Baseball tonight!

I’m ready for the 2006 season to start as tonight an AL Central battle is slated for the lidlifter, the White Sox host the Indians. (Unfortunately, there’s an 80% change of strong thunderstorms in the Chicago area tonight.) Went up to Perdue Stadium yesterday and fought off the mob of Easter egg-hunting kids to pick out some seats for the home opener next Monday. (I’ll save the office tix for someone else, heaven knows I’ll get enough of them once things get underway.)

So this morning I’ve been perusing the sports pages trying to get a fix on how things look in 2006. I’ll start with the local major league teams, Nats and Orioles.

The Nationals were a last place team in 2005 despite also being a .500 team at 81-81. The good news for Nats fans is that they’re not picked to be a last place team this year by 8 of 9 predictions I saw, including all of the “national” (no pun intended) predictors. The bad news is that they’re likely to finish a few games short of the .500 mark this season and probably a dozen-and-a-half games out of the division title. Most experts are picking the Braves for a fifteenth straight division crown, but the Mets have gotten some respect (2 of the 9 pick the Mets to break the Atlanta streak.) What saves the Nats from the basement is the dismantling of the Florida Marlins and their continuing rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches-to rags again story. Go ahead and contract that sorry franchise, and put a restraining order on Jeffrey Lurie ever owning another ballteam.

Speaking of restraining orders, perhaps the same should be done for Peter Angelos and the Orioles. I’m only going to make two actual predictions in this post, and here they are: in the Orioles’ next-to-last homestand, September 8-14 against Boston and New York, the attendance by people wearing Red Sox or Yankees colors will be higher than those supporting the hometown team, and you’ll hear more cheering for Big Papi or Derek Jeter than for Miguel Tejada. For the last home series against Minnesota, the total attendance won’t break 60,000. You guessed it, a second-division finish is in the cards for the O’s if the experts are correct. Most have them trailing the D-Rays and inhabiting the AL East cellar, while a few pick them just ahead of Tampa Bay. The very first series for Baltimore is home against the Devil Rays so they’ll be stacked up right off the bat.

So the AL East dynasty of the Yankees winning the division and the Red Sox finishing second is expected again, for the most part (a few see Toronto as the #2 team.) It’s in the 2007-2008 seasons that the change of the AL East guard is expected to occur with the rapid ascension of Tampa Bay and their great young talent. The Orioles don’t even get placed on the radar.

Now I can talk about the important division, the AL Central. Just like the Eastern divisions of both leagues, it’s been a dynastic division where one team generally runs a string of division titles (Cleveland ’95-’99 and ’01, Minnesota ’02-’04). That’s good news for White Sox fans who hope to make their success in 2005 into their own dynasty. The bad news is that Chicago was the odd team who won in 2000 and pretty much became the placeholder between the Cleveland and Minnesota runs. Some are predicting that same placeholder scenario for the Sox and returning the dynasty label back to Cleveland. The experts are almost evenly split on this year’s winner, with a bare majority picking the White Sox.

Of course, to me all other AL Central teams are the “enemy” since I’m a Tigers fan. This spring, they’ve been making some noise and it’s possible this accursed streak of losing seasons could finally end before it hits 13. They did suffer a blow in their final spring training game as free agent signee and annointed closer Todd Jones got hurt, but that could mean highly-regarded prospect Joel Zumaya gets an opportunity to apprentice as a setup man for interim closer Fernando Rodney. One thing I think the Tigers did well in working Zumaya through the minors is that he’s been a starter so he’s had to develop several good pitches. If he’s destined for the closer’s spot, it will serve him very well.

So who do the experts think will be standing at the end? It’s a wide-open race, with eight experts I got six possibilities. The White Sox and Cardinals were picked by two each, others mentioned the Braves, A’s, Yankees, and Blue Jays. St. Louis is a very popular NL pick (7 of 8, the other being Atlanta), but few thought they could handle the AL winner. I’d love to see my Tigers upset that apple cart though. Restore the roar and place the Olde English D back into the prominence it deserves. My Mud Hens washed away a 38-year title drought last year, maybe this year the Tigers can end a 22 year hex.

Faster than the speed of light

With apologies to Larry the Cable Guy, when the Democrats in the General Assembly want to “get ‘er done” they waste no time or worry about niceties such as rules. Hence, you get Senate Bill 1102. In the Maryland GOP‘s “Weekly Update” they have a synopsis of how the bill was ramrodded through:

Last Friday, the Senate suspends the rules to introduce the bill late and at the same time the rules are suspended to refer the bill to the Senate Finance Committee.

At this point the bill is scheduled for public hearing at 1:00pm,Tuesday, March 27th.

Monday afternoon at 4:30 the on-line hearing schedule is changed announcing the hearing will now occur at 6:00pm THAT SAME EVEING (sic) (1 1/2 hours notice of the hearing change.)

6:00 pm The bill has a hearing in Finance.

6:30 pm The bill is voted out of Committee (a mere half hour debate).

8:00 pm The bill is placed on the second reading calendar on the Senate Floor. The bill is then laid over for one day. (Editor’s note: I believe our Senator Stoltzfus got that layover. Too bad he couldn’t get another week – see below.)

Tuesday the bill passes 2nd reading.

Wednesday the bill passes 3rd reading in the Senate morning session.

Thursday the bill is placed on the House agenda for their afternoon session on the floor.

Current Maryland law dictates the Public Service Commission has 5 members, all appointed by the Governor “with the advice and consent of the Senate.” SB1102 changes the commission to be appointed as follows:

Two commissioners would be appointed by the President of the Senate. That would be Mike Miller.

Two commissioners would be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates, one Michael Busch.

One commissioner would be appointed by Governor Ehrlich.

The real kicker of this measure is that all the commission terms – regardless of appointment date – will come to an end on April 9th, or the day before the General Assembly winds up its yearly term. Once again, the commissioners will have staggered terms, and I really love how they figured this one out.

The governor’s appointee will have his or her term end in 2007, basically just long enough to see if he wins re-election. The Speaker’s two appointees serve through 2008 and 2010. The Senate President’s appointees have terms through 2009 and 2011.

To boil it down: the General Assembly is pissed because they share a LOT of the blame for the electric rate hikes that are soon to take effect. And, of course, Democrats have a strangehold on Annapolis save for the invasive Republican who happens to sit in the governor’s chair and gets to make these PSC appointments. When Parris Glendenning and his Democrat predecessors were picking the commissioners, that was just fine with the General Assembly.

But now that all this rate increase fiasco comes into being just months before the 2006 election, it’s suddenly incumbent upon the Democrats in Annapolis to place “their” people in charge of the situation. And it’s my wager that they will bully BG&E, et.al. into rescinding or reducing their rate hike (never mind the market forces that dictate they need to raise rates, which have been frozen since 2000.)

In addition, timing is everything. Passing the bill by Friday gives the General Assembly Democrats time to override a certain Ehrlich veto on this and other related bills. And they will, because then they can claim that they gave Maryland consumers a break in their utility bills while big bad Governor Ehrlich and the utility companies wanted to stick it to the consumer – never mind that deregulation was passed in the first place by that same Democrat majority in the General Assembly and signed by a Democrat governor. The voters sure won’t get that tidbit in the O’Malley or Duncan campaign commercials certain to come this summer.

While it’s painful, there’s something that needs to be remembered about this electric price increase. Imagine you were stuck on the same hourly wage for the last six years while the price of everything went up. The only way to make more money in that case is to work more hours, and in the utility companies’ case, only so many new customers are moving into Maryland. Basically the majority of what the utilities want would be a retroactive pay raise to the year 2000 – they’ll just get it in one lump sum.

I’m not happy that my Delmarva Power rates may jump by 1/3 or more, particularly since both my cooling AND heating needs are served by electricity. But I’m less happy at the General Assembly for making yet another end run around the Maryland Constitution and usurping more power properly placed in the executive branch. While I can adjust my budget for changing electric rates, I can’t as easily control the machinations of a party in Annapolis whose sole purpose is maintaining and exercising their own power, rights be damned.

This is America…speak English!

You know, this illegal immigration thing has a lot of people fired up…here’s some just on my personal bloglist.

Conservababes: Right from New Fallujah has a particularly nasty rant.

Justice for All? links to an article by economist Thomas Sowell.

Michelle Malkin always has a lot to say, illegal immigration is one of her pet issues to begin with.

NewsBusters blogger Matthew Sheffield looks at the influence Spanish-language media carried.

Timmer at Righting America is looking for the backhoe to start building the fence.

The American Princess weighs in with her take.

The Goldwater is back in town and he must have picked up a good strain of attitude while he was away. Now, THIS is a “new tone.”

Bobby Eberle at The Loft critiques the Congressional responses to the issue.

Now it’s my turn.

The key word to me is “illegal.” Yes, I realize that practically all of us were descended from immigrants at one time or another, even native Americans who supposedly came over from Asia when there was a land bridge between Alaska and Siberia. And I’m sure not everyone who we count as our ancestors went through Ellis Island, some were likely stowaways who managed to elude detection. Of course, many who live in the area are generations removed from people who had no choice in the matter as they were brought over as property to be sold in the slave trade. Regardless, we’re living in the here and now and I’m at least a third-generation American. I speak and write passable English, and I’m proud in a stubborn sort of way that I made it through 13 years of public school and four years of college never having learned a foreign language.

So imagine my surprise when I moved here, over a thousand miles from the Mexican border, and see bilingual signage in the stores and find there’s a Spanish-language radio station on the dial. It turns out we have a large Spanish-speaking population here, mostly from Mexico. They came here to “take the jobs Americans won’t do” in the chicken plants. But they also mow the lawns, hang the drywall, and do other manual labor work in the area. Now those jobs I have seen Americans do where I come from.

I don’t want to be one who denies a person who wants to come to America the opportunity to do so. BUT, the huge difference between the immigrants who protested in Los Angeles and elsewhere the last several days, and the immigrants from Germany and Poland who happen to be my forefathers is that my ancestors tried to assimilate themselves as best they could and become American citizens. Both then and now, newcomers to America worked hard at low-echelon jobs to create a better life for their families – but my ancestors most likely came over legally, and the last thought on their minds was trying to recreate the conditions of their native lands. They wanted to be American first, last, and always.

The time has long since come to start taking care of this problem. Unfortunately, most of the solutions being proposed have the appearance of condoning the criminal activity that brought many immigrants here in the first place. I have seen some commentary about how those on the Mayflower and other colonists didn’t have a visa or green card to enter the country either, but I’d venture to guess that the statute of limitations on harassing their method of entry is well past.

The protests of the last few days have proven one thing: the Balkanization of our country has taken root. It was seeded by bilingual education in the schools, watered by a lack of caring by politicians of all stripes who sought the immigrant vote (whether they were citizens or not), and fertilized by the advent of multiculturalism where American is just the back end of the hyphenated phrase and certainly not the important or worthy end. Now, like that last dandelion in the field, the one where you just can’t pull the root out of the ground and the Roundup just isn’t working, we’re stuck with that stubborn weed.

I’m not alone in my view. The polls suggest that a majority of Americans want immigration reform. But as usual, the politicians inside the Beltway don’t seem to hear the voice of the common folks. The only thing that may make then listen is a shakeup come November. To finish my analogy, it may take a shovel and a little bit of sweat, but a change in November might just get the rooted weed of Balkanization out from among our amber waves of grain.

WCRC meeting – March 2006

It was double-barrel speaker action at the meeting this month. Our scheduled speaker Jack Lord, candidate for Delegate in District 38B, was joined by county executive hopeful Ron Alessi. Each table had a few flyers advertising Alessi’s campaign kickoff, and I received one afterward (more on that later.)

The business portion of the meeting was pretty brief. We have $10,000 more in the treasury this year than we did at the comparable time in 2005. Signup sheets were passed out for our booth at the Salisbury Festival next month (the club will be along Market Street). I didn’t sign up yet because I think there’s something else I have planned that day, needed to check my calendar.

Also, the date for our Lincoln Day dinner (in cooperation with Worcester and Somerset counties) is Friday, June 9, at Salisbury University. I thought they mentioned a speaker but I’ll be damned if I caught the name of the person. Yeah, poor reporting on my part. We’ll see how this blog post compares with what the Daily Times says because James Fisher, one of their staff writers, was also present at the meeting to catch the remarks of Lord and Alessi. But one theme of the dinner speakers will be the anti-business climate that Maryland currently is saddled with (read: Fair Share.)

Jack Lord was the first speaker. A brief biography: he is an Eastern Shore native, but has lived in several places. Married for the second time, his wife was also present at the meeting. After graduating high school 40 years ago, he briefly worked for DuPont before being laid off. At that time, he got involved in law enforcement, first as a cadet, then as a State Trooper for 25 years before retiring in the early 1990’s. Now he has a small farm in Worcester County.

He’s termed himself as a “stealth candidate”. This isn’t the first time he’s ran for office, he also ran for the same seat in 2002. What got him involved in politics was the negative attitude toward farmers and agriculture in general of our former governor, Parris Glendening. Glendening blamed agricultural runoff as a major source of bay pollution, and one measure passed under his administration was the “nutrient management plan.” Basically it’s red tape for farmers to deal with. Since both of his delegates, Bennett Bozman and Norm Conway, voted in favor of the bill mandating the plan, Jack decided to make a bid to replace one of them in the House of Delegates. That bid got him through the primary (second of three GOP candidates) but fourth of the four in the general election with just under 10,000 votes, or 19 percent.

In his view, our current delegates “are not representing the area”, basically they’re “voting for whatever (House of Delegates Speaker Michael) Busch wants.” Jack also mentioned the veto overrides that Bozman and Conway voted for (such as the Wal-Mart bill), lack of a solution for the medical malpractice problem, and cited their support of the now ill-fated electrical deregulation, all items he wanted to change if he was sent to Annapolis. Jack made special mention about being able to work with Governor Ehrlich and possibly having the region benefit more with having a representative friendly to the governor’s interests.

Basically, his question that he encouraged people to ask Bozman/Conway voters from 2002 was “what have they done for you the last four years?”

A few questions were raised from the meeting attendees. Key among those had to do with crime (‘there’s not much a state delegate can do” with local crime issues); social issues (unlike the questioner, Lord doesn’t think the incumbents are vulnerable on social issues); and education. While acknowledging education is a problem, Jack also conceded he’s not likely to get much support from them through their union, “I don’t even mess with the teachers.”

One final point he made was that, despite being chair of the Appropriations Committee, Norman Conway has not brought home much in the way of bacon, or in Jack’s term, the Eastern Shore “gets the crumbs.” However, some of the money we do get through our current Delegates is for dubious purposes that can be described as “feel-good, pork projects.” The hopeful stated that it was a question of “pork vs. priorities” for the “common good.”

Ron Alessi then took to the podium for some brief remarks, mostly touching on issues he felt were most important to the county: schools, growth, and jobs.

He stressed that some of the problems with our schools stemmed from a lack of local control, and another root cause of their troubles was a lack of safety within. More community involvement was one part of the solution.

In Ron’s opinion, you “can’t cut growth off.” But you can place it in areas with the proper infrastructure for it. He did note that one advantage to the growth in retirees moving here was that they use fewer services than the average family would. But one other item he pointed out was a need to bring some sort of job creation to the area. Part of that would be saving our economic backbone, the poultry industry, insofar as possible, but the other piece of the puzzle would have to be enticing some sort of business or industry that could keep our college graduates here. A commenter noted that many students come here from the western shore, like the Eastern Shore area, but can’t find a decent job here so they go back to the Baltimore/DC metroplex where good jobs await at high salaries.

Another item Alessi pointed out was Wicomico County’s revenue cap. In his view, we need to work within the money that we have. It’s been pointed out elsewhere that one of his opponents wants to do a “phantom” budget which would be the budget if the revenue cap didn’t exist.

That was pretty much the extent of Alessi’s remarks and the meeting. I did get a chance to speak with Ron Alessi briefly afterward and I did ask him about more concrete job-producing steps, since that’s my pet issue in the November elections. Ron did note something about trying to get more research grants, since I pointed out that technology jobs are not as dependent on transportation issues we have here on the Eastern Shore.

While he may feel we have a pretty good transportation network, I beg to differ. Part of it was my experience living in a city that sits at the junction of major north-south (I-75) and east-west (I-80/90) interstates, lying along the main rail line between New York and Chicago, and right by one of the Great Lakes, where oceangoing ships are commonplace at the port. Toledo has all that convenient transportation yet is still in an economic slump. They still have the same problem with local college graduates leaving town for other opportunities.

But, since I got the flyer, I assume it’s public information that Ron Alessi is having a campaign kickoff on Friday, April 7th at 5:15 p.m. at the City Center Atrium in the City Bistro. I can’t attend myself since I have a prior commitment to my bowling team. But if you have a question for him, go on out and ask him yourself – that’s what I did.

Update: Actually, the DT article wasn’t too bad, although they messed up the district number in the online headline.

Odd and ends #4

Just a bunch of little stuff, not necessarily enough in each part to make a full post. So hopefully the total is greater than the sum of its parts.

First of all, I noticed a week or so ago that the Justice For All? blog was having some issues with Google. It appears Hadley has the blog back up and going but without everything previous to this month. That’s unfortunate because one thing I feature on my blog is what I consider the best of my comments elsewhere (“My Feedback”) and JFA has a bunch of them, which are now dead links.

But Hadley is certainly not alone in his complaint, as Michelle Malkin attests.

If you are familiar with the story of monoblogue, you’ll recall that I once had a Blogger account. But I decided to leave Blogger shortly after a post I did in July of last year, and it was for economic reasons. I really didn’t want to consciously support a company whose employees gave over 95% of their campaign contributions to liberals and their causes. (To that end, you’ll notice I have no Google ads.)

It was through some of the other local blogs that I saw the rechristened “Son of Wal-Mart” (aka House Bill 1510) was defeated in committee. Interestingly enough, the vote was 13-9 to kill the bill. Since I’m all but certain that Democrats are a majority on the committee (as they are in the House of Delegates overall) it has to mean that they were feeling heat from someplace. The $64,000 question is whether it was:

a) the negative press on it, including articles in the Wall Street Journal and mentions on Rush Limbaugh’s show

b) the fact that 2006 is an election year for each and every one of the 188 Senators and Delegates in the General Assembly, not to mention two key statewide races

c) the power of the blogosphere, including myself.

While I’d love to think the answer was c) I think the reality staring Democrats in the face made b) the answer. Even though the vast majority of Democrat seats are likely “safe” because of voting demographics, it’s not totally out of the question for enough seats to flip over to the GOP to enable a re-elected Governor Ehrlich to have his vetoes sustained. It’s bad enough for the Democrats that the gay marriage issue was thrown in their lap by a judge; thus, passing “Son of Wal-Mart” this year would truly energize another conservative base of voters.

Speaking of voting bases, it’s starting to look like the long wait for county offices to attract candidates is over. We now have four candidates for Sheriff and three for county executive. The remaining question is how many people will flock to county council seats, especially with the recent turnaround on annexation.

I think Monday’s WCRC meeting will be an interesting one because of this and other issues.

Once again, if you read this blog on a regular basis you’ll find that I’m very pro-growth. One main reason is that my paycheck depends on people wanting to invest in development, whether of a business or residential nature. And it’s not just Wicomico County, but all over the Eastern Shore and beyond.

In our business, we have a lot of regulations to deal with, mostly of a restrictive nature. Honestly, 95% of them are common sense – one example is having fire-rated tenant separation walls so a fire in one unit is less likely to spread to another. The amount of exemption from certain fire code items you gain by installing sprinklers is another sensible restriction.

But in the case of Wicomico County and the whole growth controversy, I’m a little befuddled. Part of the reason is because I’m a “come here” so I have a short point of reference. In my readings of the local blogs, though, I’ve gathered two important nuggets. One is that somewhere, probably locked away in the most secure vault on the Eastern Shore, is Wicomico County’s master plan. Well, it must be locked away, because to hear the local blogosphere, it’s being ignored!

The other item is the subject of “pipestem” annexations. I was under the impression that Salisbury was attempting to streamline and square off their boundaries. But instead they run their boundaries several miles farther out, extending pipestems like so many tentacles and latching themselves further toward Delaware and other county borders.

It seems to me that it’s much easier to annex land in Maryland than in Ohio, mainly because Ohio has a township form of government for unincorporated areas. So when a city or village expands, there’s automatically a government entity that gets smaller and the township trustees generally fight annexations tooth and nail because it shrinks their tax base. Several times in my home area annexation battles have ended up in court. In one case, the battle was over city sewer and water being extended to unincorporated areas in exchange for not fighting annexation – but the township residents wanted no part of the higher city tax rates and sued the city.

Here in Maryland, it’s almost like Wicomico County has a “whatever…” attitude toward annexation, less area to take care of. Since it seems all the state money to run government comes from the same pot, there’s not a net loss to the county by losing territory, but it’s fewer miles of road to fix or less snow to plow.

Growth is an issue I can see both sides of. To me, it’s not growth that’s the problem, since it’s going to happen if an area is reasonably attractive. We happen to be in an area that has a nice climate and a rural feel that many seek. And it’s my opinion that even doubling the population wouldn’t change that.

County executive candidate Ron Alessi alluded to my concern when he spoke of getting good jobs here. But how can that get done? In a perfect world, each house that’s constructed also gets some place for the homeowner to work, as well as the public facilities necessary to maintain the house’s safety, utilities, accessibility to the job through improved roads, etc., etc. But it sounds like we have shortages of most of the other facets that go into a good community.

Delmarva has some assets to a company looking for a good location to place a factory or other facility. It has a nice location for “quality of life” issues and at least Delaware is somewhat business-friendly. The minuses are transportation needs, since it’s difficult to access a lot of places from here with Chesapeake Bay. But if there’s a company who doesn’t have a lot of time-sensitive issues, we’re as good a place as any to locate, maybe better than most.

Rather than kowtow to every residential developer in the region, what are we doing to get more jobs to the area? I’m not saying we need a Kia plant but someone ought to sell the region better to job providers. (Having a more business-friendly General Assembly would help too.) White-collar corporations could be lured to our area’s proximity to DC and the Northeast – close enough for easy access, far enough away so you don’t smell it.

I’m going to end this overall rant with one close to my heart. I sent and received e-mail from Brian Cleary, who’s the Operations Manager for Clear Channel of Delmarva (they run, among others, 96 Rock.) The subject was this year’s “Thirsty Thursday” band lineup at the Shorebirds games. It pissed me off royally when I read:

Sadly, the Thirsty Thursdays with the Shorebirds this year will not feature live bands … last year, we were able to secure the bands for the Shorebirds. However, for a number of reasons, we backed off playing the local music (ratings the biggest factor – the lack of cooperation and enthusiasm from the local acts one of the others), so those bands aren’t really working with us any more…(i)nstead for this year’s Thirsty Thursdays, we will have Whiskey & Cowboy broadcasting their show at the stadium.

Come on, what could’ve been better than beer, ball, and bands? Leave it to somebody to mess up a good thing.

It’s a very sad state of affairs when this is all the better we can do. One thing I got to love quickly about the area when I moved here was the support the local radio stations gave to regional bands. Instead of playing Nickelback for the 300th time, 96 Rock would play a local band’s song in a semi-regular rotation, plus every week they did “Local Lixx” which was an hour of local music. Now, I know some of the local bands dropped the ball (there’s a larger audience on the Internet, particularly myspace.com) but free airplay is free airplay, people. Do you think I wouldn’t like a plug for this blog on Bill Reddish’s show?

It really sucks because last year’s “Thirsty Thursdays” introduced me to some great groups like Control Freaks, Not Alone, Chowderfoot, and 7 Days Torn, among a host of others. There’s just so many good groups out there in our area that deserve support and another outlet for supporting them has vanished. Instead, we’ll be “entertained” by a wannabe morning crew that happens to be on in the afternoons.

Hopefully I’ll still get to see some good bands at “Beast of the East” this year, but since I think 96 Rock brought those bands in last year, it remains to be seen. No one’s announced yet at the site. The band list for “Pork in the Park” is up already though, they have an interesting assortment of groups.

It’s less than three weeks to the real beginning of spring. When the Shorebirds play and we get the twin weekend events of Pork in the Park and Beast of the East, it’s time to get ready for another fun Delmarva summer!

Ongoing 2006 election feature

Since we’re now inside 6 months to the primaries in both Maryland and Delaware, I think it’s time to do a public service and begin to link to various campaign websites of all the candidates I can. Tonight I started with the Maryland U.S. Senate race and linked to the three main contenders – Ben Cardin, Kweisi Mfume, and Michael Steele. If you look to the right at the Bloglist, it’s under the category “Let the people decide.”

I’ll start checking into who has actually filed for what races. My intention is to link with as many of this area’s campaigns as possible. So here’s a list of what I consider “area” campaigns:

Maryland:

United States Senate (what I started tonight)
U.S. Congress – Maryland District 1
All statewide campaigns (Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General)
State Senator and House of Delegates – Districts 37 and 38
County offices in Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset, and Dorchester counties, particularly County Executive and County Council as applicable to the jurisdiction.

Delaware:

United States Senate
U.S. Congress – at-large
State Senate – District 20 (District 21 is not up this year as I understand it)
State Representatives – Districts 38, 39, 40, 41
County offices in Sussex County.

Virginia:

United States Senate
U.S. Congress – Virginia District 2 (covers the Eastern Shore of Virginia).
Most of their races in 2006 appear to be local mayor/council races, they run on an opposite calendar of local/state elections than does Maryland.

If you come across a link I don’t know about (or if you’re a candidate) let me know at my e-mail address here: michael@monoblogue.us. You may recall earlier I linked to a press release from House of Delegates candidate Sonny Bloxom – I’m open to that as well (with certain restrictions.) And it’s a good thing I linked to the press release because otherwise I’d have misspelled his name!

Seriously, it would be great to have all the sites here and make this a “one-stop shop” for election info, so that’s my goal for the campaign season.

Update: I found a batch of new links (added tonight) on a site called politics1.com so a hat tip goes to Ron Gunzberger, who runs the site.

It’s a crime!

Thanks to Delmarva Dealings for pointing out the Daily Times printed my letter to the editor yesterday. Now, normally they call me to verify but I guess they must read the blogs and found I “crossposted” it anyway. Thus, I never heard a thing, and I don’t get the print edition here (we do get it where I work.)

What I’d love to know is why the DT editor chopped it up so bad?!? I write a certain way on purpose. Sure it may be wordy, but as Rush Limbaugh would say, “words mean things.” I take plenty of time to write, because I want to type out my thoughts and opinions in a manner that expresses them completely.

However, if you followed the link and you’re discovering monoblogue for the first time, welcome! Glad you’re here. But I’m betting that if you saw that online link to my site on the DT website, you’ve likely already read my blog from being linked in other places. Of course, the more readers I get, the more likely I can get actual paying advertisers to come to my site…that would be cool. At least then I could make my server fee back.

Actually, the real reason I was getting ready to write a post was something I saw on Justice For All? almost a month ago, but it was almost immediately buried in the avalanche of MDE/zoo/Salisbury Water Treatment plant news. It was a 5 part pictorial called “No Gangs in Salisbury.” To refresh your memory:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Despite the fact that the news is old blogwise, it doesn’t mean we are any less likely to see gang trouble this year. No one wants a repeat of last year’s random homicide incident, only this time involving, say, MS-13 or ABM.

As I see it, the main cause of gang problems in Salisbury is not quite what one may think. I recall seeing a news item last year about several incidents where alien workers were robbed but couldn’t or didn’t report these incidents to the police. The reason most theorized is that these workers were here illegally and didn’t want to draw attention to themselves and their crime by reporting a crime perpetrated on them. So they just bore the loss of hundreds of dollars in cash silently.

Many of these laborers speak little or no English, and don’t have bank accounts. Either they are paid in cash or use a secondary vendor to get their checks cashed (Wal-Mart will cash a payroll check for a modest fee.) It’s not been uncommon for me to complete my shopping at Wal-Mart (particularly the one in Fruitland) and find myself behind a group of Mexican laborers who pull out a large wad of cash to pay for their groceries. Obviously this fact isn’t lost on the criminal element, who see these people as an easy target. Knowing that the foreign population generally carries a large amount of cash and is hesitant to report being relieved of it by threat of force, it almost becomes a sport to see who can get the largest amount of ill-gotten gains.

Then the question becomes: what happens to all that loose untraceable cash? A lot of it ends up in the pockets of those who ply the narcotics trade. And where there’s a thriving drug market, there’s generally gang formation. So you begin to see various garages and other buildings “tagged” with gang graffiti marking their turf and sending hidden messages to competing gangs.

One thing I was curious about and I finally looked into tonight was how one can get in touch with the local police and sheriff’s office. In Toledo, there’s an anonymous tip line one can call if they have information on a crime committed (obviously, if one’s in progress, 9-1-1 should be dialed.) But there’s no such thing here. It’s particularly important that one can call in tips anonymously, since dealing with a gang like MS-13 can be dicey.

Now it could be that the criminal investigation sections of the Salisbury PD and Wicomico Sheriff’s Department do handle anonymous tips, but they don’t advertise that kind of service, nor is it known if they’re bilingual. Let’s face it, until some sort of meaningful immigration reform and enforcement is passed on a federal level, Salisbury’s going to be a bilingual city.

The other thing is something that struck me driving along on Saturday. I was driving down Church Street to work and I saw a group of people fixing up a porch. Since they were mostly Caucasian, I didn’t figure they were native to that mostly minority neighborhood. I’m guessing it was a church group who was doing their part to help a less fortunate member of the community.

So why couldn’t a group adopt a block on a Saturday and paint over some of the gang tagging? Have Home Depot or Lowe’s pitch in and donate a few gallons of paint. It could even be the community service element for those who are sentenced to complete community service, still better if they were unruly juveniles who were quite possibly the ones to deface the building in the first place.

It will have to be an ongoing effort, because the gangs will come back a few times. But they eventually lose interest, or more likely, hit another block where their colors will last for a longer time.

I look at it this way. There’s probably as many if not more gang-bangers and wannabes on the streets than there are cops. Generally cops are better armed, but they can’t be everywhere at all times. So the deciding factor in taking care of the gang problem is the citizens. But the citizens generally want to just get along in life and stay out of the way of the gangs – a healthy fear. That creates a condition which perpetuates the problem.

The suggestions I posted here are just a tip of the iceberg. Much needs to be done at all levels of society (notice I didn’t say government) to eradicate the gangs from all sides. The most effective tool to me would be drying up their money supply, but that’s going to take pressure on all levels of the drug trade.

We’re going to have a new sheriff in town come November. First and foremost on his/her agenda is going to be the gang problem, and the remedies prescribed during the campaign will be tested soon after the oath of office is sworn. Let’s hope they work.

Outstanding comment

I just moderated a comment to a previous post that’s likely better than the post itself, so I’ll link back to that post. It was a comment that does a great job of what I like to see comments do: move the conversation forward.

I didn’t want the comment buried in a post that’s several back in the pipeline. That would be a shame because not everyone reads past the first post or two. So here you go.

Reaction to the Daily Times

With the several letters written and published in today’s paper, I decided to add my two cents’ worth. This was mostly because, with the exception of Peter Gerardo who stated he edits a blog, it didn’t appear to me that anyone who wrote actually was a blogger.

So we’ll see if this makes it into print soon. Generally a letter of mine (if published) takes 2-3 days from my computer to their paper, mostly because they call me to verify I wrote it. Look at this as a possible sneak peek of Thursday or Friday’s paper.

To the Editor:

A lot of interesting comments were in the Daily Times recently about the local blogosphere and its effects on the Delmarva political scene. While I’m not one of what I call the “big three” (Delmarva Dealings, Duvafiles, Justice for All?) two of the three are kind enough to link to my site as does The Goldwater’s Oracle. So yes, I am a local blogger.

Blogging is not my “real job.” It’s something I do because I care about my country and my adopted home state and city. I have a number of passionate opinions about political issues and since the paper couldn’t print a daily letter from me, I went out and actually spent the money for server space and a website to call my own. People are free to read it and comment on what they see there, and, except for when they’re not germane to the subject at hand, I’m not afraid to post the comments. My blog also provides me the freedom to write about other subjects near and dear to my heart that aren’t political but I feel strongly about nonetheless.

The other unique thing about blogging is that there’s many different styles. Some have frequent short posts about specific news items, while others are more editorial-style commentary. Mine falls under the latter category. If there’s an item I comment on, I’ll generally link to it so the reader can judge for himself whether my opinion holds water. For example, recently I commented on a pending bill in the General Assembly and linked to the actual text so a reader could get the context.

Recent news items have shown the promise of the blogosphere. There are things that can be improved about our area, and having a source to point them out without going through the established local media or being ignored by an uncaring local government is quite revolutionary. It’s a bit like a Block Watch program, with many eyes keeping a sharp lookout of neighborhood goings-on and reporting to others when things are amiss.

I decided to write this letter because it seemed from those published that, with the exception of Mr. Gerardo who edits a blog, none of the writers had an inside scoop on what goes into one. As there are many styles of blogs, there’s also a vast range of opinions held within them. Yes, my blog features my political viewpoint, but that is stated right on the top. I don’t hide the allegiances I’ve formed or claim to be non-biased.

So, because I’m signing my name at the bottom of this letter, and it’s easy enough to follow a link to reach my site from the aforementioned blogs, it’s apparent that I’m not anonymous, either. My goal is to have a well-written, persuasive blog with both news and views. Follow the links and tell me if I’m succeeding – I welcome the feedback.

Michael Swartz
Salisbury

Speaking of feedback, I had some not-so-nice things said about me regarding my last post. The funny thing is, I still link to his website. Go ahead and take a gander at what he says on his site, then tell me I don’t get a variety of viewpoints.

Another one to stop

I was doing research for a comment I was going to submit to another website and ran across an interview Senate candidate (and Congressman) Ben Cardin did with a “friendly” site (MyDD.com) and interviewer Jonathan Singer. What leaped off the page at me was this quote:

Singer: Now let’s look at something specific to your state of Maryland. Your state legislature enacted a plan that would mandate that large companies, like Wall Mart (sic), provide at least some healthcare benefits, either directly to workers or through contributions to the state program. Should Congress look at a similar plan?

Cardin: Congress should pass a program that provides for universal health insurance coverage.

It is not acceptable for us to have 45 to 47 million Americans without health insurance. It’s not fair for those who have health insurance to pay for those who do not have health insurance. That was the frustration in Maryland, where you had companies that were not only paying for their own employees but literally paying for their competitors’ employees because of the extra cost for the uninsured.

So the Congress should pass legislation that guarantees that every person in this country has health insurance, and it’s in every one of our interests that that be done.

I wonder if he knows James Hubbard? So, not only would we get tagged with higher taxes and a health insurance mandate here in Maryland if HB1510 passes, but if Cardin wins (and remember, his term would extend beyond the 2008 presidential election and could be the same time as Hillary’s re-election) we might have the same thing nationwide.

Spread the misery around: the unofficial credo of the Democrats.

Like this is a surprise?

I will give the large hat tip to Rush today for introducing me to this article by Brendan Miniter. My ears perk up whenever he mentions the Free State and we got a lot of airtime today.

In case the link ceases to work (I know the Wall Street Journal site is a subscription site, whereas the OpinionJournal is the “free side”) the money passage is this:

let’s turn to (Delegate James) Hubbard. He began our conversation by pointing out that the Wal-Mart bill–which forces companies with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8% of their payroll on health care or pay the state the difference–was always intended to be just the first step (emphasis mine). Four years ago, he made his intentions clear by introducing legislation to increase cigarette taxes and to use the tax code to compel employers to provide health insurance. Under his legislation the revenue from these taxes would be dumped into a new state fund that would then be used to expand Medicaid eligibility to families with incomes up to 300% of the poverty line (up from 200% now). But even in a legislature with large Democratic majorities, his bill stalled.

So Mr. Hubbard and others settled on a new approach–pushing through smaller, bite-sized pieces. The first piece was the Wal-Mart bill. It passed last year and was enacted last month, when the Legislature overrode Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s veto. Two weeks ago Mr. Hubbard was at it again, this time introducing a new bill to mandate that companies with at least 1,000 employees spend 4.5% of their payroll on health care or pay the state the difference. Once this piece is in place, Mr. Hubbard told me, the next step will be to create a similar mandate–perhaps 2% or 3%–for companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. Each year, Mr. Hubbard hopes to expand the mandate to include ever smaller companies with the ultimate goal of “health coverage for all Marylanders.”

Mr. Hubbard noted how effective splitting the difference can be in moving legislation toward a larger goal. “If you give up 80% of what you want to get 20%,” he said, “after five years you will have nothing left to give up.”

This is the relevant portion of the text of HB 1510, which is an omnibus bill regarding health care in general (it’s innocently titled Public-Private Partnership for Health Coverage for All Marylanders. Some partnership, a gun to the head isn’t a real alliance.) The bill as a whole is a 50 page .pdf file.

I believe the way this works is that additions to existing statute are in ALL CAPS. Perhaps a lawyer-type can help me on that.

Article – Labor and Employment

8 8.5-101.

9 (a) In this title the following words have the meanings indicated.
10 (b) “Employee” means all individuals employed full time or part time directly
11 by an employer.
12 (c) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, “employer”
13 has the meaning stated in § 10-905 of the Tax – General Article.
14 (2) “Employer” does not include the federal government, the State,
15 another state, or a political subdivision of the State or another state.
16 (d) (1) “Health insurance costs” means the amount paid by an employer to
17 provide health care or health insurance to employees in the State to the extent the
18 costs may be deductible by an employer under federal tax law.
19 (2) “Health insurance costs” includes payments for medical care,
20 prescription drugs, vision care, medical savings accounts, and any other costs to
21 provide health benefits as defined in § 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code.
22 (e) “Secretary” means the Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.
23 (f) “Wages” has the meaning stated in § 10-905 of the Tax – General Article.
24 8.5-102.
25 This title applies to an employer with [10,000] ONE or more employees in the
26 State.
27 8.5-103.
28 (a) (1) On January 1, [2007] 2008, and annually thereafter, an employer
29 shall submit on a form and in a manner approved by the Secretary:
30 (i) the number of employees of the employer in the State as of 1
31 day in the year immediately preceding the previous calendar year as determined by
32 the employer on an annual basis;

44 UNOFFICIAL COPY OF HOUSE BILL 1510

1 (ii) the amount spent by the employer in the year immediately
2 preceding the previous calendar year on health insurance costs in the State; and
3 (iii) the percentage of payroll that was spent by the employer in the
4 year immediately preceding the previous calendar year on health insurance costs in
5 the State.
6 (2) The Secretary shall adopt regulations that specify the information
7 that an employer shall submit under paragraph (1) of this subsection.
8 (3) The information required shall:
9 (i) be designated in a report signed by the principal executive
10 officer or an individual performing a similar function; and
11 (ii) include an affidavit under penalty of perjury that the
12 information required under paragraph (1) of this subsection:
13 1. was reviewed by the signing officer; and
14 2. is true to the best of the signing officer’s knowledge,
15 information, and belief.
16 (b) When calculating the percentage of payroll under subsection (a)(1)(iii) of
17 this section, an employer may exempt:
18 (1) wages paid to any employee in excess of the median household
19 income in the State as published by the United States Census Bureau; and
20 (2) wages paid to an employee who is enrolled in or eligible for Medicare.
21 8.5-104.
22 (a) An employer WITH 10,000 OR MORE EMPLOYEES that is organized as a
23 nonprofit organization that does not spend up to 6% of the total wages paid to
24 employees in the State on health insurance costs shall pay to the Secretary an
25 amount equal to the difference between what the employer spends for health
26 insurance costs and an amount equal to 6% of the total wages paid to employees in
27 the State.
28 (b) An employer WITH 10,000 OR MORE EMPLOYEES that is not organized as a
29 nonprofit organization and does not spend up to 8% of the total wages paid to
30 employees in the State on health insurance costs shall pay to the Secretary an
31 amount equal to the difference between what the employer spends for health
32 insurance costs and an amount equal to 8% of the total wages paid to employees in
33 the State.
34 (C) AN EMPLOYER WITH FEWER THAN 10,000 EMPLOYEES THAT IS ORGANIZED
35 AS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT DOES NOT SPEND UP TO 3% OF THE TOTAL
36 WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE ON HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS SHALL

45 UNOFFICIAL COPY OF HOUSE BILL 1510

1 PAY TO THE SECRETARY AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT
2 THE EMPLOYER SPENDS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS AND AN AMOUNT EQUAL
3 TO 3% OF THE TOTAL WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE.
4 (D) AN EMPLOYER WITH FEWER THAN 10,000 EMPLOYEES THAT IS NOT
5 ORGANIZED AS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION AND DOES NOT SPEND UP TO 4.5% OF
6 THE TOTAL WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE ON HEALTH INSURANCE
7 COSTS SHALL PAY TO THE SECRETARY AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO THE DIFFERENCE
8 BETWEEN WHAT THE EMPLOYER SPENDS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS AND AN
9 AMOUNT EQUAL TO 4.5% OF THE TOTAL WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE.
10 [(c)] (E) An employer may not deduct any payment made under subsection
11 [(a) or (b)] (A), (B), (C), OR (D) of this section from the wages of an employee.
12 [(d)] (F) An employer shall make the payment required under this section to
13 the Secretary on a periodic basis as determined by the Secretary.
14 8.5-105.
15 (a) Failure to report in accordance with § 8.5-103 of this title shall result in
16 the imposition by the Secretary of a civil penalty of $250 for each day that the report
17 is not timely filed.
18 (b) Failure to make the payment required under § 8.5-104 of this title shall
19 result in the imposition by the Secretary of a civil penalty of $250,000.

What a surprise, take a little in 2005, go for more in 2006. The next part I didn’t print goes into importing Canadian prescription drugs and, if the federal government doesn’t grant the state a waiver, a mandate that the state Attorney General file suit against the federal government.

Again, the Delegate who sponsored HB 1510 is James W. Hubbard, of District 23A. I realize it’s a longshot to find a Republican in PG County to try and unseat him, but this nutjob has got to go. A more realistic thing to do would be to encourage our Delegates to stop HB 1510 dead in its tracks. According to the General Assembly website, this bill was rereferred to the Health and Government Operations subcommittee yesterday. Let’s make sure it doesn’t see the light of day again.

WCRC meeting – February 2006

Once again, I took part of my evening and attended this month’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. We had about 30 in attendance this time.

As far as club business goes, our finances are still double what they were last year, although it was pointed out that this time in 2005 was right after the 2004 elections so the old amount should be used with caution when comparing. But the club didn’t do much for the 2005 local elections either since they were technically nonpartisan. Membership was up to 95 paid members, but I’m not one (yet), simply because I forgot my checkbook! Additionally, 8 members paid at the “elephant” level, which is additional money donated to the club.

Elected officials present were Wicomico County Councilman Gail Bartkovich and Worcester County Commissioner Sonny Bloxom (as noted last month, he’s running for Delegate in District 38B.) Also present was County Council candidate Dorothy White of District 5, the northeast portion of the county. (That district’s actually right across the road from me.)

Our speaker this month was Michael Grissom from the Maryland GOP. The Florida native is actually better known as the political director for Katherine Harris’s 2004 congressional campaign, now he’s working for the MGOP. He also worked with the Kilgore campaign last year in Virginia. You win some, you lose some.

Grissom noted a few things about this year’s approach to the Maryland races, particularly retaining Governor Ehrlich and electing Michael Steele to the U.S. Senate. The two things I found most interesting about his remarks was the emphasis on “microtargeting” and the effort come Election Day (or, actually, more like Election Week thanks to the D’s – vote early and often!) to assure as much as possible a clean election. That would be lawyers on the ground. If the D’s can pony up lawyers, so can we.

“Microtargeting” is fascinating – it’s targeting newer residents and based on consumer preferences, where certain traits show up in those who are more likely conservative. The example Grissom gave was if a person owned a Ford F-150 pickup, had a concealed carry permit, and subscribed to Field and Stream, they would more than likely be conservative and a probable Republican voter. (I guess on the flip side, if you drive a Volvo, subscribe to the New York Times, and have seen “Brokeback Mountain” 5 times, it’s likely you’re a moonbat who votes straight ticket Democrat – if there’s no Greens on the ballot.)

Additionally, Grissom told us that a field staffer for the Eastern Shore would be coming soon, at first based out of the Easton area because it’s centrally located on the Shore, but eventually by fall there would be a staffer for us on the south end of the Eastern Shore, as well as one on the north end. There’s going to be 5 or 6 field staffers in Maryland to start, our small population dictates one shared amongst the whole Eastern Shore for now.

A good question came from an attendee at that point. His concern was about Ehrlich and Steele “getting their message out” given the pro-Democrat slant of most Maryland media outlets. The key, explained Grissom, is getting the message out via the grassroots. Just talk up your neighbors (or be a blogger like me!) This helps to increase GOP turnout – while the stated goal is 80% in Wicomico County, it was revealed that GOP turnout in 2004 was 82% and 2002 GOP turnout was about 78%. So their “goal” is about the norm – but additional registered Republicans can also make a difference even with similar numbers.

Some other comments during this portion of the meeting:

Governor Ehrlich has not decided on a running mate yet, but it sounds like he has a short list being kept close to the vest at this time.

Polling was described as being “within percentage points” although Rasmussen showed Michael Steele down double digits to Ben Cardin. This poll was taken shortly after the stem-cell comment apology though.

There will be “slate money” for local campaigns to use this year, as Grissom noted the Maryland GOP has raised an “amazing amount of money.” Sonny Bloxom chimed in that if he raises a certain amount by the primary, the state GOP will kick in campaign money as well. If you use the vote total for the 2004 presidential election in Maryland as a guide, the campaign for governor may cost upwards of $25 per vote and the Senate campaign $12.50 per vote. That makes the numbers scary large in reality.

And, of course, after Grissom finished with his informative talk (and left to head home to Baltimore – we appreciate him coming down!) there were other issues discussed at the meeting. Most important to me was the County Council’s upcoming agenda, as budget issues take center stage in April and May. Impact fees or no impact fees? The capital improvements budget is said to be “fairly set” though. Adding to those improvements, it was announced tonight to us that money’s in the pipeline for construction to Business U.S. 13 in Salisbury, State Route 349, and U.S. 50. I knew a state representative in Ohio named John Garcia who said every time you see an orange barrel you see money from the state coming back to you. So we’ll see some money coming back to us in the form of highway improvements.

Another thing pointed out by John Bartkovich was that we need to fill our slate, still a lot of “blank” spaces on it. One complaint is that incumbents seem to be slow in deciding whether they want to run, so people who don’t want to face an incumbent also have to wait. Further, in the last couple months we’ve lost a candidate for County Executive and Sheriff who both dropped out of their race.

The club also is still looking for officers. They’ve offered me a post, I had to decline. It was more than I had a comfort level of doing at this time. I’d enjoy doing the newsletter part of it, but the other functions are more than I think I can handle – I’ve been taught to manage around my weaknesses so there you have it. That goes to being a candidate this year as well, although I hold the caveat below.

There is a Central Committee meeting a week from tonight that I would like to attend, kind of a “try before I buy” sort of thing. It’s intriguing to me in some respects but I’m a long way from running if I ever decide to.

Other upcoming events of note are a state party election school in March up in Gaithersburg, our annual booth at the Spring Festival April 28-29 (I’ll likely do that, maybe I’ll even bring brownies), the state GOP spring convention in Cambridge May 13, and way out there the Crab Feast in September. And we get to skip June and July for meetings.

Next month our speaker will be one of the two GOP Delegate candidates for District 38B, Jack Lord.