Thoughts From The Publisher's Desk
With little discussion, the Ocean City Mayor and Council approved an increase to the parking rates at the Inlet lot. Once the lot begins to charge on April 15 through the week before Memorial Day, it will cost $1.50 an hour; from the Thursday before Memorial Day through Labor Day, it will cost $2.50 an hour; and from after Labor Day through Oct. 15, it will return to $1.50 per hour. This makes the fees flat throughout the week, no matter the time of year, rather than last year's $1.50 an hour during the week in the peak season and $2 on the weekends.
The council was right to raise the rate, but it should have been higher. Sure, finances drove the decision because Ocean City needs money, but it's also an economic fact that when demand drastically outstrips supply the user fee needs to be increased. I don't believe the council went far enough to address that issue. I support a $3-an-hour flat in-season rate and $2-an-hour in the shoulder months. I say this because I would have paid it. The Inlet is prime parking and I understand the concept that you pay to park close, in this case a beachfront lot, and that spots elsewhere, and consequently less convenient, are cheaper.
The rate needs to be at a level that encourages more ingress and egress and deters a trend of recent years - the lot filling up with day-trippers and essentially closing to the public by 9 a.m. in the summer months. It's going to be interesting to see if this hike, which is predicted to increase revenue by $550,000 (amounts to half of a penny in the tax rate, by the way), accomplishes its two-fold goal - raise the extra coin needed for city coffers and discourage people from taking up spots for an entire day. My guess it will fill the valuable budget role, but not go far enough to address the other concern.
If he votes against the health care reform bill currently being debated, Congressman Frank Kratovil will give himself a fighting chance in this fall's election.
A registered Democrat and former prosecutor, Kratovil pulled off an upset two years ago when he won the Republican-controlled House seat over Andy Harris, who had defeated longtime incumbent Wayne Gilchrest in a primary race. Poised to face off again this fall, Harris is clearly sitting back and watching every Kratovil vote carefully. All the while he is mapping out his campaign strategy based on his opponent's record.
There's no question the vote that matters most will be about health care. Kratovil has said he will vote against the Senate's version of reform, going against his party's hopes and surely irking many of the higher-ups on the left. In my estimation, if he votes with his party, he will be a one-term congressman, no matter how well he performed the rest of his term. It would have all come down to this one vote, and his district as a whole is adamantly against it.
Once again, the service club slots bill looks like it might not be approved by the legislature this year.
The bill would allow for fraternal organizations, such as the Elks Lodge and American Legion, to place a limited number of slot machines in their halls. They would be available to club members and the proceeds from these machines will further their ability to spread money around the county to youth sports and other projects. For years, the matter was held up on the local front, but last year the Ocean City and Worcester County governments penned letters of support.
Unfortunately, this innocuous piece of legislation has become the poster child for partisan politics. For some reason, this bill, which would allow Worcester to join all the other counties on the shore that offer club slots, has become a political football. It just makes no sense to me why this bill is being held up. The only answer is politics, and it lies on the Senate side, as the House has approved the 'local courtesy' bill the last two years.