A plea for common sense

This could be the most unusual story idea I’ve ever had.

Back before Christmas I received the usual card from my parents, with some of what’s going on with them since we had previously spoken at Thanksgiving. So this evening I was cleaning off the coffee table and found the card, which I had kept out because enclosed was a clipping of a local op-ed piece where she wrote “Write a chapter about this!!”

At that point I remembered I was indeed going to write about it – not as a chapter in my book since it’s not TEA Party-related, but certainly it would be worth a blog post. The writer in question is a guy named Tim Smolarick, who is the editor of the Highlands News-Sun (their local paper.) So I dd a little bit of digging to link the article, called “More common sense and less red tape” for your perusal.

My mom’s highlighter isn’t the best, but this was the part she highlighted:

We have a two-party dominant system that spends entire cycles between elections blaming one another for all the problems that exist and, at the end, whoever convinces us better gets the seat. That has to stop. Back in the day we really believed in the people we voted for, not the party rhetoric. (That part was the most highlighted.)

The overall article talked about hunger as an issue brought up to the writer, and how, if the people of Highlands County put their mind to it “with common sense and less red tape” they could solve this problem. And, to be quite frank, I see no real reason they couldn’t do it on a local level.

(Just to set a scene: if there were an Eastern Shore of Florida, Highlands County might be it. Substitute orange groves for chicken houses and you get the picture. Unlike the perception most people have of Florida, Highlands is a very rural county that’s smack dab in the middle of nowhere insofar as the Sunshine State is concerned. But it’s where my late grandparents chose to go when they retired so my parents were familiar with it. The county compares with Wicomico County as far as population but has over twice the area.)

My mom’s point is valid in this day and age where we pit the Red Team against the Blue Team in an ongoing struggle for political power; one where people will look past the character flaws inherent in candidates if that candidate represents your side. Once we expected better of our representatives, but over the last 20 to 30 years we’ve become more forgiving of flaws in the pursuit of power.

Yet the beauty of Mr. Smolarick’s approach is that it transcends politics. If you’re not worried about who gets the credit and not in it to perpetuate a problem just to keep your job, there is a lot that can be accomplished. I tend to look at this as a faith-based operation because it’s a model I’m most familiar with, but there’s nothing that says it has to be denominational in that manner either. An atheist who has a good idea shouldn’t be dismissed on that basis alone.

As a society we’ve become conditioned to look to government as the only available problem-solver, forgetting that we have means and methods at our disposal if only we choose to employ them. “There oughta be a law!” scream the people, but sometimes they hold the solution in their own hands.

So I hope some people in the middle of Florida step up and figure out how to address their issues without having to hold the hand of government every step of the way. Back in the day that’s how Americans used to do it.

Say, maybe this is a TEA Party-related article after all – didn’t Tim Smolarick just advocate for limited government? I think he did! And thanks to my mom for the inspiration.

The exodus – will it increase?

It’s funny – I was at a bit of a loss to find something to write about today when Kim and I received a letter in the mail from a friend of hers. In it was the note which said “Miss you but I love Florida!” The friend in question moved down there a year ago to take a job in her industry.

Admittedly, there is a lot to love about Florida in terms of weather. The one year I spent Christmas down there I was sitting on my parents’ porch in shorts because it was 80 degrees out. That was somewhat of an anomaly for the season, but the fact is the Sunshine State doesn’t see a whole lot of snow and cold. Florida in 2014 is sort of like southern California in 1964, as millions moved there for the perpetually sunny and nice weather as well as the chance to create opportunity for themselves.

That got me to thinking about how many people I know have left this area, many for Florida or the Carolinas. Sometimes to me it’s a wonder that people stay around here given the broad litany of complaints people make about the region. On the surface I think it has many of the same qualities which attracted me in the first place – although last winter’s snow and cold made me think I was back in Ohio again.

But there is an economic side, and that factor has influenced the decision of many who have left the state to go to areas where taxes are lower and business opportunities more plentiful. Job creation hasn’t seemed to be job one for those in charge of the state because we’ve lost jobs while other states have picked up the pace.

Over the last few days I’ve talked quite a bit about the state’s budget shortfall, particularly in terms of what it means for the governor’s race. Sadly, I would estimate there are probably 20,000 Hogan votes that have left the state during this last cycle because they couldn’t hang on any longer or found better opportunities. On the other hand, ask yourself: if you lived in another state, what would you move to Maryland to do? About the only answer I could come up with was be in government, whether for Uncle Sam or a local branch office thereof. Even those who like the region seem to be moving to Sussex County, Delaware – it grew at a faster pace than the state of Delaware as a whole over the last three years while all nine Eastern Shore counties were short of Maryland’s (slower) overall growth rate, with three counties of the nine declining in population. A lack of local good-paying jobs is a complaint we’ve heard here for years.

I think the fear among many in my circle of friends – many of whom were raised here and care deeply about the state – is that another four to eight years under the same sort of governance will seal the state’s doom, much like the economic basket case that is California. That was a state which had all sorts of advantages in terms of attracting families but has squandered many of them away through their treatment of job creators. Like Maryland, it’s a state that seems attractive on the surface but living there is another thing, from what I’m told. (I’ve never visited the state, so it’s all second-hand knowledge on this one.)

Electing Larry Hogan could be the start of a comeback, but the problem isn’t just something which can be solved by a single chief executive. Rooting out the entirety of the issue would take a generation of conservative leadership with a General Assembly re-purposed to solving problems rather than protecting turf or enacting worthless feelgood legislation. But if nothing, not even the first step, is done this time, the exodus is sure to continue and increase.

Yes, it’s still “drill, baby, drill”

I ran across an interesting piece of polling thanks to the Energy Tomorrow blog. Their American Petroleum Institute parent group commissioned a Harris Poll of likely voters in four states – Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia – and asked them a series of questions to gauge their support for offshore drilling. As I would expect, the topline numbers showing support for the practice are quite solid, ranging from 64% in Florida to 77% in South Carolina. (Virginia weighed in at 67% and North Carolina at 65%, so it worked out to roughly 2/3 overall.)

But before you assume this is going to be another shill for offshore drilling (which I indeed support) I wanted to point out a glaring flaw in the poll methodology. For example, read through the Virginia polling data and see if you can figure out what’s missing. I’ll give you a second.

The first piece of the puzzle I would have liked to see would be a breakdown of support in coastal areas vs. inland. Using Virginia as an example, it would be nice to know how the question did in the 757 area code, which covers the Norfolk area and the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I would bet that support in that particular area was closer to 50-50, if not slightly negative.

But the key omission was the question: “Would you support offshore drilling off the coastline of your state?” The API’s point is that much of our coastline is off-limits to drilling because of shortsighted policies which ignore the overall safety record of the industry as well as the “peak oil” hysteria helped along by those same environmentalists who wouldn’t mind putting aquatic birds at risk with offshore wind turbines. But their point would have been buttressed even better if they had a clear majority of Virginians (or any other affected state) indicate that drilling off their coastline was an acceptable practice.

While these particular states were probably selected due to the length of their coastline, I wonder how Maryland and Delaware would feel with the same question posed to them. Granted, between the two there’s just 59 miles of Atlantic coastline but they indeed have oceanfront within both states so they could be hosting oil exploration and extraction in their waters someday. My guess is that they would still fall in the 60 percent range as far as drilling support, but only run 30-35% for drilling off their coastline. (A large part of that might be because so much of it is state- or federally-controlled parkland.)

Certainly it’s reassuring that offshore drilling still enjoys support after all its bad press over the last half-decade, but I’m not convinced the impetus is there yet for much motion on the issue. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the question is pretty much moot until 2017 at the earliest so we have time to create the necessary shift in public perception.

George vs. Perry

Subtitled, Don’t Mess With Move To Texas.

Speaking in a radio commercial aimed at Maryland businesses, Texas Governor Rick Perry blasted the state’s business climate and invited commercial entities to consider his state, an effort interpreted as a slap at Martin O’Malley and his 2016 hopes.

In response, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron George exhorted Free Staters to fight, not switch:

Delegate Ron George, Republican candidate for Governor, has a simple message for Maryland voters. “Don’t Move, Vote.”

Delegate George is asking Marylanders to reject Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s advertisement seeking to lure Maryland businesses to the Lone Star State.

“This is a response to the failed business policies of the O’Malley/Brown administration that have led to Maryland losing over 93,000 private sector jobs from 2007 to 2011,” George remarked. “While private sector jobs continue to disappear under O’Malley, we can still turn our state around.”

Delegate George will be releasing the results of an internal campaign investigation Thursday morning to illustrate the statewide impact of the O’Malley/Brown administration’s disastrous tax and budget policies. This investigation will highlight the huge disparities in job growth and education both within Maryland and compared to the rest of the nation.

Today is Friday; in reality I’m writing this late Thursday evening. Unless Ron is talking about next week, I haven’t seen this internal investigation nor has he mentioned it on his social media.

But aside from that unforced error, let’s examine both what George is alluding to and what Perry’s real aim is.

It’s no secret that certain parts of the state have basically full employment while others often flirt with double-digit figures. The closer you get to Washington, D.C. the more likely it is you have a job, because right now – even with the dreaded sequestration – the federal government is fat and happy. The nation’s capital is almost a perfect black hole of tax dollars, but just enough escapes the vortex to prop up the regional economy around the Washington/Annapolis area. So they have no incentive to change and don’t mind paying a little more to insure their overall well-being, coerced from taxpayers around the country.

On the other hand, once you get outside commuting distance to the Beltway corridor you’ll find the rest of us grasping at economic straws. I’m thinking that Ron’s campaign team has found a way to harvest the data which shows that we are far from being one Maryland, and I’ll be interested to see if I’m correct.

As for the Perry radio spot: in finding that video (which was also posted in the Mark Newgent Watchdog Wire post I linked above) I found that the originator of the video’s YouTube Channel (apparently a woman named Jennifer Beale, listed on LinkedIn as the communications manager for the state’s economic development and tourism office) has also done videos tailored to other states, specifically Missouri and New York, along with a more generic piece featuring onetime Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith. In that respect, what Perry and his state are doing isn’t a whole lot different than the commercials I see touting the state of New York’s new attitude toward business or the tourism ads they run. The state of Michigan also seems to be a heavy local advertiser in that respect (“Pure Michigan.”) Even Maryland does the same thing for their job creators, but only with certain selected environmentally-correct businesses.

Still, the idea that Ron George is pleading with the business community to give him time to get elected is an interesting one. Obviously he has some “skin in the game” as the owner of a jewelry business; moreover, getting a business to pull up stakes and relocate to Texas is no small feat, regardless of the size. On the other hand, individuals can easily move – and they have, many to Virginia, Delaware, the Carolinas, or Florida; in fact, according to the group Change Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina were the destinations of choice for many who have already left. Texas wasn’t high on the list, but it was good enough for a recently-departed state senator.

Until this state straightens out its priorities, though, don’t be surprised if other successful governors come a-callin’.

Trayvon Martin is dead. Did a colorblind society die with him?

Considering the incident in question occurred several weeks ago on February 26, the fact this story has anymore legs than the dozens of other shootings which occur each day makes me ponder why.

I will grant that there are a number of interpretations about what happened, but the end result is that a 17-year-old is dead and there is a bounty reportedly placed on the head of the shooter. But what makes it any different than another case where a teenager is gunned down? In my mind there are two key reasons, and both have significant political import.

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