The right idea but with the wrong approach

September 4, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I find the controversy over Governor Hogan’s executive order mandating that Maryland public schools begin classes after Labor Day and wrap up by the following June 15 to be a good opportunity for commentary, so I decided to add my couple pennies.

First of all, this isn’t a new idea. In 2015 and 2016 legislation was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to create a similar mandate. As proof of how Annapolis works, the 2015 versions only got House and Senate hearings but the 2016 versions picked up the remaining local House delegation as sponsors (only Delegates Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto were local co-sponsors in 2015) and got a Senate committee vote. (It failed on a 5-5 tie, with one of the Republicans on the committee being excused. The other two voted in favor.) There was a chance this legislation may have made it through in 2017, but apparently Hogan was unwilling to take the risk. He took the opportunity to make a news event at a perfect time – when most local districts were already a week or two into school, Larry announced this from the Ocean City boardwalk on a pleasant beach day – and showed he was willing to stand up for one of his principles, that being improving opportunities for small business. (At a minimum, with Hogan’s edict kids are off for 11 weeks for summer vacation.)

In reality, what Hogan has done is shift the calendar backward by about a week: for example, Wicomico County public school kids had their last day of school June 9 and returned August 29 and 30. But the thought process is that families are more likely to take a vacation in July and August than they are in June, so because Ocean City is a great tourist attraction the state should follow Worcester County’s lead and begin school after Labor Day. (They simply went an extra week into June, concluding on June 17 this year.)

Granted, our family has enjoyed a post-Labor Day start for a number of years since parochial schools have more calendar flexibility: our child began her summer vacation after classes ended June 3 and returns on Tuesday the 6th. Growing up, I seem to recall the city schools I attended began after Labor Day and went into June but the rural school I graduated from began classes in late August and was done by Memorial Day. (We had a longer Labor Day weekend, though, because our county fair runs that weekend and the Tuesday after Labor Day was Junior Fair Day. Thirty-odd years later, it still is.) The point is that each of these localities knows what works best, so I can understand the objection from those who advocate local control of school schedules. And talk about strange bedfellows: I’m sure many of those praising Hogan’s statewide mandate locally are also those who have fought for local control of our Board of Education - after at least ten years of trying, we finally have a chance for local control (as opposed to appointments by the Governor) over our Board of Education through a referendum this November. (I recommend a vote for the fully-elected Option 2 on Question A.)

So I agree with the objections on those grounds, even though I personally think a post-Labor Day start is a good idea based on the school calendar typically used. (If I truly had my way, though, we would adopt a 45-15 style plan so that summer break is somewhat shorter and kids spend less time relearning what they forgot over the break.) What I don’t see as productive are those who whine about how this would affect preparation for particular tests – that shouldn’t be the overall goal of education. Obviously they would be the first to blame the calendar (and by extension, Larry Hogan) if test scores went down. But Hogan’s not alienating a group that was squarely in his corner anyway, as the teachers’ unions almost reflexively endorse Democrats, including his 2014 opponent, and mislead Marylanders about education spending. It’s increased with each Hogan budget - just not enough to fund every desire the teachers have.

Come January, it will be interesting to see if the Democrats attempt to rescind this executive order through legislative means, daring Hogan to veto it so they can override the veto and hand him a political loss a year out from the election. While most Marylanders are fine with the change, the Democrats are beholden to the one political group that seems to object and those special interests tend to call the tune for the General Assembly majority.

Yet the idea that the state feels the need to dictate an opening and closing date to local school districts is just another way they are exerting control over the counties. We object when they tell us how to do our local planning, so perhaps as a makeup for this change our governor needs to rescind the PlanMaryland regime in Annapolis.

A look ahead: 2015 in Wicomico County

The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s telling that most of the issues I wrote about last year at this time are still with us.

And as I suspected when the pixels were placed in late 2013, we have a majority of “new” Council members and, as it turns out, a new County Executive in Bob Culver. That new broom is already in the process of sweeping clean as the county’s former public information officer was relieved of her duties and the longtime Parks and Recreation director suddenly opted for retirement.

Yet almost all of the issues I alluded to last year are still with us. One thing which may assist the county in moving forward, though, is that the County Executive and County Council will be working from the same political playbook, with elections now a relatively safe four years away. Maintaining the 6-1 Republican majority on County Council will mean that there should be few issues, although one might argue that the support certain GOP members gave to the former Democratic County Executive Rick Pollitt could make some votes interesting.

The three main issues of 2013 could be resolved at the state level, though, with a little help from a Republican governor. For example, a more farmer-friendly tier map which places less land off-limits to development may be doable with a less stringent Maryland Department of Planning, one which grants more leeway to county desires and less emphasis on the despised PlanMaryland guidelines. As a corollary to that, the “rain tax” may not get to Wicomico County, although the city of Salisbury approved its version late last month. This could provide some tension between city and county as those who would want access to city water and sewer may balk at the additional fees.

On the other hand, the quest for an elected school board will certainly get a boost since the three largest obstacles are all out of the way: Rick Pollitt, Norm Conway, and Rudy Cane all have left (or will leave) office. With the resident delegation now boasting two Republicans to one Democrat – all of whom are freshmen – electing a school board may occur as soon as 2016.

In short, the biggest issue facing Wicomico County in 2015 will be what it does (or can do) to arrest a lengthy slide in employment. Year-over-year employment in Wicomico County has declined all 11 months this year and in 18 of the previous 22 months, with the most recent peak in employment being 50,369 in July 2012. (As a rule employment in this county fluctuates by a few thousand each year, peaking in July.) And while the unemployment rate is down for 2014, the number is somewhat deceptive because a lot of that positive change came as a result of a labor force that averages 847 fewer workers while average employment is down 380. Job one of the Culver administration is to make Wicomico County a more business-friendly environment, although having a governor who also wants to decrease red tape at the state level will help. Still, the solution for our needs may be as simple as attracting business out of high-overhead urban areas across the bridge to relocate here.

There is also the prospect of a revitalized downtown Salisbury to help attract new residents. Salisbury will one of six county municipalities to hold elections for municipal office in 2015, with Salisbury’s situation this year being rather unique: a charter change put in place a few years back will allow all municipal offices to be contested in one election this year, rather than the staggered terms common to most towns and cities. They are also adopting a five-district system, the boundaries of which leave three current City Council members in one district. According to the Maryland Manual, the other municipalities holding elections next year are Delmar (3 seats in November), Hebron (3 seats in April), Mardela Springs (2 seats in August), Pittsville (2 seats in November), and Willards (2 seats in May.) Fruitland and Sharptown will have their next elections in 2016.

With the new administration coming in, along with a revamped County Council, it won’t take long to find out whether the management style of Bob Culver will feature the leadership our county needs to recover and compete. Tomorrow I will turn my attention to the state of Maryland, including what role a bevy of new local elected officials might play.

PlanMaryland repeal redux will get a hearing

I’m glad conservatives are playing the game liberals in the Maryland General Assembly play – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Many of the restrictions and regulations we’re currently saddled with came on the second, third, or later try in the General Assembly.

So it’s nice to see that a PlanMaryland repeal bill is being introduced again, by Delegate Michael Smigiel. It was pre-filed this session as HB74.

Understandably, the Maryland Liberty PAC was pleased to see this:

Plan Maryland is a statewide development plan designed to consolidate everyone’s property rights into one simple document.

Centralized government planning has never and will never work, but that won’t phase (sic) Martin O’Malley.

The agenda behind Plan Maryland is not to improve our state, it’s to kill all new development that doesn’t match the left’s green agenda.

Many of you, especially those who are property owners or business owners in the development industry know all too well the headaches caused by Maryland’s radical land use policies.

Well now, Plan Maryland is just another headache that we have to deal with statewide.

I used to talk about things which were in the category of “duh” and the last three sentences of this portion of their notice fit the bill. But this bill will get a hearing in the Environmental Matters Committee on Thursday, January 30 at 1 p.m. Delegate Maggie McIntosh is the chair of that committee, and she is definitely the keeper of all things Radical Green in this state.

The MLPAC notice goes on to note the bill introduced last year, but in reality this is the third straight year a similar bill was introduced. However, the 2012 version had many more co-sponsors.

In both cases, though, the votes were there to kill the bills in committee. And even though they were both 17-6 against the side of good, it’s worthy to note that Delegate Herb McMillan switched sides between 2012 and 2013, voting to kill the bill in the latter case. Delegate Patrick Hogan, who was excused from the 2012 vote, voted the correct way in 2013.

Bear in mind this is not the same bill as the one which attempted to rescind the 2012 Septic Bill, a proposal which was introduced by Delegate Mike McDermott last year but failed. The Smigiel bill simply tries to eliminate the aspect of a statewide plan in favor of leaving things to the local jurisdictions which best know their own situation.

There are a lot of bad ideas which eminated from the General Assembly over the last several years, so many more repeal bills need to be introduced. This is one which has merit – if a county wishes to be less than developer-friendly it’s their right. But don’t impose those restrictions on places which may seek to utilize their resources in the highest and best manner.

2014 Maryland dossier: part 6 (War on Rural Maryland)

I suspended this process for several days in the incorrect belief that Larry Hogan would jump into the race and give me some direction on where he stands with the various issues I’ve already covered. But since he’s passing until January I will continue to vet the others without him.

The definition of “War on Rural Maryland” is rather broad to me, but generally focuses on land use, environmental, and agricultural issues. In many ways, the three are intertwined but over the last seven years the prosperity and freedom rural denizens of the state enjoy has been significantly eroded by decisions from on high in Annapolis. This is an effort to grade the candidates on how they would react and reverse some of these ill-considered ideas.

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David Craig:  As Governor, I will return land use decisions to local government where they belong and will replace a punishment and control regime with a conservation agenda. I will work with the Governors of New York and Pennsylvania to clean up the Susquehanna and reduce that major source of Bay pollution.  I will end the practice of Maryland bearing the brunt of responsibility for cleaning up the Bay and being responsible for a 64,000 square mile watershed that includes surrounding states.

(snip)

I will work with local governments to promote sound planning but leave the control of land use where it belongs, closest to the people. (campaign site)

*

When asked “where will you stick PlanMaryland?” Craig answered back with, “where do you want me to stick it?” (WCRC meeting, July 22, 2013)

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What I’ve found is the best way is to actually listen to the farmers have to say and have them come up with solutions for what they think needs to be done, and then convince the other farmer this is the best way to go – it’s not government talking to you. (They’d say) I did this on my farm, it saved me money, it did this and saved me all these rules and regulations.

But we get all these people that are in environmental services, they have this job, they’re lawyers, they’re environmental – but they know nothing. I had a situation talking with the Maryland Department of the Environment, I said give me an example of this rain tax, I have two – or septic tax. I have two farms, tell me which one’s the worst. How will I be able to determine which one – one guy’s doing the good job, one’s a bad job? And the guy looked at me and said we can’t figure that out. (monoblogue interview)

*

Perhaps the biggest environmental enigma about David Craig is Harford County’s on-again, off-again flirtation with ICLEI, or the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. (It’s better known as ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.) In 2010, to much fanfare, Harford County became one of Maryland’s ICLEI members, saying it had “taken another step towards achieving the goal of environmental stewardship” by joining the group.

But less than three years later, the county more quietly withdrew from the group, with the local Harford Campaign for Liberty taking credit along with an assist from the county’s Republican Party and a resolution it passed early this year. Perhaps they read the group’s charter?

Somehow, though, that notice of withdrawal has escaped the county’s Sustainability Office, which is instead in the midst of promoting another cherished leftist scheme, Car-Free Days, next weekend. (monoblogue, September 15, 2013)

*

He called for a repeal of the state (“rain tax”) law, then went on to suggest that Maryland should back off from a range of measures adopted in recent decades to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. His proposals include elimination of the 1984 Critical Areas Act, a measure regarded by environmentalists as the crown jewel of the state’s Bay protection laws.

“Why don’t you get rid of all the previous bills?” Craig said. “Let’s get rid of of the Critical Areas Act.”

In addition to the critical area law, which restricts development on parcels within 1,000 yards of the bay and its tributaries, Craig said he would like to get rid of a 2007 law requiring developments to avoid any increase in stormwater runoff and abolish a 1998 law requiring farmers to limit the runoff of fertilizer and animal waste. (Baltimore Sun, September 17, 2013)

*

“While I share the desire for a clean and healthy bay, as most of us probably do, I question the priorities of those in Annapolis who feel that no price is too steep to pay for only a marginal improvement in bay quality,” Craig said. “Our businesses and taxpayers expect us, as county government, to act as their last line of defense against over-the-top polices from the state and federal governments whenever possible, and that is what I intend to do.” (Washington Post, September 18, 2013)

Ron George: Ease Farm regulations that over reach while making large areas unprofitable.

Restore, Conserve and Preserve Our Natural Resources without punishing the very people who live, work and recreate here because  they love our beautiful state including businesses, homeowners, boaters, farmers,  watermen or taxpayers…or anyone who gets rained on.

Dredge the “silt pond” above the Conowingo Dam, which causes far more harm to the bay’s ecosystem each time it overflows or the dam is opened.

Encourage planting of Maryland’s tall deciduous tree species including Oaks and Maples.

Allow for the hunting of overpopulated species.

Giving the dollars for bay oyster restoration directly to River Keepers and their volunteers. (campaign site)

*

In a past campaign, Ron George billed himself as the “Green Elephant.” Here’s a list of some of the environmental restrictions he’s voted for in the past eight years – many of which he cheerfully admitted voting for in his 2010 campaign. The number in parentheses afterward is the number of opposition votes in the House of Delegates.

All of these votes were graded in previous editions of the monoblogue Accountability Project.

Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 (17 votes)
Clean Indoor Act of 2007 (39 votes)
Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund (30 votes)
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program (25 votes)
EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act of 2008 (33 votes)
Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program – Administrative and Enforcement Provisions (15 votes)
Smart, Green, and Growing – Local Government Planning – Planning Visions (7 votes)
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 (30 votes)
Smart, Green, and Growing – Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009 (12 votes)
Natural Resources – No Net Loss of Forest Policy – Forest Conservation Act (23 votes)
Agriculture – Lawn Fertilizer – Low Phosphorus Fertilizer (19 votes)
Smart, Green, and Growing – The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010 (27 votes)
Stormwater Management – Development Projects – Requirements (13 votes)
Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Solar Energy (31 votes)
Smart. Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (20 votes)
Chesapeake Conservation Corps Program (27 votes)
Natural Resources – Forest Preservation Act of 2013 (27 votes)

I will note, however, that the majority of these votes came during Ron’s first term in office (2007-10) and he has moved somewhat away from the “Green Elephant” designation – one key example was voting against the Septic Bill in 2012. But how do we determine Ron’s line in the sand? (monoblogue, September 15, 2013)

Charles Lollar: I am committed to saving the Bay – and to doing it in a right and in a balanced way.

First, I will support full annual funding – $50 million – of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, created in 2007. Those trust funds must not be diverted to general and other purposes, as the O’Malley/Brown Administration proposed in FY 2010. Other budget needs and challenges will be addressed directly – and not bailed out by grabbing Trust Fund monies.

Second, we must find deal smartly with the sources of pollutions, including those coming from other states in water that flows into the headwaters of the Bay. Our approach to the public and private point and non-point sources of the pollutants that threaten the Bay must be prudent, balanced – not extreme. Our approach must avoid economic dislocations and injuries that can result from overzealous regulation.

As Maryland’s Governor, I will fully engage directly with the Governors of the other Chesapeake Bay states and federal officials at the Environment Protection Agency to determine the best approaches to be taken to continually improve the quality of the bay and protect its eco-systems. (campaign website)

*

“This cronyism, and this opportunity to shut down the agricultural industry in this state, is going to come to a stop.” (YouTube video at Hudson Farm, September 8, 2013)

**********

Since the Democrats are the ones perpetrating the War on Rural Maryland it’s doubtful they will back off. In fact, Doug Gansler’s entire environmental platform seems to be one of making chicken farmers convert waste to energy, while the other two major candidates basically ignore rural needs.

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I think that, in order to give David Craig a fair evaluation, I have to know which one I’m talking to. Telling them to stick PlanMaryland, repealing the rain tax, and wiping out the Critical Areas Act would be a great start to restoring balance, although I guarantee the media coverage sensationalized what he said in the latter case just to make him look like he’s for dirty water. (I don’t fall for the hype, figuring local areas could have regulations which are just as strident, which is the beauty of local control. Or they could work toward something more reasonable.)

But then again, three years ago he was signing up for ICLEI and the county he runs still has a Sustainability Office. So I’m left to wonder just how serious he is about ridding us of overbearing government and over-the-top radical environmentalism. I think I’ll give him 8 points of 12 for now.

To a great extent, the same applies to Ron George. It’s worth pondering how he was pushed from being a “green elephant” to the point where he at least talks about easing farm regulations (but doesn’t provide a lot of specifics) and votes against an onerous septic bill. It seems to me that Ron is trying to skate a middle ground between what he thinks people want to hear and actions which would potentially help farmers and rural counties but can be portrayed negatively by the major media outlets (as Craig was.) So I can only give him 6 of 12 points, right in the middle.

In listening to Charles Lollar speak at the Hudson farm, I was struck by his passion. But when I read his brief statement on environmental matters – one which accepts the premise that the state has to spend $50 million (or more) a year in a vain attempt to coddle an environmental group which will never be satisfied, I wonder what his real plan is. Certainly it needs more study, but I can’t see at this point where he would make a bold statement on repealing legislation or rolling back regulations. If he can accept the status quo on the trust fund, what else will he leave in place? So I can give him just 5 of 12 points.

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I haven’t decided if I will double back to Obamacare before tackling the higher priorities or not. Only one candidate has answered me directly on the subject, while another is promising me more information. With this being a holiday week I will likely make the decision for Friday, since I already have a book review planned for Saturday.

WCRC meeting – July 2013

For the first of two consecutive months (at least), a gubernatorial candidate graced our Wicomico County Republican Club’s presence – and he brought his running mate along. It meant the attendance was much better than usual, as over 40 crammed into a Salisbury Chamber of Commerce meeting room to hear both David Craig and running mate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio.

So after a brief opening to recite the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance and introduce a number of distinguished visitors from near and far, David and Jeannie were introduced by campaign manager Paul Ellington. We sort of pressed him into that service, but Paul remarked that this election reminded him of two others he was intimately involved in: 1994 and 2002. He also made the point that “when you get to be governor, it’s nice to have a friendly legislature.”

That idea would return in Craig’s remarks, but he first noted that Maryland “has done good things” for ten generations of his family, dating from the late 17th century. Unfortunately, the state governmental monopoly seems to be all about maintaining itself and not about what David called the “forgotten Marylanders” from rural and suburban areas. For them, the last General Assembly session was “one of the most challenging.”

And while Craig was out to “give people a choice in 2014,” he told those assembled that he wouldn’t refuse $4,000 checks, but he would rather each person out there bring 40 voters apiece. Republican turnout in 2002 when Bob Ehrlich won, said Craig, was great – 68% – but speaking as a teacher, “that would have been a failing grade.”

After telling the group this was his 21st election – because Havre de Grace had balloting every two years – he introduced running mate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, who as David mentioned was the first Eastern Shore resident on a major statewide ticket in two decades. Of course, she really needed no introduction to us as many of those present were represented by her in the General Assembly.

Jeannie talked about cutting her political teeth as a political science major at Salisbury University and being involved in student government there, also bringing up the fact later that she strives to preach political involvement to area youth groups such as Girls State, which is annually held at SU.

Haddaway-Riccio also spoke about working in the House of Delegates, “fighting until we barely had an ounce of energy left” against some of the bills presented by the present governor and Democratic leadership. The implementation of that “leftist agenda” has led to “degradation,” Jeannie added.

Once both had spoken and David added a quip about needing a couple good Senators – looking at Delegate Mike McDermott, who was in attendance and has been gerrymandered into sharing a single-member House district with another delegate – Craig opened up the floor to questions.

Topmost on the mind of those attending was the idea of an open GOP primary, as the idea has reemerged as a discussion topic over the last few days. Craig was noncommittal on the concept, stating he would be satisfied with letting the state party make its decision this fall. There are “a lot of frustrated Democrats” who may welcome the idea, though, added David.

Craig was then asked what functions he would assign to Haddaway-Riccio. While he chided Democrats for “picking for an election.” David said of Jeannie, “she should be at the table all of the time,” meaning ready to take the reins if needed. He praised Haddaway-Riccio for her practical experience, common sense, and knowledge of rural Maryland.

Asked about business, Craig intended to hold quarterly business roundtables. Because it affected local businesses in advance of consumers, we knew about the recession back in 2008, said Craig, and Harford County made budgetary decisions in a proactive fashion based on that knowledge.

When queried about social issues, particularly being pro-life, Craig related that he didn’t push the issue with his children, but was pleased that they turned out as pro-life as they did. David also pointed out that he voted in a pro-life fashion during his time in the General Assembly. But he would rather have 5 million Marylanders decide than 188 in the General Assembly. Jeannie echoed the overall stance, adding for her part she was “conservative, Christian, pro-life.”

Similarly, when asked about the Second Amendment, David took the conservative line of being “a strong supporter of all amendments.” In fact, he added that the American Revolution wasn’t fought over taxation but the move by the British to disarm the colonists. David also joked that there should be a regulation: red doors for all gun owners and blue ones for those who don’t – “so they know who to rob.”

An interesting question was how he would deal with the federal government. Craig would lean on the Republican Governor’s Association which, as he noted, had grown from 13 states when he was first elected in 1979 to 30 now. But then he asked, “why don’t we have 60 Senators?”

On the other hand, when it comes to local government David vowed to be mindful of county interests. When asked “where will you stick PlanMaryland?” Craig answered back with, “where do you want me to stick it?”

“We created local government for a reason,” continued David, revealing there were now more planning and zoning mandates on his county now than there are public safety ones. That same philosophy guided David on education, where he made the case “money should follow the child” and that teachers should be allowed to teach to something other than a test. David cautioned against expecting sweeping changes right away, though, noting the state Board of Education is appointed in five-year terms.

Lastly, a concern on the mind of one observer was how David would run in traditional Democratic strongholds like Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. “It’s all about reaching out to the people,” said David. He also noted that he’d beaten four Democratic incumbents over the years, but over time a couple became among his strongest supporters because “I didn’t get petty” and advised would-be candidates to “be the person you are.”

After Craig finally finished speaking, we returned to our normal order of business, with one exception: we sang “Happy Birthday” to the man we call “Mr. Republican” locally: Blan Harcum turned 90 years young.  In turn, the June meeting minutes were read and approved, treasurer’s report was given, and WCRC president Jackie Wellfonder reminded us of upcoming municipal elections in Annapolis and Frederick which could use our help if interested and the August 1 joint meeting with the Republican Women of Wicomico on Agenda 21, featuring Grant Helvey.

In his Central Committee report, our David – county Chair Dave Parker – stated that “Tawes was fun” but we had business to attend to now: the question of opening the primary would come down to Central Committee members so those interested should express such to these local representatives. “Give us grief” if you don’t like our position, said Parker; however he added, “I remain to be convinced” on the merits.

After decrying the “truly disgusting” media treatment of the Trayvon Martin case, Dave shifted gears and cajoled those attending that we are still looking for candidates for next year. Some incumbents have alerted us to their intentions, but others have not.

Finally, we heard from a number of those attending on various pieces of business: Joe Ollinger reminded us that Crab Feast tickets are now on sale (in fact, I have some to sell if you want one) for the September 7 event.

County Councilman Joe Holloway rose to counter a report made by a local media outlet about fee increases for local restaurants, stating they were included in the County Executive’s budget (see “Health Department” on pages 20- 21 here.) County Council approved them as part of the overall budget. (Seems like $150 shouldn’t make or break a local eatery, though.)

Finally, Delegate Mike McDermott declared that Craig/Haddaway-Riccio was “a great ticket” and hinted at his own announcement in August. “We’ll take that Senate seat from Jim Mathias,” McDermott promised.

Speaking of local eateries, it should also be mentioned that the pre-meeting happy hour – this time at Evo – was our most successful, with several tables of Republicans enjoying the camaraderie. Our next happy hour may or may not be there, but we already have the second in what could become a monthly series of gubernatorial hopefuls joining us during our regular meeting as Charles Lollar drops by on August 26.

Big Corn vs. Big Oil

I found this article by Steve Maley, crossposted on RedState and his home website, quite amusing. In it he talks about a website called The Oily Bird, stating that:

It’s one of the cheesiest anti-oil PR campaigns I’ve seen: a “promoted” twitter account called @TheOilyBird, a snarky oil company h8r. Enviros and greenies retweet @TheOilyBird’s oil industry bashing, without bothering to look at its source.

The source is an entity called Fuels America, which as Maley points out is a consortium of ethanol industry and Radical Green groups. They defend the renewable fuel standard (RFS) by noting:

But right now, the RFS is under attack. A series of misguided assertions seek to blame this forward-looking energy policy for a recent spike in the price of corn, one of the many crops used for renewable fuel production. Make no mistake: corn prices are going up because the United States is suffering the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, not because of the RFS. While this drought is certainly harming rural communities, dismantling or slowing down the RFS would cause even greater damage.

Ah yes, blame it on the weather. After four years of subpar yields, it’s natural that corn prices would be high. But the question is whether the ethanol mandate is bringing farmers to the decision to grow corn rather than soybeans or wheat, both of which also enjoy solid prices. If it weren’t for the artificial demand for corn, though, perhaps prices would be somewhat lower – there’s no doubt the demand for ethanol plays a part, although supplies could also be higher than they otherwise would be.

As it stands now, farmers are desperate enough for land to grow crops on that they are plowing under former golf courses, tearing down unneeded outbuildings, and otherwise maximizing their acreage for growing. Obviously a percentage of this activity is to get in on the bonanza of ethanol subsidies, which, if the EPA has its way, may even stretch the mixture to an E30 blend of 70% gasoline and 30% ethanol – a point where cars would have to be specifically engineered for the blend.

Yet ethanol is a less-efficient, more corrosive alternative to straight gasoline in its current configuration. Drivers fret about the loss of fuel efficiency and those who have small motors, particularly boaters, have become painfully aware of the hazards of E15 fuel in their engines. Many go out of their way to locate ethanol-free gasoline stations to do their refueling.

I would also contend that rural communities are suffering more harm from regulations which preclude growth in their areas – such as the anti-sprawl initiatives exemplified by PlanMaryland and our septic bill with its tier maps – then a drop in corn prices would provide. Since corn is also a significant staple in American diet as well as feed for millions of farm animals, a drop in the per-bushel price would eventually be reflected in less expensive trips to the grocery store.

If ethanol is good enough to stand on its own merits, one would think the ethanol filling stations would soon be setting up shop in locations where gasoline stations were being abandoned. But they’re not. So why should we be saddled with an inferior product just to make a small group of farmers happy?

Constitutional defender speaks in Salisbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turning the Tides 2013 in pictures and text (part 1)

Yesterday was a good day at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis.

Somehow I had managed to miss the first two renditions of Turning the Tides, but when this year’s date was announced I pounced on making my way into the event this year. Part of this was the opportunity to network with over 200 of the state’s finest conservative minds, but part of it was a guest list dotted with nationally recognized speakers.

Unlike the many GOP conventions I had attended in the same building, there were no hospitality suites on Friday night. Turning The Tides was a one-day affair, which started with a breakfast I unfortunately missed. But I was set up on bloggers’ row next to a variety of state and local bloggers (including my “biggest fan” Jackie Wellfonder,) which gave me the opportunity to live-Tweet the event throughout.

The Tweets didn’t take long to build up steam once we dispensed with the preliminaries and heard from our first guest speaker, the exceptionally quotable Pamela Geller. Most people know Geller from her website Atlas Shrugs, which briefly covered TTT here, but she has been a tireless leader in the ongoing battle against radical Islam. (If you follow the link you can also see the extent of the crowd in the conference.)

Pamela praised the conference attendees, who she termed “smeared, defamed, and marginalized for standing in defense of freedom” by the “enemedia.” Her key point was defending the freedom of speech, without which “peaceful men have no alternative but to turn to violence.”

“Evil is made possible by the sanction you give it,” she continued, “Withdraw your sanction.” She also called Delegate Nic Kipke, who ignored a boycott call by the pro-Islamic group CAIR, a “rare bird in today’s environment (because) truth is the new hate speech, and just telling the truth is an extreme act.”

She went on to explain how she purchased ad space on the New York subway in response to anti-Israel ads, but was rebuffed because “the word ‘savage’ was demeaning. So I had to sue…and I won on all points. Freedom of speech protects all ideas.” Ten of her ads were destroyed within an hour, which she termed “a physical manifestation of this war on free speech.”

She also detailed her battle against the Ground Zero mosque, telling us the images of 9-11 have been “embargoed” because they offend Islamic sensitivities. “You defeated that mosque (when) everyone was against you.”

Yet there is a “sea change” occurring in attitude, she said, citing how comments used to be highly stacked against her, but now run strongly in her favor.

“No war has ever been won on defense,” she continued. She begged us to use our “spheres of influence” to fight this fight. “Silence is sanction.” We have to contest acceptance of Shari’a, since Mohammed “ain’t my prophet.”

Geller finished by taking a number of great questions on anti-Shari’a legislation, a nuclear-armed Iran, and the “cultural war” of politics which will include the sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera.

The next speaker, author Diana West, touched on the Current TV sale in her opening remarks as well, as well as the foreign ownership of Fox News. But her remarks centered on her choice in foreign policy, of which she remarked “I’m debuting it here” – with one option to follow the “neoconservative” foreign policy based on universal values. “This has been a disaster.” The other side was a more libertarian-style idea: “I subscribe to ‘coming home America,’” said West, but they suffer the same flaw in that negotiations with Islamic nations “worse than fruitless (and) dangerous to our liberty.”

It begins with love of country, said West, and we would keep the allies with the closest philosophical views. But it would require one radical change: “It would…require leaving the United Nations.” (That was perhaps her best applause line, which she said did far better here than the “blank stares” she gets at the Washington Times.)

It would also be designed with the interests of the American people in mind. “We should fight for the American people.” Instead, we’ve begun to negotiate with terrorists, defend Shari’a-based regimes, and tell our military to look askance at “absolute outrages against American beliefs and sensibilities” in Afghanistan and other Islamic nations.

“And why? Why – nobody’s answered this – why did the Obama administration lie for two weeks that lawfully-protected free speech in America caused the Benghazi attacks?,” asked West. “Why didn’t Mitt Romney ask any of these questions?”

The key question, said West, was whether we were fighting abroad to protect liberty at home. “American interests have been blown to smithereens” by leadership, Diana asserted. Our borders are “essentially open” while National Guard troops protect Afghan citizens. Moreover, this is a contradiction to American values because 3/4 of Hispanics want bigger government while just 2/5 of the population at large feels the same.

West outlined a number of changes she would make, from a secretive foreign policy without much Congressional oversight over “a President run amok.”

“I have not seen terrible damage from Wikileaks,” she continued. “I have seen much corruption and lies on the part of our public officials.”

“I don’t believe that’s the way a republic functions. That needs to change,” said Diana. The war of our next generation is not the one we’re fighting, but a war against Shari’a. “Liberty is imperiled right here in our back yard,” said West, who also called the Islamization of Europe “the great uncovered story of our time.”

Our first group discussion panel, moderated by writer and columnist Marta Mossburg, featured a solid bank of speakers: Frederick County Commission president (and 2014 gubernatorial candidate) Blaine Young, writer and author Stanley Kurtz, and Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild.

Young started out in a jovial manner, joking about the Geller controversy and about once being a Democrat: “Well, everybody can be misinformed, ill-advised, and brainwashed.” But he turned more serious about his assigned topic, telling those gathered “I’m a very pro-property rights person, always have been…property rights is where I’m at.”

Stemming from the very first attack on property rights, zoning, which began in the 1920s and has been accepted in most places – Young pointed out Garrett County is an unzoned exception – Blaine turned to the state as it stands and told us “we’ve never seen an attack like this on the state level,” referring to PlanMaryland. “This is a tool, to slow down the rural areas for growth.”

But Young’s most brilliant point was equating things done “for the Bay” with laws passed “for the children.” As I Tweeted:

 

Indeed, I have mentioned this a number of times over the years – here’s one. Great minds think alike?

Stanley Kurtz quickly asserted that “President Obama is not a fan of the suburbs.” As a community organizer, those who mentored Obama had the main goal was to abolish them because they were drawing away tax money rightfully belonging to the cities. To that end, Obama “has been a huge supporter” of that movement. “Barack Obama wants to redistribute the wealth of America’s suburbs to the cities,” said Stanley. He identified the philosophy as the “regional equity movement.”

But among the federal programs imposed on the state, the Sustainable Communities Initiative is perhaps the one affecting Maryland the most. “Nobody pays attention to the Sustainable Communities Initiative,” despite the fact Baltimore was a “regional planning grant” recipient. It’s a program where the federal government pays for regional planning, such as PlanMaryland but on a smaller scale. The goal, though, is to make the receipt of federal aid contingent on adopting these plans, much like schools which accept federal money do so with stipulations placed on them.

And while everyone has heard of Agenda 21, not so many are familiar with the workings of the Smart Growth movement, concluded Kurtz. “Conservatives are missing where the real threat is coming from,” warned Kurtz, “We haven’t studied the home-grown (regional equity) movements.”

But Rothschild was the most strident speaker. “The question of the War on Rural Maryland begs a bigger question: why does this happen?” Richard went on to postulate that it happens “because we let them.”

“Those people that disrespect the Bible and the Constitution are invariably the ones who know the least about either of them,” said Rothschild. “We (conservatives) are abdicating our responsibilities at all levels of government to do what needs to be done.”

“Being a Constitutionalist requires practice,” opined Richard. Elected officials need to ask themselves not just ‘what would Jesus do,’ but a second question: what would Jefferson do?

Elected officials aren’t trained to uphold their oath of office and the Constitution. “We’re not thinking the right way.” As an example, he stood alone in his county in an effort to nullify SB236. A further test was when he went to the recent Maryland Association of Counties meeting and asked six random county officials about what they would do if an order was passed down to confiscate guns in their county.

“Three of them said they don’t know, and the other three said they would resign from office,” Richard charged. “Not one said they would nullify, interpose, or engage their locally elected sheriff to defend their citizens’ Constitutional rights.” That was the fundamental problem.

Richard even spoke on comments he made regarding the SB236 Tier IV opt-out provision proposed right here in Wicomico County. (The original post is on the Conduit Street blog.) “They do this because we let them…we are tolerating the intolerable.”

“I don’t negotiate one-sided contracts…we shouldn’t even engage,” Richard opined, “Constitutional rights are non-negotiable.” Rothschild vowed to work with the Institute on the Constitution to put together a training course on how to uphold their oath of office.

“(Liberal groups are) going to spend a fortune to try to defeat like Blaine and people like me during the next election because they hate us,” Richard concluded to a raucous standing ovation. And he’s right.

The final session of the morning discussed the “War on Jobs,” with Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton and Delegate Nic Kipke, who was introduced as a member of the Maryland Health Reform Coordinating Council. Fitton focused on illegal immigration while Kipke naturally looked at Obamacare. “Nic knows more about Obamacare than the legislators who voted for it in 2010,” noted moderator Paul Mendez of Help Save Maryland.

Fitton described his work with Help Save Maryland and other legal groups interested in upholding the idea that workplaces should have workers here legally. But that fight began with Montgomery County Community College giving in-state tuition to illegal aliens. “They thought they could get away with it,” noted Fitton. A nice thing about Maryland law, he continued, was that it has a provision allowing citizens standing to sue the government to prevent illegal expenditures of funds.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been given to illegal aliens who can’t work, stated Tom, “Maryland is a magnet for illegal immigration, and the impact on jobs is obvious.” Most affected were the construction trades where the majority of contractors, who are law-abiding, are “competing against crooks.”

“It’s a racket” to keep certain politicians in office, Fitton charged. And speaking of Maryland politics specifically, Tom also alleged there was corruption behind the passage of the ballot initiatives. “(O’Malley) was using his office to promote the approval of the referenda,”

Tom also had kudos for Delegate Neil Parrott, who he’d worked with on the ballot issues, calling him an important figure in Maryland democracy. “We’ve been proud to stand with him,” Fitton beamed.

The lesson here, Fitton said, was that the illegal immigration issue is not automatically a turnoff to Hispanics. He cited polling data which said, in the most recent election, 40% of Hispanics “agreed with the idea of an Arizona-style approach to illegal immigration.” It was 13 points more than Romney received among Hispanics at large. “This is a majority issue for us,” Fitton claimed.

“We’re really in a battle for our lives in a lot of ways,” Kipke opened. “It used to be we were in a battle for our rights, but we’re also in a battle for our way of life.”

He went through a couple examples of the “trainwreck” of Obamacare, one being the fact that the age breakdowns – lumping everyone from age 21 to 60 in a group – will create a spike in rates making insurance unaffordable to young people. (One estimate pegs the additional cost as anywhere from $280 to $400 a month.) “It’s almost designed to fail,” said Kipke.

The second problem is that the exchanges will essentially all offer the same programs – health insurance has to be approved by and purchased from the state – generally these are the “richest packages available.” At this time, Maryland is one of just eight states with an exchange in place. “If Obama is successful, health insurance will be purchased through the state, and it will be the state design,” Kipke said.

The Delegate urged us to use him and Delegate Parrott as a conduit to the General Assembly. “If you have access to technology, you should see the stuff that goes on. Bring a camera, we’ll tell you where to stand and we’ll put you up in front of the next Delegate who embraces socialism. We’d love to get that on video.”

That brought us to the lunch break. While most of us grabbed a quick bite to eat, there was a lot going on both inside and outside the lobby.

On the inside, a total of fifteen groups had information tables and other items set up. Here are a few of those:

In order, these were Accuracy in Media, Defend Life, Maryland Republican Network, and Election Integrity Maryland. Other groups in attendance were the Franklin Center (sponsor of Bloggers’ Row), the Red Maryland Network – which did a live broadcast from the lobby – Institute on the Constitution, Americans for Fair Taxation, Montgomery County Republicans, Stop Agenda 21, Help Save Maryland, the Leadership Institute, Maryland Legislative Watch, Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland PAC, and Conservative Victory PAC.

There were also merchants, with event T-shirts and Breitbart design shirts on sale.

We also had a chance to meet some of the speakers and purchase their books.

From left to right, represented were Stanley Kurtz, Diana West,  Pamela Geller (crouched), and Tom Fitton. Dun Scott (husband of organizer Cathy Trauernicht) is standing in the center; thanks to Ann Corcoran for the correction.

As I noted, there was also action outside the building. The CAIR protest of Pamela Geller finally showed up two hours after she finished speaking. (Photo by and courtesy of Jackie Wellfonder.)

Yet the ten protesters got media attention. If it weren’t for them, I doubt the TV stations would have showed up.

So that’s where we stood as lunch concluded. In part 2 I’ll cover the four intriguing seminars which occurred afterward and the closing remarks by Jim Rutledge.

Trying to shed the tiers

Last spring environmental advocates claimed a victory with the passage of SB236. While it was dubbed the “Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012,” the reality is that for most rural areas of Maryland it will do neither.

But radical environmentalists like the 1000 Friends of Maryland characterized SB236 and other measures in this manner:

The 2012 legislative session will be remembered as one that provided critical new tools to clean up our waters and slow rural development. (Emphasis mine.)

While a number of rural counties have debated the effects of the bill, they’ve come to the realization that the state holds the trump card. That wasn’t lost on Delegate Mike McDermott, who noted shortly after the bill’s passage last spring:

(The bill) is a far cry from preserving agriculture and farming in Maryland. This is the great land grab by Maryland – hurting farmers in the name of preserving them.

It is reasonable to draw conclusions from this bill that this spells the end of rural development in Maryland. It will devalue farmland and place farmers who must borrow against their land for the next planting season to have land that is not worth anywhere near what it is in today’s market. This destructive bill is the camel’s nose under the tent.

This view is shared by a growing number of those aware of the insidious effect of government, especially in Cecil County. Their Campaign for Liberty group echoed McDermott’s remarks:

Senate Bill 236 (Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012) requires all counties to adopt a “tier map” that will severely limit future development. It is part of Governor O’Malley’s “Plan Maryland” legislation and the U.N. ‘s Agenda 21 program. SB236 will infringe on private property rights, decrease property values, and cause property taxes to go up.

Yet the state is also planning another route of attack on rural development, as a recent meeting in Wicomico County suggests. The September 2012 Growth Offset Policy Meeting was attended by several in the local TEA Party along with area planners and environmental groups, which may have been the target audience because the meeting was held during the day when most private-sector people work. It outlined a plan by the state to reduce nitrogen loads in Chesapeake Bay via a state-imposed nutrient cap. Of course, that cap is always subject to change, and the costs will be borne by the private sector but collected by a government agency which will obviously take their cut.

But we don’t know what their cut will be, nor do they. One meeting attendee related the following:

When I asked them how many additional state employees they were going to need to administer this program, they had no answer.  When I asked how they were going to regulate such an obvious moneymaking, ripe for fraud scheme, they acknowledged it was a problem, but they had no answer.  When others asked how the farmers were going to be able to finance their operations due to reduced land value to borrow against, they had no answer.  When the NGOs asked how they could make money off this by cleaning up a stream and claiming the credits, they weren’t sure, but the greed was evident in every NGO there.  When I asked how a developer could be sure that his credits that he purchased would be good from year to year (what if the farmer didn’t do a good job and they took his credits away from him?)…would the new homeowner be responsible for getting new credits???  How long did you have to buy credits for?  (they thought maybe 30 years for a house).  Everything was said with the caveat that it might change….

The sentence about how the NGOs could make money off this was telling – no one’s paying a farmer to clean a stream, but these advocacy groups look to make a mint. And the state of Maryland will only be only too happy to hand it over to them by taking it from a farmer or job creator.

Worth noting as well is that the Growth Offset Policy Meeting was organized by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology and given “generous support” by the notoriously radical Town Creek Foundation, which is “dedicated to a sustainable environment.” “Sustainable” is a code word for controlled.

Yet the state of Maryland may not necessarily be the beneficiary. It may be but a serf to a United Nations master, according to this group which opposes the UN’s Agenda 21. They continue an evolution which has seen the doctrine of one’s home being their castle forfeited to county control through zoning, the subsequent loss of county power to the states, the states losing their grip on local issues to the federal government, and finally nations ceding sovereignty to a world government called the United Nations.

Step one of that evolution was pointed out in the Cecil County Campaign for Liberty’s critique of the bill. If rural land is devalued, it indeed reduces the landowner’s net worth at a greater rate than his property taxes went down – remember, in Maryland assessed land values are only set every three years so the farmer pays on a higher value at the higher property tax rate set when overall land valuation declines (as it will) but a county maintains constant yield. Of course, this is the secondary effect of the county doing the state’s bidding.

But rather than meekly submit to the request of Annapolis, some of Maryland’s rural counties are fighting the state. Late last year four counties formed the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition. What began in western Maryland has spread eastward, with Wicomico County tardily joining the fold a week ago and bringing the total membership to nine. Members are geographically spread across the state, with the original four in the west, Cecil County bridging the gap between shores, and four counties on the Eastern Shore (Caroline, Dorchester, Somerset, and Wicomico.)

Yet not all counties are taking their membership seriously. For example, Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt is quoted as wanting to “make it clear that the coalition doesn’t oppose Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley or any of the state initiatives.” Maybe he should, considering the state is trying to usurp local control which has served us well for decades. Pollitt will probably be the weakest link on a body which was spearheaded in part by Frederick County Commission head (and 2014 gubernatorial candidate) Blaine Young.

But the toothless Republicans on our County Council might just play along, warned my friend:

It seems that if each county would just designate the preserve land as Tier IV, that would be sufficient.  All the law requires is that the county designate four tiers.  Wicomico is looking at designating all agricultural land Tier IV.  We need to dissuade them.  Do the minimum and fight the state…but can we get our Republican councilmen (6 vs. 1 Dem) to do the right thing?  Plus our county executive is a Democrat and a big spending liberal.

Personally, I’d put everything in the least restrictive tiers and dare the state to stop us. Someone needs to tell those Annapolis bullies to pound sand and we’re just the county to do it – if a few people get the stones to do so.

I think those of us who live in Wicomico County are bright enough to realize that there is land which can and should be preserved as agricultural area because it’s not suited for growth. But that decision should be made locally and in such a manner that when things change – as they always do – we have the flexibility to adapt rather than be tied down because someone in Annapolis (or Washington, or at the United Nations) thought we should place thousands of acres off-limits to development because they feel it would be nice to construct a wildlife corridor down the Eastern Shore.

If an area doesn’t grow, it shrivels and dies. I like to look at old maps and ponder what happened to villages such as those I grew up around in Ohio: towns like Ai (yes, that’s the name), Lytton, Whitesville, Seward, and many other specks on the map were once prosperous enough to be considered a town but somewhere along the line something changed. Perhaps the railroad chose a different route, or the major highway passed them by. In many cases, business and industry failed or departed for greener pastures.

Essentially, the glue which holds the bulk of the Eastern Shore together comes from the products of farmers and watermen. Yet those who run our state continue to make life more and more miserable for them with the only question being whether this effort is a subconscious one, or purely intentional with the aim to conform our little slice of the world with their dream of control over our lives.

Consider that much of the problem with Chesapeake Bay – aside from the fact we’re dealing with a group which will move the goalposts if we ever approach their idea of cleanliness in order to continue their reason for being – comes from those urban areas these environmentalist do-gooders want us to emulate, and it makes me wonder why they want the rest of us to live that way.

Sons of Liberty punctuate Wicomico MSOP meeting

In front of about 50 diehard lovers of freedom who decided the fate of their country was more important than a Ravens game – which meant they had their priorities in order – the Wicomico chapter of the Maryland Society of Patriots met Thursday night at Mister Paul’s Legacy Restaurant.

I’m sort of glad they modified the choices at the end. Anyway, Dr. Greg Belcher, the leader of the WMSOP, opened the meeting by bringing up the subject of an upcoming petition drive which had copies on each table, including mine. Sorry the picture is a bit blurry, but I’ll bring you up to speed in a moment.

Senate Bill 236, which passed in the 2012 regular session, is thought of as an extension of the PlanMaryland and UN Agenda 21 movement to revoke property rights. In fact, Belcher intoned that “our property rights future is at stake.” All 24 Maryland jurisdictions, including Wicomico County, are supposed to have the prescribed four-tier plan in place by December 31 of this year.

Next with remarks was local activist Cathy Keim of Election Integrity Maryland, who reminded us that there are two more online poll watcher training seminars coming up: October 1-2 and 24-25. While this training isn’t required to be a poll watcher, it’s helpful to know what can and can’t be done, said Cathy.

Keim briefly went over the seven statewide issues on the ballot this November, with a particular emphasis on the latter four. “Martin O’Malley will look pretty silly (running for President in 2016) if we stop him” in 2012, added Keim.

She mostly reserved comment on Question 6, though, to the next speaker: Robert Broadus of Protect Marriage Maryland.

Broadus actually began his presentation by speaking briefly about Question 5, the redistricting issue. He quoted former Baltimore County GOP head Tony Campbell, who commented that “all we have to do is show people the map and it’s a winning argument.”

As for the gay marriage issue and other referendum questions, Broadus emphasized the importance of reaching out to the local minority population. For example, in majority-minority Prince George’s County local leaders there support both Question 4 (in-state tuition for illegal aliens) and Question 6 because they are considered civil rights issues, and oppose Question 5 for the same reason. On the other hand, they are against Question 7 (expanding casino gambling) because they see it as benefiting the so-called “1 percent,” said Broadus.

Gay marriage is on the ballot, not just in Maryland, but three other states: Maine, Minnesota, and Washington, Robert reminded us. “The goal (of proponents) is to change our society,” he added.

Broadus also conceded that some were for Question 6 because they had gay friends or family, but asked whether the relationship with these friends or relatives was more important than their relationship with God. And while secularists “are attacking on all fronts,” Broadus called this “our Roe v. Wade moment” and admonished people not to trust the polls on this issue.

In response to a comment about secular rather than faith-based arguments about Question 6, Broadus believed this was an effort to neutralize gender in society, even though God created man and woman differently. “Marriage is not a right,” concluded the longtime marriage protector.

Finally, it was time for our main speakers, the Sons of Liberty. If you can’t read the background slide, here it is below.

It’s sort of a long name for their ministry, but Bradlee Dean and Jake McMillan have taken their show on the road to hundreds of high schools throughout the country. What we were presented is only about a quarter of what they do in a normal high school stop, said Dean.

In his presentation, Bradlee Dean bemoaned a nation which had seen a “decline since the Supreme Court said no to God” back in 1962. What we are now seeing is “the fruit of a nation which turns its back on God.”

Bradlee continued by saying the Catholic Church is “right on the money” in fighting President Obama and his contraception regulations. He asked, “Why are (leftists) always attacking God? Because they want to be God.” Dean showed a number of different quotes from the earliest leaders of our country acknowledging the divine Providence shown by our Creator, as opposed to the secular humanist attitude of today’s leaders.

That general attitude was due in no small part from our mainstream media. Just read the quote on the wall behind Dean.

It was determined that controlling 25 newspapers would do the trick, and this was back in 1917! Now we have a cabal of alphabet networks working in conjunction with the largest newspapers to promote a overtly secular agenda. “You’re being lied to. End of story,” said Dean. “The media works for a corrupt administration.” Even Fox News didn’t escape Bradlee’s blunt assessment, since they decide what they want to report to you as well.

At this point Dean stepped aside for a moment, allowing “The Other Guy” Jake McMillan to present a short question-and-answer section admonishing us to think about what we read and say, with a little audience participation.

A sample question: What do they call the raised lettering which enables the deaf to read? Most people would reflexively say “Braille” but if you pay attention you’ll know the true answer is “deaf people can already read, they just can’t hear.” It was part of a broader point that “most of the liberals count on ignorance of the issues,” said Jake.

Returning to the microphone, Bradlee rattled off a number of observations about the media and Hollywood. One slide referred to a warning sign he saw in an AMC theater in Kansas a few years back when the Mel Gibson movie “The Passion of the Christ” was showing. While the sign correctly noted the movie was in Aramaic and Latin, with English subtitles, and had violent content enough to earn an R rating, curiously there were no other warning signs for the other PG-13 and R rated movies in the theater. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the indoctrination,” said Bradlee. “If I entertain you, I’m controlling you.”

Dean then turned to a distinction not often found in the media, which commonly refers to our nation as a “democracy.” (As have presidents since Ronald Reagan, Bradlee noted wistfully.) Our nation is a republic, continued Bradlee, ruled by law and principle rather than by what the public desires. Dean quoted several early Americans who pointed out that democracies expire from within to become tyrannies. And having visited hundreds of public schools, Dean observed that they commonly are surrounded by fences, covered by security cameras, and patrolled by armed law enforcement officers. “They’re getting kids ready for a police state” in public schools, he warned.

Continuing on to a subject near and dear to several there, Bradlee went on to describe the fight about gay marriage as one “about upending your Constitution.” It’s being used as a “political battering ram” to take us further away from our roots as a nation. “You’re dealing with totalitarianism,” Dean believed.

But it wasn’t all bad news. Bradlee wanted to stress as well his thoughts on those who have perished in defending those rights endowed by our Creator, the over 400,000 who died and the millions who live on while missing their friends and family lost in battle. “Who’s going to stand up for the veterans?” he asked.

Overall, the message was simple yet elegant: “If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any rights.”

Afterward, Bradlee and Jake stuck around for over a half-hour to answer questions, sell their various wares, including CDs, DVDs, and books, and pose for pictures like the one below.

From left to right you have Bradlee Dean of Sons of Liberty, Robert Broadus of Protect Marriage Maryland, Jake McMillan of Sons of Liberty, and Dr. Greg Belcher of the Wicomico Maryland Society of Patriots. It’s also worth mentioning that a number of Republican Central Committee members were in attendance, along with the head of the Worcester County TEA Party and MSOP head Sam Hale.

And while there was no media there besides this reporter and Julie Brewington, who’s mostly pulled away from her Right Coast Conservative blog (but was videotaping the proceedings nonetheless), we did have two write-in candidates for office.

On the left is Mike Calpino, who’s running in the First District Congressional race as the write-in not endorsed by either political party, and on the right is Worcester County resident Ed Tinus, who is resurrecting his U.S. Senate campaign after finishing last out of nine Democratic candidates in their primary with 1,064 votes, or 0.3%.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this meeting because I’d not heard of the Sons of Liberty or Bradlee Dean’s Christian rap-rock band Junkyard Prophet before last week when I first promoted this meeting. In doing a little research on the group, the prevailing opinion on them was that they were typical bigoted Christian haters – yet I found nothing overly controversial about their viewpoints. I will grant they did not speak much specifically about gay marriage or Question 6, but their opinions on the subject are likely shared by millions in this state and across the nation. Having seen the trend of a nation falling away from a Christian God, they obviously fret that allowing same-sex marriage may open the door to an even further slouch towards Gomorrah, to borrow a term made famous by Robert Bork. I think it’s a legitimate concern, others may disagree.

And if the idea of public school is to teach children critical thinking then I can’t understand what the big deal is to have them come to a school for a few hours and speak to the kids there. But the impression I get is that Sons of Liberty faces a lot of static in putting together these presentations simply because they don’t have a politically correct viewpoint, even if the opinions they present are based in historical fact.

The duo is in the midst of a four-day swing through Maryland and northern Virginia, with future stops in several other states. Dean admitted it was hard on him to be away from his five children, but the fight to preserve his country and its God-given freedoms was worth it. Having heard the presentation, I tend to agree.

The McDermott notes: week 1

As last year’s General Assembly session wore on, I found that freshman Delegate Mike McDermott’s weekly field notes were a very perceptive and comprehensive look at what was going on in Annapolis. So this year I’m making the executive decision to feature his notes (and my commentary on same) on a weekly basis, generally Sunday evenings.

McDermott is the one Delegate I voted for, although in future elections I won’t have that opportunity to re-elect him as Delegate unless I move to Somerset or southern Worcester county – the Democrats’ redistricting gerrymandering changed what was a two-delegate district based primarily in Worcester County, with the eastern half of Wicomico County added to create the requisite population, into two separate single-member districts with the existing District 38B truncated to be a district mostly based in the eastern portions of Salisbury along with Delmar and Fruitland. A new District 38C made up of eastern Wicomico and northern Worcester counties was then created, splitting Worcester County in two for the first time in recent memory. Oddly enough, we already have one prospective candidate there, but either Delegate McDermott or current District 38A Delegate Charles Otto of Somerset County – both freshman Republicans – will have to move up (to the Maryland Senate) or move out.

Now that you have a little bit of background on the man, I’ll go through what he had to say.

Mike begins by describing Wednesday’s opening session and the remarks by Governor O’Malley and House Speaker Michael Busch. I probably find it even more insulting than he does when it’s said that the state is better when it has the views from the right and the left in government – perhaps I’d be less insulted if that wasn’t so hypocritical on its face. If they really wanted views from the right, all the legislative districts would have been single-member districts done in a strictly geographical fashion – no little peninsulas to place one favored Delegate in a “friendly” district or districts which could pass for inkblots to make sure mainly minority voters get a district for themselves. I prefer the best, most conservative candidate no matter what color he or she is.

As for Thursday’s remarks, I found them interesting as well. Obviously the General Assembly gets into some seriously mundane issues, but I am surprised no one is clamoring for the inmates to get free calls because to do otherwise would be ‘unfair.’

Regarding a meeting by the Eastern Shore delegation with Secretary of Planning Richard Hall, McDermott related his opinion that:

It was quite clear that we are at polar ends of the specter (sic) with the O’Malley administration when it comes to PlanMaryland, but the concerns expressed were bi-partisan in nature. Maryland has operated for decades with a State Department of Planning  that has worked to provide guidance to local government. This plan will turn that “guidance” into direct oversight.

Not only that, PlanMaryland places the state in a position to usurp local authority by withholding necessary funding if development doesn’t meet their (somewhat arbitrary) standards of ‘sustainability.’ Obviously if a county or municipality wants to “go it alone” that may be feasible for now, but I’m sure eventually the state will tie other funding, like the stipends they send for educational funding, to compliance. While it’s claimed the state has had the authority to enact a PlanMaryland since 1974, there was no reason to go around the legislative branch to come up with a plan that’s a key offensive of the War on Rural Maryland.

I’ll be interested to see what becomes of McDermott’s compensation bill, but I suspect Governor O’Malley will tell that committee head to lock it away in a desk drawer someplace until about the middle of April.

I look forward to receiving this weekly update from Delegate McDermott, but what I don’t look forward to is the assault on our wallets and our liberty sure to come from this body as the months wear on and the items enacted during the “90 Days of Terror” become law.

We might have to get that referendum pen ready.

 

The Maryland Model (part two)

In part one I related the Maryland Model in its current state to the 2012 campaign, particularly when considering the battle to repeal the in-state tuition for illegal aliens passed last year by the General Assembly. The bill was petitioned to referendum as opponents turned the trick for the first time in over twenty years in Maryland.

As you should recall, I distilled the idea behind the Colorado Model liberal Democrats used to take over that state into four simpler M words: money, message, media, and mobilization. In this part I assess the overall shape conservatives here in Maryland exist in regarding these four issues – and we definitely need to do some work!

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