Wicomico County Memorial Day ceremony

May 29, 2006 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 4 Comments 

Memorial Day is a lot of things: the unofficial kickoff of summer, a day for most to be off work, and another excuse for retailers to have a sale. And as I’ve only been in Maryland since the fall of 2004, this is the second Memorial Day I’ve spent as a Free State resident. But last year I chose to visit my family in Ohio over the holiday so I missed the remembrances here. While it was nice to be with my folks and my brothers enjoying a great cookout, I sort of missed the solemnity associated with the day.

But this year my parents are preparing to retire to Florida so I opted to stay here for the weekend. In years past, I’ve tried to attend some gathering to honor the veterans. Toledo has a Memorial Day parade and ceremony, but generally it’s held the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and sadly attendance is pretty sparse. One thing I didn’t care for regarding the citizens of Toledo was the small attendance at the Memorial Day parade compared to the thousands who participate in and watch the Labor Day parade. Granted, Toledo is a heavily unionized town, but those throngs should make it downtown twice a year, as Memorial Day in my opinion is vastly more important. Without veterans, we would have neither Memorial Day nor Labor Day.

This morning I attended the gathering held at the Wicomico County War Veterans Memorial.

The site of the 2006 Memorial Day ceremony, Salisbury, Maryland.

The theme of the event was a standard: “Never Forget”. With thousands of veterans of World War II and the Korean Conflict dying every year, and the Viet Nam era servicemen advancing toward retirement age, it’s easier for our youth-oriented society to lose track of the sacrifices they made.

Plaques listing those who made the ultimate sacrifice with Wicomico County ties.

The War Memorial was dedicated in 2003.

This is part of the Wicomico County War memorial. As shown above, it was dedicated on Memorial Day of 2003.

Wicomico County Council President Anthony Sarbanes.

Today’s master of ceremonies was Wicomico County Council President Anthony Sarbanes (shown above.) After observing that to date 1,142,655 American men and women had paid their price for the freedom we enjoy today, he introduced Rev. Tom Bunting, who did the invocation, and the National Anthem, sung by Ronny Cheezum.

After the lowering of the colors by the Wicomico County Junior ROTC, the Gold Star Mothers and the Wicomico War Memorial Committee were asked to stand. Sarbanes also mentioned the elected officials that were present (besides himself): District 38A Delegate Page Elmore, Wicomico County Council members Larry Dodd and Gail Bartkovich, and Register of Wills Karen Lemon. Also spied in the crowd was Wicomico County Sheriff candidate Kirk Daugherty.

Maryland Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs James A. Adkins.

We then heard a Proclamation from Governor Ehrlich exhorting Marylanders to set aside some time today to honor and thank our veterans, read by Deputy Secretary James A. Adkins of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.

After Adkins finished, we were given a reading of the Air Force, Coast Guard, Army, Navy, and Marine Prayers.

Ed Tattersall reading the names of Wicomico County veterans killed in action since World War I.

Ed Tattersall then read the over 180 names of county veterans who died to defend our land. Most of these are enshrined on the wall shown above, with a few additions becoming necessary due to Operation Iraqi Freedom. At the announcement of each conflict (World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict, etc.) a bell was tolled.

Ringing a bell to honor our fallen servicemen.

The solemn ceremony concluded with Matthew Wallace playing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, the volley of arms by American Legion Post 64 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 194, and “Taps” played by Jim Collins. I noticed another photographer on that side of the ceremony (to the left of the stage, I was to the right) so hopefully the Daily Times will record those moments for posterity.

The Reverend J. Harvey Dixon performed the benediction that finalized the half-hour ceremony.

Some of the onlookers at the 2006 Memorial Day service.

The Patriot Guard, present and accounted for.

Fortunately, we had a nice day and a fair-sized gathering that included members of the Patriot Guard. When I pulled up to the Civic Center, I saw a huge number of cars and thought attendance would be such to befit this event, until I realized that the majority of them were here for a weekend wrestling tournament being held inside. There were a few who ventured outside to see the festivities, which was good to see.

But if you do nothing else today, thank a veteran for his service. Then again, if you see one August 18th (or any other day on the calendar), you should do the same.

One other thing I missed, and I’m sure it happens all over Delmarva this weekend, is the tradition of placing small flags at the gravesites of each veteran buried in the local cemetaries. Getting my news of this event from the Daily Times, I didn’t see any sort of volunteer contact to do these honors. Hopefully for Memorial Day 2007 this oversight will be corrected, perhaps through the local blogosphere. I’d be happy to help that cause.

One thousand words per

May 28, 2006 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on One thousand words per 

For those of you who read monoblogue regularly, I’m sure you’re aware that I like to sprinkle photos in where I can – most of these go with my Shorebird of the Week, but there’s others as well. And for those of you who don’t read monoblogue regularly, I think you need to start! It takes a lot of handcrafting to present news and views from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Anyway, there’s a few limitations I have to endure in order to make the photos work with the blog, the biggest of which is a 500 pixel or so width limitation. This is so my columns work properly, otherwise the formatting is shot. However, I like to take pictures with the maximum resolution I can with my camera, it’s something on the order of 2300 x 1700. It works okay with my Shorebird pictures because my cropping them makes up for distance to subject, but for landscape pictures and such it’s a disaster.

Now I’ve had people tell me about some of the comments I occasionally get from Dan, a fellow blogger (the guy I jokingly refer to as my leftist archnemesis) but one thing he does pretty well is take landscape pictures around his Oregon home and post them on his blog. With my format limitation, I can’t do that so well.

But today I remembered that I have a Flickr page that I’ve pretty much neglected since I started it a few months back. After a little rearrangement, it’s now a page that has some of the shots I’ve taken around the area…most some of those were taken today on a little wandering trip I took down south a piece (Somerset County).

Since I enjoy taking the pictures but they don’t always “fit” on this blog sizewise or subjectwise, I’m going to link it through my blog and those who enjoy photography can see my shots of our scenery. Hope you like them.

Edit: Also I did have a few additional shots of the Memorial Day ceremony above that I’ll post after June 1st. Being a “free” Flickr member, I can only upload so many shots a month.

Signs, signs, everywhere (gang) signs…

Over the last week or so, and culminating in a public forum last Tuesday, the topic du jour on the local blogosphere was the gang problem in Salisbury and how to combat it. Unfortunately, I ended up missing both sides of the Tuesday gang forum presentation due to work and a previous appointment, but I read in Justice For All? here and here that it was a very good presentation.

With that, I became inspired to make a request to my local elected official, who happens to be the famous (or infamous, if you support the so-called “Dream Team”) Debbie Campbell. It went something like this:

Dear Mrs. Campbell:

In the last few days, there’s been quite a bit of discussion about what to do about the problem of gangs in Salisbury. At the same time, you have been one pushing for more accountability in city government, and by extension, those who own or seek to develop property in the city. It’s a sad fact that only about 1/3 of the dwellings in Salisbury are owner-occupied, right now I’m one of those 2/3 who rent.

But with owning property comes responsibility, and I’ve seen a lot of instances (either in person or on local blogs) where gang graffiti (or “tagging”) is allowed to remain untouched on buildings and structures. I know one element (albeit a minor one) of preventing gangs from establishing their “turf” is to paint over these tags and symbols as quickly as possible after they are applied. Further, leaving these symbols sets a bad example for property maintenance in that locality – one tagged house or outbuilding can start bringing a whole neighborhood down and embolden the “wannabe” youths who may become inspired to join up with a local gang.

I’m sure there are ordinances on the books regarding how landlords and other property owners maintain their property. But something I think should be added is a regulation that owners (or their agents) should regularly inspect their properties and eliminate this graffiti as quickly as possible, or after a period of time the city would fix it and charge the owner to do so. (Preferably the owner would take care of it, I know Salisbury’s city employees are already overburdened.)

While I am certainly in the libertarian camp of those who favor as few restrictions as possible on property use, I also find that the current risk to public safety from gangs does outweigh the right of the property owner to use his property as he desires. Something that does not seem to be shown enough in this day and age within Salisbury (and in many other places for that matter) is pride of ownership, and it’s going to take whole neighborhoods to combat this scourge we are facing.

One caveat: I would like to see this ordinance set with a sunset date, but this is only because I believe laws (at least those subservient to the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions) should be revisited periodically in order to determine their appropriateness for the conditions present at the time. Currently I’m of the opinion that such a law is appropriate, hopefully in a decade it may not be required anymore.

Since I’m no student of the law nor do I have a copy of the Salisbury city ordinances handy, I’ll leave it up to you and/or the city’s legal department to properly word what I’m describing as either a new ordinance or as a supplement to an existing one. But I appreciate your taking a few minutes to read my concern and thank you for your service in general.

Sincerely,

Michael Swartz
(address)

I sent this out on Wednesday, so far no response from Debbie Campbell. That’s a bit surprising, I have spoken to her on one other occasion and thought her rather courteous.

That brings me to another topic peripheral to the gang subject. There was this comment on JFA? in regard to a throwaway line Hadley posted endorsing Mike Lewis for Wicomico County Sheriff (clipped verbatim):

I’ll vote for Mike Lewis before I ever vote for major doris who does nothing but campaign at the expense of the citizens of this county. Pretending to be representing the Sheriff’s Office. Righttttttttttttt.

Like I said, I did not attend the gang forum so I have no opportunity to verify this – however, I did listen to the pair of interviews given on Bill Reddish’s WICO radio morning show and read the account in the Daily Times. Nowhere on those accounts was it mentioned that Major Doris was running for sheriff. She certainly had every opportunity to plug her campaign on the two interviews she shared with Dan Daugherty, but in truth she let him do most of the talking. So I’m assuming that at the gang summits, it wasn’t made obvious that she was in the running for the post.

Now I’ll grant that name recognition is a big part of the political game, but could it be that Sheriff Nelms delegated the task of handling the gang summit to Major Schonbrunner? It’s his opinion that she should take over the job when he leaves after this term, so why not give her the responsibility of putting the event together? Makes sense to me, and it ties in with her current administrative position within the office.

I’ve had a couple opportunities to speak with Major Doris for some length, and both times I’ve found her accomodating and willing to answer questions. If anything, I think she’s quite the low-key candidate and far from political.

As I’ve said before, if you think that the Sheriff’s Department is run well, certainly there are candidates from within representing both parties. If you want to shake the place up, again, both parties have at least one person with a law enforcement background that doesn’t involve the current Sheriff’s Department. But whoever wins is going to have to put up with a gang problem that we need to solve as a community.

I demand answers!

A little while back, I detailed that I was sending ten questions to each person running for federal office in our Delmarva region. With a U.S. Senate seat up for grabs in all three states and three House districts touching Delmarva, this worked out to about 33 different recipients, the majority of whom were running for the open U.S. Senate seat in Maryland.

Well, so far I have a total of TWO responses. Now I suppose I’ll be a little bit more forgiving of those folks in Delaware and Virginia, since they may not realize that folks from there do read monoblogue but the bulk of my readership is here in Maryland. Besides, with those seats not being “open” there’s only a small number of candidates involved (6 between the two states.) And I can’t vote for any of them, nor can most of my readers.

However, with those two states I am oh-for-6. If you count U.S. House candidates, it’s 0 for 12. And it’s not like I asked hard questions…maybe a bit detailed but that’s because I want thoughtful responses.

But I can call out those in my state who have refused to answer the Ten Questions. Let’s start with the U.S. Senate race (in alphabetical order, those who have either filed or have a website showing intent to run.) There are 19 people who fall in this category, let’s start with…

Ray Bly. According to what I read, you’ve ran before (unsuccessfully, of course.) So one would think that you’d know if you’re going to have a website, how about constructing the damn thing? I know you’re not spending the time answering my questions, that’s for sure.

Ben Cardin. What a surprise, a Democrat who’s afraid to answer anything but softball questions. Come on, I didn’t ask you about your lifetime ACU rating of 6 or anything like that. If you’re going to have such left-wing views, at least defend them to me and the readers on the Eastern Shore who you’ll likely ask to vote for you in November. I’m giving you the forum…

Earl Gordon. He’s one of two who did respond. The only problem I have is that the man sent me all 47 pages of his platform and I’ll have to actually work to find where he answered my questions!

Thomas Hampton. Who are you? What are you doing here? Actually, I do like your website in one respect: you have an area that says “if you have ten minutes, check out Key Issues first.” How about if you take an hour (if that) and answer my questions? I can bet that you’ll get more traffic with my website and those who will almost certainly link to it than you’re getting now.

James Hutchinson. As far as I know, you have no website. And since you haven’t answered my Ten Questions, why should anyone waste their time determining what sort of candidate you are?

Anthony Jaworski. I swear, some people just like to see their name on the ballot. My friend, you have zero name recognition. Maybe if you put out your views, you might get to more than an asterisk in the polls?

A. Robert Kaufman. Call me a compassionate conservative, but getting the snot beat out of you by an ex-tenant will get you a pass. Continue to recover on the campaign trail.

John Kimble. First of all, I would think that “kimbleforsenate” would be a much more accurate web name than “kimbleforcongress”. Or are you hedging your bets since you haven’t actually filed yet? Either way, you haven’t answered ten simple questions to my or anyone else’s satisfaction.

Allan Lichtman. To be honest, I really wish this guy would answer the Ten Questions, it would likely be interesting reading because he does have a great blog. Maybe there was a staff disagreement on how many paid people it would take to answer them?

Thomas McCaskill. According to your campaign site, you were the “Principal Co-Designer of the Global Positioning System (GPS)”. So you can’t use the excuse that you lost my Ten Questions, can you?

Kweisi Mfume. My questions do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender preference, which side of the bed you got out of this morning, or anything at all. Just honest questions on likely issues you’d face in the Senate that I’ve not received answers to from you to date.

Daniel Muffoletto. There’s something I would love to have you explain to me, and the Ten Questions would go a long way toward doing so: what the hell is a Green Republican? You claim to be one, let the voters know what the difference is in the format I present to all comers.

Josh Rales. From your own website: I also hope you will not hesitate to contact me with your ideas and questions … I want and need your ideas on how we together can achieve the results that Marylanders deserve.

I did. You haven’t answered them yet. As for my ideas, I have this nice little website that I write in once in awhile, it’s www.monoblogue.us.

Dennis Rasmussen. I actually cannot call him out quite yet – due to a snafu, I didn’t get his contact info until about a week after everyone else’s, so he got an extra week. He (or I should say his campaign coordinator) also promised a timely response, so I’m holding you to that Barbara.

Charles Smith. I mailed the Ten Questions to the post office box he shows as an address. Wonder if they are still there? Hope he’s better at answering his mail should he somehow pull off the victory.

Michael Steele. A black conservative Republican. Well, I don’t care if you’re black, white, or purple, what I care about is not ducking the questions I’ve asked of you and all the others who would be running for this office. Why should I support you and not someone else?

Let me tell you, I’m probably asking a lot fairer questions (and the same ones go to all involved) than anyone with the Baltimore Sun is going to ask. Quit being a gutless frontrunner.

Corrogan Vaughn. On your website you claim, “It is about People and Principles and not about Party or Politics! It is all about our citizens!!” No, it’s about answering my questions.

Daniel “Wig Man” Vovak. Responded the next day, way to go.

Kevin Zeese. I did get an e-mail from him saying that these were good questions and lots of work to answer them all. So I’m assuming I’ll have his answers in the next week.

And I’m not quite finished with my venom, I still have an incumbent Congressman and his challenger to contend with. Some would argue that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats, and in the First District race, given Wayne Gilchrest’s voting record, they just could be right.

But neither of them has bothered to answer my questions. Right now the race stands between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Granted, neither has a primary opponent – but still, the campaign’s already begun and I’m sure the Maryland Democrats would like to push Gilchrest off the Hill.

Now here’s the lessons I’ve learned so far. Number one, coming up with good questions is hard work. I really tried to be as nonpartisan, “just the facts ma’am” as I can muster. I suppose I’ve succeeded when I have two Republicans who have responded and a Democrat and Green who have promised to.

Number two, the internet and blogs still have a long way to go to get respect. If I worked for the MSM I may have gotten more response so far…but does that mean my questions as an average Free State citizen (who happens to pay for server space and maybe has just a bit of writing talent) are less valid then ones from some reporter paid by the MSM? You never know just how far the answers could go, I’ve certainly done my share of linking when I see something appropriate.

Lesson number three is not really a lesson, just something I’ve thought all along but was hoping to be proved wrong. It appears that almost all politicians are gutless. They have a great time with hand-selected crowds and scripted 30 second commercials that show their warm and fuzzy side, but give them honest questions from a constituent (or an interested observer) and they’ll ignore them as best they can.

Of this group, the only one I have met was Michael Steele, and it was a brief handshake and nice to meet you moment. This was back when he announced his campaign in October – no tough questions, a fairly friendly crowd of mostly supporters, and pretty much a scripted event. I’ve been peripherally involved in politics long enough to see a lot of those – the crowd whoops it up in front of the TV cameras, holds up the signs, and you hope to get some face time on the local TV news and/or a glowing article in the local paper. Both major parties and their candidates are involved in these sort of events, so don’t construe this as picking on Michael Steele. (I certainly wouldn’t throw Oreos at him, at any rate.)

So I hope that this is inspiring to people who want to make a difference and decide to toss their hat into the ring. Yes, I’m likely coming across as insulting to some, but I’m quite frustrated with this lack of response – particularly from a lot of people who aren’t raking in the campaign contributions and don’t have the means for a 30 second commercial. Here’s an opportunity to have some free publicity.

As for the so-called frontrunners, aside from the party apparatus thinking they have the best chance to win, what qualifications do they have? If we send you to Washington, what are you going to do for (or to) the citizens of Maryland? I’m not one swayed by 30 second commercials, I want to know their stance on issues.

Despite the mess our electoral process may be this fall, still the majority of votes will be fairly cast by people who I hope vote for their guy (guess I can say that since the one woman dropped out of the race) based on their thinking through “who best represents my interests?” Please, people of Maryland, regardless of who you pull the lever for, let it be out of substance rather than flash.

I’m just a guy trying to help you out. So a little cooperation from those asking for our votes would be greatly appreciated.

Shorebird of the week 5-25-2006

May 25, 2006 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the week 5-25-2006 

Last year's Orioles first round pick Brandon Snyder is in the midst of his initial full season as a pro.

When you’re a team’s number one pick in the draft, you have a lot of expectations placed upon you. Just less than a year ago, current Shorebird catcher Brandon Snyder drew all that attention as he went from high schooler in Centreville, Virginia to well-paid pro in less than a month.

And Snyder got off to a pretty good start in his pro career, hitting .291 between Bluefield (44 games) and Aberdeen (8 games). He led all of the Orioles rookie leaguers with 41 RBI between the two stops as well.

2006 has been a little bit more of a struggle for the teenager (he’ll not turn 20 until November.) With a recent stint on the disabled list, Snyder’s been limited to playing in just 24 of Delmarva’s 44 games thus far. His lower offensive numbers also reflect the higher level of competition – he’s now playing against guys who are mostly 2 to 4 years older and more experienced. So a .240 average in 96 at bats isn’t terrible, and he’s kept a little bit of power with 3 home runs and 15 RBI to his credit. In fact, he’s the lone Shorebird who has more extra base hits (12) than singles (11).

Honestly I’m not so sure the Orioles are worried about the offense though. A large part of developing a catcher is teaching him to work with the pitchers and call a good game. And I’m certain that, like most catchers, something Snyder takes pride in is the success of the pitching staff. In that instance, Delmarva’s league-leading ERA should give Brandon something to smile at.

Being picked number one generally means you’re on a fast track to the Show. A few of the 2005 picks are already there or on the cusp of that dream. It’s likely going to take a little longer for Brandon Snyder to get there but the Orioles are going to give him every opportunity to grow into an eventual job behind the dish in Camden Yards. Right now they have Ramon Hernandez doing a four-year stint with the Orioles, but I’m sure in the back of their mind they’d like to see Brandon Snyder assume that role by the end of Hernandez’s contract in 2009.

WCRC meeting – May 2006

Tonight I did double duty so this blog post might just read like meeting minutes, all because I compiled them tonight. I think that’s known as secretary pro tem. Basically I was picked because everyone knows I write the blog post on the meetings anyway. And at least two of my fans were there tonight so I’m up late to get this done!

So I think I’ll copy the meeting minutes direct and place my thoughts within…also you don’t need to know some of the goings-on that a secretary has to record, like seconding and such. So here’s the blog version of our meeting this month.

We did the usual Pledge and invocation, approved last month’s minutes, and found out that our booth at the Salisbury Festival was “extremely successful”, the best performance in 6 years. So the treasurer’s report showed we have over twice our May 2005 balance.

As some of you might know, the Lincoln Day dinner for our corner of Maryland is June 9th, and the speaker will be Maryland Secretary of Business and Economic Development Aris Melissaratos. That’s going to make for a busy weekend, since the Lower Shore Women’s Republican Club has a fundraiser the night before and District 38A Delegate Page Elmore has a fundraiser the next night.

We also found out a longtime member is leaving us to be closer to his grandkids – this will open up a seat on the local liquor board.

Several elected officials were present at the meeting (Sonny Bloxom, Worcester County Commissioner, Phillip Gosnell, the “mayor” of Sharptown (his “official” title is different but same function), and both Gail and John Bartkovich (respectively District 3 on County Council and a GOP Central Committeeperson.) Candidates for office present included Bloxom, Jack Lord, and Michael James (all running for Delegate in District 38B); Ron Alessi for County Executive, George Ossman for Orphan’s Court, and Doris Schonbrunner for Sheriff. If Bonnie Luna had shown we would’ve been 4 for 4 in that 38B race.

At that point, the meeting was turned over to the featured speaker, Michael James. He certainly has made his presence known in the race:

Michael James's sign at Perdue Stadium.

It’s an eyecatching place for a sign if nothing else – figure 200,000 people will go to games this season, and maybe 40,000 to 60,000 will be eligible district voters. And the season works out almost perfectly for the campaign – it’s over just before our primary on September 12 (unless the Shorebirds go deep into the playoffs.)

He is one of those four GOP candidates vying for the two seats representing District 38B, which covers all of Worcester County and the eastern half of Wicomico County. It’s nicely gerrymandered in that I literally live on the edge of the district, one of the few Salisbury city residents to do so. The way the D’s and the courts set this county up as far as delegates go is completely nuts.

James first stressed the reasons why he was running: he cares about the issues, the time was perfect for him to run on a personal level, and he felt that the district was being “poorly represented” by Norm Conway and the late Bennett Bozman. In further remarks regarding Delegate Conway, James noted that Conway “votes how he’s told” and is “fighting for the union bosses” rather than fighting for Perdue employees, for example.

He continued by stating the current delegates voted for higher taxes, against Jessica’s Law (mandatory sentencing for sex offenders), and voted in 1997 to give away $250 million to Baltimore City Schools without any accountability – yet when the state wanted to take over the schools because of poor test results, Bozman and Conway voted against that. In a nutshell, James told the group that our delegates voted with Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County more than they did the Eastern Shore. Those areas are among the “bluest” in Maryland (Kerry carried Montgomery County by 65 points as I recall) whereas we on the Eastern Shore are among the “red” areas along with the state’s western panhandle.

To put it in short terms, James said he stood for common sense, individual responsibility, and smaller government.

Two questions were asked: on who he’d prefer as a Democrat opponent, James was more interested in seeing a contested primary. I’m all for that anyway as a rule, let the voters decide rather than the party bosses (of whatever stripe) in Annapolis. Tonight was supposed to be the night the Worcester County D’s decided on a caretaker for the seat, but the final decision rests with Governor Ehrlich. On slot machines, James favored slots at the horse racing tracks, but with the exception of Ocean Downs. Because of the contentious slots issue, there was a rumor about a year ago that the Ocean Downs track would be moved out of that area and into a more receptive area for slots, either Pocomoke or Snow Hill (can’t recall which, but it would stay in Worcester County – just farther from the “family” vacation spot of Ocean City.)

James did add that he has connections in Salisbury as he graduated from the then Salisbury State University and his first general managing job was at the Sheraton here in town. He also has family members who hail from this area. To conclude, he said that he wanted his children to be able to get jobs here on the Eastern Shore, and the “Wal-Mart vote was a defining moment for me” to run for the job.

Hey, it was a defining moment for this blog too, so it’s not just him!

Then it was back to business for a bit. We had the appeal for members to upgrade their membership to the status of Elephant Club members. Also, there are two openings on the county Board of Education coming this June.

I noted this a few posts back (since I was there), but it was announced to the club tonight that as part of the spring GOP convention, it was decided that the counties of the Eastern Shore will have its own vice chair in the party apparatus. Of course, Wicomico County would like to forward a candidate for that post. I think we are the largest of the 9 Eastern Shore counties, so I’d say we should get the post.

Personally, I think they may need to split the Eastern Shore up into a northern and southern half, and get a sixth vice chair. But it may be population-wise we are the smallest group anyway.

There is no Wicomico County chairman for the Steele senatorial campaign. I know this got mentioned last month, and it seems like it’s hard to get people to step up for that. I already did the leadership thing once and found out I’m a better Indian than chief.

Ellen Andrews, who is also the county chair of the Ehrlich re-election campaign, then had a short presentation on the petition for referendum regarding the early voting acts passed by the General Assembly in 2005, with Governor Ehrlich’s veto being overriden in the 2006 session. About 52,000 signatures statewide are required to place this on the ballot, the goal for our county is 1,100 – currently they are at 178. As stated awhile back, I did indeed sign the petition, and I have two in my possession for additional signees.

Andrews also announced Governor Ehrlich’s campaign would sponsor a night with the Shorebirds on Saturday, July 1st. The $4 per person price includes the game ticket and an Ehrlich T-shirt. The plan is to sit in one section and show a mass of support. That’s actually a pretty good deal, I can do that.

I have one caveat though. Through the years, I have worked on several campaigns and thus have gotten candidate t-shirts. I think I’ve had 7 or 8, and so far the candidates I’ve had shirts for are 0-fer. It makes me feel like Bob Shrum must feel – granted all of these elections were in Toledo, and that city is at least 2-1 Democrat.

We also found out that the state board of elections told our county board that early voting was on regardless of the referendum (which means Linda Lamone is full of crap since I can tell you where the Board of Elections site says otherwise) and the county should be ready for 2,000 early voters a day. (My guess is that the poor inner-city Baltimore folks will have a nice bus trip to Ocean City during “second season”, with a few stops along the way. Just fill out your provisional ballots like this.) Also noted was that the GOP had gained 30 voters in the last month, while the Democrats had a net loss of 2.

The speaker next month will be County Executive candidate Bob Culver. I think we’re now down to a few “major” candidates who we haven’t heard from – we’re departing from what I’m told is custom and having summer meetings this year, that way we can hear from all who want to speak up. So the next few months should be interesting, especially if I have to take notes like I did tonight!

The image worked!

May 20, 2006 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

Finally, I found a way to have the title look as I want, all in about a half hour’s work, and four different photos of the image that I originally printed up. Actually the lighting worked out really nice. So the site is coming around to the way I REALLY want it to look. Wasn’t real crazy about the tan colors at first, but it’s grown on me.

I think I’m going to drop about 2/3 of the Amazon ads as well, and maybe go with about 3 or 4 – maybe one with music, the rest with books and “stuff”. Probably change up the art.com sidebar too – it’s time for a bit of a makeover. Also I think I’m going to shorten the pages up some so that maybe it’s only the last 6-8 posts that are shown. It’s because I seem to have “regular” readers and I bet they would rather not scroll down half a mile to read the “Gaggle” cartoon. (Does anyone read that? I think it’s generally pretty funny.) I have at least two local candidates who have told me they read monoblogue, and I’m sure others do too. (Those stealth readers.)

Finally, I left a comment in a comment box a couple posts back but to place it on the main page: I finally found out how to eliminate that annoying problem with the comment box being a mile wide, at least for Microsoft IE. Have no idea if it works for other platforms but Mr. Gates will be happy should he care to comment. I’d like to see a bit more participation…for whatever reason, the spam commenters have decided to cut me some slack for the moment.

Now if I could get more responses to my “Ten Questions”, life would be grand. (Actually, if people would begin to click on my ads and buy stuff, and paying advertisers would knock on my door, it would be cherries and cream – don’t like peaches.) But I’m also thinking of doing that TQ concept on a more local scale later on, and I think that will work out better (hint hint). However, if the initial sendoff for the U.S. Senate doesn’t start showing results, it’s gonna get ugly because I am going to call them out as gutless (and I will name names.)

I know my website doesn’t have a huge number of readers like LGF or Powerline but I don’t focus on national issues either, except to the extent that they may affect the Eastern Shore and Delmarva in general. That’s where my reader base is from by and large. And like I said to each candidate, the internet is such that something I say could be put up worldwide. Fellow Maryland blogger Soccer Dad thought the ten questions were a good idea, so somebody approved.

What I’ve not been able to figure out is why there’s such a great disparity between my “hit rate” and my other stat counter. The hit rate on monoblogue will likely cross the 20,000 barrier this month, it was just under 15,000 as of 5 p.m. yesterday, and anything over 20,000 would be a new high. There were days this week I cracked the 1,000 hit barrier for the first time. But readership is a lot less on my other counter, it’s in the 200-250 per week range. This week should be a new high water mark in that regard, or at least close.

I suppose the hit rate is pumped up somewhat just by me posting, checking the michael@monoblogue.us mailbox, and messing around with the templates and such (which doesn’t count on my other site meter), but I’m not doing more than a few hundred of these in a month – nowhere near 20,000.

One thing that I wonder about as the state of the local blogosphere goes: what’s up with Delmarva Dealings? They haven’t posted in awhile! Hope things are all good with Publius and that cabal.

Brings me to close with an interesting thought I had while sitting at last night’s Shorebird victory. I wonder if any other Delmarva bloggers would like a group outing? We read each other’s stuff but wouldn’t know it if we bumped into one another on the street. (If you’re at a Shorebirds game and see a guy in a Detroit Tigers cap, yep, that’s me. I have fun at the games, particularly on opposing batter strikeouts.)

Longer post than what I expected, but it’s all good. Look for these and other changes coming soon.

Odds and ends no. 5

May 19, 2006 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Odds and ends no. 5 

Yes, it’s that time again. Just little stuff that won’t fill up a post by itself but I think is important.

First of all, it seems like our little area is getting some play politically from national figures, for whatever reason. Yesterday, Chief Justice John Roberts was in Cambridge to speak to a group of Maryland lawyers at their convention.

Then, according to the “Evans-Novak Political Report” from Wednesday:

The commencement speech at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is obviously seen as McCain reaching out the right for his ’08 presidential effort, but the truth is that he is reaching out everywhere. McCain, who likes to keep his weekends sacred at his Arizona retreat, will be at Dewey Beach, Del., Saturday for a fund-raiser by Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), leader of the House Republican moderates. (emphasis mine) McCain is unquestionably the early front-runner for the nomination.

What that doesn’t tell me (nor does Mike Castle’s website, it’s linked under the “Let the people decide” column) is just how much this little shindig would cost to attend, although chances are it’s way too rich for my blood. And besides, Castle is way too moderate for my liking.

And then we have this. Recently Marine Cpl. Cory Palmer was killed in action fighting the War on Terror in Iraq. This Seaford native is supposed to be laid to rest on Sunday.

But the funeral will not be without controversy as the fringe religious zealots of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas have been granted a permit by the city of Seaford to picket for 45 minutes during the funeral. It’s one of many such protests the group and its leader, the Rev. Fred Phelps, have mounted throughout the nation as part of an anti-homosexual crusade. Because of the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, funerals of our fallen have become targets for Phelps and his cult-like church family.

Actually, the suggestion given in the linked story was a good one – simply overwhelm the protests by a sheer number of people in attendance. I was thinking more along the lines of anyone who happens to drive a tractor trailer and would be willing to risk a parking ticket just park right in front of the protesting group.

The sad thing about it is that, in a family’s time of grieving, their son’s funeral is turned into a circus. Almost as bad will be the dutiful media coverage, which I’m sure is 90% of the reason the Westboro clan continues these activities.

It’s sort of odd to me that we don’t see a lot of “celebrity” starpower despite being relatively close to the nation’s capital. But sometimes I think we’re (by chance or perhaps by choice) the “flyover country” of the east coast. It’s an area where agriculture and aquaculture rub elbows, and because of that we have sort of a Midwest sensitivity with a touch of Southern redneck influence and a dash of New England maritime – an interesting mix of folks. Eventually the “come-heres” will gain a little bit of influence, but there’s probably still a generation or two left of that old-line Eastern Shore mentality remaining.

However, if I were an “old school” denizen of the Eastern Shore, I’d worry much less about the folks who come from the I-95 corridor and much more about the folks streaming in from below the Rio Grande corridor. Those who refuse to assimilate to our American way of life are by far the bigger threat.

You know, we should have thought of the overwhelming use of people a little earlier, perhaps during the “May Day” fiasco. Perhaps this is why we don’t see as much of the hoi-polloi here on the Eastern Shore. Could it be that the wealth of common sense exhibited by the common folk here is a turnoff to them?

Shorebird of the week 5-18-2006

May 18, 2006 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the week 5-18-2006 

Slugger Mark Fleisher of the Shorebirds returns to the dugout after a Mother's Day home run.

This week we need a larger picture to honor a pretty good-sized guy, Mark Fleisher of the Shorebirds. At 6′-4″ and 235 pounds, he has the prototypical size for a first baseman. It’s one reason the Orioles picked him in last season’s draft (14th round) from Radford University in Virginia. The Richmond native is bringing his bat around after a slow start (.189 in his first 13 games) and has the average up to .236, hitting a solid .270 since April 24. In that period he’s also accounted for all 3 of his home runs (including last Sunday’s) and 15 of his 17 RBI.

As one may expect with his size, he was among the leaders in the power categories in his initial pro season last year. With Aberdeen he was second in both home runs (7) and RBI (32), while keeping a respectable .277 average in 61 games.

While first base is a position many teams turn to filling with a player moved from another position, the Orioles have pretty much cemented his status as a prospect by only signing two first basemen from last year’s draft (the other being a high schooler.) Mark will have ample opportunity to play for awhile longer and attempt to prove his worth to the organization – quite possible if his bat continues to heat up with the season.

Bigger and better

May 16, 2006 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

Trying to improve monoblogue a little bit – one thing I didn’t like was the font size, so I’ve gone into the template and found out how to make it a little larger. So I hope this improves the readability.

If you were trying to get on here a little while ago and got a “fatal error” screen, sorry…that was my attempt at uploading a different theme. But I decided I liked this one better.

Maryland Spring GOP convention: a report

The 2006 Spring Convention of the Maryland Republican party.

Jack Lord saw me here today and figured he’d be seeing the report in monoblogue…he was right!

This was the scene today just up the road in Cambridge at the Hyatt resort. While it was a beautiful morning along the Choptank River, almost 200 members of the various local Central Committees, candidates, and interested observers (like myself) sat in the convention hall to listen to the Party go about the nuts and bolts of its business.

Much as a meeting of the Wicomico County Republican Club (you can look in the archives for my reports on those), state chairman John Kane began the meeting by leading us all in the Pledge of Allegiance, along with observing a moment of silence for prominent Republicans who had passed away since the previous fall’s convention.

He then introduced the Republican candidate for Maryland Attorney General, Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott Rolle. After 12 years in that post, he decided to make the run for statewide office and was a beneficiary of current Attorney General Joe Curran’s decision not to seek re-election. At stake in this election is a streak of Democrat Attornies General that dates back to 1919.

Rolle emphasized the main points of his campaign would be dealing with kids and gangs; more specifically, a focus on crimes against children and working to combat the increasing gang influence in Maryland – a law and order Attorney General moreso than the incumbent. Captain Rolle also talked of his Army Reservist stint, which included defending Sgt. Michael J. Smith, who was convicted of using his dog to intimidate prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Instead of going to prison, Rolle said, Smith should be getting a medal pinned to his chest. This line brought an ovation from the gathering, including myself.

The keys to his campaign, Scott noted, would be name recognition and money. Not being from the main populated area of Maryland puts him at some early disadvantage on that, but initial signs were positive that the campaign would be successful.

After Rolle spoke, the meeting again turned to business, with various committees informing the meeting of their particular facets of the Party’s workings. Once complete, Kane gave his chair’s report.

His report stressed discipline – the Democrats would try to promote infighting among the Republicans, who would work best if they stayed focused on the overall goal. He also gave the assemblage word that, for the first time in many years, Maryland wouldn’t be written off by the national GOP. We’ll actually get some help from the national party because of the two high-profile races we have with Governor Ehrlich seeking reelection and Lieutenant Governor Steele looking to advance to the U.S. Senate.

Kane also took a few moments to question the wisdom of two pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly, vetoed by Gov. Ehrlich, and overrode by the heavy Democrat majority. One was the “early voting” bill, where Democrats picked out the polling places that would open five days prior to the election. Claiming the bill was “fraught with fraud”, the chair also informed us that, of all the states that permitted early voting, Maryland was the sole state NOT requiring identification.

The other law is interesting. It was written by the Democrats to target one person, a gentleman by the name of Dick Hug. The legislation prohibits political fundraising by members of a college board of regents. As it so happens, Governor Ehrlich’s chief fundraiser was on the University of Maryland’s board, but had to resign last week due to this law. Even the regents who worked with Hug objected to forcing him from the board – but the law is the law.

The way I see it, legislation to punish success is terrible anyway. But had the law been passed to apply solely to any future appointees rather than those already in office, I wouldn’t be objecting to it so much nor would most people. But the Democrats in Annapolis have a problem with spite. They seem to have the attitude that they are entitled to rule the Free State as a personal fiefdom, and though the state elected a Republican governor it’s viewed as a fluke.

Back to the business at hand. After Chairman Kane finished, the national committeewoman, Joyce Terhes, gave her rendition of the state committee report. She was quite fired up, exhorting the attendees to leave “furious.” She was adamant about the media diminishing the accomplishments of the Ehrlich administration, and accused the Democrats, stating that they “can’t beat the governor legally” as she ripped into the early voting law.

After her remarks, Kane came back to introduce the next speaker but did comment on Terhes’ speech, adding that the early voting laws were “nothing but a screw job.” And he’s right, since the law as written has many flaws in it. It went back to another thing Terhes stated in her remarks where states with early voting are finding that turnout is not increasing as much as expected anyway. Add in the lack of an ID requirement and it’s no wonder that many, even the partisan media (in our case, the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post, neither friends of Governor Ehrlich) question the wisdom of our state’s early voting law.

Lewis Pope was the last of the committee speakers, he is the national committeeman. He devoted his time to the national scene. His message: turnout is important. (Duh!) Seriously, the party does need to get out the base. He also criticized the Democrats as a “party without strategy.”

Pope quoted the famous James Carville statement from 1992, “it’s the economy stupid.” But his twist on it was that no one is reporting on the good economic news. The accomplishments of the last five years economically aren’t being echoed as much as the boom in the nineties was.

Additionally, Pope cited the rise of black Republicans like Ken Blackwell in Ohio and Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania, not to mention our Michael Steele. Here I sort of depart from the party line in a way, because to me they are conservative Republicans, not African-American conservative Republicans. I’m not one who prides myself on seeking an artificial diversity, I just accept people as people. I liked Ken Blackwell in Ohio because he was a fiscal conservative and I couldn’t have cared less how much pigment he had.

But Pope also noted that he was the guy who was filler for the main speaker.

Governor Ehrlich addresses the GOP Spring Convention, May 13, 2006.

It was at this point that Governor Ehrlich arrived to a sign-waving, thundering standing ovation from the crowd, much as an annointed Presidential candidate would at the national convention. First of all, Ehrlich talked about some of the large and enthusiastic crowds he had seen at the party’s Lincoln Day dinners at various locations around the state. As part of his remarks later, he cited two key accomplishments: turning a $4 billion deficit he inherited into a $2 billion surplus while shrinking the size of government by 7%; and educational spending that assisted in improving the test scores for schools in 23 of 24 Maryland jurisdictions (more on that other one in a moment.) Included in his successes was the establishment of 30 charter schools in Maryland, despite objections from the teachers’ unions.

But his most passionate words were for what he called targeting empowerment. One program he was most proud of was an initiative to rehabilitate criminals, saying that the term “throw away the key is not a period, it’s a semicolon.” At some point, he continued, criminals do get out. So while they are incarcerated, it’s best in his eyes to assist them by treating their mental health and drug issues. It’s a program he wanted to expand, but Democrats in Annapolis stood in his way.

And while it might peg me as a squishy moderate, I can understand his point. There’s a vast number of people in jail who are there for making one stupid decision – maybe they consumed too much alcohol and caused a fatality while driving drunk; or they just happened to be in the car with others who robbed the gas station. If this is so, it is probably best to work to rehabilitate them, knowing the older and wiser people likely won’t make another mistake to land them in the state prison system. Obviously a hardcore murderer with a long record of criminal activity is a different story, they’ve been proven as a danger to civilized society.

Ehrlich also made the claim that the Democrats have tried to raise taxes by $7.5 billion while he was in office, but he managed to fend off those tolls on the hardworking citizens of Maryland. Further, he touched on the issue of minority business enterprises and his efforts to help those entrepreneurs out. But he cautioned that his administration is “not in the business of guaranteeing results, but guaranteeing opportunity.” This is all well and good, but it is one part of the Ehrlich administration I disagree with, again because I try to stay colorblind in that area. I don’t believe in discrimination for or against a certain race, religion, gender, or preference. To me, MBE’s are discrimination for the minority who simply got additional pigment.

The governor also issued four challenges that he and his administration try to address.

The first challenge is to “convince voters to operate outside their ‘comfort zone.’ ” Issues aren’t necessarily “Republican” or “Democrat” issues, they’re just issues that need to be addressed for the betterment of all the state’s citizens.

Second, understand the target audience. There’s a great number of moderate to conservative Democrats (yes, we still have a few “blue dogs” in Maryland) who pulled the lever in 2002 because he spoke to them on enough issues to convince them to vote for Ehrlich – I still occasionally see a “Democrat for Ehrlich” bumper sticker from four years ago. (This is particularly true of Eastern Shore voters, who heavily went for Ehrlich across party lines in 2002.) But the far left Democrats will not vote for any Republican and that has to be accounted for too.

Thirdly, compare and contrast the Maryland of 2002 against the Maryland of 2006. I heard that and immediately thought of President Reagan asking, “are you better off than you were four years ago?” In my case, yes. But I didn’t live in Maryland in 2002.

And finally, a challenge that seemed strange on first hearing but made sense after some thought. It’s engaging the problem, and if a mistake is made, let it be an aggressive mistake. Don’t make a “status quo” mistake. I look at it as saying to try different ideas and think outside the box – sometimes your failure is spectacular, but it did prove the point that the solution would not work, and the experience is a teacher. Don’t keep doing the same old thing that’s not working just because it’s all you know. I would cite the twin examples of Thomas Edison (how many screwups do you think he had before he found tungsten wire works for a light bulb?) and Henry Ford (who I believe named his earliest prototype vehicles in alphabetical order, thus the Model T had a lot of flawed predecessors.)

Another passionate portion of the address was Ehrlich’s thoughts on the Baltimore City Schools. This district is the one district that did not improve, so state law allowed a takeover of the district. This takeover was thwarted by the Annapolis Democrats, who didn’t want that slap at the teachers’ union in an election year. In fact, Ehrlich quoted some (unnamed) Democrats and the excuses they gave as to why they would vote to override his veto. Most pathetic to him was the one who told the governor he couldn’t support the veto because, “the AFL-CIO told me not to.” While Ehrlich waxed eloquent about how the unions helped to build Maryland while he was growing up, and union jobs enabled those who had them to acquire the means for their children to have a better life, he felt betrayed that the same unions wanted to condemn the schoolchildren of Baltimore simply to regain political power.

He concluded that, “(his administration is) about empowerment”, and said that the 10,000 dropouts from the 11 takeover target schools in Baltimore City over the last nine years were “a state failure.” One effort his administration was making was attempting to track what happened to these dropouts as far as criminal activity, employment, etc. Again, I have to disagree with the governor on the dropouts, because the state can only set the rules regarding truancy and help pay to provide the buildings and equipment where there’s an opportunity to learn – it is up to each individual student whether they want to take advantage of that chance or not. Some beat the odds stacked against them and prosper due to sheer will.

After Ehrlich left to another standing ovation, Howard County committeeman Anthony Wisniewski raised his hand. Upon being recognized by the chair, he made some remarks about being fired up by the proceedings. Thinking back to his Jesuit education, he advised the gathered GOP faithful that they need to “justify and defend your decision” to support the party. The impromptu remarks were an interesting prelude to what came next.

The agenda was suspended for debate on a change to the party by-laws that was deemed necessary to be enacted now, rather than wait for the fall convention. This change involved replacing the three vice chairs with regional vice chairs selected from each of five districts: northern, southern, central, western, and Eastern Shore. Some controversy erupted over the placement of some counties in odd districts (an example is the mostly rural southern region also including suburban Anne Arundel County), but the main gist of the debate centered on an issue that creates tension in any legislative body.

There were some who favored the change because it needed to be expedited, but others cautioned that they really had no idea what was being voted on, as the context was missing. This measure was rather quickly written up, and many’s the bad law written in haste, they said. It was sausage grinding at its finest as an amendment to table was defeated after a fashion, then other friendly amendments debated and voted on. Finally, after nearly an hour of discussion and wrangling back and forth, the proposal as amended received the blessing of the state convention.

As it turned out, I was situated between a couple of interesting people. Sitting in the back, I happened to have the aforementioned Dick Hug to my left (strange to have him recognized during the chair’s remarks – hey everyone was looking at me too then!) and to my right was the graceful and gracious candidate for District 38B, Bonnie Luna (with her husband Louis.) As mentioned at the start, Jack Lord was also in attendance, he’s seeking one of those seats also.

I had a fleeting thought about being recognized as more than Dick Hug’s seating neighbor but thought better of it. At one point, Chairman Kane was asking if there were any media. I briefly considered raising my hand and asking, “does pajamas media count?” But I figured, better not. You never know, I might be more than an observer sometime.

I’m no stranger to political gatherings, one of my duties as president of the Toledo Metro Young Republicans was to represent our group at state functions. So I traveled to Columbus for our state convention (along with other Ohio cities for seasonal meetings.) As part of our state convention, we had a few vendors selling their wares. It’s the reason I snapped this picture – seems there’s always a button seller someplace at a state political function, and Maryland is no exception to the rule.

The button table, a political staple.

Overall, I enjoyed my morning there. I think the people in the GOP were genuinely excited about this fall – I know, I was in amongst the hardcore believers, but these are also the folks who are leaders in their home counties. It’s my thought that they are the backbone of America, most of them just plain folks who don’t get their names in the papers but do their best to contribute to American society.

Among those attending were some folks who had spent time with the Democrat side as part of their political jobs. To a person, they said that the Democrats seemed to be a gloomy bunch, only concerned with the negatives of what they feel is wrong with the Bush presidency instead of trying to come up with a positive alternative vision for what they wanted America to be.

Tonight I was chatting online with a friend of mine who is a Democrat. But there were a lot of issues where it appeared we have at least some common ground…both pro-America and tired of political games being played rather than results achieved. While I’m sure we differ over our vision of what government should do, we both agreed that there are political scoundrels who inhabit both major parties.

But what I saw today was a lot of honest and caring emotion. Yes, we as Republicans can be pretty mean-spirited toward our political opponents (Lord knows I am at times) but it’s because we do give a rat’s ass about our country and we consider it still the shining city on the hill. What today’s gathering attempted to do is get us working toward electing the people we feel would bring us closer to the Reaganesque vision of America and try to return our government to one of, for, and by the people, not the special interests.

Thoughts on growth and development

May 12, 2006 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 3 Comments 

For those of you who are regular monoblogue readers, you’ll probably have figured out that I’m pretty much a pro-development, pro-private property rights kind of guy. Obviously, there’s limits that are necessary to these rights, but as few as are possible would satisfy me. And those few ideally would eminate from the local jurisdiction rather than through a blanket state law, or worse, federal fiat.

Of course, a main motivator of this viewpoint is the fact that every two weeks I receive a check from a business that profits through development all over the area. Add in the fact that I am a “come-here” and there’s some out there who question my beliefs (if not my outright sanity.) Sometimes they make good points but the fact remains that our area will either grow or die.

Location-wise it’s well situated, only a short drive away from the metro areas of Baltimore, DC, Norfolk, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. At times it’s probably faster to go to Philly than to Baltimore/DC depending on Bay Bridge construction and traffic, but on the whole we’re within easy distance of a significant chunk of the U.S. population. And while it’s well-situated, the development as a whole hasn’t turned our area into the I-95 corridor. Some may think so, particularly if they attempt to drive to Ocean City on a summer weekend, but in general it’s still decently easy to get around Delmarva.

I know the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is trying to scare people into thinking that all of this development is making the area lose its rural characteristics, but I drive around the area quite a bit and I see a lot of empty land, most of it non-agricultural. I do wonder about something, and I guess I need a local expert to help me out here. My native northwest Ohio has some of the richest soil because for centuries it was the Great Black Swamp, not until the middle 1800’s was it cleared and drained to become farmland. There was an aggressive effort in that era to dig drainage ditches and allow the standing water to find its way to the Maumee River.

When I see miles of forested land or scrubby growth, particularly as I head south along Route 13 toward Virginia, is that a function of just poor agricultural land or a function of poor drainage? I know they talk about “perc”ed land here, I’m assuming that’s to let the buyer know that it drains well. Would improving the drainage by building more ditches and such improve that problem? Pardon my ignorance, but I’m just used to land that grows a batch of corn one year, soybeans the next, and when the builder wants to slap a house on it, they can dig a basement in most places and it will be reasonably dry. (Of course, we’re 600 feet above sea level in the Toledo area as opposed to less than 60 here.)

It seems to me that expanding the amount of available agricultural land (or figuring out a way to build on land that’s not so suited for farming) would be a good research grant in the making to someone at SU and/or UMES.

However, I can see why an argument is made for the stress of residential development on the area’s infrastructure. If I were to sit here and rank development from the most desirable to the least desirable in my eyes, the list would go like this.

Technological/R & D: Advantages are a good high salary base and, if the company is worth its salt as far as adapting to economic conditions, reasonably steady employment. If it’s in an industry that does not involve manufacturing, its relative proximity to the national seat of government is a bonus. Having a company like that which hired locally would be a shot in the arm to local colleges. Meanwhile, there’s not a huge amount of infrastructure required, no more so than any other large employer. And the tax revenue created by property and income taxes would be a benefit to the local jurisdiction fortunate enough to have this sort of job base established there. Think of a parallel to the NASA Wallops Island complex without the government involvement.

Manufacturing/industrial/distribution: It’s not as likely to have a high salary base because of global competition, but a higher base than service industries do. There’s more drawbacks to this sort of development, including the chance of a plant closing devastating a town’s economy and the possibility of added pollution (depending on product manufactured.)

Some plants can really tax an area’s infrastructure. I recall a steel recycling plant being built near my hometown and the local utility needing to run several high-voltage lines out to the plant because of its voracious electricity needs. These run for several miles along the Ohio Turnpike – also, the state chipped in and built a highway exit for the plant and a neighboring plant. Additionally, there’s been controversy in the Toledo area regarding running city waterlines for miles out into the hinterlands because it promotes development well outside city limits. And Delmarva is no stranger to government infighting about infrastructure.

We do have a disadvantage when it comes to some manufacturing, it’s called Chesapeake Bay. Not the water quality, the water quantity. The bay makes it so “you can’t get there from here”, thus it restricts the notion of “just-in-time” delivery somewhat. It’s in that area that we lose out to those in the I-95 corridor.

Service/retail/tourism: There’s only so many restaurants and shops an area can support by itself – obviously Ocean City is an example because many businesses there are strictly seasonal. In order to create additional opportunities for these jobs to be created, we need to figure out a way to draw more tourists. So that means more roads. (Some would say its a perfect opportunity for light rail, but how many years have the taxpayers propped Amtrak up now? Get real.) While we are at an advantage over someplace like the Outer Banks or Florida because we’re simply closer to the populated areas, that goodwill is lost when sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Further, most of these jobs pay very little compared to a professional job.

Residential: This is where we seem to be gaining the most development. But the problem is that it creates the least bang for the buck as far as governments go. This isn’t to say that residential development is a bad thing, quite the contrary. Spinoff effects do occur, particularly in the service sector. A large influx of population does create demand for more retail and professional services. And those jobs are nice, but where does the rest of the inflow work? They can’t ALL be retirees.

What Delmarva needs most is good jobs, not the chicken pickers. It’s said we’re not that far from losing a lot of our poultry industry as it is, today we lost a freezer plant. That’s a shame as over a dozen workers now have less income.

Sometimes we run in a vicious circle here. Take the city of Salisbury for example. It has some relatively nice areas and some areas that can charitably be called rundown. What characteristic is common in the rundown areas? A good percentage of rental housing. On the other hand, those who inhabit the lowest rungs of the economic ladder can’t afford to live anywhere else.

It’s not quite so bad if the landlords take care of their property, but unfortunately that becomes difficult as those who don’t own the house but simply live there depart from decorum and trash the place. They take no pride of ownership because they have no ownership. Unfortunately, drifting from one low-paying job to another doesn’t do much to increase the odds of breaking the cycle. So an area just goes completely downhill, and you get what we have: crime and gangs.

There’s just so many factors that contribute to decline. Some are reversible and some sadly aren’t. And among us some would say that we can continue as we are without significant problems. I’m not sold on that premise whatsoever.

The start to the optimal solution would be for people to begin to take pride in themselves and their neighborhood – unfortunately if anything we as a society are trending in the opposite direction. Many blame the large influx of come-heres like myself who don’t understand how it used to be on the Eastern Shore. But it’s never going to get back to that, we all have to change and evolve or else perish.

I honestly think that we as a nation (not just the Eastern Shore) need a sea change in attitude. It’s almost like we may as well write off all of us that were born before 1975 because we’ve had our chance and have mostly just shown the wrong way to do things. Instead of doing for others, we think about “what’s in it for us?” a little too much, and we shift all the blame for things we brought onto ourselves to an unnamed force some call bad luck, but I would call poor choices. I’m far from infallible there, I’ve made a couple whoppers!

In my lifetime, I’d love to see this change, particularly in the way we look to government always having the solution (generally to bail our sorry asses out.) It’s unfortunate that a large number of us subscribe in some degree or another to the dogma that the solution to our problems is derived “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” And seeing the developers pocket many millions, people tend to envy them for their “greed” rather than think about why they did so well and what lessons the enviers can learn from those who worked for that financial success. (The same goes for oil companies at the moment.)

I believe that a solution to many of our problems with growth is not in punishing the developer. On the other hand, I’m certainly not sold on providing too many taxpayer-financed carrots for them either. There’s a market out there that doesn’t need to be tinkered with in either direction – it’s too bad everyone wants to point their fingers at who’s doing the most to mess that market up.

Natives may scorn but we do need growth. However, we need to make the priority securing growth that creates good-paying jobs, and allowing entrepreneurs to have a free hand in running their dream businesses as they see best – not be looked at as greedy robber barons whose sole purpose should be to provide health care and benefits for their employees. If we get the good growth of job creation, with wise governance that looks out for the interests of all, the infrastructure needs will be taken care of.

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