printed 10/05/2018

As Ocean City government, urged on by many of its residents, contemplates how to increase its control over vehicular shenanigans, the two greatest obstacles blocking the path to its goal are its image and the constitution.

Over the past several years, a common question among the resort’s citizenry is why government simply can’t bar some groups from coming to town. Why, people ask, does Ocean City allow them to enter?

The answer is this is a free country and people can go wherever they want. No level of government can prevent that, except in circumstances of extreme danger, specific kinds of law enforcement activity and matters of security.

Government doesn’t have the authority to decide who can use a taxpayer-funded street and who can’t.

The image problem is more troublesome. Over the years, the resort has shown an affinity for large vehicular events, which has suggested to fans and others occupying the outer perimeters of the culture that Ocean City turns itself into a wide-open motor city, with an appreciative audience, on certain occasions.

This weekend’s Endless Summer Cruisin’ vintage car rally is one example of how a well-run legitimate enterprise can suffer, along with the rest of the resort, from the law of unintended consequences.

The Cruisin’ crowd is a well-behaved bunch that prefers to display its street rods and customizations in parking lots instead of showing what they can do on the road.

Unfortunately, the presence of these cars and trucks, over time, began to draw a car and truck owner element whose vehicles don’t qualify for inclusion in the show, but who think it stands as an invitation to attract some attention to themselves as well.

Short of ending all vehicle events, and incurring the wrath of many local business operators, the city’s only recourse is to make everyone feel unwelcome through increasingly strict law enforcement efforts until the bad actors move on and the resort’s car- and bike-crazy image fades away.

That’s going to take time, possibly years, but it’s Ocean City government’s only option.

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