Commentary

printed 09/24/2021

The front page headline, “There baaaack!” references a line in the 1986 movie, “Poltergeist II,” in which the little girl/victim tells her parents the once defeated evil spirits have reappeared in their home.

The headline works partly because it has become such a cliché that everyone knows it’s a derisive introduction to unpleasant news. It also sums up in two words how most residents, elected officials and the police feel about the return of the vehicular infestation known as the “pop-up car rally.”

To be sure, the operators of these mostly imported, especially tuned cars are annoying, dangerous, disrespectful and, possibly, starved for attention, but they aren’t the personification of evil.

But neither is Ocean City the unassailable good guy in this fraught relationship. Like most resorts, it has a contingent of anything-for-a-buck enterprises that willingly puts up with all kinds of nonsense without regard for the effect it has on the rest of the community. They believe that bad behavior is a police problem, exclusively.

Well, it isn’t, and there are encouraging signs of change. Some businesses, like Fish Tales, are closing for the weekend. Others, like Macky’s Bayside, have decided to end their season early rather than have to deal with a possibly unruly crowd.

Although many members of the lodging industry can’t close because of franchise agreements, they have jacked up their prices beyond the reach of many of this rally’s participants. In addition, numerous rental companies and property owners are taking their listings off the availability schedule for the weekend.

Bolstered by the Special Event Zone law and its more severe punishments, local, county and state law enforcement agencies are ready to act.

But strict law enforcement can’t do the job alone. Also required is more resistance in the marketplace itself to this and other events that might draw bad actors. Ultimately, it’s like the climactic scene in Poltergeist II: sometimes the power to confront and eliminate the cause of the problem rests with the family itself.

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