For years I have dubbed the annual Maryland General Assembly session the “90 days of terror,” and with good reason: no wallet or personal liberty is safe when the statists who inhabit most of the seats therein get together. Over the eight years of the previous two terms we endured tax increases, spending boondoggles, and enough new regulations to choke a horse, not to mention three measures which were petitioned to referendum by angry citizens.
While a new broom swept the governor’s office clean last year, Larry Hogan needed to get his sea legs under him as he took the helm of the ship of state so he didn’t create a huge legislative agenda last year – in a broad sense, it was about easing some of the tax burden Marylanders had been subjected to over the O’Malley administration, including repeals of the rain tax and automatic increases in the gasoline tax. Other items Hogan focused on were charter school reform and public campaign financing, which were among the few items Hogan had passed.
So since Hogan didn’t get his tax relief last year, it’s the front and center item on his 2016 agenda that kicks off later today. Democrats, of course, believe shoveling money into a bloated public education system is more important than giving hard-working Marylanders a tax break.
Something else to keep an eye on, though, are the department-sponsored bills, which now will bear the stamp of Hogan’s departmental appointees. Just like the governor, this is their first full legislative session as well and I’ve noticed a number of interesting measures coming from various departments that have already been pre-filed.
But the tension will be thick as Hogan tries to enact the agenda he promised while Democrats strive to make sure he’s another one-term Republican governor. As of 2018, it will have been 64 years since a Republican was re-elected as Maryland governor; however, Hogan has began his term as one of the most popular governors in the country and this session will occur with the backdrop of a Presidential race in which the Democrats aren’t utterly sold on their potential nominee. (Tellingly, the previous governor couldn’t even be a “favorite son” Presidential nominee from his own state.) In a contest over pocketbook issues, Hogan may have the public on his side.
We will know quickly just how the session will go as several of Hogan’s vetoes will be up for override. This was a rarity in the previous administration, but it’s worth recalling that the Democrats didn’t give Bob Ehrlich much of a honeymoon so I expect there to be at least one Hogan veto rebuffed. Democrats want to raise taxes, give felons the right to vote before completing their full sentences, make some reforms on civil forfeiture, and decriminalize marijuana paraphernalia. Out of those four vetoes, only the civil forfeiture bill originally had enough House votes to override a veto.
On a local level, we will be very interested to see what becomes of our elected school board bill. Will this finally be the year the state relents and lets the voters of Wicomico County decide its fate?
With a projection that we will have a large increase in filings over last session, it should be a year worth watching. I suspect I will have a difficult time keeping it to just the 25 votes I use for the monoblogue Accountability Project given that the veto votes will likely be included. But with a little help from my friends I look forward to the challenge.
After doing this the last two years one would think I would be an expert at dissecting what will go on over the course of a year, but in this case my crystal ball is a little bit cloudy. Perhaps that’s because things are looking up for a change.
I went to the state Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation website and downloaded some figures which reflect great job creation news - particularly in the latter half of this year. Since June, Wicomico County employment figures are running between 1,300 and 1,800 jobs higher than the corresponding month of 2014. Conversely, in 2014 we never ran more than 753 jobs ahead of 2013 and by the end of last year we actually had fewer employed than the year prior. That downturn carried into this calendar year but by March we had turned the corner.
The growth in the latter half of the year was reminiscent of the boom period of 2004-06, when Wicomico County routinely gained 1,000 or more jobs in every month year-over-year.
So the question will be whether county revenues begin to increase. Unlike the boom of a decade ago, which was fueled by a rapid increase in property values that later translated into increased tax collections, this upturn doesn’t come with rapidly appreciating property values. And there are plenty of bills for the county to pay – two new schools with a third one now placed into the pipeline as well as new facilities for the Board of Elections, increased mandates for education spending and environmental cleanup from the state and federal governments, respectively, and a call from the city of Salisbury to assist them more with fire protection expenses through a more equitable revenue sharing. Certainly it appears that any new money has a number of hands reaching out for it.
Another question regards how well two relatively new leaders will work with each other. It’s fortunate that both County Executive Bob Culver and Salisbury Mayor Jake Day spent a little bit of time on the legislative side of things because it will help them understand the process the other has to go through to get things done. If there’s one thing we have learned from Culver, though, it’s that he’s a man of action who always seems to have a to-do list of improvements he’d like to see. It’s more autocratic than bureaucratic on the county side of the Government Office Building these days. Initial impressions of Day seem to be similar, although he’s made much less of an impact on taking office than Culver did insofar as personnel decisions are concerned.
But there are two key issues regarding education that will be out of Culver’s hands. One is the fate of the elected school board, which is now up to the Maryland General Assembly. The other is the new superintendent that will take over the county schools sometime in 2016. The Board of Education begins the selection process after the holidays – by the way, the county Republican Central Committee will be called upon to retain or replace two GOP members of that body this summer.
Getting around may become a little more difficult next fall as well, as the state will begin replacing 11 bridge decks on the U.S. 13 bypass. It’s a project that’s not supposed to impact summer traffic in 2017 but won’t be complete until 2018.
In comparison to previous years there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly contentious on the horizon - with the possible exception of the proposed large-scale chicken farms Radical Green is already up in arms against - which probably means we’re going to have an interesting year. If we can keep up the pace of job creation, though, eventually the local economy will get back to where it was a decade ago and prosperity takes care of a lot of problems.
Tomorrow I shift my focus to the state as a whole.
Several months ago I told you about the “travel tax,” which has come up in the news again because Mike Miller believes he has the Senate votes to overturn Governor Hogan’s veto and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce is behind it. Indeed, there’s a post on what’s billed as Maryland’s premier conservative website regarding this but I was stymied in reading it by some scam invitation to get a free iPhone 6 – and probably all the malware I can unknowingly download. I’ll come back to that in due course; in the meantime I will fill you in on what is really happening.
My local Delegates are telling me they predict a bumper crop of legislation, and they may be correct – as of this afternoon, 180 bills had already been pre-filed, with 114 Senate bills complementing 66 in the House. (My, my, those Senators are busy beavers.) One bill I did not see among them was the Wicomico elected school board bill, which I would have liked to see pre-filed. Unfortunately, I think that time has passed.
Even with all that work stacking up it’s likely the first things the body will take up are overriding vetoes, with my interest coming from two bills I used for the 2015 monoblogue Accountability Project: SB340 (voting rights for felons) and SB190, the travel tax. Both passed with veto-proof margins in the Senate but neither had a comfortable enough House win – for an override the felon bill would need to pick up three votes and the travel tax one.
That one vote for the travel tax may come down to newly-minted Delegate Elizabeth Proctor, whose late husband James died in office earlier this year. James Proctor was the lone absent Delegate when the travel tax passed 84-56. Another new Delegate, Carlo Sanchez, replaced former Delegate Will Campos, who resigned after being a “yes” vote on both bills in question. As for felon voting, Proctor was absent while Delegates Michael Jackson and C.T. Wilson ducked the vote. In both cases, should opponents hold all their votes and pick up one the vetoes will stand. (Out of our local delegation it was the only Democrat delegate, Sheree Sample-Hughes, who predictably voted in favor of both.)
You’ll notice I basically ignored the Senate in both cases because all they need is the same vote they had the first time to override both vetoes – for the record, both our local Senators voted against felon voting but both favored the travel tax. So it wasn’t really news that Miller had his votes, nor was it groundbreaking to see the state Chamber of Commerce side with big business over entrepreneurs. It’s akin to the struggle between Uber and local taxi companies; oftentimes the Chamber backs the rent-seekers.
Now about that other website: it’s so funny because I used them as an example the other day. Apparently they have chosen to cast their lot with the clickbaiters of the world in the quest for advertising dollars. Self-promotion is one thing - and Lord knows all of us would like advertisers – but the ad was such that I literally could not close it, for a site which had all the red flags of being a virus-laden website. I have to question the integrity and wisdom of a site which uses those techniques.
Perhaps I’m not the biggest or best site around, nor is it lucrative for me in a monetary sense. But just remember – I’m not the one knocking you over the head with the annoying pop-up ads. All I have is a little tip jar and an Amazon affiliation, so if you get an Amazon gift card Friday hook yourself up through me.
More importantly, after the holidays it may be a good idea to ask your legislators where they stand on the travel tax (as well as felon voting.) Contrary to popular belief, it hasn’t been all fee and toll decreases since Hogan took office – if he were a purist he would have vetoed two other House bills which increased certain court fees. But encouraging entrepreneurship and making sure felons pay their entire debt to society before regaining their franchise should be no-brainers, shouldn’t they? There’s a reason a governor has a veto pen, so let him be the check and balance to an overreaching General Assembly.
In this day and age of ever-expanding government that desires to cater to our every whim, it takes money to grease the wheels. Unfortunately for those in the government people aren’t naturally inclined to support higher taxes or fees, so they have created more and more methods of vacuuming money out of peoples’ wallets in order to enrich themselves. One extreme case in point was the subject of a recent Institute for Justice update – it seems the small community of Pagedale, Missouri has decided that fines need to be levied for egregious offenses such as having mismatched curtains or a grill in your front yard. It’s a technique reminiscent of the notorious old “speed trap” communities like New Rome, Ohio that ended when states outlawed the practice of deriving a high percentage of a municipality’s revenues from traffic tickets.
I bring this up at the risk of giving the city of Salisbury some bright ideas when the speed cameras and rain tax bring in less revenue than predicted, but it makes a larger point: there seems to be no limit on what governmental units will consider for a “sin tax.” As one example: while those who believe in liberty gained a small victory earlier this year when Wicomico County allowed its speed camera contract to expire, the city of Salisbury isn’t giving up on its $768,000 in annual revenue that they wrest from peoples’ pockets for the simple act of exceeding the posted speed limit, even if it is set too low for the conditions or is active at a time when kids are not going to or from school. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear about Salisbury lobbying the state to expand the allowable area for these ticket producers outside their current legal restriction of school and active construction work zones.
More traditional “sin taxes” such as those on cigarettes have been a staple for years, and are often promoted for a particular purpose. Even having the states raid the coffers of the tobacco companies themselves has done little to slake their thirst – this report points out the hypocrisy of states taking tobacco settlement money but spending it on almost everything but cessation. Next in line for this treatment is marijuana – my prediction is that our kids will live to see a day where it is freely available, taxed like tobacco, and has cessation programs like tobacco does now. (The only difference is that we don’t have large-scale marijuana producers to extort settlement money from as we do tobacco companies.)
Of course, I understand that government needs money to operate, and while I may disagree about the ins and outs of particular policy decisions I understand I have to pay some taxes and fees along the way. Having said that, though, I object to the backhanded way state and local governments are trying to enrich themselves, often with no input from the public or recorded vote. (One example from Maryland: thanks to a vote from legislators two years ago, our gas tax is now indexed to inflation. It goes up without a vote; however, proposals to return it to the old system never make it out of committee.)
If government is to be properly limited, that limitation shouldn’t just be on the spending end. Excessive means of tax and fee collection as well as civil forfeitures provide more methods to confiscate the fruits of our labor for little benefit – unless you’re a well-connected crony. If you think you’re working harder and harder but have less to show for it, you may be right, but the solution isn’t going to attained easily. There are too many interested in keeping things just the way they are, so you may soon end up paying for that hole in your window screen you didn’t have time to attend to last weekend.
It started out so innocently, somewhat like a warm late-summer day did almost a decade-and-a-half ago. But somehow things became so much bigger and darker.
There’s no doubt a Facebook disagreement pales ever-so-greatly in comparison to 9/11, but the reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act became yet another excuse for partisan bickering, with many of these comments criticizing the heartless Republicans. It’s certainly not hard to garner sympathy for the families of those who were affected by the fall of the Twin Towers.
Yet being the adult in the room isn’t always the most popular thing.
I have no problem with state and local funding of first responders provided they can justify the need for it. Salisbury and Wicomico County are in the process of ironing out a long-standing disagreement over the city providing fire and EMS services for outlying areas close by the city. (Due to haphazard annexation, there are significant pockets of county population completely or nearly fully surrounded by the city limits. I used to live next door to a county resident while I lived within the city limits – the city limit split our shared driveway. The house I lived in literally was the single piece of property that made that relatively large neighborhood area a county island.)
But I would like to know how it became the federal government’s responsibility to take care of these first responders to begin with. It seems to me that this act of terror was equated with an act of war and first responders were elevated to a status not unlike our veterans. And while the families of these firemen and police officers have suffered greatly as these first responders have, there should already have been a state-based workman’s compensation program in place. In short, they are deserving but it’s not the federal government’s place to pay these bills because they had no contract with Uncle Sam like veterans have. Saying so, though, makes one out to be a bad guy.
Beyond this, there is the question of what role the federal government should take.
It seems to me anymore that we assume the federal government will always be our backstop, there to cover us in the event of disaster. Because of this, we aren’t preparing ourselves for a world where the government can’t or won’t be able to help us. How many people have based their retirement dreams on the fact that Social Security and Medicare will always be there, despite the math that equates both to Ponzi schemes? I haven’t checked in several years because I had a lengthy unintentional hiatus from full-time work, but I don’t think it would take too many years for me to go through the amount I had taken out of my checks over the years for Social Security.
At some point, we need to have the cord cut. The question is whether we will have the willpower to do it ourselves or simply have the rug pulled out from under our feet without warning or a chance to prepare. Those who seem to think we can stay on the same course when it comes to the direction of our federal government are sadly deluded. Donald Trump may be the GOP frontrunner, but he has the wrong approach to entitlements. (By the way, I think I’m really doing a disservice by referring to them as “entitlements” because I would like to know exactly where in the Constitution these programs are. Would you consider yourself entitled to Donald Trump’s wealth if you did nothing to earn a portion of it? That’s what the government seems to think.)
For the families of these first responders things will turn out all right because it’s likely the provision will be placed in a must-pass appropriations bill and we will be paying for these luckless police officers and firemen until they pass away. It’s not really our federal government’s proper place, but giving out money to people we deem deserving always feels good. Things will feel great until the day the golden goose lays dead from exhaustion.
This little experiment we embarked upon almost 250 years ago was supposed to be one where government was limited, with authorization to only do a small number of tasks. Somehow we have come to a point where government is unlimited and unchecked. This 9/11 example, to me, buttresses the old adage, “A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.” The same seems to go for what we thought was a constitutional republic.
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.
While the pace of a political campaign is often frenetic, the passage of Labor Day has long been understood as the point people begin to pay attention. For a normal middle-class family it means the kids are back in school, vacations are memories, and the routine is back underway. Most people have some sort of election in the fall, and while it’s a statewide election year in a handful of states, the general rule for odd-numbered years such as this is that municipal and local elections are contested.
So years ago, when I first got my start in politics, I helped out local campaigns for several different offices, from mayor and city council to municipal judge and clerk of courts. Similarly, here in Salisbury where I live there is a municipal election, although about 1/5 of residents won’t have much of a reason to turn out because their particular district has an uncontested race just as the mayor’s race does. Otherwise, there are 2 to 4 people seeking City Council seats from each district.
In looking at the field, it is comprised mainly of those who have ran before, whether successfully or not. But there are a few who haven’t ran and they are finding out the hard way what it takes to compete. Theoretically, however, there could be four political newcomers elected to City Council although the odds of a complete “throw the bums out” mentality aren’t that great. You may not like the system at large but your person isn’t necessarily the scoundrel everyone else makes the group out to be. Quite honestly, there are people who walk into the polling place and vote for the name they know without any clue about what that person stands for. I’m trying to decrease that number but it’s a slow process.
In the next few weeks, though, there is another electoral battle shaping up – just not in the traditional sense. Thursday will be the first of four public hearings concerning the adoption of an elected board of education here in Wicomico County – round one will be held at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center beginning at 6 p.m. Out of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City, Wicomico is one of just three without an elected school board and, unless the rules are changed locally, will become the only one where the process is handled completely outside the county’s jurisdiction. (The other two counties have – or are in the process of creating – local nominating commissions for their appointed boards.)
It’s a local issue that bears watching, particularly as the Wicomico County Board of Education handles more money than the county’s overall budget yet is rigidly controlled as to its partisanship and often has the situation where a member of one party is appointed by the administration of the opposite. Those who aren’t aware of the situation should be willing to listen beginning Thusday night. It’s time to get serious.
For many years the Wicomico County Republicans have been proud participants in the Wicomico County Farm and Home Show. But after last year’s sparsely-attended rendition, it was decided a change was needed.
In reading last year’s feature, the comment was made that they needed more people to help out. Enter the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce, who had the rights to the old Delmarva Chicken Festival, and the re-christened Wicomico County Fair was reborn in its 79th year. So how did it go?
There was still a lot of tradition there…
…but they kept what was good about the old event and added a lot more.
One of those holdovers drew a lot of spectators on Saturday evening, as they kept the Cowboy Mounted Shooting event.
The idea is to shoot the balloons off the cones in as quickly as possible. On a horse. I suppose it’s a little easier on us humans than to run through the sand ourselves and do it, and a better spectator sport.
As I said last year, though, it would be interesting to get a more full-fledged competition. Maybe next year.
But there was a lot which was new and improved. One thing dragged out of mothballs was the giant frying pan made famous at the Chicken Festival.
I’m sure this sponsor has been there all along, but the chicken tie-in was surely encouraging for them.
The fair also included a “beer garden” for the first time, although it was more of a standard food court. Ice cream was among the favorites, and you couldn’t miss the rhythmic sound of this motor they used for churning.
This area, however, also presented a opportunity to vastly expand the musical entertainment as a number of local bands played the fair. The Barren Creek Band was among those that played Friday evening.
On Saturday night Red No Blue was the opener for Petting Hendrix. They were wrapping up as I was leaving.
Another area that was a noticeable draw was the variety of kids’ activities. Those kids who exhibit goats, sheep, or cattle need to have a little playtime, too. It was more than my cell phone could get in one shot.
Truth be told, given the nice weather and the additional interest, those exhibitors who used to be inside but were outside this time around – such as the National Aquarium and Maryland Right to Life – likely had more traffic than the Republican Club had inside the exhibit hall.
One thing I didn’t get a picture of was their display, but the club did. It’s not a state election year so we didn’t have a lot to stack up.
I thought this sign belonged there, though.
Since both of them are Republicans, we could lay claim to it but it was actually the county’s sign that was placed across from us.
Finally, speaking of judging, there seemed to be more entries this year in the photography contest. I entered a handful of photos but no ribbons for me this time. Maybe next year.
But if I were to give out ribbons for most improved local event, I think the Wicomico County Fair would be a recipient. I’m glad there was some new life breathed into this venerable event and hope its 80th edition next year will be even bigger and better.
In previous years I have detailed some of those events I have attended, and this year is no different except I decided to take fewer pictures and enjoy (or take stock in) the events more.
On Sunday our family made a regular stop, honoring the veterans through music at the Concert for a Random Soldier in Long Neck, Delaware.
The event is now in its tenth year (more on that in a bit) and it benefits this veterans organization, Guitars for Vets.
Naturally, local veterans organizations use this both to inform others who may be interested in their service and to gather together.
Since this event has now reached a decade in duration, I found it very cool that the Delaware General Assembly saw fit to honor it with proclamations from both their House of Delegates and Senate. Senator Ernie Lopez presented the Senate version to event creator Terri Clifton.
Delegate Steve Smyk did the same for the House, but that was prior to our arrival.
Originally I wasn’t going to do a second post but as it turned out I had enough band photos that I will do a separate Weekend of Local Rock post next weekend. The Concert for a Random Soldier also featured a modest car show, raffles, and good food. Next year you should make plans to join in this worthwhile family Sunday.
Another event which has become an annual tradition here in Salisbury is the Memorial Day ceremony at the Wicomico County Youth and Civic Center.
As it has become tradition, I decided not to do a full pictorial of the event – if you want the blow-by-blow, previous coverage will suffice.
But each year I notice that, while there is a handful of new people there, the majority of those who attend and participate have some number of gray hairs. It’s worth pointing out that the revival of patriotism that was a reaction to the mistreatment of those who returned from Vietnam almost a half-century ago is itself nearly 25 years old. (The Reagan years birthed the resurgence, but it began in earnest when we sent troops over for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1991.) Those who served in that particular theater of war are now themselves middle-aged.
Instead, those in the present generation of fighting men (and women) are once again saddled with the fact they fought in what became an unpopular war where any victories gained were squandered by subsequent military decisions and strategy. I sense at times that patriotism is once again becoming a parody of itself – talking about “‘Murica” and all that. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the current political leadership, but to me it’s still there.
Memorial Day, however, is a day to set aside political feelings for the conflicts we find ourselves ensnared in, for the thousands and thousands who have perished in defense of our land are the ones we should be remembering today. Just because the federal government made it a three-day weekend, replacing the traditional May 30 date to instead insure it’s always on a Monday, doesn’t mean that the sense of loss for the families comes to an end or that the sacrifices were any less ultimate.
I hope those who are growing up come to understand the true meaning of the holiday, for I sometimes get the bad feeling their generation may bear the brunt of future observances. Let’s hope my hunch is wrong.
At our Central Committee meeting last night we had the pleasure of hearing from Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver. One thing we touched upon in the meeting was the aspect of public hearings for gauging public support of an elected school board in Wicomico County, at the behest of Senator Jim Mathias. We learned that none of these sessions had been planned yet, so I’m going to throw out the first ideas on this.
I don’t think anyone would say that there can be too few public hearings but I think that there can be too many. Sooner or later people would lose interest so I think the optimum number would be five.
To me, five is the fairest number because we could base one in each County Council district – important because the proposal would use those same boundaries for school board districts. As far as timing, I think August is the best month although September is acceptable as well. This has more to do with the availability of facilities than anything else, because in most cases schools would be the ideal location for these public hearings. Specifically, I think the hearings should be sited in the following facilities, all of which lie within that Council district.
- District 1: West Salisbury Elementary School
- District 2: Mardela Middle’High School
- District 3: Wicomico Youth and Civic Center
- District 4: Bennett High School
- District 5: Pittsville Elementary/Middle School
These locations are somewhat spread through the county, although by necessity most are in the Salisbury area.
Obviously elected officials may not be able to make each of these hearings, and the idea is to hear from as many voices as possible. But if the respective County Council members can act as hosts and facilitators, the process should be satisfactory to all involved.
Then we can get to the business of passing this bill in next year’s session. The people’s voice delayed should not be the people’s voice denied.
It’s concession time in Annapolis: for another year, the will of Wicomico County voters will be thwarted by a group refusing to accept that the answer to the elected school board question should be decided by the voters, not a small group who’s worried that their power base may be threatened.
Today I received a press release from my Delegate, Carl Anderton, admitting the bill is defeated for the session. In it, Anderton noted that:
This delay affords us the opportunity to have an inclusive year-long dialogue about the issue. It will give everyone more time to weigh in and reassure anyone with concerns that next year’s bill is reflective of community input.
Yet if the “dialogue” is in the tone and tenor of the testimony offered by Jim Ireton, there’s no use in conducting the discussion. In fact, he said at the hearing, “I think the discussion should end now.” After all, according to Jim, an elected school board would “debilitate our public schools.”
And if there are public hearing with a number of proponents speaking, I’m sure Ireton would echo his charge about a “sparsely attended public hearing” attended by only proponents. It’s the “small band of supporters” who also gerrymandered the county, placed us under a “crippling revenue cap” and “refuses to be responsible.” These are all quotes from his testimony before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. (He comes on at the 4:00 mark.)
Here is the dirty little secret Carl will eventually learn – there is no amount of dialogue which will satisfy them. For whatever reason, the appointed status quo satisfies their desire to have a malleable board that has generally been selected with the approval of the teachers’ union. Since the Democrats have occupied the governor’s office for much of the last forty years, the appointments were made with that interest group in mind. The only accountability was to the sponsors who backed them, and as long as a couple of those “yes-men” were from a minority group, all was peachy keen in their world.
To them, an elected school board is scary because accountability may be introduced. Again, consider what Ireton thought about the voters of the county which chose to install a revenue cap and would prefer an elected school board.
They are scared. But we’ll give them the public hearings, and for that I better damn well see Jim Mathias as a co-sponsor. I honestly think his not sponsoring the bill is what prevented it from going forward.
As the old Brooklyn Dodgers fans used to say, “wait ’til next year.” No more excuses.