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Hall files for re-election ready to state his case

If you are in Ocean City this week, you may notice a couple of changes as you drive down Coastal Highway. The speed limit, normally 40 mph through North Ocean City, has been reduced to 30 mph, and Downtown, the speed limit has also been reduced. This is due to the expected, unauthorized H2Oi Pop-Up Rally.  It is reasonable to expect heavier than usual traffic, noise and strict enforcement of vehicle laws during the week and weekend.

ZACK HOOPES ¦ Staff Writer

Councilman Joe Hall

Councilman Joe Hall(Sept. 28, 2012)

As anticipated, City Councilman Joe Hall has filed for re-election, kicking off his own campaign and also providing fuel to a political contest in which he has been a target of criticism by his opponents.

“Many people have said it, and I forget how the quote goes exactly, but if people aren’t criticizing you, you haven’t done anything important,” Hall said this week.

Hall’s rise to fame, or infamy, began in 2010 when a new council majority was formed. Newcomer Brent Ashley joined Hall and Margaret Pillas, as well as current Council President Jim Hall, to form an alliance that went on to make a number of major — and controversial — changes.

The most notable of them was reducing the employee pay scale and benefits system for new hires following an exceptionally bitter council battle, the effects of which went on long afterwards and led to the forced retirement of former City Manager Dennis Dare.

Hall has been roundly criticized by his political opponents as being inarticulate and prone to gaffes. Proponents of collective bargaining for the city’s general employees have used an allegedly insensitive remark of Hall’s regarding city employees — “when we’re done with you, we’re done with you” — as a rallying cry as justification for unionization.

But Hall contends that his remarks were taken out of context, and weren’t intended as a slight to the employees themselves, but to the fiscal necessity of reducing the city’s long-term liability for defined benefits after employees retire.

“I’m putting myself on the offense, trying to project who I am … not playing into other people’s misrepresentation of who I am,” Hall said of his electoral strategy. “I think I’ll be able to advance the facts that don’t support the rhetoric.”

Although the union issue will be a referendum for voters, and is out of the city’s hands at this point, the roots of alleged employee dissatisfaction have become the major topic of the election, with Hall at the center of the blame. He has taken a staunch stance against further collective bargaining, and criticized his opponents’ silence on the issue.

“I think it’s gotten its attention, now it’s up or the voters to decide,” Hall said. “In my opinion, everyone definitely stated where they stood, whether they say they did or not.”

This year’s election will see an even split of available seats from both the current council majority and the former voting bloc that has been highly critical of the new direction being taken. Jim and Joe Hall, as well as Councilman Doug Cymek and Councilwoman Mary Knight from the other side of the aisle, are up for re-election.

Non-incumbent contenders are Dare, former council president Joe Mitrecic, John ‘Frank’ Adkins, Sean Rox and Bob Baker.

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