Last year I did this in three parts, but to me that may be overkill this time around. Consider that 2017 is not an election year, so if anything we will not see much on that front until the latter stages of the year as the campaigns for 2018′s state elections ramp up. And because all but one of our local officials are first-term representatives in their respective offices, it’s likely they will wish to continue in office. Bear in mind, though, on the Senate side longtime House member Addie Eckardt will be 75 and Jim Mathias (who is in his second term as Senator after one-plus in the House) will be 67 by the time the next election comes around, so they are likely closer to the end of their lengthy political careers than to the beginning. And thanks to Wicomico County voters who passed the referendum this past November, 2017 will be the year we formally set up the elections which will net the county its first fully-elected Board of Education in late 2018.
Speaking of the local BOE, we still have an appointed board until that election and the two members whose terms expire this year are both Democrats who are term-limited. I suspect the local Democrats will try and send up names of people who will run for seats in 2018 to gain that incumbency advantage – as envisioned, though, these will be non-partisan elections. And the final say goes to the state Secretary of Appointments, who over the years hasn’t always been kind to those we preferred, either. Or, conversely, since the incumbents serve until their successors are appointed, we may see a long stalling technique, too. It will be interesting to see how that plays out, but I’ll bet those who are appointed will use that tenure as a springboard for eventual election.
Elsewhere in Wicomico County as 2016 comes to an end, it appears the city of Salisbury and Wicomico County are working out their issues rather well. The biggest sticking point remains fire service, and it’s relatively likely the city is going to see more of a reimbursement from the county when it comes to that – perhaps to the tune of up to $2 million a year. It’s possible there may be something to cut to make up for this, but as the county has increased its debt in the last few years to build several schools it leaves less room for spending cuts to make up the difference. If the city receives $2 million annually that would equate to about a 3 or 4 cent property tax increase for county residents. There’s also the chance that a tax differential or rebate may be on the table in order to reimburse city residents, as they pay the same tax rate as county residents. Wicomico is one of only three counties in the state that choose not to provide a tax differential to their municipalities.
But there is another factor to consider. Back in June the number of people working in Wicomico County set an all-time high of 52,010, eclipsing a mark that had stood for nearly a decade (July 2006.) That record lasted a month, as July came in at 53,668. While the number of jobs has finally reached where we were a decade ago, bear in mind the labor force is about 1,000 larger – so unemployment is in the 5.5% range rather than 4%. Even so, that extra number of people working – a number which year-over-year between 2015 and 2016 has fluctuated quite a bit but usually comes in at 1,000 or more additional workers in 2016 – means there’s more revenue to the county from income taxes so paying the city of Salisbury may not be such a heavy lift. The question for 2017 will be whether these economic conditions continue and whether Wicomico County will want to spend every “extra” dime on items which are unsustainable in rougher economic times.
That same question goes for the state, but the trend there has been for more spending. Democrats in the General Assembly added millions in mandated spending to the state budget and it’s a sure bet they will try again this year. Add to that the general belief that year 3 of a Maryland political cycle sees the most ambitious agenda put forth – it’s time for those incumbents to bring home the bacon and burnish their re-election chances the next year – and you can bet that paid sick leave will pass, Radical Green will have its day (perhaps with a fracking ban, which would devastate Western Maryland), and any Hogan veto will be promptly overridden. It’s certain that they will leave enough time in passing these controversial bills to do so. We’ve already seen battle lines drawn with the counter-proposal from Governor Hogan on paid sick leave and the social media-fueled drive to repeal the “Road Kill Bill” that Democrats passed over Governor Hogan’s veto in the spring of this year.
The wild card in state politics, though, comes from national politics. It’s not because we had the well-publicized answer to an extremely nosy press – if only they paid as much attention to some of Martin O’Malley’s foibles and scandals! – that Larry Hogan wasn’t going to support his (nominally at best) fellow Republican Donald Trump, but the idea that Donald Trump may actually do something to cut the size and scope of government. (Military contractors, particularly, have reason to worry.) And because Maryland’s economy is so dependent on the federal government, to a shocking and sickening degree, we know that if Trump begins to make cuts it will hurt Maryland the most. Given the typical bureaucrat CYA perspective, it explains perfectly why four of the five jurisdictions Trump did worst in - the only five which came in below his 35% statewide total – were the four counties closest to the District of Columbia (MoCo, PG, Charles, and Howard. Baltimore City was the fifth.) While I am entirely a skeptic on this, there seems to be the belief that Trump will take a meat cleaver to the budget and thousands of federal and contract workers will be cast aside because of it.
And in a situation where revenues are already coming up short of forecast, a recession in the state’s biggest jurisdictions, coupled with the mandated spending Democrats keep pushing through, will make it really, really difficult on Larry Hogan going into 2018. You will be able to judge who has the most ambition to be Governor by who carps the longest about these cuts.
While the Dow Jones stalled this week in an effort to breach the 20,000 mark by year’s end, the rise in the markets echoes consumer optimism - even as fourth quarter GDP forecasts turned a little bearish, consumers still feel a little better about the state of our economy. If we can get the 4% GDP growth Donald Trump promised we may see some of these fiscal crises take care of themselves.
Yet there was also a sentiment in 2016 that the world was going mad: consider all the terror attacks, the seemingly unusual number of and extended shock over high-profile celebrity deaths, and a general turning away from that which was considered moral and proper to that which fell under the realm of political correctness, wasn’t a “trigger” and didn’t violate the “safe spaces” of the Millennial “snowflakes.” (I can’t resist linking to this one I wrote for The Patriot Post.) At some point the pendulum swings back the other way, but in most cases that takes a life-changing event like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. I’d prefer a much softer transition but a transition nonetheless.
As I see it, the key word for 2017 will be leadership: if the current elected officials and new President have it and use it wisely to the benefit of our county, state, and nation “so help me God” things will be okay. If not, well, we’ve seen that movie for about eight or ten years already and we will continue to slouch toward Gomorrah.
On Wednesday night I put up a relatively quick post handicapping the various officer races for Maryland Republican Party leadership. But there was one person I may have missed, and his name is Gary Collins.
Over the last few days his social media has been on fire because he had noted his thought about trying for the brass ring, but deciding against it – only to find a lot of people want him to consider it anyway. It seems to me there can be floor nominations (although my recollection is rusty on this) so he may have something of a support base if he decides to try.
Back in the summer, though, Gary was one of the strongest Trumpkin voices screaming for my resignation, and I suppose he eventually got his wish because I did. Now he has to be careful what he wished for, though, because I’m going to give him (and anyone else who seeks the top spot) some free advice from an outsider who was once on the inside. It’s not so much on how to be chair of the party as it is a general treatise on philosophy. So here goes.
- There are two numbers for the new Chair to remember: 818,890 and 1,677,926. The former number is the Democratic vote in 2014, and the latter in 2016. We can’t count on a weak Democrat that the party can’t get excited about to run in 2018, and you can be sure that the other party will be trying to tie the person who only won in 2014 by about 65,000 votes to the guy who lost two years later, in large part from Democrats and independents voting against him as opposed to being for their own flawed nominee, by over 700,000 votes. (You can fairly say that 1/3 of Hillary’s popular vote margin came from this state.) This is true even though Larry Hogan didn’t support Donald Trump and reportedly didn’t vote for him.
- Thus, job one for the party Chair is to re-elect the governor and job 1A is to get him more help. You may not like it, and the chances are reasonably good the winner supported Trump from early on. But not everything Trump says or does will play well here, especially when 2/5 of the voters live in the Capital region.
- Legislatively, this will be the year in the cycle the General Assembly majority is most aggressive. You can bet that paid sick leave will pass and they will dare Hogan to veto it. Even other crazy stuff like the “chicken tax” and a renewed push for the O’Malley-era phosphorus regulations have a decent chance of passing – both to burnish the far-left legacy of ambitious Democrats and to attempt to embarrass Governor Hogan. Meanwhile, if it’s an administration-sponsored bill you can be certain the committee chairs have standing orders to throw it in their desk drawers and lose the key. (Of course, identical Democrat-sponsored legislation will have a chance at passing, provided they get all the credit.) Bear in mind that 2017 will be aggressive because 2018 is an election year and the filing deadline will again likely be during session – so those who wish to move up in the ranks may keep their powder dry on the most extreme issues next session until they see who wins that fall.
- Conservatives have a lot to lose. Larry Hogan is not a doctrinaire conservative, but he needs a second term for one big reason – sort of like the rationale of keeping the Supreme Court that #NeverTrump people were constantly subjected to. It’s the redistricting, stupid. They got rid of Roscoe Bartlett by adding thousands of Montgomery County voters to the Sixth District (while diluting the former Sixth District voters into the Eighth or packing them into the First) so the next target will be Andy Harris. If you subtracted out the four Lower Shore counties from his district and pushed it over into Baltimore City, you would only lose a little in the Democratic Third and Seventh Districts but pick up the First. The Lower Shore voters would be well outnumbered by PG and Charles County as part of the Fifth District (such a district split is not unprecedented.) Democrats dreamed about this last time out, and they want no part of an independent redistricting commission.
- One place to play offense: vulnerable Democrat Senators. I live in Jim Mathias’s district, and it’s very interesting how much more of an advocate he was for an elected school board after 2014. He’s always tried to play up his somewhat centrist (compared to most Democrats. anyway) voting record, and I suspect there are a handful of other D’s who may try to do the same. Don’t let them get away with it, because over years of doing the monoblogue Accountability Project I’ve found (with a couple rare exceptions) that even the worst Republican is superior to the best Democrat as far as voting is concerned.
So whoever wins Saturday can feel free to use these ideas. As for me, I have far better plans for my weekend – I’ll wave in the general direction in Frederick as we go by. Fair warning: comment moderation may be slow or non-existent.
It was awful tempting to jump on into that water, but several thousand people managed to sweat their way through another hot Tawes Crab and Clam Bake. While Republicans tend to have a little more presence in the area, some of the Tawes regulars were absent because the event coincided this year with the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
That convention minted the GOP Presidential nominee, who seemed to be pretty popular.
That group of signs dwindled little by little, as Trump adorned a number of tents. On the other hand, there were far fewer Hillary signs – but the Democrats also had their crowded space.
Sarah Meyers (in the blue shirt) is a friend of mine, and she was tearing her hair out as the coordinator there because they overbooked the space. (You may see her at the Democratic Convention next week, as she will be there as a page.) By the same token, the Somerset Republicans only went with one tent as well and it was packed, too. So both parties had close quarters.
Yet the businesses seemed to have ample space. I didn’t peek into every tent, but many of them (as well as businesses lining State Route 413 into Crisfield) had a simple message: welcome Governor Hogan.
Even lobbyist Bruce Bereano, who always has the largest space, got into that act.
Yet among those businesses I did pick out I found an odd juxtaposition there, particularly under the auspices of the local economic development commission.
In order, these businesses are Cleanbay Renewables, which is a chicken waste recycling firm, Pinnacle Engineering, which services NASA, the Somers Cove Marina Commission, and Great Bay Solar I. The last is interesting because this project was originally supposed to be wind turbines, but objections to the siting of the turbine towers from the Navy forced the company to go solar, making lemonade out of lemons. With the exception of Pinnacle, the state has sort of forced the market for the other two businesses.
Yet on the other side was a law firm that objects to the approach the state is using to clean Chesapeake Bay through its Clean Chesapeake Coalition. They believe much of the problem comes from the sediment that leaches out from behind Conowingo Dam in severe storms.
I happen to think the CCC has a pretty good case.
Speaking of business, the food business did pretty well there. Almost too well.
According to my cell phone camera, which took all my photos today, I took that picture at 12:01 as I walked over to get in line for food. Here is the end result, 46 minutes and four lines later.
I actually asked for the onion rings as I inched closer to the front of the French fry line. And I certainly don’t fault the crew because they worked hard, even toward the end when I snapped this.
I think the issue is the increasing use of “runners” who get multiple orders of food and slow down the lines. It seemed like every third person in line was one, which meant those who just wanted to fend for themselves had to wait.
The guy who didn’t have to wait in line was Governor Larry Hogan, because I don’t think he ate a bite.
This is a second segment of time lapse. I took this photo above in the area where the food lines were at 1:57 p.m. Now, let me ask you: where’s Hogan?
He’s barely visible in the center of the photo, obscured by Delegate Charles Otto in the pinkish shirt. In 35 minutes he had advanced maybe 80 yards thanks to the crush of well-wishers who wanted to shake his hand, have a photo with him (although he suggested it in a number of cases) and perhaps say their piece. I was in the latter group as I wanted to thank him for his stance on the Presidential election. Larry commented that he had noticed the reception I’ve received on social media a couple times as it echoed a lot of what he had seen on his.
Stay strong, Governor.
The two major-party candidates for U.S. Senator were also there. Now I missed Democrat Chris Van Hollen – perhaps because I didn’t recognize him walking around – but I did get a glimpse of Kathy Szeliga from the GOP.
Of the people I saw and photographed, she was one of the few I didn’t speak to at least a little bit. I don’t blame her – our paths just didn’t cross but once.
Of course, a few locals managed to be in front of my camera, such as Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who brought her family and a batch of others from Worcester County.
She was speaking to Duane Keenan from Red Maryland.
The other half of Worcester County must have come with Senator Jim Mathias, who had a number of folks with a matching shirt to his. He was a little peaked by the time I took the moment to thank him for his assistance with the school board election bill.
Yet while we had hot and cold running politicians there, we also had a lot of media asking questions. I noted Duane Keenan above, but here’s Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post (right) speaking to Jackie Wellfonder. Jackie made the cut in Ovetta’s story.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Mike Bradley, who hosts WGMD’s morning show out of Lewes, Delaware. Since his station covers a fair amount of the lower Shore in its signal, he was interviewing some of the local players. It’s a very good show that I catch once I cross into Delaware on my way to work.
And it could be that the Tawes event is becoming one for the greater Delmarva area. A delegation of elected officials from the First State included Representative Tim Dukes, who covers the Laurel and Delmar areas in his 40th District.
The reason I’m in the photo on the right: it was taken by Dukes’ fellow representative (and Minority Leader in the Delaware House) Danny Short of Seaford. Since we’re neighbors with Delaware it was nice to see some of their elected officials, too.
In that respect, this coverage was a little lacking because I did a lot of walking and talking to a number of nice folks from around the state. I want to say I overheard Jackie Wellfonder say this, but Tawes really is “like a big ‘ol family reunion.” We don’t often see a lot of politicians travel across the bridge but for attending Tawes, so you have to say hello and speak your piece when you can.
We had a good gathering for our primary eve meeting, buoyed by the presence of the families of the winners of our annual scholarship contest. Three things that were missing at the start, though, were three of our officers so Second Vice-President Shawn Bradley got things underway with a little assistance from me. Fortunately, we do pretty much the same thing as an introduction every month so we made it over those bumps in the road and heard our Central Committee report first.
County Chair Mark McIver announced we were still seeking applicants for our two upcoming Board of Education appointments, although we already had 5 with their information turned in. He also reminded us that the end of this process could be at hand, as the bill allowing us to vote on whether we wanted an elected school board was passed by the General Assembly. Jackie Wellfonder revealed the signing ceremony was slated for tomorrow, with Governor Hogan signing the Senate version sponsored by Senators Jim Mathias and Addie Eckardt.
He also spoke about the voter affiliation drive to allow people to vote in our primary. It was a multi-prong push combining a mailing, letters to the editor, and advertising in local media. I noted that the effort had worked to some extent – according to Board of Elections statistics, I recalled the GOP had gained about 400 voters in March, the Democrats about 250, and unaffiliated voters falling by about 250. (Actual numbers as I looked them up just now: Republicans +398, Democrats +261, and unaffiliated -247. We also lost 5 Greens and 18 “other” but gained 9 Libertarians.)
Mark also allowed Nate Sansom to speak. On his behalf, we are planning to bring a resolution to the Spring Convention asking for electoral votes in Maryland to be awarded to the winner of each Congressional district instead of all ten being winner-take-all. (Maine and Nebraska have such a system.) As I pointed out, it’s only fair after the way Democrats gerrymandered our state.
McIver also announced he would be hosting a pig roast fundraiser on June 11, and it was likely several state candidates may be there to help the Wicomico GOP.
Ed Senkbeil, representing our scholarship committee, had the honor of presenting two local seniors WCRC Scholarships. Taylor Creighton of Mardela High School and Jessica Willey of Parkside High School were the two winners. Creighton will be heading off to Clemson University to study in the field of genetics, while Willey will be studying psychology at Washington College. Both of them gave brief introductory remarks and did well for an impromptu engagement.
We then heard from our featured speaker: the incoming president of the Maryland College Republicans, Patty Miller of Salisbury University.
After Miller introduced her successor as SU chapter president, Shelby Hall, she remarked that the College Republicans were “on the front lines of dealing with liberal college students.” Under her leadership of the SU chapter, they had become active in local and state campaigns and recently hosted an address by Ben Shapiro, a writer, editor, and author perhaps most famous for working at Breitbart.com until he resigned after the Michelle Fields incident.
It was interesting to learn that her maternal family has a rich heritage in politics. Miller’s mother is a native of Honduras, where her family was involved in the 2009 removal of President Manuel Zelaya, a leftist ally of the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. Zelaya was ousted after attempting to circumvent a constitutional provision against serving more than one four-year term. These family ties made her “passionate about capitalism…the American Dream is still alive.”
As the CR state chair, she announced “I’m here to get stuff done.” She actually wasn’t originally seeking the office of president but a series of events led her to take the top position, which oversees 11 school-level chapters around the state – Miller would like to secure two others as well. She also gets a non-voting seat on the state party’s executive committee, although there is a proposal before the membership next month that may allow the CRs to have a vote once again.
After Miller’s remarks, we went through some business. Jackie Wellfonder had the list of polling places for sign placement, which would commence after the meeting. She also announced the newly-formed Wicomico Republican Women’s Club would host a “Welcome Back Reception for the Eastern Shore Delegation” on May 5.
Jim Jester let us know the Crab Feast will be September 10, once again at Schumaker Pond. His next step was securing the beer permit, but Muir Boda added we were seeking event sponsors for the first time to help defray the costs.
Nate Sansom was pleased to say the second meeting of the Wicomico Teenage Republicans was a success. Through his diligence, Nate was able to secure a phone visit from two local candidates: Anthony Seda for U.S. Senate and Jonathan Goff for Congress. He also received information from several other candidates to distribute, so these were well-informed TARs.
While we waited for 50/50 tickets to be sold as our last event, I asked Muir Boda to give us a City Council update. He had just come from the first budget meeting, where they were attempting to raise water and sewer rates. Muir also explained one of the budget priorities set out by Mayor Jake Day: the construction of a community center to host city-sponsored after-school programs as well as more immediate funding for a summer youth employment program. While the city of Salisbury would purchase the land and build the community center, funding for its operations would come from local non-profits.
Boda also noted that getting more highway user revenue from the state would assist in fixing some of the city’s worst streets, which have been neglected for years if not decades.
So while the meeting turned out to be less than an hour, several people stuck around to help with signs for tomorrow. If you ask me, the most effective ones should be the red Ted Cruz sign, the blue-and-white Richard Douglas sign, and the yellow-and-blue Andy Harris one.
Next month’s meeting (and yes, we will have a May meeting thanks to a late Memorial Day) will be May 23. It’s not official, but I think we are due for our annual legislative wrapup.
Each day now I receive an e-mail of news clips from Allison Meyers, who is with the Hogan for Governor campaign. I don’t read every one but I peruse a number of them and one of the items the other day was from Calvert County regarding four legislators out of 26 statewide who are being honored by the American Conservative Union at the upcoming CPAC event.
Needless to say, I had to check the list to see who was on it. Unfortunately, none of our local legislators made this list of 26 – they are among the 38 Republicans who did not make the cut of an 80 percent rating. (And you thought I was the only one who rated legislators based on voting record?)
Just to save you some of the agate type, here are the scores our local delegation received, in rank order:
- Christopher Adams (R – House 37B) 78%
- Charles Otto (R – House 38A) 78%
- Johnny Mautz (R – House 37B) 72%
- Carl Anderton (R – House 38B) 67%
- Mary Beth Carozza (R – House 38C) 67%
- Addie Eckardt (R – Senate 37) 50%
- Jim Mathias (D – Senate 38) 43%
- Sheree Sample-Hughes (D – House 37A) 33%
Eckardt was the lowest Republican in the entire General Assembly, while Mathias was tied as the top Democrat in the Senate for the second year in a row. [I also found 2014 ratings. Last year Mike McDermott would have received an Award for Conservative Excellence (90% or better) while Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio was due an Award for Conservative Achievement (80%-89%).]
In looking at the ACU list, many of the bills also found their way into the monoblogue Accountability Project; however, my list is a little more broad since I took 22 floor votes and include the budget. But if my memory is correct the ACU and I saw eye to eye on every bill they scored so I would have had a perfect 100. (The only one to do so.)
Normally when Republicans fall down my list it’s for one (or more) of three reasons:
- They vote for bloated spending bills. I haven’t liked a budget yet since I began the mAP, so voting in its favor always works against them. I’m leaning against this year’s budget only because I think 5% growth is excessive.
- Civil libertarian laws. Two key examples this past year were marijuana and civil forfeiture. I’m for stopping crime but if someone can brew their own beer they should also be able to grow their own marijuana. Regulate it like alcohol. Meanwhile, government greed is leading them to police for profit rather than safety.
- Environmental bills. They get too cozy with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other backers of Radical Green. Let the regulations in place have a chance to work before dreaming up new stuff.
So I was a little disappointed to see none of the local legislators make the list, although had they had two more bills to score Adams and Otto may have made the 80 percent threshold. But it is tough to score well in any such rating system so hopefully we will see better in the 2016 edition.
The half-decade or more process of securing a Board of Education in Wicomico County that’s directly elected by the people entered a new chapter late last week with the introduction of the appropriate legislation in the Maryland General Assembly. Senate Bill 145, with Senator Jim Mathias as lead sponsor and Addie Eckardt as co-sponsor, provides for the makeup of the board as well as a three-way referendum to be placed on this November’s ballot. It’s a relatively complex 16-page bill, subdivided into several sections because the sections which would actually become law are dependent on the results of the referendum.
To make a long story short, voters would face three choices in November, from which they can only select one:
- FOR a Board of Education with seven members appointed by the Governor;
- FOR a Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members elected at-large;
- FOR a Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members appointed by County Council.
The method with the most votes wins, regardless of whether it is a majority or plurality.
SB145 was assigned to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs (EHEA) Committee and given a relatively quick hearing date of Wednesday, January 27. The EHEA committee has 10 members and is led by Chair Senator Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore City and Vice-Chair Paul Pinsky of Prince George’s County. Other Democratic members are Cheryl Kagan of Montgomery County, Shirley Nathan-Pulliam of Baltimore County, Jim Rosapepe of Prince George’s County, and Ronald Young of Frederick County, while Republicans Gail Bates of Howard County, Johnny Ray Salling of Baltimore County, Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County, and Steve Waugh of Calvert County also sit on the committee.
At the present time it’s the smallest committee with just 10 members (and a slim 6-4 Democratic advantage) because there’s one vacancy in the Senate. At some point it’s presumed that a Montgomery County Democrat will join the committee to be its eleventh member, but the bill will likely have its hearing and committee vote by then. (Former District 14 Senator Karen Montgomery resigned as of January 1.)
An interesting note regarding the makeup of the committee is that Conway and Simonaire represent counties with appointed boards, while Pinsky, Nathan-Pulliam, Rosapepe, and Salling represent counties with hybrid boards. Moreover, none of these committee members represent the Eastern Shore. It’s worth noting as well that Conway was the chair of EHEA when Caroline County got its hybrid board. It was Senator Conway, who represents a district several counties and a completely different way of life away, that deemed that Caroline County didn’t have sufficient minority representation with a fully-elected board, so if the initial all-elected option is scrubbed for Wicomico it’s likely her doing. (This despite the fact we have one majority-minority County Council district and two others with significant minority populations, out of five.)
So the goal is to make sure this bill gets through without being tampered with, but that will be difficult since we don’t have a local representative on the board. And remember: last year when we had a bill for a hybrid board, their excuse for stopping it was that only one of the two Senators were supporting it. Now both are sponsors, and thanks to the public hearings we know that a lot of support was there for the all-elected option as one of three choices. Anything less is a disservice to the people of Wicomico County.
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!
Last week the state wrapped up a series of hearings on the state’s redistricting process. Unfortunately, the local hearing was neither local (held in Easton) nor convenient (held on a weekday afternoon.) While the Eastern Shore is well-ensconced in the First Congressional District, it endured plenty of change in the last state redisrtricting as boundary lines were shifted dramatically and former multi-delegate districts broken down for single delegates.
To be more specific about the points I mentioned above, the Democrats in charge of the 2010 census redisrtricting placed two Republicans in a single-member district based mainly in Somerset County. To form the revamped District 38A, they chopped off the southern portion of Wicomico County that freshman Republican Charles Otto was elected to represent in 2010 and pushed the district eastward into Worcester County to include fellow freshman GOP member Mike McDermott. Otto kept the seat in 2014, but McDermott lost a bid for Senate to incumbent Jim Mathias.
The part of Wicomico County formerly represented by Otto shifted mainly to District 37B, a fairly safe GOP district then represented by Delegates Addie Eckardt and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. After neither sought re-election in favor of higher office, the district became home to two freshmen Republican Delegates: Christopher Adams of Wicomico County and Johnny Mautz of Talbot County.
The rest of the old 38A was placed into a greatly diminished District 38B, one which encompassed territory from Delmar to Fruitland through the eastern half of Salisbury. Removing the rural portions of a former two-delegate seat was supposed to make it easier for incumbent Democrat Norm Conway, but he was still ousted by Republican Carl Anderton. The rest of District 38B not taken by Otto’s district was rebadged District 38C, a fairly solid Republican area now represented by Delegate Mary Beth Carozza.
The only district that stayed relatively the same was District 37A, a majority-minority district where Delegate Rudy Cane retired and left the field to freshman Democrat Sheree Sample-Hughes. As it turned out, the only incumbent Delegate to survive out of the two districts was Charles Otto. Wicomico County is now represented by five freshman Delegates, four Republican and one Democrat.
Yet the cynicism wasn’t just limited to our area. According to Delegate Jeff Ghrist, there are 71 districts that have an above-average population while 70 fall below the average. It’s just amazing that 44 of the 50 Republicans represent districts in the larger-than-average category, while 64 of 91 Democrats come from “small” districts. Given that a variation of 5% is permissible, there could be 4,000 more residents in a GOP district than a Democratic one, allowing the party in power an extra 6 or 7 seats across the state.
Ghrist also complained about the size of the districts. He lives near the border of District 36, but noted adjacent District 37B spans from Denton to the Somerset County line and from the Delaware border to the far reaches of Oxford and St. Michael’s as a two-member district. His District 36 takes in the northern part of the Eastern Shore as a three-member district. While most of the counties on the Shore are too small to support their own district, it is possible for the Shore to fill four full three-member districts with a little help from the eastern end of neighboring Harford County.
The key, though, is single-member districts. A county like Wicomico could have two members to itself, while sharing the majority-minority district in existence with Dorchester County. Geography may dictate some crossing of lines, but the districts can be made much more compact and contiguous.
Obviously Senate districts will need to span several county lines. The remedy to this is to go back to a system which, unfortunately, was dealt its mortal blow by the ill-advised passage of the Seventeenth Amendment and formally died with the Reynolds vs. Sims decision in 1964. Until then, each Maryland county had its own Senator to represent county interests. The right thing to do would be place the Senate in the hands of each county’s legislative body, allowing them to choose two (for a total of 48) and staggering the terms to having them pick a new one every two years. (Like the U.S. Senate, it would be the job of the Lieutenant Governor to break tie votes.)
If they had the cojones to challenge the 51-year-old Reynolds ruling Maryland can be a leader in moving forward into the past, restoring the original intent of our founders in balancing the interests of the people and local governments.
In part two, I want to consider our Congressional districts.
For the thirteenth year, Wicomico County hosted the Autumn Wine Festival on the grounds of Pemberton Manor.
There was one notable difference in this year’s event as opposed to previous ones, even at the ribbon cutting.
It was the usual assortment of politicians, but in addition to Senator Jim Mathias in the pink shirt, there were members of the Women Supporting Women group making sure we remembered October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This as if the entrance sign wasn’t enough.
Then you had this raffle table up front.
If you wanted to buy a bottle of wine, they were there.
They were selling merchandise, too.
You could even make a game of it.
Listen, I get it. When the attendance at the event appears to be 60-70% female it’s a good marketing play. But it may be a little hypocritical to use the AWF based on one recent study. Nor is there nearly the push for lung cancer or prostate cancer awareness despite their similar incidence. Just adding perspective, folks.
It seemed to me as well the crowd was a little thinner. I like taking crowd shots to watch the evolution, as the four shots from Saturday taken from about 12:30 to 3:30 show.
Today with the brisk weather and a couple spotty showers, it was fairly slow. The shot below was taken at 1:30.
By 2:45 the end tent farthest from the stage and food area was all but deserted.
At least one vendor pulled up stakes early based on this sparse gathering. There was still over an hour left at the time.
Just the couple businesses I spoke to would have liked better sales.
There were some other nice touches, though, The VIP section for the Wine Festival is much larger than the one for its beer-based counterpart.
On Sunday it becomes an artisan section where they can sell their wares.
As always, we Republicans were there too.
Like last week, we did a “corn poll,” but this time we had a different winner as Donald Trump prevailed. Participation was significantly less this week, though.
I generally have a few favorites in the marketing department and a bottle photo to conclude with. Based on the number of stickers I saw with this logo they were a hit.
St. Michael’s Winery does the Gollywobbler, the subject of the shirt below. What I didn’t know is that they’re next door to the St. Michael’s brewery. Can you say road trip?
Finally, the bottle shot brought to you by sunshine and Linganore.
Hopefully the weather will be warmer next year!
For six consecutive years I’ve been a part of the Good Beer Festival. After getting its legs under it and enduring a couple years of subpar weather in 2013 and 2014, the hopes were high for a banner event.
They didn’t take credit for the weather, but as always a number of local politicians crowded around the ribbon cutting. Accompanied by the fine folks of Wicomico County’s Recreation and Parks were (from left to right) County Councilman Marc Kilmer, County Council President John Cannon, County Executive Bob Culver, Senator Jim Mathias (in back), Delegates Carl Anderton (in back), Christopher Adams, and Sheree Sample-Hughes, and County Councilman John Hall.
One thing I liked was the schedule boards they added to alert those who came to the GBF to the various events going on that day. The event is focusing more and more on the home brewers, so the talks from local brewers were popular with that set.
As usual, Saturday drew the larger crowd. I took the photos at 1:30 and 3:30.
It didn’t seem quite as busy as last year, but not for lack of trying. Ever try human foosball?
Looked like fun, although it was a little cutthroat. On the other hand, the VIP tent seemed like it needed a little something – like people.
The local beer area is always a favorite, though. It features the ever-amusing chalkboards.
So went Saturday. As you may have noticed, Sunday was a clear, lovely day. But the crowd was far smaller.
Granted, I took these photos a little later in the day, but the attendance was probably half or less. Personally, I liked not having to deal with the larger crowds.
As long as they stopped by our tent…
…and participated in our corn poll.
Those who had the fullest Mason jars were Ben Carson and Donald Trump.
This was the perspective we had, as the sun was setting on another edition of the GBF.
So I close with this photo, just because I liked it.
In a few days I’ll do my look at the bands of the GBF.
A couple weeks ago I covered the first of four hearings on the potential for an elected school board. At that time I pledged to add some history and context to my remarks from the other day.
First of all, the recent history of the attempt to get an elected school board has both a local component and a state component. I was elected to the Republican Central Committee in 2006, and one item which we agreed to pursue was an elected school board. Unfortunately, the composition of county government at the time didn’t lend itself to further action on the subject. It wasn’t until the election in 2010, when a GOP supermajority was elected to County Council, that local legislative action occurred.
In both 2011 and 2012, the County Council passed legislation on a 6-1 party-line vote to ask the Maryland General Assembly for the enabling legislation for a referendum question to be set before voters. It would simply ask whether voters wanted to adopt an elected school board.
The 2011 version of the bill, HB1324/SB981, was sponsored by six local Delegates and both local Senators, and each version passed its respective legislative body overwhelmingly – the only “nay” vote came from Delegate Nathaniel Oaks of Baltimore City. SB981 passed both houses, but the amended House version did not return to the Senate for a vote.
In the House, the Ways and Means Committee amended the bill in a curious way. They revised the referendum question to read, “Are you against changing the changing the current method of selection of the members of the Wicomico County Board of Education of appointment by the governor?” It seems the idea was to confuse the voter.
The next year HB966/SB99 was introduced by the four Republican delegates and both Senators. This time, though, the bills did not progress beyond the hearing stage.
In 2013 and 2014, no legislation was passed locally nor was any introduced in the General Assembly. The feeling was that there were three roadblocks to the process: Rudy Cane, Norm Conway, and Rick Pollitt. None of those three survived the 2014 election, so we were hopeful the process would be on its way once 2015 began.
There were two key differences in the 2015 version of the bill, though. In an effort to foster a united front, County Council allowed for the idea of a hybrid elected/appointed board of five elected and two appointed by the County Executive with approval from the County Council. Indeed, that version passed 7-0 and was sent up in February.
But the bill was stalled in committee, with the problem determined to be the lack of having both Senators on board. Senator Mathias requested more hearings and public input on the issue, so County Council has arranged the four hearings with plenty of time to pre-file a bill once the hearings are over.
It’s been pointed out frequently that Wicomico County is one of the few without an elected board. Back in 2002 just half of Maryland’s counties had an elected school board. Since then, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Harford, Prince George’s, Somerset, and Talbot counties have switched over to elected (or mostly-elected) boards, while Anne Arundel County now has retention elections for its appointed members.
So the precedent for change is certainly there on the Shore and around the state. A number of counties have been allowed to proceed with their wishes over the last dozen years, but there always seems to be a roadblock when it comes to us. It is long past time to clear the way for us to decide as so many others in the state get to.
I am aware there are naysayers who say it doesn’t matter who is on the school board for the tune is called in Annapolis. But we have some creative folks around here who may figure out a few alternatives to really help our schools become better, and I don’t think they would have a prayer of being appointed through the process in place. Let them make the case to the parents who vote, not the faceless bureaucrats in Annapolis.
Last Thursday about 40 people gathered at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center to speak out on the prospects of an elected school board for Wicomico County. When I saw the full parking lot I thought I would never get a seat; alas, most of them were here for a kids consignment sale going on simultaneously at the venue. I took the photo as I walked in and the crowd only increased a little bit.
But the County Council presented a number of options available, broken down into three categories: fully elected, a hybrid of elected and appointed members, or the status quo of a fully-appointed board.
Further subdivision of the elected option provided for either a five-member elected board based strictly on County Council districts or a seven-member elected board with five district plus two at-large to mimic our County Council. Meanwhile, the hybrid option would have five members elected from the County Council districts with the other two appointed by either the governor, the County Executive, or a nominating commission. That nominating commission could direct the governor on which members are acceptable in an all-appointed option or we could stay with the current system of appointment.
Out of 22 who spoke, 14 preferred an all-elected option. Woody Willing addressed the diversity concern, stating “there’s no better way to have diversity than electing seven people.” Ann Suthowski, who was “in favor of a 100 percent elected school board,” pointed out that four of the seven members work or worked in education, three lived within a mile of each other while the eastern and western ends of the county were not represented, and as far as she could ascertain only one member was under 60 years of age with kids in school.
Turning to Senator Jim Mathias, at whose behest the hearings were scheduled, Suthowski concluded that elected school boards were good enough for the other two counties he represented, so why not Wicomico?
Others who backed the elected board saw it as a way to promote fiscal accountability. Kay Gibson bemoaned her lack of choice in the matter when half her property tax dollars went to education – as she put it, being “taxed without representation.”
Transparency and parental involvement were also common themes. Dr. Mark Edney called an elected school board the “most transparent, democratic approach,” as opposed to the “secretive, crony-driven process” we had in place. Dave Parker stayed on that theme, revealing that a previous Appointments Secretary told him, “we don’t much care who (the Central Committee) interviews.”
“I like this governor,” added Parker, “but I don’t want him selecting my school board.”
Involvement was key to Donnie Scholl, who thought an elected board would “maximize parental involvement.”
But the handful who preferred the hybrid or appointed boards had their reasons. Kelsey Maddox said “if I had to choose, I would say hybrid.” She rejected the notion that the 90 or more percent of counties with elected boards had the best system simply by virtue of the sheer numbers.
Current WCBOE president Don Fitzgerald was in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp. He also bellowed that the current school board has “worked hard in this community” and that he was no crony.
Most of the elected board naysayers, though, circled their wagons around the diversity concept. Gary Hammer, who heads the local teachers’ union, said his body was not against an elected board but previous proposals “did not account for diversity.” He believed there should be more than a yes-or-no choice between elected and appointed. Another former board member, Jon Sherwell, added that “effectively, an appointed board can be diverse.” He also questioned some of the assumptions made by the We Decide Wicomico group and others, arguing that he was appointed despite being unaffiliated.
Local NAACP head Mary Ashanti added that the appointed board has “given us an opportunity” and remarked “the issue for me is how it will be written in the referendum.” But whether it will get that far may be up to Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes, who warned that the Ways and Means Committee in the House was interested in preserving diversity and having public input. (No one in our local delegation sits on that committee, which heard last year’s bill.)
As it turned out, about half of those present spoke, although Sample-Hughes was the only legislator to testify. No one on County Council chose to add remarks, nor did Senator Mathias or Delegates Carl Anderton and Mary Beth Carozza, who also listened in.
The next hearing will be at the Delmar Elementary School on Foskey Lane next Tuesday, September 22. I won’t be there so sometime in the next few days I will have a message for that hearing. When it comes out, feel free to share.