ANNAPOLIS -- Mick Blackistone, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland, has been laid off as a full-time lobbyist in yet another sign of the boating industry's foundering economic fortunes.
Under an agreement with the association's executive board, the 44-year-old Annapolis resident will continue on a part-time basis and will retain the title of executive director, however.
John Burgreen, owner of Annapolis Yacht Sales and the board's chairman, said that the association was simply unable to pay Mr. Blackistone's salary because of the economic downturn.
"We can't ask him to continue working for us and not get paid," Mr. Burgreen said. "Our goal is to get back where we were, with Mick full-time, but we can't support that now."
The Marine Trades Association represents the interests of more than 300 boating-related employers in Maryland, including marinas, sailmakers, insurance companies and banks. Mr. Blackistone co-founded the organization in 1979 and has served as its executive director ever since.
Mr. Blackistone agreed that the association's financial situation necessitated the move. The organization, which once boasted 500 members, has been slowly shrinking in recent years, and even some current members have been unable to pay their dues, he said.
"If the industry doesn't support it, the association can't pay for 12-month lobbying," he said.
The decision comes at a time when the state is poised to consider several new taxes on boating, including the 2 percent personal property tax proposed last year by the so-called Linowes commission that considered changes in the state's tax structure.
Other issues of importance to the industry are recent cuts in Maryland's waterway improvement fund in order to reduce the state's budget deficit, a proposed boat slip tax, and a plan to apply the state's fuel tax to marine diesel sales.
Mr. Blackistone said that he will use his free time to continue writing books. The prolific author had two books released last year -- a children's book and a collection of his poetry accompanied by Marion E. Warren's Chesapeake Bay photographs.
He also owns an Annapolis public relations firm, M. S. Blackistone & Associates.