Comp Plan Being Gutted
My comments come to you in the interest of the “Critters” which populate our county. The ones that help our marsh grass and wetlands grow and subsequently protect our lives and property from catastrophe. And the Critters who want to flourish in our bays, and thus continue to massage the economic engine of Ocean City. And so many other critters who make our quality-of-life here on the Lower Shore a thing of pride.
At the recently held Coast Day, this statement was overheard: “It took over two years of planning department research, extensive community input, public debate and consensus, to develop and adopt a very good Comprehensive Plan for Worcester County. In less than 20 minutes, with no opportunity for public participation and behind closed doors, the County Commissioners gutted major components out of the Comprehensive Plan. This is not right nor is it ethical.”
A pretty significant statement. My Critters really perked up on this one!
In reading a recent memorandum from the Department of Development Review and Permitting, a number of things caught my attention. It would appear that only 3 senior members of the county’s talented personnel structure have been actively pursuing the task of Comprehensive Plan Implementation. It is easy for the public to observe that there is a pattern of structured postponement as the select members of your staff work on this project.
Many of the citizens of Worcester County fear that a situation is going on which is calculated to purposely delay the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan. Perhaps this delay is due to outside pressure from one special interest group. If the key components of contention are not dealt with, including the E-1 zoning, those areas of Worcester County that the Comprehensive Plan specifically attempts to protect and preserve will be totally platted and developed before the final approval of the Comprehensive Plan is accomplished.
My Critters and the citizens of Worcester County expect action on implementing the Comprehensive Plan.
(The writer is the past chairman of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program’s Citizens Advisory Committee.)
Letter Hit The Mark
I had intended to write before I read David Orazio’s letter in The Dispatch, but his observations about the excessive policing during Bike Week were right on the money. I live in West Ocean City, near Harborside. For the record, I am not a biker, have never been on a Harley, and do not even like noisy bikes, but the police presence was aggressive, intimidating, and completely over the top. I had never even seen a bicycle cop in West Ocean City before, but I saw half a dozen of them. I saw cruisers with radar guns, some hiding and some in the open. I saw motorcycle cops. Other than directing traffic at the intersection of Sunset and Golf Course Roads, which was a good thing, there was no reason for this show of force.
On Friday, I drove to Assateague Oasis for lunch. In the three miles or so there, I saw seven police. When I returned an hour later, I saw nine. I left on Saturday morning, as I had had enough of this nonsense. On my drive back to DC, I spotted 26 police along Route 50, 19 of them before I got to Salisbury. Seven of them before I even got as far as Walmart. This was at 10:30 in the morning.
Bikes did not race up and down the streets in my area, folks did not cruise around after the bars closed, there was no excessive noise from the local establishments. If I was an organizer for this event, I’d move it to an area where my members felt welcome. While I know the authorities will say that their presence was a deterrent, most of what it will deter is future spending. Bikers will go elsewhere, and they will tell everyone they work with to do the same. Gas prices and the economic downturn have severely compromised public service budgets, but I’m guessing Bike Week was a nice financial boost for the Maryland State Police, the Ocean City Police Department, and the Worcester and Wicomico sheriff departments.
It would be an interesting statistic if you could dig up the numbers on how much overtime was paid for this nonsense and how much revenue was raised through this counterproductive exercise.
City Needs To Look
At Attorney Expenses
Recent published reports have raised questions about the significant amount of legal costs that Ocean City is paying out. I believe that these costs are only the tip of the iceberg. When one reviews the Internet for lawsuits involving Ocean City, a number of recent cases can be found.
For example, in August 2008, a jury found that Ocean City was negligent and awarded the injured party $100,000 because the door on an Ocean City bus closed prematurely and injured the passenger. The amount does not include Guy Ayres’ legal cost for preparing for and representing Ocean City during the two-day trial. Ayres is a private attorney, who provides legal assistance to Ocean City.
I think it is very important to have a public discussion of the amount of legal fees Ocean City has paid to Ayres. However, Ocean City is doing everything it can to prevent the public disclosure of money it paid to Ayres. For example, a March 13, 2008 lawsuit has been filed because Ocean City has refused to provide records detailing the money paid to Ayres and others between July 1, 2006 and June 30, 2007 unless $139 is paid to Ocean City for seeing such records. This case is not scheduled to go to trial until March 17, 2009.
The magnitude of the published legal cost clearly shows that, at a minimum, Ocean City needs to assess its current policy for obtaining legal advice from a private sector attorney and determine if any alternatives will result in lowering overall legal costs.
Richard W. Quinn
Take Home Vehicles
With gas prices steadily rising, to cut down on fuel costs, government elected officials and department heads definitively need to limit the use of employee take-home vehicles. First of all, it is not fair for other people who have to pay for their own fuel to and from work to also have to pay for 102 county employees to ride around free. It is the taxpayers money, not theirs, that they are using to put fuel in those vehicles. Second, vehicles should only be used for work related functions, not for their own personal use.
Except for public safety employees such as sheriff’s deputies, emergency services director, on-call animal control officers, fire marshal, on-call assistant fire marshals and the road division supervisor that need to respond to unexpected emergency situations, no other county employees need to take home vehicles. Other county employees, including board of education should drive their own vehicles to work, then if absolutely necessary, use county vehicles for work related issues only to travel within the county. Employees should car pool to meetings, combine trips within the county and eliminate all unnecessary out of county trips.
There are three questions county officials and department heads need to answer for taxpayers whose money they are spending and wasting unnecessarily. First, with the high costs of fuel, why are vehicles such as Ford Expeditions, F150 Pickups, Crown Victorias, Rangers, Excursions, Dodge Rams, Intrepids, Chargers, Chevy Silverados, Trailblazers, Tahoes, etc. that get less that 20 miles per gallon being purchased? Second, with the big economic crisis, why are expensive vehicles being purchased? There are several less costly vehicles that will carry them to and from the same destinations. Taxpayers deserve better management of their money. Third, why is it that some of the department heads county vehicles have regular Maryland tags instead of local government tags?
I like what Dan Powell, Somerset County Administrator, who has long rejected having a take-home vehicle himself, had to say. “I don’t have one and I don’t want one,” he said. “I use my own car because I want to save the taxpayers some money.” If we had more officials like him that takes the time to consider what is best for the people that they are in office to serve, this country would be in a lot better condition than it is.
I would like to express my appreciation and thanks to The Church of the Holy Spirit, Elks Lodge #2645 and the general community of Ocean City for their spiritual and financial support for the recent Rummage Sale and Chicken Dinner fundraisers for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina. Through everyone efforts we were able to raise over $5,000 for the purchase of construction materials to help Katrina victims return to their homes.
Once again, thank you for your financial support of this endeavor.