Tuesday, National Night Out, a nationwide crime awareness program, brought hundreds of people to Dr. William Henry Park to mingle with local police in a positive atmosphere.
While the objective of the event is to advocate crime awareness and prevention, another big statement was made in that the community gathered in an outdoor setting promoting physical activity. And if the basketball courts had anything to say about it, there was much physical activity to be had.
As technology advances, so the amount of time spent outdoors diminishes. Television has kept us glued to the couch for years, and while not all programming is bad, some of today’s most popular shows do little to promote physical activity.
Video games are now in the mainstream, and even devices such as the PlayStation Move, Xbox Kinect and the Nintendo Wii console allow gamers to exercise without leaving the bedroom. While that is a step up from a couch potato, the exercise games do not offer the results a real gym can provide and a little sunlight is good every once in a while.
Smart phones can alienate people even further by sucking them in so much that they sometimes aren’t even aware of the people and activities going on around them.
Obviously, there are positives to all technologies, but the point is it appears we are headed toward a path of seclusion as our lives become more caught up in the digital age.
It is paramount to keep an eye out on events such as National Night Out that bring individuals out to enjoy some fresh air and spend time with their neighbors.
Not only is it healthy for the body by simply being outdoors, but also to have a fun, family-oriented event that lets people take their mind off things and let loose.
This week the Berlin Mayor and Council postponed a decision on whether to require out-of-town contractors to pay an annual fee for a town license. Comments from both sides pointed out during the discussion that the fee wouldn’t be a real revenue driver and that it would add only a negligible layer of administrative oversight.
Out-of-town contractors already regularly call the Town to see what the fees are, given that the practice is nearly ubiquitous. Debate around the fee, which would almost certainly be an inexpensive one, tended to focus on whether it made the Town seem less business friendly on one side and whether it was equitable to the tax-paying, license-holding businesses in town on the other. But there is another aspect to the argument that was missed and should certainly be at the center of the debate. The argument is about value.
Berlin is a place worth doing business, both in and with, and creating a fee for the privilege of taking part in its continued economic growth is a way of establishing that fact. It will not stymie competition among the businesses that regularly make significant profits from the Town’s growth.
All it would do is let the wider business community know that Berlin takes its contribution to the region’s economic growth seriously and expects participation from those who currently benefit for free. We don’t feel business owners will feel that it is too much to ask.
Another festival for which the open container laws in Berlin were suspended has passed without incident which is a tribute both to the way these events are run and marketed as well as to the way the Town volunteers and staff conduct themselves.
The Town Council supported the measure if not enthusiastically at least wholeheartedly and has so far been vindicated in their trust in the Town’s patrons. This tepid endorsement is likely one of the most important aspects in ensuring the leeway they have allowed is not taken too far and the fact that the Council was willing to make occasional exceptions not exploited.
Everyone has an equal stake in the events continuing to go well which means everyone is on the lookout to nip potential problems before they become actual problems.
Of course, the other significant element is that Berlin street events are just not attractive to the types of people for whom brawling and other disreputable behavior is common. By maintaining the family atmosphere but not constricting every event to be primarily for children, young families and couples are more encouraged to participate.
Berlin has in recent years begun to establish itself as the alternative to places that are only for kids or only for adults, striking enough balance to redefine itself over the course of less than a decade.
Staying this course will likely secure the Town’s reputation as it continues to evolve slowly and in a positive way.
Although it is unfortunate that the Ocean Pines Sanitary Service Area ratepayers will be hit with an additional $15 charge in their next bill, there remains a slim chance that the Worcester County Commissioners may be able to have it reversed.
This week the Commissioners were notified that the Ocean Pines plant missed Maryland Department of the Environment nitrogen removal standards by a fraction and therefor lost the exemption it has been generally granted for pollutant-removal efficiency. Although it happened once before the MDE set the readings aside, saying that the standards were unreasonable given the low water temperature.
Both the Commissioners and the County Staff can be forgiven for expecting that it would again be set aside but since staff changes at the MDE have gone into affect there are apparently new policies being pushed. This is the way of government generally.
The Ocean Pines plant is one of the most efficient in the state so the issue is as much a matter of pride as of money, as it should be. The practical affect of the nitrogen overage, given the water temperature at the time, is nil.
It is important for the Commissioners to at least make the point to MDE that, even if the standards weren’t met, the County did met its responsibility as it regards environmental stewardship. The Commissioners’ decision to press for restoration of the exemption was a good one.
The OPA Board of Directors did what everyone knew they eventually would by authorizing spending elsewhere a pot of money earmarked to be used to shore-up structural deficits, now turning what they claimed at the time would be a short-term funding mechanism into a semi-permanent increase.
The Directors surmised the only way to pay the IRS, should they eventually lose their suit, would be to take the $4 per member per year assessment increase being collected for five years and use it to foot the tax bill.
While it is a relatively small amount per member and provides a better option than a special assessment, especially when the amount could top $1 million, once the IRS is paid off the board should at least revisit continuing the increase indefinitely.
When the Directors originally passed the increase they assured the membership, many of whom were skeptical at best about the Board’s ability to leave any lump sum untouched, that those revenues would be exclusively for the stated purpose.
They have now elected to use money they said they wouldn’t and extend the increase for as long as it takes to satisfy any taxes owed along with what is needed for structural deficits.
Without rules restricting they way the Board spends these funds there is no guarantee they will ever be limited to their intended use and within a few short minutes, as seen this week, can be used for whatever purpose the Board of Directors wishes.
When the Ocean Pines Association Board announced that they would move forward and proceed in the next step in their suit against the IRS, it may have been a little difficult to swallow for some. There was more than a little concern that the decision was based primarily in Board’s overconfidence in either their interpretation of the law or, worse, plain willfulness.
It was a relief, then, to hear they were actually holding off on the final decision until they had a better sense of the cost.
Doing the math on whether or not it would make more sense to continue to run up legal fees or just cut the losses makes sense on many levels. The most important aspect of this decision is, for the first time apparently, OPA will have a reasonable accounting of potential losses should they be unsuccessful in their suit.
It is irksome that it has taken OPA this long to determine an accurate figure, but the upside is the membership will at least be able to have good numbers with which to critique the decision.
Although the OPA hasn’t included this possible loss in any budgets since the onset of the IRS notice, it is worth noting should they decide to go forward, that there still remains a possibility the Association could prevail before the full panel of judges.
If they do, then all the money they’ve already invested would have been well spent.
It is always difficult when for the improvement of a community some residents are asked to be inconvenienced, if even a bit. However living in a community almost always entails some inconveniences. In that vein, as part of seeing the bigger picture, the Ocean Pines Board of Directors as well as the Worcester County Commissioners and Planning Commissioners should support the move to allow a medical complex to be built along Route 589.
The only thing downside to the project is that there will be a few more cars traveling along King Richard Road and this will make some of the people on that street unhappy.
Space doesn’t allow for a comprehensive list of the upsides but the creation of jobs, the additional egress from Ocean Pines and the convenience for the rest of the community as well as the rest of that part of the county alone are reason enough to allow this project to go through.
In asking the OPA Board for a letter of endorsement this week Jack Burbage, who will develop the project, was open both to criticism of the design and suggestions about the aesthetics. He expects to present the Planning Commission with an updated traffic study showing the anticipated volume that originally hampered the project was inaccurate and he wishes the complex to become a commercial, dues paying member of Ocean Pines. Endorsing the proposed medical complex is the correct thing to do at all levels of government.
In order to get a grip on the difficulty of accepting the Berlin Historic District Commission’s (HDC) dismissal last week of the plans to re-do the Visitors Center, it might be best to consider the events of Monday night’s Town Council Meeting.
At that meeting, Newt Chandler spoke convincingly against inflexible architectural standards for those properties outside of the Historic District. His reasoning was simple: forcing the Planning Commission, of which he is the chair, to embrace rigidity will do nothing to encourage improvements in the rest of the town.
The notion that buildings should be left as is or converted into palaces all in one fell swoop is ridiculous and irresponsible. While the HDC may possibly succeed in making something they find “acceptable” so expensive it forces a Visitors Center scale-back, the strongest signal they sent with their terse, obscure rejection was a warning against improving other Downtown structures.
During Monday night’s Council meeting Zoning and HDC chair, Carol Rose, said the Commissioners didn’t want to court controversy, pointing out there was none when the cases were easily decided. In matters of aesthetic, especially since they are ever changing, a wise person provides constructive criticism.
Being dismissive, as the HDC was in quashing the Visitors Center request, is what courts controversy just as making empty lawsuit threats — as they did with the Atlantic Hotel window debacle, courts controversy. The HDC continues to demonstrate borderline obstructionism and, by their actions, a thirst for controversy.
Earlier this week, the United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, upheld previous rulings and mediations in favor of the IRS’ lawsuit against the Ocean Pines Association. The IRS sued for more than $1 million in fees and back taxes it claimed the OPA owed on Beach Club parking revenue.
Each time the OPA went to mediation and then to court over the matter, they assured themselves as well as the membership that they believed they had a strong case. With each unfavorable decision, the assurances became stronger and the arguments more complex, but it may be time to admit defeat.
The Ocean Pines Board of Directors has fought the good fight, standing up both for the membership and for what they believed was an honest and legal practice. Reading through the Court’s decision, though, makes it pretty clear it would take more than belief to overcome the significant case law citations the court referenced in its decisions.
Learning tax lessons the hard way is always uncomfortable and a little embarrassing, not to mention expensive. No one likes admitting that their premises were flawed and that those flaws created an untenable position from which to argue.
To its credit, the board took the necessary financial steps in preparation for a potential loss and has been discussing new operational policies to soften the financial blow of a loss. They would best serve both the membership and the board itself to chalk this unfortunate ruling up to a lesson learned and move on.
This week the Berlin Mayor and Council elected to table an agreement with the County that would connect Briddeltown to Berlin water service. The sticking point was not the water agreement itself but rather a reference to annexation restrictions. Gee Williams worried that the language could be interpreted in such a way as to exclude the Town from ever annexing other property in the area.
Although this is likely not the intent of the agreement the fact that the Council elected to put the brakes on and make sure rather than to just go ahead with what was otherwise a simple agreement is heartening. To be clear, it is the Council’s job to make sure they understand what they’re signing. Doing your job doesn’t deserve extra credit.
What does deserve at least a mention is that their concern indicates that the Town continues to keep an eye out for opportunities to grow well and sustainably.
The new wastewater treatment plant was designed to accommodate growth. And while it is good that Berlin is not attempting to grow aggressively, it is good to know they are actively keeping the door to potential growth open.
While the residents of Briddeltown have the right to want to continue to use septic it would be shortsighted of the Council to agree to forego ever expanding the town borders east. The Council should protect the Town’s ability to grow and making sure they don’t sign away that right is a good start.
Although some directors seemed a little hesitant to do so, they have turned Bob Thompson loose on two major tasks this week. The first was the go ahead with the next step in the replacement of the Yacht Club, wisely chosen to take priority over the Country Club. The second task is a little more interesting — the Lifetime Membership plan for the golf course.
Thompson sold the project vigorously because he obviously believes in it. His initial detractors were separated into two groups, those who thought the plan would fail because it was too expensive and those thought it would be a bad idea because it was too expensive. This last group is concerned that the golf course’s future financial health lies under the weight of the 33 lifetime memberships that will be for sale.
Now that the plan has been modified and passed by the board of directors, the next step is to see how well it works. Thompson has been a font of novel and innovative ideas over the last 18 or so months and to see one of the more daring approved is exciting.
If Thompson can, as he’s suggested, get enough of the memberships sold to take a bite out of the $900,000 greens replacement everyone will be forced to see his approach to problem-solving in a different light, which would be encouraging.
The only real downside is that, should it not succeed, it may become included on the growing list of failed golf course fixes.
The Town of Berlin sent out a press release recently about their new power agreement. One of the throwaway lines was the consultant company, Booth and Associates, Inc. was engaged in 2008.
That was nearly four years ago and it is hard to recall the outright vitriol with which the contract was received when it was originally announced. In the wake of the collapse of the Electric Company sale, the Town had a bit of a credibility gap and the suggestion that Booth be taken on was then seen as another folly and wasted expense.
What the consultants said at the time was that the electric plant was not beyond redemption and that it would be relatively inexpensive to fix, though it might take awhile before anyone noticed changes in their pocketbooks.
Today, with the exception of the occasional grumble, rates have eased on residential ratepayers as bills have started going down. More importantly, the rates also started being more predictable as the consultants, working with the electric company staff, have gotten a better and more predictive handle on electric rate fluctuations.
If the pattern continues, this summer businesses will begin to reap the benefits that the residential ratepayers are now able to take for granted, making Berlin that much more attractive to potential businesses. For all of the conspiracies that tainted the first few years the consultants were on board, it looks as if we can now say they’ve been doing a good job.
After as many informational meetings as anyone could be expected to hold, it is fair to say that OPA General Manager Bob Thompson has done his job. It could even be said, though it would be debatable, that he’s made his case for replacing the Yacht and Country Clubs. Having gone above and beyond the call of duty in addressing the issues the board of directors has asked him to address, he deserves the board’s thanks and better direction about the next step.
The board should tell Thompson to continue on the Yacht Club plan and put the Country Club plan someplace safe for the time being. This would be the best call for the community, for good practical as well as good political reasons.
The practical reason is simple enough. There is no way that a referendum on both buildings will pass, even if the two are separated. It is too much to ask of a community that has seen too much go too wrong too quickly where the golf course is concerned.
The political reason is subtly different. If the Yacht Club is brought to referendum with no specter of the golf course looming over it the measure will likely pass. Once the board — and to be honest, Thompson — have demonstrated they are capable of successfully turning around the Yacht Club, the Country Club would be an easier sell.
Until then it is likely if the board asks for too much it will get nothing at all.
The Ocean Pines board of directors is pretty much committed to replacing the greens if there is any hope of getting the process started that will hopefully make the golf course less of a drain on the membership’s pockets. What is a little disappointing, as well as borderline tiresome, is the nickel-and-dime-ing that seems to accompany golf course repairs generally. The amount that the membership has been asked to pay for this ongoing work appears to be just under the referendum trigger every time a new project starts.
Over the next two years the greens will be replaced at a cost, according to the board’s will, not to exceed $900,000. Following that, there will be plenty of work that needs to be done to continue to improve the course’s quality and playability.
Rather than continue to replace the entire golf course one below-referendum project at a time, the board should have the courage and the decency to tell the membership how long it will take and what it will cost and then deliver it all in one package to be voted upon. The membership should have the opportunity to decide overall what they are willing to pay for.
Failing that, the course will continue to have difficulties as the promise of the last great and needed repair is always just about $900,000 away.
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) found the Town of Berlin’s proposed $10 increase for sewer service over five years unacceptable and that they had to tack on another $25 for 2013.
The MDE wasn’t just making a financial suggestion. Compliance was tied to a $5 million finance deal Berlin frankly needs if it is to get the facility complete without reaching even deeper into the ratepayer’s pockets.
What’s disconcerting is that the town didn’t arbitrarily decide back in May that $10 was a sufficient increase to cover its estimated costs. They paid someone to figure it out. Additionally, there was a bit of heated discussion leading up to the decision, centering on the question whether the growth projected to cover the debt service was too aggressive.
We endorsed the decision the Council made for that decision, as they faced an amount of heat for it, because it was the fiscally responsible thing to do. This week the $10, that caused all fuss in May was increased 150 percent, payable not in several years but next year, without a word.
So while it is easy to blame MDE, it is probably not fair. The Town dropped the ball on this one, mostly in its choice of consultant. The ratepayer cost would not likely have changed much, but it is going to be tough to defend reliance on professional consultants in the future when they can be egregiously off base.
If there was one thing that was made clear during this week’s presentation about the Ocean Pines Yacht Club it is that the building needs to be replaced. Although it is within their purview to order a major and extensive renovation, the OPA board of directors should concern themselves with how, when and with what to erect in the Yacht Club’s stead.
General Manager Bob Thompson’s concept is worth seriously considering. Whether the board and the community is happy with the tentative design or not isn’t so much the issue as Thompson’s plan to run the place.
While the “Open for Business” model was attractive when it came to the other amenities, the notion of having the Yacht Club restaurant closed during the dead of winter is the most attractive part of the plan. Making sure that the facility is always ready and able to accommodate the private functions that are the major sources of income and only having the restaurant open when it is pleasant enough to dine on the water seems a solid plan with few downsides.
But unless the Yacht Club is to be abandoned it is certainly a better idea to rebuild something that has a more flexible use than the current building. Beyond that it will be the board’s responsibility to make sure that the business plan for whatever building they decide to open makes sense.
At this week’s Town council meeting Gail Lewis made an excellent and novel suggestion that will likely benefit both the merchants along South Main Street as well as give visitors a better sense of just how diverse the town is. Lewis proposed the Town extend the regular event street closures beyond the intersection of Jefferson and Main streets so that the street festivals the Town so regularly hosts will encompass the entire business district which includes by her count seven additional shops.
While Chamber Executive Director Olive Mawyer made a good point when she told the Council to be careful about isolating the non-retail businesses along that final stretch of the business district, there is almost certainly a way in this case to accommodate those businesses without isolating the retailers instead.
As Mayor Gee Williams suggested, there are certainly worse problems to have than being too busy to have enough parking for all the people headed Downtown for the events and it is in that spirit that the Town staff should begin to find a solution that will make a detour around any festivals benefit both the attendees and the hosts.
While it may take some doing and even cause a little inconvenience at first, it should be recalled that closing part of Pitt Street was once considered a little complicated. Once a solid plan is developed and enacted it is almost certain it will become as common as the other minor changes the Town has seen in the past few years.
Whether it was an intentionally cagey move or just appears that way because of its implications, OPA General Manager Bob Thompson’s suggestion that the needed golf course repairs be covered by selling lifetime memberships was a masterstroke. Whether it is a good or even practical idea to try and get 40 people to commit to spending $25,000 all in one chunk is not even the real point.
What is the point, and an important one, is the first public admission that the more than 8,000 OPA property owners who do not hold golf memberships are getting tired of signing off on a course that has been a money pit for the last decade or so.
The community goes around and around every now and again over what will be done to cut costs or drive revenue to make the golf course a little more self-sustaining. There is no question that the playing experience has to be improved, but as memberships fall off all over the region, outside play income cannot be expected to be sufficient to pay for an overhaul.
By signaling that management is considering finding a way to get the needed work done without tapping the general membership, the focus can be directed at the possibilities rather than the problems. Who pays how much to keep the golf course afloat is an argument that has long been in need of reframing and the new direction may have just come in the nick of time.
Several months ago, the Berlin Mayor and Council, at the instigation of Councilwoman Paula Lynch decided to add a measure against boarded up houses to their general agenda of improving the town’s image through additional enforcement options.
Throughout the discussion Mayor Gee Williams has been clear that these new and adjusted rules were targeted at the few properties that might be gateways to blight and not a means to overburden property owners.
This week when a property owner showed up to challenge the plan to ban the boarding of houses the Council appeared to consider backing down. The council however would do well to stay on course.
If the point of the legislation is to force property owners to better maintain their buildings, building in a loophole that leaves improvements to their discretion is counter to the general improvement they are seeking.
Williams said the town doesn’t want to be too heavy-handed in their enforcement and made it clear that the town didn’t want to overburden property owners with expense. But the Council should be reminded that nothing brings blight to a town so much as the lack of political will to require everyone to do their part when it comes to property maintenance.
This is precisely the fight the administration signed up for when it pledged to go after the very few properties in town that were poorly maintained. It would be a shame to see them give that fight up as soon as it began.
The Ocean Pines board of directors’ decision to narrow its focus and reintroduce the pending action list (PAL), a kind of long- and short-range collection of projects, may help produce a better organized, more efficient administration.
The board that originated the PAL was one of the more productive in recent memory. While use of the list itself cannot be fairly cited as the direct reason, it did produce a kind of culture change. The sitting board had a not-so-subtle reminder at the end of each meeting that they were there to accomplish things rather than just talk about how things would be if they did.
There is a bit of a danger in becoming so obsessed with the structure of the board process that the point of the board — overseeing the many and various improvements the community requires while keeping costs reasonable — can be sacrificed to it. But the current collection of members may be able to avoid succumbing to structure over substance by the regular and constant reminder that there is much to do.
Time certainly will tell, but at this point the board has set an aggressive, if short, agenda. The OPA members have every right to expect that this year will see not only a cohesive facilities plan but its actual implementation. There is much to accomplish but eating the elephant with a focused goal one bite at a time seems the right approach.
Now that Councilwoman Lisa Hall has moved from insinuation to accusation with regard to Councilman Troy Purnell’s business interests, it is only appropriate to point out that not only is it a tiresome way to conduct the town’s business, it also does little for her credibility when it comes to honest disagreement.
At this week’s council meeting, Hall accused Purnell of trying to undermine the town standards in the interest of “developers” both without cause and without evidence. Setting aside the nature of the attack, what was most discouraging was that her fixation on Purnell’s status as a developer clouded her ability to hear the pros and cons of the more lucid questions and answers.
In an effort to save the town time and money, the staff proposed that in instances where the council would have to rely solely on the opinion of its employees and engineers, a consensus of those professionals would be sufficient when granting a standards exception.
The exception does not apply to matters covered by planning or zoning or state law, only technical matters that are reviewed and agreed upon by experts.
While few would claim Purnell has set the world on fire as a council member, it is shortsighted to attack him on every question about land or construction the council faces. Hall would do well to set aside her conspiracy theories, review the evidence and make a decision based upon those rather than her biases.
- posted 9/9/11
It was a tough week for my co-host Todd DeHart of www.goodcleanfunlife.com
in lots of ways but the aspect that got him down the most was his blogger status. While there aren’t any bad feelings between bloggers and print writers, there is a certain notion that print has credibility that Internet writing lacks. Todd had his first experience where someone saw a story that had come out weeks after his but they got the recognition.
Although it took us some time to get there, the bottom line is in order to post something on the Internet, one doesn’t even need a computer, only a library card. You are reading this right now because I am paid to write it. There is a staff and an economic stake and an editorial process that keeps me honest and makes sure what goes into print is as accurate and fair as it can be.
Bloggers never have someone say, “Why do you think anyone would read that?” because clicking off and clicking through is still part of the Internet culture. Here, where space is precious, it is a question we have to ask every day. True, sometimes my stories are not nearly as interesting to you as I thought they would be, but that comes from guessing wrong, not from lack of interest. I hate having my time wasted and try to keep from wasting yours (political coverage aside).
We also said a fond farewell to Ed Hammond, who both Todd and I knew professionally but not personally.
During the last Atlantic Hotel turnover, mine were among the apparently thousands of calls Hammond fielded on the matter. I caught him late and at dinner and he kind of laid into me. When he was done he said he wasn’t trying to be curt but the whole thing (reporters calling) made him a little grumpy.
My story that week began: Ed Hammond is getting a little grumpy.
I’m pretty sure he got a kick out of it because he was more jovial with me after that, as if we’d shared a joke.
Finally we got out all of our frustrations about the Maryland uniform scandal. I fell squarely on the side of “I don’t care, even a little bit” and Todd and our guests fell squarely on the side of “These uniforms are cool, stop whining.”
There’s plenty more so make sure to catch it on the Internet as soon as you’re done reading.
Feel free to join us 5:30 p.m. each Tuesday for the Happy Hour Todcast at Burley Oak Brewery. If something tragic keeps you from coming out you can always check out the resulting recording Thursday afternoon by subscribing on iTunes
. It’s free, fun and only requires a half-hour listening investment. Fair warning before you listen: Put on your irony hats, kids. It’s all in good clean fun.
This week Happy Hour comes to you from the sidewalk in front of the Globe in Berlin and, because we failed to make our usual irony announcement at the head of the podcast, it is probably important to say that neither I nor our guest, photographer Mark Huey of markospaghetti.com, cuts nicks into our backs as a reminder of anything.
As has been our accidental policy for some time, each of the guests we invite on the show is either completely unknown to me or completely unknown to my co-host Todd DeHart. It was under questioning from Todd that Mark revealed precisely how many thousands of photographs he’s taken over the last decade leading to the assumption that self-mutilation is the only way to keep that kind of count.
In my case the suggestion was more that I ought to do some cutting in relation to mistakes that make it into the paper. Just so you know, that’s not going to happen even though many people would applaud such negative reinforcement in my case.
When we got finally got down to the business of photography as art, we were able to make a connection between Mark’s approach and that of Little Chico — see this week's Bayside Gazette.
Little Chico works in spray paint and paint markers, which are generally considered destructive materials. Mark takes photos he’s carefully composed and shreds them. He uses the resulting strips to put together mixed media presentations, glueing the strips to art boards and adding paint splatter to turn already impressive photographs into modern art.
Mark’s problem -- and really the problem for any artist trying to break out -- is figuring out how to part with his work at a price he is willing to take and others are willing to pay, which gets to the heart of both this particular podcast and the Berlin art scene in general, especially when it comes to photography.
Just as spell check has turned so many people into writers (see Todd’s posts at www.goodcleanfunlife.com), the digital revolution has turned anyone with an extra $100 into a professional photographer. For true talents, however, this is a positive evolution because it both demands and allows room for less traditional approaches as a way of thinning the field.
Looking into next week because we can’t help ourselves, Todd and I also touched on the simmering rivalry between glassblower Jeff Auxer and restaurateur Greg David. After taking a bit of a beating from the Globe Team in the bathtub races Jeff is looking for revenge in the upcoming peach pie eating contest. Always up for the challenge and the hype, Greg is happy to fan the flames of controversy.
If small town living has a primary virtue it is that grown people can take pleasure in discussing how the bathtub races acted as the catalyst for a brewing blood feud in the peach pie eating contest.
The Happy Hour podcast comes out Thursday afternoon and is available by subscribing on iTunes. Fair warning before you listen: Put on your irony hats, kids. It’s all in good clean fun.
This week Happy Hour was in the Berlin offices of the Bayside Gazette. Todd DeHart, my co-host, took the opportunity to sit behind the publisher’s desk and scream like Perry White. I guess it’s a non-newspaper person compulsion. Tuesday’s rain stranded our guest and we scrambled to try and replace him.
The guys at Burley Oak are usually happy to pinch hit but they were burying boulders in front of the brewery and neither Todd nor I had the courage to go over and ask them why. Similarly, the professional migrants we’ll hopefully have on next week were unavailable at the last minute but it was gratifying to see that we didn’t need the guests to lean on.
The show, which I swear I’ll get to in a second, ran on time and was well-paced with just the two of us. The thing about having guests, though, is that it gives our listeners access to local people — artists, musicians, business owners — they might not have known about.
There are thousands of podcasts on iTunes but ours may be the one, or is at least one of the few, that uses the power of the Internet for hyper-local reasons. This is partly because I barely have enough time to follow local news and entertainment and partly because Todd barely has enough interest to follow anything else.
The reason Todd took so well to the publisher’s desk is because he’d spent the week in full-blown reporter mode, securing press passes to the Dew Tour events and even conducting an interview. After several days as a reporter, it seemed, he was ready for the next logical step: publisher.
He interviewed pro skater Bob Burnquist, who was flying in to participate in the Dew Tour during the interview. We talked about the difference between interviewing regular people, which we do all the time, and interviewing people who are used to talking to reporters.
Not to be outdone, I shared my story (see page 17) about Billy Casper, the golf legend who visited Ocean Pines. The compare and contrast was fun because I know so little about golf while skateboarding is Todd’s favorite sport. So while he was asking intelligent questions of his subject, I was compiling a list of golf terms and names I had to look up when I got home. It was a totally different vibe.
But for the first time in a long time I out-cooled him on the weekend front, attending a party at The Good Farm, where I met modern day hippie minstrels. Two kids from Maine sold all their stuff and were driving around the country playing music for food and shelter. They gave a brief concert for the eight-or-so other guests at the affair playing almost unintelligible avant-garde music that was all the cooler for its utter un-marketability.
The Happy Hour podcast comes out Thursday afternoon and is available by subscribing on iTunes.
Just type GCFL into the search bar at the iTunes store to subscribe. It’s free, fun and only requires a half-hour listening investment. Fair warning before you listen: Put on your irony hats, kids. It’s all in good clean fun.
By Tony Russo
About four months ago, we began producing a weekly news and entertainment podcast in conjunction with the folks at www.goodcleanfunlife.com (GCFL) we call Happy Hour. My co-host, Todd DeHart, has always taken entertainment seriously but is woefully under-informed when it comes to the news. I am woefully under-informed about what it means to have a rich social life and so live vicariously through Todd and his GCFL crew. Together we equal one person with a rich, balanced existence.
This week Happy Hour was in Ocean City where we hung out at the Ocean Bowl with local skating legends Josh Marlow, Dave Messick and J.T. Hazard.
These are the men who were children back when the Ocean Bowl Skate Park opened up and to hear them talk about it is to recognize how much the place has meant to the local kids. It’s also an insight into the skate culture as it has developed over the decades, producing not only professional skaters but also a skate community that takes community responsibility seriously.
They gave us an insider’s view into the Commotion Down the Ocean charity event to benefit Grind for Life coming up Wednesday, which will be one of the earliest chances to meet some of the world class athletes coming into town for the Dew Tour.
In the news portion I went over the near-mayhem that was last week’s Berlin Bathtub Races citing those courageous few who stood at the very edge of safety for a better glimpse of tubs traveling full bore in the direction of their small children. Anyone who was at the event knows it was a blast and given that there weren’t any injuries, Todd concluded there was no sense in complaining.
We closed the show, as we do each week, with $40 in three hours. The premise is that Todd has a finite amount of money for the weekend and needs to decide how to best spend it, given time constraints.
If you’d like to know how and where he’s going to spend his money you’ll have to check in with us on the Internet — for those who don’t know, a podcast is an Internet radio show.
You can download the podcast from www.goodcleanfunlife.com if you’d like, but the best way to get it is by subscribing via iTunes. Just go to the iTunes store and type GCFL into the search bar to subscribe. It’s free, fun and only requires a half-hour listening investment. Fair warning before you listen: Put on your irony hats, kids. It’s all in good clean fun.