2007 Tri-County Lincoln Day Dinner

Before I get too far I have to say this:

www.monoblogue.us

A proud Ronald Reagan Sponsor

2007 Tri-County Lincoln Day Dinner

Yes, I placed myself and my website on the sponsoring page. So if any of those reading are among the 100 or so who attended last night’s festivities, welcome to monoblogue. I think its reputation may precede it now. Among those who sat at my table was Delegate Addie Eckardt and her husband, which led me to state that I got to sit with a Delegate I agreed with 100% of the time! And I think she’s one of a growing number of monoblogue fans.

During the dinner, we had a number of speakers. We heard from all of our local GOP Delegates and Senators, plus State Senator Andrew Harris (District 7) who came down to join us for our event. We also had brief remarks from our National Committeeman Louis Pope and from John Flynn, representing the state party. We even had a nice short video presentation from Governor Ehrlich, who sent his sincere regrets on not being able to attend. But I wanted to focus on two speakers: our National RNC Committeewoman Joyce Lyons Terhes and our Congressman, Wayne Gilchrest.

To open her remarks, Terhes told us that “the time for discouragement is over” and we need to begin to fight again. Her take on the losses in 2006 was pretty simple: many of the Republicans who ran had lost their principles and were beginning to sound too much like the Democrats.

As a way of recifying the situation, Terhes suggested a number of ideas, which to me fall under the category of common sense. It’s no secret that Republicans have a set of principles, a platform that they need to follow to keep their base and attract the average voter.

  • She called upon some of those who lost close races (particularly District 38B candidate Michael James) to run again and for us to search out other quality candidates.
  • Having lost the prior elections, it was time to “think outside the box” and try some new ideas. Included among them was taking advantage of new technologies. (Hey, I know a reinventionist Republican blogger…)
  • Be involved in the community. Somewhere along the line I think I’ve said this too, but this does get a person’s name out in a not necessarily political context.
  • Put principles first. We all received cards that stated Republican principles. Perhaps they should’ve went out to those in Congress who failed to follow them; regardless it served as a timely reminder.
  • Finally, we have to earn the right to govern again. In my eyes, we have to use our current minority position both in Maryland and nationally to deliver an alternative message where we can, and occasionally work with the Democrats when they stumble onto something that’s helpful (for example, the Jessica’s Law legislation that was passed in the last GA session.)

The other speaker I wanted to mention was Congressman Gilchrest. The bulk of what he talked about was our involvement in Iraq. Regular readers know I have my disagreements with him on the subject; however, to be fair, I’m going to pass along two books that he suggested to us as reading on the subject.

First among these is a book he claimed to have used when he taught history about the Vietnam War. It’s called Why Viet Nam?: Prelude to America’s Albatross by Archimedes Patti. The book is apparently in limited supply (written in the early 1980’s), but I’m guessing most libraries own it.

The other book is more recent, called Fiasco: The American Military Adventure In Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks. This is more available so that may be the first one I read. (You can also check for them on Amazon, I keep a link to there from monoblogue. Help me make my server fee!)

But I’m going to reserve a right at a later date to request he read a couple books. Personally, I think the parallels he tries to draw between Iraq and Viet Nam play right into the hands of our enemy. As I look at the situation, unlike Viet Nam, our enemy isn’t driven by a political cause, but a religious one. Unfortunately, our enemies have learned the lessons of Ho Chi Minh better than we did and they’ve taken the upper hand in the propaganda war.

As for his dinner remarks, it wasn’t surprising that they drew probably the most tepid applause of any of our speakers. But despite the events that have shaken our party since our last get-together in June of 2006, we seemed to be in good spirits and plenty optimistic about our chances in 2008.

So the Maryland GOP, or at least the one in our corner of the state, is nowhere near buried as Mike Miller prophecized. It’s people like the ones in our tri-county area that are building the ladder to climb our way out of the hole the Democrats thought they had dug for us. Can anyone say Martin O’Malley, one term governor? Sure you can.

Salisbury Festival Saturday in pictures

April 29, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · 6 Comments 

I’m not Salisbury News (or the Daily Times for that matter) but nonetheless I had my camera yesterday.

Now I saw both these fine news outlets at the Salisbury Fire Department awards ceremony that pretty much began the day’s proceedings. So I left the picture-taking and story telling to them, save one comment I would like to make regarding the absence of one Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman. Since she was mysteriously “out of town”, the honor of representing the city transferred to City Council President Louise Smith, who received a reasonably warm reaction when she was announced. Smith only gave short remarks though which essentially said that the mayor was sorry she missed the event (which I have a tough time believing) and that she (Louise) was pleased to be able to represent the city in her stead.

So I listened to part of the presentation and went off to do some of what I came to do, besides drop off about 3 dozen brownies at the Wicomico County Republican Club’s food booth.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love to check out old cars. So yesterday the festival had a car show hosted by the Wheels That Heal Car Club along with the Delmarva Late Great Chevys club. Obviously I took a bunch of pictures, mostly for my personal collection. It’s because I like having them as screensavers and 640×480 doesn’t fill up my screen here. Because of that, if I put these pictures to the size of my format you get this:

Just part of a picture I took of a sweet silver 1968-era Pontiac Firebird. It's all that fits here!

But I did get a couple other good pictures at the car show that I thought were suitable for monoblogue. The first one just shows a piece of all the work that these people do just for a hobby. I took a picture of the overall car (a 1962 Chevy Impala) but cropped out just the engine to show that work.

While I'm obsessed with monoblogue, the owner of this 1962 Chevy Impala takes great care to keep his motor looking nice like this.

The next two pictures actually have a lesson of sorts behind them. First I’m going to show a picture of the engine of a 1963 Chevy Corvair.

One of the rare rear-engine vehicles Detroit put out, here's the powerplant of a 1963 Chevy Corvair.

You’ll notice I’m taking a picture from the back. For those readers not old enough to remember the Corvair when it was relatively new, the car received notoriety a few years later when future presidential candidate Ralph Nader made it the subject of a book called Unsafe At Any Speed. With that, the auto safety movement was born and the Corvair faded away a few years later.

Somehow I doubt you could pay the owner of the car this much and buy it.

If you saw this car at the festival (it was the only Corvair there) you’d have seen that it was a nice white Monza convertible with a red interior. So it wasn’t the bare-bones Corvair model that probably cost hundreds less. What I find sort of ironic is that some of the people who actually made this car are still being paid by you every time you buy a GM product. They’re almost certainly retirees who still get covered under the GM health insurance plan, and I seem to recall that this $2800 is roughly the cost that GM pays out of each car sold today to take care of its retirees. I may be off somewhat, but just think about this number when you read that the Big Three are hugely in favor of government-subsidized health care (i.e. HillaryCare).

Ok, enough about politics.

By the time I’d gone through the car show, Main Street was beginning to become a bit crowded. I took this picture below about the time the first band I stopped to see got started.

It was a pretty good crowd milling about on Main Street downtown.

Something that they started down on the Plaza end of the festival was a 36′ long canvas that people could paint individual squares of. I actually took this shot about 11:00 and unfortunately didn’t go back later to check out the progress and see what the finished product looked like – probably a riotous display of colors and styles.

The 36' long canvas was available for the public to do its magic on. Wonder if 'No Division' or the person(s) behind 'SLAK' or 'TREES' was about?

I also went over to Lot 10 to check out the ADA Mini Grand Prix. It was a go-cart race on a “road course” set up about Lot 10, and watching these little cars go around the track I could tell it was bumpy. A lack of city maintenance perhaps? And when they hit the wall (as one did while I was watching) they hit it hard as these cars can go up to about 30 mph. Below is a shot of a couple of these cars trading paint – some were pretty beat up by the time they survived the qualifying heats and 40 lap feature race. A car sponsored by Sub Side Deli won that race, it was pretty dominant throughout.

two cars in the Mini Grand Prix set to bumping and grinding through the corner.

Finally, I got a chance to check out some of the local musical talent. Because these two bands are apparently populated by youngsters, they don’t play in the local over-21 clubs often. So here was an opportunity to scout some of what the kids were playing today. Pictured below is one band called Losing 76. (Why that is I don’t know.)

The four-piece band Losing 76 was among the entertainers on the Court Street Stage.

I must say that they’re a raw talent, but that can be expected from a young band. They seem to have a heavy alternative influence on their style, and it showed in both their couple originals they played and the covers they picked (if I recall correctly they did a song from Weezer and one from Blink 182.) They may be a band to watch in the coming years if they can work at it and find venues to play at on a regular basis.

Later in the day, a band called Apathy closed out the Court Street Stage. Their band I’d actually heard previously as they got a little bit of time on the X106.9 “Local Tracks” show a week or two ago. They’re farther along in the evolution process than Losing 76, and have even endured a few personnel changes along the way since they recorded a full-length CD last year (one I bought.) So when I saw they were on the bill for the Festival, I knew I had to make a beeline to where they were performing, and they didn’t disappoint – with one exception.

The band has a song called “Anything You Want” that I would’ve liked them to play; however, they did do some good covers, most notably a passable version of the Hendrix classic “Purple Haze” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Like I was surprised because in listening to them initially I thought they had a very Nirvana-style sound, particularly in the way lead vocalist Chris Vansciver sings.

Local band Apathy plays at the Salisbury Festival, April 28, 2007.

I sort of wonder if there’s not going to be a name change in their future, though – if you look on Myspace Apathy is hardly an original name. Regardless, these guys should be a force on the local music scene in the very near future too.

And I have no picture of this, but I met and renewed acquaintances with several interesting people along the way. I made sure to have my lunch at the Wicomico County Republican Club booth in the food court and checked out how my brownies I brought were selling (they sold out, hope they were good!)

Finally my day out ended by participating (along with about 120 others) in the 2nd Annual Ben Layton 5K Run/Walk. I walked the 2 miles and was sucking wind at the end – not because I can’t walk two miles (that’s about a regular walk for me in my neighborhood) but because I was trying to do it in under 30 minutes. I’m happy to say I made it in about 26 minutes. Found a gear or two I forgot I had as I try to drop a bit off the 32.6% body fat the health screening at the Festival said I had. (The good news is that it was over 37% last year when they did it. So I’m progressing well.)

Now the interesting part will be to find out how much all of this cost the city of Salisbury. Insofar as I know there were no criminal incidents but that may be because I wasn’t involved in any. The Festival is moderately successful so eliminating the troubles that have plagued it in the past is a key to making it more prosperous in the future.

Honored, in a way

April 28, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · 3 Comments 

Today I got an e-mail asking me to link to a new website from a person who admires mine, despite the fact we’re miles apart politically. If you read the site (only three posts old so it’s easy) people familiar with the Eastern Shore should be able to figure out who this is. I’m not going to say myself, since he does not choose to identify himself on his site. It’s definitely interesting reading as far as an introspective website goes.

In some respects he writes for many of the same purposes that I do. I just enjoy relating my experiences and opinions and for me the best way to do so is through writing. Some people may not like everything I write, but most seem to enjoy it and the words I write make them think.

So I took the opportunity of linking to his website (as he’s linked to mine) and revised and extended some of my other links. Among those I deleted a couple, changed some descriptions and I added a link to the closing band on the Court Street stage today at the Salisbury Festival. This band is called Apathy and they’re all young kids (I believe the oldest is 18) but they’re very talented musicians. Bought their CD they had for sale and enjoyed it driving about this evening back home and to/from the Ben Layton walk. (Can you say early bedtime with all of my walking today? But I walked the 2 miles in less than 30 minutes, which was my goal.)

If I have the time tomorrow I’ll go through my pictures of the Salisbury Festival and see if anything is blogworthy. I had my camera set to a larger format on most of my shots so I don’t know how many will work for monoblogue. Most of the shots I took were of the car show (regular readers know I like those) but I took a few other various ones, including of Apathy and another band that performed earlier called Losing 76. But tomorrow is a busy day for me as I volunteered to sell the wristbands at the tail end of the Festival so all the little kids can ride the rides. Then I have the Tri-County Lincoln Day dinner tomorrow night. I’ll probably write it up but I don’t think I’ll take my camera this time as interior pictures don’t do well with it.

So there will be a post on that next week, plus another couple I have in the works as well. Of course, I’ll be following the latest local developments on the proposed property tax increase with interest and how that petition drive is going. I did not see those people out at the festival but perhaps I missed them in my travels.

As always, I’ll try to make whatever I talk about interesting. I was talking to a blogging friend today (who shall remain nameless) and when I told him what my readership was according to my SiteMeter, he said “that’s way too low.” And he may be right judging by how many comments I get. Either way, I’m pleased with the way it’s grown so far and maybe it’s time for the next step. So stay tuned.

Oh, I forgot this late last night as I was writing this. I’m STILL getting comments on Pumpin’ and Dumpin’ so I’ll add an update next week.

How far will they get?

April 27, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Politics · 6 Comments 

I saw a note regarding this on Delmarva Dealings but apparently the Great Salisbury Property Tax Revolt of 2007 is now underway. The first step is the referendum petition that needs a certain percentage of the city’s registered voters to succeed. We know they’re out because Bill Reddish slapped his John Hancock on one this morning on his radio program. Bob Caldwell was the guest who witnessed the signature.

So I’m going to go under the impression that several people will be out and about at this weekend’s Salisbury Festival gathering signatures. If they need 20 percent of Salisbury’s registered voters I believe that works out to about 2,000 to 2,500 signatures (plus a few hundred in case of duplication and those thrown out.) Honestly, I don’t see that portion of the drive as a problem if they sell it correctly – this would be a massive tax increase and at first blush who wants those?

But don’t underestimate the folks who would be aligned against such an effort. Obviously you have Mayor Tilghman, the remnants of the “Dream Team”, and most likely the Daily Times who I’ll bet will editorialize often against this referendum. They’ll paint the leaders of the effort as anti-public safety because the increase is ostensibly going to raise the police salaries. And no small part of this smear will occur because it’s the local blogs who are leading this effort (moreso the other ones of the “Big Four”, since I know nothing of local affairs according to some.)

Also I wonder about the general mood of the populace after four election days in the last 10 months, and a Presidential primary upcoming next February that candidates are already jockeying for position in. Will they be ready for yet another highly charged campaign for and against this referendum, or uncaring because they’re burnt out on politics?

Moreover, how will the Chamber of Commerce types and SAPOA play into this issue? Knowing that the two on City Council they love to hate in Debbie Campbell and Terry Cohen will be at least symbolically spearheading this effort, will they attempt to scare their businesspeople and their tenants into thwarting this charter referendum at every turn? It’s obvious that the forces behind this tax repeal effort better go through their petition and other efforts with a fine-tooth comb because I’m sure the city’s side will be looking for any mistake in these efforts in order to stop them.

The best pieces of advice I can give those who wish to put an end to the charter amendment and stop this 11 cent property tax increase would be to plan for all of the contingencies I’ve pointed out (and more, as I’d be looking for personal attacks and hit pieces on the leaders of this effort); and, more importantly, provide a plausible alternative to the tax increase. Tell the voters that here is the way to fund the additional police salaries and fire department needs without an 11 cent property tax increase, most likely by cutting the budget in other places where needed, and present your plans. How about some grants, Louise?

In my lifetime, more often than not I’ve seen these drives for a recall (or, in this case a referendum – essentially the same thing) fail because it’s truly tough to convince voters to go against the grain. The people who read monoblogue and the other local blogs are the exception rather than the rule – we’re the 5% or so that are the community rabblerousers, while the other 95% worry more about how to get through their life and have generally learned that “you can’t fight City Hall, so why bother?” So be prepared for a LOT of frustration as this effort continues.

Shorebird of the week 4-26-2007

April 26, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 2 Comments 

This Shorebird has the hottest bat in the South Atlantic League.

There are hot starts to the season and then you have this week’s Shorebird of the Week. In Tuesday night’s win over Lakewood he knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning, padding his league-leading average. Going into tonight’s game with the BlueClaws this 12th round pick in 2006 out of Cal State-Fullerton had the following gaudy statistics:

  • Leads the league in batting (.437), on-base percentage (.506), slugging percentage (.789), and OPS (a sick 1.295 – .900 is considered excellent).
  • He’s also right near the top in runs (20), hits (31), RBI (21), total bases (56), doubles (10), and home runs (5).

And to boot, he’s on a 9 game hitting streak, wearing out opposing pitching at a .474 clip.

In other words, Brandon Tripp is a worthy Shorebird of the Week (as well as reigning SAL Player of the Week for last week.) It’s odd because Tripp wasn’t that successful in Aberdeen last season, hitting just .221 in 43 games. But sometimes a player suddenly “gets it” over the course of a minor league career and Tripp has found something in this 18 game Delmarva span.

As the season wears on, eventually the averages will catch up to Brandon – those seeing-eye singles will find opposition gloves or those liners up the gap will just come into the reach of a speedy outfielder. But there’s no question that the potential is there for a season not unlike Jason Fransz’s 100+ RBI season two years ago. A big bat is something the Shorebirds lacked last year, so hopefully we can take advantage of it while we can.

Looking back at those ribs!

April 25, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · 4 Comments 

I think this is what they envisioned when the concept of “Pork in the Park” was created five or so years ago.

The sun sets on a wildly successful Saturday at the 4th Pork in the Park rib festival, April 21, 2007.

Apparently the first three editions of this event were marred by poor weather. I can vouch for the last two years – 2005 was cloudy and chilly and 2006’s effort was pretty much rained out. But Saturday dawned and the forecast was for sunny and warm weather. Here’s a shot of the festival pretty much when it opened.

Saturday started out a bit cool but it was a nice sunny start to the day's festivities.

I was a little bit surprised when I reported in to volunteer for the event. I was expecting to do garbage detail but they needed me to man the competitors’ gate instead. Apparently the park/rec folks do the garbage, which is understandable. I didn’t take a picture to shame them, but as the day wore on it was apparent they were a little outgunned.

By 2:00 or so when I got a break to grab a drink (and put on more sunscreen!), I could tell the crowds were outstanding (no pun intended). Here’s shots of the entrance line to get in and at some of the rib servers.

It may not have been half of the Eastern Shore trying to get in, but it wasn't too far short.

I like the signage some of these outfits put up, with all of the awards they won. And the crowds in line seemed to agree - or else they just wanted good ribs!

A local rib provider, their supplies were no match for the hordes of people who came. They closed up this booth before the sun went down.

And it goes without saying that a big thank you goes to the Parsonsburg Volunteer Fire Company and Wicomico County Sheriff’s Department for their help. Aside from a little girl who must’ve hurt herself falling, there were no incidents I noticed that needed their attention. But it was good to have them about just in case.

Area first responders were at the ready, just in case. But no major incidents required attention.

So I eventually finished my shift at the gate and got to enjoy the festivities (and finally eat some ribs! I didn’t want to take a long lunch.) I have just one quibble with the volunteer coordinators, though. I think they forgot that I was doing the gate and it wasn’t until almost 6:00 that I had to ask for my relief. I don’t mind running a bit over if someone is running late but an hour’s a little beyond the call. Just something to keep in mind for the 2008 edition. I’ll still volunteer, all I ask is keep that in mind!

Here’s another shot I took. I was actually in the line for Smokin’ Dudes BBQ when I took this along the vendor’s row.

A shot of sunset over Pork in the Park. This was about 10 minutes after I got in the line for Smokin' Dudes, and after I had some pulled pork from Big Daddy's BBQ. Yeah I was hungry!

Of course, there was music there and you know I had to scope it out. I only was over there for about a third of the Couch Potatoes (first picture below) but was finished eating and present for pretty much all of the Melanie Mason Band (second picture below.) We should also thank Queen Anne’s County, this stage is actually their mobile stage.

Couch Potatoes was the first band to play. I didn't catch a lot of their show because I was in rib lines, but what I did hear was your garden-variety classic rock covers.

Wrapping up the musical portion of the show was the blues-rock of the Melanie Mason Band. She and her group did a mix of blues-influenced rock by folks like Jimi Hendrix, Bo Diddley, Stevie Ray Vaughn, etc. and her own original compositions.

There’s just something about a rib festival that lends itself to having blues-based music there. Melanie Mason and her band filled the bill quite well, so I sat and listened with a belly full of ribs and beer.

Now for some of my wish list for 2008. Having a three-day festival is definitely a good idea. I’d love to have a couple other rib joints both perform the contest and serve the public. Having only three rib vendors serve made the lines way too long. There was the market for at least six or seven. (Part of this wish is being most familiar with the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off, a similar annual event where over 20 vendors serve ribs. Granted, the Toledo area is five times the size of Wicomico County.)

Another couple suggestions came to mind because of the parking problems I saw. Part of my job was directing overflow handicap parking to park along the lane winding back into the park. A problem some had that did get the designated handicapped spaces was negotiating the gravel parking lot. Perhaps the county can find a few thousand dollars and pave the handicapped parking area and add a few more spots – hopefully we’ll have a few years of good weather to make up for the event’s first three.

The second suggestion is semi-related. I went to the Shorebirds game on Sunday and the crowd there was, well, pretty miserable. (It was great for taking pictures though as you’ll see tomorrow.) Because the Pork in the Park date is pretty much cemented in now as the third weekend in April (next year it would fall between April 18-20), it may be to the Shorebirds’ advantage to have the South Atlantic League schedule them away that weekend. Also, this would open up an opportunity to use the Shorebirds’ parking lot and shuttle folks back and forth (if Shore Transit would cooperate.)

So that’s the wrapup for Pork in the Park 2007. And like I said to start, I think this is what the folks at the Wicomico Convention and Visitor’s Bureau envisioned when the event was launched. I know I enjoyed it a lot!

Weekend of local rock volume 5

April 24, 2007 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music · Comments Off on Weekend of local rock volume 5 

As I noted on Sunday, I was at the delmarvanightlife.com 42-0 Party on Friday night. Here’s a pictorial with captions and maybe a few comments. I suppose I can qualify as an expert on this.

The first band I saw coming in was Semiblind. They had a guest singer, DJ Stash out of Cambridge (far left).

My friends from Semiblind opened things up on the Main stage. One thing about this stage is that they were recording the shows for possible future airplay on Ocean 98.

Here's the sound board on the River stage. The Main stage one was even more complex.

Not that I would do it, but you always wonder “what happens if I push THIS lever?”

Second up on the Main stage, The Barking Crickets. These guys play a lot of gigs and it shows.

Salisbury favorites The Barking Crickets got to play the Main stage and were recorded as well. I alternated between their show and Project Sideways, pictured below.

Project Sideways, another local group, plays on the River stage.

A group with lots of energy and a classic sound, The Cheaters were one band from the DC area that came down to play here.

The only band I had the opportunity to see that I hadn’t already seen somewhere locally was The Cheaters. They have a classic rock sound with some Southern rock influence, and they were tight. A great show!

Another band making the trek down from up north was Skitzo Calypso. They also played a Saturday gig in OC with Pirate Radio.

After The Cheaters wrapped up, I caught the end of the Skitzo Calypso show on the River stage. Then it was another group from out of town, Baltimore-area rockers The Frauds.

Not only did the drum set light up, The Frauds played an active set with an alternative sound.

On the Main stage, Matthew King and his band, The Sophies, continued the evening. The drummer here, Jude Vitilio, also does sound at a lot of shows that I attend and co-hosts a Sunday evening radio show called “Sunday Sessions.” I heard a couple songs taped here on the show last Sunday night.

The Sophies covering one of their favorite artists, David Bowie.

My final picture is of the closing band on the River stage, Pirate Radio.

Pirate Radio wrapped up the show on the River stage. You may notice that they're using the drum kit The Frauds own. This happens a lot with multi-band shows on a tight schedule.

There were other bands I missed because the show started at 4:30 but I couldn’t get to Brew river until after 9 – Matthew King and Pirate Radio did acoustic sets, and All Down But Nine out of OC finished the show outside. I also missed out on Another Vicious Cycle and Lime Green, two bands that played early on the River stage.

Closing the show on the Main stage was Lower Class Citizens out of Ocean City. They finished about one song after Pirate Radio did so I didn’t get there quite in time to get a picture of them.

All in all, it was a great show and a great showcase for several area bands. In particular, those bands fortunate enough to play the Main stage and have their sets recorded will make for some good radio when they get airplay over the coming weeks.

Would this be considered half a loaf?

April 23, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Politics · 14 Comments 

Tonight the Salisbury City Council in a 3-2 vote passed an 8 cent per $100 increase in the city’s property tax rate cap. If taken fully, this rate increase on non-capital funding taxation amounts to an 11.8% jump.

On the side of profligate spending was Mayor Barrie Tilghman, who wanted the cap (apparently dating from the 1950’s) totally removed. At the other extreme was Councilwoman Debbie Campbell, who wanted the cap to stay as is. Fellow Councilwoman Terry Cohen asked for a small 2 cent increase. The compromise measure was approved by Gary Comegys, Shanie Shields, and Louise Smith; Campbell and Cohen voted “nay”.

Now the ball is in the mayor’s court. She can veto this increase and apparently make the City Council dance to her tune as far as figuring out how to pay for the extra spending she wants. If she vetoes the 8 cent increase, it’s going to be difficult to get either Campbell or Cohen to switch sides and support the hike. (Apparently only a petition drive can rescind this increase. My mistake.) Even so, the mayor will have to swallow some cuts in what she intended to spend in the FY2008 budget for the city because I doubt they can borrow a whole lot more to cover any shortfall. (Then again, money to pay back bonds is exempt from this cap I do believe. So they could tax more to borrow more, in theory.)

My bet is that Mayor Tilghman will (grudgingly) take this increase as only a “first step” and complain that the City Council didn’t give her all she wanted. So it will be the City Council’s fault that the firefighters don’t get a raise, for example. It’s only a measly 8 cents when she wanted at least 12 cents.

There are other hardball games Tilghman can play though. As one example, where I come from the city of Toledo has a “temporary” 3/4% income tax on top of the 1.5% which they previously collected. (This “temporary” tax has been in effect since before I began working in the city back in 1986.) Every 4 to 5 years this 3/4% levy has to be renewed by the voters, so every time it comes up the mayor threatens to gut the city budget by cutting police, fire, garbage service, etc. and all of the city vehicles get a fresh “support the 3/4% income tax” sticker. It may not happen this year, but just wait for this sort of sob story in next year’s budget, particularly if there’s little progress on the Old Mall site. (And yes, comparing Ohio taxes to Maryland’s is apples/oranges, but the sob story will likely occur, won’t it?)

In the meantime, the battle lines appear to be drawn for the next two years. It looks like Louise Smith may have to become Salisbury’s answer to Henry Clay, known as the “Great Compromiser.” And I get the feeling that not too many will be happy about that in my circles.

Judging by the comments, I’m right on the money aren’t I?

WCRC meeting – April 2007

We had a pretty good meeting tonight as we got to listen to my State Senator, Lowell Stoltzfus, discuss the goings-on in Annapolis in the just-completed General Assembly session. Instead of doing the club business first, we pushed the old and new business to the end of the agenda to expand the time available for Sen. Stoltzfus to speak and answer questions.

So after saying the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and getting a good treasurer’s report, Lowell got to say his piece. He called this session “negative” because of some of the financial aspects of what the Democrats in control passed:

  • The $1 billion surplus left over from the Ehrlich administration was spent, down to the bare minimum required for keeping Maryland’s AAA bond rating. Yet the state did nothing about its upcoming deficit.
  • He related about asking a question whether the living wage would add to the state deficit, but was told that they “didn’t know.” It was passed anyway.
  • After being such a huge issue in last fall’s election, scarcely a word was breathed about solving the problems caused by high utility rates.
  • Stoltzfus also noted that the once common practice of extended debate had vanished. What once took just 16 votes to sustain now can be overrode by limiting debate on issues in advance to as little as 15 minutes.

The Senator also talked a little bit about an alternative he raised to help with the oncoming deficit. In essence, it didn’t stop the growth of most programs but slowed it down – for example, K-12 school spending increases by 8% a year instead of 12%, spending on community colleges would jump 10% annually instead of 15%, and the tuition freeze would be eliminated. All told, this would’ve totaled $531 million in savings just this coming budget year, plus the savings in out years. Obviously, the spending-happy Democrats in Annapolis would have none of this. Instead, Stoltzfus noted that Governor O’Malley is the first governor he’s worked with that didn’t do something right away to work on budget problems that were inherited – while the solutions differed, Governors Schaefer, Glendening, and Ehrlich all tackled their budget problems when they took office.

There were a few good things that happened though.

  • The GOP-sponsored “Jessica’s Law” was passed, so child sex offenders aren’t paroled prior to serving their minimum sentence.
  • There was more funding for cover crops in the budget, which helps agriculture locally.
  • Also under the ag banner, Stoltzfus noted that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was showing more willingness to work with agricultural interests on solving the bay’s pollution problems. He also told us that the nitrogen levels coming from the Eastern Shore into Chesapeake Bay had dropped 27%, the most of any area in the watershed.
  • A Working Waterfront Commission study was started to find common ground between watermen who depend on bay access for a living and the interests of development.

Lowell then took several questions from the 30 or so who attended tonight’s meeting.

In discussing ethanol and its impact on area farmers, Stoltzfus noted that it was a mixed bag. Obviously, corn farmers including himself like the higher prices (he noted that in less than a year the price of a bushel of corn had jumped from $2.27 to over $4.00) but on the feed side the increase will lead to big hikes in costs for the poultry and beef industries.

There was another interesting query about state “pork”. The senator told us that this year’s capital budget statewide was about $800 million. Of that total, $20 million is reserved for legislative initiatives. So each district fights for their slice of that pie. And Lowell said that he was conflicted about that – on the one hand, it goes against his grain to spend this extra state money on items in the 38th District, but if we don’t get it, someone in another part of the state will be happy to grab it. He noted that one budget during the Ehrlich years did not have any money for legislative initiatives and he was quite happy about that fact back when it occurred.

In other questions, Lowell thought that there was little chance of that the state would try again to lift county revenue caps, was relatively pleased about the paper trail being passed for voting, and spoke about fighting “hard” for the Holly Center (a local state-run care facility for mentally disabled individuals), but running into a large lobby that’s attempting to squeeze the state out of caregiving for these afflicted individuals.

I asked a couple questions about his voting for the statewide smoking ban for restaurants and the “Clean Cars Act”. It was surprising to me, but on the smoking bill he said that the feedback he got from restaurants actually favored the ban. Basically, they thought having a smoking section actually put them at a competitive disadvantage. I did note that the restaurants had the right to change themselves, but apparently they wanted the force of law to do so.

He made a good point about the “Clean Cars Act”, saying that his vote had nothing to do with the carbon dioxide emissions but with the nitrogen that cars emit. Some of the blame that farmers get for polluting the bay with nitrogen, he continued, actually should be placed on auto emissions. And he added that none of the lobbyists against the bill could provide him with hard numbers on the pricing impact. I countered that the added price (whatever it was) would discourage car buying to some degree and also that the market could flee to Delaware.

So Lowell made valid points; however, I still disagree with his stances. Given more time, I’m sure this would’ve been a fun debate. Lowell didn’t figure he’d get away without answering a question or two about what could be perceived as anti-business votes, so I didn’t disappoint him!

With the Senator concluding his remarks, we did get a report about the club’s revamped website that should be up this week, and heard from county chair Dr. John Bartkovich, who spoke mainly about the upcoming Lincoln Day Dinner (featuring Sen. Stoltzfus as a speaker.) It would be a step in getting our party together and beginning to think positively again – we need to “get over November.” Also, there’s a vacancy in the County Central Committee and we’re looking for a replacement.

Finally, we solicited input from the members on revising the club’s by-laws some more and got a note from successful Salisbury City Council candidate Louise Smith thanking the club for our help in her bid.

Because the fourth Monday in May happens to be Memorial Day, our next meeting doesn’t occur until June 25. It might be a strictly business meeting but I have an idea that could bear discussion for that gathering – I’ll keep it close to my vest for now. It’s sort of like those end-of-season cliffhangers, you’ll have to come in June to find out what it is (unless you’re a club officer.)

Carnival of Maryland #5 and posting schedule

I’m waiting on Kevin Dayhoff to put up the Carnival of Maryland #5, when he does so the link will be here. But I also wanted to take a couple minutes to welcome yet another MBA member (The AT Wire out of Cumberland, a website focusing on video games) and go through the posts I’m going to attempt to accomplish this week.

Tonight I’ve gone through well over 100 pictures I’ve taken over the weekend between the 42-0 party at Brew River Friday night, Pork in the Park yesterday, and the Shorebirds game today. It’s almost to a point where I need a work day to relax!

However, tomorrow night is the monthly WCRC meeting so that article will come out for Tuesday morning. I think what I’m going to do is my pictorial (just pix and captions) of the 42-0 party on Tuesday night and revisit the Pork in the Park festivities with some of my comments on Wednesday night. Thursday will be my usual SotW post. So that should catch me up on my pictures and if I have a little extra time later this week I’ll post a review of the 42-0 show on my Myspace site’s blog.

Some have commented to me regarding what they perceive as a lack of coverage on the city budget. I suppose I feel that for me to look at the city budget is to have me reinvent the wheel. Delmarva Dealings is all over the city budget like fleas on a hound dog. Meanwhile, Joe Albero’s done his own detective work (or invited a lawsuit, or both) by taking a look at Shanie Shields’s alleged criminal record on Salisbury News. So I don’t really see where I can add a lot to their work.

Would I be disappointed if Louise Smith votes to remove the city’s tax cap? Of course I would. To me, there’s plenty of fat that can be trimmed in the city budget, and I’m sure Debbie Campbell and Terry Cohen have been burning the midnight oil looking at all of these line items. If the tax cap needs to be bumped up because there’s just no money after prudent cuts to give first responders a good raise, that’s understandable, but tossing it away entirely is giving Mayor Tilghman (read: developer welfare) a blank check.

While I often state that I write monoblogue about what interests me, there’s times where I have an interest in a subject but don’t feel the need to step on other toes where their coverage is good. Other times I just don’t see an angle where I can fit in.

For example, I know Salisbury News covered Pork in the Park pictorially; however, I have a little bit more to add because I was an event volunteer so I can write from that perspective. I have a few suggestions to make what should have been a most successful event judging by the crowds even better.

And this weekend I just decided to focus on the good side of life on Delmarva for a change. For all that we know is wrong with Salisbury, Wicomico County, the state of Maryland, our nation, and the world at large, there’s a lot more good that happens. I had a lot of fun over the weekend and I feel like reliving and sharing it. Hope that’s all right with all of my readers; if not, just don’t stray too far for I’ll be back to the harder stuff sooner or later.

A 50 year plan: Second Amendment

It’s 4:00 Friday afternoon as I write this for a Saturday posting. I actually started writing this earlier this week (Monday night) and had planned on writing this particular “50 year plan” chapter well before this week’s events ensued. (This is the 9th of 15 planned chapters, give or take.)

But after calling in to John Robinson’s radio show today, incensed that he felt the Constitution was a “living document”, I figured I better place a little bit of background in front of the actual article. Despite his protestation, the Second Amendment is not “dead”; however, layer upon layer of federal gun laws need to be stripped in order to bring it back to health. This is the point of my post today, and I think it serves to revise and extend my remarks from Friday.

It’s only judges that make the Constitution “living and breathing”, regardless of what history professors might say. Now, I had some ideas on how I’d improve the Constitution way back at the start of monoblogue, that post is here. Repealing the Second Amendment wasn’t among them.

Here’s what I originally wrote this week.

I’m writing this chapter of the 50 year plan after the terrible events in Virginia, as a gunman snuffed out over 30 lives before his was taken on the Virginia Tech campus.

Predictably, the knee-jerk reaction from the left is, “we need more gun laws!” The sad fact is that no gun law would have prevented what happened. The gunman decided that his was the way to solve those personal problems he had. People in that mindset to do damage to society will use whatever means they deem necessary. Not only that, the gunman bought his gun legally. It turned out to be the last legal thing he did insofar as gun ownership was concerned, as the serial numbers on both his guns were filed down. Moreover, Virginia Tech’s campus was declared a “gun-free zone” so the moment he entered campus with his weapon he violated another of many laws.

The way I see it, the Second Amendment was placed in the Constitution because people having weapons would be able to protect themselves from a tyrannical government. Having broken away from a monarchy to establish what they hoped would be a truly republican government, they worried about the reestablishment of oppression by a future society – thus, they decided that people should have the right to bear arms. It was “necessary to the security of a free state.”

Some say that the Second Amendment only covers people in a “well regulated militia”, which they interpret as being in the National Guard or a like organization. However, National Guards didn’t come into being until the twentieth century. And that’s not the important part of the sentence. The Second Amendment is sort of unique in that the militia language is descriptive rather than prohibitive. It could have been just as effective without the sentence, just reading “The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Let’s go back to Virginia for another example. As states go, Virginia is one of the least restrictive as far as acquiring a weapon which is their perfect right under the Tenth Amendment. Other states make citizens jump through hoops to get a gun, and that’s also acceptable in the eyes of the Constitution.

The main objection I have to the current situation, and the change that should guide policy in the next fifty years, is working to eliminate the federal gun laws. Just as the Constitution says, Congress shall make no law restricting the right we have to bear arms. However, pages and pages of the federal code deal with guns of all sorts.

I’m certain some read this and think I’m trying to resurrect the wild, wild west. But my point is simple – laws that deal with guns (and a lot of other subjects too, guns just being the subject of this short tome) should be established by the individual states. If a state wants to disarm their populace and leave the weapons to the hands of the criminal element, well, that’s their right. It would also be the surviving public’s right to throw those fools out of office who encouraged the situation by being a legislature full of gun grabbers.

On the other hand, states that show respect to their citizens by allowing them concealed carry and fewer restrictions on the number and type of guns they can possess are generally rewarded by lower crime rates. Imagine if even just 1 out of 100 students or faculty at Virginia Tech carried a weapon – there may still have been a number of deaths, but it may have been limited to the number Cho Seung-Hui could kill before someone else with a gun could have struck him down. (The guy was pretty clever, though, chaining the classroom doors closed before mowing down his victims.)

One final note – while I’m a supporter of people being able to keep whichever weapon they choose, they also should be properly trained in how to use them. Just like people have to take training to drive an automobile (which can also be a lethal weapon in the wrong hands), people should be trained on using and given an opportunity to gain respect for this powerful weapon.

Perhaps this respect for a possible tool for ending a life could carry over into respect for life in general.

Votes to know about

Over the weekend I looked into the actual votes of our Delegates and Senators as far as some of the more controversial bills they faced in the General Assembly this year. A vast majority of the votes in these bodies run either as unanimous or have just token opposition, so I just picked a total of nine (five for our Senators) that were pretty well split.

For this format, I’ll list the bill number, a brief synopsis of the proposal, how the total votes came out, the vote number, and how our Delegates and Senators actually fared. Just so you know my editorial stance, I would’ve voted “no” on every last one of these proposals!

Now, as a review:

Delegates:

District 37A (Wicomico, Dorchester): Rudy Cane, Democrat.

District 37B (Wicomico, Dorchester, Talbot, Caroline): Addie Eckardt, Republican; Jeannie Haddaway, Republican.

District 38A (Wicomico, Somerset): Page Elmore, Republican.

District 38B (Wicomico, Worcester): Norm Conway, Democrat; Jim Mathias, Democrat.

Senators:

District 37: Rich Colburn, Republican.

District 38: Lowell Stoltzfus, Republican.

HB131/SB103, the “Maryland Clean Cars Act”. It mandates that cars sold in Maryland after 2010 meet California emissions standards. Passed the House of Delegates 122-17 and the Senate 38-9.

Vote #0892 (House): Cane excused, Conway “yes”, Eckardt “no”, Elmore “yes”, Haddaway “no”, Mathias “yes”.

Vote #0789 (Senate): Colburn “no”, Stoltzfus “yes”.

HB148/SB634, the National Popular Vote Act. Maryland would follow the national results in determining how its electoral votes are tallied rather than the will of the people, if states that hold a majority of electoral votes pass similar legislation. Passed the House of Delegates 85-54 and the Senate 29-17.

Vote #0730 (House): Cane “yes”, Conway absent, Eckardt “no”, Elmore “no”, Haddaway “no”, Mathias “no”.

Vote #1128 (Senate): Colburn “no”, Stoltzfus “no”.

HB359/SB91, the “Clean Indoor Air Act”. This bans smoking in all bars and restaurants (with some temporary waivers allowed). Passed the House of Delegates 101-39 and the Senate 31-16.

Vote #1165 (House): Cane “yes”, Conway “yes”, Eckardt “no”, Elmore “yes”, Haddaway “no”, Mathias “yes”.

Vote #1193 (Senate): Colburn “yes”, Stoltzfus “yes”.

HB430, establishing a two-tiered “living wage” for Maryland. Passed the House of Delegates 91-49 and the Senate 31-16.

Vote #1213 (House): Cane “yes”, Conway “no”, Eckardt “no”, Elmore “no”, Haddaway “no”, Mathias “no”.

Vote #1099 (Senate): Colburn “no”, Stoltzfus “no”.

HB475, would have repealed the exemption of LLC’s from paying transfer taxes for public school assistance. This was a House vote only, it passed 101-35. The Senate did not consider this before the session ended.

Vote #0435 (House): Cane “yes”, Conway “yes”, Eckardt “no”, Elmore “no”, Haddaway “no”, Mathias “yes”.

HB518, would have allowed municipalities to collect a 1% hotel tax. Again, this was a House vote only (passing 99-37) as the Senate did not act on this in time.

Vote #0657 (House): Cane “yes”, Conway “yes”, Eckardt “no”, Elmore “no”, Haddaway “no”, Mathias “yes”.

HB523/SB591, allowing municipalities to enact a building excise tax. Only the House approved this bill, 102-35. The Senate did not finish it prior to sine die.

Vote #0437 (House): Cane “yes”, Conway “yes”, Eckardt “no”, Elmore “yes”, Haddaway “no”, Mathias “yes”.

HB1220/SB901, the “Chesapeake Bay Green Fund”, paid for by a fee on new impervious surfaces. Passed the House 96-41, did not get a vote in the Senate.

Vote #0500 (House): Cane absent, Conway “yes”, Eckardt “no”, Elmore “yes”, Haddaway “no”, Mathias “yes”.

SB739, the “Legislative Scholarships Integrity Act of 2007”. This prohibited relatives of Delegates and Senators from receiving state scholarships. Unless there was a conference that didn’t occur, I fail to see why this didn’t pass since both bodies approved it. The House went for it 101-35 and the Senate 39-8.

Vote #1056 (House): Cane “yes”, Conway not voting, Eckardt “no”, Elmore not voting, Haddaway “no”, Mathias “yes”.

Vote #0507 (Senate): Colburn “yes”, Stoltzfus “yes”.

So if I were to score area legislators on these votes, here’s how they would fare.

  1. Addie Eckardt, 9 for 9 (100%)
  2. Jeannie Haddaway, 9 for 9 (100%)
  3. Rich Colburn, 3 for 5 (60%)
  4. Page Elmore, 4 for 8 (50%)
  5. Lowell Stoltzfus, 2 for 5 (40%)
  6. Jim Mathias, 2 for 9 (22%)
  7. Norm Conway, 1 for 7 (14%)
  8. Rudy Cane, 0 for 7 (0%)

Obviously I’m a little disappointed with several of Page Elmore’s votes and just plain shocked that Lowell Stoltzfus ranked as he did. I guess he really thinks our air is dirty. On the other hand, Jim Mathias did share my views twice, so that’s a start.

Originally when I did this I was going to crown a “king (or queen) of taxation” but I decided not to bother because we all know which party’s attempting to ratchet up the tax rates. It’s easy to see who sponsors all of these bills by the General Assembly website, and most normally they’re people who inhabit the Western Shore.

I think this will wrap up my GA coverage for the year. In the next few days I’ll come back and look at what our region’s federal representatives are up to.

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