Putting the world on hold

They tell us it’s “flattening the curve.”

However, there are a huge number of economic impacts we will need to go through now that the Wuhan coronavirus escaped its Chinese captivity and has gone global. Let’s just look at one arena of economics for example. (And yes, the pun was intended.)

On Wednesday, just after I put up my previous post, it was announced that the NBA season was “suspended” until further notice. This quickly extended to the NHL and MLB, with the NCAA topping all of them and completely cancelling ALL winter and spring championship events. (In other words, it’s not just March Madness: the College World Series, normally held in late May into June, is off, too.)

I already feel horrible for those seniors who may have been going to The Dance for the first and only time in their college careers, but one also has to consider those people whose livelihood depends in part on these events. It’s two dates that the workers at the Mercedes-Benz arena in Atlanta will now be off, not to mention the host facilities of the other regionals that are held over two nights at various venues. (In the early rounds, this can be a full shift from noon to 9 or 10 at night.) Even worse is the fate of those who work at NBA or NHL host arenas, as their facilities are often used 5 nights a week or more thanks to sports, concerts, and other large gatherings. The same goes for spring training venues, which are used nearly every day during this time of year thanks to teams sharing fields and split-squad games. Now these facilities are closed to the public and these employees are out of work.

Generally these workers are the folks who were barely scraping by, so this pandemic is going to make it more difficult for them to pay their bills. (One exception: those who work for Ilitch Holdings, which owns Little Caesars along with the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, among other entertainment properties. They are going to compensate part-timers for games and events they miss thanks to the cancellations, which included the NCAA hockey Frozen Four.)

So there are a number of events which will be lost and never made up; lost opportunities for commerce. Granted, public health is important but my gut feeling is that we’ve overreacted to this epidemic insofar as governmental entities are concerned. It’s one thing for a privately-run league to suspend operations for several weeks, but government declaring a state of emergency and forcing the cancellation of events slated to hold more than a few dozen people may be a little beyond the pale. These things should be decided by organizers, not dictated. Believe it or not – and despite the hoarders who think they need two cases of toilet paper – we have a little common sense left in this world.

I also believe we needed an end date to this state of emergency, or at least a date certain to re-evaluate the situation. Declare a state of emergency through March 31, with an interim deadline of perhaps March 28 to determine further course of action. (The professional baseball world at least knows two weeks’ worth of games will be cancelled, so that alternate planning can take place.) Much of the reason the stock market and oil futures have tanked over the last month is the uncertainty of the situation. Now we can’t predict a virus, but I think we can at least give a firm date for attempting to return to normal.

As I see it, leaving stuff open-ended gives potential for additional mischief from the “never let a crisis go to waste” crowd. We’re already staring a recession dead in the face (unless pent-up demand rescues us in 2020 Q2) and, being an election year, we know what that means. As always, the government has to do something to insure its re-election as opposed to following the Constitution or adhering to limited-government principles that would suggest a more hands-off approach.

We’ve already seen what a media-enhanced panic looks like by checking out the store shelves, so it’s time for vigilance and, once this is over, preparation for the next time. Trust me, it WILL happen again.

Is it hype or reality?

If I were to categorize my state of health, I would argue that it’s relatively good. Yes, I weigh more than I should but the blood work always seems to come back fine. It’s a blessing that I’m glad to have considering how many others suffer.

In the last few weeks, we’ve been reminded what suffering is thanks to the spread of the coronavirus, or, more appropriately, Wuhan virus. It took a few weeks to learn what virulent effects it was having on the people around the Chinese city of Wuhan, but as it spreads around the world we hear fears of a pandemic on the scale of the Spanish flu a century ago, where millions in a war-ravaged global population perished. (Reports suggest its effects casualty-wise were worse than the First World War, which was coming to an end just as the influenza was beginning to spread.)

Because of that fear, we are treated to breathless accounts of rapidly dwindling supplies of surgical masks, disinfectant, and toilet paper. The Dow Jones and other markets have plunged, major events cancelled, entire countries are being placed into lockdown over the Wuhan virus, and even our church has played into this paranoia as shaking hands has been discouraged at the greeting time built into the service.

If you know me well enough, you know I’m something of a born skeptic about certain things, and Wuhan virus is quickly falling into that category. There are just too many reasons to believe that there’s much more sizzle than steak when it comes to our seemingly biannual dread disease that’s going to wipe us all out. (If we survived SARS, which is more easily spread, we can handle Wuhan virus.)

Now the conspiracy buffs among us could speculate that the whole thing is a Chinese plot to try and crash our economy, paving the way for a President more to their liking than Donald Trump, who has been a difficult adversary when it comes to trade. It is interesting to note, though, how the federal reaction once thought to be too strict is now being portrayed as an albatross around Trump’s neck worse than Hurricane Katrina was for President George W. Bush. And as I noted above, the media has been complicit in stoking up fear.

After the topic came up for discussion at our small group tonight, I had another thought on the way home. Now it’s nothing completely out of the ordinary for schools to close because of the flu, as it happens from time to time when a school finds a significant percentage of its kids are sick. But the measures being taken such as cancelling in-person classes in favor of online lessons for the foreseeable future or keeping workers at home, as well as the talk of scrubbing pro sports games (as of about 30 minutes after I posted this, it’s no longer talk) or, more likely, holding them in closed stadiums – go beyond the pale into uncharted territory.

What this all reminds me of was the time period immediately after 9/11, and we have some eerie parallels. You may recall that both MLB and the NFL postponed an entire week’s worth of games (which, by the way, was how we got November baseball for the first time. I remember seeing the “Welcome to November Baseball” sign at old Yankee Stadium as the October 31 World Series Game 4 dragged past midnight into November.) But it’s also worth pointing out schools remained closed for several days after the terrorist attack, and life wasn’t really something close to normal for weeks – or months, in the case of the New York and D.C. regions. (Or so I presume since I was still in Ohio back then.)

And it could be much the same type of situation here, except the impacts are in different areas, such as the global supply chain, financial markets, and perhaps oil industry – has the sudden, unexpected drop in demand from a moribund China led to a schism in the market as Russia and Saudi Arabia could not agree to supply cuts to re-establish $60 a barrel oil? Tonight I even saw the “r” word being mentioned in the same story that noted the latest decline in the Dow Jones makes it official: the post-Great Recession bull market is officially over after 11 years. Stocks have fallen 20 percent off their peak of just a few weeks ago.

Long story short: Wuhan virus is a reality and chances are it will spread to a point where some areas are hard hit, just like any flu season. But there’s a lot more hype on this one because there’s a larger agenda being held by some people. Right now the news deserves a little larger grain of salt.

A rush to condemn, part 2

A recent post on Twitter by a Delaware state senator made local news, and it’s just another example of what I meant in my last post.

State Senator Bryan Townsend is, of course, a Democrat who owns a measly 11 lifetime rating (out of a possible 100) on the Delaware edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project. But his retweet of a cartoon obviously depicting Limbaugh of a member of the KKK is yet another example of what I described yesterday.

Of course many who replied to the Tweet let him have it. But in looking down his overall Twitter feed (which intersperses between mainly political-related items with a few family observations tossed in) it’s apparent that he’s not going to care one iota regardless of the remarks, or the facts: like his longtime call screener Bo Snerdley (a black man) we’re still waiting for all the racist remarks Rush has made. But to Townsend (a politician) perception is reality.

It also goes without saying that there’s a double standard at work here, since two different local GOP party officials were recently drummed out of their party roles thanks to insensitive remarks on their part. But I doubt Townsend is going anywhere and he has the luxury of his seat not being up until 2022, as he was re-elected in 2018 with the largest margin of victory among the eight Senators who faced opposition, with just under 76%. He represents the leafy suburbia of New Castle County – his district runs along I-95 just west of the Christiana Mall – so Bryan obviously has his constituents fooled into believing he’s worthy of support. I just feel sorry for his small children, being raised by parents with such beliefs.

I’m also glad he’s not my state senator. Ironically, I found out my state senator is a newspaper owner so you can imagine how much scrutiny his editions receive. Maybe that’s the most prudent approach?

The state of the TEA Party: winter 2020

This update is going to be a little bit different than the first ones from last summer and fall. Most of the immediate loose ends left untied by the publication of my book have now been tied up so it’s time to shift focus.

I got to thinking the other day about where the TEA Party was during the 2012 Presidential campaign, which was the first one it faced as a political entity. At this point in the 2012 campaign the TEA Party – which, in real time, was just before Christmas of 2011 because the Iowa caucuses were held on January 3 of that year – was still weighing its choices between a slew of TEA Party-approved contenders like Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum or holding their nose to get behind the favored and more centrist and establishment Mitt Romney, who eventually won the GOP nomination – much to the chagrin of many TEA Party believers. (One of those who also flirted with the idea of running during the 2012 campaign before bowing out just weeks later: Donald Trump. It would be four years later that his campaign ignited a second firestorm among TEA Party adherents.)

Fast forward to 2020 and flip the coin over to the other side of the political spectrum and you see the dilemma of the far left Democrats: do they stick with the infighting between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, switch over to the unproven Pete Buttigieg, or hold their nose for the known commodity of Joe Biden as the best chance to defeat Donald Trump? In short, at what point do you abandon principle for practicality and work for an election in the hope that maybe you won’t lose any more political ground with a more moderate candidate? That seemed to be the fate of TEA Party people in 2012, and perhaps they learned pragmatism from their first two major elections: the Doug Hoffman New York Congressional race in 2009 and Scott Brown’s first Senate run in the winter of 2009-10.

I’m thinking that may be a question I will ask later this summer, but here’s the idea for this feature going forward.

If it’s not apparent to you after all these years of writing, the TEA Party as envisioned was a political movement right up my alley; hence, I’m pretty passionate about it. Why else would I spent over 2 1/2 years writing a book to help document its history and effects? (Hint: it ain’t the money.)

After a decade-plus of existence, we can now see what impact the TEA Party has had on the political scene, but there’s a portion of me that feels it needs continued study on how to maintain and increase its relevance and make it more effective in implementing its principles. The question arises, though: what are its principles, and how have they changed over time?

So, every three months, my hope is to distill what those who are most involved in the TEA Party as its Founding Fathers (and Mothers) and other longtime leaders have to say about the topics I’m introducing here – not just as a blog post but in more of a newsletter style. (My model in this is a familiar one to me: The Patriot Post, for whom I write weekly.) Not only would it promote academic-style study, but it would also be a legacy project for those involved – we have lost several of the early leaders already, and it’s a movement we need more than ever.

To that end I’ve already determined a number of topic questions that will carry us through the remainder of 2020.

April: The TEA Party got its start as a movement claiming we were “Taxed Enough Already.” We have found that the tax cuts we received from President Trump in 2017 have indeed bolstered the economy and put more money in our pockets, and that’s great – but we still run trillion-dollar deficits just as we did in the heart of the Great Recession. How can we sell a message of spending reduction to the masses like we pressed for tax cuts? And, corollary to that, how do we defend ourselves from the charge of hypocrisy given we got the tax cuts we wanted but still find ourselves deep in red ink?

July: As noted earlier, the primary elections don’t always give us the candidate we want. For many of us, Donald Trump was an example; however, the way he has governed has been a pleasant surprise. What are some of the “red line” issues that are non-negotiable to you, or, put another way, are there instances where you can’t abide by the rule made popular by Ronald Reagan, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” Or is just moving the ball enough after primary voters have spoken?

October: For good or bad, Donald Trump has been our President for the last three=plus years. On the off chance that he is defeated in November, however, where does the TEA Party begin with its resistance to the far-left agenda sure to be enacted by the Democrats’ nominee? Or, if Trump wins – and doesn’t have to worry about re-election ever again – what issues do you want him to exhaust his political capital on in his second term?

I believe these are compelling questions worth asking, and hopefully I will have a plethora of answers from those most passionate about the TEA Party movement.

As far as a timeline, ideally April would be the last State of the TEA Party blog post exclusively at this venue. I would love to have a functional site for this proposed digest (as well as a nice little mailing list) by this summer, but that is going to depend on how much assistance I receive. At this point the help is more in the area of expertise than finance, since the goal is simply to promote this information in a venue that is inherently not looking to support or oppose particular candidates but to be a clearinghouse to discuss ideas and correctly write the TEA Party’s history and overarching goals.

By its very nature, 2020 should be a year of vision. Let’s bring the state of the TEA Party into a much clearer and more broadly understood focus.

Time to indulge our ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ consumerism

This is the sixth annual edition put out by the folks at the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

This is always a good post for Black Friday.

It’s been several years now since I scratched an itch to promote our American manufacturing by joining a (sadly ill-fated) venture called American Certified. One thing that short foray gave me, though, was a place on the mailing list of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a union-backed promoter of (you guessed it) American manufacturing. Its president Scott Paul is perhaps among those I’ve most quoted on this site, and arguably first among non-Maryland non-politicians.

The AAM has, over the last several years, created what they call their “Made in America Gift Guide.” It actually worked well hand-in-hand with an effort by the Patriot Voices group (the people who keep two-time Presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in the news on occasion) called the Made in the U.S.A. Christmas Challenge, but that challenge has seemed to go by the wayside, leaving AAM as the sole purveyor and promoter of American-made Christmas gifts.

This is year 6 for AAM and they picked at least one item from each state – 83 overall by my count. I thought Delaware’s selected entry this year was a little bit off the wall, but then again RAPA ships its scrapple around the country during holiday time (November to February.) It may not be the gift for everyone on your list, but I’m sure there are some who now live in other regions of the country who wouldn’t mind a taste of home.

But in a neat piece of irony (and no pun intended) the selected Maryland gift comes from an Eastern Shore company called Butter Pat Industries. Their claim to fame? Hand-crafted cast iron skillets, which have drawn the attention and raves from cooking aficionados. (That’s why I’ve never heard of them, since I burn water.)

Since I quote him so often, here’s what AAM’s Scott Paul had to say:

Everything on this year’s list is new, and many of the ideas came from readers like you.

We think there’s something for everyone on your gift list. Our team made sure to include a mix of items at a variety of price points.

If everyone in the United States spent $64 of their holiday budget on American-made products, it would support 200,000 new factory jobs! But we know it can be hard to find Made in America goods in big box stores or at the local mall.

By putting together this list, we hope to shine a spotlight on some great companies who support local jobs and their communities — and make it easier for folks like you to find great American-made gifts during the busy holiday season.

Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing press release, November 26, 2019.

Of course, they also strive to not repeat gifts from year to year so Delaware’s list has varied nicely over the years: baby accessories, unglazed cookware, handcrafted gifts and furnishings, Jell-O mix (!), and – of course – Dogfish Head ales. (Too bad they didn’t give the late lamented 16 Mile brewery the same love.) The Eastern Shore has also been represented in Maryland’s selection on a couple previous occasions, including Paul Reed Smith guitars.

So if one of your Christmas goals is to shop local, this guide is a pretty good place to begin. And the job you save may be that of someone you know.

A problem with democracy

What if you have an election and nobody shows up?

That seems to be the case in Delmar, as the little town too big for one state had only 28 residents bother to show up for the town election held on Tuesday. And if you think this was because the elections were walkovers, it sounds like at least the mayor’s office was contested. (I would think at least one were contested, otherwise the election would be cancelled.) By the way, congratulations to Karen Wells for another successful election.

Nor is it a case of Delmar just being a speck on the map – according to one report there are 1,987 registered voters in the city so that means turnout weighed in at about 1.4 percent. Sorry to be so blunt, but that is pathetic. And it’s nothing new – the 2015 election only drew 41 voters.

Obviously I’m no expert on Delmar’s city code, but it seems to me that poor turnout like that would be a good reason to re-evaluate the whole election situation. It’s fine to have off-year elections, but perhaps they need to place their balloting on the same election day most other people are aware of, the first Tuesday in November. Granted, you run the risk of being overshadowed by Salisbury’s election when both run concurrently but perhaps that will bring the event to mind for more than 2 percent of the voting public.

Look, while this was a Delmar, Maryland election it’s worth noting in my case that here in Delaware it’s more like the system I grew up with in Ohio where there are elections for something each year: local offices and school boards in odd-numbered years, and state and federal offices in even-numbered years. Whichever state you’re in, it’s the responsibility of a good citizen to participate in this republic by voting at each opportunity – even if you don’t like the candidates (oftentimes I do not) and even if it’s not the most convenient thing to do. We just can’t abide as a nation when 1.4% voter turnout is met with a shrug of the shoulders.

A new way to vacuum from our wallets

Over the years from time to time I have written about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate compact ostensibly to address climate change (under the mistaken belief mankind can significantly affect that natural phenomenon) but one which in reality acts as a wealth redistributor in most of its member states.

But thanks to the sharp-eyed folks at the Delaware Freedom Coalition – who noticed a small article in one of the New Jersey Patch websites (they’re still around?) – we now know that these same states and three others (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) are trying to do the same thing with your gasoline. In the words of the Connecticut-based Hartford Courant, which is linked in the Patch article:

The concept calls for a regional cap-and-trade plan that would raise money that would be used to combat climate change at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration is seeking to weaken standards for automobile emissions. For example, the money would help in improving electric-car charging and investing in mass transit as ways to reduce emissions.

“Connecticut among states studying regional gas tax,” Christopher Keating, Hartford Courant, October 25, 2019.

[In an unrelated move, Delaware Rep. Krista Griffith already proposed a measure this year to allow the public usage of state-owned electric car charging stations, a bill that fell one Senate vote short of passage (two Senators were absent at the time of the vote.) That’s certain to come back in 2020, but the proceeds from this proposed gas tax could be earmarked to reimburse state agencies for a similar public use.]

However, this wouldn’t be a per-gallon tax or a sales tax on gasoline, the methods by which most of us pay our automotive toll to the state. Instead, it appears (according to published reports here and here) that the toll would be paid at the wholesale level, which has led that industry to oppose the new tax. If it were adopted, though, they have suggested some improvements. Otherwise, much like RGGI member state utilities are saddled with the additional cost and red tape of compliance, the petroleum industry will become the new whipping boy for Radical Green.

This is just another case of passing the buck. And as Forbes contributor David Blackmon opines, “we see states like these twelve spending tens of millions of dollars and years upon years studying and developing deceptive approaches like this in order to give governors and other politicians the political cover they need to still be re-elected after voting the new, hidden tax into law.” Now in states like Maryland and (unfortunately) Delaware, there are enough people who have been fooled to keep voting in these people regardless of what they do or “accomplish” in office on so-called climate change. But the concept could fall apart if enough states balk at the idea, and public comment has been surprisingly fierce against the idea once people are made aware of it. (Apparently people in Maine are since that small state provides the majority of public comments.)

If people wish to purchase electric cars, part of the consideration has to be the infrastructure (or lack thereof) for refueling as well as other needs. Setting aside the environmental impact that these expanded batteries create and the subsidies required to make the industry successful – never mind this proposed carveout – the other issue is that an electric car simply replaces a conventional car on roads which must be maintained on a system of highways desperately needing expansion and streamlining in some places. Here in Sussex County that covers everything from local needs like a bridge crossing of the Nanticoke River between Sharptown and Seaford to replace the old and unreliable Woodland Ferry and a combined U.S. 113/State Route 24 Millsboro bypass to regional concerns like the extension of an interstate-grade highway from south of Dover to Salisbury along the U.S. 13 corridor. (Since it wouldn’t be a loop highway, call it I-195.)

One advantage of a gas tax is that, when it’s properly allocated toward highway maintenance and expansion – and not toward bike paths, mass transit subsidies, or the yawning chasm of a state’s general fund – it serves as a user fee not unlike that of crossing the Bay Bridge or a toll road. You pay your fee, you get your service whether it’s traversing Chesapeake Bay or avoiding umpteen traffic lights and speed limit changes between Dover and Wilmington. Unfortunately, too many governmental entitles see these taxes as revenue they can spend as they please whether it’s in the spirit in which the tax is collected or not. Moreover, undefined revenue becomes yet another method of patching holes in the budget, and yes I’m looking at you Martin O’Malley.

So it’s prudent to be skeptical at best about the collection and usage of this tax, especially since the participants misunderstand the problem and try to avoid dealing with the real issues. If you want to raise the gas tax, be honest about it and use it to fix roads, not address an issue the world can’t solve.

How the region may shape up

In years past, the city of Salisbury held their elections in the spring, much as many other municipalities do – some by necessity because their counties or states have their own elections in November, and some as a local custom. Most bigger cities, though, tend to hold their elections in November and Salisbury joined those ranks a few years ago.

So, besides the idea that Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself – which I think I’ve now seen on a thousand memes, some much funnier than others – that’s kind of the regional phenomenon right now. Unfortunately, as I noted the other day, it’s pretty much as dull as dishwater – but since I like to make sure my crystal ball doesn’t get too cloudy from lack of use I’ll have some predictions to make.

At present, Salisbury has five City Council members: four of them were elected in 2015 (April Jackson, Muir Boda, Jack Heath, and Jim Ireton) and one was appointed earlier this year (Angela Blake.) While the elections are non-partisan, the probable makeup of Council right now is 4-1 Democrat: Ireton has run for office before as a Democrat, Heath was a Democrat-endorsed independent in his 2018 County Executive run, and both Blake and Jackson have received donations from the local Democrat Party for this run. Only Boda is a Libertarian-turned-Republican.

Of the five, only Ireton (who previously served as mayor from 2009-15) opted not to seek another term. That District 4 seat, however, will most likely remain in the hands of the loony left as 2018 Democrat County Council candidate Michele Gregory is a heavy favorite over former blogger Jonathan Taylor. That’s a real shame, but for whatever reason bloggers don’t make good candidates: out of the local Salisbury crew Julie Brewington and I are the only ones who have been elected to anything (you could also count Delmar mayor Karen Hughes Wells, who I recall had a great but short-lived blog a long time ago.) But Joe Albero, G.A. Harrison, Charles Jannace, and probably Taylor: all oh-fer.

Fortunately, the GOP will retain at least one seat as no one bothered to challenge Boda this time. That election was one where Boda had the majority of the District 2 vote yet scored less than 100 ballots, which tells you the turnout and interest in that district. In theory the GOP could take control of Council (Red Maryland compiled the data, although I already knew two of the three.) But since Mable Marshall didn’t raise any money and is in a three-way race against a well-known incumbent in Jackson, I think she’ll be the also-ran with no more than 10-15% of the District 1 vote.

Probably the most interesting Council race, though, will be the District 5 race between Blake and first-time candidate Shawn Jester, who you’ve surely read a little bit about over the years here as he was the president of the Wicomico County Republican Club for a couple years while I was there. He’s now a liaison for Congressman Andy Harris, which some are claiming skirts the intent of the Hatch Act. (Since Salisbury has nonpartisan elections, it does not.) Of course, that employment by Harris brings out the scare quotes from Blake’s liberal supporters who may not have figured out the advantages that sort of connection could bring to Salisbury.

Personally I think the district leans toward Blake, who I would give a 60-65% chance of winning, but I don’t think it’s more than a 10-point race and it will be the closest of the five.

That leaves the two races I call referendum races: because the opponent has little or no chance at victory, it’s the margin of victory that determines the story. One of those two is the District 3 Council race between Jack Heath and Riley Smith, who is another one that hasn’t raised enough money to reasonably contend against an incumbent with name recognition – unfortunate because, at first glance, Smith seems like the budget hawk type last exhibited on City Council by Debbie Campbell prior to her defeat by one Jacob Day in 2013.

Of course, Day is in the other referendum race, put up against a recently-arrived resident of Salisbury by the name of Wayne King – who, by the way, is a Republican but one who couldn’t even get an endorsement from his fellow GOP members. Apparently none of them wanted to challenge Day, so King took up the mantle and for that I commend him because Day deserves a challenger to question the wisdom of the long-term ramifications of some of his decisions, like who supports the Folk Festival after its three-year run as the National Folk Festival concludes, and how will giving shorter shrift to neighborhoods at the expense of a downtown-centric approach pan out once the millennials get married, begin to raise a family, and wish to have a nice house in a decent neighborhood only to find they don’t exist in Salisbury. (But it has such a nice downtown.)

Those are the two races where the margins need to be watched. If they are in the 80 percent range then the people of the district or city have bought Heath’s and Day’s mantra hook, line, and sinker – so I suppose more power to them, may their chains rest lightly, and so forth.

But if either of them come in under 60 percent, that’s a sign that there’s a backlash toward the regressive policies these two have orchestrated. (Heath serves as the City Council president.) Turnout is going to be light, so a high vote for these challengers means the residents aren’t that happy with the status quo and they were mad enough (like these guys) to show up for what otherwise would seem like a lost cause.

Wait, Salisbury is having an election?

As in many other things in life, four years makes a tremendous difference.

At this time in 2015, I was knee-deep in covering the Salisbury municipal election, which was interesting in being the first culmination of two different aspects: one being the complete overhaul of the city’s Council districts into five separate single-member districts rather than one four-member “at-large” district taking in most of the city and a second majority-minority single-member district, and, secondly, the end of staggered elections where the mayor and two Council members (one from the single-member district and another from the at-large) were elected in one odd-numbered year (the last being 2013) after the other three council members from the at-large district elected on the previous odd-year (that district was last elected in 2011.)

In 2015, the Council ended up with three new members (April Jackson in District 1, Muir Boda in District 2, and Jim Ireton in District 4) and a new mayor as Ireton and Jake Day flipped roles. It was the culmination of a rapid rise for Day, who had only been elected two years earlier when he defeated two-term incumbent and fiscal watchdog Debbie Campbell in the final at-large district race; Day was immediately promoted to a leadership position on City Council.

Thus, it was an election with a lot of intrigue and promise. On the other hand, 2019 has been pretty much dull as dishwater despite the fact all but Boda have contested races. Buoyed by a series of perceived successes such as the National Folk Festival and downtown development and construction, Mayor Day has received the endorsement of politicos up and down the line and is the prohibitive favorite against Wayne King, whose efforts have been pretty much met by silence – or relentless trolling from the pro-Day minions on social media. And while it’s indeed possible that there could be four new faces on City Council (with Boda the only holdover) it’s more likely that four incumbents (one appointed earlier this year) will remain. I haven’t seen the financials yet – it’s ridiculous that the first financial report isn’t due until a week before the election – but I suspect all of the incumbents have a healthy advantage over their challengers. The one exception could be Shawn Jester in District 5, where he faces the recent appointee Angela Blake.

The other race that may have been interesting on paper is the seat Jim Ireton is vacating in District 4, which more than likely isn’t going to move to the center. It’s there that Michele Gregory, who ran unsuccessfully last year for County Council, will likely prevail over now-former owner of the blog Lower Eastern Shore News Jonathan Taylor, who’s reportedly been AWOL on the campaign trail since selling his blog site. Gregory, who happens to be my old neighbor – she used to run a home-based day care center across the street (and district line) from us – never met a progressive wet dream she didn’t like, so I guess she will be trying to drive the city way over to the left.

What will be most interesting to me is the aftermath. Unless it’s been changed in the last four years – and I have no reason to believe it has – each candidate has to divest his or her remaining campaign funds at the end of the election. While most after the 2015 balloting did so to local charities, the one exception was Jake Day. And when I noted that fact, I was pithily told “I’m not giving away my donors’ (money) – they made an investment.”

Just for fun, I looked up Day’s two campaign finance entities, which remain active but have filed affidavits of limited contributions or expenses (or ALCEs) since shortly after their formation. Over the years there have been a few scattered contributions to Day’s campaign account, but its largest expense – at least as of January 2019, the last required reporting date – was a 2016 gathering called TEDxSBY, billing itself as an “independently organized TED event.” Given the fact Day has a campaign headquarters, I don’t think money is an issue with his run so I wonder whether there was a transfer involved. Guess we will find out.

So if you think Salisbury is becoming more successful and attractive, the status quo is there to elect. Just hope the neighborhoods can hold up for the next four years. Of course, the refugees are welcome to come up to Delaware and try to help this state like I am.

A major change to the minor leagues?

This story is something which, on the surface, applies to my fellow baseball geeks but may affect a lot more in terms of regional economy and our hometown Shorebirds.

A published report in the baseball geek magazine Baseball America – a tome which specializes in coverage of the lower levels of the sport, from high school prospects to the high minors of AAA – claims that Major League Baseball (MLB) wishes to eliminate over one-fourth of the 160 affiliated minor league teams. The MLB proposal, which would take effect in 2021, would limit the Orioles and their other 29 brethren franchises to four full-season affiliates corresponding to AAA, AA, advanced A, and A. This would reduce the number of required teams to 120; however, the BA report also foretells the “promotion” of independent league teams in Sugar Land, Texas and St. Paul, Minnesota to the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) fold as they become affiliated teams (presumably to the Astros and Twins, respectively.)

The goals of MLB in this agreement are to eliminate facilities which are substandard as well as realign MiLB leagues and classifications to allow for less travel and better geographic alignment between MLB parent clubs and their affiliates. It’s been generally assumed that the teams currently in short-season leagues would be those on the chopping block, but that may not necessarily be true: for example, short-season Aberdeen has far better facilities than our fellow SAL team in Hagerstown, so the IronBirds would likely make the cut while Hagerstown is dropped. (The question then could become whether the Orioles would prefer an A ball team in Aberdeen or Delmarva.) The Suns, however, could live on as part of a “dream league” under the auspices of MiLB where undrafted players get to play in the hopes of eventually being signed. (In essence they would fill a role some independent leagues now fill.)

Hagerstown is a team which would almost certainly be axed in favor of a short-season team based on dreadful attendance and facilities. Among the remaining SAL teams, the worst attendance figures (under 2,000 a game average) belong to Hagerstown, Kannapolis, and West Virginia, while Hickory hovered just over that mark. In terms of stadium age, Hagerstown isn’t the oldest – Asheville’s park dates from 1924, six years before Hagerstown built theirs – but it’s one of just five SAL parks built in the 20th century. (Along with Delmarva, Hickory and Charleston opened their parks in the mid-1990s. Kannapolis did as well, but they open a new stadium – and get a new team name that’s announced in the coming days – next spring.)

As I alluded to above, the Orioles already have a pretty good situation insofar as geography is concerned: their only teams with significant distance between themselves and Baltimore are AAA Norfolk and their complex team at their spring training facility in Sarasota, Florida (which would be retained in any case as part of the agreement.) But they could have a decision to make if Aberdeen is retained in the MiLB mix.

Complicating matters in that regard is the prospect of teams moving up (or down) in classification. A big issue in MiLB today is the layout of the leagues: for example, West Coast MLB teams have no choice but to send their A-ball prospects two or three time zones away because the farthest west team at that level plays in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There are imbalances at every other level, too: this year the Washington Nationals had to send their AAA players out to Fresno, California because it was the last available AAA team. (Fresno was even rejected by the Oakland A’s, who left Nashville after the 2018 season for the AAA team in Las Vegas. Nashville, for their part, signed on with the Texas Rangers after they lost their previous AAA team in Round Rock, Texas to the Houston Astros, who left Fresno to take over at Round Rock. This was all necessitated when the New York Mets purchased the AAA team in Syracuse, New York to be their affiliate – they were the team that left Las Vegas and started the merry-go-round once development agreements expired last year. Previous to 2019, Syracuse was the Nationals’ top farm team.)

I suspect what’s going to happen is that the A-ball level where Delmarva plays and the advanced-A level are going to be most affected, but whether it’s reclassifying the advanced-A California League to an A ball league for West Coast teams or – as was alluded to in the BA story – reducing the South Atlantic League to 10 teams and creating a new six-team Mid-Atlantic League to reduce travel, MLB wants to revamp the minor leagues. I also suspect the advanced-A Florida State League may be eliminated since most of those teams are based at a spring training site where the complex leagues also play, attendance is rather low, and there are only a few major league teams in the region. The complex leagues could shift to evening start times (they normally play in the late morning or noontime) to fill the gap. (A small issue there is that there are 15 teams with spring training in Arizona and 15 in Florida, so each of those prospective leagues could require a travel team to even out the schedule.)

With the money invested in our facilities over the last few years, it’s not likely Delmarva would be left out in the cold totally (although there is the possibility.) But I honestly think that, if the Orioles had to choose between Aberdeen and Delmarva as an A-ball affiliate, we would get the short end of the stick – if so, I’m sure the Nationals would love to be here and we could resume the Governor’s Cup against Aberdeen instead of Hagerstown. A new six-team A-level Mid-Atlantic League could include Aberdeen, Brooklyn, and Staten Island (teams with newer facilities promoted from short-season rookie ball), along with SAL refugees Delmarva and Lakewood, and Wilmington, which would be dropped from advanced-A as the northernmost appendage of the Carolina League but is geographically favorable to this proposed league. In the paper MAL the longest bus trip would be under five hours, and possible affiliating teams would include the Orioles and Nationals along with the Mets, Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, and perhaps Toronto or Pittsburgh. (Currently both Aberdeen and Delmarva are Orioles teams, Brooklyn and Staten Island affiliate with the Mets and Yankees, respectively, and Lakewood with the Phillies. Wilmington is the odd duck as a Kansas City Royals affiliate – the Royals are one of those teams stranded in a situation where no advanced-A team is nearby.) Such a league would allow fans to see each team 14 times based on a 140-game schedule. It would be a little repetitive but also creates good rivalries.

Now, there are other possibilities as well: Aberdeen would fit decently into a reduced-size AAA International League where Norfolk would be relegated to the South Atlantic League, with a different affiliation. (Or they could create a third AAA league based in the South which would include Norfolk.) In that case, not only would IronBird fans get to experience cold-weather baseball, in the case of a move to the IL they could get the guys at the other end of the minor league food chain from what they now receive (aside from rehabbing players.)

In any case, MiLB in general and Delmarva fans in particular have been put on notice: after next season the landscape in which the Shorebirds exist could be a whole lot different. Hopefully we’ll still be seeing 70 games a year at the old ball yard.

Announcing: the 2019 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware Edition

For the third time, I have graded all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. The final product can be found in its usual sidebar location or through this direct link.

This year is a little different as I have decided to do an interim edition given there were enough bills of interest with divided votes to have 25 scoring opportunities. (Spoiler alert: way too many were not taken advantage of; however, my average scores in both chambers were up slightly this year.)

Without getting too much into it – after all, I want my friends in the First State to read and share the information – it was another discouraging session for the Delaware General Assembly. The nanny state and Trump Derangement Syndrome were out in full force this session, certainly driven in large part by a number of new faces in both bodies.

But because of the mix of bills I used, the partisan divide narrowed significantly this year, as both parties had their highest aggregate score ever but Democrats increased theirs at a faster pace.

And if you were sharp-eyed last night, you would have noticed I did the usual “soft opening” by updating the widget before this post was finished and set to be placed up at this early hour.

So, Delaware, here is the voting guide you need – use it wisely in considering which members need primary opponents. (Hint: pretty much all of them.) If you want to change the state in the right direction it’s a good place to start.

Beginning from my little corner

There are some who will likely appreciate the symbolism in this post.

I’m standing in Maryland but pretty much everything you see in the photo beyond the fence is Delaware.

On Friday I took a little side trip on my way home. I’ve passed by this place a few times over the years, but since I’ve moved to the First State I drive by this monument every day on my way to work. But until the other day I’d never stopped to look at it despite its historical significance.

The plaque explains the significance of the monument.

On my way into work one day it dawned on me that the monument is the perfect symbol of a new beginning, a staking out of a starting point and a redirection for this site. For many years I’ve been known as a Maryland-centric political blogger, but since I left the political game as a participant I had ceded the field to others who have done their level best to monetize their work and proclaim themselves as some sort of kingmaker in a Republican governor’s office. And that’s fine, more power to them – they live closer to the seat of power and apparently have to time to invest in those activities.

While I don’t have the utmost in time, in scanning the situation here in the First State I’ve found that there aren’t any active conservative blogs here. (If there are, they are pretty well hidden.) Truth be told, there aren’t a whole lot of liberal ones either but they do exist and I can’t abide that sort of situation. It’s something which needed to be addressed, so I will make up the hedge for the time being – assistance is encouraged!

So here I begin, almost literally from square one because I don’t yet know the players aside from studying the voting records for the Delaware General Assembly for the last couple years. (More on that in a bit.) The way I look at it is that I have staked out this corner as a beginning spot. Yes, it’s symbolic but in actuality I don’t live all that far from this point. (I think as the crow flies it’s about 5 1/2 miles, but I live less than two from the northerly extension of this line.) If you took in the territory between our home and this point, there are probably only a few hundred people living there in scattered homes and one development. And right now that’s probably about all I have to go to war with in this state – a state that is rapidly changing, and not necessarily for the better.

I wonder how they divvy up all this coin. By blind chance, 3/4 of it would fall in Maryland.

I suppose, then, that step one of this process is to announce the 2019 edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project for Delaware, which I finally got to wrap up this weekend. I’ll formally announce it tomorrow morning although the soft opening will be this evening once I create the PDF and add the link. (And no, I did not do a Maryland one this year, nor will I. That can be someone else’s baby, maybe some red-colored site.)

I think it’s a start to rally the liberty-lovers in this state, who I’ve found to be really, really, really poorly served by the Delaware GOP. I have more thoughts in mind on a number of First State issues, but this will be the first in what should be a few significant changes regarding this website. Stay tuned.