I have written testimony on bills before, but never have I done so for a budget hearing. But when Jackie Gregory, a friend and supporter of this website from Cecil County, wrote up her ideas on her county’s budget and posted this to Facebook, I asked her if I could share and she kindly gave permission. This is as she prepared it for delivery:
I do not believe that the current budget proposed is a responsible budget. I lay that at the feet of the council since one of your few powers is to appropriate funds. I do not advocate a slash and burn approach, but as a citizen and taxpayer, I expect the council to go through the budget line by line, find points of agreement on what can/should be cut, and make those decisions for the benefit of taxpayers. I haven’t seen that process play out with the council or any real collaborative effort to actually delve into the budget. This is very disappointing to say the least.
From the perspective of an average middle class citizen: There are many things in my house that need improvement, which I can’t afford to do all at once; they require me to break up the projects over the course of a couple of years. Yet I see the library asking for a $400k increase on a 4 million dollar budget in one year, because they have a lot of improvements they would like to do at once. They should decide what is necessary to do now, and what they want to defer until the next budget cycle. Also, I can’t afford to send my son to camp for a week overnight, yet this budget asks me to pay for other people’s kids to go on vacation for a week (North Bay). I don’t believe the current budget is responsible as written.
A rule for using the fund balance should be that only the amount gained in the fund balance over the course of the previous year should be used. Otherwise, it will be quickly depleted. You don’t want to adopt G.W. Bush’s economic policies: low taxes, increased spending, increased debt and deficits. Any new spending should be paid for by cuts elsewhere.
Also, new mandates beyond your control such as WIP compliance and the teacher pension shift need to be explained to the public with dollar figures attached to them so that the citizens understand what portion of new spending you control, and what portion you do not control. I believe that the teacher pension shift accounts for over 3 million dollars of the new spending in this budget.
In addition, I am aware that spending does not happen once a year, and that many taxpayer dollars have been wasted/lost due to poor decision making in the past. We lost millions and gained a continuing financial burden due to the sabotage of the sale of waste water plants to Artesian (by Councilwoman Broomell). That act alone adds 300k of unnecessary spending to this year’s budget, for upgrades to those facilities. The last board (Broomell, Mullin, Dunn) voted to waste half a million taxpayer dollars buying up development rights from a farmer to give them to the federal government. Citizens need to realize that the budget is not a one day event, and I encourage citizen involvement in government beyond just the final budget passage.
This board needs to vote down the current budget or delay it until you can come up with more significant cuts.
For the new capital road improvements, have bike paths been added into the design features of the roads in compliance with the new bike plan? If so, that should be stripped. It’s not something we need right now.
Getting rid of the turf field and replacing it with something else should eliminate a couple hundred thousand.
The sick leave issue should be dealt with.
I would cut the library budget significantly; they should defer half or more of the projects until next year.
I would give Cecil College flat funding. We already subsidize the majority of a Cecil College student’s education. At the post secondary level, the amount asked of taxpayers for the purpose of funding a college education should be much less than it is. College students are not small schoolchildren, and they and their parents need to take more financial responsibility for their own education.
Improvements on Oldfield Point Road are slated for 800k. I know that has been on the CIP for awhile, but I live near there and there really is no dire emergency to upgrade the road. It is fine. I would defer that till next year.
I don’t think there is any great emergency with the Rolling Mill Bridge either; if it isn’t vital, it should be deferred until next year too. (Those two road projects alone would save a million.)
The auditor can be cut/scaled down. An outside auditor to deal with particular issues that may arise may be legitimate, but we should not be paying a full salary and benefits to do the job members of the council are supposed to do. If a council member feels incapable of doing the job you were elected to do without the help of an in-house auditor, then it is time for you to find a new line of work.
The school budget has increased drastically. They should not be expanding preschool beyond the state mandate, and the North Bay trip is back in the budget. When I was a child, most kids, including me, did not attend preschool, and my parents never took the time to teach me anything. Yet my peers and I did just fine. I understand that there is a preschool mandate for at-risk kids, but the district should not be expanding preschool beyond that. Given the number of new mandates, I would offer the schools flat funding plus the cost of teacher pensions. That would probably save about 1.4 million. Remember, they also have a fund balance they can dip into if they believe their budget requests are crucial enough.
What I have listed above is probably close to 3 million in cuts. I’m sure there are others who can offer other suggestions. Please consider them.
If you choose to rubber stamp this budget without offering up significant cuts, then there will be a lot of citizens, including this one, who will feel like we were duped into supporting folks who were going to use their business experience to run the government in a more efficient, taxpayer conscious way. I sincerely hope you use your skills to cut the budget to a responsible, reasonable size.
Obviously I’m not a resident of Cecil County – although its politics are perhaps the most interesting in the state, particularly for a county of its relatively small size – so I don’t know the lay of the land that well. Yet I could well understand exactly what Jackie was talking about in a larger sense, and her points were well taken because she not only advocated for a more limited government, she spelled out a lot of specifics on what could be pruned from her county’s financial docket.
Oftentimes I’ve gone to Wicomico County’s dog and pony show, although I skipped this year’s rendition because I don’t have the confidence anymore that my County Council will go to the wall for fiscal conservatism since the Bennett Middle School debacle. Meanwhile, our County Executive whines about not having enough money but obviously doesn’t mind adding millions in debt while convincing the bonding agencies that our situation is better than it really is.
But I digress. One problem we’ve had is that everybody and their brother can say “we can’t afford this budget” but they’re quick to exclude their pet project from the chopping block. Instead, Jackie sacrificed a road repair near her house, telling her County Council that the road was in decent enough repair to last another year.
She also brought up a very, very important point – one rarely mentioned by those who create the budget. Just how much do state mandates cost us as a share of the budget? It would probably be an eye-opening experience to see this; for example, one state mandate cost Wicomico County taxpayers $1.3 million (see page 8 here) although it may have “saved” us from a $14 million hit. No one would call the bluff, though, and now the County Executive wants to go $1 million above and beyond maintenance of effort, meaning every year we will have to come up with an extra million dollars because the bar will be raised – by yet another state mandate, since maintenance of effort is a state law.
So if your county (or city, or state) is going through its annual budgetary battle and you have the opportunity to have your say, use this as a guide: know your facts and come prepared with alternatives. This was an outstanding effort.
The O’Malley/Brown job creation narrative took another hit last week as it was announced Maryland lost the third-highest number of jobs in the country, with a decline of 6,200 jobs in April. Sadly for President Obama and his steadfast ally in Government House, the announcement came on the same day Obama was touting his record of job creation – a real “inconvenient truth.”
And wouldn’t you know it, Change Maryland and its founder Larry Hogan – which much to the chagrin of Martin O’Malley and his heir apparent Anthony Brown is adding social media followers at a faster pace than O’Malley is creating good-paying jobs – had to point this out:
The President has had a rough week. Visiting Maryland to tout job creation on the same day a report shows Maryland lost the third highest number of jobs in the country is just another stroke of bad luck for this President…(b)ut it is tragic for Maryland’s struggling middle class families.
After nearly seven years of failed economic policies, it has become crystal clear that the O’Malley-Brown Administration just does not get it when it comes to jobs. Year after year, their jobs, jobs, jobs rhetoric is simply that – rhetoric. But their record stands in stark contrast. The fact of the matter is when it comes to jobs, our increased reliance on government to create jobs has left Maryland’s economy vulnerable to the ever changing political winds in Washington.
Now it’s not like I haven’t featured helpful suggestions in this space – some mine, some by others – to help relieve the state of its over-reliance on the “industry” we call the federal government, but so far they’ve fallen on deaf ears. Two of my favorites are energy extraction and Anirban Basu’s idea of eliminating state corporate taxes – a thought that probably brings Annapolis liberals to the verge of a coronary or a stroke.
What seems to go unrealized in this day and age of shrinking paychecks, stunted home values, and millions collecting checks from Uncle Sam without the production one would normally associate with “earning” a salary is that every dollar the public sector takes from a participant in the private-sector economy is a dollar the average Joe can’t direct to the highest and best use of the market. If Joe Sixpack wants to invest in home improvement but can’t because his property tax bill went up thanks to an EPA mandate to clean up Chesapeake Bay – even if our state didn’t create the largest share of the problem and other remedies go untried – that’s going to affect the home improvement supplier, which may lay off a worker or two and throw their financial world into a tailspin. Granted, a measly $100 or so won’t do that by itself but those hundreds turn into thousands and thousands into millions. Even if Jill Sixpack simply couldn’t afford the morning latte because the tax bill increased it eventually affects jobs in this consumer sending-driven economy.
Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown would have you believe that Maryland is a thriving state under their policies, and that the Free State weathered the recession better than its peers. Perhaps it did, but if losing 6,200 jobs qualifies as a recovery I would hate to see what a recession looks like.
If you do the math and factor in for various other elected officials along the way, on average any given member of Congress should deliver his or her party’s response to the weekly Presidential address about once a decade. And while I’d have much rather avoided this situation because it’s a member of the party opposing the President who gives this address in response to the President’s message, that opportunity fell yesterday to our own Congressman, Dr. Andy Harris.
Of course, this is something most of us already know but when you consider Harris is already a fairly tall guy (6′-3″ maybe?) the stack of papers dubbed as the “Red Tape Tower” looks pretty imposing. Of course, it’s also an appropriate week to discuss Obamacare as the House again voted for its outright repeal; a measure sure to die a quiet death in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
But as Richard Falknor writes at Blue Ridge Forum, there is a lot more which can be done. Perhaps this statement uttered by Andy Harris had to have the seal of approval from House leadership. continues Falknor, but the House also has the power of the purse if they’re willing to use it to achieve the desired end, that being the scrapping of Obamacare.
As a physician – his specialty is anethesiology – Dr. Harris is obviously familiar with the process of diagnosis, and certainly the sheer mass of regulations incumbent to Obamacare is but one symptom of why it would be detrimental to the American health care system, a patient for whom we are all interested in seeing survive.
But in truth, Obamacare isn’t really so much about the health care system as it is about providing the means to pay for the health care we receive. While it begins via the employer-provided health insurance we have become accustomed to over the past 70 years or so, as that becomes regulated out of existence due to the increasing difficult prospects of profitability for insurers we will begin to see an evolution in the industry where either favored private insurers become the only ones approved for providing coverage – with the reams of regulations in place to assure no smaller competitor can come along to steal market share among perhaps the ultimate in captive audiences – or a situation where the market becomes unbearable for any private provider and a program like Medicare is simply expanded to cover everyone. At that point you have the statist’s dream of complete dependence on the government, regardless of its budgetary impact.
The better solution, and one we should work toward, is to reduce the influence of government on health care. If people want simple and basic catastrophic incident health insurance and don’t mind paying out-of-pocket for routine events, that should be made more readily available – unfortunately, the trend line has run the other way for decades. You should even have the choice of not being insured at all.
Now, I haven’t even talked about the scary scenario of increased IRS influence which comes as an Obamacare feature. If they have asked questions about donors to TEA Party groups, for what else can they use all the information gleaned? That thought alone should cause heartburn among caring Americans.
Due to a prior commitment, I missed the April edition of Third Friday – which marked its return outdoors, where it thrives by being able to use the whole downtown plaza – but Friday evening turned out to be a winner weather-wise and because of that hundreds came out for this month’s edition of the event.
I had seen the crowd was a good one on approaching the event, but arriving on the Plaza it looked quite healthy.
It didn’t hurt that my friends from Semiblind were playing down there.
In and of itself, that’s not unheard of as they’ve played Third Friday before. But they seemed to lend a different flavor to the event you may not get with an acoustic act.
One big difference I noticed this year, though, is that the scope of the event seems a little smaller. If you look at that link, you’ll notice there were bands all the way down Main Street, but now the event seems to be concentrated just on the Plaza and the unit block of North Division Street.
In fact, there was a second band at the courthouse called the Edge-ucators but I didn’t make it over in time to catch them. There were other activities over there, though, which seemed to cater to kids and support the overall theme for the month of flight and things which go up in the air. As they said, “If it flings, flies, or floats… we are all about it!”
The open space of the courthouse yard lent itself to activities like disc golf as well.
And the kids had their own little space.
For the little ones, it was perfect: a bounce house, nearby snow cones, and plenty of sidewalk chalk. What else could a child want?
The local artistic community has also taken the event to heart, with Salisbury University getting in on the act by using a nearby building as exhibition space. Two new exhibits opened yesterday.
If you didn’t see “Immortals” and “Young Philly” yesterday, you have a little more time to check them out.
Let me just say I’m not an art critic and this question didn’t dawn on me until I went through my pictures this morning. But who actually sits at the exhibit during the time it is open? The artists? Seems like a lot of time out of a week to man an exhibit for 24 hours (Wednesday to Saturday 12-6, according to the flyer.)
Maybe if I went to this party I could find out. This is to benefit the fine folks at SWAC.
But accompanying the 3F theme of flight were several other exhibits. Posters similar to this were spread around the Plaza.
You could try your hand at making a paper airplane and seeing how far you could make it sail.
Even human-powered flight was encouraged.
Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton was contemplating this one.
I can tell you he made it just shy of 9 feet. My bad knee and extra ballast left me a little short of 8.
But these guys were a draw without leaving their feet.
Why were they so successful? Well, there was the element of danger.
In all, the crowds seemed to hang around for the evening, making the Plaza a busy place. This picture was sort of random – I found the walking bush taking a rest!
It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Shortly before Third Friday got underway, these two businesses had a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
Both have been open for some time, but the local Chamber of Commerce wanted to give them an official sendoff.
As the evening progressed, the action began to shift to other places.
One eatery taking advantage of the weather and adjacent crowd was Roadie Joe’s, with a nice group of alfresco diners.
As it turned out, Kim and I enjoyed our late dinner outside at Roadie Joe’s as well, where Paul Brion was playing his final set of the evening.
The food was great, although the service was a little bit slow. But if the idea was to allow us to enjoy our evening without leaving downtown Salisbury, mission accomplished.
There were a couple times I overheard people say something along the lines of “I wish they did this more often.” I understand that part of the attraction of Third Friday is its uniqueness on the calendar, since it’s a single day each month where people can plan on enjoying downtown Salisbury. But in order to maintain a vibrant, thriving downtown that seems to be what’s envisioned by the city fathers, this needs to be a seven-night a week affair with several hotspots at once.
There’s also the argument that the Plaza should be permanently closed to traffic as it was for several years decades ago. For an event like Third Friday, which is kid-friendly, this makes perfect sense. It might not be a bad idea to close off North Division Street as well in order to better integrate the open space in front of the Government Office Building. Again, though, it depends on the vision for the Plaza – if it’s to be retail-focused then parking near the stores would be desirable, but something which is more of an entertainment district where nightspots may locate themselves up and down the block probably is best served with a pedestrian-only Plaza, with a taxi stand on the short street which runs off the Plaza toward Business Route 50.
Any such effort, though, is probably several Third Fridays away so enjoy the art-focused events and the nice weather while you can.
A week or so back I referred to one of Delegate Michael McDermott’s summaries of the 2013 General Assembly session, and he’s come back with another installment today. In this one, he laments the economic effects of those “few pennies” we’ll be paying every day to the state in additional taxes and fees by reminding us that businesses will be paying them, too. McDermott concludes that:
As the government draws more money out of the economy through these new taxes and fees, taxpayers (and) consumers find themselves with fewer discretionary dollars. This always results in fewer dollars being put back into our local economy and every point of commerce suffers. When business slows, expansion is put on hold. When business suffers loss, people lose jobs.
All this seems to be basic common sense which is lost on those who inhabit the Maryland General Assembly and vote with the majority party. It somehow never seems to seep into their consciousness that business aren’t going to pay maybe $100 a year for the so-called “rain tax” or the promised no more than $2 a month for “green” energy, nor will the effects of ever-increasing gasoline taxes be minimal for them.
The problem they have is twofold: the Maryland economy is dynamic and the geography is static. From my house I can be in Delaware in 15 minutes and Virginia in about 40. It’s worth pointing out that just four of Maryland’s 23 counties aren’t on a state border (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Howard, and Talbot as well as Baltimore City) while several border two states and Washington County touches three. Certainly it’s not like larger states where traveling to a different jurisdiction to take advantage of their business climate involves the expenditure of several hours and a half-tank of gas.
So Maryland has to compete on a playing field which is far from level, and savvy consumers know just where to go to get the best deal. It’s no wonder that neighboring states have large shopping meccas close by Maryland’s borders.
Now this isn’t all bad news for Marylanders, as some cross state lines to work just as some who live in neighboring states make up Maryland’s too-slowly growing workforce. But as critics like McDermott and Larry Hogan of Change Maryland point out, we can do better.
And don’t think Mike isn’t seeing the political reality. Note this passage in his report:
I am not sure where the disconnect lies with legislators who see nothing wrong with this tax and spend approach at governing, but I am quite sure the public is fully able to connect the dots. I was recently at a meeting of local business owners and entrepreneurs when a senator told them that what they could “conceive…the government would help them achieve.” Sadly this was repeated so there was little doubt where he was coming from in his thoughts regarding the purpose and scope of government.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Senator in question isn’t the person McDermott will be facing next year.
Remember last year when the Obama campaign came up with the idea for “Julia”, a fictional woman who was supposed to represent how Obama made life better for women everywhere? (You know, that phony, made-up ‘War on Women’ and all that.) I wrote about this about a year ago.
Well, one year later the good folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute came up with the idea of “Julius”, a black worker affected by Big Labor and its policies and politics. It’s well worth the three minutes of your time to watch. I’ll wait.
While the account is fictional, the problems being caused by these policies are not. Yet the liberals never seem to learn – they seem to think that just one more increase in the minimum wage will do the trick, or one more revenue hike will lead to the proper “investments” of taxpayer money. And the golden goose will never stop a-layin’.
All these ideas, though, defy logic.
For example, the idea of paying just minimum wage is that of giving someone who doesn’t have a high skill level and is not all that valuable to the employer the amount which has to be given by an artificially-created law which has no relation to the actual market. If someone’s labor is worth $7.25 an hour to the company and no more, well, then that person will be a minimum wage hire. But if the minimum wage is $10 an hour – and they’ve tried to do this in Maryland on a couple of occasions – there’s no reason to hire someone who’s still only worth $7 or $8 an hour to the compamy because it would be unprofitable in the long run. That’s the point made in the video. (One thing not mentioned is that the reason unions push for minimum wage increases is because many labor contracts are pegged to maintaining a salary point a certain percentage or dollar figure above the minimum, which means automatic but unearned and non-negotiated wage increases for their workers if the minimum wage goes up.)
But if there were no minimum wage, all it would mean is that the labor market would find its level. Arguably, this is one problem which is blamed on illegal immigration and the penchant to work on a cash or “under the table” basis – they could be happy with $5 an hour if taxes aren’t taken out and there’s no need for a Social Security number.
Taken to its opposite extreme, what if there were a maximum wage and no one could work for more than, say, $20 an hour? What incentive would anyone have to succeed knowing they could only reach a certain level, and what enjoyable parts of life would we have to do without given the artificial limit of $800 a week for 40 hours of labor? That’s only $41,600 a year before taxes. To me, having a minimum wage is just as unrealistic as having a maximum one – and don’t get me started on the idiocy presented by the so-called “living wage.”
Without a minimum wage, would employers try to take advantage and pay, say, $5 an hour? (Ironically, that was my hourly wage on my first job in 1986 – one Lincoln per hour.) Some would, but in time these low-level employers would find that the labor pool willing to take that kind of wage would leave a lot to be desired, so they would have to increase their offerings to find better workers. On the other hand, in places where labor is in high demand, like the oil-rich portions of North Dakota, even workers at menial jobs get double-digit hourly pay. (Incidentally, North Dakota is a right-to-work state.) Once the employment market levels out there, that boom will slow down and wages will come back to a particular supportable level for both employers and employees, with those who work in the oil fields remaining on the top of the wage totem pole because their work is more valuable to their employer than a guy flipping burgers at the local fast food joint, as it should be.
But there is one entity which will never settle for the minimum wage, and that’s government. Living in a state which seems to be the leader in one category above all else – tax and fee increases – it always seems as though Big Labor is right behind them every time the state wants a little more out of our pockets. Perhaps this is more understandable in the case of increasing the gas tax, as those unions involved in construction moaned and complained that we hadn’t increased the tax in over two decades. (To which I replied: so?) Supposedly, the additional jobs created by building new infrastructure – even as frivolous as new light rail mass transit lines will eventually be – will assist in jump-starting the state economy.
Again, however, this is a case of gaming the market and not allowing it to seek its own level. Granted, to use the example above, we do need to improve our roads and transportation infrastructure but there were other methods of doing so and more productive ways to spend the money. Nor does this count the other tax increases we have endured over the last half-decade on income and sales taxes, additional fees, and various other methods of vacuuming our hard-earned dollars out of our greedy little fingers and into the deserving coffers of the state for “investment.” Instead of each of the six million or so Marylanders making their own decisions on where to spend, they get part of their check confiscated from them so the state can transfer wealth from flush to impoverished, taking a decent-sized cut for themselves in the process and producing nothing. Julius is the one left poorer for it.
In the video, Julius reaches what’s supposed to be his golden years without a pension because his company was driven to bankruptcy by the union he didn’t belong to. Unfortunately, the creation of promises over a generation – without the actual funding to back them up – are poised to harm both union and non-union retirees alike. Public pension funds nationwide on the aggregate have a funding gap between assets and promised benefits estimated at around $1,000,000,000,000. (That’s one trillion dollars, or about 3/10 of our annual federal budget.) While that pales next to the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, this is still a vast sum which in all likelihood won’t be made whole without rampant inflation or a significant devaluation of the dollar.
Perhaps it’s a good plan for those under 50 to plan on a retirement – if leaving a job is even a possibility in that distant of a future – without either Social Security or Medicare because neither can survive in their present form. Simply put, they aren’t taking in as much as they are putting out. A half-century or more of promises and IOUs was never addressed because people thought the good times would last and last while the bill never arrived. That simply defies common sense, and here’s your invoice.
We don’t know what happened to “Julius” but I’m sure a lot of people can guess the rest – he dies a pauper, having done things the way he was told to do and getting no reward for it because other special interests figured out how to prime the political pump and have the system rigged in their favor. This all can be changed, but it will take a long-term concerted effort and there will be some bitter, bitter medicine to swallow in the interregnum.
As the son of a former union worker whose plant was a casualty of the recession of the early 1990s and a mom who worked for over 20 years to help support the family, I can understand just where this was coming from. My mom might not agree, but I hope she has a happy Mother’s Day nonetheless.
Recently Change Maryland had to do a mea culpa, because they found out they were incorrect.
Just weeks after putting out the word about Martin O’Malley and his 37 tax increases since taking office, the good-government advocacy group had to let people know they were just a little bit off – in the wrong way:
Previously, Change Maryland released a report that updated tax and fee increases following the 2013 session, which brought the total to 37 increases that remove $3.1 billion annually over and above the existing tax burden. These latest reports adds new fees for gun purchases, enacted in 2013, and two newly-discovered measures buried in omnibus legislation and not subject to normal legislative procedures.
So now we are up to a nice, round 40 tax and fee increases under the O’Malley regime. Aren’t we special?
Since I began with Change Maryland, I may as well continue with what their leader, Larry Hogan, had to say:
Nobody expected the total impact to be this staggering, not even me. Struggling Maryland families and small businesses simply cannot afford another four years of an O’Malley-Brown tax and spend binge.
Hogan continued by lamenting the ongoing nature of the problem:
This is not just an argument about big government. It’s about a government that is on auto-pilot to grow exponentially, beyond anything any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes and that comes directly at the expense of the private sector economy that we desperately need to diversify our employment base.
Undoubtedly, the question for the O’Malley/Brown team – and they are a team, since our lieutenant governor is the favored choice of Martin O’Malley – is whether Anthony Brown will try and run up the score some more. Would triple digits be possible over a 16-year reign of the O’Malley/Brown team? In a speech in Chestertown, Hogan used the occasion to blast the heir apparent, who’s announced his intention to snag the state’s top spot next year, from the stump.
(Side note: the odds are against Brown, as on three occasions since the office of lieutenant governor was re-created in 1970 the officeholder failed to win the office him/herself. Blair Lee III lost the 1978 Democratic primary, as did Melvin Steinberg in 1994. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend won her nomination, but lost to Republican Bob Ehrlich in 2002.)
Yet the more Hogan chooses to point out the foibles of the O’Malley/Brown team, the less of a chance there is he will enter the race himself. In a lot of ways, Larry has chosen to be this state’s version of Sarah Palin as he could potentially be a kingmaker as the leader of a bipartisan group closing in on 40,000 followers. If each can influence five voters, you have yourself a GOP primary winner in a year where it appears we will have two or three relatively strong candidates.
And then there’s always O’Malley’s own legacy and his dreams of running for President in 2016. Certainly he would find it a feather in his cap to get his LG elected as successor and cement his legacy. Being the media whore he is, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see Martin O’Malley take the tack suggested in this piece by Pete “DaTechGuy” Ingemi as MOM has to overcome the legacy of one Hillary Rodham Clinton. “I can see a certain Maryland governor doing this,” indeed.
Over the last few weeks the media has reveled in the divisions which became apparent in the Maryland Republican Party, first in the party chairman race which was only decided on the second ballot and later with an upheaval in House of Delegates leadership which I’m told succeeded by a two-vote margin – Nic Kipke actually only won a plurality of the 43 House members (but a slim majority of those present.)
But there is new leadership in both entities and folks seem satisfied with the final result, at least insofar as the Maryland GOP leadership is concerned because the runner-up in the race for Chair won the consolation prize of 1st Vice-Chair. Incidentally, for the first time in my memory, both Diana Waterman and Collins Bailey will be sworn in at an event outside the convention setting as they will jointly be sworn in May 13 in Annapolis. (Key question: will bloggers be invited to the “media appreciation lunch” afterward? I guess my invite was lost in the mail.)
So the GOP is more or less united and ready to do battle. But what of the Democrats? Well, they seem to have hit a little snag, which was mentioned in more detail at my Politics in Stereo counterpart on the left, Maryland Juice.
On Friday the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee hosts their annual Spring Ball, which, like a Lincoln or Reagan Day Dinner for local Republicans, serves as a key fundraiser and a chance for party faithful to hear from a number of local elected officials and a keynote speaker. But their event is threatened as a fundraiser because a number of prominent Democrats are boycotting the event. Why?
I’ll pass along the explanation from the Washington DC Metro Council of the AFL-CIO:
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and the Montgomery County Young Democrats are among those who have announced that they’re honoring a boycott of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s May 11 Spring Ball. The metro Washington-area labor movement is boycotting – and picketing – the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s Spring Ball because the Committee took a position in favor of the 2012 Question B referendum, which took away the police union’s right to bargain the effects of management decisions.
But I nearly spit up my drink when I read this line, from UFCW 1994 president Gino Renne:
Labor will not tolerate being treated as an ATM and foot soldiers for a party which is often indifferent – and sometimes openly hostile – to working families in Montgomery County.
As the Republicans often seem to ask the pro-liberty movement, where else are you guys going to go? Trust me, they will have this ironed out in plenty of time to give extorted union dues and “representation fees” to those Democrats in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the state. The point will be made at this event, but like any other “family business” they’ll come to an understanding and things will be quietly made whole at a later time when the heat is off.
I find it quite amusing, though, that members and candidates from the party which regularly chastises Republicans for signing an Americans for Tax Reform pledge to not raise taxes or kowtowing to the National Rifle Association on gun issues scurry like cockroaches once it’s learned they would have to cross a picket line to attend a party event. It would be interesting to see how many people brave the picket line (if one occurs; perhaps the threat was enough to make the point) and attend the Spring Ball. I’ve seen Big Labor when it feels slighted, so the question might be whether there will be more people inside the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel or picketing outside.
It’s interesting that last night I pointed out in passing North Dakota’s success in bringing their per-capita income to the cusp of the top five in the nation when even more encouraging news recently came out for them. This update is from the Energy Tomorrow blog in a post by Mark Green:
The U.S. Geological Survey has new estimates for oil and natural gas in the Williston Basin shale area that simply blows the doors off previous estimates:
- 3.65 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil for the Bakken Formation.
- 3.73 billion barrels for the Three Forks Formation.
- The total, 7.38 billion barrels, is a two-fold increase over USGS’ 2008 estimate, which included only the Bakken Formation because Three Forks wasn’t thought to be productive.
If you’re wondering where the Williston Basin is, perhaps this USGS map will help. Note that this formation is different than the Marcellus Shale formation which encompasses the western end of Maryland. But consider that North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and while it’s not necessarily glamorous tasks requiring a master’s degree or specialized training, there is a lot of work available out on the plains.
But the principle outlined later in the piece by Green remains true regardless of the conditions:
The dramatic increases in these oil and natural gas estimates are a credit to industry initiative and the application of ideas and technology – in non-federal areas where oil and natural gas development is supported and encouraged. These reserves underscore the game-changing nature of unconventional oil and natural gas – again, thanks to hydraulic fracturing – that could support the creation of 3.5 million jobs and more than $5.1 trillion in industry cumulative capital spending by 2035, according to an IHS Global study.
Obviously the small portion of our state which happens to lie within the Marcellus Shale region would only see a fraction of that benefit. But what about offshore oil? We don’t know because no one is being allowed to do the necessary leg work to drill and find out. There could be an energy windfall off Ocean City which has nothing to do with thirty-story high wind turbines but we can’t say. Indeed, we could have no viable oil deposits there, either.
But factor in that just five years ago no one thought the Three Forks Formation was commercially viable for oil, and now there’s the potential for 3.7 billion barrels. (Granted, our daily consumption is about 20 million barrels of oil per day so by itself the field isn’t huge, about six months’ worth. Yet you can add that to all our other potential, not to mention the near-certainty that technology can eventually enhance our findings.)
Because I favor the expansion of an energy type which has been proven to be efficient and relatively cheap in comparison to other modes, some have called me a shill for the oil industry. Sorry, I don’t work for them – although if they can use a writer, I certainly would entertain the offer. I just happen to know that an economy which is growing the right way needs to expand their usage of energy so mankind has to expend less and allows us more time and effort to devote to improving our lot in life.
As I said yesterday, the part of the state which tends to vote against its own best interests is the part which, in this case, is sending useful idiots who believe the garbage about the “dangers” of fracking to Annapolis. No, the process is not risk-free, but no endeavor worth doing is. We’ve placed ourselves with New York as two states falling far behind the curve on energy exploration, but 2014 provides us the chance to correct that mistake.
Just because I didn’t feature them as prominently as I had last year didn’t mean I wasn’t interested in what Delegate Mike McDermott had to say about the recently-concluded General Assembly session. Granted, once the gauntlet was thrown away last November by an electorate more interested in glitz and glamour than seriously pondering our state’s future we figured the path was clear for Martin O’Malley to create his legacy for 2016. And if you think Democrats in Maryland don’t have those sorts of dreams of reflected glory from electing the first President from Maryland in the state’s long history, think again. Sure, there are a few who are allowed to stray from the party line in the interest of political self-preservation, but when the chips are down they will come through.
This was particularly true when it came to the idea of making the state as hostile as possible to small businesses, as McDermott points out:
Our Corporate Tax rates remain the highest in the region and our layers of government process insure that we continue to be slow to respond and costly for business start ups.
McDermott uses the obvious examples of offshore wind, the submission of our state to the effects of Obamacare, the increased gasoline tax, and the adoption of last year’s “rain tax” as examples of how our state is lagging further and further behind our neighbors. Yet aside from the outrage we exhibit in our little corner of the state, we seem to be having little if any impact on the direction Annapolis is taking.
Unfortunately for us, the majority Democrats – and some of the more centrist, “go along to get along” Republicans – are a reflection of the areas in which they live; areas which seem to be succeeding despite themselves thanks to the heavy influence of Washington, D.C. on our state. In the city of my birth, Toledo, we had a saying that if Detroit sneezed we would catch the cold because we were so overly dependent on one industry for our economic livelihood – even moreso than the Motor City. Here in Maryland the I-95 corridor, as I call it, plays the same role Detroit did for Toledo by calling its tune. My contention is we would be in the same dire straits as a state like Rhode Island or Nevada if it weren’t for having thousands of workers on the federal payroll living within our borders.
Indeed, Maryland is a state where government checks aren’t just for the poorest among us but also feed a growing number of well-to-do families. Consider the fact that Maryland has been a state in the top 5 of per-capita income for all but one year since 1990 – in 2008 we were 6th. States which have outranked us have generally done so on the strength of the New York or Boston metro areas and a lack of poorer rural regions. (Note that Washington, D.C. would be far and away #1 if it were ranked, though.) It’s also worth pondering, though, that a state is now close on Maryland’s heels and threatening its position in the top five – thanks to the strength of a booming energy industry, North Dakota has surged upward 21 spots in just five years.
Yet rural Maryland lags well behind their I-95 corridor counterparts. There are areas of our state which fare just as poorly as those states in the Deep South do, and they don’t receive the economic benefits of having federal government employees on every block. Unfortunately, the policies which discourage private investment in the state hurt rural areas more than urban ones, for there are some businesses with enough economies of scale – and desire to be closer to those high-income families in Montgomery and Howard counties – which can either grin and bear the increased costs or can otherwise pass them along to end users.
And while the idea of job creation was one of the issues in the recent election here in Salisbury, the reality is that we will have to succeed here despite the state’s best efforts to stymie our development in favor of agricultural preservation. It doesn’t matter to those in Annapolis and across the bay because they already have theirs, so if it’s to their advantage to keep us as a rural backwater which has to be kept in line every so often when it gets uppity, so be it. They’ll just punish us a little more until we learn our place again.
So what is the solution? Obviously we need to convince Maryland voters to stop voting against their best interests and instead promote the benefits of limited government and liberty. Granted, there are many thousands of Maryland voters who won’t get that hint because a limited government also would limit their government-backed paycheck but as I have said before the world needs ditchdiggers too. Enhance private industry and the best and brightest will find work – if we play our cards right, it could happen here in Maryland.
Once upon a time, the massive, weekend-long food orgy we locally call Pork in the Park got its start, and I imagine it went something along the lines of what was held yesterday down in Snow Hill, Maryland. Then again, our county doesn’t have a large defunct auto dealership turned into a body shop to hold an event at. This used to be Sho-Wil Chevy-Oldsmobile, or so the large tent said.
At least these guys went out and hired an expert, as Sandy Fulton (right) has been involved with Pork in the Park since the beginning.
Certainly the Snow Hill Middle School PTA may have hit upon a winner of an event. For those of you expecting thousands of people, a throng of vendors, and dozens of competitors, though, you would be a little disappointed with this modest beginning.
A total of eight amateur teams vied for the $100 top prize in chicken and pork, along with $200 for the overall winner. I’m not sure how the vendors did, but there were a few there.
There was also a somewhat limited selection of food at this gathering, including ribs for sale from Famous Dave’s and Phat Boyz BBQ. Hey, it’s a start.
By the way, the best chicken prize was won by Broke Bob’s BBQ (obviously Bob is a little less broke) while Spicy Guys BBQ (who sent their lone girl up to claim the prize) won the best pork. But the overall champion was Tribal Smokers, which finished second in both categories.
Lest you think there wasn’t much going on there, well, there was a variety of activities. We missed the cornhole tournament, but could have sharpened our horseshoe skills.
Now a number of people left after the awards, since they had likely arrived very early to the site for their chance at the cash. But quite a few hung around in the chill to listen to one of the five bands featured. (Spoiler alert: there is also the return of Weekend of Local Rock for a post next weekend.)
This couple made themselves at home in the hay, much to the delight of onlookers.
Others in the even younger set found the bales fun to horse around in.
I imagine the young teenage boy, unseen under the lump of straw on the right side of the photo, is still scrubbing it out of his clothes, hair, etc. He had a lot of fun with it.
Another entertainer not on the bill was this talented young man.
I suggested he should try his luck on the Boardwalk because he could probably pay for a semester or two every summer, with a little more practice.
But as the sun set over the horizon, the vendors had packed up and the food court was doing the same. I think Phat Boyz was the only one left selling as we left. Well, that and the beer tent.
Yet aside from the food, which was a little on the pricey side – not that it’s an uncommon thing at these types of events – this was a relatively cheap way to spend the afternoon. With a little better weather and a year’s experience under their belt, I see no reason why they can’t draw a couple thousand next year.
Their main goal is to become a KCBS-sanctioned event next year, which will certainly make the stakes a lot higher for the teams. If they can get to a point where they’re drawing 30 or 40 teams, perhaps 20 to 30 vendors, and maybe a dozen different restaurants (not all of them sell ribs) that would be a superb one-day event for the Snow Hill area to bookend their season (Blessing of the Combines is their prime tourism draw, and they also have the annual Worcester County Fair, both in August.)
So congratulations on a job well done to Pig and a Jig. I look forward to bigger and better things next year. And also, as I said above, look for the Weekend of Local Rock post on the event this coming weekend.
After missing the event last year because I was out of town, I got to return to the Salisbury Festival this year for one occurrence. (Unless the date of the MDGOP convention is changed for next year I’ll miss the SF again in 2014.)
I had to be there early to help set up our space, so I happened onto the annual firemen’s awards. It’s always neat to see Old Glory raised up this way.
Once the firemen were finished, the color guard paraded to the intersection by which I was standing.
Having helped to set up our place (after the mixup we had was resolved) I first wandered the Plaza looking around.
A staple of the Salisbury Festival is its emphasis on artistic forms of all sorts. A number of craftsmen and artisans had set up shop hoping to make a little money from their efforts. But it was slow going on the far end.
This is the same locale where just a week and a day before Third Friday had set up shop outdoors for the first time this year.
Art of all sorts was on display, with an emphasis on the youngest attendees.
Many of them were hard at work chalking the Plaza at its entrance.
There were also performers on the Plaza, trying to instill us with culture.
Talented as they were, for me they were no match to the appeal of Detroit iron.
For those of you under around the age of 35 – notice something missing in this picture?
Look in the trunk.
Yes, the Corvair was a rear-engine vehicle which was rather popular back in the day until Ralph Nader killed it. It certainly wasn’t all that expensive.
It’s also fun to see what restorers go through. This was an unusual display for a car show.
But from this shell may come something which looks a lot like this.
For all I know, these cars could have been on the line at the same time – both are 1968 Pontiac Firebirds.
Yet I’m now of an age when the cars of my childhood are joined as “classics” by the cars of my formative years. Believe it or not, this car is nearly 30 years old – but I drove a similar model in my drivers’ ed class.
And I wasn’t the only one walking down Memory Lane, er, Main Street.
Now something I skipped in my little narrative was the block or so between the Plaza and the car show. That was fraught with fun and frivolity as well.
I talked about this group awhile back, and the local chapter of Move to Amend was out adding to the minor amount of political goings-on.
I had an interesting discussion with the guy, but obviously our end goals are different: he wants to erode the power of corporations in government by stifling their rights to contribute money (which, to me equates with their right to free speech.) I’d rather just limit corporations’ power and influence by limiting the size and scope of government. Of course, this guy made the classic mistake of assuming I wanted no government.
Speaking of people who make classic mistakes, the Democrats were mixed in with a group of private interests. I thought they should have been next to Move to Amend.
One piece of advice I gave to my Democratic friends: Tootsie Rolls and warm, sunny days do not go well together.
But they were right across from one of the two City of Salisbury setups, where my Council member Laura Mitchell was sitting. I should have asked if she was going to sit on the other side of the street, too.
But I was getting hungry and decided to check out the food court. I was also wondering where my fiance was.
You know, it really helps to turn your phone off silent when you are done with the event you turned it off at. Turns out she (and her daughter and friend) were down by the river, where I took this shot.
It was empty at the time, but this lot on the other side from downtown is where the Salisbury Festival hosts many of its evening activities. Later on Saturday there would be an international beer festival.
I almost took a photo of the rockfish I had for lunch, but I decided not to share.
Now when you have kids in tow your priorities change a little bit. Normally I would pretty much ignore the carnival portion of the SF, but that doesn’t happen with two teenagers.
A few rides, a basketball and couple (live, in a plastic bag) goldfish later, they were happy and Kim and I went our separate ways as I relieved a relieved Jackie. The Plaza was abuzz with activity by then.
Meanwhile, we soldiered on in our modest little space. The biggest problem, as it turned out, was having our tent banner paired up with a small table. We made it work.
The final photo is of two presidents: Ellen Bethel of Republican Women of Wicomico and Jackie Wellfonder of the Wicomico County Republican Club.
It was nice to see our downtown alive and vibrant for a day, at least. Come Monday after 5 it will be back to its sleepy self, save for a couple pockets of activity.