Format is first issue at Ocean City candidate’s night

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

No public questions in council, mayor’s race at OCCA meeting 

Ed Price and Jay Gillian each spoke for five minutes as part of the event. Ed Price and Jay Gillian each spoke for five minutes as part of the event. OCEAN CITY — Candidates for mayor and City Council had their say at Tuesday’s meeting of the Ocean City Community Association, April 23.

It was not a debate, however, as many who attended had expected. Candidates were given five minutes to introduce themselves, but the questions from the public came afterward, one-on-one when the candidates mingled in the room. 

Association members blamed a computer crash for what they described as a change in format. Some were unhappy.

“I’m disappointed in the change of tonight’s format,” said Mike Hyson, one of five running for three at-large council seats in the May 13 vote. “I was prepared to answer the questions posed of me.”  

“Nobody is more disappointed than me,” OCCA President Bob Barr said of the change.

The format for the event, hosted at the Ocean City Library on Wednesday, was changed to what Barr called a “Meet and Greet,” featuring the candidates providing a five-minute opening statement.

Those gathered to learn more about the candidates were invited to ask questions themselves, one-on-one as they mingled about the room afterward.

“I’m absolutely disappointed,” he said, blaming the change on a computer crash. OCCA member Jim Tweed, he said, had compiled a list of questions on his computer. Before he had a chance to go over them with other OCCA members, the computer crashed, on Sunday morning.

“Unfortunately when Jim lost the questions, we didn’t have enough time to compile new questions,” he said. “It was bad timing, there was nothing we could do.”

Barr said the association’s executive met Monday afternoon and decided to change the format.

“There was a split vote, and there was a lot of heated discussion. Many formats were discussed, but with a limited timeframe everyone came to the conclusion that though this was not the perfect solution, it was the only way, in fairness to everyone, to go,” Barr said.

Barr said with two more debates planned — one for council candidates on April 29 and a mayoral debate on May 7 — there will be plenty of opportunity for the public to ask questions.
“I worked on the Democrat/Republican debates,” he said, as president of the Ocean City Democratic Club, along with local resident Frank McCall, representing the Republicans.

The events, which will be held starting at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Ocean City High School, 501 Atlantic Ave., give the candidates two-minute responses to randomly drawn questions. Candidates will then have an opportunity to rebut or respond to other questions during five-minute closing statements.

At the mayoral debate May 7, the two candidates will both respond to questions.

At Wednesday’s event, the two candidates for mayor presented a very different image of Ocean City.

Seeking a second term, Mayor Jay Gillian appeared a few hours after his brother’s funeral service. Gillian acknowledged his weariness.

“It’s a rough day for me but I’m not going to use that as an excuse,” he said. Having touted the city’s efforts after Hurricane Sandy, he said many had been through tough times.

“We were back in business faster than any other community,” he said.

He said the city had doubled the funding for capital projects in his first term and begun a multi-year program to overhaul the boardwalk.

While Gillian painted an upbeat picture of a community on the mend, challenger Ed Price said it was mostly an illusion.

Citing flooding issues, empty downtown stores, beaches and bays losing their luster he said the city doesn’t have a smart plan to fix any of it.

“I want to see more than one block of the boardwalk completed every year,” he said, adding that he wanted to drive on smooth roads, sit on the beach at 57th Street and not get wet and go out in a boat and not experience propeller damage from silted lagoons.

He cited his leadership in building the new Community Center.

Price said the roads in Ocean City were a mess. Detours, he said, hurt the economy as they leave tourists frustrated.

“We all love Ocean City but love alone will not keep it a vibrant community,” he said.

Bob Barr, president of the Ocean City Community Association, at right, begins a candidate forum with the five men seeking a seat on City Council in the May 13 vote. Bob Barr, president of the Ocean City Community Association, at right, begins a candidate forum with the five men seeking a seat on City Council in the May 13 vote. In the council race, incumbents Michael Allegretto and Keith Hartzell and challengers Hyson, Peter Madden and Eric Sauder participated in the forum. 

Allegretto smiled and said “let’s have fun,” as he began his five minutes, saying that what some might consider a weakness, running as a Realtor who was born and raised on the island, has been a great asset because he understands the issues and the impact that decisions have on local residents. He said his experience on the school board prepared him well, serving as both president and vice president and on committees dealing with the construction of a new high school and contract negotiations.

Hartzell said he was an independent candidate. He dismissed assertions he said he had heard that “a mythical group gets people elected.”

He said he shared a “love of the budget” with Allegretto and Councilman Scott Ping, who is not seeking reelection this year.

Proper planning avoided layoffs, Hartzell said.

Hyson, a retired Philadelphia officer, he said unlike any other candidates he was involved with “arresting criminals, writing traffic tickets and spending a lot of time at Dunkin’ Donuts.”

He said he also learned to listen to the public, ask questions and gather facts to make good decisions.

Madden said he viewed the opportunity to speak as a job interview. He started his career in management in the technology business, married a local girl and found the idyllic family life in Ocean City enticing. So he moved to Ocean City and started a new career in real estate.

He said his service on the local school board made him the right candidate. He said he played a role in bringing the school choice program to the district, filling empty seats and saving programs while avoiding layoffs and bringing tuition-paying students from Sea Isle City into the fold.

“It’s the law of incremental-ism, small changes that end up making a big difference,” he said.

Sauder said he was running after years of activism because he realized that the only way to effect change was from within.

“There are so many ways to improve our city that are not explored,” he said, adding that the city needed to be aggressively marketed. Zoning and building the kind of housing that it attractive and affordable to younger families is vital, he said, bemoaning the use of commercial land for residential development and increases in density.

“We need to stop zoning for profitability and start zoning for viability,” he said.

Sauder also said the city needed to rein in spending.

“We all love our town but love is not enough,” he said. “Crisis management is not only more expensive it’s poor planning.”

blog comments powered by Disqus