OCEAN CITY – An action item list of the new OC Taxpayers for Social Justice was released this week, beginning with a petition effort seeking to put new paid parking expansion ordinance before voters next year.
The OC Taxpayers for Social Justice has formed to return Ocean City to a family-and-children, fun-in-the-sun destination by dropping retail prices so the middle class that built Ocean City can afford to return once again, according to its literature. The group feels, in order to drop prices, costs must be dropped, and taxes, fees and coercion must be substantially reduced in order to accomplish the goal. Only then can the prices charged for rooms and food become affordable for Ocean City’s historic base, the blue collar worker and their children, the group maintains.
“We are a group of concerned taxpayers in Ocean City … we are here joining with some people who have been singled out to receive meters in front of their properties,” spokesperson Tony Christ said. “We are joining with them. We are going to take up their cause to initiate a referendum to overturn the meters that have been recently approved by the city.”
Christ furthered the group’s interests are greater than the meters, but have chosen to take a position against the ordinance that has been approved to install new areas of paid parking in Ocean City first as it has become a pressing issue this summer.
According to Christ, former Councilman Vince Gisriel presented the city solicitor’s office the petition to overturn the City Council’s decision to approve the parking ordinance on Thursday. The city solicitor has five days to approve the form and content of the petition and from the day of approval the group will have 40 days to gather almost 1,300 signatures to place the parking ordinance before voters in a referendum.
“The mayor did the cowardly thing,” Christ said. “He didn’t veto it and he didn’t agree with it either, so he did nothing, and he can now tell the voters later, the ones that didn’t like it, ‘well I didn’t sign it’, and the ones that did like it, ‘well I didn’t veto it’, so he did the cowardly thing.”
The ordinance to approve the new locations of paid parking was approved on second reading a couple of weeks ago. Mayor Rick Meehan had 15 days to sign the ordinance. However, the mayor did not sign the ordinance and it became law without his support.
In attendance during Wednesday’s evening’s OC Taxpayers for Social Justice meeting was Christ, Al “Popeye” Wendling, former mayor candidate Nick Campagnoli, resident Herb Pawlukewicz, citizen John Medlin, citizen Ellie Diegelmann, and Ocean Place condo owner in opposition of paid parking on 146th Street Mac Balcom.
“Any council member including the mayor that would like to come to our Thursday meetings at 4 p.m. at Hall’s Restaurant are more than welcome,” Christ said. “Shortly, I think the Mayor and Council will have to make a decision. Either they have to choose being part of the problem or part of the solution.”
Councilman Brent Ashley attended on Wednesday as an observer.
“This is a perfect example of democracy in action,” Ashley said. “This is a way for the people to address the government. This is what democracy is all about.”
On Thursday, Meehan reiterated his reasoning for not signing nor vetoing the parking ordinance.
“If some of those who were in opposition would have come forward and said ‘you know, let’s look at a compromise here that will work for the majority of the people’ and would have held additional conversation moving forward, then I would have considered it but I didn’t get that response,” the mayor said. “It was like everyone had drew their line in the sand, and nobody was open to further discussion. Honestly, I don’t believe this group wanted me to veto it because they want to have something they can use as a political tool, which is a referendum.”
Meehan recognized the make-up of the OC Taxpayers for Social Justice is supporters of the former council majority that included Joe Hall, Brent Ashley, Jim Hall and Margaret Pillas. In November’s election, Joe Hall and Jim Hall were removed from office and Joe Mitrecic as well as former city manager Dennis Dare replaced them. The election resulted in a new council majority of Dare, Mitrecic, Lloyd Martin and Mary Knight and Doug Cymek, leaving Ashley and Pillas to fend for themselves.
“It is all politics, and a carryover from the last election. Their side didn’t win so now they are doing whatever they can to disrupt the new council. I would hope they would give the new council an opportunity in their first term to succeed. That would be in everybody’s best interest,” Meehan said.