequately trained to know when to cease the use of the Taser on a combative subject. It is important to realize that most of the activity, legal or illegal, that brings the combative subject into a police situation, does not justify the use of deadly force. Unfortunately, multiple 'Tasers', in too many instances results in deadly force. Until the research or experience dictates the proper use of multiple 'Tasers', the City Council is wise to deny the Taser as a police weapon.
Guy R. Ayres III
Public Input Tough In Complicated Process
Recent stories indicate the Ocean City Council wants to hear more from citizens about zoning issues. A review of the stories themselves indicates why little is heard from the citizenry regarding zoning issues. The process is almost beyond the comprehension of the average citizen, written in legal terms by lawyers, zoning officials and more lawyers, complete with waivers, adjustments, exceptions, appeals, overlaps, etc.and thus a quagmire for one attempting to understand it.
Why not describe and define things in plain English, have it reviewed by interested citizens and perhaps the City Council? If it doesn't pass this test, throw it out a start over and don't publish until people can understand it?
Learn The Language
I have just completed a survey of 'Foreign Language Usage.' In response to such, it takes me back a number of years when my grandparents emigrated to the United States of America from Germany.
They told me know they came by ship and landed in Philadelphia, Pa., came to Baltimore to settle. It was immigrants in those days that made the good old USA the country it is today. They worked hard, lived peaceably. Yes there were Polish, Germans, Italians and others, but they learned to speak English.
There were no fences to climb over. No social security benefits. No health insurance. Of course, $2 for a visit to the doctor. Just work hard and learn to speak English. They had the freedom and lived in a democracy, which gave them that freedom. Now we have an influx of people coming over the border getting a better life trying to speak their language. We must keep the American English language here. Remember we are the good old USA.
Let those coming to the USA do like our forefathers - speak English.