Like this is a surprise?

February 28, 2006 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Wal-Mart · Comments Off on Like this is a surprise? 

I will give the large hat tip to Rush today for introducing me to this article by Brendan Miniter. My ears perk up whenever he mentions the Free State and we got a lot of airtime today.

In case the link ceases to work (I know the Wall Street Journal site is a subscription site, whereas the OpinionJournal is the “free side”) the money passage is this:

let’s turn to (Delegate James) Hubbard. He began our conversation by pointing out that the Wal-Mart bill–which forces companies with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8% of their payroll on health care or pay the state the difference–was always intended to be just the first step (emphasis mine). Four years ago, he made his intentions clear by introducing legislation to increase cigarette taxes and to use the tax code to compel employers to provide health insurance. Under his legislation the revenue from these taxes would be dumped into a new state fund that would then be used to expand Medicaid eligibility to families with incomes up to 300% of the poverty line (up from 200% now). But even in a legislature with large Democratic majorities, his bill stalled.

So Mr. Hubbard and others settled on a new approach–pushing through smaller, bite-sized pieces. The first piece was the Wal-Mart bill. It passed last year and was enacted last month, when the Legislature overrode Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s veto. Two weeks ago Mr. Hubbard was at it again, this time introducing a new bill to mandate that companies with at least 1,000 employees spend 4.5% of their payroll on health care or pay the state the difference. Once this piece is in place, Mr. Hubbard told me, the next step will be to create a similar mandate–perhaps 2% or 3%–for companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. Each year, Mr. Hubbard hopes to expand the mandate to include ever smaller companies with the ultimate goal of “health coverage for all Marylanders.”

Mr. Hubbard noted how effective splitting the difference can be in moving legislation toward a larger goal. “If you give up 80% of what you want to get 20%,” he said, “after five years you will have nothing left to give up.”

This is the relevant portion of the text of HB 1510, which is an omnibus bill regarding health care in general (it’s innocently titled Public-Private Partnership for Health Coverage for All Marylanders. Some partnership, a gun to the head isn’t a real alliance.) The bill as a whole is a 50 page .pdf file.

I believe the way this works is that additions to existing statute are in ALL CAPS. Perhaps a lawyer-type can help me on that.

Article – Labor and Employment

8 8.5-101.

9 (a) In this title the following words have the meanings indicated.
10 (b) “Employee” means all individuals employed full time or part time directly
11 by an employer.
12 (c) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, “employer”
13 has the meaning stated in § 10-905 of the Tax – General Article.
14 (2) “Employer” does not include the federal government, the State,
15 another state, or a political subdivision of the State or another state.
16 (d) (1) “Health insurance costs” means the amount paid by an employer to
17 provide health care or health insurance to employees in the State to the extent the
18 costs may be deductible by an employer under federal tax law.
19 (2) “Health insurance costs” includes payments for medical care,
20 prescription drugs, vision care, medical savings accounts, and any other costs to
21 provide health benefits as defined in § 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code.
22 (e) “Secretary” means the Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.
23 (f) “Wages” has the meaning stated in § 10-905 of the Tax – General Article.
24 8.5-102.
25 This title applies to an employer with [10,000] ONE or more employees in the
26 State.
27 8.5-103.
28 (a) (1) On January 1, [2007] 2008, and annually thereafter, an employer
29 shall submit on a form and in a manner approved by the Secretary:
30 (i) the number of employees of the employer in the State as of 1
31 day in the year immediately preceding the previous calendar year as determined by
32 the employer on an annual basis;

44 UNOFFICIAL COPY OF HOUSE BILL 1510

1 (ii) the amount spent by the employer in the year immediately
2 preceding the previous calendar year on health insurance costs in the State; and
3 (iii) the percentage of payroll that was spent by the employer in the
4 year immediately preceding the previous calendar year on health insurance costs in
5 the State.
6 (2) The Secretary shall adopt regulations that specify the information
7 that an employer shall submit under paragraph (1) of this subsection.
8 (3) The information required shall:
9 (i) be designated in a report signed by the principal executive
10 officer or an individual performing a similar function; and
11 (ii) include an affidavit under penalty of perjury that the
12 information required under paragraph (1) of this subsection:
13 1. was reviewed by the signing officer; and
14 2. is true to the best of the signing officer’s knowledge,
15 information, and belief.
16 (b) When calculating the percentage of payroll under subsection (a)(1)(iii) of
17 this section, an employer may exempt:
18 (1) wages paid to any employee in excess of the median household
19 income in the State as published by the United States Census Bureau; and
20 (2) wages paid to an employee who is enrolled in or eligible for Medicare.
21 8.5-104.
22 (a) An employer WITH 10,000 OR MORE EMPLOYEES that is organized as a
23 nonprofit organization that does not spend up to 6% of the total wages paid to
24 employees in the State on health insurance costs shall pay to the Secretary an
25 amount equal to the difference between what the employer spends for health
26 insurance costs and an amount equal to 6% of the total wages paid to employees in
27 the State.
28 (b) An employer WITH 10,000 OR MORE EMPLOYEES that is not organized as a
29 nonprofit organization and does not spend up to 8% of the total wages paid to
30 employees in the State on health insurance costs shall pay to the Secretary an
31 amount equal to the difference between what the employer spends for health
32 insurance costs and an amount equal to 8% of the total wages paid to employees in
33 the State.
34 (C) AN EMPLOYER WITH FEWER THAN 10,000 EMPLOYEES THAT IS ORGANIZED
35 AS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT DOES NOT SPEND UP TO 3% OF THE TOTAL
36 WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE ON HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS SHALL

45 UNOFFICIAL COPY OF HOUSE BILL 1510

1 PAY TO THE SECRETARY AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT
2 THE EMPLOYER SPENDS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS AND AN AMOUNT EQUAL
3 TO 3% OF THE TOTAL WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE.
4 (D) AN EMPLOYER WITH FEWER THAN 10,000 EMPLOYEES THAT IS NOT
5 ORGANIZED AS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION AND DOES NOT SPEND UP TO 4.5% OF
6 THE TOTAL WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE ON HEALTH INSURANCE
7 COSTS SHALL PAY TO THE SECRETARY AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO THE DIFFERENCE
8 BETWEEN WHAT THE EMPLOYER SPENDS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS AND AN
9 AMOUNT EQUAL TO 4.5% OF THE TOTAL WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE.
10 [(c)] (E) An employer may not deduct any payment made under subsection
11 [(a) or (b)] (A), (B), (C), OR (D) of this section from the wages of an employee.
12 [(d)] (F) An employer shall make the payment required under this section to
13 the Secretary on a periodic basis as determined by the Secretary.
14 8.5-105.
15 (a) Failure to report in accordance with § 8.5-103 of this title shall result in
16 the imposition by the Secretary of a civil penalty of $250 for each day that the report
17 is not timely filed.
18 (b) Failure to make the payment required under § 8.5-104 of this title shall
19 result in the imposition by the Secretary of a civil penalty of $250,000.

What a surprise, take a little in 2005, go for more in 2006. The next part I didn’t print goes into importing Canadian prescription drugs and, if the federal government doesn’t grant the state a waiver, a mandate that the state Attorney General file suit against the federal government.

Again, the Delegate who sponsored HB 1510 is James W. Hubbard, of District 23A. I realize it’s a longshot to find a Republican in PG County to try and unseat him, but this nutjob has got to go. A more realistic thing to do would be to encourage our Delegates to stop HB 1510 dead in its tracks. According to the General Assembly website, this bill was rereferred to the Health and Government Operations subcommittee yesterday. Let’s make sure it doesn’t see the light of day again.

Missing from the Eastern Shore

February 28, 2006 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Missing from the Eastern Shore 

There’s no paczki wars here, like back in northwest Ohio where there’s a thriving Polish community. I’m part Polish, and that part is probably why I weigh what I do, because they have such great food!

Since I have a longer post to write tonight, here’s more comments from Emily at American Princess. Thanks to her for making my mouth water.

WCRC meeting – February 2006

Once again, I took part of my evening and attended this month’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. We had about 30 in attendance this time.

As far as club business goes, our finances are still double what they were last year, although it was pointed out that this time in 2005 was right after the 2004 elections so the old amount should be used with caution when comparing. But the club didn’t do much for the 2005 local elections either since they were technically nonpartisan. Membership was up to 95 paid members, but I’m not one (yet), simply because I forgot my checkbook! Additionally, 8 members paid at the “elephant” level, which is additional money donated to the club.

Elected officials present were Wicomico County Councilman Gail Bartkovich and Worcester County Commissioner Sonny Bloxom (as noted last month, he’s running for Delegate in District 38B.) Also present was County Council candidate Dorothy White of District 5, the northeast portion of the county. (That district’s actually right across the road from me.)

Our speaker this month was Michael Grissom from the Maryland GOP. The Florida native is actually better known as the political director for Katherine Harris’s 2004 congressional campaign, now he’s working for the MGOP. He also worked with the Kilgore campaign last year in Virginia. You win some, you lose some.

Grissom noted a few things about this year’s approach to the Maryland races, particularly retaining Governor Ehrlich and electing Michael Steele to the U.S. Senate. The two things I found most interesting about his remarks was the emphasis on “microtargeting” and the effort come Election Day (or, actually, more like Election Week thanks to the D’s – vote early and often!) to assure as much as possible a clean election. That would be lawyers on the ground. If the D’s can pony up lawyers, so can we.

“Microtargeting” is fascinating – it’s targeting newer residents and based on consumer preferences, where certain traits show up in those who are more likely conservative. The example Grissom gave was if a person owned a Ford F-150 pickup, had a concealed carry permit, and subscribed to Field and Stream, they would more than likely be conservative and a probable Republican voter. (I guess on the flip side, if you drive a Volvo, subscribe to the New York Times, and have seen “Brokeback Mountain” 5 times, it’s likely you’re a moonbat who votes straight ticket Democrat – if there’s no Greens on the ballot.)

Additionally, Grissom told us that a field staffer for the Eastern Shore would be coming soon, at first based out of the Easton area because it’s centrally located on the Shore, but eventually by fall there would be a staffer for us on the south end of the Eastern Shore, as well as one on the north end. There’s going to be 5 or 6 field staffers in Maryland to start, our small population dictates one shared amongst the whole Eastern Shore for now.

A good question came from an attendee at that point. His concern was about Ehrlich and Steele “getting their message out” given the pro-Democrat slant of most Maryland media outlets. The key, explained Grissom, is getting the message out via the grassroots. Just talk up your neighbors (or be a blogger like me!) This helps to increase GOP turnout – while the stated goal is 80% in Wicomico County, it was revealed that GOP turnout in 2004 was 82% and 2002 GOP turnout was about 78%. So their “goal” is about the norm – but additional registered Republicans can also make a difference even with similar numbers.

Some other comments during this portion of the meeting:

Governor Ehrlich has not decided on a running mate yet, but it sounds like he has a short list being kept close to the vest at this time.

Polling was described as being “within percentage points” although Rasmussen showed Michael Steele down double digits to Ben Cardin. This poll was taken shortly after the stem-cell comment apology though.

There will be “slate money” for local campaigns to use this year, as Grissom noted the Maryland GOP has raised an “amazing amount of money.” Sonny Bloxom chimed in that if he raises a certain amount by the primary, the state GOP will kick in campaign money as well. If you use the vote total for the 2004 presidential election in Maryland as a guide, the campaign for governor may cost upwards of $25 per vote and the Senate campaign $12.50 per vote. That makes the numbers scary large in reality.

And, of course, after Grissom finished with his informative talk (and left to head home to Baltimore – we appreciate him coming down!) there were other issues discussed at the meeting. Most important to me was the County Council’s upcoming agenda, as budget issues take center stage in April and May. Impact fees or no impact fees? The capital improvements budget is said to be “fairly set” though. Adding to those improvements, it was announced tonight to us that money’s in the pipeline for construction to Business U.S. 13 in Salisbury, State Route 349, and U.S. 50. I knew a state representative in Ohio named John Garcia who said every time you see an orange barrel you see money from the state coming back to you. So we’ll see some money coming back to us in the form of highway improvements.

Another thing pointed out by John Bartkovich was that we need to fill our slate, still a lot of “blank” spaces on it. One complaint is that incumbents seem to be slow in deciding whether they want to run, so people who don’t want to face an incumbent also have to wait. Further, in the last couple months we’ve lost a candidate for County Executive and Sheriff who both dropped out of their race.

The club also is still looking for officers. They’ve offered me a post, I had to decline. It was more than I had a comfort level of doing at this time. I’d enjoy doing the newsletter part of it, but the other functions are more than I think I can handle – I’ve been taught to manage around my weaknesses so there you have it. That goes to being a candidate this year as well, although I hold the caveat below.

There is a Central Committee meeting a week from tonight that I would like to attend, kind of a “try before I buy” sort of thing. It’s intriguing to me in some respects but I’m a long way from running if I ever decide to.

Other upcoming events of note are a state party election school in March up in Gaithersburg, our annual booth at the Spring Festival April 28-29 (I’ll likely do that, maybe I’ll even bring brownies), the state GOP spring convention in Cambridge May 13, and way out there the Crab Feast in September. And we get to skip June and July for meetings.

Next month our speaker will be one of the two GOP Delegate candidates for District 38B, Jack Lord.

aaawww…did us bloggers upset the little ole city of Salisbury?

February 25, 2006 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Personal stuff, Politics · 2 Comments 

It’s said that “nature abhors a vacuum.” In the case of Salisbury, since the local paper or TV stations aren’t always the best source for news, something fills in the slack.

There’s always been a “rumor mill” wherever you go, but in this era of widely available Internet and the opportunity to sign up for (or buy like I did) a domain name and join the “pajamas media”, it’s very possible for a blogger to have a larger circulation and disseminate information to a larger audience than the so-called “mainstream media” outlets.

Three of my fellow Delmarva bloggers became accepted members of the media this week as all three local media outlets featured them on their news. The gist of the stories was a focus on local resident Joe Albero, a man who’s had repeated run-ins with several government entities. To those who aren’t a fan of his efforts, I suppose the term for him would be “local gadfly.” The really funny thing is that Albero doesn’t have his own blog, generally he works with and comments to the Justice for All? blog (although he has commented here on monoblogue as well.)

I’m sure all three of these blogs have rapidly increased their readership over the course of this year (let alone the last few days), as has mine (I had a record number of hits yesterday.) Monoblogue is a little different than the other three, but I do cover a lot of the same ground. It would be interesting to know what the hit rate is for the “mainstream” outlets compared to the bloggers. While it’s probably on a order of magnitude higher, I bet the gap is decreasing.

What struck me as funniest about the coverage was the Daily Times article, and particularly Mayor Tilghman’s reaction to the bloggers, “If they care for a higher level of community discussion, then I recommend they become involved in the city of Salisbury.”

Honestly, how does one become more involved with the city of Salisbury? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that at least one of the above mentioned bloggers or correspondents attends each public meeting, and looks over all the agendas and such that is public information. To me, the next step would have to be either working for the city or running for office. There’s only so many city positions that open up where an impact can be made, and you have to actually live in Salisbury to run for office (not to mention win an election.)

Once upon a time some wag said, “you can’t fight City Hall.” It becomes easy to ignore the wishes of the public when you know you have enough support from the voters to remain in the job term after term. But you can’t ignore bloggers quite as easily when they present a compelling version of events that may not be what the mayor and others in city government like to hear. So far the efforts of the bloggers have brought to light the animal deaths at the zoo (as well as their polluting the Wicomico River), the permitless dumping at the wastewater treatment plant, irregularities in annexation and zoning approvals – that’s just in Salisbury. Multiply that by 1,000 other large communities.

Maybe the best way to sum this up is if there weren’t bloggers and commenters to the sites who really cared about the place they live, it would be that much more difficult to muster up the resources for necessary change. This is the second place I’ve moved to by choice, and the first one was paid for by someone else (college.) So I’m interested in doing my part to make it a better place to live; after all, I have a stake in the community now since my job depends a lot on the well-being of the Delmarva area.

Kudos and thanks!

February 22, 2006 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Kudos and thanks! 

I happened to catch (thanks to reading it on Delmarva Dealings) this morning’s radio chat between WICO-AM morning host Bill Reddish and “Cato” of DD. It sounds like Reddish is up to speed on the blogosphere, which is good when you have a paper like ours. It does seem that WICO’s news is basically a rehash of Daily Times stories for the most part.

Unfortunately, there’s no transcript of the program available because I found it interesting in the parts I was able to listen to at the office, but I missed a bit here and there. Co-workers can do that to you.

But I didn’t miss the part at the end where Cato mentioned yours truly’s blog. And for that I thank him…good to know I’m becoming accepted in the Delmarva blogger community, slowly but surely.

As for the morning show, now that I’m getting pretty annoyed with the “Rex Nation” it may be time to go back to AM talk in the morning like I did back in Toledo. Seems like Bill Reddish is a good morning host – I never could stand “Bob and Tom” or “Don and Mike” and the “Rex Nation” is heading that way.

It’s not like I have a long commute, about 3-4 minutes! That’s one thing I do like about living here, little traffic. I almost wonder why WICO has a traffic report in the morning. Guess they have to fill some time, but if they continue to get good guests, the time will take care of itself.

Not just our problem

February 21, 2006 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Not just our problem 

With a hat tip to The American Princess, this may end up being the solution to the zoo problem.

It’s a zoo out there!

February 18, 2006 · Posted in Delmarva items · 12 Comments 

Over the last couple months there’s been a lot of talk about problems with the Salisbury Zoo. The mounting list includes animal deaths, on-the-job injuries to staff, a lack of parking and/or needing a new location, and environmental concerns recently documented in the local blog Justice for All?

It just made me stop and think about a philosophy of mine. Anyone can complain about a problem, but who’s going to stick their neck out and offer solutions?

In the interest of disclosure, I have lived in this area 16 months and have yet to make it into the Salisbury Zoo. I guess I’m not much of an animal buff. A zoo is a nice place for a family to go but I live by myself so it’s somewhat less incentive. Honestly, I know I can’t beat the admission price.

To write this post, I decided to do some research and comparison. Because it’s in my native city and personally I think it would be a good zoo to emulate, I used the Toledo Zoo is one basis of comparison. I also looked up the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore for their facts and figures to see how the zoo here stacks up.

Using the Maryland Zoo as a comparison is a little bit more fair to the Salisbury Zoo, particularly in a financial sense. The Toledo Zoo has one big advantage as Ohio law allowed it to go on the ballot for a property tax levy. Thus, the citizens of Lucas County (or at least the property owners) all serve as a funding source for the zoo – an 0.7 mill operating levy ($7 per $1,000 of assessed valuation) has been in place since at least 1987 and is renewable every 10 years. But this coming May the zoo is going to the voters seeking an increase to an 0.85 mill operating levy plus an additional 1 mill levy to fund their master plan. Since I’ve not heard of any such levy type here, I have to presume there’s no statute allowing it in Maryland law.

Some relevant facts and figures about each of the zoos (from their websites unless noted):

Date founded: Maryland Zoo 1876 (3rd oldest in the country), Toledo Zoo 1900, Salisbury Zoo 1954.

Number of animals: Toledo Zoo 4,500, Maryland Zoo 1,500, Salisbury Zoo 200-500 (by various estimates).

Cost of admission:

Maryland Zoo is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for kids, under 2 free, parking is free; zoo is closed in January and February.

Toledo Zoo is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and kids, under 2 free, parking is $5 (free for members) with half-price admission during “Frozentoesen” in January and February.

Salisbury Zoo is free admission and parking, open year-round.

Memberships:

Maryland Zoo memberships are $55 individual, $59 senior, $65 individual plus, $87 grandparents, $87 family, $99 family plus – all the way up to “Pride of the Zoo” which is $1,500.

Toledo Zoo memberships are $35 individual, $45 individual plus, $50 grandparents, $60 family – their high end is “President’s Platinum Circle” for $2,500.

Salisbury Zoo memberships are $20 for students and seniors, $25 individual, $40 family, $60 deluxe family – topping out at $500 for a corporate patron membership.

Each zoo has other various ways of attempting to garner financial support. Common ones are animal sponsorships, pathway bricks/tiles, and each has some sort of party for sponsors and patrons. They all also do a Halloween-themed event.

But the two larger zoos have an “ace in the hole” that Salisbury’s seems to lack. The Toledo Zoo annually festoons itself in lights (they begin stringing them up about Labor Day) for its “Lights Before Christmas” display. It’s good for at least 100,000 visitors in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. And the Maryland Zoo relies heavily on corporate sponsorships and advertising opportunities (with “official” products, signage, ticketbacks, newsletter ads, etc.)

In reading up for this, there were a couple interesting things I found out about the Salisbury Zoo. Since it’s on a tiny site (just 12 acres) the largest animal they have is their bear. And I had no idea that Jim Rapp was such a young guy. I’m picturing a middle-age executive type and find out he became director of the zoo at the ripe old age of 25. He’s younger than me!

I sort of wonder if Jim Rapp’s lack of prior experience wasn’t the root of the current problems. Did they do a long search for a new zoo director when he was hired? Basically it seems to me like he was overwhelmed if anything. And with an $18 million upgrade master plan hanging in the balance, it may be time for some changes.

So, now that I’ve gone through the comparisons, it’s time to contribute my two cents.

To me, the best and surest way to help the zoo is to charge admission. I know the tradition is for a free zoo but in order to give itself a better revenue stream it’s necessary to start getting more than just the few dollars in the donation box. Animals aren’t cheap to feed, nor are zookeepers.

I think a fair price would be what the Ward Museum charges, which I believe is $7 for adults. That puts Salisbury at a price point that’s half of the Maryland Zoo. If you charge $3 for kids, that still means a family of four gets in for $20, and that’s not unreasonable. Memberships could be raised somewhat as well, maybe to $60 for a family and $35 for a single. On single-day tickets there could even be a “twofer” deal where $10 gets you into both the museum and zoo. Even if attendance and memberships go down by 1/3 I would think the revenues would increase.

Once the revenue stream gets set up, then the zoo can work on its facilities. It sounds like the MDE is going to have a lot to say about what goes on at the zoo but once those changes are outlined, then the Salisbury Zoo can slowly work on its master plan. I suspect an additional part of that plan would have to be some sort of levee or something to alleviate the potential flooding problems at the zoo site. But the first order of business is to stop all the animal deaths. I looked up the next accreditation date for the Salisbury Zoo and it’s in September 2009. They have 3 1/2 years to get things straightened out.

Finally, I have to say that, in order for all this to occur, it may be a time for a change at the top. Whether he was overwhelmed from the start or just a well-meaning but incompetent director, I think Jim Rapp needs to be replaced. And there’s nothing that says he can’t stay with the zoo – perhaps a more senior administrator from a successful zoo can come here as the top man and teach Jim Rapp how to do things right, then a wiser, more experienced leader could emerge.

A zoo can be a focal point of a city and a nice tourist attraction. When people asked, “what’s there to do in Toledo?” invariably the Toledo Zoo would come up. That’s not true for Baltimore, but Baltimore is a large city with multiple things to do from a tourist standpoint. As it stands now, Salisbury is basically known for being the last big town before Ocean City for the folks coming from the other shore. A nice zoo might not be the hugest tourist draw, but it’s something that can’t hurt the area. There’s no other zoo within an hour of Salisbury, so why not make it a worthwhile destination?

Odd and ends #3

February 15, 2006 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Odd and ends #3 

Editor’s note: I changed the name of the post since I already had a series of short semi-related stories under the “Odds and Ends” banner. Like to be consistent.

Every day should be Politically Incorrect Day, but this one is a pretty good example. Maryland’s comptroller and onetime governor William Donald Schaefer got in trouble this week (from the Sun):

Responding to Schaefer’s request for tea, the woman, who serves as an executive assistant in Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s front office, set a thermal mug in front of the 84-year-old comptroller. Schaefer watched her walk away and then beckoned for her to return. When she obliged, he told her to “Walk again” and stared after her as she left the room.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Schaefer defended the comment in a profanity-laced rant.

“That’s so goddamn dumb, I can’t believe it,” Schaefer said when asked about the appropriateness of his remarks. “She’s a pretty little girl.”

The comptroller said the woman “ought to be damn happy that I observed her going out the door.”

“The day I don’t look at pretty women is the day I die,” he said.

Of course, the Sun couldn’t resist noting that Schaefer “has a close personal and professional relationship” with Governor Ehrlich, despite the fact Schaefer is a Democrat and Ehrlich the GOP governor. And somehow that party affiliation escaped mention in the story!

I guess maybe the Sun is pissed because they lost their court case against Governor Ehrlich.

Speaking of the governor, it looks like he’ll keep at least one thing orderly about the 2006 elections, as he’s vowed to veto the bill to immediately restore felons’ right to vote. This means that the General Assembly wouldn’t have the opportunity to further gum up the electoral works until after this fall’s elections. It remains to be seen whether there will be more Republicans to help sustain the veto next year or if the governor’s chair switches back to the Democrats, in which case the bill could simply be reintroduced if desired.

Since felons ALREADY have that right after three years out of prison, I see no reason to change the law. The Democrats just wanted free votes that they couldn’t already steal with the other so-called “reforms.”

And another probable veto is in the works as a bill to allow pharmacists to distribute “emergency” contraception without a prescription was introduced today by State Senator Sharon Grosfeld, a Montgomery County Democrat (duh!) NARAL notes that this bill is their “top priority” this year. Remember, NARAL stands for National Abortion Rights Action League, so it’s patently obvious what the prescription is really for.

So lots of little stuff going on, which makes for interesting and blended posts like this one.

Taking the test, again

February 12, 2006 · Posted in Personal stuff, Politics · 2 Comments 

Back in the ttrwc days I took the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” and it showed me as closer to libertarian than conservative.

Timmer at Righting America takes a different, longer quiz and is surprised by the results.

Read the post and you’ll see my comment about where I fell on it. I was only surprised about one direction.

Late edit: to show you how dense I am about computers sometimes, it was just today that I finally figured out how “trackbacks” work. So I actually am tracked back from Righting America.

Responses

February 11, 2006 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics · 2 Comments 

I had a couple interesting comments to the last post so I decided to use the occasion for another post as a way to answer and extend the remarks on things happening locally.

The first portion answers “First Timer’s” comment.

I do live in Wicomico County, but my outrage at the so-called Dream Team is limited because of two factors, the most important being a lack of time perspective. I have no basis of comparison to a pre-2003 City Council to judge the current crop by. To use the term given by some with a touch of arrogance, I’m what’s called a “come-here.” For all I know, it could have been much worse back then! The second factor is that in about 14 months we can get rid of any of those people we desire to at the ballot box, provided anyone runs against them.

I have to admit that 2005’s election didn’t provide me a lot of comfort as far as the mayor’s race went. The guy I liked didn’t make it out of the primary, and the loser (Donald Long) pissed me off at a forum when he started ragging on Wal-Mart. I hate that anti-corporate bullshit. So I was holding my nose voting for that one – reminded me of most municipal elections I voted in back in Ohio. But since I live in District 2 and I got to hear Debbie Campbell in person at a candidate forum, I did vote for her. She seems like a passionate advocate for her neighborhood and the city of Salisbury.

As far as the worksession fiasco, I don’t care much for the tactics but I assume since Mike Dunn is the Council President he gets to set the rules for that as he sees fit. Obviously, open meetings statutes govern some of his actions but I don’t see that in this case. Not accommodating Debbie Campbell’s simple request does seem very strange, though…perhaps some of her pet passionate issues are on the agenda and they want no dissenting voice. Or, maybe Mike Dunn is bringing his 100 supporters of the Salisbury Mall site project to the meeting and needs the extra chair.

Now, to CD’s comment. I think he’s the type that would label me a “come-here.”

I have experience in the (fill in the blank) project is going to save the local economy scam. Back in the early ’80’s, because Baltimore had a “festival marketplace” and it was successful, the politicians in my native city of Toledo thought they could “save our dying downtown” by building one, which was called Portside. But there were two elements of common sense missing in their calculations:

1. To have a “festival marketplace” you need shops that people actually want to buy things from at a reasonable price.
2. If you want to be cold, walk along Toledo’s riverfront in January. It’s a lovely walk in the height of summer (when Portside first opened) but only the hardy walk there in the winter.

The timeline kind of went like this: In May, Portside opened. Business was great until about Labor Day. Come November, the first shops began to close because they couldn’t support the rent, which was parallel or higher to that of the local enclosed malls (which have tons of free parking and are close to where people actually live, unlike Portside.)

The experiment lasted about 2 or 3 years before the mostly empty Portside closed for good. Now it’s a science museum.

They tried the same argument with the new Mud Hens stadium. It’s a beautiful ballpark (you’ll see it this summer as Toledo hosts the 2006 AAA All-Star Game) but its economic impact: negligible. There’s a few added nightclubs and eateries downtown but nothing like what some forecast.

So saying that any project of the nature of Dorchester’s Hyatt project is going to “save the economy” immediately has to be taken with a grain of salt. Much more long-term economic impact would result if Wal-Mart builds that distribution center in Somerset. However, saying that, I think there is potential for this project to help the Dorchester economy moreso than Blackwater does now (as I argued.) I also think the environmental impact is way overblown by those who are more interested in stopping development in general than saving the Chesapeake in particular.

I would like to make one further point though as a caveat. A lot of the success of that Blackwater development depends on one thing: where will the jobs that support the incomes necessary to afford these homes come from?

By Mapquest’s calculations, it’s 28 miles from Cambridge to Seaford, 32 miles to Salisbury, 58 miles to Annapolis, and 65 miles to Dover. That’s a helluva commute, especially with gas being $2.25 a gallon or more. So most of these people are going to have to find work locally. Obviously with the increased population there is more demand for professional services (like doctors, dentists, lawyers, hopefully architects) and eventually for trickle-down positions like food service, lawn care, etc. The key is the professional jobs because you’re not going to live out there unless you OWN the restaurant or lawn service.

And, may I add, that the idea that development pollution is going to kill the entire ecosystem is even greater horsepatoot. Nature has a pretty good way of cleaning itself. We are a LONG way from becoming like the I-95 corridor. The Chesapeake ecosystem is going to outlive both of us and any kids we have.

I do have some additional comments as well. It’s funny how people that live in a place most of their lives have such a negative attitude about it whereas newcomers generally rave about the same place. I’m on the other side of this phenomenon now. I was very much the Toledo-basher when I lived there for most of 40 years, much like many of the comments I read on the local blogs here. In general I like this area – sure it has some faults but they’re fixable if someone wants to get the courage to apply the solutions. (I know, that’s the hard part.)

But to me, because the area is growing and there’s interest in even more growth, that is a great thing. Part of it is job-related, but part of it is having other people find the “diamond in the rough” we have here. I think it’s pretty cool that where I work, we have people who are native to Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Alabama, Tennessee, New York, Hawaii, a whole bunch of Keystone State natives, a sprinkling of people from this area, and little old me from Ohio. Most people I worked with in Toledo were lifers there.

So I suppose my perspective on a lot of issues facing the Eastern Shore is one of the outsider looking in. Hell, there’s still many large portions of Salisbury I’ve never been in (and some I’m glad I haven’t.)

I notice that a lot of posting locally in the local blogosphere has been on account of the Salisbury Zoo. Think I’m going to do some research in a couple places for another post. That and maybe show up there sometime. On the other hand, Joe Albero and his handy camera have probably shown me much more there than I wanted to see!

A backwards approach

February 8, 2006 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics · 3 Comments 

Today I came across a letter to the editor in the Daily Times. In it, the writer noted many of the struggles she’s gone through to get her site plan approved with the county and state, simply because she lives in an area adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

The point of her letter was to ask why a homeowner can be held to a stricter standard than a developer. And she’s right…not because the developer should be held to a stricter standard, but because she should be held to a less onerous one. What she describes in her letter is absolute overkill on the part of Dorchester County and the state of Maryland.

She notes that her father, a onetime state senator, would oppose the proposed development. Therein lies the rub with me.

Although I’m ambivalent about the golf course (there’s plenty to choose from here and participation in golf seems to be on a decline) the idea of Cambridge and Dorchester County getting a shot in the arm with an influx of 3200 new homes has its appeal. I want to live in an area that people want to come to and make it their home. And these people would likely help out the city of Cambridge by creating new jobs for non-development residents, everything from the initial construction to the service and professional needs of the additional people. That creates a spinoff effect.

The same goes for the Summerfield subdivision planned for Snow Hill, which would create more than a thousand new residences over a multiyear period. I honestly believe that the additional growth would be good for the Eastern Shore. We’re not going to turn into the I-95 corridor overnight, contrary to what many believe. There’s always going to be open spaces, simply because not all of the land can be developed as it’s situated in lowlying areas.

But back to the BNWR, which, according to its website, has 500,000 visitors a year. Since the admission to the refuge for all intents and purposes is $3 (some get in for less and people can get multivisit passes), that means the impact on the area from admissions alone is $1.5 million. I’ll estimate that once overnight stays and meals that are consumed by out of area tourists are factored in, the impact could reach $5 million a year.

We all know that, once a piece of land becomes Federal property, it’s pretty much going to stay that way, particularly if it’s a natural refuge. (But if it were a military base, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation would be all for the military leaving.) So the BNWR will remain regardless of this development, and most of its 27,000 acres (by my calculations that is 42 square miles) will exhibit little if any effect. I see little chance of a drop in tourism there.

So the $5 million impact will continue (maybe it’ll drop to $4.5 million the first couple years until people realize that the development did little harm.) As an aside, this development may even be somewhat better for the environment since who knows what runoff occurs from the farmland that’s there now. Many’s the time in the spring in these parts that you catch a whiff of “natural” fertilizer. Moreover, additional tax revenue will come in from improved property values, and newly created jobs to cater to the added population. Yes, some will be offset by additional expenditures incurred for more government services like police, fire, and schools; but on balance the area should benefit while losing little of what it has now.

This leads me to an extremely short-sighted comment by gubertorial candidate Martin O’Malley, who is the current mayor of Baltimore. In a recent campaign stop in Caroline County, O’Malley claimed that it was cuts in state aid that were spurring development (hat tip: Delmarva Dealings.)

For one thing, what does O’Malley know about growth, considering Baltimore is losing population? Secondly, putting local governments in a position to depend on handouts from the state rather than trying to prosper through growth results in the same thing that always happens when there’s too much dependence on government: stagnation. Someday the spigot stops and towns are left to their own devices. To me, Cambridge is trying to break that cycle and should be commended for seeking a private-sector solution.

If the state of Maryland is going to use Blackwater as a poster child for a push to restrict growth, it’s someday going to end up in the same boat as many of the other “blue states” (and even red ones) that are losing population because of a declining local economy. Investment in development should be encouraged, not shunned. Sadly, the Democrats in Maryland, with their fringe environmentalist allies in this case, are throwing up more roadblocks to progress than is good for the people of this area.

Birthday man

February 6, 2006 · Posted in National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Birthday man 

Had he lived, today would have been President Ronald Reagan’s 95th birthday. President Reagan was the recipient of the first Presidential vote I ever cast in 1984. In my opinion, despite our current President’s heroic stand on fighting the menace of radical Islamic terror, President Reagan remains the greatest president of my lifetime.

He changed the attitude of an entire country, from the gloomy malaise of the Carter years to a sunny optimism that America could remain the “shining city on the hill.” And his economic policy managed to allow America both guns and butter, as his tax cuts spurred a generation of solid growth that continues to this day. Even if his successors forgot to read their own lips or simply worked as hard as they could without generating a middle-class tax cut, no one has suggested returning tax rates to their pre-Reagan levels.

In honor of Reagan’s birthday, today’s Federalist Patriot, as usual, devoted its entire issue to the words and legacy of President Reagan. This group also maintains a comprehensive website on Reagan conservatism.

On this anniversary of Ronald Wilson Reagan’s birth, both are very good resources on our 40th President.

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