About 100 people gathered Wednesday in the auditorium at the Ocean City Free Public Library to learn more about all five City Council candidates and both mayoral contenders in the May 13 municipal election.
But after each recited a five-minute opening statement, the candidates went unquestioned.Incumbent Councilmen Keith Hartzell (right) and Mike Allegretto speak with Ocean City resident Marc Shuster.
Instead, they were invited to mingle with the audience in a “meet-and-greet” that allowed individuals to ask their own questions.
“This is a disgrace,” Lindy Shaw said after the opening statements ended and it became apparent that the public would hear no more.
She and her husband, Bill, had come expecting to hear candidates debate the issues. Bill said he wanted to ask one question of the candidates: Do they support the “coastal cottage” concept (two small single-family homes occupying a lot typically occupied by a single duplex)?
“I’m disappointed in the way this is being handled,” Bill Shaw said of the forum format.
“I don’t like it this way,” retired Councilman Roy Wagner said.
“We were disappointed, too,” said Bob Barr, president of the Ocean City Community Association (OCCA), the sponsor of Wednesday’s forum.
Barr said the prepared questions for Wednesday’s debate were lost when OCCA board member Jim Tweed’s computer crashed on Sunday. He said the board met Monday afternoon and agreed that they could not properly vet a new set of questions in such a short time frame. They agreed to go with the meet-and-greet format.
One factor, he said, was the proximity of next Tuesday’s (April 29) City Council candidates debate sponsored by the Democratic and Republican organizations of Ocean City. The event in the Ocean City High School auditorium will include candidates giving two-minute responses to randomly drawn questions. Council candidates will be able to rebut or respond to other questions during five-minute closing statements.
A companion debate for mayoral candidates on May 7 at the high school will allow the audience to hear candidates each responding to the same question, Barr said.
Incumbent Mayor Jay Gillian participated in the forum — just a few hours after leaving his brother Jimmy’s funeral. His challenger, Ed Price, also attended the funeral as a participant in a Masonic Service.
Gillian and Price echoed their campaign platforms in their opening statements.
Gillian said he stands by his record of accomplishment in his first term — including committing $10 million per year to infrastructure infrastructure improvements (with $5 million going to roads and drainage alone), negotiating public employee contracts with average salary increases of 1.2 percent, and responding quickly and effectively to help Ocean City recover from Superstorm Sandy.
Price said “we can do better together” on beach, bay and other projects. He said he would be committed to ideas that would encourage people to “shop local” in Ocean City. And he said he would bring a new management style to the mayor’s office — the concept-design-fund-implement concept that worked successfully during a major renovation of the Ocean City Community Center when he was head of the library’s board of trustees.
Among the city council candidates’ opening statements, Mike Hyson fell in line with the audience when he said, “I’m disappointed in the change of tonight’s format.”
Incumbent Councilmen Mike Allegretto and Keith Hartzell are seeking their third terms. First-time council candidates Pete Madden and Eric Sauder also participated.
For more on the candidates, see the following:
Videotaped statements from all candidates will be replayed on several occasions on the city’s government access channel (Channel 97 on the Comcast cable system).
The city established the policy of providing access to the channel for local election candidates in 2006. The city provides candidates the opportunity to have a five-minute statement professionally recorded at their cost and then replayed on Channel 97.
The candidates’ statements will air on Channel 97 on the following dates and times:
- Friday, April 25, 7:30 a.m.
- Sunday, April 27, Noon
- Wednesday, April 30, 7:30 p.m.
- Friday, May 2, 7:30 p.m.