Coattails tucked into his pants

So let’s talk about Larry Hogan, shall we?

I’m going to start way back in 2009. People tend to forget Larry actually had his eye on running for Governor back then and was briefly in the running until he deferred to his old boss and allowed him to get his doors blown off by Martin O’Malley. (Of course, I chose better in that primary, too.)

After the 2010 Ehrlich debacle – an election where the TEA Party wave somehow missed all of Maryland except for the Eastern Shore – you just had to know that Hogan, a vocal critic of Martin O’Malley during his brief time in the race, would figure out some way to stay in the headlines; thus, Change Maryland was born. I thought it was a great idea.

But when Hogan actually completed the fait accompli of getting into the 2014 open seat Governor’s race, I found he was great at articulating what he was against but not so much what he was for. Given a good field to choose from and one where all the contenders (save Hogan) spelled out their agenda, I supported someone else in the Republican primary but we got Larry. Of course, the rest is history.

I’m going to talk about two memories of Hogan from the campaign and how those issues were resolved.

As the O’Malley administration was heading out of town, one last-minute priority of theirs was an attempt to saddle our farmers with new phosphorus management rules that were basically written by the environmentalist wackos of the state. Hours after being sworn in, Hogan beat a deadline and pulled the regs – much to the chagrin of Radical Green.

But barely a month later, Hogan basically put the same thing into effect with a little bit of window dressing. I will grant that it was in the face of a bill with those same regulations in them but it also put the General Assembly on notice that Hogan could be rolled. And boy, was he ever when he reneged on a promise to eliminate the MOM-imposed moratorium on fracking in Maryland and sold the panhandle of the state down the river by endorsing a ban.

Aside from eliminating some tolls and reallocating money that could have been needlessly wasted on a light-rail boondoggle in Baltimore known as the Red Line, it’s really hard to compile a list of quantifiable, significant Hogan accomplishments but easy to find where he capitulated. We still have to pay for the Purple Line (not to mention a huge subsidy for the D.C. Metro), the “rain tax” repeal really wasn’t one, we got stuck with competing versions of paid sick leave (from a supposedly “business-friendly” governor) and on and on. Even at the end of this term, when he was free to use his veto pen because the terms of legislators were ending and there would be no override votes, he still let a lot of bad stuff through.

But I was still planning on holding my nose really, really tight and voting for Hogan, until he sold Tony Campbell out. That was the last straw. So I looked into Shawn Quinn. Lord knows there is a lot of his platform I didn’t agree with, but there is one key philosophy where Quinn and I are in complete agreement: when it comes to education, money should follow the child.

So thanks to all the betrayals and broken promises, Larry Hogan managed to lose my vote and Shawn Quinn received it – a little bit of unexpected help. No doubt Larry doesn’t really care because he won and now he’s a lame duck until he decides to run for something else (U.S. Senate in 2022?) but look at what he lost. He may blame Donald Trump, but I think Hogan’s reliance on Democrat votes bit him in the behind when it came to downballot races like the ballyhooed “Drive for Five” with state senators. Cases in point:

In District 3B, Bill Folden won with 7,522 votes in 2014 but lost with 8,775 votes this time.

In District 9B, Bob Flanagan won with 8,202 votes in 2014 but lost with 8,311 votes this time.

District 29B’s Deb Rey won last time with 5,334 votes but this time had 6,281 and still lost. That one sucked because Deb was always in the running to be one of my monoblogue Accountability Project Legislative All-Stars and achieved that goal twice, 2016 and 2017.

Glen Glass led all of District 34A with 10,779 votes in 2014 and may lose as the third-place finisher with 11.564 this time. He’s 19 votes out of second.

Glass was a Legislative All-Star way back in 2012 but was more comfortably average of late – still, a significant loss. Senate seat loser Gail Bates was also an All-Star as a Delegate in 2011 – I lost a total of three. One piece of great news, though: two-time mAP Legislator of the Year Joseph Boteler is back in the fold as he was one of three winners in District 8 (and the lone Republican, a net loss of one from the three-seat district), squeezing out Cluster.

Meanwhile, Hogan ran ahead of his 2014 pace in every county. Ironically, Anthony Brown would have killed for the 917,484 votes received by Ben Jealous, as that total would have won it for him four years ago – instead Jealous lost by over 300,000 votes.

But if you do a top 6/bottom 6 list of Hogan gains, it’s rather telling about the electorate.

Top 6 gainers:

  1. Prince George’s – up 13.3 percentage points
  2. Baltimore City – up 10.0 percentage points
  3. Kent – up 9.1 percentage points
  4. Talbot – up 8.0 percentage points
  5. Allegany – up 7.9 percentage points
  6. Montgomery – up 7.9 percentage points

Out of all those counties, though, there was not one Republican gain in the General Assembly because among these are the three most dominant Democrat counties in Maryland – only Allegany, Kent, and Talbot had GOP representatives prior to 2018 and all were re-elected.

Bottom 6 gainers:

  1. Cecil – up 0.4 percentage points
  2. Harford – up 0.9 percentage points
  3. Carroll – up 1.4 percentage points
  4. Baltimore – up 2.7 percentage points
  5. Charles – up 2.9 percentage points
  6. Anne Arundel – up 3.0 percentage points

In those six counties, the GOP lost Delegate seats in several districts: 8 (appointee Joe Cluster lost his election bid), 30A (Herb McMillan retired), 34A (Glen Glass lost his re-election), and 42B (Susan Aumann retired). St. Mary’s County (Delegate Deb Rey, District 29B) fell just outside this bottom 6 list and she paid the price, too. Also losing: Frederick County’s Bill Folden (District 3B) and Bob Flanagan from Howard County (District 9B) – epitomes of suburbia.

The GOP did grab Jim Brochin’s old Senate District 42 seat in Baltimore County as Delegate Chris West vacated a District 42B seat to move up, but that was tempered by the loss of the Senate District 9 seat held by Gail Bates, who was defeated in Howard County. That seat also has a small portion of Carroll County, one of my bottom 6. And of course everyone knows that MBC won in District 38, which I will get to in due course.

As more proof that Larry Hogan was the most popular Democrat in the race, let’s compare federal offices from 2014 to 2018:

  • Andy Harris (District 1, Maryland’s only GOP representative) fell from 70.4% of the vote in 2014 to just 60.3% this year. On the other hand:
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (District 2) gained from 61.3% to 65.7%, a 4.4 point increase.
  • John Sarbanes (District 3) gained from 59.5% to 68.6%, a 9.1 point increase.
  • Steny Hoyer (District 5) gained from 64% to 69.9%, a 5.9 point increase.
  • Elijah Cummings (District 7) gained from 69.9% to 76.1%, a 6.2 point increase.

In the apples to oranges category as there was a change in the office between 2014 and 2018:

  • District 4: Donna Edwards had 70.2% four years ago, Anthony Brown (running for re-election) got 77.6%.
  • District 6: John Delaney had 49.7% four years ago, but this time David Trone was elected with 57.6%. Republican Amie Hoeber lost to Delaney with 40.1% in the Presidential year of 2016 (typically high turnout) and only had 39.4% for an open seat this time.
  • District 8: Chris Van Hollen had 60.7% in 2014, Jamie Raskin (running for re-election) got 66.8%.

We always knew a Republican needed Democrat votes to survive statewide in Maryland, but the lack of coattails Larry Hogan had for his titular party was more than ridiculous. Their only two wins were in districts that were already primed for the GOP – District 42 had 2 of 3 GOP Delegates and a moderate Democrat Senator, while District 38 was all Republican aside from the Democrat Jim Mathias, who succeeded a longtime Republican Senator. I’m sure local Democrats are kicking themselves for not challenging Carl Anderton because they may well have won the seat back in this climate.

Indeed, the victory of MBC and the fact our other state legislative incumbents were unopposed or drew token, underfunded opposition was perhaps the only thing local Wicomico County Republicans could cheer about. Out of all the Delegate races locally, the only semi-constant was District 38A’s Charles Otto. While he had more votes this time around, he lost 1 percentage point and fell below 60 percent. Despite the fact his district no longer includes Wicomico, he is often present at local party events.

Looking at District 38, Jim Mathias actually drew more votes than he had in 2014 overall, although it appears he will be right about even in Somerset County. (As of this writing, Jim is 71 votes shy of his 2014 total there.) MBC playing Mathias nearly even (six votes’ difference) there in Somerset was one key, and her domination in Worcester County was the other. Compared to his 2014 race against former Delegate Mike McDermott, Mathias lost 1.6 percentage points in Wicomico, but plummeted 6.3 points in Worcester and 5.8 points in Somerset.

Locally, perhaps the biggest mistake Democrats made was not convincing Jack Heath to run in their primary. For all the angst about his independent bid, you have to call it a failure when Heath outspent his Democrat opponent by a margin of $20,556.63 to $1,266.66. (Bob Culver spent $21,616.99 through the final reporting cycle so financially the race was even between Heath and Culver.) Yet the race wasn’t even close between Culver and Democrat John Hamilton, as Bob won by 19 points with Heath barely breaking into the twenties with 21% – 28 points behind Culver. In other words, Democrats were so determined to elect their own they didn’t inform themselves about qualifications or readiness for office – they just saw the word “Democrat” and filled in the oval. Had he run as a Democrat, Jack could have won (or come much closer) since I suspect he split the Democrat vote.

Yet the GOP has to take some blame locally, too. I’m not sure their candidate recruitment was up to par this time around: two of their primary candidates had scrapes with the law, and while one of them was defeated in the primary the other was unopposed. I know that party preference is to avoid primaries, but I don’t think voters were served well when Julie Brewington didn’t withdraw prior to the primary, allowing the Central Committee to select a candidate with less baggage. She was one I withheld my vote from; instead I wrote in my friend Cathy Keim – who should have been on County Council in 2011 to succeed the late Bob Caldwell because all of us on the Central Committee except the one also running for the job, who recused herself, voted for Cathy. That was a County Council seat needlessly lost, and they were already looking at a tough district race in a heavily D district that, predictably, went for the Democrat. (And a loony-tunes lefty he is, too – grab a hold tight to your wallet and private property rights.) So the previous 6-1 margin for Republicans is now a scant 4-3, with one less-than-trustworthy vote on the R side and a Board of Education lackey there to boot, too. The only two R’s I can trust to generally look out for my interests now are Marc Kilmer and Joe Holloway. (Funny, but things never change.)

Then we had another candidate who refused to knock on doors, and I told him that’s how you win votes. (Ask Carl Anderton or MBC.) Great guy, very qualified for what is essentially an administrative post, but lost by about 2,300 votes (or doors he didn’t knock on.) Now that his opponent is in, good luck winning that office until he retires, just like Mike Lewis or Karen Lemon are lifers where they are at.

And for all that work we did to have an elected school board, I can’t say I’m pleased with the results. Out of seven spots, the two at-large winners were the ones on the teacher union’s “apple ballot” – an automatic vote for their opponents in my book – and we also got a longtime board member when the Republican who was on that ballot could no longer campaign because she took a county job. So right there are three votes for the status quo – or worse. I believe, however, that Gene Malone was the last Republican BoE appointee and, having served with both John Palmer and Ann Suthowski on the Central Committee I think they will be relatively conservative (although Ann may be a squish on the wasteful mandatory pre-K idea.)

The fate of the school board, then, is coming down to District 3. David Goslee, Sr. (who I also know from serving with him on the WCRCC) is literally hanging on by the skin of his teeth – 9 votes separate him and his opponent, who is another mandatory pre-K supporter. I’m putting out the bat-signal to my friend and cohort Cathy Keim – watch that race like a hawk, I don’t want them to “find” another box of provisional votes someplace.

That pretty much covers my ballot. It wasn’t a straight R ticket, since there were a couple Democrats who were unopposed that were worth my vote to retain. (Same for the unopposed Republicans, by the way.) I just wish the person at the top would not have broken the little trust I had in him.

Two more quick thoughts: for all we heard about the “progressive” movement locally, they mainly got spanked at the ballot box. But it could be worse: they could be Republicans in Delaware – who now have literally no statewide offices after the lost the couple they had and saw their deficit in both House and Senate increase by one seat, a casualty list that included both their Minority Whips. Hey, maybe Larry Hogan can move there in time for 2020 and that election.

Wicomico County races: a closer look at finances

September 30, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Wicomico County races: a closer look at finances 

Earlier this month I took a look at the financial situation of the various state candidates in Districts 37 and 38, so now I’m going to narrow the focus down to Wicomico County, which has a number of interesting contested races going on – although only a few have much money involved to speak of. No six-figure war chests here.

I’ll begin at the top with the County Executive race, where Bob Culver has an interesting split going on:

  • 49 donations from individuals in county for $5,910
  • 9 donations from individuals outside of county for $1,175
  • 13 donations from businesses in area for $2,300
  • 4 donations from businesses outside of area for $6,700
  • 2 donations from PACs and other committees for $600
  • Average donation: $216.69
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $15,398.33

Because of the 2 large donations from Comcast (considered a business outside the area) totaling $4,000, Bob’s numbers are skewed: 49.2% of his money came from inside the area, with a hefty 47.2% coming from outside the area and just 3.6% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 96.4% coming from individuals and businesses, 42.5% was out of individual pockets and 53.9% was from businesses – again, the Comcast donations make up almost 1/4 of Bob’s total take.

Now let’s look at the “independent” challenger Jack Heath:

  • 68 donations from individuals in county for $14,825.05
  • 10 donations from individuals outside of county for $1,950
  • 8 donations from businesses in area for $1,771.76
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $215.66
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $8,897.41

For Jack, 89.5% of his money came from inside the area and 10.5% from outside. Similarly, the heavy preponderance of contributions are from individuals: 90.4% compared to 9.6% from businesses. Heath has raised more money than Culver but his burn rate is faster, too.

Democratic County Executive candidate John Hamilton has filed only ALCEs since opening his campaign, meaning he has raised and/or spent less than $1,000. He’s the first of many candidates who can claim that route, as you’ll see moving forward.

Regarding the quotes around “independent” for Heath: that lack of movement from the elected Democrat has prompted at least one recently-elected member of their Central Committee (who’s also the president of the Wicomico Democratic Club) to resign from the DCC so he and the club could back Heath, while others on the Wicomico DCC (who presumably are club members, too) are more tacit in their support for Jack.

It’s much simpler when it comes to other county-wide races. I’ll hold off on the County Council and school board for the moment to look at the two single-victor races for State’s Attorney and Clerk of the Circuit Court. The two other countywide positions (Register of Wills Karen Lemon and Sheriff Mike Lewis) feature unopposed candidates who have regularly filed ALCEs – Lemon’s streak goes back to 2010.

The State’s Attorney race has the current appointee, Republican Jamie Dykes, running for a full term. Her campaign so far:

  • 80 donations from individuals in county for $13,388.25
  • 6 donations from an individual outside of county for $1,000
  • 11 donations from businesses in area for $4,065.47
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $189.63
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $6,087.33

Jamie received 94.6% of her money from inside the county and 5.4% from outside. Individuals also chipped in the most by far: 77.9% compared to 22.1% from businesses.

Conversely. Democrat Seth Mitchell, who previously ran for the post in 2010, has ceded the financial field to Dykes thus far: Mitchell has filed nothing but ALCEs in his run to date.

The fight has been joined on both sides for the Clerk of Court race, an open seat thanks to the retirement of longtime Clerk Mark Bowen.

For Republican Chris Welch:

  • 47 donations from individuals in county for $4,255
  • 10 donations from individuals outside of county for $1,030
  • 7 donations from businesses in area for $1,566
  • 2 donations from businesses outside of area for $408
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $109.98
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $4,643.05 – with a $40 loan outstanding.

For Welch, 80.2% of his money came from within Wicomico County and 19.8% from outside; meanwhile, 72.8% of donations came from individuals and 27.2% from businesses – much of that business income was in-kind donations for a raffle Welch must have had.

Turning to Democrat James “Bo” McAllister, he has a very unusual setup:

  • 25 donations from individuals in county for $2,865
  • 48 donations from individuals outside of county for $7,367.11
  • 4 donations from businesses in area for $600
  • 1 donations from a business outside of area for $500
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $100.86
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $3,268.97, but with loans for $10,190.07 outstanding.

Not only is McAllister heavily in debt, he really has one major benefactor: the Robins family in Ocean City. (Chris Robins is his treasurer.) Between standard donations and in-kind offering, the Robinses have contributed $6,333.91, or nearly 56% of everything taken in. It appears that most of Bo’s early campaigning came out of their pocket, but with a family member as treasurer that seems to be a little cozy.

Now that I have those countywide races out of the way, I’ll shift gears to County Council and begin with the two at-large seats.

As the lone incumbent Republican John Cannon is first up, but he hasn’t been very busy:

  • 2 donations from individuals in county for $350
  • No donations from individuals outside of county
  • 3 donations from businesses in area for $251.68 ($1.68 is interest on the bank account.)
  • No donations from a business outside of area
  • 1 donation from a PAC for $2,000
  • Average donation: $433.61
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $10,961.34

The huge Realtor PAC donation completely skewed Cannon’s take: 23.1% of his money came from within Wicomico County and 76.9% from the PAC; because of that bump just 13.5% of donations came from individuals and 9.7% from businesses. (The rounding doesn’t allow it to add up.)

Fellow Republican Julie Brewington is less well off:

  • 8 donations from individuals in county for $1,920.49
  • 1 donation from an individual outside of county for $300
  • No donations from businesses in area
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donation from PACs
  • Average donation: $246.72
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $809.30, with a $1,000 loan outstanding.

For Julie, 86.5% of her donations came from individuals inside the county and 13.5% from outside, with all of it from individuals.

On the Democrat side, former County Council member Bill McCain has the financial advantage to return:

  • 43 donations from individuals in county for $5,850
  • 1 donation from an individual outside of county for $100
  • No donations from businesses in area
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • 1 donation from a PAC for $2,000
  • Average donation: $176.67
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $4,828.89

McCain has had 73.6% of the 74.8% of his take from individuals come from within Wicomico County – the other 25.2% is the donation from the Realtor PAC (the same group that gave to Cannon.)

Lastly is the second Democrat for the at-large County Council position, Jamaad Gould:

  • 16 donations from individuals in county for $952
  • 2 donations from individuals outside of county for $110
  • 1 donation from a business in area for $10
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donation from a PAC
  • Average donation: $56.42
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $325.85

Jamaad is the first of two sub-$100 average donation candidates, but the only countywide one. Percentage-wise, 89.7% of Gould’s donations come from inside Wicomico County and 99.1% come from individuals. It’s a very local-source campaign.

District races are rather low-key as well. In District 1, Ernest Davis had to survive a primary so he raised money earlier in the cycle.

  • 27 donations from individuals in county for $1,085
  • 1 donation from an individual outside of county for $20
  • 1 donation from a business in area for $250
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from a PAC
  • Average donation: $46.72
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $828.00

District 2 is contested: incumbent Republican Marc Kilmer is running for a second term. His totals were very simple:

  • 2 donations from individuals in county for $450
  • No donations from individuals outside of county
  • No donations from a business in area
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from a PAC
  • Average donation: $225.00
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $2,198.39

That’s one of the healthier on-hand totals around; however, Marc does have a Democrat opponent who is also fundraising in Alexander Scott:

  • 3 donations from individuals in county for $550
  • No donations from individuals outside of county
  • 2 donations from businesses in area for $800
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from a PAC
  • Average donation: $270.00
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $550.00

Both donations from businesses were in-kind, which explains the even $550 balance on Scott’s first report – previously he had filed ALCEs and has reported no spending. (So where did the filing fee come from?) But it works out to 40.7% from individuals and 59.3% from businesses.

The District 3 race features incumbent Republican Larry Dodd, who reported just one donation of $1,000 (from the Realtors PAC) and has an outstanding loan of $100 against a balance of $1,784.91. Some of that will be eaten up by a pending fine to be paid to the state Board of Elections of $160 for late filing – the fourth time this cycle (and third this year) that his campaign has been late. After my experience with Kirkland Hall last time (see updated post here) this is a subject I’m going to get back to for a later post.

However, his Democratic opponent Michele Gregory has filed nothing but ALCEs.

Moving to District 4, which is one of the two open seats on County Council (one at-large is also open) we find Republican Suzanah Cain has these statistics:

  • 24 donations from individuals in county for $1,496.16
  • 11 donations from individuals outside of county for $625
  • No donations from businesses in area
  • 1 donation from a business outside of area for $0.28 (a setup fee for an account)
  • 2 donations from a PAC for $4,000
  • Average donation: $161.09
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $703.01

Like her fellow Republican John Cannon, the huge Realtor PAC donation completely skews Cain’s take: 24.4% of her money came from within Wicomico County, 10.2% from outside the county, and 65.3% from the PAC. All but less that 0.1% of that non-PAC cash is from individuals.

For Democrat Josh Hastings, the story is a lot different:

  • 68 donations from individuals in county for $4,940
  • 27 donations from individuals outside of county for $2,425
  • 1 donations from a business in area for $50
  • No donations from a business outside of area
  • 1 donations from a PAC or other committee for $100
  • Average donation: $77.47
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $1,512.38

Hastings had 66.4% of his donations come from within the county, 32.3% from outside, and 1.3% from the other committee. 98% was offered from individuals, with 1.3% from the one business.

Finally for County Council, you have the unopposed District 5 Republican Joe Holloway. He loaned his campaign $5,000 and still has $4,975 left after the $25 filing fee.

The other partisan office on the ballot is the Orphan’s Court. Not one of the four candidates have filed anything but an ALCE – as expected in a bottom-ballot race for which the Republicans have seldom filled the slots. (All three incumbents are Democrats; however, one lost in the primary.)

Now for the Board of Education. These non-partisan slots are being filled as follows:

  • At-large candidates: 2 from a group including Tyrone Cooper, Don Fitzgerald, Michael Murray, and Talana Watson
  • District 1: Michelle Bradley or Allen Brown
  • District 2: Gene Malone
  • District 3: David Goslee, Sr. or William Turner
  • District 4: David Plotts or Ann Suthowski
  • District 5: John Palmer

Out of that group Cooper, Murray, Malone, Turner, and Palmer reported no contributions. Malone loaned himself $100 so that’s his balance.

Fitzgerald reported $1,400 in contributions (all from the candidate and his treasurer) and has $212.12 on hand.

Watson reported $1,000 in contributions from 2 local businesses and loaned her campaign $1,000 with $909.51 available.

Bradley reported $150 in contributions, one $100 from an individual in the county and $50 from one outside. She still has the $150 left.

Brown reported $860 in contributions, all but 2 of the 13 from individuals within the county and accounting for $660 of the take. He has a balance of $25.

Goslee had the biggest stake among the district aspirants, receiving $1,650 from 4 local individuals – however, $1,100 was from his own personal funds. $586.80 is the largest war chest among the remaining district candidates.

Twelve people have given $706.96 to the Plotts campaign, which includes in-kind donations. (One who donated $25 was from outside the county.) His balance is $187.45.

Suthowski was the second-biggest beneficiary with $1,500 from 13 local individuals (including $400 of her own.) She has $376.46 to play with.

I sort of suspect the real money in the school board race is going to be revealed on the post-election report since the Wicomico County Education Association has yet to be heard from and they’ll certainly have a preferred slate.

That brings this look at finance to a close. But I have a little more research to do after seeing the Kirkland Hall and Larry Dodd debacles. Is it really that hard to do campaign finance reports on a timely basis?

A tale of two events

It’s been awhile since I’ve given you a pictorial post and added the captions, so I thought it was time.

It may be an unfair comparison – the reboot of a longtime staple of Salisbury cultural diversions against an established old favorite – but I have to wonder just went wrong with the Downtown Salisbury Festival, which seems to me somewhat of a failure in its new time slot of early June.

I will say, however, that weather probably played some role: while I was taking these photos at the Downtown Salisbury Festival, Ocean City was getting a historic deluge of rain. Salisbury was hit by the next line of storms a couple hours later. Yet I don’t think it was all about the weather.

Looking eastward along Main Street to the narrow row of rides that spanned a block.

I turned around and looked westward down the next block. Still not much traffic.

It was a little better down the block. Since it’s political season, it should be noted the tent on the left (with the orange-clad folks) belonged to the Clerk of Courts campaign of Bo McAllister.

But as you worked westward on Main Street, the crowd thinned out. On the left is the luckless campaign of Democrat Michael Brown, a Salisbury resident running for the right to challenge incumbent Andy Harris.

This was from the west end of the art area. It’s hard to see them, but the local Democrats were camped out in front of the Chamber of Commerce building on the right, without a tent.

In future years, it’s likely the DSF will be centered along the riverfront and the amphitheater under construction. But construction wasn’t done for this edition.

Another photo along a deserted riverfront.

Some of the food court was along the river side.

The food court had plenty of choices, but didn’t have much business.

At least there wasn’t a line for the petting zoo.

I’ll grant that I wasn’t there for the DSF on Friday night and the crowd may have been better. But I think in the future they’ll either need to condense the event a little bit or perhaps institute a shuttle to ferry people from stop to stop – maybe 3 or 4 stops. I didn’t think late April was a really bad time to have it, either. On the first weekend in June people are thinking about graduations or the beach.

Conversely, the weather was picture-perfect Friday night for Third Friday and people responded.

I walked onto the Plaza and what did I see? Lots of people!

The event was also hot and cold running politicians. The local GOP was set up across from District 4 County Council candidate Suzanah Cain.

On the other side of the spectrum, we had the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus a couple spots in front of County Executive challenger Jack Heath’s spot. It’s also noteworthy that Suzanah Cain’s opponent Josh Hastings was walking about with his sign.

My friend Sarah Meyers has a cool job: she’s the curator of Poplar Hill Mansion. She was out at 3F promoting their festival next Saturday, the 23rd.

This month’s theme may have helped with the promotion: people were encouraged to bring their dogs. They could have partaken in this course.

Even at 7:30 there was still a serious crowd out there.

This month’s band was one of the better ones I’ve seen.

Muskrat Lightning was the band, making a great soundtrack for the event.

It took several years for Third Friday to find its stride, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on the Downtown Salisbury Festival. But I remember when they tried to use most of Main Street and being so spread out meant something was shortchanged. It’s become successful since they focused on the Plaza and the Division Street side of the courthouse.

So if the DSF wants to take advantage of the riverfront, maybe they need to place the exhibitors where the food court was and use one of the side streets as a food court. There was a visual effect missing on this layout – if you were at the rides or checking out art vendors you wouldn’t be aware of the food court or stage, which made the event seem small. It needs to be tied together better, and maybe having the amphitheater done will help in that regard.

I guess we will find out next year for the DSF, as well as the First Saturday and Fridays at Five events – the latter two on hiatus for this year as construction occurs at both sites. Maybe we will get better weather, too.

The sidebar sidestory

January 25, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Bloggers and blogging, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The sidebar sidestory 

While I haven’t been hanging around here as much as I used to with this book I’m writing and all, a service I’ve always provided here is being a one-stop shop to link to political candidates in season. And seeing that the season is fast-approaching – the filing deadline is barely a month away – I suppose it’s time to build out the 2018 version of my widget.

One change I think I’m going to make from previous years is to not just link their websites, but their social media as well. It seems now that most of the action on the political position front comes from those sites because they are interactive by nature. So I’ll figure out a way to integrate them into the links.

In looking at some of the local races, the most statewide attention seems to be on the State Senate race between incumbent Jim Mathias and current Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who’s trying to move up after just one term in the House. If that seems opportunistic, bear in mind that Mathias also moved up after one term and about six months of change (he was appointed Delegate after the incumbent died in office.) However, at the time Mathias ran for an open seat thanks to the retirement of longtime GOP State Senator Lowell Stoltzfus. And while Mathias is best known for being the popular mayor of Ocean City, it’s also the area Carozza represents in the House. Her task will be to catch up name recognition in Somerset County, although it’s likely she’ll get the backing from Stoltzfus and current Delegate Charles Otto to help her along there.

With Carozza moving up, the opening for Delegate in District 38C is shaping up to be an interesting GOP primary. (With the political composition of the district, frankly that is the race.) Four contenders are in the running so far, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or two more crowd the ballot. While Ed Tinus, a perennial candidate, moved down from the Senate race when Carozza made it official, the others waited to jump in and made it a race. Wayne Hartman is an Ocean City Council member trying to advance, while Joe Schanno is making a second run eight years after his first in what was then a two-Delegate district. (He finished fourth of the four in the GOP primary.)

There’s not nearly as much suspense in the other local districts. The only other one really worth mentioning at this point is District 37B, where a third business person has thrown his hat into the ring in a district already boasting two in Chris Adams and Johnny Mautz. Keith Graffius is running in large part because Dorchester County doesn’t have a native Delegate – an unfortunate reality in that part of the Eastern Shore where two three-person districts span seven of the nine counties of the Eastern Shore – so someone will be left holding the bag and after the last election Dorchester County replaced Caroline County as the state’s red-headed stepchild. (The District 37 Senator, Addie Eckardt, lives in Dorchester County so they are not shut out entirely.)

Here in Wicomico County, the key races are the County Executive race, which thus far pits incumbent Bob Culver against independent Jack Heath, who has to petition his way onto the ballot, and the new school board elections that will fire up for the first time in 2018. So far only three incumbents on County Council have filed (Democrat Ernie Davis and Republicans Larry Dodd and Joe Holloway) and one challenger had popped up for an open seat – Josh Hastings makes his second try after moving from District 3 to District 4.

Something I’ve found interesting is how many people have already filed for Central Committee races. In the three times I ran, I was not one who waited around – I filed several weeks before the deadline and was normally among the first to do so. (The only election I was a dawdler was my first, but I was still 5th of 7 to file. The other two I was 4th of 13.) These candidates are notorious for waiting until the last minute, but this year there are already enough Central Committee hopefuls on the male side of the Democrat Party and they’re only one short among females. On the GOP side we already have five of nine so they may exceed their previous high-water marks of thirteen in the last two elections. I suspect the same may be true for school board as well. And because of school board, for the first time every voter in Wicomico County may have a ballot to vote on come June since school board is a non-partisan race.

So anyway I will have some work to do over the coming days. Fortunately I have an old widget extant so it’s not much of a chore to do.

In the giving spirit

December 23, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on In the giving spirit 

One nice thing about Salisbury elections is that money unspent in the campaigns is not carried over to the next election but is required to either be returned to contributors or given to another entity, normally a charity. (There are exceptions, though – stick with me, it’s called foreshadowing.) With the release of the final financial statements earlier this week, I was curious to see where all the money went.

I’ll begin with the City Council races and District 1, where defeated incumbent Shanie Shields distributed $959.48 to a number of organizations around her neighborhood. $500 went to the Chipman Foundation while smaller amounts were received by the Wesley Temple, Operation We Care, and two local elementary schools, West Salisbury and Pemberton. Meanwhile, the winner April Jackson donated her modest leftover sum of $26.82 to the Salisbury Advisory Council while Sarah Halcott closed out her books by donating $96.13 to the Art Institute and Gallery. That made sense given Halcott’s line of business as an artisan.

There wasn’t a lot of money left in District 2, as the only candidate to file a final statement was victor Muir Boda. Boda gave $39.61 to Salisbury Neighborhood Housing Services.

District 3 winner Jack Heath had much more unspent, as he distributed $1,495.80 among four recipients: Lower Shore Enterprises, Operation We Care, the Salisbury Zoo, and the Joseph House. Amounts ranged from $325 to $500 for each. Neither of the other candidates had leftover funds at the end of the campaign.

Lots of money flowed into District 4, but not all of it was spent campaigning. Jim Ireton split the $399.96 remaining balance equally between the Wicomico High softball team, Tri-Community Mediation, and the Wicomico Public Library Homework Help Center. On the other hand, Roger Mazzullo had no money remaining.

Finally among the Council members, Laura Mitchell did not need to file a report. She was the lone unopposed Council candidate, as was Mayor Jake Day for his post. And that’s where the story gets interesting.

First of all, Day was two days late in filing his report because he has a discrepancy between his records and accounts of $764.85. I make no accusations as to funny business; most likely someone put a number in the wrong column or the bank messed up. There are any number of logical reasons for the error.

More importantly, though, Day had over $10,000 to distribute – getting contributions when running unopposed will tend to do that – and he chose to make two disbursements. Instead of charitable contributions, though, as of this week we have two brand new state political entities:

  • Jake Day for Maryland had an initial contribution of $6,000. Day serves as the chairman and his campaign treasurer Jordan Gilmore retains that role for the new entity.
  • The New Day for Maryland PAC got the remaining $4,075.89, with Day’s campaign manager Alison Pulcher serving as chair and Gilmore as treasurer.

Note that the PAC is not to be confused with the New Day MD PAC that former gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar began in 2009. Lollar’s PAC, as of its 2015 report filed in January, has less than $250 to its name.

Naturally these new campaign finance entities make me wonder if Day is going to serve a full term unhindered by political aspirations or perhaps challenge Bob Culver in 2018. Heck, even Jim Ireton – who has strongly hinted about a Congressional run – didn’t move his city money to create a federal account. (Ireton’s had a state account for a few years, with just over $1,000 in it at last report back in January.) But the campaign entity can also serve as a warchest to stave off challengers in the next city election, too.

In the meantime, we should be proud that much of the leftover campaign cash will be doing good in the community. With the elections now set for November, the contributions came as a nice Christmas gift to several local entities. It will have to tide them over through 2019, though.

Update: Day responds:

The start of something good?

November 16, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The start of something good? 

Tonight the City of Salisbury embarked on a new chapter in its government as its City Council changed hands. Ironically, the person running the meeting at the beginning would shortly become the city’s mayor – Jake Day wielded the gavel for the last time, departing slightly from the agenda to ask for a moment of silence for the people of Paris.

But the first to make comments was outgoing mayor Jim Ireton, who credited the “unsung heroes” who voted for him twice as mayor but “await(s) the incredible things we’ll do together” during the next four years. Ireton also noted later that changing just one person on council can make a profound difference in the body.

Jack Heath, who won election to a full term, noted he “came to know the power of the city and the goodness of its workers.” The man he defeated, Tim Spies, said the last 4 1/2 years were “good for me” and believed the city had a terrific future, with high expectations. He encouraged more people to make a Monday night of getting to Council meetings, adding afterward it was half-price burger night at the Irish Penny to cap off the evening. Public service for him was “fulfilling” with no end to opportunities, Spies said later.

Outgoing Mayor Ireton noted on Spies, “We would be well to have 33,000 Tim Spieses in the city.”

The other Council member leaving, Shanie Shields, vowed “I’m not going anywhere.” Not only would she be there for her successors, she planned on using her newfound time to make County Council meetings. In speaking of Shields, Ireton noted that the Salisbury he grew up in was a “place of 1,000 moms” and Shields was one of them. Shields, he added, reminded him never to forget our best work is ahead of us.

Noting the overflow crowd in the garage of Station 16, Laura Mitchell also hoped they would stay involved. “I would love to see more of this.” Day wrapped up that portion of the evening to noting Council had “exceeded my expectations.”

Ireton and Day, with help from Delegates Christopher Adams, Carl Anderton, and Sherrie Sample-Hughes, and Senator Jim Mathias, presented certificates to Shields and Spies. Anderton also revealed to the audience that Governor Larry Hogan had come through his cancer treatment successfully and was deemed cancer-free, which brought rousing applause from the gathering.

Once those who were leaving were honored, it was time to turn the page and swear in the new members. The Council went first, then Jake Day, with his wife and daughter by his side.

Our featured speaker was Comptroller Peter Franchot, who let us know “I’m a huge fan of Jake Day.”

In his relatively brief remarks, he praised Salisbury as “a city on the rise” with “fresh talent (and) new energy.” We were crucial to the state’s economic fabric, concluded Franchot.

The Council did have a little work to do, though: electing officers. In what turned out to be uncontested votes by acclamation, Jim Ireton nominated Jack Heath to be Council president and Muir Boda nominated Laura Mitchell to its vice-president.

Once again, we heard remarks from the new Mayor and Council. Day made a laundry list of promises, concluding with a vow “we will give you a Salisbury we can be proud of.”

It was noted that Muir Boda had won after multiple tries for office, to which he responded, “I’m finally here.” Even though it was a long process for Boda, he was nowhere near as emotional as April Jackson, who choked up when she said, “I wish my dad could be here.” A well-known community leader, Billy Gene Jackson died earlier this year. Once she regained her composure, she told the crowd, “I’m ready to go. Not to go home, but to get to work!”

As the new Council President, Jack Heath said mutual respect and inclusion was “his pledge.” Once he spoke, he rapped the gavel and declared the meeting to be adjourned.

Because it comes on board at this point in the year, the Council will get to ease into its duties a little bit – the city’s budget isn’t due for a few months. But we will have crime and economic development to deal with, and that’s a pretty full plate as well.

I think they’ll do just fine. To wrap up, here’s a guy I’m proud to call friend, Muir Boda, and his wife Briggit.

It took six years, but I’m pleased my support finally helped make him a winner. My advice to him? Get used to having your picture taken.

To borrow a phrase from Delegate Carl,Anderton, let’s get to work!

A new Day for Salisbury, and a Council to match

November 3, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on A new Day for Salisbury, and a Council to match 

We knew awhile back that Jake Day would Salisbury’s next mayor several months ago when the filing deadline came and went with him as the only candidate in the field. The only question was whether he would get a City Council friendly to his interests, and the answer is somewhat mixed.

With the redistricting set up as it was, it was possible somewhere between one and three incumbents would be elected, as well as the possibility the outgoing mayor would hang around as a Council member. When the smoke cleared tonight, we got the old mayor and two incumbents – one of them, though, is incumbent only a few months as he was appointed to a vacancy last year.

The previous (outgoing) edition of City Council was Day as president, Laura Mitchell as vice-president, and Jack Heath, Shanie Shields, and Tim Spies. We know Day advanced to mayor, while Mitchell was unopposed for her District 5 seat – the only two getting a free pass.

Redistricting lumped Heath and Spies into the same District 3, with Heath getting the victory tonight. Meanwhile, District 1 incumbent Shanie Shields lost her rematch from 2013 with April Jackson, who got 48% of a three-way vote.

In District 4, Jim Ireton prevailed by 53 votes over newcomer Roger Mazzullo, but Muir Boda blew out the field in District 2 – he only got 80 votes but everyone else combined for just 57. Yes, turnout was terrible – initial totals indicate just 1,414 voters bothered to show out of 13,455 registered. Of course, the lack of a mayor’s race – or any race in District 5, which is the largest district in terms of voters – did the most to dampen turnout on what was otherwise a gorgeous day to go to the polls.

With the exception of District 4 I think the Council will be an improvement. Interestingly enough, the newly elected Councilman announced on WBOC-TV he’s already considering another race, perhaps seeking the Democratic nomination for Congress next year. Honestly, for his sake I hope Jim Ireton is kidding because I think the rest of Council is willing to be the work horses rather than the show horse.

A couple other things about the changeover – the composition of the body gets a shade younger because Boda’s relative youth outweighs the age increase between Day and Ireton, who is a dozen years older, and Jackson being a few years younger than Shields. Boda also marks the first elected Republican since Louise Smith served from 2007-11.

So if there’s anything I foresee among City Council, I suspect there will be some tension between former mayor Ireton and new mayor Day. I’m sure there is precedent for former Salisbury mayors returning to government; however, my limited experience with the city means Day is only the third mayor I’ve lived under in 11 years. Previous mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman has largely avoided the spotlight since she left office in 2009. Whether it’s Ireton’s atrocious rent control idea, his high-strung personality, or his jihad against those who invest in the city as landlords, Jim may be the sand in the gears when it comes to moving Salisbury forward.

With the new rules, the city is now set until 2019 – no more alternating elections in the spring of odd-numbered years. It will make 2017 rather quiet around these parts until the latter half when state campaigns get going.

On a personal note, those who advertised with me went 1-for-2, and while Muir Boda lapped the field I would say getting 44% as a novice candidate against an incumbent mayor with built-in name recognition as Roger Mazzullo did counts as a moral victory. So if you want to increase your market share, you may consider giving this website a try.

Campaign finance, Salisbury style

October 28, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Politics · Comments Off on Campaign finance, Salisbury style 

With just a week to go before the election, we finally learned who was giving and receiving the most money of the dozen-plus candidates running for office in the city of Salisbury. (Thanks to the Salisbury Independent for sharing the city’s information in their summary.)

After reading through the various reports, one thing is clear: Jake Day is great at raising money. Despite the fact we learned weeks ago he would be unopposed, contributors have still dropped nearly $25,000 in his campaign coffers. (As I recall, there are options to wind down a campaign account once the cycle is through, so Day may have the opportunity to select from a number of willing groups and share the wealth.)

Last time around in the former District 1, Shanie Shields outraised and outspent her two opponents, one of which was the current office seeker April Jackson. The same is holding true this time, as Shields holds a roughly 3-to-1 fundraising advantage over her two opponents combined. Newcomer Sarah Halcott is the third person in the race.

The advantage is even more pronounced in District 2, with Muir Boda miles ahead of his three opponents. Before I go on, I will disclose that I am a recipient of advertising money from Boda, but two things jumped out at me from his opposition.

First, Keyvan Aarabi only lists $200 in contributions but nearly $900 in spending, so the question is whether they failed to report candidate loans. (Perhaps they made that oversight.) But that’s better than not reporting at all, which Marvin Ames failed to do. The third aspirant, Justin Gregoli, reported his activity did not meet the threshold for itemizing.

In District 3, where two incumbents are battling it out, Jack Heath has raised money while Tim Spies is funding his own efforts, vowing to return contributions. Compared to Heath, newcomer Kevin Lindsay barely registers, having raised just $370 for his bid.

After I disclose that District 4’s Roger Mazzullo is also an advertiser, let me point out that he is by far the most successful political newcomer when it comes to fundraising, raising $3,450 so far compared to outgoing Mayor Jim Ireton’s $870. (In an effort to portray himself as the little guy, Ireton is limiting contributions to $20 – of course, he has the advantage of name recognition that Mazzullo has to spend money to build.)

Finally, since Laura Mitchell is unopposed in District 5 she filed the report stating she had raised and spent less than $600. Given that District 5 voters have no choices on the ballot I would be surprised if more than 100 show up. Turnout in city elections is already abysmal, so 200 to 250 votes in any district may be plenty.

(A total of 2,775 voters participated in the 2013 election, which was citywide and had all contested races. With the lack of a mayor’s race and no contest in one district, I think we’ll be hard-pressed to see 2,000 votes total. Hope they surprise me.)

As we enter the home stretch, we will see what the candidates do to maximize their positions. If money equals votes, City Council could be very receptive to the pro-business side of Jake Day’s agenda.

An anticlimactic November

August 19, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on An anticlimactic November 

One reason the Salisbury city elections were changed beginning this year was the abysmal turnout they usually had in the spring. Sadly, turnout will likely be lower still thanks to the lack of a mayor’s race. The deadline came and went today and Jake Day is the only candidate who filed for mayor.

Voters in District 5, on the city’s far east side, will have even less reason to show up because incumbent Council member Laura Mitchell was the only one bothering to run in her district.

On the other hand, there are old-fashioned shootouts in the other four Council districts. Two incumbents lumped together in District 3 will tangle as both Tim Spies, who won in his second try in 2011, and 2014 appointee Jack Heath will both battle for that seat along with Kevin Lindsay, who was one of 11 unsuccessful applicants to succeed Terry Cohen when she resigned last year – it was the seat Heath won appointment to. It’s a district that takes in the Camden neighborhood by Salisbury University and hops across the Wicomico River to take in areas along Pemberton Drive.

There are two others who tried for the Cohen chair that are running for election this year: Sarah Halcott in District 1 and Muir Boda in District 2. Halcott faces two foes who are familiar with each other: incumbent Shanie Shields and 2013 opponent April Jackson in this inner-city and near west side district. Boda, who is in a district with no incumbent, has three fellow challengers in Keyvan Aarabi, Marvin Ames, and Justin Gregoli. Ames ran for the District 1 County Council seat last year but lost in the Democratic primary. District 2 covers the close-in neighborhoods on the north and east sides of Salisbury (and is my home district.)

Instead of running again for mayor, Jim Ireton opted to run for City Council in District 4. He will face two others vying for the seat: Kenneth Vickers III and Roger Mazzullo. That district is perhaps the largest in geography as it takes in most of the commercial center along the northern fringes of town before veering toward downtown Salisbury.

And downtown will have a friend in Day, who has to be pinching himself and wondering how he was fortunate enough not to have an opponent in his run for mayor. It’s very possible, though, that he may just switch roles with Ireton as he would likely seek to be Council president after being put on the Council as Day did after the 2013 election. (Ireton has served on City Council before, though. He was on it for about a year before leaving – as the story goes it was to take a job out of town.)

With no incumbent in District 2, that will be an interesting race as the victor may be the only newcomer to city government. Boda has run for City Council twice before, losing to incumbent Debbie Campbell in 2009 and finishing fourth behind Mitchell, Cohen, and Spies in 2011.

Out of the 16 total candidates, there are six incumbents (one by appointment), four who have sought election at least once before and lost (including the appointee), four who tried for appointment (one apiece being also in the previous two categories), and five who are apparently political neophytes. Some have steeper learning curves than others.

Interestingly to me, the lack of a primary election means financial disclosure statements will not be due until a week before the election – so no one will know just how the money supply is for candidates until the last minute. (Had the primary remained in place, it would have been held in early September for voters in all but District 5 as the three or four candidates otherwise would have been whittled down to two in each race.) One can ask the legitimate question of who, if anyone, Jake Day will ask his donors to give to now that he is in the clear. (They can also ask about Laura Mitchell.) As two incumbents who got a free ride, their backing could make a difference.

So the first hurdle is crossed, eleven weeks before we actually vote. For a candidate, 77 days can seem like an eternity until they get to mid-October and wonder how they will get through the next few weeks with all they need to do. I look forward to hearing some new and good ideas for the city of Salisbury from this group.

A tone-deaf city government

November 25, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on A tone-deaf city government 

It took several months longer than anticipated – and we don’t yet know exactly what the toll will be – but last night 80 percent of Salisbury City Council gave 100 percent of local property owners another tax to pay by approving a stormwater utility on a 4-0 vote, with newly-appointed Jack Heath being absent.

Council President Jake Day “doesn’t expect” the fee to be more than $20 a year for homeowners, and expects to raise $1.25 million annually from the “rain tax” – and yes, I think the moniker is appropriate given the business fee will be determined by the amount of runoff they produce. According to the latest Census data, though, there are 13,401 housing units in Salisbury so my public school math tells me that businesses are going to pay almost 80% of the total, to the tune of almost $1 million annually.

Interestingly enough, I was quoted in the Daily Times story from last Thursday from a post I wrote in February when the idea came up, and I think the point is still valid: we don’t know what impact there will be from this tax hike on the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay. It seems to me that the timing isn’t very good on this one, particularly as the state and county are working to make these entities more business-friendly and new taxes tend to work in the opposite direction.

I was curious about something, so I took a look at the city’s latest budget that was adopted in May. In it, Mayor Jim Ireton points out that “(t)his budget shows levels of monetary surplus at incredibly healthy levels for both the City’s General Fund and the City’s Water and Sewer Utility.” But it also is using some of the proceeds from the wastewater treatment plant settlement on sewer infrastructure, so why do they need this new tax now? Granted, it’s also stated in the budget that ratepayers get a 2.5% break on water and sewer rates this year, but the extra $20 fee will likely eat that savings up and then some.

The budget also makes the case that the $100 a month, give or take, that a residential property owner pays in property taxes provides a cornucopia of services, a palette which includes stormwater management. So we’re already paying for the service with our property taxes, but instead of adding the penny or two that would cover the additional services the city wants to create a new special fund. Currently the Water and Sewer Fund comprises roughly 1/3 of a city budget which runs about $50 million, with property taxes chipping in about $22 million toward the General Fund. With the city of Salisbury increasing the tax rate regularly, it’s doubtful we’ll see a corresponding decrease in property taxes to offset the new fee.

And while I’m not an expert on the city charter by any means, my question is why can’t the purview of the Water and Sewer Utility (which has a large surplus) be simply expanded to stormwater? Generally infrastructure improvements to the stormwater system involve changes to the remaining utilities as well, so the same work may well come out of two (or three) different funds given the city’s idea. It may be more efficient and less taxing on the city’s residents to amend the charter to add stormwater to the existing water and sewer utility.

So let’s review: the fee would cover something which is already supposed to be paid for, in an amount we haven’t quite determined yet, to achieve projects for which we don’t know the scope but are supposed to address a problem Salisbury contributes little to and is only compelled to deal with because the state refuses to stick up for itself and tell the EPA and Chesapeake Bay Foundation to go pound sand. What could go wrong?

Just remember all this come Election Day next year.

Update 11/26: I actually stumbled upon this as I was researching some items for my next post today, but it’s worth pointing out that Salisbury has justified its adoption of a stormwater utility by saying the town of Berlin has one in place.

The same group, called the Environmental Finance Center – which is part of the University of Maryland but serves as a regional hub for an existing EPA program – did studies to justify the need for Berlin (2012) and Salisbury (2013). The results were pretty much the same, although the suggested fee was higher in Berlin than it was in Salisbury, where they recommended a $40 annual fee for homeowners. Notably, the Salisbury report also recommends fee increases after a period of years – see the chart on page 15. So the problem won’t ever be solved and the program will run an annual surplus that likely won’t be rebated to taxpayers. Moreover, unlike a property tax from which religious-based entities have traditionally been exempt, they have to pay the fee as well.

Also, the fingerprints of the notoriously Radical Green folks of the Town Creek Foundation are on these reports. It’s a group which believes:

We think that true sustainability and resilience – in an increasingly unstable, crisis-prone world – will depend on fundamental transformations of the systems (including the value systems) by which everyday life is organized. These include the systems by which we make and consume energy, food, and materials, and the systems by which we make and enforce social decisions.

We’ve already seen the results of a national “fundamental transformation” over the last six years, and many millions would like to transform back to where we were. But a tone-deaf government just wants to take more out of our pockets rather than prioritize existing resources.

Weighing in on the Salisbury races

Yes, I know it’s Easter Sunday, so I wish my believing readers a happy Easter – He is risen!

But on Tuesday, Salisbury voters will head to the polls to elect their mayor and two of five City Council members in the last partial election before changes in 2015 would require all Council members and the mayor be elected simultaneously. So in essence we are picking some of these Council members and mayor for a half-term to be completed in the fall of 2015.

Honestly, it probably doesn’t matter who gets elected in District 1 because they will be advocates for the city’s minority population getting theirs rather than necessarily the benefits of the city as a whole. I heard a lot of complaining from the three women who are running about what the city didn’t do for their district, and while we all want the benefit of good jobs their district in particular is the product of people who made a lot of bad life choices. We also all want a thriving minority community, but it should be in the context of a thriving community as a whole. Moreover, in 2015 that district will double in size and become home to two Council members if the plans remain the same.

But while I can dismiss the District 1 race quickly, I have a lot to say about the mayor’s race.

In 2009, Jim Ireton told us that help was on the way. Well, the city isn’t exactly thriving, and it’s spent a lot of money just to maintain its place on the treadmill. Furthermore, it appears that even more money will have to be spent thanks to government mandates to clean up Chesapeake Bay – despite the fact millions have already been spent on what was supposed to be a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant. Meanwhile, Jim touts a lot of “accomplishments” which any halfway decent mayor should have been able to do in his sleep. This is what Jim lists on his website as “Improving Salisbury”:

Third Friday, The city’s first Latino Festival, lowering business capacity fees, people returning to downtown, the city dog park, improvements at Bateman/Onley Road. These are just a few of the important improvements to Salisbury that have happened while Jim has been Mayor. Coalitions across Salisbury have worked with Jim and city staff to move projects forward. Jim led the way on the city’s comprehensive plan, fought for and won a 60% reduction in business capacity fees, and hasn’t raised property taxes his entire time in office.

Jim has aggressively used the city’s revolving loan fund program to help businesses like Mojo’s, and he’s ordered the demolition of five slum properties and worked to close and demolish the Thrift Travel Inn.

Well, no wonder MoJo’s donated to his campaign! I’m just surprised they didn’t max out. But when you think about it – is that a worthy resume of four years in office? Oh, and he claims violent crime dropped 41 percent and he hired the first female chief of police.

But the city still struggles with the same problems it did four years ago. Some things are different and some things are changed, but we still seem to be only treading water. The situation was ripe for a good opponent; instead, we got Joe Albero.

Joe Albero claims to be a successful (now-retired) businessman who would bring that experience to Salisbury. Yet I have to question that because I’ve never seen any of the businesses he created – it’s not like I drive by any of them in my daily rounds as I would a restaurant, a haberdashery, or a manufacturing plant. From what I have gathered, the business he owns works in the lighting field but there are no local jobs being created that I’m aware of. One would think he would point with pride to these businesses and say, see what success I have achieved? But he doesn’t even have a functional “Albero for Mayor” website.

Now I will say Joe has a website which apparently attracts a fair number of readers and is chock full of ads from local businesses who supposedly pay $100 a month for the privilege. If you want to count that as a successful business I suppose you could but consider how he got it to be a successful business – it wasn’t through good customer service or promoting a quality product. I’ve spoken to observers who liken visiting the site to seeing highlights of the 14-car NASCAR pileup – you know it’s wrong, but you can’t help but watch.

So those are Salisbury’s choices for mayor for the next 31 months. I really can’t recommend either of them; although Albero talks a good game I simply have a trust issue with him from past experience.

Yet on the City Council District 2 side, I can provide you with a clear choice.

I can’t fault Jake Day either for trying or for having some sound ideas; moreover, he’s the only candidate who knocked on my door. But I’m troubled by a number of items in his elaborate plan for Salisbury.

I don’t believe one can force the market to adapt to retail, nor can we goose a demand for downtown/urban housing without some kind of subsidy. Day seemingly envisions a Salisbury where all the new housing in certain areas is attached to retail below – of course, the question is whether there is a market for either option considering we have a number of these housing units already available. (One example is the building Albero lives in, which insofar as I recall hadn’t had its apartments leased in several years until Albero himself moved in.)

And while it would be nice to create a Salisbury Boulevard which is more attractive, I have to wonder where the money for these improvements will come from and also how it will affect traffic flow. Day advocates for an expansion of mass transit between Salisbury University and downtown, and seems to focus most of his energy on building up the central city.

He’s also an advocate of LEED design, which is great for energy efficiency but not so good for property rights or inexpensive building. As I’ve often stated, I like a payback period for investment in energy savings of five years or less and, although I haven’t kept up with the LEED field over the last few years, it was heading in a direction even more disdainful of property rights and toward central planning. The words “transit-oriented development” may not mean much to you, but to me it means attempting to do away with the automobile and the freedom it provides.

Over the last few weeks, it’s become apparent that Day was Jim Ireton’s handpicked minion for City Council, and I didn’t support Jim Ireton the first time he ran.

Me, I would rather have a fiscal watchdog on City Council:

Yes, it’s a video which isn’t all that slickly produced and, to be quite honest, I’m not sure how River’s Edge isn’t going to be the same black hole that’s already sitting on the site, just a little farther along. Color me skeptical.

But when the word “no” is justified, I want someone who knows how to say it. Consider Debbie Campbell as a check and balance to the far-left intentions of Jim Ireton. I’ll be quite honest: I didn’t vote for her the last time she ran because I thought Muir Boda would do an even better job, and it’s too bad he didn’t run this time. I was hoping Jack Heath would finish in the top two (and I voted for him, despite his somewhat lackluster campaign) so I’d have a better, more conservative choice than I have with Day in the field; alas, it was not to be.

Will the infighting on City Council continue with Campbell remaining in place? Sadly, the answer is probably “yes.” But I’d rather have a little friction and the assurance someone is watching out for my interests than smooth sailing toward oblivion. I honestly suspect all of the realtors and contractors who have donated to Day will be lined up looking for their palms to be greased later this month if Day is sworn in.

Unfortunately, that joining at the hip of Day and Ireton has also led to the thought that Campbell and Albero are, too. But I haven’t seen Campbell and Albero out campaigning together, and while they may share some of the same goals I’m not taking the package deal. I’m hoping those of us on the local Republican Central Committee can work on getting a better, full slate of candidates before voters in 2015, since it would be a four-year term (and perhaps five separate districts, a Day idea I could endorse.)

But overall the choice for District 2 is clear: let’s get some honest-to-goodness business going in Salisbury, not pay-for-play. Vote for Debbie Campbell on Tuesday.

It’s a primary rerun in District 1

March 9, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2013 - Salisbury, Delmarva items · 2 Comments 

If you want to find the person who most believes every vote counts, look no further than Salisbury District 1 Council hopeful April Jackson.

On the night of the primary election, she trailed Cynthia Polk for the second and final spot in the District 1 Council race by one vote, 40-39. Adding in the first wave of absentee and provisional ballots left her still one vote in arrears, 53-52. But the handful of absentee votes which are left aside to mix with any late votes coming in from overseas (legal as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day) proved to have that one vote Jackson needed to draw the race for second to a 53-53 tie. The City Charter states that in such a case all those who are tied for the last spot advance, so all we accomplished in the primary election was the elimination of Jack Heath in District 2. (By the way, the 218 votes Heath received were more votes than the total cast in District 1, which was 176. District 2, which is 4/5 of the city as currently constituted, drew 1,384 votes in the aggregate.)

So what does all of this mean? Obviously with two opponents to split the anti-incumbent vote, it may bode well for Shanie Shields to keep her job in District 1 – but with so few motivated voters in that district (judging by the puny percentage which bothered to turn out for the primary) a concerted effort by any of the three could swing momentum their way.

On the other hand, District 2 voters would have to embrace Debbie Campbell once again in a big way for her to retain her seat. Even if she receives all 218 Jack Heath supporters into her camp (I suspect she will draw the majority of them) she’s still in search of 308 votes to catch Jacob Day. It’s definitely his campaign to lose.

And the dynamics of the mayor’s race may play into the general election for Council as well. The general perception is that Debbie Campbell is in the corner of mayoral challenger Joe Albero, while Day and Ireton seem to draw from the same left-wing support base. Shanie Shields seems to be the proxy for Ireton in District 1, and Cynthia Polk could well be an Albero supporter from that same district – Albero and Campbell signs dot the front of her Kim Star Designs business, with the caveat that the building is also shared by another company.

But whether Albero will be a lifeline or albatross for Campbell (or vice versa) has yet to be seen.

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