(Nov. 28, 2014) The city council this week approved a re-shuffling of its representation on various committees and commissions to reflect the electoral body’s change in membership since the November election.
Additionally, Mayor Rick Meehan recommended and council approved the creation of a new Transportation Committee, which stands to be the fourth major legislative oversight committee maintained by the council.
That committee will consist of Meehan, Council Secretary Mary Knight, Councilman Dennis Dare, and freshly-elected Councilman Tony DeLuca.
“I think there are some items in need of discussion, and the mayor and council can help and assist the Transportation Division to help and assist with the service we provide to visitors,” Meehan said.
The Transportation Committee, once convened, will be the council’s fourth standing committee for legislative policy decisions, alongside the Tourism Commission, Police Commission, and Recreation and Parks Committee. Each body contains three sitting members of council, with the intent of fielding and discussing new policy ideas from citizens and relevant city staff.
Issues worked out during committee and commission sessions are then referred back to the full seven-member council for approval or modification. Only the Police Commission has powers independent of the full council as proscribed by the city’s charter.
The Police Commission’s membership will stay the same, at least through the next election with Meehan, Dare, Councilman Doug Cymek, and Council President Lloyd Martin.
However, the two other major legislative bodies have had vacancies since November when former Councilman Joe Mitrecic resigned in order to take Ocean City’s seat on the Worcester County Commissioners board.
Newly-elected Councilman Matt James will now take Mitrecic’s seat on the Tourism Commission, along with Meehan, Dare, and Mary Knight. Wayne Hartman will take Mitrecic’s seat on the Recreation and Parks Committee, alongside Martin and Dare.
Out of three departures from the council this election cycle, only Mitrecic’s created committee and commission vacancies. Council members Brent Ashley and Margaret Pillas both retired this year, but both had chosen to not participate in the committee and commission appointments when they were re-introduced in 2012.
In 2010, the newly-elected council cast a split vote, with Ashley and Pillas in favor, to abolish standing legislative committees and commissions and have all matters referred to the whole council. This was reversed two years later due to another political turnover, although Ashley and Pillas had both continued to object that the council was better off hearing issues unrefined as opposed to receiving a pre-packaged recommendation via committee or commission.
Meehan maintained this week that he believed the committees and commissions had made the council “more efficient and productive” over the past two years.
However, there was no concrete indication given, as of yet, as to what the new Transportation Committee would be tackling.
As detailed in last week’s Ocean City Today, recent data from the city’s Transportation Division, a branch of the Public Works Department, showed that bus ridership on Coastal Highway was down nearly 7 percent, but revenue was up nearly 18 percent for the fiscal year.
But this should come as no surprise, given that the change in operations is a result of council’s decision last spring to cut the $1-per-boarding option, and charge all bus riders for a $3 all-day pass, in order to close budget gaps.
Additionally, end-of-summer data requested from the Transportation Division showed that the number of busses deployed on Coastal Highway was down nearly 20 percent as a result of a critical shortage of drivers.
Further, although deployments and revenue remained roughly level, bus ridership on the city’s Park-and-Ride route dropped nearly 20 percent during the last ten weeks of the summer season.