40th annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

It was awful tempting to jump on into that water, but several thousand people managed to sweat their way through another hot Tawes Crab and Clam Bake. While Republicans tend to have a little more presence in the area, some of the Tawes regulars were absent because the event coincided this year with the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

That convention minted the GOP Presidential nominee, who seemed to be pretty popular.

That group of signs dwindled little by little, as Trump adorned a number of tents. On the other hand, there were far fewer Hillary signs – but the Democrats also had their crowded space.

Sarah Meyers (in the blue shirt) is a friend of mine, and she was tearing her hair out as the coordinator there because they overbooked the space. (You may see her at the Democratic Convention next week, as she will be there as a page.) By the same token, the Somerset Republicans only went with one tent as well and it was packed, too. So both parties had close quarters.

Yet the businesses seemed to have ample space. I didn’t peek into every tent, but many of them (as well as businesses lining State Route 413 into Crisfield) had a simple message: welcome Governor Hogan.

Even lobbyist Bruce Bereano, who always has the largest space, got into that act.

Yet among those businesses I did pick out I found an odd juxtaposition there, particularly under the auspices of the local economic development commission.

In order, these businesses are Cleanbay Renewables, which is a chicken waste recycling firm, Pinnacle Engineering, which services NASA, the Somers Cove Marina Commission, and Great Bay Solar I. The last is interesting because this project was originally supposed to be wind turbines, but objections to the siting of the turbine towers from the Navy forced the company to go solar, making lemonade out of lemons. With the exception of Pinnacle, the state has sort of forced the market for the other two businesses.

Yet on the other side was a law firm that objects to the approach the state is using to clean Chesapeake Bay through its Clean Chesapeake Coalition. They believe much of the problem comes from the sediment that leaches out from behind Conowingo Dam in severe storms.

I happen to think the CCC has a pretty good case.

Speaking of business, the food business did pretty well there. Almost too well.

According to my cell phone camera, which took all my photos today, I took that picture at 12:01 as I walked over to get in line for food. Here is the end result, 46 minutes and four lines later.

I actually asked for the onion rings as I inched closer to the front of the French fry line. And I certainly don’t fault the crew because they worked hard, even toward the end when I snapped this.

I think the issue is the increasing use of “runners” who get multiple orders of food and slow down the lines. It seemed like every third person in line was one, which meant those who just wanted to fend for themselves had to wait.

The guy who didn’t have to wait in line was Governor Larry Hogan, because I don’t think he ate a bite.

This is a second segment of time lapse. I took this photo above in the area where the food lines were at 1:57 p.m. Now, let me ask you: where’s Hogan?

He’s barely visible in the center of the photo, obscured by Delegate Charles Otto in the pinkish shirt. In 35 minutes he had advanced maybe 80 yards thanks to the crush of well-wishers who wanted to shake his hand, have a photo with him (although he suggested it in a number of cases) and perhaps say their piece. I was in the latter group as I wanted to thank him for his stance on the Presidential election. Larry commented that he had noticed the reception I’ve received on social media a couple times as it echoed a lot of what he had seen on his.

Stay strong, Governor.

The two major-party candidates for U.S. Senator were also there. Now I missed Democrat Chris Van Hollen – perhaps because I didn’t recognize him walking around – but I did get a glimpse of Kathy Szeliga from the GOP.

Of the people I saw and photographed, she was one of the few I didn’t speak to at least a little bit. I don’t blame her – our paths just didn’t cross but once.

Of course, a few locals managed to be in front of my camera, such as Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who brought her family and a batch of others from Worcester County.

She was speaking to Duane Keenan from Red Maryland.

The other half of Worcester County must have come with Senator Jim Mathias, who had a number of folks with a matching shirt to his. He was a little peaked by the time I took the moment to thank him for his assistance with the school board election bill.

Yet while we had hot and cold running politicians there, we also had a lot of media asking questions. I noted Duane Keenan above, but here’s Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post (right) speaking to Jackie Wellfonder. Jackie made the cut in Ovetta’s story.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Mike Bradley, who hosts WGMD’s morning show out of Lewes, Delaware. Since his station covers a fair amount of the lower Shore in its signal, he was interviewing some of the local players. It’s a very good show that I catch once I cross into Delaware on my way to work.

And it could be that the Tawes event is becoming one for the greater Delmarva area. A delegation of elected officials from the First State included Representative Tim Dukes, who covers the Laurel and Delmar areas in his 40th District.

The reason I’m in the photo on the right: it was taken by Dukes’ fellow representative (and Minority Leader in the Delaware House) Danny Short of Seaford. Since we’re neighbors with Delaware it was nice to see some of their elected officials, too.

In that respect, this coverage was a little lacking because I did a lot of walking and talking to a number of nice folks from around the state. I want to say I overheard Jackie Wellfonder say this, but Tawes really is “like a big ‘ol family reunion.” We don’t often see a lot of politicians travel across the bridge but for attending Tawes, so you have to say hello and speak your piece when you can.

The War on Rural Maryland: a counterattack from the hinterland

In the ongoing quest by Martin O’Malley and his administration to burnish his environmental credentials for a possible presidential run, the farmers of the Eastern Shore have been placed squarely in his crosshairs. I suppose this is MOM’s way to catch the fourteen counties not yet affected by his “rain tax,” although some local municipalities are joining in on that fun without waiting on the mandate.

At the beginning of the month, the administration began once again to try and enact the Phosphorus Management Tool, or PMT. The timing was important because the mandated public comment period comes to a close December 31, three weeks before MOM rides off into the proverbial sunset. Appeals for a public hearing have thus far fallen on deaf ears, so the comment period is really the only opportunity to make our voice heard. (Comments should be addressed to Maryland’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Hance. His e-mail address is earl.hance@maryland.gov.)

Needless to say, the environmentalists are thrilled about this prospect, including a “Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition” which doesn’t have a single farming-related entity within it. They note the 48,000 pounds (24 tons) of phosphorus the PMT is supposed to alleviate. Remember that number because it comes up later.

The Clean Chesapeake Coalition (CCC) chimed in with its appeal, which states in part:

In furtherance of this objective and in the interests of its individual county members, the Coalition opposes the re-proposed regulations and requests MDA to withdraw the regulations for the reasons explained below. In sum, the implementation costs to farmers, the costs to taxpayers, the adverse impacts on local and regional economies, and the overall added strain from more piled on Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (“TMDL”) driven regulations far outweigh the purported reduction in overall phosphorus loading to Maryland waters and other speculative environmental benefits that may result from the PMT regulations.

In reading their ten-page letter to Secretary of Agriculture Earl Hance, the points made by the CCC appear to be as follows:

  • The economic effect on businesses is “grossly understate(d).” While the BEACON study was done in order to satisfy the demand for a study of these effects, its author admits it “was not meant to serve as a comprehensive economic impact study.”
  • Remember that 24 tons of phosphorus these regulations address, at a cost of $61 million over six years in increased expenses from farmers and state subsidies? The flow running through the Conowingo Dam spews out 3,300 tons of phosphorus a year – it’s like sticking your finger in the hole in the dike and ignoring the water pouring over the top. Meanwhile, the pond behind the dam has another 130,000 tons just waiting to be scoured out in a significant storm event.
  • Phosphorus concentration in tributaries of the Susquehanna River north of the dam is over 3.5 times greater than comparable tributaries on the Eastern Shore.

On that last point, it’s helpful to use the illustration the CCC provides:

Phosphorus is loaded into the Bay at an average annual rate of 3,300 tons (6,600,000 lbs.) from the Susquehanna River; not including what is scoured from the full reservoirs in the lower Susquehanna during storm events and on a more regular basis. Maryland’s annual average phosphorus loading to the Bay from agriculture of 985 tons (1,970,000 lbs.) is minimal when compared to the Susquehanna River.

Earlier this month, Exelon withdrew its request for renewal of its hydroelectric license at Conowingo Dam because more study of its effects on water quality downstream were desired. The utility has agreed to spend up to $3.5 million on studies of water quality downstream. It appears they’ve also become aware of the detrimental effects on the Chesapeake Bay, yet the environmentalists don’t seem to be interested nearly as much in Exelon and in the Conowingo Dam as they are the poultry industry.

A Washington Post story over the weekend noted the controversy, including remarks from Wicomico County farmer Lee Richardson, who seems to be something of a go-to guy when it comes to poultry growers. Many of the reader comments on the Post piece, though, illustrate the divide between the urban and suburban hipster whose idea of poultry is the organic chicken they buy at Whole Foods and the beleaguered grower who already has to comply with numerous state and federal guidelines without having to worry about arrangements to truck chicken droppings out of the area. The Post readers blame the industry itself, saying that its not carrying its weight in addressing the concerns about water quality – bear in mind these are the people who were just fine with enacting a nickel-per-bird “chicken tax” called the Poultry Fair Share Act which was supposed to raise $15 million a year.

In that fiscal note from the Senate bill, it’s noted that the Eastern Shore has “over 700″ poultry farmers. For ease of calculations, I’ll set the number at 750. If the cost to farmers is $22.5 million over 6 years – as estimated in the BEACON study – it works out to $30,000 per farmer over the six-year period or $5,000 a year. That’s a significant compliance cost – assuming, of course, it’s really true because government estimates are generally optimistic on revenues and short on expenditures.

So here’s hoping that our efforts can bear fruit and stop this particular piece of madness once and for all. There’s still time to comment.

38th annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

Once again, thousands came to Crisfield and heeded this advice.

Somers Cove Marina was set up a little differently this year, but the real difference was that the attendees didn’t soak through their clothes this year – instead, the day was cloudy but relatively comfortable, with only a small touch of humidity. Most years this setup – by a local engineering firm, naturally – would be oh so handy. But not so much this year.

One key difference in the arrangement this year was the prominence of this tent.

Annapolis lobbyist Bruce Bereano always has a crowded party, and it’s a bipartisan affair.

The GOP tent this time was set up behind Bruce’s, and it was a hub of activity for the Republican side. A lot of local and state hopefuls were there at some point.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan decided to have his own space, which ended up by the side entrance.

On the other side of the Republican tent and just around the corner, the Democrats were set up close to their usual rear location along the waterfront. Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton was holding court there. (He’s in the white at the center, in shades.)

By and large, though, most of those in attendance were interested in one thing. See the light blue lean-to to the left of the Sysco trailers in the photo below? That’s where the crabs were being served, and the line indeed stretched that far back 15 minutes before the announced noon opening – they really start serving about 11:30 or so.

I think the longest wait I had was about 10 minutes for the Boardwalk fries. As it turns out, I’m not a crab eater – but I like the fried clams and the fish sandwiches. Oh, and there’s a few politicians there too, but I’ll get to that in due course because I can find the political in a lot of things – except perhaps this.

The hosts of a locally-produced show called “Outdoors Delmarva” always seem to find time to tape a segment here.

Another local business I always find at Tawes made a very classy, and apolitical, gesture this year.

But I do find the irony in some things. For example, those of you familiar with the Hudson case may appreciate some here.

It seems to me the UM law school was on the other side of the fence before, as opposed to this group, part of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, which tends to take agriculture’s side as well as that of local government.

One other thing worth pointing out is the media frenzy this event creates. Here’s Delegate (and Senate candidate) Mike McDermott being interviewed. Wonder how much they actually used?

Most of the excitement occurs when the top members of the respective tickets arrive. Hogan had the tent but didn’t come until the event was well underway. His entrance was rather modest.

Oh, did I tell you pretty much everyone in the tent was waiting for him?

Naturally, everyone wanted to get their quote from him – perhaps even the tracker from the Brown campaign. I’m told Hogan has one.

While I’ve been critical of the Hogan campaign throughout, the way their team handled today was outstanding. This was the first stop I noticed him making after all the interviews were through.

In case you can’t read the sign above, it’s the tent of the Somerset County Economic Development Commission. To me, that was the perfect place to be seen.

They took a little time to meet and greet; they being both Hogan and running mate Boyd Rutherford. But the point was that I didn’t see them walking around much – instead they were engaging voters.

As I noted earlier, there were a number of other politicos there, but the statewide Democrats were not well-represented. I did see their AG nominee Brian Frosh. He’s the small guy in the center, violating the Don Murphy rule about not wearing white.

Notably absent, though, was the top of their ticket, Anthony Brown. It’s odd because he’s been here a few times.

One guy who wouldn’t dare miss this is local Delegate Charles Otto (center.) His Democratic opponent is the just-replaced former mayor of Crisfield, which certainly made for interesting retail politics for them.

A guy who lost his primary, Muir Boda (left) was out supporting those who won – and yes, Johnny Mautz was in the house. Muir’s with Democratic Wicomico County Council candidate Josh Hastings (right.)

All told, there were a lot of people there. I took this panoramic shot about quarter to three, which is just before those who had their fill begin to trickle out.

One other difference was not seeing all the Red Maryland crew there, although I did speak to Duane Keenan, who does a radio show on their network. Another media guy trying to drum up business was Phil Tran, who you couldn’t help but notice.

The other new media people I saw there were Jackie Wellfonder – although she hasn’t blogged about her experiences yet, she did burn up Twitter – and Jonathan Taylor of Lower Eastern Shore News, who has his own photo spread.

But as the event came to an end, we know that by week’s end Somers Cove will be back to normal.

In 2015 the Tawes event should be good for sizing up the lone statewide race in 2016. While Barbara Mikulski has given no indication on whether she will retire, the soon-to-be 78-year-old senior Maryland Senator may not like being in the minority come next year and could decide to call it a career. We should know by next July.

The flip side of twenty bucks

Since there’s not a lot of political news going on right at the moment because half the state is buried under the global warming provided by a February nor’easter, I thought I would highlight a real step in the right direction in cleaning up Chesapeake Bay.

In a 10-page letter released last week by the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, the group collectively blasted the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) for stating certain localities “want to keep creeks dirty” and for an overall focus on punitive taxes and regulations for Marylanders while glossing over problems upstream from the Chesapeake. (The letter can be read in its entirety here.)

As a whole, the CBF has rarely met a restrictive regulation it didn’t like, even condemning other states for standing up for their interests, which happen to be congruent with those of farmers in this case. It seems they are at war with the agricultural industry nationwide, and their argument that these pollution limits actually create jobs reads as a variation of the “broken window” theory – how much capital and job creation is lost because we’re being forced into these relatively unproductive pursuits? Obviously it’s a bone of contention whether lasting results will be achievable without both cleanup of the Conowingo sediment and further cooperation from states upstream.

And thus the argument about making Salisbury property owners pay a fee ranging from $20 to thousands annually for the privilege of being within city limits. You can’t convince me that, even if we knock ourselves out and somehow manage to achieve the 2025 standards set by the EPA – with legal assistance from the CBF, who sued them to get the desired result – that the CBF will consider the matter solved and the taxes no longer necessary. Nope, this is a permanent thing we’re being signed up for, and eventually all of Wicomico County will be forced to join in.

The problem with government, and even quasi-governmental agencies like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, is that they have no end game because it’s not in their interest to have one. Solving the problem would mean ceasing to exist, and the CBF is a cash cow bringing in over $30 million annually, with nearly $6 million going to administration and fundraising. That’s a goodly number of people who would have to find honest work otherwise, and the power of steering state and federal policy is a further intoxicant. (Of course, the same is true of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, but I sense they would rather not see the need to exist.)

So we have a choice – the old BOHICA approach or taking a stand for common sense and local control. Can you guess where I stand?

A call to defensive action

A snowstorm two weeks ago delayed a planned work session of the Wicomico County Council to discuss the merits of joining the Clean Chesapeake Coalition. In my original piece I brought up the potential of the entire Radical Green crew showing up at the meeting to tell us we need to toe the state’s line that the rain tax is the only way to proceed.

As it turns out, the delay brings us around to an evening meeting, beginning at 6 p.m. tomorrow night, February 4. And as the Wicomico Society of Patriots points out, other items will be on the docket as well:

You may recall that the CCC is challenging the way the state is implementing Bay cleanup efforts. They emphasize putting scarce revenue resources where they will have the most benefit to the Bay. They also question the economic sense of putting billions of taxpayer dollars into one-size-fits-all, top down, solutions that not only will have severe and documented economic impacts on our region, but they emphasize that the State’s regulatory overreach will further erode our property rights and along with it our property values.

It is strongly rumored that key members of the environmental community will be there to oppose this commitment by the county to support the work of the CCC. It is vital that you be there to make your concerns known, whether you actually speak or by virtue of your mere presence.

Also, please plan to be there for the regular council legislative session. The council will hear testimony on the $3.47 million budget shortfall, which was apparently due to overly optimistic revenue estimates by Mr. Andy Mackle’s office, and how to deal with it. Also, there will be discussion and a vote on whether to grant raises to the offices of county sheriff, county administrator, and county council.

To put things in perspective, the annual raises put together will probably not equal the $25,000 the Clean Chesapeake Coalition asks for. And I can already picture Radical Green’s argument that the budget deficit surely precludes spending the money. Honestly, I don’t mind the raises for the County Council; in fact, I would argue they should make the wage an amount more commensurate to that of a full-time worker, at least for one term. (We can reserve the declining salary idea I had for the General Assembly for a second term, since I think $40,000 a year may attract a better field of local candidates to County Council.)

Having said that, though, I think that if there’s a chance that spending $25,000 gives us a chance of being off the hook for $1 billion or so – depending on whose estimate you believe – in the long run, we should take it. Otherwise, we’re being asked to annually spend an amount of money (page 27 here) which is not that far away from the county’s total budget of around $120 million. Instead, the CCC has a rational plan to deal with the problem at its source first and see how much progress is made by that step. Granted, I would like to know that cost estimate but it’s likely to be far less than the state’s proposals.

Moreover, I think this environmental sword of Damocles hangs over our local business community and contributes to the employment shortfall which has led to the loss of revenue.  Let’s face it: at the present time Wicomico County doesn’t have a lot going for it in terms of a business-friendly tax policy or infrastructure to move goods from point A to point, and B we’re hemorrhaging jobs because of these disadvantages. Obviously a great deal can be done with a change in state leadership, but local officials need to do their part as well and supporting the work of the CCC seems to be an effective step in the right direction.

So, since I cannot make it Tuesday night due to a previous commitment, consider this my open letter to County Council supporting the Clean Chesapeake Coalition and its efforts.

WCRC meeting – January 2014

It’s a new year, and apparently people are pent up with political desire. Benefitting from this enthusiasm in particular were Comptroller candidate William Campbell and District 37B hopeful Dr. Rene Desmarais, both of whom were our featured speakers tonight.

So once we handled the usual opening of reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance and introducing the growing number of distinguished guests, we heard mainly from Campbell and Desmarais about their proposals if elected. We began with the second-time Comptroller candidate, who ran for the same post in 2010.

The reason he ran, said Campbell, was that he met the incumbent. But Comptroller was the “second most important vote you’ll make” behind the governor’s race. The Comptroller, Campbell continued, acts as the watchdog over the “rapacious” actions of our governor and legislature.

He also has a vote on the Maryland Board of Public Works, and if Republicans are elected to both the governor and comptroller posts they could “end the lunacy” in Maryland’s spending.

Chief among those flaws was pension funding. Campbell explained that a program which was fully funded just 12 years ago was only 65% funded when he ran in 2010 and is down to 60% now – although William argued that new accounting standards could prove that number to be closer to 50% funding. It’s a $40 billion unfunded liability.

Finally among the Comptroller’s chief duties is regulation of alcohol, fuel, and tobacco in the state of Maryland.

He went on to outline his qualifications, which were more than sufficient for the job: 9 years as chief financial officer of the United States Coast Guard, a stint as CFO of the Department of Veterans Affairs – where he oversaw a $65 billion budget and 225,000 employees; figures which dwarf the state of Maryland – and two years at Amtrak, which is still a money pit but “lost less money with me.” His planning to address the shortfall enabled Amtrak to buy locomotives for the first time in decades.

After leaving Amtrak, he did pro bono work for NASA, making their books auditable for the first time in years. Campbell did it for free because “I believe in good government.”

Speaking to his 2010 run, he conceded that he started late and ran a campaign with no more than 4 figures in the bank and 30,000 miles on his truck. Yet he outpolled U.S. Senate candidate Eric Wargotz, who spent far more money, garnering 691,461 votes and only trailing Bob Ehrlich by about 85,000 votes (Ehrlich had 776,319, which translated to 3% more.) He learned that you have to get voters to know you, like you, and trust you, so he started running last year for 2014. “I know the things to fix,” concluded Campbell.

When asked about how he would deal with Annapolis Democrats, Campbell’s initial inclination would be that of “quiet persuasion,” but it would escalate to that of a bully pulpit if needed. “I see a lot of ignorance in Annapolis,” said Campbell.

He was also asked if marijuana would fall under his supervision if legalized. It would, but the $150 million projected annual revenue was “a rounding error” in a budget of $40 billion. More important was the lack of attention to the pension fund, which should ideally be replenished to the tune of $500 million a year but was getting $350 million or less under Martin O’Malley. He charged current Comptroller Peter Franchot with “not living up to his fiduciary responsibility” by his handling of the pension funds, including coming in way short of the 7.5% annual return projections are based on.

Turning things over to Dr. Rene Desmarais, he began by stating the obvious: “Health care is a mess.” If elected, Desmarais added, he would be the only Republican doctor in the House of Delegates.

Desmarais was more brief, given a tighter time constraint, but spoke about three distinct themes: vision, connection, and opportunity.

The lack of vision in Annapolis was apparent in that there was no help in getting from point A to point B – government was just asked to solve the problem. This was true, not just in health care, but in a broad array of subjects like education, phosphorous regulations, and even the Second Amendment, Desmarais argued.

Connections abound from health care to a number of political topics, added Rene, but he spent part of the time discussing the connections to Obamacare, which has “22 missing things” and “done harm to people.”

Yet we also have opportunity because of a unique hospital payment system which can be the foundation to making needed changes. It would take a “message of clarity”for Republicans to succeed overall, but it can be done. Moreover, Maryland “can push the reset button” on the health insurance market, providing a better alternative than the current system where Eastern Shore residents get to choose from a whopping two insurance providers through the state exchange.

That concluded the portion of the program devoted to our guest speakers, but the treasurer’s report was brief and club president Jackie Wellfonder recounted a breakfast held with Delegate Addie Eckardt a week ago Saturday before yielding her time to County Council member Joe Holloway.

Holloway wanted to remind us that the County Council would meet next Tuesday evening (February 4) and discuss the recently-discovered $3;7 million revenue shortfall in the county’s budget, along with raises for various county officials and the allocation of $25,000 to the Clean Chesapeake Coalition.

In a Central Committee report which was more brief than usual, Dave Parker pointed out a candidate conference call slated for Tuesday and that the deadline for candidates was approaching quickly. “This could be a very good year for Republicans,” said Parker. We also heard plans for the Lincoln Day Dinner, which promises to be a memorable event if we can pull off getting our preferred guest speaker.

Turning to club business, we nominated new officers for 2014 – a simple process as all but one current officer volunteered to stay on. So we nominated one person to fill the vacancy and nominations were closed.

After that, we heard quickly from a number of other candidates who updated their campaign status. John Cannon, who served from 2006-10 on County Council, has decided to return to the at-large position he vacated to run for Delegate. He praised the current Council for making sure tha county didn’t tax its way out of the recession, and said his campaign would be based on business and job growth. Businesses “can’t find educated and drug-free workers in Wicomico,” said Cannon.

District 37B hopeful Johnny Mautz, Jr. invited people to a campaign kickoff in St. Michaels on February 9 from 4-6 p.m.

Matt Maciarello, our State’s Attorney, pointed with some pride to the fact that Salisbury has improved from the 4th most dangerous city per capita in the country to 52nd most over his tenure, although he was disappointed to find we were still on the top 100 list. Matt was more pleased, though, with the renovation of an old downtown building into new offices for his department along with space for the Maryland State Police, Sheriff’s Department, Salisbury city police, Children’s Services, and room for therapy for abuse victims.

Larry Dodd was another interested in a return to County Council, where he served from 2002-2006. He praised outgoing Council members Stevie Prettyman and Gail Bartkovich as being a “hard act to follow” – he’s running for the District 3 seat Bartkovich is vacating – and stressed his tenure on the Board of Education (where he’s a current member) as an advantage.

District 38B hopeful Carl Anderton, Jr. spoke about how he’s already “made a mark” in Annapolis, where the traditional introduction of the Maryland Municipal League president at the opening ceremony of the Maryland General Assembly was somehow skipped this year – coincidentally, he’s running against longtime member Norm Conway. Anderton also quipped that the state “wasted $100 million on a website that doesn’t work” but he spent $20 on his and it runs just fine. Carl’s having a meet-and-greet at Main Roots Coffee on Saturday from 11-1, added campaign manager Bunky Luffman.

Marc Kilmer, running for District 2 County Council, stated that the coverage of the $3.7 million county shortfall ignored a key fact – the budget went up by $10.9 million from the year before. We need fiscal discipline and not the “sky is falling rhetoric” the county seems to employ.

Touching on that, Joe Holloway praised local activists Johnnie Miller and John Palmer for trying to bring that shortfall to the county’s attention. “We were warned” that the county was being overly optimistic on revenue projections, Joe said.

On behalf of Christopher Adams, Jackie Wellfonder let us know he was still out knocking on doors and talking to people.

Finally, we were asked if any Democrats were in any of the races. At this point, the only Democrats who have filed are the incumbent Clerk of the Courts and Register of Wills, along with two seeking the District 1 County Council seat.

It really wasn’t a lengthy meeting, but it turned out to be chock full of information. The next meeting is February 24, with a speaker to be determined.

Opposing a good idea

This came to me from the Wicomico Society of Patriots:

Citizens of Wicomico:

There is a county council meeting this Tuesday, January 21, at 10 a.m. that should not be missed by anyone concerned about their property rights, property values, and drastically increasing levels of taxation.

Your input is essential to let the counsel know how you feel about this county fighting back against legislation and regulation that will significantly effect our way of life here on the shore. The Septic Bill (SB236), the Phosphorus regulations, the Accounting For Growth land use regulations, and the 1.2 billion dollar estimated cost for imposing the Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan (on Wicomico County alone) are in play this Tuesday.

Several weeks ago in conjunction with a County Council meeting our County Executive, Rick Pollitt, pledged his support and that of the county in backing the work of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition. He also pledged $25,000 to help with the work of the Coalition. The Clean Chesapeake Coalition is the working group for those counties and other organizations and individuals who believe strongly that the state’s efforts at Bay cleanup, including those listed in the paragraph above, are not supported by sound science and will impose huge costs on individuals and businesses with very little if any measurable gain in the stated goal of Bay water quality improvement. The work of the Coalition is an outgrowth of the activism on the part of those Maryland rural counties who began to organize over two years ago in response to these onerous, questionable, and prohibitively expensive state mandates.

Partly in response to pressure from environmental groups, the Wicomico County Council voted to allow testimony and public comments in a future council work session prior to the council voting whether to go forward with county support for the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, or not. That work session is this Tuesday and should start around 12:30. I hope I can count on you to be there; and please pass the word.

So here’s the scoop: bowing to the same environmentalists who take the ideas “not supported by sound science” as gospel, the County Council is going to allow them to speak and try to back the county away from the $25,000 investment in the Clean Chesapeake Coalition. I’m not thrilled about dropping $25,000 on the effort, but if it saves us the $1.2 billion tab the county is supposedly on the hook for it would be money well-spent.

Obviously the same old environmentalist wackos will be there to spout their tired line that we need to pay more to make sure the Bay is pristine. They probably were tipped off to the hearing before anyone else.

I also realize that many of us work for a living; in addition, the weatherman is predicting about 4 to 8 inches of global warming, er, snow for tomorrow. For some, no big deal, but on Delmarva many freak out at the sight of a flake so proceedings may be delayed. It’s also worth pointing out that a future vote is in the offing for this so you can make your feelings known after the hearing (if it occurs) as well.

We all want the Chesapeake Bay to be a usable body of water for all those who depend on it. But the question is truly whether the additional taxes and restrictions on our freedom to develop our property as we see fit are worth a marginal improvement in water quality which could be wiped out by inaction by another state. In my opinion, the answer is no.

Update: the work session scheduled for this afternoon has been cancelled. Those environmentalists who worship Gaia may be cursing her for bringing the half-foot of snow and giving the side of common sense more of a heads-up to prepare.

Constitutional defender speaks in Salisbury

The crowd at the Wicomico Maryland Society of Patriots meeting, January 15, 2013. It was a pretty packed house last night for the Wicomico Maryland Society of Patriots meeting, in part because it was a joint meeting with Worcester County’s TEA Party chapter and partly because we had a strident Constitutional defender speaking. That gentleman is familiar to liberty lovers across Maryland as a leader who conceded that the Democrats and unions will be gunning for his seat next year. “They hate me,” said Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild.

But before Richard spoke, we had to get some of the preliminaries out of the way: a prayer, which was originally uttered by Thomas Jefferson in 1801, the Pledge of Allegiance, the assessment by host Dr. Greg Belcher that “I’m pretty confident we’ll have some good information” coming out of this meeting, and some words from Sam Hale of the Maryland Society of Patriots, who characterized our situation as “not only fighting for our freedom, but fighting for our lives.”

We also introduced a number of elected officials and other public figures, including three members of Wicomico County Council (President Matt Holloway, Vice-President Bob Culver, and former President Joe Holloway), Jim Bunting of the Worcester County Commissioners. and a number of Republican Central Committee members from Wicomico, Worcester, and Dorchester counties. Salisbury mayoral candidate Joe Albero also put in an appearance.

Matt Holloway alerted us to an upcoming hearing regarding how we’ll address the provisions of SB236 on February 20 at the Civic Center. It was also announced that Delegate Mike McDermott had filed a bill in the House of Delegates to repeal last year’s Senate Bill 236, which provided much of the impetus for tonight’s gathering. But as a pair of videos shown tonight revealed, the process has been in the words for nearly three decades.

Indeed, there was a lot to digest in the 2 1/2 hours we held court at The Legacy Restaurant, and I haven’t even gotten to what our featured speaker said yet. Granted, some of it – particularly on the Constitutional aspects of holding office – was rehashed from that which he said at the Turning the Tides conference on Saturday, but the Agenda 21 and SB236 information was less familiar. Some of it had appeared in 2011 at a conference he’d spoken at (before SB236 even passed) but a number of predictions Rothschild made within that presentation have panned out.

A pair of guests were pointed out by Richard, and they weren’t those you may expect at a TEA Party meeting. But the two came representing the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, venturing into enemy territory as it were. But Richard didn’t see it that way, encouraging the group to join the Clean Chesapeake Coalition of seven Maryland counties. And while he contended that conservatives were capable of abating more pollution than our liberal opponents, he assured the CBF representatives that “I am committed to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.”

Yet Richard also contended that “if it’s sound policy it won’t need to be forced by the state.” SB236 and PlanMaryland both fail that test. Moreover, Rothschild was distressed by the vague and undefined terms in PlanMaryland, giving several examples. To him, “‘sustainability’ is a euphemism for ‘government approved.’”

“I said to the state of Maryland, ‘let the free market do its work,’” repeated Richard.

Rothschild went on to explain that in the old days, planning was a map. Now it’s a goal, a movement, and a new way of life required by government. The “smart growth” concept was a noble idea, he continued, but it ignores empirical realities. “The facts do not support their assertions,” he said. One example of that was failing to take into account that clustering housing units as proponents of smart growth suggest won’t raise enough tax revenue per unit to be viable without a massive increase in the tax rate.

And if the numbers don’t support the correct assertions, then create new ones. Rothschild criticized the new Genuine Progress Indicator standard, in which some portions increase through negative outcomes – for example, if all of the job producers who make high incomes are driven out of the state, the “income inequality” indicator would reflect this in a positive direction. Never mind the higher unemployment and economic misery sure to follow. “This is Machiavellian,” said Richard.

Another facet of this push toward cleaning up the Bay by fiat was the uneven distribution of costs. Using what he termed “rough order of magnitude” costs as an example, in order to cover the increased costs of Watershed Implementation Plan compliance Carroll County would have to raise taxes 10 percent and Frederick County 20 percent. But those property owners here in Wicomico County would be saddled with a DOUBLING of the tax to cover a $1.2 billion overall cost – bear in mind our annual budget is not far north of $100 million.

Yet, as he described later, the state was less than aggressive in addressing the problems at the Conowingo Dam, where over 100 feet in depth of nitrogen-rich sediment has filled in the waterway behind the dam. In severe storms, that sediment escapes into the Bay, wreaking havoc on the uppermost portions of the estuary.

Part of this presentation was handled by Phil Hager, the Carroll County Director of Land Use, Planning, and Development. Rothschild noted that it took a long time to fill the position because “I couldn’t find a land use manager who respects the Constitution” until Phil came along.

Hagar focused on some of the nuts and bolts of the law, noting that SB236 was passed in lieu of a BAT (best available technology) law by the General Assembly. Instead, the Maryland Department of the Environment administratively enacted the BAT regulations a week after the session ended last year.

Phil also made it clear that Carroll County was not hurrying through SB236 compliance, instead choosing to address this as part of their comprehensive plan, with ample public input. He added that Cecil County passed its map “acting under duress and protest.” Wicomico County is charting a similar path to Carroll County’s, holding off on submitting a map until more public input is granted.

Returning to the podium, Richard stated the case again that we can’t be so bold and arrogant to presume we know what’s best for our children and grandchildren. Too many innovations can take place to assume what is now will always be – for example few know there once was massive concern over reliance on horses, dubbed the Horse Manure Crisis of 1894. Instead of being buried under tons of horse droppings, though, technology intervened as the automobile was invented.

“I personally believe this law demands nullification,” Rothschild asserted, adding “if I tried to go the other way (and make zoning less restrictive) I’d be told ‘you’re violating the law.’” Yet no one bats an eye at this process, whether it be intrusions on property rights, the Second Amendment – which Richard called “a God-given right that’s not negotiable” – or any other intrusion. “We (as counties) don’t project power,” said Richard.

Finally, Richard predicted 2013 would be the year of greenhouse gas in the Maryland General Assembly. The goals are already in place: a 15% reduction from 2006 levels by the year 2020 and 95% reduction by mid-century. The 15% reduction is expected to cost $20 billion, a toll which Rothschild charged would create “devastation of our economy of epic, Biblical proportions.”

He closed out by telling the crowd what many of us already harbor as a gut feeling: “It will end in a trainwreck.”

On the other hand, I found the meeting as informative as predicted. The good news is that PAC14 taped the proceedings, so at least some of it will be available for future viewing on our cable access channel as well as online.

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