Thoughts From The Publisher's Desk
Clearly, the time has come for the town to shut down its 'Sea For Yourself' guide, which essentially provides the same materials as the Ocean City Chamber's tourist guide. The two publications essentially carry the same materials and a majority of the advertisements are duplicated from one to the other. All sides seem to agree this will be the last year for the town-published guide with many saying it needs to be merged with the chamber's guide. That is the way to go, and the chamber may see a slight boost in revenue when this happens and maybe even be able to boost its guide's circulation, but the key issue here is the town loses money each year on its publication. It's simply a smart business move for the town to kill the publication. According to city figures, with all costs, such as design, printing, postage and shipping, and employee time considered, it appears the town's publication costs the town approximately $75,000 a year to produce. Expenditures come in around $222,000, excluding employee compensation, while revenue, primarily from ad sales, comes to about $145,000. No business would continue something they lose money on and it should be the same case for government. Add the fact the nearly identical publication is being produced by a private entity and it makes perfect sense to make the next issue the last.
Apparently even the county's sacred cow, the school system, will have to abide by the spending moratorium the county is enacting for the next budget year. It was revealed last week the County Commissioners would be mandating all departments reduce spending by 3 percent and leave all personnel salaries stagnant. This is a wise move by the commissioners, but I know full well they are going to get the business from some of their constituents, particularly those who are passionate about the school system. The commissioners will also get some credit, but, in most cases, people only speak up when they feel wronged or agitated. Making the school board cut more than $2 million from its budget next year, potentially cut out any salary increases and refrain from creating any new teaching positions is going to upset some folks, and the commissioners will likely hear from them loud and clear at next May's annual budget public hearing. Undoubtedly, this will be an unpopular move for school system supporters, particularly the potential one-year hiatus from teacher salary increases, but I think the majority of the county realizes this is a rational approach in a difficult time and that it's needed. The tricky, and perhaps impossible, part is slicing spending without affecting residents' quality of life. That will be the balancing act the commissioners, as well as officials from other governments, will need to keep in mind.
Political signs are once again dotting the local landscape, as candidates for the District 1 vacant Berlin Council seat are jockeying for lawn space throughout town.
It's been interesting to see all the signs that are appearing outside the district and even those landing on commercial properties, such as the Neon Moon property, the eyesore located at the corner of Routes 346 and 818 (Main Street). Early on, even before the filing deadline expired, candidate Phil Cropper received approval from the property owner to place his signs on the property. However, a couple days after the deadline lapsed and developer Troy Purnell threw his hat in the ring, the property owner asked Cropper to remove his signs because of a loyalty to Purnell. Once Cropper removed his signs, it was only a matter of days before a Purnell sign popped up on the property.
Rex Hailey will join Cropper and Purnell on the Dec. 16 ballot. Hailey, the former councilman and mayor, could have a leg up on his foes in this race because he has already campaigned, albeit unsuccessfully for the mayor's seat in October. In that race, Hailey received 100 of the 230 votes cast in District 1. If he can retain that tally, it will more than likely be enough for a win. Some have intimated the votes he received in that election were anti-Gee Williams votes rather than pro-Hailey votes and that he cannot count on all those folks who supported him for mayor to back his run for council or to even head to the polls again.
Time will tell, but one thing's for sure, the only chance to see all the candidates under one roof addressing the questions of the day will be at the Assateague Coastal Trust's (ACT) candidates forum on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Stevenson United Methodist Church on Main Street. The previous ACT forum held in October featuring the mayoral and District 2 council candidates was received well with pertinent questions asked of the candidates, and this will be an opportunity for interested residents to hear them speak for themselves.
Straight out of the inconsequential category, the Town of Ocean City did something it has never done before this week. Through a widely-issued press release, the town is marketing Springfest and Sunfest entertainment tickets as possible stocking stuffers for the holidays. Headlining next year's Springfest, to be held May 7-10, will be The Fabulous Hubcaps, Randy Travis and Gary Puckett of The Union Gap and The Association. Leading the 2009 version of Sunfest, set for Sept. 24-27, will be The Village People, Little Big Town and Rick Springfield. Tickets for all headline acts are now on sale at the box office located in the Roland E. Powell Convention Center or through TicketMaster. Is this desperation on the town's behalf or an ingenious way to boost advance ticket sales? You decide.