Primary colors

I came across this nugget and it got me to pondering. One would think we don’t have this issue in Maryland with just one Republican Congressman who was supported by the group, but read on.

For a bit of context, let me refer you to another Congressional scorecard put out by the Club for Growth. In it, our Congressman Andy Harris received a respectable (but not outstanding) score of 86 percent. He easily outdistanced the other state Republican, now-former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, but finished outside the top 10 percent of Congress and didn’t crack the top 50. That’s a departure from his 2011 score of 95 percent and 22nd place ranking.

Yet there’s probably not a lot of danger that we’ll see Andy Harris’s face plastered on this site, called Primary My Congressman! This is another Club For Growth project, complete with the picture of the rhino (for RINO) in the heading. Their reasoning for the site:

Many of these RINOs represent districts that are heavily Republican where it would be difficult for the right Republican candidate to lose. In fact, the nonpartisan Cook Report, a political handicapper, found that in 2012, 190 Congressional districts were considered “Strongly Republican,” meaning that they were not even competitive in the general election. In 96 Congressional districts, 2012 Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney received more than 60% of the vote. Romney received more than 55% of the vote in 159 districts!

On the flip side, according to the 2012 pro-free market, limited government Club for Growth’s Congressional Scorecard, only 39 members of Congress have lifetime scores of 90% or above on their voting records relating to economic freedom and pro-growth policy.

This means that in districts that are heavily Republican, there are literally dozens of missed opportunities to elect real fiscal conservatives to Congress — not more “moderates” who will compromise with Democrats to just increase spending and grow government a little bit slower than usual.

While I see the Club for Growth’s point, it bears mentioning that the aforementioned Harris had to overcome a bloody and bitter primary in 2008, not to mention the stiff headwind presented by the combination of an uninspiring Republican Presidential candidate, a Democrat with a populist message, and a vanquished primary opponent who turned traitor and endorsed the Democrat – yet Harris only lost by less than 3,000 votes in an election where the Libertarian garnered over 8,000. The 2010 primary was much less eventful and the final tally much more reflective of the actual composition of the First District.

In defeating any or all of these targeted Republicans, the conservative has to be aware that, in many cases, the party establishment won’t be happy about the unwelcome guest. Being on a Central Committee, I can understand the notion of trying to avoid divisive primary fights due to the common misconception it would harm them in the general election. One can point to the Andy Harris example in 2008 as a case study in the effect of a contested primary, but bear in mind that had Republicans electorally stayed home and not followed the advice of the turncoat Wayne Gilchrest Harris may still have pulled it out. Having a fairly serious primary opponent in 2010 didn’t hurt Harris; meanwhile, Frank Kratovil had both the power of incumbency and no primary opponent, so in the eyes of conventional wisdom Kratovil should have had an advantage.

But if you want to help the conservative movement in a different way, why not turn the Club for Growth’s advice on its head?

If you are a conservative in what may be considered a hopelessly Democratic Congressional district, why not turn the tables on the establishment liberal and primary them as a Democrat? Obviously the chances of winning in this quest are quite remote, but there are several good things which can happen:

  1. As a conservative Democrat, you can spread that pro-liberty message to an audience which generally hears the word “Republican” and tunes out.
  2. If enough people begin to question the incumbent plantation liberal, he or she has to start paying attention to the district rather than being able to assist other Democrats in their election.
  3. And of course, if a conservative Democrat happens to win, they have two choices: either switch parties to their more natural home or be an absolute thorn in the side of the Democratic leadership in Washington. I don’t have nearly the problem with DINOs as I do with RINOs.

I’m sure there are some TEA Party types who are Democrats, but may not be active ones. Obviously we have made inroads in the local Republican Party but it may be time to do some more stealth movement into the Democratic side. (Arguably, there were at least three Democrats on the 2010 Wicomico County primary ballot who could pass for Republicans – none of them won, but unfortunately two ran for the same seat.)

The local test case for this may be Wicomico’s Council District 1. I’d love to see a good conservative Republican run for this post, but I would love it even more if a conservative minority Democrat ran for the office as well. I’m sure there are a lot of voters there who look solely at the party label at the ballot box, but if presented a choice would agree with pro-liberty principles – especially when it comes to education and the economy.

While it may be heresy to say this as a member of the Republican Central Committee, I will admit there are some conservatives who simply won’t join the Republican Party as a matter of principle. There have been possible matchups in the past where I would have voted for the Democrat over a more moderate Republican, but the conservative Democrats didn’t get out of the primary. I encourage them to keep trying, though, because I would rather have a choice between two conservatives in whom I have confidence to lead the pro-liberty movement than my usual option of either voting for a speed bump on the highway to tyranny or slamming down the hammer on the road to serfdom.

Gubernatorial hopeful Blaine Young speaks in Wicomico County

On Monday night the Wicomico County Republican Club held its monthly meeting with gubernatorial candidate Blaine Young as the guest. Young spoke for about a half-hour on a number of topics, mainly relating to events in Frederick and surrounding Frederick County, a place where rapid growth over the last several years has come from those he jokingly described as “refugees from Montgomery County.”

Blaine outlined his position as President of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, although that position will soon be abolished as Frederick County will join a number of other Maryland counties which have adopted a County Executive form of government. In fact, just like Wicomico County, Frederick will have a similarly-comprised seven-member County Council as well beginning in 2014.

In speaking to those gathered, though, Young made it clear his biggest influence after completing a brief previous political career as an alderman in the city of Frederick was that of becoming a small business owner. “It woke me up and opened my eyes,” he said. Blaine is also a radio host, a daily enterprise he claimed the local papers and liberals hate. But his overall stable of business support between 120 and 140 people, stated Young.

But Blaine made the case that he took the appointment to the Commission in 2010 and subsequently decided to run for a full term because his predecessors “liked to spend money.” Instead, the slate he led into office is “a very property-rights oriented commission” which “started slashing away” at a $48 million deficit and turned it into a $29 million surplus. They did so by cooperating with the local Chamber of Commerce to adopt over 200 of their suggestions, eliminating taxes and rescinding “frivolous” fees. The number of county employees had also declined by 400 during his tenure, Young added.

(continued at the Watchdog Wire…)

Salisbury elections: incumbents advance

February 26, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2013 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Update 2-28: Comments from Jacob Day below.

With the votes almost all counted – aside from a handful of provisional and absentee votes  - it looks like both incumbents will advance in City Council voting; however, one incumbent has a steep uphill battle to maintain her seat. Turnout for the election was pathetic, coming in under 10 percent although absentees may push turnout to double-digits.

In District 1, it’s not yet clear who will face Shanie Shields on April 2. While Shields has a comfortable lead with 55 votes, Cynthia Polk is just one vote ahead of April Jackson, by a 40-39 count. If Polk wins it will set up a District 1 rematch from 2009.

District 2 voters, however, would seem to prefer a new member of City Council. Jacob Day overwhelmed the field with 803 votes, an astounding 63% of the votes cast. Incumbent Debbie Campbell appears to have enough of a margin over third-place Jack Heath (271-197) to be the second place finisher, but she enters the general election campaign already 42 percentage points in arrears to Day, who has thus far run an aggressive campaign of signage, mailings, and door-to-door activities (including mine.) Perhaps sending in answers to my questions was the charm for Jacob.

For the pair who are eliminated, it could be a story of lost opportunities, although a one-vote difference means Jackson and Polk will be on pins and needles for several days. If April Jackson comes up short, there will always be the question of whether she would have prevailed had she not dealt with health issues in the critical final days.

As for Jack Heath, I just don’t think he ran much of a campaign. He never seemed as comfortable on the stump and didn’t have a lot of funding to get his name out there, particularly when compared to his much younger fellow challenger, who received a lot of money from the building community. Of course, there will be a group who complains that the local Republican Party did nothing to help Jack, based on the fact he came to a Republican Club meeting and had financial support from former GOP candidates, but as recently as 2010 Heath was an unaffiliated voter. In terms of messaging, Heath’s “Working Together” tagline was fairly blah and didn’t express a sense of leadership or change that’s needed.

So now the general election campaign begins; five weeks where the fighting for votes will probably take a more bitter turn.

Comment from Jacob Day:

It is energizing and encouraging to see so many people send such a clear signal that they want a change in the culture of negativism, discord and pessimism in our City government. Moreover, the message is that they want things to happen in Salisbury and we showed them that – if elected – that I will work diligently to make things happen.

I am so grateful to all of my volunteers, supporters and voters that sent this message. I am uplifted and I believe the City is as well. I want to thank Jack Heath for stepping up as a community leader, working hard in this campaign and remaining a role model throughout. I’m eager to discuss the challenges our City faces with voters and my plan for overcoming them over the next month. I am more assured than ever that we will restore partnership to Salisbury’s City government and we will restore pride and prosperity to Salisbury.

Ten Question Tuesday – February 26, 2013

Today is primary Election Day in Salisbury, so I thought it would be appropriate at this time to reveal the answers to questions I posed a few weeks back in this space. But I have to be quite frank and tell you I’m disappointed in the lack of response I received as a potential constituent of these lawmakers. Out of those who received these questions in an e-mail I only received one set of answers back, from Jake Day. Cynthia Polk also responded, but did not directly answer the questions – instead she referred me to her website and literature. Sorry, I don’t answer the questions for others – no one is interviewing me.

Since I would rate Jake’s chance of advancement after today as relatively good, keep this handy for the general election April 2.

**********

monoblogue: From personal experience, I can tell you the building industry has been decimated in Salisbury. We’ve had a few opportunities to redevelop various properties in the city but nothing has come to fruition. While I’d prefer private investment, the question really is how do we get people building again?

Day: First of all, you’re right. The building industry has been decimated. It will come back, though. The question is: will it come back in the City or its periphery? This has more to do with what kind of place the City is to do business. I propose dramatically changing the way government presents itself to citizens, investors and businesses. First of all, each department should develop and deliver to the Mayor and Council a ‘Business Friendly Action Plan’ to better improve customer service. This has been accomplished in many cities with a profound effect on culture in the government. Second, the City should physically present itself as open for business by opening a storefront downtown Development Office. Donations and grants should fund the space and the staff should simply consist of a rotating representative from each of the following departments: Neighborhood Services, Public Works and Planning & Zoning. This space would be a ‘first stop’ for anyone wanting to build/renovate in Salisbury. The express objective of the office would be customer service; to help shepherd people through the development and permitting process. Third, the City must create a cheerleader and a foreman for economic development projects. I am not a proponent of growing our government (and think we can work with the County over time to shrink it), but I propose in this instance that we create an Economic Development Officer position and recruit a person from the business community to become the dedicated City recruiter/cheerleader for business development and expansion. Fourth, the Mayor and Council should host a quarterly Real Estate Breakfast, simply to build relationships and determine ways to reduce barriers to investment. Fifth, the City should convene an informal discussion group of local banks to determine what the City can do to free up capital for investment. Sixth, the City must reduce economic barriers to investment. The first thing the City can do is to reduce the high cost of land by surplusing downtown City parking lots. The second task is to reduce the cost of connecting to water and sewer services by creating a bank of EDU credits downtown and in other high-priority areas. Third, impact fees should be related to economic activity. While building is down, impact fees should be kept low and no new impact fees should be approved. Seventh, we must lobby the County to eliminate (phase out) the inventory tax. This is a barrier to investment and building in the manufacturing/industrial sectors. I see that our County Council has already begun to discuss this action. Eighth, we should provide tax credits to those who improve their land in the City (especially commercial and mixed-use development) by phasing in property taxes on improvements. There are many other programs and incentives I believe can be offered to increase building activity, including: Small Business Incubator + Startup Space Locator.

monoblogue: And speaking of building, we hear a lot about how to redevelop downtown. But the city is far more than just downtown; neighborhoods are important as well. If you were to assign a percentage of importance that redeveloping downtown merits when compared to the overall picture, what would it be and why?

Day: It is impossible to assign a percentage of importance to downtown; the various measures we could use – population, assessable tax base, commercial sales – are all inadequate to paint a picture. As a mixed-use (but largely commercial) district, it is very important. That said, its importance is derived from the fact that it is the geographic center and the historic hub of our City. I can tell you that no City in America has thrived while turning its back on its downtown. It isn’t just the dogma of New Urbanists or city planners – it’s an economic fact. Increased density of economic activity has an ever-increasing multiplying effect and decreases the cost of building and operating public infrastructure. With regard to the business of the City, property taxes per acre are dramatically increased in downtown and denser areas (especially when the starting point is $0). More importantly, jobs, residents and economic activity per acre are all dramatically increased. All of this leads to the long-term ability of a government to function sustainable with minimal interference with private development and minimal (and hopefully diminishing) tax burden. So, my plan for downtown is to a) link it (reduce barriers) to other neighborhoods so that commerce can happen more freely between them; b) reduce barriers to investment (cost of land and water/sewer connection); c) create design guidelines and other tools that architects and developers can use to create more beautiful buildings; d) get the City out of the business of squatting on valuable land that could be developed by private interests. (Rather than keeping land at its lowest and worst use, the City should seek the highest and best on the property that any owner/developer in real estate would seek); and e) seek the long-term goal of opening up the plaza with a more open design, clearly delineating traffic lanes while maintaining a safe pedestrian experience, just like 95% of pedestrian plazas in the US did 20 years ago when they saw what economic failures they were.

monoblogue: In the last few years we’ve seen a number of national chain businesses open in Salisbury; some examples are Hobby Lobby, Longhorn Steak House, Party City, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Yet there’s always been a group talking about “shop local” even if it means less selection at a higher price. What are your thoughts on the local vs. chain controversy?

Day: I don’t think this is really a controversy. The argument for “shopping local” is that dollars spent at local businesses and jobs created by local business have a higher multiplier effect for economic activity. Of $100 spent at local independent stores another $45 of secondary local spending was generated, compared to $14 for a big-box chain store. Additionally, 65% of new jobs created in the past 17 were by small businesses – not all retail, but inherently rooted in community. As a Commissioner on our City/County Planning Commission I have voted in favor of many of these national chain businesses (Longhorn Steak House, Dunkin Donuts, Party City, Ulta Beauty, Men’s Wearhouse, Dairy Queen, Buffalo Wild Wings to name a few). I don’t think our desire for local businesses to succeed has to come at the expense of our community’s openness to outside investors. However, we must emphasize through marketing and other tools the importance of those local businesses. Those are the investors that will stay for generations. The evidence is there: look at the Knorr brothers, Pete Roskovich, the Hanna family and Rob Mulford.

monoblogue: We’ve already heard the contention about crime statistics in this campaign. Do you think the police department has the optimum amount of resources and manpower?

Day: Absolutely not. In conversations with our State’s Attorney’s office and the Police Department I have learned in no uncertain terms that the relationship between our ability to keep cutting crime and the resources of our Police Department are proportional. We need more officers and when we have more officers we can then re-establish the Safe Streets team, give the Criminal Investigations Division the staff it needs and then determine what other tools our department needs to be the first rate unit it should be. We must seek federal and state funding for more officers.

monoblogue: So where will we get the funding to pay for them?

Day: Fair question and the right answer is challenging to find. I believe that a 1-year extension in the cycle of vehicle replacement can afford at least one new officer’s salary in a sustainable fashion, but I am told that the true deficiency is in the dozens of officers. I would rely on Chief Duncan and the Mayor to assess the precise needs for the Council, but believe the sources are likely going to be from federal and state coffers. In the 1990’s the Federal government recognized the national shortage in officers and invested in putting new officers on the street. Barring another revolution in thinking, we need to vigorously pursue and make a case for the new officers we need from the USDOJ COPS program, Maryland’s Safe Streets (GOCCP) grants and from private foundations.

monoblogue: The subject of annexation came up at a recent forum. In my (admittedly limited) experience with the topic, my recollection is that extending city services comes with the requirement of being annexed into the city. Yet we also want to avoid the “pipestem” annexations which have given the city a very irregular shape. What incentives would you recommend to “fill in” the city’s footprint and eliminate pockets of non-incorporated land surrounded by the city?

Day: Great question. While this is not as urgent an issue as others you’ve asked about – the City does need to clarify its borders. Ultimately, it is most economically sustainable and environmentally sustainable to build infrastructure and structures in a compact way. We can do that without building like we live on Manhattan Island. That said, when we’re building, it should be on shared utilities, like City water and sewer services. That is the ideal. In developed areas adjacent to the City, we should begin a dialogue with property owners about what would incentivize incorporation into the City. Obviously, some incentives could include a reduced or phased tax burden with additional services provided (like waste collection). That said, there are likely additional incentives (representation and tax differentiation) that could be considered. If we are going to make headway in this area – we must begin conversations. Community workshops should be held around the region to discuss the relationship between service duplication, boundary resolution, tax differential and increasing incentive to live in the City. The City cannot and must not approach this issue as a City issue – it is inherently a regional one and one that will only find resolution by listening to and providing benefits for residents and business owners outside of the City’s confusing boundaries.

monoblogue: More and more, the state of Maryland is dictating how local governments operate: to me, a prime example is the Tier Map demanded from counties thanks to last year’s Septic Bill. How much interference are you willing to tolerate in city affairs from bureaucrats in Annapolis?

Day: Well, on this particular issue you reference (Tier Map) it has absolutely no effect on the City of Salisbury. 100% of the City and its growth areas are in Tier 1 and 2 and will be no matter what. That’s good news for the City. I think to get what we want from the State without losing what control we want to maintain, we must build relationships. I presume that that happens at the Mayoral level, but I know it is limited at the Council level. Only one Council member attends a majority of State and peer-municipality group events. I think we must lobby our Delegates, Senators and State officials to give us the space to determine our own destiny while giving us the resources to achieve that success. That will take relationship building.

monoblogue: As a follow-up, do you see yourself as an activist for the city at the state level or will you just concentrate on what you believe you can control within the city limits?

Day: Absolutely. We must all be advocates at the County, State, Federal (and beyond) levels to grow Salisbury’s resources and investors and to ensure we have a policy context within which to operate that sets Salisbury up for success. To ignore the role that outside investors and higher levels of government have in influencing Salisbury is to do so at our own peril. I have relationships in the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, Maryland Department of Planning, Wicomico County and advisors nationwide and globally in the realm of development and design. I would absolutely work every day to put Salisbury and its needs on their radar.

monoblogue: City finances are always in a state of flux, and one bad revenue year can mean drastic cuts the next. But let’s say your economic plans are a success and the city is suddenly flush with cash. What do you do with the surplus?

Day: First of all, I would take a look at our budget to make sure we weren’t collecting more than we needed to conduct the business of the City. Second of all, I would ensure that our surplus is invested in an operating reserve of 10% of annual general fund operating expenses. This is a standard adopted by many communities. Once this reserve is met (and maintained year-on-year), I would first invest in public safety: police officers and fire infrastructure (see FY13-FY16 CIP).

monoblogue: Finally, we hear a lot about transparency in government and communications with the citizens. I know one candidate is a member of the “new media,” for better or worse. But how would you use technology to assist in creating a more informed citizenry?

Day: I love this question. First of all, I would enlist a volunteer Digital Team to help identify how to make the city’s web site a better hub for two-way communication with citizens and visitors. Second, I would shift the city’s antiquated domain (currently at http://www.ci.salisbury.md.us) to http://salisbury.md. In fact, I’ve already purchased the domain and I will (regardless of the outcome of the election) donate it to the City after the election. Third, I would encourage the Mayor and other council members to join me in blogging about City issues on the web site. This would have to be a space free of political grandstanding, but open to reflection and sharing about very specific constituent needs and City projects. Lastly, I believe we should (like Chestertown and Cambridge) have a public WiFi network downtown. We need to be – and can be – leading the way on accessibility and transparency.

**********

Will these answers and his campaign at large be enough to push him into the final showdown with either Debbie Campbell or Jack Heath? We’ll likely know that answer before 11:00 tonight as voting proceeds all across Salisbury.

WCRC meeting – February 2013

My coverage this month is going to depart from the norm because our guest speaker was someone of statewide importance. And just as we rearranged our agenda to allow him to speak after the welcoming and introductory remarks from club President Larry Dodd, I’m going to submit the highlights of what Blaine Young had to say to an expanded audience through Watchdog Wire later this week. It’s not often that we can make news in this corner of the state so I want to take advantage.

Still, we had a lot go on in this month’s meeting from more regular participants, including some surprising changes in club leadership occurring next month. Once Blaine finished with his remarks, passed out some literature and cards, and embarked on his return to Frederick, I went through the January minutes and we received the Treasurer’s Report from Deb Okerblom, who volunteered for the task in Tom Hughes’s absence.

Dave Parker gave the Central Committee report, noting that the House gun bill (HB294) will have its hearing this Friday. He told us to ignore the pro-gun control rally in Lawyer’s Mall (which, in my opinion, will get 1/5 the participation as the pro-Second Amendment rally held earlier this month but five times the media coverage) and sign up to testify – “this is serious stuff,” he warned. “Without the Second Amendment, we have no other rights.”

Other egregious bills being heard this week were ones on Election Day voter registration – “talk about voter fraud,” Parker opined.

In other news, Dave talked up the Dorchester County Lincoln Day Dinner this Saturday and hinted that our version may or may not occur March 23 because we have the opportunity to secure a prime speaker. “You better get your tickets fast” if this speaker indeed comes, said Dave. (And no, I honestly don’t know who it is. Trust me: I want that scoop!)

Dave also shared that Alex Mooney had resigned, for those in the room who didn’t know, and that Diana Waterman was both acting as interim Chair and running for the position herself. Parker also revealed that the other two Vice-Chairs would retain their positions, meaning that there would be no more than two elections at the convention, for Chair and for First Vice-Chair should Waterman prevail. (As for that race, Red Maryland has a statement dated Monday from Andrew Langer announcing his intention not to run, but advocating support for Anne Arundel County attorney Greg Kline instead.)

Once again, Shawn Jester and Bill Reddish tag-teamed on the Andy Harris report, noting he had been named to the Appropriations Committee and that we were “very fortunate” to have him there. They also called the recent Second Amendment town hall meeting “very successful,” although one allegedly foul-mouthed participant begged to differ.

Ann Suthowski interjected to praise a letter to the Daily Times penned by Joe Ollinger. I wholeheartedly agree.

Woody Willing noted in his Board of Elections report that the number of unaffiliated voters continues to increase at the expense of Republicans and (moreso) Democrats.

The main event – besides Young’s remarks – was nigh, as we finally got around to nominating a slate of officers for 2013. Due to assorted mishaps and misfortunes, we could not do our usual process of choosing leadership so this year’s crop was nominated from the floor. Since only one person was nominated for each post, the election was conducted shortly thereafter by voice vote. Here are your 2013 WCRC officers:

  • President: Jackie Wellfonder
  • First Vice-President: Marc Kilmer*
  • Second Vice-President: Larry Dodd
  • Third Vice-President: Sean Fahey
  • Fourth Vice-President: Cathy Keim
  • Secretary: Michael Swartz*
  • Treasurer: Deb Okerblom

(*denotes a holdover in the position. Also, Dodd was President in 2012, Okerblom was Fourth Vice-President.)

It was much less momentous, but we also resolved as a group to participate in the Salisbury Festival once again.

Finally, County Council member John Hall spoke briefly about the Tier Map hearing, the situation at the Wicomico County Airport with the upcoming sequestration – “we’ll do what we have to do,” but won’t lose flight service – and announced that FY2013 revenues for the county came in $7 million better than projected thanks to additional income tax collections, which will hopefully soften the blow from a loss in assessed property base.

But the meeting couldn’t have been bad – I won the 50-50 drawing.

The next chapter in WCRC history will begin to be written March 25. Be there or be square.

The $19 million question

Over the past few days mayoral candidate Joe Albero has taken to his Salisbury News website – you know, the one with no authority line – and thrice bashed incumbent Jim Ireton for scheming to raise city taxes and fees by $19 million. But is Albero correct in blaming Ireton?

Yes and no. One could extend blame to the party Ireton is a member of and the politician he supported twice for President for signing an Executive Order compelling the federal government and states to increase their tempo in restoring Chesapeake Bay. It allowed the EPA great latitude in determining a course of action (like these marching orders show – orders which include the stick of possibly “withholding, conditioning, or reallocating federal grant funds”) and established a “pollution diet” which had little to do with maintaining the economic viability of the region but more to do with pie-in-the-sky goals for the state of the Bay twelve years hence. This supposedly would “ensure that all pollution control measures needed to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025.” (Yet, as I’ll discuss in a bit, that won’t be the end of the road. Far from it.)

Thus, the state of Maryland became a greater participant in the effort – not that Governor Martin O’Malley, who Ireton also supported for election twice, was exactly going to be dragged kicking and screaming into the prospect of further power over and control of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay watershed population.

But it can be argued Ireton has his hands tied, and if Joe Albero wins? He still has to deal with it. As it turns out, this $76 million effort is just a portion of Salisbury’s share of costs to enact the Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan, lovingly presented to the EPA by the state of Maryland last year. This led to the mandate from the Maryland Department of the Environment for local officials to prepare a plan for Wicomico County:

As requested by MDE, each of the twenty‐three counties and Baltimore City were instructed to prepare a Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan that details / demonstrates how each jurisdiction will do their part in improving the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries across Maryland.

We in rural Maryland know all about MDE “requests.” They expect the City of Salisbury to reduce their nitrogen load to the Bay by 24% and phosphorus by 40% compared to 2010 levels by 2025. (The county as a whole has a slightly greater task, 25% and 44% respectively.)

But in the report, it details (Figure 6b) the city’s annualized cost over a 12 year period to implement the targeted reductions, and guess what? It comes out to roughly $18.9 million per year – not for the four years Albero refers to, but for the next twelve years. (For Wicomico County as a whole, the annualized cost is $57.9 million a year – a sum roughly half again the county’s budget, for the same time period. My quick math tells me that’s $700 million dollars over 12 years!)

Still, by 2025 we are supposed to have what’s termed a “fully restored” Bay, right? “Isn’t that short-term pain worth it?” proponents in the Radical Green world will likely say.

Let’s face facts here. Do you honestly think that on January 1, 2026 the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is going to release its annual water quality survey and say, “welp, the Bay now grades a 100 on our scale, so our work is done?” Not a chance in hell. The sad fact is that, regardless of what measures are taken, the only long-term solution which will really satisfy the CBF and the rest of Radical Green would seem to be entirely depopulating rural areas and packing people into cities, where all their waste can be treated in acceptable sewage plants (which sometimes leak) and otherwise allow the rural areas to return to a pristine, John Smith-era condition. Sorry, rural landowners, your property is now worthless. Poultry industry, you’re banished.

Joe Albero can bash his opponent all he wants, but it doesn’t matter because the problem isn’t Jim Ireton – it’s Radical Green. We just won’t have as much green to live on thanks to them.

Yet there is something which can be done. While we have the Phase II WIP in place, what we don’t know are the steps which need to be undertaken. In short, what we should be asking for is a precise accounting of where this $19 million is going to go every year. Otherwise, we know what happens when a large pot of money extorted from ratepayers is left out there – greedy hands line their pockets with it and waste it on boondoggle projects. (For an example, see: pilfering of gasoline tax to General Fund for deficit reduction rather than fixing roads and bridges, Maryland.) That’s where Joe should focus his efforts, because we’re already stuck with this tab unless he can convince a number of unfriendly courts otherwise. Unfortunately, the best time to act on this has long since passed, not that Maryland’s leadership would ever dare to tell Uncle Sam and his overreaching minions to go pound sand anyway.

Long-term, this subject should be front and center in any discussion of how federal mandates adversely affect the states. There is a lot more bang for the buck in reducing nitrogen levels upstream of Chesapeake Bay and in urban water treatment plants, yet instead some used the Bay and this WIP as an excuse to wrest control of land use issues from the counties by passing the Septic Bill (SB236.) This bill won’t solve the problem but creates a situation where we are beholden even more to our Annapolis and Washington, D.C. overlords.

Something that’s often forgotten is the fact America is one of the cleanest countries on earth; meanwhile, areas of the communist world have been rendered uninhabitable by environmental disasters created by an uncaring government. There’s no question people would prefer the Bay be clean, but the effort should be voluntary and balanced with regard to the rights of property owners. The EPA’s solution is neither voluntary nor balanced, and our charge in the future should be one of restoring accountability to an unchecked bureaucracy, respect for private property, and free will – in short, government closer to that which our Founders intended.

Rising up from the Astroturf once again: a push to increase the minimum wage

Sometimes I get my information in the most curious ways, and these are the occasions which can pique my interest. So it was the other night when I got an e-mail update about new Twitter followers. Getting new Twitter followers is not an unusual occurrence for me, but this one was most unusual because it came from what would be considered a left-wing group: Raise Maryland.

For those of you not familiar with the group, Raise Maryland is a so-called “grassroots” organization comprised of what they term on their Facebook page (featuring a double-digit following) as “a campaign of over twenty organizations dedicated to passing legislation to raise the state minimum wage to $10 by 2015.” The group was formed January 21, and corresponding legislation was introduced in the Maryland Senate on February 1 (SB683) and House of Delegates on February 8 (HB1204), to be heard March 7 and February 27, respectively. Lead sponsors of the bill in the Senate and House are Senator Rob Garagiola of Montgomery County and Delegate Aisha Braveboy of Prince George’s County.

Based simply on number of co-sponsors, the Senate bill should pass that body because it has 25 co-sponsors; however, the House bill has only 58, meaning support isn’t quite as broad there. They’re a little short of the 71 votes needed to get House passage.

If passed, the minimum wage in Maryland would increase to $8.25 an hour on July 1, 2013, with increases to $9 an hour a year later and the coveted $10 an hour rate in July 2015. Thereafter – or in a case where federal law supersedes the state law with a higher rate – the minimum wage will go up annually based on inflation.

(continued at the Watchdog Wire…)

Odds and ends number 73

As I often do, here’s a collection of little items which grow to become one BIG item. And I have a LOT of them – so read fast.

For example, I learned the other day that Richard Rothschild, who spoke so passionately about private property rights (and the Constitution in general) will be back in our area Saturday, March 2nd as the speaker for Dorchester County’s Lincoln Day Dinner. That’s being held at the Elks Lodge outside Cambridge beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets, which are just $30, are available through the county party.

While Rothschild is the featured speaker, you shouldn’t miss some of the others scheduled to grace the podium, particularly gubernatorial candidates Charles Lollar and Blaine Young as well as Congressman Andy Harris. For a small county like Dorchester, that’s quite a lineup!

The controversy over the Septic Bill is far from the only item liberty-minded Marylanders have to worry about. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been bombarded with notices over a number of issues.

For example, after what State Senator E.J. Pipkin termed as a “structural failure” regarding hearing testimony on Senate Bill 281 (the gun-grabber bill) he offered an amendment to the Senate rules to handle these cases. However, I could not find a follow-up to that bill.

What I could find, though, was Pipkin’s statement that the state was making citizens into criminals, stating “The penalties embedded within the Governor’s Gun Control bill are extreme; they would criminalize paperwork errors in ways that destroy careers, lives, and families.” And he’s absolutely correct.

“This bill does not address the issue of gun violence in Maryland. The real issue is illegal firearms in Maryland, something the Governor’s bill does not target,” Pipkin concluded.

But guns aren’t the only problem. Unfortunately, we are one step closer to an offshore wind boondoggle in Maryland despite the best efforts of those who deal in the realm of reality to stop it. One bastion of sanity in Maryland is Change Maryland, whose Chair Larry Hogan expressed the following regarding offshore wind:

It seems Martin O’Malley’s priority is to make electricity and gas more expensive. He is pushing an increase in the gas tax and pushing a wind energy policy that is not cost effective and guarantees that electricity will be more expensive for rate payers.

At the close of the last session, the governor ignored the budgeting process which resulted in a train wreck.  Instead he was out on the steps of the capital, leading wind energy activists in chant that said ‘all we re saying is give wind a chance.’

There are no assurances that this offshore wind proposal will not devolve into crony-capitalism that reward friends of the governor and political donors.

Actually, Hogan slightly misses the point because true capitalism would occur when the market continues to shun the expense and non-reliability of offshore wind. I guarantee that if this project goes through it will cost those of us who use electricity in Maryland a LOT more than $1.50 a month – subsidies can always change, just like tax rates on casinos.

The aforementioned Pipkin also weighed in on offshore wind:

This legislation may represent a shift in how private business is done in and regulated by the state.

This bill requires the Public Service Commission (PSC) to weigh new criteria in approving private development contracts to build off-shore wind turbines.  The Commission will now consider prevailing wage and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) participation as criteria in its contract award.

This could set new precedent. In the future, we could see every business now regulated by a state agency subject to prevailing wage and MBE requirements.

You think? Our Big Labor-friendly governor stops at nothing – nothing – to grease the skids for his union cronies. And surely this will extend to whatever road work is performed once the gas tax is increased by O’Malley and General Assembly Democrats. Wait, did I say road work? Hogan and Change Maryland question that assumption, too:

Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan backed transportation reform which has emerged as a key issue this legislative session after several years of being relegated to the back burner.  Specifically, key members of the Maryland House of Delegates are advocating guiding principles to ensure much-needed investments are made in infrastructure and fundamental reforms made to transportation policy.

“Previous attempts to improve our transportation network in Maryland have been an abject failure. Our top elected officials are saying roads and bridges are crumbling, but what they won’t tell you is they are the ones who caused the problem in the first place,” said Hogan.  ”Another myth that is being foisted upon us is that there is an urgent need to raise the gasoline tax, and that is simply not true.”

Hogan joins Del. Susan Krebs and other House members in instilling common-sense policy solutions to making transportation policy.  These include protecting the transportation trust fund with a constitutional amendment, realigning infrastructure investments to reflect how Marylanders actually travel and restoring funds for transportation. (Emphasis mine.)

I highlighted the above phrase as a way to say, “bingo!” That, folks, is the problem in a nutshell.

This is a state which jacked up the tolls on the Bay Bridge to create a cash cow for other projects which don’t pay their own way, like the Inter-County Connector outside Washington. O’Malley’s gas tax is really intended to build rail lines most of us will never ride rather than build projects we could use, like perhaps a limited-access Easton bypass for U.S. 50, widening Maryland Route 90 into Ocean City, or building an interchange at the dangerous U.S. 113 – Maryland Route 12 intersection in Worcester County.

The gas tax proposal has led to acrimony in Annapolis, as Delegate Kathy Szeliga points out:

(Senate President Mike) Miller called House Republicans who oppose his gas tax proposal, “Neanderthals,” and “obstructionists.” In response to his comments, Delegate Szeliga tweeted, “Yabba-dabba-do, Mr. Miller,” further commenting that she hopes to obstruct and stop this massive 70% increase in the gas tax and government expansion. In response to Senator Miller’s jabs at Republicans, Delegate Herb McMillan added, “Even a caveman can see that it’s stupid to raise gas taxes when there’s no guarantee they’ll be used for roads.”

Kidding aside, you can call me a “total obstructionist” as well, Senator Miller. On the road to serfdom someone has to stand in the way, and I’m one of those someones.

Notice that I haven’t even talked about the federal government yet. One sure sign of a new year, though, is the ubiquitous Congressional scorecard. Two organizations which have released theirs recently are Americans for Prosperity and Heritage Action for America.

Not surprisingly, Harris scored a 95% grade from AFP, leading the Maryland delegation – former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett had the second highest grade at 91%. As for the rest, well, their COMBINED score was 50 percent. Heritage Action, however, graded Andy more harshly with an 81% grade (Bartlett scored 67%.) Once again, the remainder of Maryland’s delegation scored anywhere from a lackluster 17% to a pathetic 4 percent.

We’re also talking about immigration reform more these days. I happen to lean somewhat on the hawkish side, so I believe these reports from the Center for Immigration Studies are worth discussing. In one, former Congressman Virgil Goode of Virginia looks at what happened the last time we went down this road insofar as collecting back taxes from illegal aliens – a key part of the compromise provision – was handled after the 1986 reform.

The second CIS report looks at recommendations the bipartisan Jordan Commission made in 1997, after the 1986 immigration amnesty program failed. This middle ground made five recommendations:

  • Integrate the immigrants now in the United States more thoroughly;
  • Reduce the total number of legal immigrants to about 550,000 a year;
  • Rationalize the nonimmigrant visa programs and regulate them;
  • Enforce the immigration law vigorously with no further amnesties; and
  • Re-organize the management of the immigration processes within the government.

That seems like a pretty good starting point to work from, particularly the first recommendation.

Another study worth reading is this one from Competitive Enterprise Institute called “The Wages of Sin Taxes.” In it, author Chris Snowden takes an unflinching look at who really pays for these tolls. As CEI states in their summary:

Most remarkably, Snowdon, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, demonstrates that financial burden supposedly placed on society through the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, high-calorie foods, has little basis in reality. The myth that these “sinners” cost the rest of us money is perpetuated in large part because “government has no incentive to tell the public that these groups are being exploited, and the affected industries dare not advertise the savings that come from lives being cut short by excessive use of their products.”  This type of tax is actually a regressive “stealth tax” that allows lawmakers to take money from their constituents with the lowest incomes without the pushback an upfront tax would provoke.

I would put that in the category of “duh.”  Ask yourself: how much state-sanctioned money and effort do you see given by government to prevent drinking, smoking, and gambling? Yet they rake their cut off the top in each of these three vices, which are only legal because government and society have compromised on these issues.

On the other hand, those who grow or smoke marijuana or do other illegal drugs are considered criminals and tossed in jail or fined. The same is true with prostitutes in most locales. If there were tax money to be made, though, and societal mores shifted ever-so-slightly toward a more libertarian viewpoint with regards to these self-inflicted actions, they would be legal – but you’d certainly still see the public service announcements about “just say no” or the dangers of selling one’s body. (Oddly enough, I doubt we buy time around the world to warn about the dangers of illegally immigrating to the United States. Why do you think that is?)

And I don’t think items like this upcoming movie will help the libertarian cause – not because of the message per se, but the poor quality of the animation. It reminds me of those cheesy Xtranormal movies people make, sorry to say.

I also have a couple items – as I get closer to wrapping this up – that I think are worth reading. Paul Jacobs is on Townhall giving our state a little tough love regarding the drive to tighten petition rules (in a state where it’s already very difficult to succeed) while Mike Shedlock is there making a point I’ve made for several years – my daughter’s generation is being hosed.

While he’s a little bit older than the Millennial Generation, I think Dan Bongino can relate. This video is now going viral on Youtube, in part thanks to the Blaze.

Finally, I think it’s worth alerting my readers that this may be the last edition of odds and ends for awhile. No, I’m not going anywhere but in the interest of bringing more readership I’m in the process of exploring the concept of a quicker posting tempo which may or may not feature shorter posts.

I’ve always felt the ideal post was somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words, but these odds and ends posts can run 2,000 words or more. Maybe it’s better for both readers and this writer to space things out and perhaps devote 200-300 words to an item rather than wait and collect a bunch of items which could get stale after a week or two. I can’t always control the length of my Ten Question Tuesday posts or ones where I report on an event, but I can work with items like these and see what’s truly worth writing about.

As the political world and internet evolve, I think the time is right to change up the mix and tempo here just a little bit. Certainly I won’t get to a point where I’m simply rehashing press releases but I think it’s a better use of my time to shorten the average post I write.

So there you have it: another post which weighs in at 2,000 words, exactly.

Salisbury money races have surprising leaders

If you were wondering whether the challengers could financially keep up with the incumbents in the Salisbury primary elections, wonder no more. The initial pre-primary financial reports are out and there are some intriguing results.

First of all, it’s no surprise that the small District 1 race has attracted very little in the way of contributions; in fact, challenger Cynthia Polk begged off the detailed report as she didn’t raise enough. Fellow challenger April Jackson has only raised $595 from just four contributors, with the most interesting one being $200 from Friends of (Delegate) Rudy Cane. Incumbent Shanie Shields has raised $860 from 19 different benefactors, with the largest being a city-mandated maximum contribution of $250 from former Salisbury mayor Barrie Tilghman.

As would turn out to be the case for most contenders, the largest expenditure for the District 1 aspirants was signage, although Shields spent over $150 on a fundraiser which apparently only about broke even, based on contribution amounts.

More surprising was the amount of money raised on the District 2 race and who’s raised it. Jacob Day is the clear fundraising leader, with 50 line-item contributions (some were by couples) totaling $6,295. Out of all eight candidates, Day just missed being the overall head of the class – with a caveat, as I’ll explain later. Former mayor Barrie Tilghman maxed out her contribution to Day with $250, but so did a number of others I recognized as local builders, realtors, and developers – Brad Gillis, Michael Weisner, Ronald Morgan (of Becker Morgan Architects), members of the Gilkerson family, and so forth. Also worth noting on Day is that 30% of his individual contributions came from outside the area. The only other candidate with a similar profile is Jackson, who received two of her four donations from a Florida family – perhaps related?

Meanwhile, Jack Heath finished a distant second in contributions with $2,400 from 26 benefactors. A number of prominent local Republicans were in that group, including former County Executive candidates Ron Alessi and Joe Ollinger, who both chipped in $100 apiece. However, Heath also has over $2,800 in loans outstanding – all to wife Linda.

In a bit of a surprise, incumbent Debbie Campbell lags behind in the money race having raised only $1,026 from ten contributors, including $250 from herself.

As was the case in District 1 signage was among the leading expenditures for all three District 2 contenders, although Heath has also invested in a mailing. (It may not have reflected on this report, but my fiance and I both received a mailing from Day yesterday so his fundraising prowess is being spent.)

The mayor’s race, though, proves to be an interesting case in campaign finance.

Incumbent Jim Ireton takes the prize for neatest and easiest-to-decipher report, for the most part. There are 79 contributors listed, who donated a total of $5,818.65. (Five donated a hokey amount of $20.13, which explains the odd total.) His contributors run the gamut from local progressives to a number of local politicians like former County Councilman David MacLeod, Register of Wills Karen Lemon, and perennial Orphans’ Court candidate Peter Evans. There are also Democrats from around the state who added to the pot, such as Delegates Luke Clippinger, Maggie McIntosh, and Anne Kaiser, along with unsuccessful District 1 write-in Congressional candidate John LaFerla. Even Salisbury University president Janet Dudley-Eshbach and local left-wing activists Mike Pretl and Harry Basehart added a few dollars to Ireton’s till.

On the other hand, challenger Joe Albero raised the most money with $6,550. But as I said earlier, there’s a caveat – Albero donated $5,000 to his own cause. The other $1,550 came from just a dozen contributors, several of which were businesses. Included among that subset were Electrical Solutions, Gary Pusey & Sons, MoJo Management, Market Street Inn, Ltd., and Crown Sports Center. It’s not illegal, but Albero has by far the highest proportion of these business-based contributions. A perusal of Albero’s Salisbury News website shows several of these businesses are also advertisers.

It’s also worth mentioning that while Albero’s “official” shell of a mayoral website that’s currently ‘under construction’ has an authority line, Salisbury News - a site where Joe freely takes swipes at his opponent under the guise of “news” – does not. The same is true, however, of the rarely-updated On Your Side blog where Campbell is listed as a contributor along with Council president Terry Cohen, although Debbie apparently hasn’t authored a post since at least 2011. Neither Campbell nor Cohen post an authority line there, although tucked at the bottom is a disclaimer that they speak for themselves and not the whole Council.

Once again, signage seemed to be the largest expenditure in the mayoral race. But it’s interesting to note that the services of DiCarlo Printing were sought by both mayoral candidates as well as Jacob Day. John Robinson’s printing business was also a supplier to Albero and Day. The other candidates mainly utilized other local printers for their signage, although Campbell chose an out-of-state printer for hers. And while I don’t want this to be perceived as “pick on Albero” day, shouldn’t he have included the cost of his “Albero for Mayor” shirts as an expenditure? While he hadn’t officially filed yet at the time the shirts were designed and purchased, it would probably be prudent for the record to know where that money came from and who the supplier was.

But to me, the biggest surprise was how poorly the District 2 incumbent is doing in the fundraising department. While it’s quite likely she can survive the first round based on her name recognition, it’s very difficult to make up ground in the remaining weeks before the general election. In the last several cycles, those who finished “in the money” in the primary went on to win almost every time. The one recent exception I could find was where Gary Comegys overtook Tim Spies to grab the third and final spot in 2007 – Spies was third in the primary. But the dynamics of a “top three” race are different than this winner-take-all set of battles.

On Tuesday we will find out if all that money raised by the challengers is enough to secure a position in the General Election April 2.

Mooney officially resigns MDGOP post

It was announced a couple weeks ago, but the notice of resignation from being Chair of the Maryland Republican Party was officially given by Alex Mooney to the state party yesterday. First Vice-Chair Diana Waterman will run the party as the interim Chair until the next state convention April 20 in Timonium. By delaying his official resignation to Thursday, Mooney eliminated the possibility of having a second meeting simply to elect a chair, as party bylaws stipulate a new permanent Chair must be selected within 60 days of a vacancy in the post.

In a brief statement released by the party, Mooney stated he was “humbled and honored” to have served as Chair for the past 26 months; meanwhile Waterman vowed to “work hard to ensure a smooth transition process…we look forward to continuing our aggressive approach and challenging the Democrats at every turn.”

With Mooney’s resignation, the party finds itself in a somewhat similar position as it did in 2009 when then-Chair Jim Pelura opted to leave after he lost the support of his Executive Committee over personnel issues and a lack of fundraising prowess. However, one big difference is that Mooney’s successor will have a longer time period remaining in the unexpired term, which will run just beyond the 2014 election. The 2009 Chair election only featured two candidates – eventual winner Audrey Scott and the late Daniel “The Wig Man” Vovak – in a race which had practically no suspense once Scott announced her intentions and interim Chair Chris Cavey (who was then First Vice-Chair) decided not to seek the remainder of Pelura’s term.

Scott’s brief tenure was a mixed bag of financial success but opportunities left on the table in some statewide races; it also featured the Rule 11 controversy.

At this early juncture, it’s not been made clear who will step forward to attempt to win the vacant Chair position, although Diana Waterman is – according to blogger Joe Steffen – the establishment choice. Steffen provides a laundry list of other possibilities, but for now Waterman is the only game in town, bruised feelings aside. While the interview was intended to serve as her platform for First Vice-Chair, readers may find this Red Maryland piece by Mark Newgent instructive on Diana’s intentions.

Yet given the length of the term, it’s not unexpected that others may jump into the fray, if only to benefit from the shuffling of the leadership deck atop the state party as a leadership post opens up. (For the record, the other two Vice-Chairs are Larry Helminiak of Carroll County and Eric Grannon of Anne Arundel County.)

Still, I think the timing on this is rather unfortunate – while the House of Delegates leadership was able to iron out its differences long enough to get through the session, Mooney’s resignation comes at a critical juncture. We would have been better served if Alex had held on for another couple months, while making his resignation effective the same date. It wouldn’t have appreciably changed his future plans but would have insured leadership through the General Assembly session. Otherwise, those who called for his head prior to the last convention may have had a point.

Once again, though, this race will make the upcoming convention a focal point in a way the Democrats rarely have to endure.

Wicomico Tier Map hearing provides guidance for County Council

On Wednesday night over 200 people jammed a converted gymnasium at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center to hear what interested observers had to say about the prospect of a Tier Map to place the county in compliance with last year’s Senate Bill 236, better known as the “Septic Bill.” Over two dozen members of the public, including this reporter, stood up to give testimony on the concept of adopting a map as prescribed by the state in the adopted law. For Wicomico County and other jurisdictions without an approved map, the clock is ticking: they’ve passed a December 31, 2012 deadline to adopt an acceptable map and cannot legally allow a new “major subdivision” of more than seven lots.

At the hearing Wicomico County Council president Matt Holloway made it clear that no decisions would be made at the meeting. Instead, it was an opportunity to solicit public comment on the zoning issue. “(We will) hear input and discuss the septic bill,” said Holloway.

Wicomico County’s planning director Jack Lenox gave a brief overview of the proposal, noting that while Senate Bill 236 was not a zoning or subdivision bill, it “has the same effect.” Two-thirds of the county was already zoned as agricultural-rural, he added.

(continued at the Watchdog Wire…)

As bonus monoblogue content, here is my testimony as prepared for delivery last night:

Ladies and gentlemen of Wicomico County Council,

My name is Michael Swartz and I live on Mount Hermon Road in Salisbury.

The Septic Bill passed last year has been of keen interest to me, not because I’m a farmer, but because when it comes to government I tend to believe the closer the government is to the people, the better it performs.

While I noticed the Septic Bill passed last spring, it really didn’t get onto my radar screen until I realized over the following months what the impact would be on the local agricultural industry as well as how our county operates its own affairs. To me, it was another strike by Annapolis in what’s been called the “War on Rural Maryland”, a case of once again governing in the pursuit of centralized power rather than the benefit of the people.

So I was pleased to see that Delegate McDermott introduced a Septic Bill repeal bill this year in the General Assembly. To be quite honest, I held little illusion it would pass because power gained by the bureaucrats and majority party in Annapolis is rarely given up easily. Still, I took the time to write testimony for House Bill 106, which I will quote from.

In my testimony I wrote the following paragraphs:

There is little doubt that Chesapeake Bay defines Maryland as a state, and, while there are differences in opinion as to the best course to take in preserving the quality of the estuary for future generations, the goal for all is a cleaner Bay. These concerns have already been addressed on many fronts, with assistance from both the state and federal governments.

That assistance is not at question here, because the law which this bill aims to repeal is not a bill to directly clean up Chesapeake Bay. Rather, HB106 corrects an ill-considered measure which, if not changed, will permanently and adversely affect the farmers who create much of the wealth in rural areas of the state like the local government as elected by the people of Wicomico County.

When the county places land in a tier where development is permanently limited by the newly-created law, I believe the landowner is harmed as the potential value of his property is decreased via the lack of development options. Though some landowners have already given up development rights, which was their decision, I do not believe this can be a one-size-fits-all approach as the state is dictating. Instead, I believe that farmers are the best stewards of their land and many have already taken common-sense measures to protect both their investment and the health of the Bay, with planting cover crops being one prime example.

Because they realized our job is to allow farmers and the agricultural industry to engage in the practices they find best, at the end of last year our County Council considered a provision which would allow an agricultural landowner to voluntarily opt into a Tier IV designation. But Maryland Department of Planning and Zoning Secretary Richard Hall made it plain that, “The law pretty much makes clear that agricultural zones are to be in Tier IV, and so to opt in or opt out is not what’s in the legislation.”

What an attitude exhibited by Secretary Hall! Annapolis knows best, and we should just sit down and shut up. That’s not going to happen.

Unfortunately, my testimony and that of others did little good as House Bill 106 was killed in committee. However, I would like to publicly thank Delegate McDermott for sponsoring the bill and Delegate Charles Otto for voting for it in the House Environmental Matters Committee. It should be noted, though, that Delegate Rudy Cane – who ironically enough chairs the Agriculture, Agriculture Preservation, and Open Space Subcommittee within the Environmental Matters Committee, voted to retain a bill which won’t do a thing to preserve agriculture – although it may increase the amount of “open space” as farms go bankrupt and become overgrown.

To me, given the small percentage of the Bay’s nitrogen problem traceable to rural septic systems, the bill passed last year is akin to using a sledgehammer to kill an ant. Out here, we know better than that.

So, as members of the Wicomico County Council, the ball is now in your court. In my opinion, if we have to have a tier map, let it place the absolute minimum amount of land off-limits to future development. To those of you here from the state or from environmental organizations recommending a more restrictive map, such as what happened in Cecil County last night after their original tier map was rejected, let me just say you may as well prepare for a fight.

I’d like to commend this Council for placing the needs of the people first and holding this hearing. Now let’s do the right thing and adopt true Smart Growth, allowing prudent development where land can be improved to its highest and best use.

Here’s the PAC-14 video.

I come on at about the 20 minute mark.

Death penalty opponents work to sidestep referendum

February 20, 2013 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Watchdog Wire · Comments Off 

Note: this is my first article posted at the Watchdog Wire.

After seeing several of their other pet issues derailed for months due to spirited referendum efforts by opponents, those who wish to rescind the death penalty in Maryland are trying to take advantage of a provision in the Maryland Constitution to protect a bill to repeal the state’s little-used death penalty from having its fate decided by voters. Polling numbers suggest they have cause to be worried: last month’s Maryland Poll by Gonzales Research pegged support for the death penalty from 49% of those polled, with 44% in opposition.

Yet Article XVI of the Maryland Constitution exempts bills with an appropriation from the referendum process, and a small portion of the crossfiled measures House Bill 295 and Senate Bill 276 both state that:

For Fiscal Year 2015 and each Fiscal Year thereafter, the Governor shall include in the annual budget submission $500,000 for the (State Victims of Crime) Fund, redirected from General Fund savings resulting from the repeal of the death penalty.

That provision would amount to less than 1/1000 of 1% of the overall state budget, but in a strict reading of Article XVI of the state Constitution this clause would seem to preclude any effort for repealing the death penalty in Maryland from being acted upon by the voters in 2014. Passage of the bill is nearly a certainty given the Senate and House versions of the bill respectively have 21 and 67 co-sponsors – 24 Senate and 71 House votes are needed for passage.

(continued at the Watchdog Wire…)

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    Contested races only.

    First District - Congress

    Andy Harris (R)
    Bill Tilghman (D)

    ___

    Maryland General Assembly (local)

    Senate District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R)
    Chris Robinson (D)

    ___

    House District 37B

    Republican

    Christopher Adams (R)
    Johnny Mautz (R)
    Rodney Benjamin (D)
    Keasha Haythe (D)

    ___

    Senate District 38

    Mike McDermott (R)

    Jim Mathias (D)

    ___

    House District 38A

    Charles Otto (R)
    Percy Purnell, Jr. (D)

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    House District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R)

    Norm Conway (D)

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    House District 38C

    Mary Beth Carozza. (R)

    Judy Davis (D)

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    Wicomico County

    County Executive

    Bob Culver (R)
    Rick Pollitt (D)

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    County Council at-large

    John Cannon (R)
    Matt Holloway (R)
    Laura Mitchell (D)

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    Council District 2

    Marc Kilmer (R)
    Kirby Travers (D)

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    Council District 3

    Larry Dodd (R)
    Josh Hastings (D)