The market basket, April 2008

April 30, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff, Wal-Mart · 1 Comment 

As part of one of my recent shopping trips, I continued what has become a semi-annual look at what I call the “market basket” – comparison shopping between the four major grocery stores here in the Salisbury area to determine pricing trends. The four contenders are Wal-Mart, Giant (a division of Ahold, based in the Netherlands), Super Fresh (part of the A&P grocery empire) and Food Lion. With the exception of Wal-Mart, these are all large regional chains.

If you look at the results from my recent trip, you’ll see that Wal-Mart continues to hold a healthy lead over its competition but the margin is slowly abating. Of the twenty grocery items I use to compare the stores, Wal-Mart tied for the worst with 11 price increases. It doesn’t seem as if they can drive down their suppliers anymore but at least many of the increases were fairly small. They do add up, however.

I’ve also added one item for comparison’s sake and will continue to check it as time progresses to see what effect is shown on food prices, that being the price of a gallon of gasoline at the station I generally use. On Sunday it was $3.419 but it’s jumped again this week. It does seem that the biggest culprit of price spikes in my October 2007 report – dairy products – have turned around a little bit but the pinch is being felt on a number of other grocery items because transportation costs affect almost every conceivable product. 

Of course, mine is an inexact science because I use a fairly small sampling of items and stores as a study group. Originally it was based on a lot of items I purchased and since I don’t eat certain items as a rule, whole sections of the store aren’t accounted. Also there are times a store runs a large sale that just happens to include a number of my sample items and the discounts skew my results. (This is why I note which items were on sale on the week I did my shopping.) 

Another trend I have noticed but I don’t account for is shrinking packaging – for example yogurt cups that used to be 8 ounces are now 6 ounces while the price remains constant. The other key change this time is in the detergent aisle, where many brands have gone to a concentrated 50 ounce size that has pretty much replaced the old 100 ounce bottle – again, the price stays fairly stable but the amount of product is reduced. This probably adds a point or two to the inflation rate but I can’t easily reflect this in my study.

Because I do a lot of my shopping at Wal-Mart, the increase in grocery prices has actually hit me harder than most. Those who frequent the other stores are still losing out in comparison but have managed to enjoy a more stable bill because of the other chains’ aggressive pricing.

On the whole, it’s no shock to see prices up across the board but having dairy products deflate slightly makes some difference. If you’d like to check out my older studies, here are April 2007, October 2006, and April 2006. Then you can see which groups of items have jumped the most in a two-year period.

It all starts here

April 30, 2008 · Posted in Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on It all starts here 

Since I started on the subject of incrementalism at the tail end of last night’s post, I’m going to follow with my thoughts on this news item from my associates at the AIA.

After months of consultation with AIA federal relations staff, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) will soon introduce comprehensive legislation aimed at promoting energy efficiency in residential buildings. The bill would provide incentives to lenders and financial institutions to provide lower interest loans and other benefits to consumers who build, buy, or remodel their homes and businesses to improve their energy efficiency.

Rep. Perlmutter, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, was asked by Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) to craft legislation aimed at promoting energy efficiency in the residential sector. The legislation will likely be introduced in the coming weeks, and Chairman Frank has indicated that the Committee will take swift action to advance the bill.

On April 22, AIA President Marshall E. Purnell, FAIA, spoke at a forum addressing the current state of energy consumption in buildings and how Rep. Perlmutter’s bill will provide greater tools for homeowners, lenders, and government-sponsored enterprises (such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) to improve energy efficiency. “Last year we advocated strongly for energy-efficiency requirements for federal buildings,” noted Purnell at the forum. “This year we are working with the Financial Services Committee to craft legislation that will create federal incentives for energy-efficient residential projects. This is a necessary step to ensure that we continue making significant reductions in the amount of fossil-fuel generated energy our nation consumes through its homes and buildings.”

The legislation would provide incentives, grants, and educational opportunities to encourage the construction and renovation of energy-efficient homes and buildings and the development of sustainable communities. Specifically, the bill would require residential single-family or multifamily structures constructed using federal monies (such as housing built under Section 8, Hope VI, or the Federal Housing Administration) to meet more stringent energy-efficiency standards.

The bill would also encourage the use of energy-efficient and location-efficient mortgages (EEMs and LEMs). Under the legislation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are required to promote and facilitate the use of EEMs and LEMs. The bill would mandate that Fannie and Freddie purchase a certain percentage (in comparison to total mortgages purchased) of EEMs and LEMs every year.

We started down this road with requiring “green” LEED-certified federal buildings a few years ago, after some states and municipalities made this a requirement for their buildings. And as the square footage threshold for LEED certification requirements continues to shrink and place more and more construction into that realm, this represents the first time the camel’s placed his nose under the residential tent – certainly it won’t be the last because government can never leave well enough alone.

Especially worrisome are the new mandates on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It’s bad enough that the federal government is expanding their reach in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, but this foray into EEM’s and LEM’s is certain to become a boondoggle in and of itself – something tells me that the price of energy-efficient construction is getting ready to spike once the federal government starts throwing money that way. If you want an example of this ask yourself how much college costs go up each year and compare that to the rate of inflation. Colleges feel free to raise prices where they can because the financial aid is lucrative, regardless of the amount of education provided.

So Congress, with the full support of an organization that obviously doesn’t take my views into account, is going to move full steam ahead into wrecking two more markets. It’s just like they’ve done with ethanol requirements – managing to foul up the energy picture, the cost of food, and a few car engines as well in one fell swoop of regulations and laws. Instead of alternative fuels, can we get an alternative Congress?

Wicomico Neighborhood Congress – April 2008

People may be shocked at me, I actually skipped a Shorebirds game to attend the meeting. Even Rick Pollitt mentioned that when we spoke briefly afterward. And when I saw a table like this, I thought I’d need to be loaded for bear:

A table full of everything you wanted to know about local environmental issues and then some.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t all that bad of a meeting, or at least they brought down the level of radicalism to something tolerable. After some welcoming remarks by Orphans Court Judge Bill Smith, who is a resident of the Mallard Landing development where the meeting was held, and Rick Pollitt speaking briefly about the “successful first year” of the Wicomico Neighborhood Congress, Jim Ireton came on to introduce the evening’s first of three speakers.

Margaret Vivian came to us from the local branch of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation known as the Heart of the Chesapeake. Here she introduces the audience to rain barrels and rain gardens.

As outreach and media relations director for the local Heart of the Chesapeake branch of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Margaret Vivian went through some of the “challenges” facing the Wicomico River basin and took a quick look at results of the Creekwatchers’ 2007 water quality survey. I will give the Creekwatchers credit for being pretty thorough as they take samples and check site conditions from 26 locations in the watershed on a regular basis.

Obviously their concern was water quality, and the “biggest culprit” she named for the dismal results of the 2007 Creekwatchers Wicomico watershed survey was the amount of nitrogen getting into the water, mostly from waste products and fertilizer (to some farmers and gardeners, those are one and the same.) But with 16 million people living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, development in general was not spared blame. Vivian pointed out that, despite the fact that 2007 was a dry year with rainfall well below normal, the water improvement that can be expected in those conditions didn’t materialize. This anamoly was theorized to occur because of human activity such as wastewater and runoff from paved areas. None of the factors they measured met the CBF’s quality standard, although it wasn’t made clear how these standards were determined.

Margaret explained that the excess nitrogen in the water led to algal blooms and “dead zones” which at one point affected 35% of Chesapeake Bay, mostly along the Western Shore. Locally some assistance in reducing the nitrogen number could be expected upon the completion of upgrades to Salisbury’s wastewater treatment plant, cutting the nitrogen from that source by over 2/3, to an estimated 103,000 pounds from 330,000 prior to improvements.

She also took a brief look at rain barrels and rain gardens, which are steps homeowners can take to improve water quality with the possible benefit of reusing graywater for irrigation or other non-potable uses. (This is a feature found on many LEED-certified buildings.) Vivian pointed out that the CBF offices in Annapolis saved 90% on their water bill by the installation of three large rain barrels on their roof. It’s a pity she didn’t stay around because I wanted to ask her what the payback period was for the installation when you factor in the extra structure required and other construction costs, while accounting for whatever power is saved in pumping because of the gravity feed. But when a 1″ rainstorm creates 600 gallons off a 1,000 square foot house (about the size of mine) you need a bunch of barrels!

Fortunately, she stayed pretty much within the purview of items that can be classified as “personal responsibility.” It’s something I’ll return to as I wrap this post up.

E.J. James of the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance discusses his group's purpose at the April WNC meeting.

A much more brief presentation was made by E.J. James of the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, which is an umbrella group of entities with interest in the river. Those run the gamut from business to environmental and also include several NGO’s like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

He focused mainly on their volunteers, which NWA notes have “transformed into citizen scientists”, who participate in their testing program in the field – or, in this case, in the creeks and streams that make up the Nanticoke’s wide watershed. While James said that the group only “moves with the guidance of its organizations”, I found it noteworthy that while its funding comes from both Maryland and Delaware, the “root” of the money is the federal EPA. The NWA is working on becoming a certified data collector for the EPA, and with its emphasis on equipment that can measure data in the field rather than needing to collect samples for a lab to evaluate, may have a leg up on that goal.

In response to a question from the audience (of the 60 or so there, a large part appeared to be Mallard Landing residents), James felt that the Nanticoke was the most “pristine” of the Chesapeake watersheds because it was among the least developed and had the added benefit of a large swath of marshland around its mouth. There was no major city along its banks so cleaning the river wasn’t looking like a “rear guard” action.

David Curson of the Audubon Society notes that, indeed, some bird species are declining.

Our final speaker was David Curson, who serves as the Director of Bird Conservation for the National Audubon Society. Obviously his task is to save the birds native to our area from the twin endangerment risks caused by loss of habitat quantity (another way of saying suburban sprawl) and habitat quality (where larger swaths are subdivided into smaller ones and certain species who rely on deep forestation lose their ground.) By “prioritizing sites for conservation,” Curson hoped to identify a network of sites with sufficient habitat and focus on them. Possibly most important among the sites in this region are the salt marshes, where some species and subspecies unique to that type of area live.

I noticed that one large piece of assistance with regard to identifying sites was provided by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, since they classify “green infrastructure areas” that closely relate to the “Important Bird Areas” the NAS identifies. In Wicomico County, much of the southeast corner of the county is in what’s known as the Pocomoke-Nassawango IBA, while the areas along Chesapeake Bay are called the Somerset-Wicomico Marshes IBA and a tiny bit in the northeast corner falls into the Cypress Swamp IBA. In all, there are 26 “Important Bird Areas” in Maryland and David placed the overall goal at around 40 when evaluations are finished in coming years. While being in an IBA places no legal restrictions on land use and is voluntary, Curson did take some time to speak out on Wicomico County’s practice of cluster zoning, calling it “harmful.”

Further in that vein, David remarked that, in general, “development is going on at an alarming rate” and that we needed to “keep new developments in town.” He even used a graphic from anti-growth zealot Eben Fodor to assist his argument, one that compares the cost per dwelling to the number of houses per acre. I will give him his due, though, since I asked him afterward where he lived and he indeed lives in an urban area rather than out in the suburbs like some of the NIMBY anti-growth folks around here do.

Unlike prior meetings of the WNC, there was no breaking up into sub-groups to discuss local problems and suggest solutions, and this is where the WNC is beginning to fall short of its goals in my opinion. Certainly it’s not a bad thing to have speakers who are experts in the field, but in my neighborhood the environmental concerns have more to do with drainage and the occasional leaky septic system, or the person who doesn’t take care of their lawn (maybe they were trying for their own rain garden – who knew?)

And while I applaud the groups who sent their representatives to speak to us showing relative restraint and making this more or less about individual responsibility, I know that many among the groups they represent have no objection to government running roughshod over private property rights. One recent example brought up at last night’s WCRC meeting by Delegate Elmore was the compromise that “only” extended development buffer zones to 200 feet instead of 300 feet – still, that’s twice as much land placed off limits because the law was originally set for a 100-foot buffer zone. The secret weapon of bigger, more intrusive government is incrementalism and if the radicals in groups like the CBF don’t get their way in a particular session they don’t seem to get the hint that maybe what they’re asking for is too much – they just lay low until a more friendly Governor or General Assembly is in place, or ask for just a little less the next time.

We’ll see if that trend toward picking speakers representing left-of-center organizations continues in the remaining two WNC meetings that have topics selected for this year – next up is housing (so look for an emphasis on affordable housing with the WNC’s Debbie Campbell influence) and later on will be senior issues.

Too bad the Supremes took so long

Yesterday the Supreme Court in a surprise 6-3 ruling upheld Indiana’s voter photo identification law. Michelle Malkin is one commentator who weighed in on this decision as many others have or will in coming days, terming it “victory.”

And while Justice Souter whined that, “the law imposes an unreasonable and irrelevant burden on voters who are poor and old,” (no it doesn’t) he was outvoted in a rare common-sense move by our highest court; one that hopefully will be the impetus for additional states to enact similar safeguards to the electoral process. While I’m going to send the bat-signal out to an expert like Elbert to chime in about Delaware’s procedures (or other experts from other states who happen to frequent monoblogue), I can certify that Maryland has no such law and all efforts to bring a measure of fraud prevention to our electoral process have steadily been beaten down by majority Democrats in our General Assembly.

But since the folks on the left seem to believe that courts, rather than legislators, should decide what’s proper and correct in jurisprudence, it should now be a no-brainer for the General Assembly to pass a law similar to Indiana’s – voter photo ID has the seal of approval from the highest court in the land. (Now if the Supremes would do something about that McCain-Feingold garbage we may really be on to something here.)

Unfortunately, this decision comes about 45 days too late for legislation that could’ve passed in our General Assembly session this year, so we have to wait until after the 2008 election unless by some miracle a Special Session to address this defect is called by Democrat Governor Martin O’Malley. (Yeah, and the sales tax will go back to 5% and pigs will fly, too.) And with Maryland voters also slated to decide the fate of early voting this November, a quicker decision may have impacted that balloting as well.

So the task of those of us in the Free State who still believe that the ballot is sacred is now threefold:

  • Defeat early (and often) voting this November. Absentee ballots are easy to get and achieve the same purpose without needing additional funding for ballot and voting machine security in remote locations during the early voting period.
  • Hold legislators’ feet to the fire, particularly on the House Judiciary Committee (that means you, Delegate Vallario) when a new version of this year’s HB288 is reintroduced next year. This is important since the Board of Elections doesn’t check citizenship and the MVA hands out voter registration cards like candy to whoever wants a drivers’ license.
  • Also, make sure your Delegates are made aware that this Supreme Court decision paves the way for something along the lines of this session’s ill-fated HB1199, and especially pass the word on to Delegate Hixson, who chairs Ways and Means.

We need this three-prong effort to maintain and improve the electoral process because every vote cast illegally may just negate the one you cast. It’s food for thought on this lunchtime post.

WCRC meeting – April 2008

Tonight our club was treated to some financial and legislative expertise as announced guest speaker Delegate Addie Eckardt was joined by fellow Delegate Page Elmore for this month’s WCRC meeting.

Before Delegate Eckardt made her remarks, we took care of the usual club business and found out that our booth at the Salisbury Festival was a “good success”, taking in about 25% more revenue this year than last. The additional revenue was chalked up to good weather but I personally think it was the smiling help that added a few dollars to the WCRC coffers as well. Regardless, the results were outstanding.

When Addie began, she recounted a little bit of the history behind our state’s structural deficit. The veteran legislator told the gathering that the Republicans had generally been true to their fiscal conservatism throughout her tenure, noting for example her opinion that public-private partnerships were preferable to subsidies; but in recent times she felt it was not enough to just be reflexively against things but instead to provide “substantive alternatives” such as the minority budget proposed by the House Republican delegation earlier this year. This was a budget that eliminated the structural deficit, built up the rainy day fund, and repealed the computer service sales tax with no need for a substitute source of funding. Instead, the state ended up with a budget I’ll go into shortly.

Returning to the background Delegate Eckardt recounted, while the Glendening Administration was “spending like drunken sailors” in the relative economic prosperity the state enjoyed during his tenure, she worried about how the state would be able to weather the downturn certain to come. Sure enough, between a mild recession and the 9/11 attacks, suddenly the state was no longer flush with cash and then-incoming Governor Ehrlich acted quickly to address the problem. On the spending side, he implored groups with funding requests to make them leaner while addressing the revenue side with additional user fees for wastewater treatment (the “flush tax”) and transportation, in addition to ill-fated proposals to bring state-sponsored slot machine gambling to Maryland.

One thing I found intriguing about the political machinations was the additional restrictions an unfriendly General Assembly placed on Governor Ehrlich as the percentage of mandated spending in the budget inched up from 63% to 67% during his tenure, along with additional set-aside requirements for the state’s rainy day fund. All of these placed Governor Ehrlich into a little more of a box because he had the nerve to question some of these mandates early on.

On the other hand, Governor O’Malley didn’t address the structural deficit until he called a special session late last year, one Eckardt joined the GOP in calling “unnecessary.” In fact, compounding the tax increases enacted as a result of the special session were five new programs that needed their own space in this year’s budget. Unfortunately, Eckardt added, the cuts required to fund these new programs generally came at the expense of existing ones. The way I see it, Governor O’Malley likes to play that way because he can take credit for anything new programs accomplished while blaming any failures of existing programs on cuts made by the General Assembly. A master of pure politics, that Martin.

In this year’s operating budget, spending increased 3.8% but this came after reductions done by the General Assembly pared $156 million off the original requests and left a cushion of about $226 million. Higher education was a big winner, getting a 9% funding jump. Meanwhile, the capital budget authorized $935 million in new state debt, with 78 local organizations and initiatives getting some financial assistance from the state.

Two things Eckardt spoke out about regarding the budget were the “use it or lose it” philosophy shared by most state agencies and the number of funded positions that weren’t filled but used as a budgetary backstop. She felt a better accounting of these positions was in order as to just how they were filled or the funding spent.

On a personal level, she felt that the Republican caucus “stopped a lot of bad legislation” but she was disappointed that a bill she sponsored regarding task forces went nowhere. It was her personal experience with being on task forces where work was put in and recommendations were made but nothing concrete happened that led her to introduce the bill to study just how effective these groups were. Since she estimated that each group created cost the state anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000 annually, she reasoned that an accounting was needed. She did note the the Department of Legislative Services is beginning to track and audit the results of task forces that are currently being created, so it’s a small victory for the taxpayers.

Addie next informed us that the Republican Caucus will retreat in early May and one subject they’ll delve into is an alternative energy policy for the state. She then fielded a couple questions, one dealing with immigration (something the GOP tried to address in vain) and the other dealing with the environment, particularly farm regulations. On that, it was agreed by both Delegates Eckardt and Elmore that the Department of Agriculture and the people at Soil Conservation needed to lead that effort and it should be addressed in such a manner where farmers need not do any additional paperwork. Delegate Elmore chimed in by noting that Governor O’Malley had the “greenest” administration he’d ever worked with and negotiations were key to dealing with him, not simply saying “no.” (Not said was just how far to go in compromising Republican principles.)

Overall, I was quite informed by the discussion and I did find out that I may have misinterpreted the minority budget by assuming it deemed the O’Malley taxes as a whole necessary. Perhaps their presentation should have made this more clear. I also received a nice four-page summary her office did of legislation that was considered, which I’ll find useful in coming days as I look at the body of work the 2008 General Assembly accomplished.

We then got a brief rundown of other new WCRC business, finding out our club and the Wicomico Republican Party will be representing ourselves at several upcoming events including the Delmarva Chicken Festival in June, the Wicomico Home & Farm Show in August, and the Autumn Wine Festival in October. Look for us at these events, and particularly since it’s an election year I’m thinking the Democrats are sure to counter with spaces of their own. It’ll be fun.

One other note I’d like to pass along is that the District 37 Republicans (Delegate Eckardt, our June meeting speaker Delegate Jeannie Haddaway, and State Senator Rich Colburn) will be holding a joint fundraiser on Sunday, May 4th at the American Legion Post 91 in Cambridge. This Crab Feast begins at 2 p.m. and the number to dial is (410) 228-8048. Technically, RSVP’s were supposed to be in yesterday but I suspect they can secure a crab or two for you if you’re so inclined to support them with a $50 donation for a ticket. It’s the start of that season because Delegate Elmore will have a similar event on Saturday, May 31.

Because our typical fourth Monday meeting date falls on Memorial Day this year, our next meeting will be June 23rd with the aforementioned Delegate Haddaway doing the speaking honors.

Maryland’s not to that point…yet

With our state Republican Spring Convention on tap in a couple weeks and furor (some probably created by me since I put it into the public eye a little bit) over delegate slates being chosen in advance, Michelle Malkin found a story yesterday that sends a message to those in the party who want to keep things smooth and not rock the boat – it may not happen as you plan it.

While our situation may not be exactly the same as Nevada’s because of party rules which compel Delegates picked at the convention to vote for the candidate who won our state’s balloting, there’s still the potential for a lot of turmoil based on some of the other positions that are picked, as well as the grassroots’ reaction to Maryland GOP Chair Jim Pelura’s pick of a new Executive Director to replace the departing John Flynn. (It will be Justin Ready, who currently is Chief of Staff for State Senator Janet Greenip.) There was a faction in the party who never cared much for Flynn in the first place and they may be just as vocal if the new Executive Director is cut from the same cloth.

On the other hand, some involved in Maryland politics like BlueRidgeForum blogger Richard Falknor are sorry to see Flynn go and hope his successor will be as conservative.

Truth be told, the bulk of my political experience does not come from Maryland politics. But a lot of my attitude comes from being in places where I felt the grassroots weren’t being listened to and the party brass simply counted on them as a queen bee counts on its drones to provide contributions and volunteer hours regardless of who was annointed by the hierarchy in the state capital. Unfortunately, the one annointed was the one who was deemed to be more centrist and not necessarily one who followed the proven principles of smaller, more Constitutional governance.

With recent election results in Pennsylvania showing that presumptive nominee John McCain still only gathered 71% of the vote, it shows that there’s still a lot of frustration on the conservative end – yet the news in our area talks about onetime supporters of the deposed GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest jumping ship to support Democrat Frank Kratovil. This makes the press despite the fact polling has shown State Senator Andy Harris with a consistent lead over the Democrat.

It may be something to discuss with a portion of the grassroots tonight at our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting that gets underway at 7 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Salisbury. Considering that about half of the club supported Harris in a September 2007 straw poll while zero members favored McCain, I think the grassroots might be a little more conservative than the people who run the Republican Party think they may be. Don’t take us all for granted.

2008 Salisbury Festival in pictures and text

April 27, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

This is a long post warning. By my count I have 20 images and that doesn’t even factor in the music, which I’ll cover in the upcoming Weekend of local rock volume 14 post later this week. But it was a very nice Friday night and yesterday for the most part and I wanted to share all I could with my readers. The photos are roughly in chronological order but I did take some liberties to make things flow better. I’ll begin with several shots of the opening ceremony on Friday evening.

There was a nice crowd gathered awaiting the opening to the 2008 Salisbury Festival, even in the food court across the Wicomico River.

Salisbury Mayor Barrie Tilghman had a few words to say prior to coming down off the stage and doing her ceremonial duty.

The color guard was a nice touch. I believe that it was from Wicomico High School, but I may be incorrect.

All the politicians holding the ribbon are waiting with bated breath - for their photo-op to be finished.

Finally, the ribbon was cut and the 2008 Salisbury Festival officially kicked off.

The thing that stuck out at me about what Mayor Tilghman noted was her overselling of how great the city was. While it’s not a hellhole, it’s not paradise on earth either and Salisbury does have more than its share of problems. She talked more about her memories and experiences of the Salisbury Festival when I think the spotlight should have been on all who helped with the event. And Louise Smith aggravated me with her greeting to the Spanish-speaking folks out there in their native tongue. It’s a rant for some other post and/or blogger, though.

One thing that is fun about any festival is the food. Here’s a shot of the food court Friday night.

The population of the hungry in Salisbury seemingly reached a peak Friday night.

Included in those merchants and entities selling edible goodies was one Wicomico County Republican Club. You can see what they had on the bill of fare.

Business was brisk at the WCRC booth. By the way, the guy in the red with his back to the camera is Delegate Page Elmore.

While there were a number of people who helped out, I’d like to point out that WCRC President Marc Kilmer is the guy in the hat serving folks to the right of the photo.

Because most of my focus on Friday night was on the Block Party with the two bands there, that was pretty much the extent of my Friday night pictures. Since I kept running into people I knew and having conversations with them my photography time was cut down somewhat, not that I really minded. This year was the first time I was able to enjoy the full Block Party because in previous years I always had a conflict with the tail end of my bowling league.

Now let’s start on pics from Saturday.

I had a schedule already set based on which bands were at particular stages, but it also gave me time to check out the classic cars on display along Main Street. While there were a lot of nice cars there, this one was my favorite.

This car was my favorite because you see lots of Camaros and Mustangs in a classic car display, but not many Barracudas. This 1968 beauty belongs to Kyle Baker of Eden, Maryland.

By 10:00 Main Street was already starting to get pretty full.

This shot is looking west down Main Street from the corner of Baptist Street.

I also took advantage of the health screening available from the Peninsula Regional Medical Center Wagner Wellness Van. This shot is for my Red Maryland blogging cohort Tim Patterson of Gunpowder Chronicle.

This vehicle was just placed into service recently and came in handy for doing health screenings like one I had.

There I found out I have lost 30 pounds since the beginning of this year and now weigh less than I have in at least 11 years. Needless to say, I was damn proud of myself. But I had a LOT more walking to do this day, as you’ll see later on. It was even for a good cause.

Returning to my travels, I worked my way westward down Main Street and found this intriguing booth.

I'll see more of these guys in a couple days, but prominently featured on this table were books by my favorite growth alarmist, Eben Fodor.

It was only natural to me that I would walk up the steps toward the Government Office Building and see this group set up there, right behind the WET folks.

Despite my best efforts, groups like this still exist in our area.

Since they did have a little bit on Frank Kratovil, I did pick up a literature piece there. It’s about twice as much as I previously knew about the guy. But I had to ask why there was so much Obama stuff and very little from Hillary. Basically it was like the issue I had with GOP campaigns – some are generous sending things and some aren’t.

By the time I was finished there, it was time for me to catch the first of several bands I’d see, and that’s for a later post. Afterwards, it was time to grab my lunch from these friendly folks you see below.

I actually took this picture of the Wicomico County Republican Club food booth just after they opened at 10 a.m. The lady was the first of many satisfied customers.

I would be remiss not to say something about the gentleman in the straw hat you see in the background shucking corn. Bob Miller does a yeoman’s job each year organizing the food and the help and we don’t thank him nearly enough for it. And yes, he’s publicity shy because there’s work to do!

Another neat thing for the kid in all of us was seeing some of these city vehicles up close and personal. But I wonder how much time is spent cleaning them for the occasion?

A whole row of City of Salisbury work vehicles were parked along the side of Market Street.

Early on I also looped around to check out the west end of the Plaza just to see how things were over there. It wasn’t all that crowded until later on.

It was a pretty slow start to proceeedings from the west end of the downtown plaza.

Finally, I came across this hardworking group laboring over something that would be pretty much history by about 4:00 yesterday afternoon.

Anyone who thinks I got their bad side, believe me it was purely coincidental. I tried to wait until everyone was facing in a decent direction.

Here was a small portion of the end result. Ironically this will be my final downtown picture from yesterday.

Just a small portion of a mural that was done by a large group of youths. It was pretty cool to see but all their effort was to be washed away later in the day.

I packed up all the stuff I picked up from various merchants and headed home just as the brief thundershower hit. In a way, I was happy to have the rain cooling things off because I had one more place to go. But first, here’s a wildlife pic I just took for fun over by the Salisbury Zoo.

See, I can take wildlife pictures too.

The reason I was over there was to participate once again in the Ben Layton Memorial 5K Run/Walk. This has become sort of an adjunct event to the Salisbury Festival because it’s held on the same Saturday, and they mention the race in the Festival program as well. Yesterday was their third annual event and I’m pleased to say that there were over 160 participants this year, which I believe is a record for the event. I didn’t remember runner numbers that high in the last two.

Here's just some of the walkers and runners getting ready for the Ben Layton Memorial 5K.

While it's not the 'after' picture yet, there is less of me. I put this on just in case people at the event wondered how I knew about it - well, I was number 28, that guy wearing the Harris sticker.

Even though they’ve moved away since the tragic loss of their son Ben, the Laytons return to Salisbury each year for this event. It’s held to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America and I like the event because I don’t have to solicit pledges or collect money for it. I just give them the registration fee and I’m good to go.

I was pleasantly surprised this year to find out there was now a division for those who wanted to walk the 5K route, which was something I asked about when I sent in my application. (Previously I’d done the 2 mile “fun walk” they also feature.) While I finished third of the three entrants (although I suspect the second-place finisher may have, intentionally or not, taken some liberties with the route) I still beat my goal of finishing in 45 minutes, clocking at 40:42. But the real winners were the LLS and all of the local sponsors who chipped in. In particular the folks at LORA really did a great job with the food.

It was a good ending to an exhausting two days of the Salisbury Festival, and hopefully my article gives the flavor of the event to those who couldn’t be there or wanted to relive it. It was my pleasure to provide that service, and don’t forget later this week I’ll talk about some of the musical entertainment.

Clearing the slate

Before I even begin, let me say right up front in the interest of full disclosure that I’m running to be an Alternate Delegate to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis this coming September.

Now that I have that out of the way, here’s my gripe – and it’s shared by some others who have e-mailed myself and others throughout the state’s Republican Party.

Apparently for previous conventions the state party selected a slate of Delegates and Alternate Delegates for approval at the state convention immediately before the national one. This time, though, state party Chairman Jim Pelura declined to pick a slate, deferring the decision to the conventioneers – a move I agree with 100 percent. It can be argued that those areas which already have a large number of votes will naturally hold sway and dominate the process, but at least it gives a chance to those who may or may not be favored by those in charge of the party in any given year.

Earlier this week though I got an e-mail from the Maryland Republican Party’s First Vice-Chair, Chris Cavey, who obviously felt a slate was necessary to assure some sort of “diversity”:

MDGOP will not present an official slate of candidates for RNC Delegates/Alternates at our Annapolis Spring Convention, May 10, 2008. Several of us, however, thought it would be a wonderful idea, plus a show of solidarity, to build a team of both party and campaign leaders from other Presidential campaigns.

We are not asking the McCain campaign for an “official blessing” (even though we would be honored to have such a blessing) but have informed them of our efforts to bring MDGOP members and our legislative leaders, as one, behind our party’s nominee, Sen. John McCain.

All of us know that you will naturally be voting for friends and honoring your commitments made prior to this letter. Maryland has many leaders and there are only 20 slots for the convention. This list is a recommendation for you, as you fill-out your ballot. It is a broad and fair representation of Republican leaders, plus demographic representation; we hope that you will consider all or part of this team for your approval.

Thank you,

The Unity Team Members

This so-called “unity team” comprises the following candidates for Delegate:

Joan Becker, State Senator David Brinkley, Chris Cavey, Chuck Gast, Mike Geppi, Anne McCarthy, Delegate Tony McConkey, Delegate Tony O’Donnell, Patt Parker, and Corey Stottlemeyer.

Then you have these people standing for Alternate:

Nicholee Ambrose, Ashley Barbera, Sharon Carrick, Kevin Igoe, Katie Nash, Gloria Murphy, Mike Pappas, Rex Reed, Delegate Chris Shank, Loretta Shields.

First of all, I don’t give a damn about gender or race representation because I want the best person for the job. If we have all white guys, so be it – the same goes for if they were all Asian women. What I do want is a pretty decent proportion of geographical representation, with emphasis on regions that actually elect Republicans!

Because the first 24 Delegates and Alternate Delegates are elected based on Congressional District, it is almost certain that some areas of the state will be more well-represented than others. This is the composition of the group as it currently stands, by county:

  • Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties, 8 apiece
  • Baltimore County, 7
  • Prince George’s County, 6
  • Baltimore City, 4
  • Harford and Washington counties, 3 apiece
  • Frederick, Howard, and Talbot counties, 2 apiece
  • Calvert, Carroll, and St. Mary’s counties, 1 apiece – for a total of 48.

This is how the Unity Slate would change the composition:

  • Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, 10 apiece
  • Montgomery County, 9
  • Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, 6 apiece
  • Washington County, 5
  • Calvert, Frederick, Harford, and Howard counties, 4 apiece
  • Carroll and Talbot counties, 2 apiece
  • Queen Anne’s and St. Mary’s counties. 1 apiece – for a total of 68.

Wow, we picked up one county in this bid for geographical diversity. Granted, it is an Eastern Shore county but those of us south of Easton and at the western extreme of Maryland, counties that have proven to be decidedly loyal to GOP candidates, get zip. We can’t do anything about the rules subdividing the state by Congressional district for the purpose of selecting conventioneers, but at our convention we can certainly pick folks from areas that actually vote for the party in order to reward loyalty.

Now some will see this missive and call me a troublemaker who’s dividing the Maryland Republican party. Well, I have news for you – it already is fractured and that’s the natural result of a “big tent” policy where people who are comfortable with John McCain’s views on a number of subjects clash with those of us who are pro-border enforcement, pro-First Amendment, and believe that the theory of manmade global warming is a bunch of hot air in and of itself.

We’re more agreeable to a point on state issues because, quite frankly, Martin O’Malley has been a disaster thus far as Governor; but even in the First District people don’t always get behind the best candidate for Congress, State Senator Andy Harris. They have the misguided view that Democrat Frank Kratovil will be a “centrist moderate” – centrist my ass. He’ll be another Pelosi lap dog and in your heart of hearts you should know it. Quit being bitter about Wayne losing. If the result were different I’d be supporting Congressman Gilchrest even though we disagree on many issues, same goes for John McCain.

So if you’re reading this and can vote for the Delegates and Alternate Delegates to represent Maryland at the national convention, bear in mind two things: rewarding those areas that are loyal to the GOP and electing their candidates, and hewing to a conservative line in order to help influence the direction of the platform. I think I fit both bills; however, if you feel differently that’s your decision and I’ll stand by it. Either way, I’m going to enjoy my vacation time whether it’s in August or the week of Labor Day.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Weekend of local rock volume 13

April 26, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Weekend of local rock volume 13 

Because I decided to make the pictures REALLY big for my personal collection, this particular edition will be over on the monoblogue Myspace page. All of these pics and comments are from last weekend’s 42-0 Party over at Brew River. (Hopefully the links work.)

It also gives me an opportunity to see just how many people actually check out my local rock posts. Of course, even if no one did I’d still put them up because I write about things I’m interested in and local rock is one. (Volume 14 will be just around the corner, with pics from this weekend.)

I’ll be back to more serious political stuff tonight, writing while I recover from a long day of checking out the Salisbury Festival then walking two miles for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the Ben Layton walk. It’s probably my favorite charitable event because I need not collect or solicit pledges or money. Just pay ’em and walk.

Anyway, it’ll be back to the politics since I saw a bunch of them earlier tonight!

Radio days volume 13

April 25, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Radio days volume 13 

So what did you all think? I believe this was the first time I tried to plug something besides my website and point of view.

Overall, I’d give myself a B+ since I was thrown off my game a bit on the background stuff. I don’t mind talking about myself (obviously) but I was worried that I was taking too long on the stuff about me and would leave myself short on the items I wanted to talk about. But we did run over time a little so I got most of what I wanted to discuss in.

I had originally planned on being in the studio on Monday but Bill called me last night to switch with Debbie Campbell since something came up on her end. That actually helped my cause a little bit because then I could point out our Wicomico County Republican Club food booth at the Salisbury Festival. Seeing that we use that as one of our fundraisers it was a chance to make people aware of that fact.

My main goal was to build awareness that we Republicans are out there and we have opinions we want to share on the issues facing Maryland and the nation – one way to do that is to make the public know we exist and bring them people with perspectives you might not otherwise hear. Personally, I’d also like to see us get more into issues and become a little more political. We have a lot of good minds in one place, why not make an effort to make a positive difference in our community through the advocation of Republican principles?

So if I didn’t make it clear in my ten minutes on the radio then hopefully I did a much better job in a medium I’m better expressing myself in. I will thank Bill once again for giving me the opportunity though!

Switch and plug

April 25, 2008 · Posted in Communications, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Switch and plug 

Yeah, another shameless plug. I was actually supposed to be on for this coming Monday, but Bill needed me to switch because of a conflict another guest had and I’m happy to do so.

Listen for me at 7:40 this morning, I’ll be discussing the upcoming WCRC meeting and other political information. (And no I wasn’t up at 5:00, I’m leaving space for my SotW to be on top of the site for awhile.)

Shorebird of the Week – April 24, 2008

April 24, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 1 Comment 

A rare shot of Matt Angle sitting. Usually he's on the basepaths.
Matt Angle plans his next at-bat in a recent Shorebirds contest.

I’m not one to give folks from Ohio State too much credit on a normal basis, but this week I make an exception for Shorebirds outfielder and speedster Matt Angle. Yes, he is a Buckeye (from Whitehall, Ohio) and this is his first shot at full-season baseball, having been drafted in the 7th round by the Orioles in the 2007 draft.

So far Matt has done reasonably well, breaking a hitless three-game slump yesterday morning by cracking his first professional home run against Lake County. After a slow 5-for-24 start, he’s picked up the average to a more respectable .242 (15-for-62) and is doing the job of a good leadoff hitter by leading the team with 10 walks and 6 stolen bases.

Last season Matt was a mid-season All-Star in the New York-Penn League and deservedly so, hitting .301 with 34 stolen bases, 47 walks, and scoring 60 runs in 66 games for the IronBirds. It was obvious he’d mastered the lower level so there’s no shock involved seeing Matt beginning the season here in Delmarva. However, I would be shocked to see him still here if he puts up similar numbers about midway through our season. With his speed, the only questions the 22 year old has to answer are whether his bat and eye of the strike zone will allow him to steal first base on a regular basis as he progresses through the Orioles system.

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