Has the “Beast” been slain?

March 31, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

One of the first community events I attended after getting settled into my adopted Delmarva home was an event called “Beast of the East”. For those who didn’t know about the event, it was a custom motorcycle show – think “Orange County Choppers” and bikes of that ilk. (Here’s an example from last year, a 9/11 tribute bike.) In the two springs I’ve lived here, the event was held at the Youth and Civic Center on the third weekend in April (coinciding with the “Pork in the Park” barbeque festival out at Winterplace Park.) I thought that was a pretty good idea and created some synergy between the events and a good draw for tourist dollars.

But I wasn’t as excited about the 2006 edition as I was about the 2005 edition. Obviously, the newness factor wearing off was one reason, but also the 2005 edition featured other onsite entertainment. There were four live bands plus they had a thrill show in the parking lot. Last year’s BotE had a car show but no outside entertainment scheduled. (It was a rainy weekend, so most activities would’ve likely been cancelled anyway.) And it seemed to me like attendance was off from the 2005 edition.

So I guess my question is whether the 2006 Beast of the East ends up being the last one, or if it’s been scheduled for a time slot closer to Delmarva Bike Week, or if they’ve decided to change the venue.

This brings up an oft-discussed point when the subject of the WYCC’s fate comes up. Now that we’ve apparently settled on the shape of the Old Mall project, another concern in that part of town is sprucing up the almost 30 year old Civic Center. But I’ll let you in on something.

I went to concerts for many moons during my youth, and the majority of those shows were in a forty year old (at the time) decrepit 7,500 capacity dump called the Toledo Sports Arena. This venue mostly hosted concerts, trade shows, and the Toledo Storm minor league hockey team (and still does, even at 60 years old.) But the biggest difference between the two facilities isn’t who plays there or even how nice the facility is, it’s what’s sold there. While Wicomico County isn’t a dry county, the WYCC is a dry facility and the lack of beer sales likely does send business away.

I understand that the land was deeded to the county upon the condition that alcohol not be sold there. But it may be time to rethink this facility in its present set of uses or even its existence. A key piece of the proposed Discovery Place development in Laurel is a new 12,000 seat arena, and I’m betting that if/when that opens, they’ll sell alcohol and all of the business the WYCC has fought to maintain over the years will flee northward to the new facility because it will be newer, bigger, and have the potential additional revenue stream that beer sales can provide.

So it’s quite possible that the demise of the “Beast of the East” show is a harbinger of things to come for the Youth and Civic Center. I’m sorry to see the event go but sometimes it takes the economic hit of not getting into the stream of tourism dollars that flow along route 50 to the beach to slap some sense into the powers-that-be.

Role reversal

March 30, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Politics · 2 Comments 

Editor’s note: I noticed that the Albero link was bad, now it’s correct. Or you can link from the sidebar as well.

What do you know, the WMDT forum wasn’t the final forum. I completely forgot about the Camden neighborhood meeting last night. Joe Albero did a good job of covering it in pictures with several posts, editorial comments included.

By this point, after all of the forums and mainstream news coverage the candidates’ positions on issues should be pretty well outlined. All the public needs to do now is get to know those positions and vote accordingly. To review, I covered forums here, here, and here. You might also be interested in other background information I wrote here, here, here, and here.

Unfortunately, only Gary Comegys and Terry Cohen have websites that explain their stance on the issues, which I link to as well (upper right-hand column.)

So the candidates have one final weekend push. One thing I’ve been surprised about is a lack of media presence – no radio ads and I haven’t been made aware of any newspaper ads (but I don’t get the Daily Times except for glancing through our copy at my employer’s office.) With what’s essentially a race spanning 80% of a 25,000 person city, it may be one more suitable for door-to-door campaigning.

My position on the race is known, but Sunday I plan on writing a review article based on the key issues as the candidates themselves see them in their literature. Then I’ll be watching Tuesday night like everyone else to see who I’ll be working with since I’m certain the Salisbury City Council will have a peripheral role with the Wicomico Neighborhood Congress.

One week to go

March 29, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 1 Comment 

This time next week monoblogue will have returned to a “tradition” began last year. Just like in 2006, Thursday nights will reveal the Shorebird of the Week. For the next 22 weeks I’ll pick out a worthy player and at the end reveal my pick as Shorebird of the Year. (If you recall, last year’s SotY pick was Ryan Finan, here’s the rundown of my 2k6 SotW picks.)

I was reading Fox Sports writer Dayn Perry’s rundown of his top 100 prospects over the last few weeks and he’s got three Orioles up-and-comers on the list – two of whom should see significant time with the Shorebirds this year. Infielder Billy Rowell is ranked #45 and pitcher Pedro Beato is ranked 89th. Both of these players were first round Oriole picks last year. Meanwhile, my pick for best prospect on the Shorebirds last year, pitcher Brandon Erbe, was tabbed as the #63 prospect by Perry. Now, Dayn Perry may not be the greatest baseball prospect picker but I recall he was picking the Tigers to do a lot in 2006 while everyone else was placing them 4th in the AL Central. So who was right?

The great thing about this time of year is that every team in the SAL (and all the other leagues) figures it has some chance to succeed. I noted a couple weeks back that the hitting prowess of the Shorebirds should improve with some good batters moving up the ranks from Aberdeen and Bluefield. If we can keep the top-notch pitching we’ve had but lose the shackles of our punchless 2006 offense, there’s a pretty decent chance the Shorebirds could play deep into September. Either way, I’m looking forward to a month’s worth of summer evenings at the ballpark.

On Saturday, the Shorebirds will have their preseason open house. I’m anxious to see what the new ownership group has done with the place. I’m even more excited about showing up on Friday, April 13th for the season home opener against the West Virginia Power. Hopefully the Shorebirds will be off to a torrid start and keep it up all summer.

Carnival of Maryland #3 is up…

March 28, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Carnival of Maryland #3 is up… 

I’ve been a little remiss in this since it happened Sunday, but The Ridger at The Greenbelt has selected 14 articles for edition #3 of The Carnival of Maryland – eight by my cohorts of the Maryland Bloggers Alliance and 6 by others. And she saves the best for last, if you catch my drift.

The next edition is slated for April 8th, with it being Easter we’ll see who turns out as host.

Oh, and while I’m at it…I found out just now after writing the post above that the MBA has added yet another member. Matt at Going To The Mat writes out of Frederick, and as he states, describes his blog as “Wrestling with Issues and Ideas in politics, the law, education, and other stuff.” So welcome aboard Matt!

The final forum

March 28, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Politics · 3 Comments 

At least for this go-round, anyway. Last night I came home and watched the WMDT-TV forum that I taped. What was strange about the format was that the questions weren’t necessarily the same for everyone – Kenny Beck also made mention of statements and positions that were espoused in the previous Channel 47 candidate forum back in February. In general, each round of questioning had the same theme but was tailored to each speaker.

So there really wasn’t a lot of new ground plowed, and the candidates were relatively tame to one another. There were only a few disputes among the participants, most notable a difference between Don Ewalt and Tim Spies regarding starting police salaries. Also I thought Don Ewalt may have stepped in it a little bit when he termed a $50,000 salary as a “good job” – many city employees make far less. But as before, the candidates hammered out their familiar positions regarding issues like crime, pay parity for first responders, growth, and as part of the growth issue the Old Mall TIF in particular.

I did score the debate as I had the prior two, but I came to a realization that the scores were always going to be relatively constant because I play favorites as I watch. The only real news in regard to my scoring was that I thought Louise Smith’s performance was a little disappointing. But I think she comes across better in a one-to-one situation anyway, while Terry Cohen and Tim Spies seem quite at home in a forum format. Thus those two “scored” the highest with me, while the other three participants trailed in a fairly equal group among themselves.

But as I took notes, there were a few highlights worth mentioning, so I’ll do the candidates in alphabetical order.

John Atkins: I suppose the thing that sticks out is that he missed a key chance to explain his positions. But all political candidates have a personal life and it does show his priorities are in the right place. John Edwards might not agree with my assessment, but to each his own.

Terry Cohen: Interesting comparison between supporting first responders and supporting our troops. She was also correct in terming the TIF as “corporate welfare” and that citizen input has made the Old Mall project (aside from the financing) more palatable.

Gary Comegys: He seemed to be quite defensive about being a firefighter yet not getting their endorsement, citing a rift between volunteers and careerists. Gary also questioned the oft-cited Daily Times figure of each dollar received from residential development outweighed by $1.21 in services. Also he noted that didn’t support Mayor Tilghman in her first campaign, but it’s apparent he’s in her corner now (as I’ll attest to later.)

Don Ewalt: As I wrote above, he’s now placed a figure on what is a “good paying” job. So when the TIF he supports begats development that will have almost all of the jobs created paying far less, is it a good project? He did point out that growth is inevitable, or in his words, “we can’t blow up the Vienna bridge.” And I’ll concede that the idea of a SU student as a non-voting councilperson may have merit and deserves a bit more study.

Louise Smith: I suppose the one problem I have with Louise is that she’s placing a lot of eggs as far as additional revenue goes in the “grants” basket. I don’t doubt she’s fiscally conservative and would be a budget hawk. But President Clinton used the same tactic to promise 100,000 additional police officers on the streets – problem was, when the grants run out the money needs to come from someplace or you’re letting cops go. She did bring up the Westbrook project as an example of good working-class housing, which I can buy. I’m just hoping that we’re not concerned about what a slum it’s become ten years hence.

Tim Spies: The idea of “pick(ing) the budget apart like a surgeon” is my kind of talk. The other really intriguing comment he made regarded the idea that we could’ve had light industrial on the Old Mall site long ago. Well, who killed that idea? That’s what I’d like to know. And Spies did the best job of tying things together that I agree with. The way I look at this is that the city of Salisbury scares prospective residents away (except for the Larsens, apparently) because of its high crime rate and low home ownership. But securing good jobs may help to turn around the vicious circle we’re in by promoting home ownership, which may help to lower the crime rate.

Because I was away from my computer for most of last night, I didn’t catch one of the bombshells that was revealed yesterday evening as Mayor Tilghman came out and endorsed her personal selection of candidates. Not surprisingly, the three who are Barrie’s chosen ones are John Atkins, Don Ewalt, and incumbent Gary Comegys. Apparently Ewalt was caught unaware, but Gary knew about it.

The other item that I think was initially covered on the local blogs but blew up in a more public display last night was Richard Insley’s [he of Salisbury Area Property Owners Association (SAPOA) fame] suggested message to tenants that voting for Terry Cohen and Tim Spies would drive renters out of Salisbury. Terry Cohen blasted the letter as an “out and out lie” and called the SAPOA group Salisbury’s largest special interest. Tim Spies added his thought that the letter was “bogus” (to put it nicely) and landlords are sending a message that they don’t want to be messed with. As I recall, it was only in the last decade that out-of-town property owners lost their right to vote in Salisbury, so apparently SAPOA is attempting to flex its muscles in another way.

One question that I know was politically correct not to answer but I feel should’ve been was the query about rescinding the TIF. Given the right circumstances, a measure doing this could pass City Council with a vetoproof majority (4-1.) We haven’t seen many mayoral vetoes during my time in Maryland (have there been any by Mayor Tilghman?) but with the right mix of people the next two years may become something of a power struggle, and help attract a diverse field to the 2009 mayor’s race.

As for the here and now, we have divided this election into two contending camps. On one side, you have Mayor Tilghman, SAPOA, and (to some extent) the Daily Times and Chamber of Commerce types supporting what’s become a ticket of Gary Comegys, John Atkins, and Don Ewalt. The other side (backing Terry Cohen, Tim Spies, and Louise Smith) is led by the Salisbury version of the pajamas media, and has become a coalition of those who do not support the Old Mall TIF (but are not necessarily against redevelopment of the site), along with those who feel the current Council isn’t responsive to the citizens’ interests, and other “good government” types.

As my readers know, first of all I don’t live in the city (as of last October) and second of all I’m on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee. So I can only endorse these candidates, not vote for them myself. And because of my pledge to support Republican principles I endorse this trio with some risk; however, this is a nonpartisan election. Further, I believe the ideas that this trio have put out during the campaign come closest to coinciding with the principles of good government that should be followed regardless of party affiliation.

It begins with fiscal responsibility, but continues with thinking that can be best described as “out-of-the-box.” The trio I’ve chosen to endorse carry an element of both. And while I’m sure all six candidates are approachable, I’ve been impressed with the way all three have handled their contact with average voters at the forums I’ve attended. Another factor in my decision is the passion these three seem to have for the task at hand. They were among the earliest to file for the race, and also have shown no aversion about putting in time to benefit the community (although the same can be said for all six candidates, I commend each for their public service and for running.)

But above all, these three have by and large articulated a vision of the future and tried to stay out of the twin traps of “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” and playing the blame game. And it is with that thought uppermost in mind that I encourage the citizens of Salisbury’s District 2 to cast their ballots on April 3rd for Terry Cohen, Louise Smith, and Tim Spies. While this is hardly an original endorsement among the blogging community, to me these three represent the best hope for keeping Salisbury as a viable city. And while I may not agree with the whole package of their personal and political philosophies, I’m confident that they’ll listen to my concerns along with everyone else’s and if we disagree, it will only be on a matter of degree and not the overarching thought of improving the city I still work and shop in.

WCRC meeting – March 2007

March 26, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – March 2007 

According to my postcard, the issues for tonight were a discussion about changing our county to an elected school board and possibly switching our meeting night to a night not opposite the Salisbury City Council meetings. (Maybe they won’t be nearly as controversial after the new Council comes in.) Oh, and we were supposed to get a legislative update, something I wanted to hear with bated breath considering my issues with our General Assembly.

However, the meeting change wasn’t discussed tonight, which is probably good because I think the officers should look into this further anyway before we bring it back up to the membership at-large. Nor we didn’t get the legislative update, which was a bummer. Of course, our legislators are hard at work. Hopefully the ones who would be most likely to come speak with us are figuring out ways to throw a monkey wrench into the liberal utopian works that the General Assembly is by and large trying to build.

*ahem* Anyway, we did get our meeting started with the normal business, and then most of the seven of us new officers were sworn in by Dr. John Bartkovich. Because he had to hurry back to his “real” job, he briefly touched on upcoming events and Central Committee business (Lincoln Day dinner, county GOP website, and donation policy.)

Incoming club President George Ossman then went through some of his goals for the upcoming year. Most of what he wanted to accomplish lay in the areas of growing our membership and fundraising capabilities. He also made mention of continuing the work of updating our by-laws and attempting to secure a speaker for each of our upcoming meetings. George then introduced our speaker tonight, Board of Elections head Anthony Gutierrez.

Mr. Gutierrez gave us a brief rundown of his Kansas background, as he was born and raised in the Sunflower State and worked in the elections field for the Kansas Secretary of State’s office and two of the state’s largest counties. In June 2006 he assumed his current role in Wicomico County, with part of the reason he was hired being his familiarity with a computer voting program similar to Maryland’s. (Shawnee County in Kansas was a beta site for this program.)

But he also had done some research into how Wicomico County could get an elected school board. As it stands, the process is up to the Maryland General Assembly. While this Sun article talks about the opposition of General Assembly leaders to the concept, Gutierrez noted that Worcester County’s effort was spearheaded by the late Delegate Bennett Bozman after it became apparent a petition drive was showing support from most of the county’s voters. So rather than go by the straw ballot method prescribed by the state (which can be either a binding or non-binding straw ballot), Bozman simply introduced the legislation and it was passed. In a nutshell, those are the three methods by which Wicomico County could join the 96% of the country that has an elected rather than appointed school board.

After some discussion, we decided on a method to determine how much support would be had locally for an elected school board. I did find out a little bit of history on the subject though. Apparently there have been at least two recent tries to get an elected school board in Wicomico County; an abortive one in the early 1980’s, and a petition drive begun in 2001 that was bearing fruit until the events of 9/11 occurred and shelved the effort.

Once Anthony was through, we took care of a little bit more business. Most of this centered around getting volunteers for the WCRC booth at the Salisbury Festival on April 27th and 28th. I won’t be working the booth, but I’m making brownies to sell there. (This is also the day of the Ben Layton walk, so I’ll be a busy guy!)

This month was a bit of a feeling-out process for the incoming officers, but now we have one meeting under our belts and next month should work a little more smoothly. In the meantime, I’ll need to assist in coordinating what will be on our new Wicomico GOP website. We’re planning on making what happens in our club essentially an open book, with by-laws, meeting minutes, upcoming events, and other features made accessible to anyone who wants to know. This should be an interesting year for us in the WCRC and if you want to see this all come down in person, feel free to come out for our next meeting April 23!

Can we stick to the issues, please?

Well, time will tell if yesterday’s post at Salisbury News will cost Joe Albero $100 or not. He’s offering this as a reward to any eagle-eye photographer who catches Debbie Comegys making an obscene gesture. (And he has such a nice picture of the particular gesture on his site.)

Now I’ll note that I’ve observed Mrs. Comegys’ behavior at a couple of the forums and yes, she comes across sort of rudely. I didn’t personally witness the pen incident at the SWAC forum but it sounds like something not outside her pattern of behavior.

But – why is she becoming an issue? Debbie Comegys isn’t running for City Council. She disrupted one forum. I understand that Joe Albero is a Tim Spies supporter and, to be charitable, isn’t among those who’d like to see Gary Comegys reelected to his post. I suppose Gary’s spousal choice could be construed as one of a number of character issues Gary Comegys seems to have (which have been covered by several local bloggers), but then I’m certainly no expert advisor at marriage here either.

I get along reasonably well with Joe; in fact, I was one of the well-wishers the other night at his birthday party. We also comment on each others’ websites, we’re linked to one another, and he’ll point to articles of mine he likes and I’ll do the same for his site. Both of us know that we each have different blogging styles and things that are important to me may not be so to him and vice versa. However, I have to say to Joe that this whole Debbie Comegys reward brouhaha just serves as too much of a sideshow and detracts from what needs to be a serious discussion regarding the direction the city of Salisbury should head toward in the next decade.

Now I know Joe’s a well-meaning kind of guy. He’s abrasive to some, but on the whole I have no issues with him personally. I’ve also seen the sort of good he’s done in uncovering a few of the issues that this campaign has revolved around. So why let a personal vendetta of sorts get in the way of that, and also make the blogs a distracting and polarizing issue themselves?

That’s just my two cents on this whole situation. It leaves me $99.98 short of Joe Albero’s offer but I think it’s more valuable to the citizens of Salisbury in the long run.

Some of what Gilchrest voted for

March 24, 2007 · Posted in Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

I’m taking some time this morning and actually reading through the 168 pages of HB1591, the bill funding our troops in Iraq (plus a bunch of other things.) First off, this is the section most on the Right (and other correct-thinking Americans) object to, the “pullout date”: 

SEC. 1904. a) The President shall make and transmit to Congress the following determinations, along with reports in classified and unclassified form detailing the basis for each determination, on or before July 1, 2007:

(1) whether the Government of Iraq has given United States Armed Forces and Iraqi Security Forces the authority to pursue all extremists, including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, and is making substantial progress in delivering necessary Iraqi Security Forces for Baghdad and protecting such Forces from political interference; intensifying efforts to build balanced security forces throughout Iraq that provide even-handed security for all Iraqis; ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi Security Forces; eliminating militia control of local security; establishing a strong militia disarmament program; ensuring fair and just enforcement of laws; establishing political, media, economic, and service committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan; and eradicating safe havens;

(2) whether the Government of Iraq is making substantial progress in meeting its commitment to pursue reconciliation initiatives, including enactment of a hydro-carbon law; adoption of legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections; reform of current laws governing the de-Baathification process; amendment of the Constitution of Iraq; and allocation of Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects; and;

(3) whether the Government of Iraq and United States Armed Forces are making substantial progress in reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq.

(b) On or before October 1, 2007, the President—

(1) shall certify to the Congress that the Government of Iraq has enacted a broadly accepted hydro-carbon law that equitably shares oil revenues among all Iraqis; adopted legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections, taken steps to implement such legislation, and set a schedule to conduct provincial and local elections; reformed current laws governing the de-Baathification process to allow for more equitable treatment of individuals affected by such laws; amended the Constitution of Iraq consistent with the principles contained in article 137 of such constitution; and allocated and begun expenditure of $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis; or;

(2) shall report to the Congress that he is unable to make such certification.

(c) If in the transmissions to Congress required by subsection (a) the President determines that any of the conditions specified in such subsection have not been met, or if the President is unable to make the certification specified in subsection (b) by the required date, the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq and complete such redeployment within 180 days.

(d) If the President makes the certification specified in subsection (b), the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq not later than March 1, 2008, and complete such redeployment within 180 days.

(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this or any other Act are immediately available for obligation and expenditure to plan and execute a safe and orderly redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq, as specified in subsections (c) and (d).

(f) After the conclusion of the 180-day period for redeployment specified in subsections (c) and (d), the Secretary of Defense may not deploy or maintain members of the Armed Forces in Iraq for any purpose other than the following:

(1) Protecting American diplomatic facilities and American citizens, including members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

(2) Serving in roles consistent with customary diplomatic positions.

(3) Engaging in targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations with global reach.

(4) Training members of the Iraqi Security Forces.

(g) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, 50 percent of the funds appropriated by title I of this Act for assistance to Iraq under each of the headings ‘‘IRAQ SECURITY FORCES FUND’’, ‘‘ECONOMIC SUPPORT FUND’’, and ‘‘INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL AND LAW ENFORCEMENT’’ shall be withheld from obligation until the President has made a certification to Congress regarding the matters specified in subsection (b)(1).

(h) The requirement to withhold funds from obligation pursuant to subsection (g) shall not apply with respect to funds made available under the heading ‘‘ECONOMIC SUPPORT FUND’’ for continued support for the Community Action Program and Community Stabilization Program in Iraq administered by the United States Agency for International Development or for programs and activities to promote democracy in Iraq.

Further, this bill is written in such a way that funds cannot be appropriated to Army and Navy units (including reserves) who have been deployed over 1 year’s time or not out of theater for 1 year’s time (the period for Marines is seven months.) This bill also prohibits funding for a permanent base in Iraq, which is a bad policy in my opinion. Just like we had forward bases during the Cold War throughout Europe (and still do), I favor a permanent installation in Iraq.

And as the commercials always say, “but wait, there’s more…”

  • There’s almost $2.4 billion in additional Hurricane Katrina relief, particularly agricultural.
  • FEMA gets an additional $4.3 billion for their operations.
  • An additional $80 million is in there for tenant and rental assistance.
  • It’s not just spinach producers that get federal cash from this bill. Milk producers get an additional $283 million in help, $74 million to peanut farmers, and $5 million goes to aquaculture interests.
  • $50 million goes to asbestos abatement and other improvements at the U.S. Capitol.
  • And there’s a sum tucked in there for Gloria Norwood, the widow of the late Rep. Charlie Norwood of Georgia. In this bill she would get $165,200. Obviously his was a sudden and tragic death, but I’d have to assume that the Norwoods would’ve had proper life insurance to take care of their needs should the unthinkable occur.

I’m also troubled by two other aspects of this appropriation. One mandates a disclosure of the justification for approval of noncompetitive contracts. (I call this the Halliburton clause.) The other is way, way more sneaky. Added as the final part of this bill is a minimum wage increase similar to that which passed the House but stalled in the Senate. This version includes some of the business tax credits as well.

It’s bad enough that I took the time to look through this bill just because I was curious what some of the money is allocated for. What REALLY scares me is just how many bills I don’t pay attention to, and the number of eyes that are necessary just to go through these and see what all is being voted on. I skimmed through the bill in maybe 30 minutes or so, it’s 168 pages of fairly complex language. I know that not all proposals are this detailed but I’m just amazed at how much reading a Congressman would have to go through just to comprehend all that’s being asked for. Obviously it’s why they each have staff, but I’m more convinced than ever that we the people have allowed this system to get way out of control and it’s past time to begin reining it in.

Geez, people will think we set this up!

Yes, that was me on “Robinson on the Radio”. Actually I was trying to call in before Albero got on but he beat me to it.

Honestly, I think John’s more comfortable without a guest on. Yeah, he took a call from his mom but you got to start someplace. I’ve suggested before that maybe he should work in half-hour segments so perhaps he could have a guest for the first half-hour and then take calls after the bottom of the hour break. If the guest wants to stay and answer questions he/she could or just say his/her piece and go home.

What’s funny is that us Salisbury-area bloggers seem to get a disproportionate amount of airtime on John’s show. I suppose that comes from being an “opinion leader” as Rep. Gilchrest called me once in a letter I received from his office. Something tells me I’m going to get another one soon.

If John wants his show to survive and thrive in a sort of difficult time slot for talk radio (people tend to lose focus on issues in the late afternoon because they’re looking forward to the end of the work day – particularly on Friday) he’ll need to find a way to connect with the audience. He’s done that reasonably well with me so far because I want to listen to what political leaders and candidates have to say. But after the municipal election John won’t have that built-in interest of people trying to decide who to vote for, so he’ll need to study up on the issues people care about.

I understand his point about the first couple weeks’ go-round with the candidates and political/media leaders being a crash course in learning what the hot topics are. After next week, he won’t have those training wheels and the show will stand or fall on the merits of its host and interested callers.

Except for Fridays, I’m at work during the 3-4 p.m. slot. As I’ve pointed out before, I’m a “dittohead” so Rush is on my radio from 12-3. In order to keep me from putting my headphones back on and resuming my enjoyment of the headbanger music I listen to at work, John needs to keep his show compelling. Now that he’s starting what one may consider a post-special-guest phase, keeping my interest may be a challenge, but I’ll continue to give him an opportunity for awhile.

Finally, I would like to give him praise for one thing. It’s obvious to those who read me that I’m a partisan and consider myself a “reinventionist” Republican, one trying to place the party closer to the ideals espoused by our Founding Fathers about government close to the people. Thus, I know that I disagree with many Democrats and even a lot of folks in my own party on some issues (like the Long War). But I agree that the disagreements should be friendly and debate kept civil. Agreeing to disagree goes a long way, and keeping communication open continues an opportunity to finally make people see things in the proper fashion.

Oh, one point I didn’t get a chance to make. I know us bloggers are looked at as evil people who can only throw brickbats at the elected officials and don’t do much in the community, but today I took the day off work so I could let the people in my little neighborhood know that I wish to represent them on the Wicomico Neighborhood Congress and would like to help form a neighborhood association. So a few of you reading may have seen a bright blue flyer on your door – that was me. And yesterday I volunteered to work at the upcoming Pork in the Park barbeque festival and the weekend after that I’ll again participate in the Ben Layton walk because it was so fun last year.

Maybe people don’t agree with me or my blog politically, but I challenge them to get off their couches, turn off “American Idol”, and do something to make a difference in the community. I don’t have a whole lot of talents, but the ones I do have I try to take advantage of and help out, whether it be here on monoblogue or in the community at large. We bloggers have a tendency to do that, nasty comments by some political figures notwithstanding.

I’ve come to love this area I live in, and want to keep it a good one. Each and every one of us can participate in the process if we choose to.

Gilchrest votes for Popeye over policy

The House just passed a $124 billion funding measure for the troops in Iraq – well, $100 billion for them and $24 billion for a myriad of other projects. The most infamous one is buried way back on Page 115 (the .pdf file of HB1591 is 168 pages):

There is hereby appropriated to the Secretary of Agriculture $25,000,000, to remain available until expended, to make payments to growers and first handlers, as defined by the Secretary, of fresh spinach that were unable to market spinach crops as a result of the Food and Drug Administration Public Health Advisory issued on September 14, 2006. The payment made to a grower or first handler under this section shall not exceed 75 percent of the value of the unmarketed spinach crops.

Of course, the key objection MOST of the GOP (with the two exceptions of Rep. Gilchrest and Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, also Rep. JoAnn Davis of Virginia did not vote) had was the withdrawal date of March 31, 2008. The Republicans have zero objection to voting for money for the troops. Like the 198 House Republicans who properly voted against this measure despite its military funding, I’m one of those who objects to any specific pullout date – you withdraw when the job is finished. If this were to pass and somehow survive a Bush veto, the Iraqi people would enjoy a calm before the coming storm with the summer of 2008 becoming a bloodbath in Iraq, and possibly other places far beyond the Middle East. Who knows what an emboldened Iran is capable of?

But we know had this bill been a “clean” bill without the pork, the result would’ve been opposite – the minority GOP voting for it and Democrats voting no. Obviously the Democrats want peace at any cost.

I know Wayne Gilchrest believes that he’s going to vote for this because voting against it could be implied as denying money for our troops and he won’t vote that way. I’m willing to understand the nuance in this, though – no Democrat propaganda that would say Wayne Gilchrest voted to cut funding to the troops would be unresponded to by me. I know what the story is behind this vote.

But once again, I’m furious with the representative I helped to elect. Like I noted in my post yesterday about GOP Delegate Page Elmore siding with the Democrats on Maryland’s HB400, it doesn’t matter how often you vote with the Democrats because they’re still going to run someone against you and lump you in with those evil conservative Republicans. The question now becomes whether a Republican will endeavor to face Gilchrest as a 2008 primary opponent – with an early March primary next year time is short for any candidate willing to step up and challenge the incumbent.

 

A 50 year plan: Election reform

I don’t remember this sort of attention the last time that we had an “open” seat for the Presidential race but for whatever reason the 2008 campaign has gotten off to a really early start and the trend is accelerating as California recently moved its 2008 primary up to a February date. This instantly makes the Golden State a disproportionate player in the Presidential sweepstakes and all but dooms states that even have primaries as early as March to second-tier staus.

As part of my 50 year plan for election reform, I’m going to address this piece of the electoral pie, but there are other slices that I think merit attention first.

The very first thing which needs to occur is to require a photo ID to vote at the ballot box, or have one on file with a signature card for absentee ballots. It just makes sense to me that, in a society where I’m asked for my ID in order to place money into my own bank account, some form of photo identification needs to be required to exercise one of our most precious rights.

Normally the Democrats scream about this point that requiring ID disenfranchises the poor. (It’s probably why a bill dealing with this died in committee here in Maryland.) I believe Georgia was going to require something similar to this and was willing to pony up a few hundred thousand dollars to allow anyone who could get to the DMV their own photo identity card, but that still wasn’t good enough for the Democrats. I guess then I have to ask what they’re so afraid of? Are they worried that their ideas aren’t good enough to appeal to a majority of those who vote? (I know if I were them I would be.)

So if we adopt part number one above we’ll have voter ID. The next step is to use the electronic machines, but have a backup paper trail set up as a double-check. Conspiracy theories about the 2000 and 2004 elections aside, and using my bank as an example again, every time I put in or take out money I get a receipt. Something tells me that voting can easily be the same way, and with the backup no one in the tinfoil hat brigade can claim a Diebold conspiracy.

Thus, I’ve taken care of making sure the people who are eligible to vote can do so (once) and that their votes would be accounted for properly. But there are two other items that Maryland does (or may do) which, in my opinion, need to be rolled back.

First of all, in 2008 we may have a Constitutional amendment placed on the ballot that allows for early voting but insofar as I can tell doesn’t have a provision to pay for securing the ballots for the extra days necessary nor a common-sense identification check on it. (This has passed the Maryland Senate but is pending in the House of Delegates.)

I believe that we have adequate means of voting between the polling places being open on the days already designated by the state Constitution and absentee balloting (even with some limitations I’d place on it) that the number of voters who actually wish to participate in the process has a chance of doing so. There’s no need to extend the opportunities for voter fraud and tampering by adding several days to the process. For me, I’ve made the time to be there on Election Day, in fact last year I worked the polls for Bonnie Luna’s campaign as well. Voting and then working the polls is something I’ve done for a number of years.

Now, as far as absentee balloting goes, I believe there should be some restrictions placed back on it. I don’t really care for the “shall-issue” rules Maryland has because it leaves some openings for a lack of accountability. A more common-sense approach would be one where certain classes of people remain eligible (such as those over 60 years of age or serving in the military and stationed out of the state), but a qualified excuse has to be provided for others. I’ve voted absentee only about a half-dozen times in my life – mostly while in college but in 2004 I voted absentee for Ohio because I found out I’d move to Maryland too late to be registered here for the November election. Those are legitimate reasons to get an absentee ballot, whereas just because you don’t want to drive to the polling place is not. Hell, the weekend before the 1996 election I was laid up in the hospital with pneumonia but I’ll have been damned if I wasn’t going to be out for Election Day to at least vote for Dole, if I couldn’t work the polls. (Fortunately I recovered enough to be let out on the Sunday before.)

In both state and national election law, there are restrictions on candidate financing. When the McCain-Feingold reforms were passed in 2003, it was supposed to take the money out of politics – but estimates are now coming in for the 2008 Presidential election that suggest the spending total may reach $1 billion. Other changes made by McCain-Feingold gave it a billing as an “incumbent protection act” as regulations were placed on advertising within 60 days of an election.

Personally I think any and all contribution limits should be abolished. But with that carrot comes the stick of daily and accessibly reporting any and all contributions to a particular campaign. So if AFSCME gives $50 million to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, within 24 hours anyone in the pajamas media can say, hey, AFSCME members, look what your union dues are paying for. If the trial lawyers’ associations give $20 million to John Edwards, we can immediately follow the money and ask him what’s the quid pro quo here? Obviously the situation holds true as well if the national Chamber of Commerce gives $15 million to Rudy Giuliani.

But, one may argue, wouldn’t that make the little guy’s $25 contribution to Giuliani meaningless? After all, it’s said that money talks and more money talks louder. Well, this is true, but the people still hold the absolute power of the vote. And if I’ve found out that someone or something donated to a candidate I don’t like, I can choose to act accordingly. For example, when I get the annual reports from companies I invest in, I check and see who their board members make political donations to and withhold share votes from those candidates who support people I don’t feel are friendly to the goals of the business as I see them. If more people did that, it will police the situation.

After all, George Soros donated many of his millions to defeat President Bush, but he only had one actual vote in the matter. I’ll grant he influenced many to follow him and vote against Bush, but others worked and donated to the Bush side and the President prevailed because he and his supporters convinced 59 million people to vote for him.

Now to the California question. To me, it’s insane that we’ve dragged this election process out so long. Here Maryland has plenty of common sense in the way it runs state elections. Last year our primary was September 12, a date that was 8 weeks before the general election. This gives candidates and the public the maximum amount of time to get together and interact so the public can make an informed choice with as many candidates in the running as possible.

However, in the decision for the 2008 Presidential election, by all indications we’ll know who the two leading candidates are a full nine months beforehand. (Even though Maryland has a March primary, we’ll have little say.) In 2004 there was some case of “buyer’s regret” among Democrats that summer when John Kerry didn’t turn out to quite be the candidate they thought they’d get in March when the race was essentially decided. So it looks like most of 2008 will be consigned to mudslinging and negative campaigning between the Republicans and Democrats and nothing will get done in Congress either because no one will want to hurt their candidate or help the opposition.

I think I have a better idea then this. Of course, Presidential politics are dictated by the party conventions that generally take place in July and August. The first step is to move those to a mid-September timeframe, right after Labor Day when people begin to pay attention to the campaigns anyway. One can start the Monday after Labor Day and the other the following Monday, alternating between cycles.

(It might mess up Newt Gingrich’s idea a little bit, but there’s still time for several weekly debates.)

So now we work backwards from that point. What I’ve always thought would be a good idea would be to have a series of regional primaries held on consecutive weeks. Six regions of eight states each (more or less, depending on population) would hold primaries, starting the Tuesday after July 4th and ending in August. And to assure each area would get the “prime” first spot once every six cycles, the regions would run elections in a particular order, the first one in a cycle sliding back to last in the next cycle. Thus, the idea Maryland was trying to promote of having a “regional” primary date with Delaware and Virginia would be realized, only on a slightly larger scale. For example, we could be teamed up with Delaware, Virginia, DC, West Virginia, the Carolinas, and Pennsylvania with our regional primary. Iowa and New Hampshire would be exempt and continue with their influential first caucus and primary, but could be moved back into June.

So instead of having this process last almost a year, I’m compressing it into five months. It gives the American people, who are getting less and less of an attention span, a short and focused campaign for our highest office and it also means Congress can get more done because they don’t have to worry quite as much about influencing the Presidential race.

Voting is the most important civic duty most of us do over the course of the year. I believe that these reforms would go a long way to increasing the percentage of people who actually exercise their right as citizens to do so.

Time to quit playing

“When Democrats are criticized, they counter-attack. When Republicans are criticized, they apparently believe in ‘the soft answer which turneth away wrath.’ In politics, however, a soft answer is like blood in the water that provokes piranhas to more vicious attacks.” —Thomas Sowell

I read this in my Patriot Post today (yesterday’s edition, the 07-12 Chronicle.) And these words ring quite true. It seems to me also that Democrats like the politics of personal attack a little more than the GOP does.

If there’s one thing I have to say about Maryland politics, though, right now the GOP isn’t the recipient of much criticism. Comapre this to the oft-quoted Senate President Mike Miller in 2005: (GOP leaders are) “going to be flying high, but we’re going to get together and we’re going to shoot them down. We’re going to bury them face down in the ground, and it’ll be 10 years before they crawl out again.”

Of course, at the time it appeared that there was a pretty good chance that Governor Ehrlich would be re-elected after Democrats Doug Duncan and Martin O’Malley shredded each other in an expensive primary fight for the governors’ chair, while Kweisi Mfume and Ben Cardin were among a host of Democrats threatening to do the same as they ran against odds-on favorite Michael Steele for the U.S. Senate seat. Well, to their credit, the Democrats managed to pile up enough votes in their strongholds to stave off both Ehrlich and Steele.

After the GOP losses in 2006, Maryland is seemingly back to its normal political course as the Democrats hold all of the statewide offices and the GOP is once again beaten back to its few strongholds in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore. So the anti-Republican political rhetoric has been toned down – after all, they now can keep their powder dry for most of the rest of this election cycle. Besides, by 2010 they’ll need to figure out a way to blame the four O’Malley years of bloated spending and rapidly increasing taxes on the last GOP administration.

Oh, you wonder why we on the right call the Democrats “tax-and-spend”? Here’s just a few examples on just the state level. I’m not even going to go into the federal level, where it’s claimed in the 2008 budget that we’ll stop deficit spending IF Bush tax cuts expire in 2010 (essentially a huge tax hike) – never mind revenues have increased since these tax cuts took effect.

In Maryland, Democrats have called for the following eight “revenue enhancements”. These bills can be found on the General Assembly website, search by bill number. All I did was look under the subject “taxation” and pick the most obvious ones!

  1. A $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax (HB288/SB207, also HB754);
  2. Sales tax increases of either 1/2% (to 5.5% – HB434) or 1% (to 6% – HB393);
  3. A 10 cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax (HB821);
  4. Doubling the current tax on alcoholic beverages (HB757/SB422);
  5. If you wish to exercise your Second Amendment rights, an additional 10% tax on guns considered “assault weapons” (HB441), or 5 cents per round on ammunition (HB1393);
  6. An additional 2 mill property tax, which equals 2 cents per $100 of valuation if my math is correct (HB486/SB644);
  7. A 5 cent deposit on cans and bottles (HB839);
  8. And a repeal on the limits on the rate and collection of pollution permit fees (HB1218).

Plus, while it’s not a tax per se, some Democrats want to create a single-payer health system in Maryland (HB400).

So which Democrats support these bills the most? Well, here are a list of co-sponsors who are listed on at least five of these bills. Why am I not surprised that most of these folks represent Montgomery County?

The king of taxation: freshman Delegate Saquib Ali (District 39, Montgomery) who’s co-sponsor of seven of these bills.

The prince: another freshman, Delegate Craig L. Rice (District 15, Montgomery). He has five co-sponsorships to his “credit” and is lead sponsor of HB441.

And the “dirty dozen” who have five co-sponsorships (plus lead sponsorships as noted):

  • Fourth term Delegate Elizabeth Bobo (District 12B, Howard);
  • Third term Delegate William A. Bronrott (District 16, Montgomery), who’s the lead sponsor of HB757;
  • Third term Delegate Rudolph C. Cane (District 37A, Dorchester/Wicomico);
  • Fourth term Delegate Virginia P. Claggett (District 30, Anne Arundel);
  • Fourth term Delegate Barbara A. Frush (District 21, Prince George’s/Anne Arundel);
  • Freshman Delegate Tom Hucker (District 20, Montgomery);
  • Second term Delegate Anne R. Kaiser (District 14, Montgomery);
  • First elected term Delegate Jane E. Lawton (District 18, Montgomery);
  • Freshman Delegate Roger P. Manno (District 19, Montgomery);
  • Fourth term Delegate Maggie I. McIntosh (District 43, Baltimore City), also lead sponsor of both HB486 and HB1220;
  • Second term Delegate Karen S. Montgomery (District 14, Montgomery), also lead sponsor of HB400;
  • And finally, seventh (!) term Delegate Samuel I. Rosenberg (District 41, Baltimore City).

I also need to point out that my delegate (not by my choice, I was outvoted) Norm Conway is a co-sponsor of HB754, which is billed the “Children and Working Families Health Care Act of 2007”. I was going to say that naturally, Conway is a Democrat, but then I saw Wicomico County Delegate Page Elmore on that list too, once of the few Republicans who are calling for this tax increase. Page, it ain’t going to help, the Democrats will run somebody against you whether you vote and sponsor with them or not.

Meanwhile, the GOP has quietly put together two bills of particular interest, neither of which has any chance of passing. HB809/SB942 is a “taxpayer’s bill of rights” that’s desired to appear on the 2008 ballot, while my Senator, Lowell Stoltzfus, introduced what he billed the “Budget Reconciliation Act of 2007.” As he stated last week on Bill Reddish’s radio show, the General Assembly has “no will to do cuts” to the budget. So he introduced some pruning of the budget to help our situation, rather than assuming Free Staters have deep enough pockets to pay for everything on the liberal wish list.

Well, Maryland, you now have a list of suspects in the case of the 2007 taxpayer wallet pickpocketing. And you can let them know how you feel.

In my case, I’m one member of the Maryland GOP that’s not going to be afraid to call people what they are. If Democrats want to tax and spend our state into bankruptcy I suppose it’s their right, but I’ll be damned if they’ll do it without me saying something about it! It’s going to be interesting to see if my left-wing cohort at The Greenbelt sees fit to include this in the upcoming Carnival of Maryland #3 because this will be the article I submit. I guess I’ll find out Sunday, won’t I?

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