Serving as a warmup to the final televised campaign debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, those who attended the October meeting of the Wicomico County Republican Club were treated to spirited debate of our own.
But first we attended to the usual club business by reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance and welcoming those distinguished guests in attendance. I read the minutes compiled by Dave Parker (thanks to him for filling in last month while I was away) and we got our treasurer’s report as well.
Our featured speaker was County Council at-large member Matt Holloway, who mainly focused on the ongoing battle between state and county interests over SB236, the so-called “septic bill.” Matt said that the majority on County Council “views it as a downzoning effort by the state.” It’s a battle we have already fought out locally, so apparently environmentalists have appealed to a higher power to get their way in Wicomico County and other rural areas around the state. “It’s our intention to fight this as much as we can,” said Matt.
As Matt explained it, there would possibly be two tiered zoning maps: one the state suggests and one we come up with locally. He stressed the importance of attending a public meeting to show support for the county’s map, which will almost certainly be the less restrictive of the two. (The county’s map is not finished yet, said Matt in response to an audience question.)
More scary, of course, was the cost of implementing the provisions of PlanMaryland and the Watershed Improvement Plan, a sum Matt pegged at $1.2 billion over a decade. It may as well be $100 billion to a small county like ours, said Matt.
Yet there was hope, as the county is discussing joining a lawsuit by several rural counties against the state. (I’ll discuss this more in a post later this week.)
Matt also briefly went over the county’s charter amendments which will serve as Questions A, B, C, and D on the ballot. Respectively they address the length of time by which a vacancy on Council must be filled (lengthening it to 45 days), reducing the number of voters needed to petition items to referendum, making sure the County Attorney has at least 5 years’ experience, and mandating public budget hearings. I think it took me longer to type that then he spent, since a number of us were already familiar with the Charter Review Committee’s work.
In taking questions, one struck me as prudent because it regarded how much county land could “perc,” or be drainable. It brought up a discussion about how government could really throw a wrench into the works by holding up those permits, with the example given of a piece of property which once had a house (which was demolished via controlled burn) that someone wants to build on but haven’t been able to do so for two years as they await the perc permit.
There was also a question as to how the local delegation voted, and since this will be one bill on the upcoming monoblogue Accountability Project you’ll find that points will go to the five local Republicans (Colburn, Eckardt, Haddaway-Riccio, McDermott, and Otto) as well as Democrat Jim Mathias for properly voting “no,” while Delegates Cane and Conway get diddly-squat for voting in favor of this ill-considered bill.
Dave Parker gave a Central Committee report detailing the good results of a recent appeal for funds, the upcoming Central Committee meeting on November 5, and the fact early voting begins Saturday. He also shared his thoughts on some of the statewide ballot issues, with fellow Central Committee member Blan Harcum pointing out the pro-Question 7 letter penned by former State chairs Michael Steele and Audrey Scott. It was apparent that, unlike the Central Committee, the club was split on the issue.
Joe Holloway piggybacked on Dave’s report by claiming the three key issues the General Assembly will look at next year are restrictions on wells (similar to those for septic systems), an increase in the gas tax, and perhaps the adoption of a mileage tax.
Bonnie Luna brought up an event I haven’t featured quite yet: a townhall meeting with Congressman Andy Harris at 7 p.m. on Monday, October 29th at the Black Diamond Lodge in Fruitland. She noted that there may be a busload of radical green environmentalist wackos (she referred to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, but I’ll embellish with the truth) attending the event as well as Democratic write-in candidate John LaFerla.
She also pleaded with us to do more volunteering as the final push begins: working at headquarters and manning the phones were at the top of her list.
Jackie Wellfonder spoke on behalf of Dan Bongino’s U.S. Senate campaign, talking about the upcoming meet and greet fundraiser at Wicomico County headquarters on Thursday evening and the U.S. Senate debate next Tuesday afternoon at Salisbury University. They are also looking for volunteers to do some canvassing.
Woody Willing gave a Board of Elections report which has led me to do a minor correction on my August post. It was a question of semantics as I pointed out over 900 voters were purged from the rolls; they were actually only shifted from active to inactive status. But I think he (and/or the state board) are confusing my report with other posts I’ve done regarding the statewide efforts of Election Integrity Maryland.
Next up was the first really serious debate we’ve had in many moons. In the September meeting I missed, the subject of media advertising for this election came up and an understanding was reached to allocate a sum of money to be used after exploring several options. Several members believed we should go ahead with this plan, but others held the opinion the money would be better spent in 2014. Those in favor of waiting barely won in a rare split decision.
And the feisty crowd wasn’t finished, as we debated the merits of having a band at our Christmas Party on December 2nd at the Legacy Restaurant. Many cried that spending money on a band and not on advertising seemed foolish, but others contended we would draw more people with the band. Those who wanted the music won another close vote.
After all that discussion, we finally found something worth agreeing on: sometime next week there will be a “2016: Obama’s America” viewing event at our headquarters. The date hasn’t been selected yet.
I gave a review of the two recent festivals, pointing out we possibly reached 10,000 voters and reminded all of them Wicomico County has a strong Republican Party. The Democrats weren’t at both events (just one) and missed an opportunity.
This was our last meeting at the county headquarters, and the next meeting will be the final meeting of 2012. It will be November 26 at the normal venue, the Chamber of Commerce building downtown. I won’t miss trying to balance my notebook on a chair.