(June 14, 2013) Today it’s news – tomorrow, it’s history. And by the day after that, it’s politics.
Following the apparent crime wave of the past weekend, some city officials have already implied that the OC Car & Truck Show was at least a partial culprit for the upswing in illicit behavior, a notion that has clear political implications and has already become a matter of public dispute.
With multiple robberies, weapons violations, large-scale fights – including one in which police were allegedly almost overrun by the crowd – as well as a stabbing, the past several days of activity in the resort have generated considerable public outcry and concern that the tenor of the town, and particularly the Boardwalk, is moving in the wrong direction.
“I’m not sure [what caused it], but it was an interesting weekend, I’ll say that,” Council Secretary Mary Knight said at this week’s Tourism Commission meeting. “I think we’ll be getting some data soon on the cost of our police versus the benefit of the car show.”
Convention Center Director Larry Noccolino said at the meeting that the show’s attendance was up 12 percent, but that no problems were reported.
In a very public debate on a local media page – the text of which was subsequently removed from the web – Councilmen Doug Cymek and Joe Mitrecic argued against allegations by former councilman and frequent political critic Joe Hall that the city’s leadership was culpable for over-marketing the resort.
“He tried to blame the council, which is ridiculous,” Mitrecic said. “All I said was, ‘Hey, maybe Joe is trying to blame the council instead of the possibility of it being the promoter of the car show, who booked Fat Joe.’”
The Saturday night musical entertainment for the OC Car & Truck Show – rapper Fat Joe – was “not someone who represents a family image,” Mitrecic said.
“It was basically a rap star who may or may not have brought in [a bad crowd],” Mitrecic said. “I don’t know.”
The promoter and organizer of the car show, Spark Productions and its proprietor Brad Hoffman, has been the subject of the city’s winds of political change before. After receiving support from the town last year for the OC Experience trade show project, the company was almost cut from the deal some months later following a changing of the guard on City Council.
“I do know Mr. Hall and the promoter of the car show are very good friends,” Mitrecic said. “Was he trying to push the blame or suspicion off on someone else because he’s close with Mr. Hoffman?”
“The facts are that we had no issues, and any other issues around town cannot be arbitrarily related to my event,” Hoffman said. “We had no problems security-wise, no issues with the event at all.”
“We and the convention center staff work very hard to put on a good, safe, clean show,” he said.
Attendance at the Fat Joe concert was roughly 600 people, Hoffman said.
However, Mitrecic said that he was not trying to pin the weekend’s crime entirely on the car show, only to point out the potential ulterior motive involved.
“Everybody is looking for a reason or something to blame [the problems] on,” he said. “I don’t have that. I’m not looking to pin it on the council or the car show or anyone else.”
Cymek also said he did not want to single out the car show.
“It doesn’t make any difference if it was the car show or the boat show or some other large event, it just wasn’t enough people to cover all the bases,” he said. “I think any time you pack that many people, for whatever reason, into one town, you’re going to have issues. You just need to have the support in place to make sure you can deal with those issues.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said he definitely noticed a “more urban type of crowd” over the past weekend.
“I think it was isolated,” he said. “It was uncharacteristic of the crowd we typically have.”
At the same time, Councilman Brent Ashley continued to make claims similar to those allegedly made by Hall.
“We push all this marketing in inner-city Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, to the tune of $5 million,” Ashley said. “You’re getting what you ask for.”