If the family that plays together stays together, what does the family that runs together do?

June 30, 2010 · Posted in Wicomico County Examiner · 2 Comments 

Just a few minutes ago I received this on my Facebook page:

I’m Running for Maryland’s 38A Delegate Seat (Southern Wicomico and Somerset) I hope I can count on your support!

The author of this Facebook post: Julie Brewington, spouse of Mike Brewington. Mike is running as a Democrat for Wicomico County Council at-large, while Julie will file as a Republican for the seat previously held by Page Elmore.

(continued on my Examiner.com page…)

Pathetic fundraising pitches

June 29, 2010 · Posted in Baltimore Examiner · Comments Off on Pathetic fundraising pitches 

Over the last few days I’ve received not one, not two, but three e-mail pitches urging me to donate to Barb Mikulski’s campaign for yet another re-election to her Senate seat before tomorrow’s quarterly filing deadline. Yes, it appears now my best friends in the world are now Ben Cardin, Martin O’Malley, and Paul Sarbanes and they all want me to donate to Senator Barb. Some of these appeals even have a nice little picture of her asking me to “help Barbara reach her $20k goal today” in that pseudo-hip Gotham font which Organizing for America likes to use.

But that got me to thinking (and doing a little research.) After all, with $2.7 million cash on hand at the end of March 20 grand is pretty much chump change.

(continued on my Examiner.com page…)

Cannon fires up campaign for General Assembly seat

June 29, 2010 · Posted in Wicomico County Examiner · Comments Off on Cannon fires up campaign for General Assembly seat 

According to a published report, Wicomico County at-large councilman John Cannon will enter the race for Delegate for District 38A, becoming the second Republican to seek the seat held by the late Delegate Page Elmore. He’ll face Crisfield attorney John Phoebus for the GOP primary nod. With just a few days to go before the filing deadline only one Democrat, Somerset County Commission President Mike McCready, has filed for his party’s nomination.

Cannon’s entry into the House of Delegates race also means that neither at-large County Council member will return for another term, as Democrat Bill McCain announced previously he would not run again. It also leaves the GOP without a candidate to fill either of the two at-large slots on the ballot as Ryan Hohman announced his withdrawal from the race last month. Two Democrats, former councilman Ed Taylor and political activist Mike Brewington, are already set for the ballot.

(continued on my Examiner.com page…but come back for the enhanced article.)

As I noted in my Facebook posting of the original article, I’m not sure I agree with the move in a tactical sense.

First of all, love him or hate him, there wasn’t much doubt that John Cannon would’ve kept his County Council seat had he ran again. In fact, a best-case scenario among those in the running may have maintained or enhanced the GOP’s 4-3 advantage but with even more fiscal hawks placed on County Council – for example, even though he’s a Democrat, Mike Brewington would likely be much more fiscally conservative than Bill McCain.

Yet now the possibility exists of a Democratic takeover of County Council, with the spendthrift likes of Ed Taylor being returned to County Council. Combine that with another term of Rick Pollitt and you better hold on to your wallets.

On the flip side, it’s obvious the Democrats would like to get the District 38A seat to make up for a possible loss in neighboring District 38B. They have a relatively strong Somerset-based candidate in Mike McCready and it’s my belief that a Somerset-based Republican is the better choice to counter McCready’s effect. As I pointed out in the Examiner piece, while Wicomico Republicans made up a majority of the GOP vote, Somerset voters have a majority in the district. And if you think the Republican voter registration numbers are bad here, the situation for the GOP is much worse in Somerset County. (It’s another classic case of the “Daddy was a Democrat so I’m one” syndrome common on the Eastern Shore.)

I don’t mind the contested primary, but I think in a strategical sense things would have been better if Cannon had decided to stay put. I think Page tried to put the bravest face possible on his condition hoping that it would work out best for the party, but word spreads just as quickly here as anywhere else and I think Democrats smelled an opportunity this time around.

Frankly, I was less than pleased with Page Elmore’s voting record on a number of key issues but it’s not very likely a Democrat will do any better. Hopefully Cannon’s move won’t end up losing Republicans a much-needed seat in Annapolis.

WCRC meeting – June 2010

June 28, 2010 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2010, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – June 2010 

Things were once again a little different at tonight’s meeting due to recent events. Of course we did the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance to start, but after those recitations we heard from John Phoebus.

While Phoebus is in the running for the late Page Elmore’s District 38A Delegate seat, he’s suspended his campaign for a few days due to Elmore’s death. So he came to us not as a candidate looking for votes but a man paying tribute to a former client and man of stature in Somerset County.

John praised Elmore’s work ethic, which he described as one of picking out small bills and using their cumulative effect to bring about change. A “selfless” man and member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the House, Elmore fretted about leaving the House post to pursue a Senate seat once Lowell Stoltzfus announced his retirement because of his House seniority and ability to get things done there. And there wasn’t a waterman Page didn’t know; they were a group who could count on Elmore to advocate for them in Annapolis.

Elmore was described by club president Marc Kilmer as having a manner which wasn’t the manner of a typical politician. After we observed a moment of silence for Page, the May meeting minutes were read and we heard another solid financial report.

Even Dustin Mills, tonight’s featured speaker, noted that “words can’t describe what (Page Elmore) meant to the Shore.”

Dustin Mills is running for Delegate in District 37A. Photo: Mills campaign.

Mills, who’s jumped into the race for Delegate for District 37A, called the incumbent the “quietest, most liberal” member of the General Assembly. While I could argue that point based on voting record, Dustin’s criticism of Rudy Cane avoiding tough votes bears out to be correct more often than not. Out of 96 votes I’ve detailed on the monoblogue Accountability Project from 2007 to 2009, Cane missed 16 votes – including 9 in the 2007 Special Session.

While Mills isn’t a native of the Eastern Shore, he graduated from Salisbury University and didn’t follow many of his classmates off the Eastern Shore – “I intend to stay here and do what I can.” Among his key issues are the wasteful spending in Annapolis, for which he cited an “out of control” state government. There are $140 million worth of unfilled positions in the state budget, continued Dustin, which served as a “slush fund” to move or cut as needed. And why is the state running (and losing money on) two golf courses?

Instead of doing away with unnecessary spending, Democrats in Annapolis may want a tax increase next year – “the wrong approach,” stated Dustin. In the meantime, they raid county coffers to assist the state’s budget crunch. Mills contended the counties are smarter stewards of money than the state and county money should be county money.

On the other hand, Mills would emphasize a more business-friendly approach than his opponent, whose party’s leadership has declined Maryland’s standing in the business community to the third worst in the country by “overregulating and overburdening small business.” His solutions would be to repeal the 2008 sales tax increase, lower corporate taxes, and reduce the unemployment coverage rolls to only include people who are actually unemployed. This, Mills argued, would make the state more business-friendly and (presumably) make up the shortfall a static analysis would assume happens when taxes are decreased. In the real world, lowering taxes leads to greater economic activity.

In addition, Dustin also advocated an automatic “maintenance of effort” waiver for education spending if a county’s unemployment rate was above a certain percentage.

Another effect of the anti-business attitude exhibited by Annapolis was a “brain drain” of college graduates who can’t find work on the Eastern Shore or in Maryland proper. In short, Mills argued that “this (anti-business) attitude has got to stop.”

Turning to another local industry, agriculture, Mills criticized the “ludicrous” treatment of farmers by Annapolis, wondering why Eastern Shore farmers are blamed for the condition of the Bay when a large percentage of the water off Maryland’s shores comes from Pennsylvania.

To conclude his initial remarks, Mills compared his faith in the individual to his opponent’s faith in government. Rudy Cane was “out of touch” with his district, concluded Dustin.

Perhaps the most interesting questions asked of Mills had to do with the immigrant advocacy group CASA de Maryland – a group which Mills remarked “needs to go.” To that end, Dustin would cut its funding and work to disallow “sanctuary cities.” (Good luck with that in Takoma Park – luckily it’s not part of the district.)

But Dustin also told us we “need to aggressively seek out employers” in response to a question on job creation and stop the overaggressive enforcement some truck drivers endure regarding another’s query.

According to Mark Biehl of the Lower Shore Young Republicans, the recent state YR convention “turned out really well.” Their chapter was picked as the state’s best for the second time in three years and the aforementioned Dustin Mills was given a lifetime achievement award for his work so far. (Good thing he doesn’t rest on his laurels.)

Their next meeting, July 14th at the Chamber of Commerce Building (where the WCRC meets) will be a political roundtable and the public is invited.

A simple Central Committee report from John Bartkovich stressed there were still open positions on the GOP primary ballot and we would need volunteers for the Farm and Home Show on August 19-21.

Woody Willing added that we should get silent auction items for the Crab Feast on August 28th “quickly.” He didn’t want a crush of items August 27th.

Brief candidate updates came from Joe Holloway (County Council District 5), Gail Bartkovich (County Council District 3), William Smith (Orphans’ Court Judge), and Ryan Hohman, who hasn’t had the opportunity to withdraw yet because of a demanding work schedule.

Ed Nelson of Andy Harris’s campaign pointed out that Andy had been visible locally, attending two AFP meetings, the Young Republican convention, and a farmer’s breakfast over the last few weeks. Harris also had an “extremely successful” local fundraiser a couple weeks back.

Comparable fundraising success was related by Sean Jester, who’s assisting with Mike McDermott’s campaign for Delegate in District 38B.

M.J. Caldwell wanted to say a few words about the late Sam Vincent, who was “one of the most honorable men you’d ever meet.” In order to give all local voters a say in the State’s Attorney race, the longtime Democrat had recently switched parties; then again, Caldwell called Vincent, “a Republican who never switched.” M.J. also commended Vincent’s “deep loyalty” to the office, speculating there must be unresolved issues there which convinced Vincent to run against his boss.

The question was asked about our club donating to the charities of choice of Elmore and Vincent, which will be a matter for the club’s executive board to solve at a meeting soon – basically it’s a question of how much we feel is appropriate.

Our next meeting is slated for July 26, when candidate for Governor Brian Murphy is slated to speak and attempt to win converts to his side.

A thought or two on Page Elmore

June 28, 2010 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2010, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A thought or two on Page Elmore 

I pretty much knew this was coming, probably sooner than later. But a number of people have weighed in on the passing of Delegate Page Elmore, according to this Daily Times report. Additionally, candidate for District 37A Delegate Dustin Mills wrote:

I had the pleasure of knowing Page and working with him on several occasions; he was a man I considered a mentor and friend. I always admired the way he carried himself and the easy manner in which he spoke with both opponents and friends. While we did not always agree, Page was truly a stalwart leader in Annapolis. He always represented his district well and was a strong representative for his constituents. He was a man many admired, despite their political affiliation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Elmore family in their time of grief.

Personally I wouldn’t say I was a great friend of Page’s, but I did appreciate how he would make sure to greet me at those events we were together at. He didn’t come across as phony as some politicians do, probably because he made a living as a businessman and his political life was how he spent “retirement.” Some may feel it’s a shame that Page didn’t take it easy in his waning days but then again if retirement is the time to do that which you love it’s obvious he loved what he did.

Certainly one can find fault with his voting record (Lord knows I did as he voted with I-95 corridor Democrats far too much on key items) but it’s true that you’d be hard pressed to find someone who valued constituent service and the county he represented as much as he did.

Perhaps, though, Elmore’s death at the age of 71 represents the beginning of a changing of the guard in local politics. Of the eight representatives who serve us locally, only two are under 60 years of age (Jim Mathias is 58 and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio really bends the average at 33 years of age.) Otherwise, we have Rudy Cane (76), Norm Conway (68), Addie Eckardt (66), and Richard Colburn (60). The retiring Lowell Stoltzfus is also 60 years of age. Some of these incumbents face challengers who are many years their junior, a group which includes the aforementioned Mills. At 26 Dustin may represent the greatest age difference between challenger and incumbent in a state race.

With a strong chapter of Lower Shore Young Republicans coming into their own (as well as younger Democrats) the next couple cycles may see a complete change in the local political makeup. It’s a change that can’t come soon enough in a number of cases.

Election Calendar: June 28 – July 11, 2010

June 27, 2010 · Posted in Wicomico County Examiner · Comments Off on Election Calendar: June 28 – July 11, 2010 

Same format as last week, beginning with new filers.

June 21: Samuel Graham, Sr. (Republican for U.S. Senate, statewide.)

June 22: Dennis David (independent for U.S. Senate, will be on General Election ballot statewide), Andy Harris (Republican for 1st District Congress), and Michael Swartz (Republican Central Committee.)

June 24: Armand Girard (Republican for Comptroller, statewide), Lavonzella “Von” Siggers (Democrat, House District 37A), Dustin Mills (Republican, House District 37A). and Marty Pusey (Republican, House District 38B.)

June 25: William Smith (Republican, Orphans Court Judge.)

(continued on my Examiner.com page…)

GOP fortunes change in tragic week

June 27, 2010 · Posted in Wicomico County Examiner · Comments Off on GOP fortunes change in tragic week 

It goes without saying the deaths of Delegate Page Elmore and Deputy State’s Attormey Sam Vincent just hours apart have rocked the close-knit Wicomico community, but it also sets into motion the replacement process for the local GOP and could assure a Democrat safe passage for his re-election.

The death of Elmore, who had announced earlier this month he would not seek a third term to the House of Delegates, means that local Republicans face a process similar to one their Democratic counterparts went through in 2006 upon the passing of longtime District 38B Delegate Bennett Bozman.

(continued on my Examiner.com page…)

‘Silly Bandz’ raise serious question

June 27, 2010 · Posted in Liberty Features Syndicate · Comments Off on ‘Silly Bandz’ raise serious question 

If you know a child of middle school age, you’re probably familiar with the fad of Silly Bandz sweeping the country among that peer group. Now that school is out, the classroom bans imposed on kids who brought those colorful accessories to school to show off or trade are no longer in effect and thousands of “tweens” proudly sport their collections on their arms, a belt clip, or a necklace. With dozens of different shapes based on animals, fantasy characters, sports themes, and the like they appeal to the collector in every child and at about $5 for a pack of 24, Silly Bandz are an inexpensive hobby. Thousands of kids spend part of their allowance to get the latest styles.

Robert Croak, the creator of the brand, is a former bar owner and concert promoter who’s simply changed his target audience from young adults to their younger siblings and children. His company, BCP Imports, fills thousands of orders a day from a warehouse in Toledo, Ohio, where the product is brought in from a Chinese manufacturer.

And the people in Toledo are grateful for the jobs Croak provides. His distribution warehouse now hums with the activity of well over 100 employees, with more being hired every week. In a city where unemployment is 12 percent because the auto industry it depends on is sluggish, anyone who’s hiring can be pegged as a hero and indeed Croak is being treated like one. As he points out in a local television interview, “This is proof that the American Dream can still happen. The sky is the limit right now.”

All told, the success of Silly Bandz, even if fleeting, would seem to be a nice feelgood story. But there’s a question to ponder.

If these silicone bands cost 20 cents apiece at the retail level, one has to ask how it can be profitable to manufacture them at a plant thousands of miles away, ship them overseas, and truck them from port to distribution point. What prevents the manufacturing process (and those jobs which could be created) from being done in Toledo? Undoubtedly there’s plenty of available manufacturing space around the city which could be utilized and a lot of workers who are looking for job openings.

One answer could be the prospect of labor strife, as Toledo is one of the most heavily unionized cities in the country. Placing a Silly Bandz factory in Toledo without paying inflated union wages may lead to a serious picket at the plant gate.

Even if labor relations somehow go smoothly, though, there’s still the prospect of overtaxation and oppressive regulation to consider. With practically any small business, governmental entities make success more difficult than it should be. As one example, building a new factory to make Silly Bandz may require extensive site review by local government, while renovating an existing facility could lead to expensive modifications not necessary for the actual manufacturing process.

Localities often try to create a “one-stop shop” where red tape can be addressed with the least possible hassle. But not as much thought seems to go into making the burden easier by eliminating the redundant regulations and lowering the tax burden on these companies. Instead of making life better for job creation, the government seems happier to hire even more bureaucrats to try and help navigate the labyrinthine maze of their own creation.

As with all trends the Silly Bandz craze will fade away, but thinking up needless laws and rules is one fad which never seems to fall out of favor with government.

Michael Swartz used to practice architecture but now is a Maryland-based freelance writer and blogger whose work can be found in a number of outlets, including Liberty Features Syndicate. In truth, I didn’t know the distributor hailed from my hometown until recently, but that made this piece much more fun to write after I found out that fact. It debuted June 21.

The popularity paradox

June 26, 2010 · Posted in Liberty Features Syndicate · Comments Off on The popularity paradox 

Over the last couple decades America has settled into an uneasy truce with itself, as presidents of both parties propose new ideas and promise a new way of doing business but eventually lose their popular mandate.

Prior to President Obama, the poster child for this phenomenon was George H.W. Bush. The elder Bush frittered away an 89 percent approval rating just after the liberation of Kuwait from the clutches of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In less than two years his political fortunes declined to such a degree that he drew less than 40 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 election, yielding office to President Clinton.

In time, Clinton’s leadership was questioned so much that his party lost the majority in the House of Representatives two years after his election. After Clinton left office, George W. Bush managed re-election but spent his entire bank of political capital and popularity chasing Osama bin Laden around the Middle East while engaging in a little nation building along the way.

All these case studies reflect a simple fact: America sours quickly to new leadership if things progress in the same old way.

In President Obama’s case, pundits like to point out that his approval numbers are relatively in line with Ronald Reagan’s during the early days of his tenure. As in the present day, the first part of Reagan’s term was marked with a poor economy and high unemployment – before last October, the last time unemployment reached double digits was during a correspondent period in Reagan’s presidency.

Yet history shows that once Reagan’s economic prescription of lowering tax rates took hold his popularity surged, with the best evidence being an absolute electoral slaughter of the hapless Walter Mondale. On the other hand, President Obama’s policy accomplishments to date range in public perception from skepticism whether the stimulus has actually worked to outright hostility about the passage of Obamacare and progress in cleaning up the oil from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

Perhaps more than any other president in recent memory, though, President Obama suffers from being thin-skinned. While he may say from time to time that “the buck stops here” it’s usually lost in a litany of finger-pointing and blame shifting, with a favorite target being opposition Republicans. (Having advisers who proclaim we should never let a crisis go to waste or that we should put our boot on the throat of particular businesses isn’t much of a help either.)

People who followed President Obama’s cult of personality during his campaign and remain loyal to him make up a larger and larger portion of those who approve of his performance. Others who questioned his qualifications or didn’t like those policies he ran on make up a continually growing segment of the opposition, leaving less and less room for ambivalence. America may be fortunate that there’s not an issue like slavery to divide up the union.

To be a good leader, the key qualification is to go in a direction which people would eventually like to be led, convincing them to leave the safety of inertia. Of course, the leader is the one who gets the slings and arrows but shrugs them off in pursuit of a cause greater than self. One problem our President has is selling the idea that he’s not the one with the most to gain from the direction he’s attempting to take us. The American people keep attempting to put on the brakes and turn things around but the only way to get this leader to listen is to outpoll his followers at the ballot box.

Michael Swartz used to practice architecture but now is a Maryland-based freelance writer and blogger whose work can be found in a number of outlets, including Liberty Features Syndicate. This piece debuted June 18.


June 25, 2010 · Posted in Personal stuff · 7 Comments 

It’s not likely I’ll be asked to provide a eulogy, but if I were it may go something like this. In reality I wrote this yesterday to appear today, when the visitation for John “LJ” Swartz commences.

A difficult part of the decision I had to make when I moved down here was to move away from my family. It’s not entirely unprecedented in either my family tree – since I have relatives who live in Missouri, Florida, Arizona, and other places – or in my own personal life since I went to college 3 hours away from my home. So my time with them became somewhat limited by the nine to ten hour trip one way, and I saved it for holidays and my summer vacation.

Generally when I went up to Ohio to see my family I stayed at my brother’s house, which at one time was my parents’ home too. One thing about LJ was that he was constantly busy, having a neverending list of things to do both at home and at the dwellings of his friends and other people he knew. Not being handy with tools myself, there were a few times I was on that list and I appreciated the assistance!

While he wasn’t a large man by any means, he was a strong man and that served him well as he fought his cancer. We were shocked that a man who was only in his mid-forties could be so sick with a tumor on his liver and a cancerous colon yet be living such a busy life by helping pretty much anyone who asked.

In truth, much of the fun time my brother LJ had was spent at one of many local bowling centers. It’s where he spent several nights a week bowling and met the love of his life, his girlfriend Deb. If there’s one thing I’m thankful about in his life it’s that he got to meet her, with the biggest regret being that it turned out to be near the end. Even ravaged with cancer, he went out to Reno this spring and participated in the national USBC Tournament as he had for years – I’m sure he felt he couldn’t let his teammates down.

While he was loyal to his friends and family, you couldn’t deny LJ was a guy who did his own thing. Today I’m attending his services decked out in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts because my brother had no use for formal clothes, and Deb knew that being formal at his service would be no way to celebrate his life. If I could grow my hair another six inches for today I would since shoulder-length was considered short hair for him. And even with the chemo near the end, he still had his beard!

Sometimes I wonder if my parents thought maybe he wasn’t quite what they expected as their oldest child, and Lord knows I had disagreements with him as a brother who was only two years younger. But as we got older we got along well in those times we spent together, and in countless ways he influenced my life until we both became adults (at least in the physical sense, since there was always a little bit of kid in LJ.)

There’s no doubt in my mind that my brother’s funeral services will have a healthy mixture of laughter to go along with the tears we’ll all shed at his loss at such a young age. Parents should never have to bury their children, regardless of age, but my mom and dad will have to.

Many would look at the sum total of my brother’s life (he was a blue-collar laborer, never married, and had no kids) and consider him just another common man. But I know differently. And while I may not be able to renovate my own home in a professional manner, string together 12 strikes in a game of bowling, or be as giving of my time and labor as he was, I can use my God-given talents to write something worthy of his memory. Hopefully he’s looking down on me between games on the Friday afternoon league at Pearly Gate Lanes and nodding his approval.

Rest in the amount of peace you desire, my brother – I love you.

Shorebird of the Week – June 24, 2010

June 24, 2010 · Posted in Delmarva Shorebirds, Local Music, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – June 24, 2010 

This is a very special edition of my Shorebird of the Week feature.

Since its inception to begin the 2006 season, each and every Thursday during the Shorebird season I have selected a player as my Shorebird of the Week. As I detailed Tuesday, I’ve selected a total of 90 players to be honored for a week on my site, with some players being honored twice over two seasons. With 22 players selected each season over the last four campaigns, I figured out the twelfth such selection this season would be the 100th Shorebird of the Week selected. Thus I wanted it to be special.

Over the 4 1/2 seasons I’ve done this, I’ve always selected players who were playing on the roster. But this year I have the opportunity to harken back on the team’s 15 year history and do something unprecedented.

An enjoyable part of Ryan Minor's job is to hand out various organization awards. Here Minor (right) presents the Orioles Pitcher of the Month award to Shorebird hurler Nathan Moreau.

Less than a year after Ryan Minor played here and helped lead the Shorebirds to their first SAL championship (in 1997, just their second year of existence) his rocket ride through the Orioles’ minor league system ended with a September callup. He’ll forever be known to Orioles fans as the player who replaced Cal Ripken Jr. in the lineup to end Ripken’s consecutive game streak.

Unfortunately his debut turned out to be the peak of his major league career and after two unsuccessful seasons in Baltimore and a trade to Montreal failed to resurrect his fortunes, Minor became a baseball nomad, cycling through three organizations (even trying his hand on the mound) and several independent league teams before finally calling it a playing career after the 2005 season.

Fast forward to 2008 when the Orioles game him a chance to return home as a coach for the Shorebirds, where he served under managers Ramon Sambo and Orlando Gomez before being handed the keys to the team for the 2010 season. While his 32-38 record as manager isn’t eyepopping, the more important test for his future managerial ambitions is how he develops the players for higher levels.

Yet with the situation at the big league club in flux, there’s always the possibility that Ryan’s move up the managerial chain could be as fast as it was when he played. Life could present the 36-year-old Minor a second chance at Orioles success if he wants to leave his adopted hometown to pursue it.

Political season heats up like the weather

Last night I made it to two events which prove the passion is already there for a heated electoral campaign.

A number of candidates made it out to the local AFP meeting last night, which benefitted from not having Salisbury’s answer to “Sideshow Bob” drawing attention to himself and his well-publicized feud with one of the local AFP co-chairs.

An overflow crowd made it to last night's Americans for Prosperity meeting, including nearly a dozen local candidates.

We had sort of an unusual start, as Joe Collins talked about and played the Martin O’Malley radio advertisement which accused Bob Ehrlich of being a friend of Big Oil. He then played Ehrlich’s video response and also introduced the audience to fellow GOP hopeful Brian Murphy through another video.

Joe also addressed one critic as he said, “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.” Instead we should do our own research and come up with our own comclusions.

A number of candidates then were asked to come up and introduce themselves briefly.

While Mike Brewington told us briefly his campaign was about taxes, Rob Fisher took a couple minutes to introduce himself and tell us he was “outraged” by the scope of government. He definitely took advantage of the “few seconds” asked of hopefuls.

Dustin Mills noted the “state of the state is deplorable” and that Rudy Cane has “nothing to show” for 12 years of service. Fellow Delegate candidate Mike McDermott told us “you deserve better” in Annapolis, while Mike Calpino explained we “need a philosopical change in the government.”

I also found out Orphans Court Judge Bill Smith was seeking another term, which surprised me since I was under the impression he was retiring.

Giving brief reports on Wicomico County and Salisbury City Councils were Matt Trenka and S.J. Disharoon, respectively.

While Trenka spoke about the “success” of getting one night meeting per month for County Council, there was also the disappointment that Council’s budget amendments failed to pass so the County Executive’s budget proposal stood as the FY2011 spending plan for Wicomico County. Trenka also called a letter from Delegate Rudy Cane regarding the Council’s cuts as “inappropriate” because it cast the cuts in a race-based light. “(We’re) not racist, not hateful, just no longer silent,” concluded Trenka.

Disharoon spent much of his time lamenting the spending at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which may end up costing taxpayers as much as $130 million to repair as promised – the newly-hired engineers were “pretty sure” this would work, explained a dismayed Disharoon. He also stated that annexation “has got to stop,” at least for residential areas.

The featured speakers were Bill Satterfield of Delmarva Poultry Industry and Joe Ollinger, who’s running for County Executive.

Bill Satterfield of Delmarva Poultry Industry speaks at the Americans For Prosperity meeting, June 23, 2010.

Satterfield made two key points during his remarks.

First he explained the economic impact of the poultry industry on Delmarva – the 14,700 jobs which are directly created by poultry producers lead to 100,000 jobs indirectly. Just the feed bill for these birds is $850 million, noted Bill.

Yet legislation which singles out the poultry industry seems to be all the rage in Annapolis and Washington. Laboring under “nutrient management plans” and a “pollution diet” already, the growers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed may find life even harder due to special regulations affecting only them (as compared to other regions like the Carolinas.) But agriculture was the only sector making progress toward the goal of cleaning up Chesapeake Bay – urban and suburban areas were lagging behind.

Ollinger went through a brief biography, some history of his community involvement, and the five planks in his platform (being a taxpayer advocate, pay for performance, safer and more disciplined schools, appointing the Board of Education, and combining the county’s law enforcement agencies.) One thing I didn’t know is that he’d worked in the mid-1990’s on a study to consolidate various county functions, including law enforcement. Joe has also spent nearly a quarter-century on the Mayor’s Roundtable discussion group.

Joe Ollinger, candidate for Wicomico County Executive, makes his pitch before the Americans for Prosperity meeting, June 23, 2010.

He answered a number of audience questions, with the most contentious being the prospect of a school board being appointed by the County Executive vs. elected by the voters. Ollinger saw it as an extension of his function of creating the overall budget, but when John Palmer asked for a show of hands on the issue supporters of an elected school board far outnumbered those in favor of Joe’s approach.

With regard to a “hands-on role”, Ollinger said the incumbent, “missed the boat on what the County Executive’s job is,” using the job to be an administrator rather than as a leadership role.

As far as combined law enforcement, Joe believed that the debate would have to occur as a community; for example, Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton is against the idea because Salisbury prefers its own police force. “I think one law enforcement agency would better serve and better protect the citizens of this county,” said Ollinger.

The key to getting jobs in this county, answered Ollinger to another question, is improving certain areas of our infrastructure (electricity, natural gas, fiber optics, and wireless accessibility) and our school system. While he doesn’t have control over jobs, he does have control over those aspects which attract businesses.

Ollinger also promised to attend more County Council meetings than the incumbent, particularly when the budget was being discussed.

Afterward, those candidates who had attended held an impromptu meet-and-greet. Included in that group were Ollinger along with Congressional candidates Rob Fisher and Andy Harris, Delegate hopefuls Mike McDermott and Dustin Mills, Maryland Senate hopeful Michael James, and County Council aspirants Mike Brewington, Joe Holloway, Mike Calpino, and John Cannon. Karla Graham, who represented Brian Murphy, was also there.

Harris and James were a little late because previous to the AFP meeting was a fundraiser for Maryland Senate candidate Michael James, which featured Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman.

It looked like well over 75 people were in attendance for Michael James's fundraiser last night.

Allan stressed the importance of getting 19 Senators – “we fight hard, but it’s just not doable sometimes (with 14 Senators)…(Bob Ehrlich) doesn’t want to be Governor with less than 19 Senators.” It was a case of either being at the table or on the menu.

Current Senator Lowell Stoltzfus, who is retiring, broke his silence on endorsing his successor until after the July 6th filing deadline – “I’m here.” He also related a story Jim Mathias told about himself and his first vote, leading to a question of whether Mathias would follow his principles based on his thought process prior to that initial vote. (It’s nothing new, I’ve heard the story from Mathias too.)

James himself felt the seat needed to be filled by someone “who had created jobs,” noting that under his management the Carousel Hotel had gone from 10 employees to 300. He also harped on a regular theme of being proactive rather than reactive. As for measures to help local business, “one thing we ought to focus on is knocking that sales tax to where it belongs – or lower.”

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