WCRC meeting – October 2015

After a delay of a month caused by a trial that resulted in a conviction, we got to hear from Matt Maciarello tonight as our featured speaker. So we did the usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and roster of distinguished guests before received the treasurer’s report.

Matt went over the two key issues we’re having – juvenile crime and the opioid epidemic. Most of his time was spent talking about the latter, although he noted specific information on overdoses was hard to come by due to HIPAA restrictions. It was possible to deduce this information from other factors, though.

Noting that “you can’t arrest your way out of the problem,”  Maciarello pointed out that the county had what he described as an “opioid reduction officer,” who was tasked with, among other things, figuring out what other states were doing. One example Matt used was the TROSA program in North Carolina, where rehabbing addicts were both treated and taught one of five trades.

Closer to home Matt wanted to see a 24-hour call center established so those in need could be connected to resources like available treatment beds. He also wanted to differentiate the legal approach to those who sold heroin for profit as opposed to those who sold it to feed their habits, although the idea was to get both off the streets. He also advocated for better coordination of treatment, explaining that support shouldn’t end when a patient leaves the center. Many people need methadone treatment for months or even years afterward, he added.

Yet there was a compassionate side to the approach. Matt believed we needed to “take away the shame from opioid addiction” because it’s touched a lot of lives and people shouldn’t be discouraged from getting help. Many times the problem began with over-prescription of legal drugs or kids accessing their parents’ medication, Eventually this can lead to heroin addiction, which is dangerous because of how the drug is “cut” with other compounds.

Juveniles were also a concern for Maciarello, who noted we have “a critical mass of anti-social teens.”  Matt seemed a little frustrated with the current juvenile system, which he had “broad philosophical issues” with. A different path he spent some time encouraging was that of mentoring, for which there is a critical need based on a lengthy waiting list of youth looking for one. Even an hour a week can make a difference, said Matt! and he encouraged the club to be a leader in that regard. We were pleased to learn County Executive Bob Culver was on board with this idea, as Culver revealed some employee policy changes to accommodate the need were in the works.

Opioids accounted for about 70 percent of the crime problem, but overall Matt’s goal was “to set the model for the state” on reversing the problem.

All that was a tough act for City Council candidate Roger Mazzullo to follow, so he stuck more to his pro-business agenda. He wanted to work with the new mayor on bringing jobs and industry to the city through incentives; however, he also mentioned the desire to address youth crime through more activities for the youth. As a neophyte politician, Roger was “impressed” with the cooperation between law enforcement and the community; in turn, Maciarello praised Mazzullo for being the one candidate to meet with him and raise “thoughtful questions.”

One thing I asked, based on the marketing experience he touted, was what strengths he could use to sell Salisbury. He emphasized the rural feel of the area, but the subject somehow came atound to specific stores like Harris Teeter or Redner’s, specifically to fill the old Giant/Super Fresh location near the north Walmart. (Personally I think Redner’s would be the better fit there but I could envision either.) And you can count Mazzullo among those who want a Cracker Barrel. Still, he added “I believe in local (business),” adding he was less than impressed with his opponent’s business record as mayor.

After all that, the reports were fairly anti-climactic. On behalf of the Central Committee, Mark McIver reminded us the Lincoln Day Dinner was in less than two weeks, and we were looking for silent auction items. Thus, we secured a one-hour tennis lesson courtesy of Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (who as I recall played collegiately) and a surfing lesson from Matt Maciarello. Delegate Carl Anderton didn’t have a lesson to give, but a guided tour of the State House was a good substitute.

Alison Pulcher spoke on behalf of HERO Day, which will also occur on November 7. The main events are a 5k run and dog walk, but other events and speakers would also liven up the festivities.

I gave a brief synopsis of the fall festivals, taking the time to thank my volunteers, and also reminded the group we will need to establish a Nominations Committee by next month to select possible officers for next year. Finally, Joe Ollingrr asked if we could resume getting registration reports from the Board of Elections.

Truly, it was one of our more informative meetings of the year. The next one is slated for November 23, the Monday before Thanksgiving. It will be the final WCRC meeting of 2015.

Scary times in Salisbury

Apparently this really happened to City Council candidate Muir Boda, who I’m sure would have preferred to make news another way:

At 1:36 am I woke up to what I thought was someone knocking on my front door. As I lay in my bed thinking that it was a little too loud to be a knock on my front door, two more loud bangs rang through my neighborhood and I knew it was gun shots. It sounded like it was in my front yard.

Immediately I made my wife get on the floor while struggling to find my phone, I then realized it was in another room. We remained on the floor for another twenty minutes between our bed and an interior wall away from windows.

I then got up and peaked (sic) out my bedroom window and could tell that lights were flashing. I then moved out into the living room, checked our alarm and then went back to our bedroom. I spent the rest of night listening to what seemed like every rain drop landing on our roof. Like everyone in our neighborhood, we tried to go back to sleep.

The psychological affects of crime on a neighborhood, regardless of crime statistics, never go away because people never forget. They never forget that one street over a resident in my neighborhood was grazed by (a) bullet that went flying through her house. They never forget that a girl is killed because a gang thought she was getting out of someone else’s car. They never forget that a food delivery person is robbed at gunpoint across from the Doverdale Playground in broad daylight.

Crime is here, crime is real and we need to address it with real solutions, now. Until we realize that we are losing a war, long term, because we fail to address the root causes of crime. It is more than just a city issue because criminals know no boundaries. Everyone must be on board from every level of government regardless of political party, we need to work together and develop solutions now.

Obviously we’re not going to get rid of crime right away, regardless of who’s elected. But, just like the old saw that a liberal who gets mugged becomes a conservative, a victim of crime is that much more likely to be sensitive to the issue.

It’s not about just having more police, stricter judges, or even longer jail terms, though. In fact, there are some aspects of crime which government has little to do with but which can affect change – step one would be getting rid of the thug glamourization mentality permeating our culture. We think it’s cool to be the criminal, never mind that there’s a pretty good chance one’s life is cut short by plying the criminal trade.

Fortunately, our latest exhibit of thug culture didn’t result in anyone being seriously hurt. But that lucky streak can run out at any time.

In other Council news, I was pleased to get this introduction from the newest candidate in the race, Bruce Ford.

I am running for Salisbury City Council because Salisbury is in a crisis and I feel very strongly that Salisbury’s crime, blight and economic concerns are solvable with focused effort and strong leadership.
Other communities in our region have faced similar if not worse situations and overcome them using collaborative approaches, drawing on the wisdom of all of the community’s major stakeholders.
I was born in Salisbury, raised in Fairmount, and have lived in Salisbury for 13 years.  I have been a career paramedic/firefighter with the Berlin Fire Company for 23 years and a physician’s assistant for 7 years.  I have been married for 13 years.  My four daughters have never known another home than Salisbury.  I work hard to support my family and want to know that they are safe and free to flourish as they grow.
My priorities for the city are to:
·         reduce crime, slum and blight
·         identify a true community vision
·         position Salisbury as a regional economic hub, providing stable, well-paying jobs for city residents.
Please visit www.onesalisbury.org for more detailed information about my vision for the future of Salisbury.

I am Bruce Ford.  Together we can build a city. 

Looks like we now have half the candidates with websites. I’m not sure I buy the concept of “One Salisbury” anymore than I do “One Maryland” but it’s worth seeing what Bruce is about.

So far my poll has interesting (but not completely unexpected) results. Check it out on the sidebar!

‘Safe streets’ or unsafe for landlords?

I guess they are going to keep trying until they get it right.

Salisbury City Council members Debbie Campbell and Terry Cohen are hosting their third public meeting to solicit public comment on the ‘Safe Streets’ initiative at the Government Office Building in downtown Salisbury tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. Despite two packed previous hearings, the legislation is stalled in Salisbury City Council.

In a press release, Campbell and Cohen bill this Neighborhood Legislative Package as a public safety initiative:

“Just today, I discussed the “Three Strikes, You’re Out” proposal with a city resident and what reducing the high-repeat call load from certain properties can mean for making better use of our police resources,” said Cohen.  “It’s astounding when you see statistics like 59 properties in just one neighborhood generating 1,800 calls for service to police in three years.”

Campbell said that the previous two meetings, both with overflow attendance, yielded useful feedback on possible changes to the legislation.  “This legislation could provide substantial benefit to the public and contribute to the overall Safe Streets initiative already under way, thanks to our law enforcement agencies in partnership with the community,” Campbell explained.

In reading the seven portions of the proposed legislation, I fail to see how many of the new laws will reduce crime. It seems like much of the legislation instead is a broadbased effort to both wipe out many of what the city considers ‘nonconforming uses’ which have been around for years or even decades and in the process make a little bit more money in licensing fees and fines from landlords.

There’s no question there are landlords who don’t do their due diligence, instead succumbing to the allure of the almighty buck. Yet they are in the minority, and the proposed laws are akin to taking a sledgehammer to an ant hill. Those who live in houses adapted decades ago or who bought a property intending to become an entrepreneur and landlord may find themselves facing the prospect of extensive and expensive repairs if they can’t convince a judge that the use predates an arbitrary deadline. Obviously they will be stuck with a property which has lost its appeal and value to prospective buyers and face financial ruin.

Like it or not, Salisbury will be a rental haven for years to come due to a combination of a growing university where demand for housing outstrips on-campus availability and a crashing housing market which forces former homeowners to become renters. Soon the largest group of new homeowners may be financial institutions, and certainly they’re not going to be interested in following these regulations – instead, houses may sit empty and become tempting targets for crime. That defeats the purpose of the bill!

This bill, which is strongly backed by Mayor Jim Ireton, can’t move forward because Council President Louise Smith won’t put it on the Council’s legislative agenda for a vote. Likely this is because the bill as written has little chance of passage – Smith and fellow City Council members Gary Comegys and Shanie Shields seem to be immovably against the bill. With just one City Council meeting remaining on the docket this year, all are marking time until bill co-sponsor Terry Cohen (along with Smith and Comegys) have their seats come up for election next spring. After the holidays, the city’s campaign season will begin in earnest as the filing deadline is January 18.

While Cohen and Campbell may be trying a TEA Party-style tactic by holding frequent public meetings to denounce the lack of progress, the political reality is that this change isn’t desired by a large percentage of Salisbury residents. They want real, tangible answers for crime, and picking on landlords won’t make a difference in the perception that Salisbury is a drug and gang haven. It’s no wonder people flee to the county the first chance they get.