Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls invade Salisbury

April 15, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls invade Salisbury 

There are eight candidates on the Democrat side of the ballot hoping to be the challenger to current GOP Governor Larry Hogan. On a gorgeous, almost summer-like day on the Eastern Shore, only four of them could be bothered to come to Salisbury University to address their would-be primary electorate.

Originally that was supposed to be five of the eight, though.

An empty table...sort of like their bag of new ideas.

The lineup as originally intended: Alec Ross, Krish Vignarajah, Rushern Baker, Jim Shea, and Richard Madaleno.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker was slated to be there, but informed the event organizers 15 minutes beforehand that he had an “emergency” and could not appear. According to his Twitter feed, he had begun the day campaigning in Baltimore City but the trail grows cold afterward. Yesterday evening there were Tweets and social media posts touting his previous endorsement by Congressman Steny Hoyer (who represents a portion of his county) and a piece touting his partnership for STEM training, but no mention of the forum or an apology for missing it. A Democrat friend of mine remarked afterward that “I know quite a few people who were definitely upset and said they wouldn’t vote for him now even if they had considered him before.” Unfortunately, that left us with a group of what would be defined as “second-tier” candidates who are polling in low single digits – combined they’re not Baker’s equal polling-wise.

On top of that, State Senator Richard Madaleno was a few minutes late, missing the opening statement but being allowed to make up for it when he answered his first question. Apparently there was an accident on the Bay Bridge, which was the topic of a subsequent question.

So the order was set, and placeholders were rearranged. This photo was taken once Madaleno arrived.

State Senator Richard Madaleno (right) answers a question as moderator Don Rush of Delmarva Public Radio (far left), Alec Ross (second from left), Krish Vignarajah (center), and Jim Shea (second from right) look on.

The Wicomico County Democratic Central Committee co-sponsored the event with the Salisbury University College Democrats, and aside from the horribly uncomfortable chairs we were forced to sit in for two hours the event was well-conducted for the 100 or so in attendance on this beautiful afternoon. I learned that a group of liberal Democrats can sit and listen attentively, so now I expect that same behavior at the next Andy Harris town hall that I attend. Moderator Don Rush instructed the audience early on to keep their reactions to themselves, and they complied.

I debated whether I wanted to handle this by candidate or by question, and decided that keeping the candidates’ answers together for each question would present a better, more comparative format. But first I wanted to mention something that was said by WCDCC chair Mark L. Bowen. (Just to be clear, this Mark Bowen is not Mark S. Bowen, the current Democrat Clerk of the Court for Wicomico County.) Bowen assured the gathering that “our work is being done for us…all we have to do is close the deal.” He was also the one who informed us that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and former NAACP head Ben Jealous were absent due to “previous commitments.” (That would be their personally lobbying the state’s teacher’s union, which endorsed Jealous yesterday at their meeting. Perhaps endorsing Kamemetz or Baker would have been problematic for the teachers given educational scandals in their respective counties.)

So after an opening statement, the four remaining candidates answered questions on these topics:

  • New “economic engines” for the Eastern Shore
  • Balancing the interests of agriculture and environmentalists
  • Offshore wind energy development
  • How they would assist watermen and the Bay
  • Transportation priorities for our area
  • A new Bay Bridge
  • Their focus on education
  • Health care – a single-payer system?
  • Redistricting

But I want to begin with separate categorizations of their opening statements, and I’ll proceed in the order that they spoke. This means Alec Ross goes first and Richard Madaleno goes not at all because he was tardy.

You may recall that I spent a few minutes speaking to Alec at the Tawes event last year, when he informed me that he had a rather unique view on education for a Democrat, since he focused more on vocational education than college readiness. Obviously coming over here is something he cherishes, as he recalled childhood vacations spent in Ocean City and told the crowd his blood pressure comes down when he crosses the Bay Bridge as part of his opening statement.

His main point, though, was that “talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.” And while “we are bringing new faces and new ideas to the Democratic Party,” Ross noted their voter registration numbers are trending downward.

I could have spent a couple minutes speaking to Krish Vignarajah, but I didn’t realize she was one of those waiting with me on the elevator to arrive. With her husband in tow and a young child, she could have been an interested observer. (She was also somewhat casually dressed.)

Krish came to America as a infant, emigrating from Sri Lanka with her parents. (A few years later, Sri Lanka would be embroiled in a civil war, so tensions were rising at the time.) She also painted a gloomy picture of Maryland, telling the audience that “opportunities are declining” but she would be “Larry Hogan’s worst nightmare” as a candidate. “We need to give people a reason to vote,” she exhorted.

Jim Shea used the Bay Bridge as an example of how infrastructure could help the economy. He was running to “invest in Maryland,” with a focus on three areas: education, transportation, and infrastructure.

Leading off the questioning was one about new economic engines for the Eastern Shore. All of them agreed agriculture was going to remain the primary driver, but they also wanted to add green energy to the mix in various ways.

For Vignarajah, the object wasn’t to attack “Big Chicken” but to address its environmental issues through research. She also touted the idea of tourism, both as part of an “outdoor economy” and “heritage tourism.” Shea stressed his belief that we need to bring the two sides of farmer and environmentalist together. Corporations want a good environment, too, he said, but “we need clarity on the regulations.” Jim also believed that we needed to grow our own businesses and not work as much at attracting those from other states.

Madaleno, after giving a brief introduction, talked about keeping agriculture sustainable, both environmentally and economically, but also brought up the idea of “eds and beds” – our educational institutions and tourism industry. Richard also pointed out the impact from Wallops Island and its space industry. He had one other point, but he joked that “I feel like the Secretary of Energy” because he couldn’t recall it. Later, he said Shea reminded him it was offshore wind – it was a byproduct of seeing each other so much and knowing their talking points, as Shea mentioned later: “(Madaleno) did the same thing for me at another forum.”

Perhaps Alec’s drop in blood pressure stemmed from the produce he’s purchased at an Eastern Shore roadside market. As the produce was bigger and better than ever at his last stop, Ross asked how they did it. “Precision agriculture,” the stand owner beamed. Agriculture in the state needs to continue to evolve, he added, the combination of analytics and agriculture would allow that to happen. And to help small farmers, Ross was proposing a billion-dollar investment in a “green bank” model – a model already in place in New York and Massachusetts. (In looking this up, perhaps Ross misspoke: I found programs in place in New York and Connecticut as a way to promote “clean energy.” What Ross proposes may have a slightly different focus.)

So how do you balance agriculture and the environment? Would you add restrictions to the poultry industry?

Madaleno, Shea, and Vignarajah all touted the Community Healthy Air Act, a measure Madaleno sponsored during the last General Assembly session, and one that Shea said “made sense.” (It did not get beyond the hearing stage.) Alec and Krish also brought up the Phosphorus Management Tool, with Krish calling it a “win-win.” She also proposed to “empower” farmers with a Farmers Rights Act.

Ross wanted all sides to play by the same rules as well, saying that neither side thinks they are lying when it comes to the facts.

Needless to say, all of them were supportive of wind energy development. Madaleno said they “will make a lot of sense,” believing the won’t impact the viewshed and be the basis for job growth. They can “drive the economy ahead,” added Shea; however, he was concerned that there was no way to store their energy. We need to invest in that technology, he added.

Ross and Vignarajah were just as aggressive, with Alec comparing areas that don’t “embrace the future” through wind to the coal country he grew up in and assuring us that windmills would not keep them from the beaches. Vignarajah promised 2,000 megawatts of wind power in her first term and chided Larry Hogan for not being proactive. We are exporting our dollars and importing their pollution, she said regarding the current situation.

This question also provided a couple of shout outs: Madaleno praised fellow Senator Jim Mathias: “No one fights harder for the Eastern Shore – I have some of the scars.” Alec Ross said of Salisbury mayor Jake Day. “I like the work (he) is doing as mayor.”

When it comes to watermen and the Bay, the answers were again rather similar because they focused more on the Bay, with some expressing the recovery of the oyster population as one positive development. It’s a “win-win” to support the oyster industry, said Vignarajah, but don’t forget the tributaries to the Bay like the Choptank, Potomac, and so forth. Shea warned that it’s “too soon” to harvest oysters as watermen are pleading with Governor Hogan to allow.

Madaleno, though, expressed the opinion that the Bay’s recovery was evidence that “government can do and does good things.” And while he joked that being a member of the General Assembly meant he had to become an expert in crabs, oysters, and chicken, he added that cleaning the Bay has to be a multi-state effort. Richard also pledged to give waterman “a voice at the table.”

And while Ross would do “whatever it takes” to accomplish this difficult and expensive work, he spent part of his time noting that “when you drive into Maryland, you should be entering The Resistance.” Chiding the “abhorrent” leadership at the EPA, he wanted a set-aside to sustain watermen. Shea temed a similar concept as an “investment” in the needed vocational training for the “social costs of our advancement.” On the other hand, Vignarajah expressed the “unpopular” view of crediting Larry Hogan with trying to protect Chesapeake Bay funding.

As far as transportation priorities for our rural areas are concerned, there was no real shock in their answers. Krish led off by saying “let us try to be innovative,” making the investment in our economy of extending the MARC system to Salisbury and Ocean City as “an attraction” to provide “more mobility.” Jim Shea agreed that the Eastern Shore has a lack of mass transit.

Madaleno and Ross blasted Larry Hogan’s transportation plan, with Ross calling it “a press release” and “not realistic” because it mainly focuses on DC and Baltimore. Hogan was “one of the luckiest politicians around,” said Madaleno, who noted that the Purple Line was “placed on a credit card” while the gas tax Hogan criticized was now being used for highway widening. Richard would invest in “smart mass transit,” meaning on demand.

Shea was more realistic, calling transportation “anathema” for career politicians because projects take so long. He termed the high-speed rail project backed by Hogan “pie in the sky” and would vet his plan with citizens around the state.

Most telling to me was part of Alec’s answer, where he called widening U.S. 50 “looking backward” and mass transit “looking forward.” So I wasn’t shocked by their answers to the next question, about a third Bay Bridge.

At least Jim Shea was honest enough to answer “I don’t know what the correct answer is.” (Hint: look at how close Dorchester and Calvert counties are.) His bigger issue was funding education. Madaleno was more worried about whether the current bridges survive, as the Hogan toll reductions “restrict the decision” on these bridges, which Madaleno would replace there.

Alec and Krish were even more blunt. “People need investments in them,” said Ross. High-speed connectivity and schools were a higher priority in his eyes, with another Bay span “way down the queue.” Vignarajah echoed the sentiment: “A lot of priorities are ahead in the queue” over the Bay Bridge, adding “we have a 1950s budget in many respects.” She would spend money on universal broadband, too, noting 1 in 12 Maryland residents don’t have high-speed internet access.

Since it had been hinted around at, the focus shifted to education. Education “will be the centerpiece of (a Madaleno) administration,” said Rich, and “this is why (Ross) is running for governor,” he said, but all of them were ready to give free stuff out: universal pre-K and community college were most mentioned.

Madaleno touted his membership on the Kirwan Commission, while Krish advocated for a “cradle to career” educational policy, including “hot and healthy meals.” Shea’s “bold and comprehensive” plan (which he mentioned was there in full on his website) included as well what he called “wrap-around services” and “funding solutions.”

One thing I did like about Alec was his advocacy for vocational education, rather than the “terribly elitist” idea all kids have to go to college. He promoted an online academy to assist rural students in receiving services not otherwise available to them and advocates for universal computer science education.

We also waited until nearly the end to learn about their proposals for health care, and whether it included single-payer?

Of course it does, but not everyone is as honest as Jim Shea, who, while he told the audience that “a single-payer system is something we will eventually move to,” it wasn’t practical for a single state to adopt. That push had to be at a federal level, but we could control costs locally through a collaborative approach.

Otherwise, it seemed the consensus was that Obamacare was just a start, or a “strong start” in the words of Vignarajah. For her, “health care is a basic human right” and she advocated for a public option to lead to single-payer. Madaleno insisted that Obamacare “has worked to reduce costs” and brought Maryland down to 6% uninsured. He warned the gathering to not fall for the “trumped-up theory” that the ACA has failed. The fight was against insurers and Big Pharma to cut costs. (This also gave Madaleno a chance for a second Mathias shout-out: he was a “hero” as a voice for rural health care.)

Alec called on us to “resist the evil that is coming out of Donald Trump’s Washington.” While he admitted that “we have to continue to play defense,” he gave an example of something he would do differently: because of the waiver system Maryland was benefiting from, Medicare for All wasn’t possible – but Medicaid for All as a public option was.

I was honestly surprised by the final question, which had to do with redistricting. Had there been five participants, the health care question would have likely been last.

Only the American system allows for politicians to pick their voters, said Krish, but it was a “problematic” issue that had to be addressed at a national level. Shea disagreed, saying that while gerrymandering had polarized us, it wasn’t a federal problem – but the solution wasn’t (as he called it) “unilateral disarmament” here in Maryland. It needs to be “fair and smart,” Jim added, but he warned there’s no such thing as a non-partisan group.

Madaleno admitted that the gerrymandering “got out of hand” during the O’Malley administration (but failed to mention his lack of objection at the time.) Going with the theme that “the Koch brothers have bought the Congress they wanted,” Rich wanted to reform as part of a multi-state compact.

Alec saw the issue as part of the “damage to democracy,” which has led to both far-right and far-left factions in Congress. “We need representatives to engage with everyone in the district,” he said.

It should be noted that Vignarajah used part of her answer time to express her disappointment that no question was asked on opioids. “We need action” on both the over-prescription and treatment aspects of that problem.

In conclusion, Jim Shea said Democrats needed to unite as a party. “We’re going to pull together because we are a great party and take the governor’s seat back.”

Richard Madaleno contended that the GOP of Donald Trump is “in the process of imploding.” Yet since there will be gridlock in Washington, it make the governors more important, and Maryland has one of the most powerful chief executives in the nation. “It matters who the governor of Maryland is,” he continued, and “this is the time to have serious experience in office.” That was a nod to his years in the General Assembly, but his goal was to “move the state in a progressive way.”

Alec Ross told the local Democrats that it’s “more about ‘we’ than ‘me,’ but disagreed with Madeleno on one point: the GOP is not coming apart. “We’ve got to work for it,” he said. He also promised “no one will be more anti-Trump than me,” but warned the group they “can’t just resist,” they have to have an “aspirational agenda.” It was time for new faces and new ideas to come forward., Ross concluded.

“How do we beat Larry Hogan?” asked Krish Vignarajah. “No man can beat Larry Hogan, they say. Well…?” While Hogan “fakes left and moves right,” Vignarajah pointed out that 61% of those who toppled incumbent Republicans in this cycle were women. She pledged a “fiscally responsible. socially progressive” administration.

I’ve noted above that Jim Mathias was in the building, but there were a handful of other Democrats seeking local and state office there: Michael Pullen for Congress (who sat two seats away from me and never said a word), Holly Wright for Senate District 37 (who did introduce herself to me), Delegate 38A candidate Kirkland Hall, and county-level candidates Bill McCain (County Council) and Bo McAllister, who I had spoken to at last fall’s Good Beer Festival. (You would have known that had my old cell phone not crapped out the next day, before I could write the post.)

They did their thing and I did mine, but mine is done.

Wicomico County Council promises new direction

December 8, 2010 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Politics · Comments Off on Wicomico County Council promises new direction 

Last night a packed house (for once) attended a Wicomico County Council meeting which was short on legislative action but long on emotion as three new members replaced three outgoing ones. These are my observations.

The meeting was essentially comprised of two rounds of remarks sandwiching the actual ceremony of Council members being sworn in and receiving their certificates. (I noticed they are similar to the ones I have for being on Central Committee; I would have expected something a little different.)

The outgoing councilman who spoke first was John Cannon, who opted to make an attempt for state office rather than maintain the Council seat he won in 2006. “I think we have done some great work over the last four years,” said John.

He also praised County Executive Rick Pollitt for doing “an excellent job” and county citizens for being “very receptive” and “very nice.” But he also pleaded, “there’s been a lot of unity in this Council…I urge you to continue that.”

Bill McCain, who only wished to serve one term and thus didn’t seek re-election, finished his service by encouraging those present to serve the community and praising John Cannon as a “good political example” of someone he could have political differences with amicably. “I leave this Council (as I started) with no personal agenda,” McCain concluded.

Looking at the situation with his usual sense of humor, David MacLeod asked, “please look up when you’re talking to me…everyone thinks I’m still looking for two votes. It is what it is.” He praised his successor Bob Caldwell as “a fine gentleman” and joked about being asked to go on Comedy Central if he didn’t win.

But he looked back at his term by recalling, “I had no idea what I was getting into when I ran for office (but) it was really exciting.”

“Wicomico County is a gift…when I finally came to Wicomico County (after living all over the world) I knew I found home,” stated MacLeod, who said he would remain available and accessible if needed.

Stevie Prettyman, who survived a re-election challenge, piped in that she would miss MacLeod for his sense of humor, Bill McCain for his influence, and John Cannon for his shyness.

After running unopposed, Joe Holloway thanked his cohorts and the voters and pledged, “I look forward to serving the taxpayers of Wicomico County…with diligence and enthusiasm.”

Sheree Sample-Hughes spoke of the “blessing and privilege” of serving for the betterment of her children’s lives and was most pleased that the current council was civil despite their disagreements. “That shows we are leaders,” she said. She also stated she’d miss John Cannon as her “tag team partner” at meetings they both attended, Bill McCain as a “big brother,” and David MacLeod for his sense of humor and keeping her motivated.

Finally, Council President Gail Bartkovich told those assembled it was rewarding and humbling to serve as Council president. And while she was sorry her departing fellow Council members were leaving, she was looking forward to “a great new Council.” She also had special thanks for her husband John, who until recently served as the chair of the Wicomico County Republican Party, for getting her started in politics.

After each spoke, we took a short break as the incoming Council was gathered to be sworn in by Clerk of the Courts Mark Bowen and then posed for pictures. (Among other places with pictures of the event is Right Coast.)

The first order of business was to elect new officers. No one objected when Bob Culver nominated Joe Holloway to be Council Vice-President and Matt Holloway nominated Gail Bartkovich to return as Council President. It’s worthy to note that their terms as officers only last until December, 2011 – by charter, each year a new officer election is held.

After the ceremony, the newly-minted Council made their remarks.

Bob Caldwell thanked his election opponent David MacLeod for an exhilarating, civil, and humorous campaign, although he pointed out in referring to a published remark by MacLeod that, “I would be much more comfortable if he’d lost by a 2,000 votes as well.” He also wanted in his thanks to “drop three f-bombs on Council” – faith, family, and friends.

Sheree Sample-Hughes thanked her “Team 1” and told us “I look forward to serving with integrity and honesty.”

Joe Holloway thanked his fellows for supporting him as vice-president and vowed to “bring respect to Council.” His departing cohorts were “always gentlemen,” he continued, but Joe also warned that, “we have four years as tough as the last four – our work is cut out for us.”

Bob Culver also gave thanks and reminded us, “I know why I was elected…for the business part of my experience.” He promised to “do what I was elected to do” as a member of Council.

Stevie Prettyman reminisced about the “positive energy” she felt at her initial swearing in 12 years ago, but cautioned that the economy was much better then. Now, “it’s going to be a tough four years…we’re going to have to make some tough choices and tough decisions and do things differently.”

Matt Holloway was the most brief, thanking his family and supporters and “really looking forward to working with this Council” to make Wicomico County “the place it could be.”

Gail Bartkovich promised as President to maintain the transparency initiatives she started, keep her fellows informed, and give them an equal right to place those items on the agenda which they promised their voters they would do. But this would be her one and only year as Council President as she pledged to pass the gavel this time next year.

After she finished, Gail invited us to a brief reception in the adjacent room with refreshments – not at taxpayer expense, as she reminded us.

So we have a new Council and they get down to real county business Tuesday, December 21. Indeed, it should be an interesting four years.

Top of the evening (meetings)

Originally I was going to make this a simple comment to Julie’s post but figured I’d rather have the forum to myself – she can feel free to link to my reaction.

I look at it this way, as a logical manner. The County Council meets twice a month and we have five months remaining until the general election – in other words, ten meetings.

Under the rules in place, two of these meetings (July 6 and October 5) would be held at night, with the other eight being morning meetings.

With the compromise measure, five meetings would be night meetings and five would be daytime. Right now, the difference is three meetings. Certainly that would be a better situation for some, but for me it wouldn’t be the ideal hill to die on. Even Prettyman is quoted as saying she has nothing against night meetings despite the fact she voted against the latest effort, which lost in a 3-3 tie because John Cannon was away tending to family matters.

My point is that we have a ready-made issue for the next election, and the dynamics are interesting.

The loudest opponents of going to a totally evening schedule have been Bill McCain and David MacLeod, both Democrats. We already know McCain isn’t running again, so presumably we can pick up a vote there.

Meanwhile, the Republicans on County Council have generally favored the switch. We all know Stevie Prettyman is running again as is Gail Bartkovich and presumably Joe Holloway. It leaves John Cannon and Sheree Sample-Hughes as swing votes; however, Sheree’s affirmative vote on the last proposal may be in some part because she is the first County Council member to draw an opponent in Dave Goslee, Jr.

Former Councilman Ed Taylor and newcomer Ryan Hohman are in the race for at-large County Council positions (one of which will open up with McCain’s departure) and their stance on the night meetings can be made into an issue as well.

So, I suppose my thought is not to sweat the small stuff but make it into an issue of good government where leadership on the concept can be rewarded this November at the ballot box.

Solutions to our problems

Tonight Wicomico County Councilman Bill McCain hosted a townhall-style meeting designed to solicit solutions to the county’s present and upcoming budget woes. While yesterday’s Daily Times article pointed out that McCain was looking for suggested possible fixes, many of the nearly two dozen speakers had a single message: taxes are too high and they couldn’t afford anymore increases there. “Stay within your budget,” warned resident Kay Gibson.

A number of speakers echoed their personal economic struggles; resident Ed Nelson said it well when he noted, “times are tough for everyone.”

But Bill was blunt: “you will have serious, serious services eliminated in Wicomico County” next year – “what are you willing to give up?” He continued, “we need to do things differently…unfortunately, we have capped ourselves on the revenue side.”

McCain is in somewhat of a unique position, as the FY2011 budget will be the last he’ll have input into – he’s chosen not to seek re-election, maintaining his original plan to serve one term. But he was determined to maintain his home and business here, so it’s obvious McCain is planning to stay involved. Two other council members who would presumably maintain their positions, John Cannon and Sheree Sample-Hughes, were also in attendance.

The county’s Board of Education was also a favorite whipping boy of some. Many speakers advocated the accountability an elected school board would provide.

On that note, all three Council members present were put on the spot by questioner Joe Collins, who wanted to know how they stood on an elected school board. McCain was a firm “no,” citing the “diverse” school board we presently have. Cannon and Sample-Hughes held their cards closer to their chest, with John stating a “70-30” likelihood of support and Sample-Hughes wanting to study the particulars more – she did indicate her district was relatively supportive as was she on a personal level.

While a number of speakers commented on the revenue cap and didn’t want to see it go away, a couple observers pled for “investment.” Mark Cullen, representing the county’s volunteer firefighters, pointed out that the $4 million provided by the county covers less than half of the expenses. Instead, we’re “burning our personnel out doing fundraisers.” (Surely there was no pun intended.)

County resident John Groutt blasted the “simplistic” solutions offered by the number of “TEA Partiers” in the audience and preached “we need to invest in our children.” We also needed to address the issue of sprawl. On the other hand, it was also properly pointed out that areas which tax heavily tend to have difficulty maintaining businesses and jobs.

Most of those commenting were critical of the county’s current spending, but there were a number of good ideas pitched for consideration. Among them were:

  • Hiring a full-time auditor. The problem is that the county’s charter dictates the auditor be a CPA but the salary may not be sufficient.
  • Rein in the liquor control board.
  • Make union negotiations public as they are in Calvert County.
  • Eliminate the two at-large County Council positions.
  • Eliminate the County Executive’s Public Information Officer.
  • Instead of layoffs being the “last resort” they should be the “first resort.”
  • Replace the revenue cap with a tax rate cap, with exemptions for those on fixed incomes.
  • Rescind the increase in teacher’s retirement benefits.
  • Verify that all measures called for in the 2002 Parsons study are being followed.
  • Selling off any surplus land the county owns (my idea.)
  • Perhaps collecting some sort of tax on property owned by Salisbury University (also my idea.)

It’s worthy of note that in the last decade Wicomico County went from having the fourth highest property tax rate in the state to the fourth lowest. And if you consider education, public safety, and public works as “core functions” of government, McCain said that we spend 76% of our budget dollars on those items.

There’s no question that severe cuts will be seen when County Executive Rick Pollitt releases his FY2011 budget April 8th. But the dialogue tonight seems to suggest that raising taxes is going to be out of the question for overburdened county residents who will likely see tax increases on the federal and state levels.

Wicomico County Council approves spending others’ money

In a hardly surprising move, the Wicomico County Council voted to accept the $300,000 per acre price for five acres across to the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, spending $1.5 million in state money to purchase the land and put up a parking lot. The land had been used for years as supplemental parking for the WYCC anyway, but developers threatened to charge the county monthly rent and County Council chose not to call their bluff.

The vote was 4-3 to accept the offer, with Council President Gail Bartkovich and Councilmen Joe Holloway and Stevie Prettyman objecting. Previous to this vote, the Council did approve an amendment to make the purchase contingent on securing the promised Program Open Space money.

During the discussion preceding the vote, John Cannon asked whether the land was needed, but voted for it anyway based on the business interests behind it. Fellow Councilman Sheree Sample-Hughes termed her support as a “quality of life” issue. For his part, Bill McCain added the “stars are just right” for purchasing the land and spoke about the effort to secure the POS dollars – it was a “great deal.” David MacLeod cited a 3:1 ratio of e-mails in support vs. opposition.

On the other hand, “this is not a win-win situation for the county,” said Prettyman. Joe Holloway cited current economic condidtions  as the reason for his opposition. Similarly, Bartkovich noted she could support this in “a better time and place” but for the public “the problem is the price.”

So now we’ve allocated the money to park near a white elephant with several weaknesses – the building is showing its age (built in the late 1970’s after its predecessor burned down in a spectacular fire), its capacity is too small to attract major sporting events and big-name concerts, and due to a legal covenant no alcohol sales are allowed on the site. In a decade or so, once regional economic fortunes turn around, the building will be a relic and the county will have this land – possibly along with another 15 acres adjacent to the newly purchased site at another $250,000 per acre.

Nor is the cost of converting the land from parking to parking factored in – the new purchase means the property needs to be compliant with new state regulations for storm drainage. Overall, the newly renovated site will provide parking for about 500 cars.

Perhaps the lot can be dedicated when it’s finished, and I have the perfect name to adopt for the new additional parking which will be used maybe 50 days a year: how about “Pollitt’s Folly?”

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • 2018 Election

    Election Day is November 6 for all of us. With the Maryland primary by us and a shorter widget, I’ll add the Delaware statewide federal offices (Congress and U.S. Senate) to the mix once their July 10 filing deadline is passed. Their primary is September 6.

    Maryland

    Governor

    Larry Hogan (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Shawn Quinn (Libertarian) – Facebook

    Ben Jealous (D) – Facebook Twitter

    Ian Schlakman (Green) Facebook Twitter

     

    U.S. Senate

    Tony Campbell (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Ben Cardin (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Arvin Vohra (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    There are three independent candidates currently listed as seeking nomination via petition: Steve Gladstone, Michael Puskar, and Neal Simon. All have to have the requisite number of signatures in to the state BoE by August 6.

     

    U.S. Congress -1st District

    Andy Harris (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Jenica Martin (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    Jesse Colvin (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    State Senate – District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R – incumbent) – Facebook

    Holly Wright (D) – Facebook

     

    Delegate – District 37A

    Frank Cooke (R) – Facebook

    Sheree Sample-Hughes (D – incumbent) – Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 37B (elect 2)

    Chris Adams (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Johnny Mautz (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Dan O’Hare (D) – Facebook

     

    State Senate – District 38

    Mary Beth Carozza (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Jim Mathias (D – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38A

    Charles Otto (R – incumbent)

    Kirkland Hall, Sr. (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38C

    Wayne Hartman (R) – Facebook

     

    Delaware

     

    U.S. Senate

     

    Republican:

    Rob ArlettFacebook Twitter

    Roque de la FuenteFacebook Twitter

    Gene Truono, Jr. –  Facebook

     

    Libertarian (no primary, advances to General):

    Nadine Frost – Facebook

     

    Democrat:

    Tom Carper (incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Kerri Evelyn HarrisFacebook Twitter

     

    Green (no primary, advances to General):

    Demitri Theodoropoulos

     

     

    Congress (at-large):

     

    Republican:

    Lee MurphyFacebook Twitter

    Scott Walker

     

    Democrat (no primary, advances to General):

    Lisa Blunt Rochester (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I provide this service to readers. But before you click on the picture below, just remember their message:

  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.