Autumn Wine Festival 2015 in pictures and text

October 18, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items · Comments Off 

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!

2015 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text

October 13, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items · Comments Off 

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.

Time to get serious

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.

Judging the revamped Wicomico County Fair

August 17, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

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.

A weekend to remember, 2015 edition

May 25, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off 

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.

Upping the ante

May 12, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

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.

The noisy, tiny minority wins again

March 27, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

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.

An open letter to opponents of an elected Board of Education for Wicomico County

March 19, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Education, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

It was enlightening to see the main points you brought up in testimony regarding our county’s expressed desire to convert from a fully-appointed Board of Education to a “hybrid” elected and appointed body. In reading the summary presented by Phil Davis in the Daily Times, I seized upon several arguments made against the concept and I’d like to address them here.

The first was the financial argument presented by Senator Montgomery in her line of questioning. Indeed, the county receives a large amount of money from the state for its Board of Education, in part because it’s one of those eight counties (plus Baltimore City) which has “less than 80 percent of the statewide average wealth per pupil” and also has a disproportionate share of those students who must learn English as a second language. Senator Eckardt brought up the difficult economic times the region has seen over the last several years, but that’s not necessarily the correct argument to counter this point.

Rather, one must examine the root of all government money: the taxpayer. Perhaps Senator Montgomery, being from a county chock full of those who work for the federal government, is assuming that everyone has the means and willingness to give government whatever it wants. Instead, we as concerned Wicomico County residents come from that seemingly quaint and disappearing class of people who actually demand accountability for the taxpayer dollars we provide. While the financial books may show that the majority of our school funding comes from the state, it’s worth making the point that we taxpayers are the ones providing the money. Because all state money comes from the labor and toil provided by those who pay taxes at some level, including to the federal government, it follows that we want to keep a relatively close eye on it.

As for the question of community input, it’s worth reminding Mayor Ireton, Mrs. Ashanti, and other opponents that this is not the first time the subject of an elected Board of Education has come up. It’s been a topic of discussion for decades, and the previous edition of County Council resolved to ask Annapolis for a simple straw ballot to determine interest in further legislation only to be thwarted by opponents who charged that the system as proposed did not properly address the concerns of the minority community. To me, that’s a tacit admission that the community interest was there but as proposed an elected Board of Education did not meet with the political desires of the opponents, who generally subscribed to the philosophy of the party holding the governor’s office at the time.

And elections do matter. While the main issues of last fall’s election were the sentiment that the state and local economy was not improving at a satisfactory pace, and that government overall was not being careful with the increasing amount of money they were taking out of our pockets, there was an underlying sentiment that our educational system also needed improvement and accountability. Thus, two key opponents of an elected Board of Education were voted out of office and two proponents were voted in.

Yet the new county government listened to one key demand of the opponents and compromised. Personally, I was not happy that the fully-elected Board of Education was replaced by a version with two appointed members and five elected – our version of a “hybrid” model counties who have recently shifted from a fully appointed board have used – but I understand the politics behind the move, and that time was of the essence to bring the proposal before the current session of the General Assembly. Yet my suspicion is that the opponents know what the public input will be, and that’s a resounding approval of this proposal when placed before the voters.

Next is the interesting point brought up by Mr. Johnson of the WCEA regarding the County Executive’s influence on the board and the school’s budget. It’s interesting because he’s fretting over two members of a seven-member board, members who will have no greater voting power than any other member. If the two members appointed by the County Executive disagree with the position of the other five elected members, their opposition will simply amount to the losing end of a 5-2 vote if they can’t convince the other members to adopt their viewpoint.

But I want to conclude with the sentiment expressed by Mayor Ireton and Mrs. Ashanti that, “it was a select few who made the call for an elected school board.” My argument is that it’s a select few who participate in the process now.

For eight years I was a voting member of the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee. As such, one of our tasks was to assist in the appointment of the three Republican members of the Board of Education (at the time; with the election of Governor Hogan the GOP ranks were allowed to expand to four.) Presumably the Democratic Central Committee does the same with their appointees, although I confess that I have a lack of knowledge about their process as I can speak to ours.

Yet despite our vetting of candidates, more often than not the appointee would be determined by the input of others who had interests that were more political in nature. The final say actually comes down to one person: the state’s Secretary of Appointments, who in turn is appointed by the governor. In the case of the most recent previous governor, he was elected despite our county’s support for his opponent. Where was our public input then?

Over the last two weeks, the Republican Central Committee dutifully interviewed prospective members and submitted names to the Secretary of Appointments to fill two vacancies on the Wicomico County Board of Education. We submitted the names of all those who interviewed, expressing only our order of preference, in a process agreed on by the Central Committee.

But because some members of the body aspired to be on the Board of Education and another was absent from the final meeting, it was a bare quorum of five members who decided the order of preference. Five people submitted names to one person to make this decision, and yet this is considered superior to a process where thousands of people would be able to decide those they would like to place in charge of millions of taxpayer dollars?

In November, we elected a County Council and County Executive who will be charged with an annual operating budget of roughly $130 million. Yet the appointed Board of Education is submitting an overall budget for FY2016 in excess of $190 million, of which they are asking the county for $39 million. Once again, let me reiterate that a small group of perhaps fewer than two dozen people at the local and state level had input on who was chosen to oversee that Board of Education budget, a budget nearly 50 percent larger than the county’s operating budget as a whole.

When it comes to maximizing accountability and local control, the verdict is simple: an elected school board – even in this “hybrid” form – is the proper way to proceed. Opponents who wish to maintain the status quo are hiding behind a series of smokescreens to obscure their real issue: the loss of their political influence over who gets to operate Wicomico County’s school system.

Local Democrats make big claims to receive handouts

Fresh off a shellacking where their statewide standard-bearer had his doors blown off locally by 30 points and only two of their eleven state race contenders won - one by just 30 votes locally and the other in an ostensibly non-partisan race – the Wicomico County Democratic Party finds itself in somewhat desperate financial straits. So in order to raise a little money, the party is making some claims which have to be seen to be believed – and I’m going to show you.

Let’s go through this a little bit at a time, shall we?

Maryland voters decided to “Change Maryland” last November, with the election of Larry Hogan as Governor. However, with only a month in office, Hogan is already proving himself to be just another Tea party Republican.

Perhaps the idea was to indeed elect a TEA Party Republican, rather than four more years of the O’Malley/Brown debacle? We certainly were due for a change.

And as far as the TEA Party goes, it’s worth recalling that TEA is actually an acronym that stands for “Taxed Enough Already.” We heard for three-plus years about all the tax increases put in place by the O’Malley/Brown administration so people naturally decided enough was enough.

But they continue:

Here are just a few of his first actions:

  • Slashing education funding – $1.9 Million from Wicomico County alone
  • Recklessly raiding over $2.5 Billion from our Transportation funding
  • Eliminating programs that help to keep the Bay clean

Apparently I’m supposed to take their word about these so-called cuts, since there’s no context or backup information provided.

I will not profess to be an expert on the state budget; however, I did look under public education and on all three line items I found for Wicomico County:

  • “compensatory education funds to local school systems based on Free and Reduced Priced Meal Eligibility counts” goes from $37,322,878 actual in 2014 to $38,615,082 for 2015 estimated – an increase of $1,292,204.
  • “additional support for students with limited English proficiency” goes from $3,092,879 actual in 2014 to $3,407,287 for 2015 estimated – an increase of $314,408.
  • the automatic supplement to counties “which have less than 80 percent of the statewide average wealth per pupil” goes from $3,670,117 actual in 2014 to $4,579,323 for 2015 estimated – an increase of $909,206.

By my count that’s an increase of $2,515,818. It appears the Hogan administration is well taking care of those things it needs to, prioritizing at a time when the state had to address a $750 million structural deficit.

I still haven’t figured out where the $2.5 billion “raid” to transportation funding is – the repeal of the automatic gas tax increase would save consumers nearly $1.56 billion over the next five fiscal years. We know Democrats own tax increases, so perhaps they bemoan that “lost” revenue to the state.

As for the elimination of programs for the Bay, I’d like to know precisely what they are referring to. They’re getting the PMT regulations so they should be happy.

Anyway, let’s continue.

And the story is the same in Wicomico County where Larry Hogan’s Tea Party partner, Bob Culver, is becoming the anti-education County Executive by refusing to fund a new building to replace the clearly antiquated West Salisbury Elementary School and scraping (sic) completion of the Bennett High School athletic complex.

Obviously the WCDCC has little concept of debt service. It would be one thing if the county could reach into its pocket and fish out $40 million for a new elementary school but the idea of pulling out the county’s credit card to put yet another multi-million dollar expenditure on it doesn’t appeal to the new County Executive. Just like they did in electing Larry Hogan, county voters wanted a change in direction from the former administration.

Instead, the county will improve the school in the areas where the need is greatest, with the list compiled through a consultation with experts and school officials. It may not be the “new” West Salisbury Elementary, but it will be an improved one. Perhaps that approach would have saved the county a lot of money with the former Bennett High School.

As for the Bennett Middle situation, completion of the athletic fields would not be “scrapped” (as the letter should have said) but simply placed in a different area of the site. The former Bennett Middle would be repurposed for office space, allowing the opportunity for the county to consolidate some of its operations. The change still needs the approval of County Council.

Picking back up, with the sad trumpet appeal for funding:

This isn’t the change I voted for in November, and I know you didn’t vote for this, either. We need your help to fight back. We cannot elect more Democrats in 2018 without your support over the next four years. Every dollar you donate to the Wicomico Democratic Central Committee goes to funding our efforts to recruit and help good local candidates.

Most importantly, your donation goes to helping us communicate our party’s values to the voters… personal responsibility, educating all of our children, cleaning up the Bay, protecting our agricultural community, equality for ALL, supporting local businesses, and protecting the Middle Class… and we need your support!

Actually, I did vote for some of this change. Unfortunately, I couldn’t change enough members of the General Assembly to make the total difference that’s needed – although my personal representation in the House of Delegates got a whole lot better.

But if the WCDCC wants to elect more Democrats in 2018, those Democrats can’t be in the tax-and-spend, socially liberal mode. Not in this county.

And after reading that Democrat screed, I realized it’s really conservatives who advocate for all those things the Democrats claim to stand for. That’s not to say a Democrat can’t be conservative but they are fewer and further between, even in this area.

So how would I, as a conservative, respond to their letter? I’ll go through what they claim to represent.

We believe that personal responsibility begins with keeping more of the money you earn by taking advantage of the opportunities a capitalist system creates.

We believe that money should follow the child so you can choose the best educational opportunity for your children, whether in public or private school or through a homeschooling regimen.

We believe in cleaning up the Bay through a balanced approach, beginning by addressing a proven detriment in Conowingo Dam and not punishing farmers who have been trying their best to address the issue.

We believe in protecting the agricultural community by allowing farmers the option to do as they wish with their land, not arbitrarily shutting off development options to them.

We believe in equality for all, not discriminating for or against anyone. But we also know our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values which have stood the test of time.

We support local businesses by allowing them more freedom to do what’s productive and less time to have to deal with governmental edict and regulation. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we want to encourage them to grow and prosper for the community’s sake, not as a cash cow.

We want to protect and grow the middle class – not at the expense of the upper classes, but by allowing the conditions where those on lower rungs of the economic ladder can climb their way up through hard work and ingenuity.

The jury is still out on this, but I think all the Democrats have is rhetoric. We will have to keep an eye on the GOP to make sure they deliver the results their philosophy should yield.

So if you are a local Democrat who received this letter, there’s only one thing to do: go to the Board of Elections and request the change of registration form to become a Republican. It may be your best chance to influence election results in the future.

A resurrection

March 5, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

Once in awhile I’m wrong. Maybe it was bad information, and maybe I just misinterpreted what I heard. But I was glad to be incorrect in this case.

A few weeks ago I posted on what I thought was the demise of Pork in the Park. But since we celebrated National Pig Day this week, I’m very, very happy the report of its demise was premature!

Instead, the annual festival was retooled and scaled back to a two-day event to be held on Friday, April 24 and Saturday, April 25 – the dates the now-shuttered Salisbury Festival would have fallen on. After the ill-fated move by Pork in the Park to Mother’s Day weekend last year (thanks to Easter occurring on its usual April weekend) the closure of the Salisbury Festival in favor of a fall event gives Pork in the Park a little better weather potential.

Other big changes immediately apparent are the serious reduction in admission prices from last year’s $7 to a much more affordable $3. When you factor in the food costs, families didn’t seem as willing to shell out the money to get in. You may not have the ambitious entertainment schedule of recent years, but as long as there are ribs to eat most will be happy to have the same sort of bands we usually hear for most of the fall festivals. (You can bring back Smokin’ Gunnz for me.)

It’s most likely the cost came down once the decision was made to broom the wing eating contest that comprised most of the Sunday entertainment and the national recording acts on Friday and Saturday nights - although I haven’t seen an updated entertainment scale yet the promotions are for the Eastern Shore Wing War (a people’s choice contest), the cornhole tournament, and pig races. (No wagering, please.)

Last year had to be a disappointment for the county’s tourism board, with the number of competitors way down from previous years. The trick will be getting those who passed on the event last year to place it back on their contest calendars. I think if they can get back to around 80 to 100 competitors that will be a success. It’s likely the cyclical nature of the food business has weeded out some of the weaker, less serious competition teams as barbeque is not necessarily the “in” thing right now so doubling the number who participated last year would be a good goal.

As for us, I am pleased to see the event come back. It may not be as ambitious as it was before, but at least the organizers conceded they reached a dead end and decided to give it another shot on the scale we were accustomed to. I’m sure I’ll be there, so hopefully I’ll have a goodly amount of company.

Hostility to cuts

It’s been a little while, but the political hijinks of Cecil County return to my site via a dispatch I received from Bob Willick and their Campaign for Liberty chapter. The purpose of the dispatch was to relay the open hostility from a couple members of their pubic school faculty, making the point that:

Apparently, even though you and I have funded the local school system millions above the maintenance of effort level for years—we are still “slackers.”

Thomas went on a public rant last week writing a post on her new blog demanding that citizens fork over whatever outrageous increase CCPS asks for this year.

You see, Cecil School Superintendent, D’Ette Devine, is lobbying the County Executive and County Council for a taxpayer funded $8 million dollar spending hike over last year’s budget.

This when CCPS has been fully funded and given millions in extra funding for years.

Regardless of this fact, some CCPS teachers are showing their disdain for the hard working folks that pay their salary.

These attacks are coming from a government sector employee who receives competitive pay, sick days off, vacation time, summers off and a pension.

Thomas knows that this type of angry rhetoric will motivate the employees of the largest employer in Cecil County (CCPS) to pressure local government to once again award them with more tax payer funds.

Aside from the oversimplification that teaching is a nine-month profession given some of the training they may have to receive during the summers, there is a lot to be said about the Campaign for Liberty’s point. How many government agencies are protected by law against cuts in such a way that Maryland public schools receive thanks to “maintenance of effort” laws? The state dictates how much money counties have to fork over in order to match their goals, and whether the county can afford it or not (or passed a revenue cap as Wicomico County did a decade ago) does not matter to the state – if the county doesn’t comply the state treasury will hijack the county’s allotment of state money and make sure the schools are paid what the state thinks they are due. It’s a ridiculous constraint on county budgets.

Whenever conservatives take over in government, the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the Left is all but intolerable. Listen to them whine about cuts to education in the state budget and you’d quickly forget that the allocation to education (both pre-K to 12 and state-funded colleges) increased for the Hogan FY2016 budget – just not as much as the education lobby expected or demanded. Structural deficit be damned, they aren’t satisfied with any less than the massive increase they assumed they would get when Anthony Brown was elected.

The same holds true locally. Hours after being sworn in, County Executive Bob Culver announced he wasn’t going to borrow for a new West Salisbury Elementary School, triggering outrage in the local community. But after a January tour of the building by experts in the construction field as well as Wicomico Board of Education members and administration, it’s been quietly determined that spending $2 million would be enough for most of the desired upgrades. (The cynic in me thinks the folks at West Salisbury just took too much pride in maintenance and didn’t let the building go far enough to pieces, as opposed to the former Bennett schools.)

More recently the alarm sounded when Culver brought up the idea of keeping the old Bennett Middle School, which is being replaced by a new building away from the current Bennett High School site, as an office complex for the Wicomico County Board of Education. The Bennett community was outraged as the old middle school is supposed to be torn down for athletic fields to complete the planned three-phase replacement of the old Bennett Middle and High Schools with a new high school building and facilities on the existing Bennett site and a middle school built near Fruitland. (The middle school is slated to open next school year.) Proponents have taken to social media to make their case.

But perhaps the better question no one is asking is why more office space is needed? Over the years claims have been made that county government is very lean, but I question that assessment if the BoE needs more room for administration. The county has already bonded millions for the Bennett construction (among other projects, big and small) so debt service is a concern at our level as well as for the state.

It’s a problem because increasing debt load doesn’t help citizens in any way but takes money from needed services, such as snow plowing and otherwise maintaining roads. (I say that because the plows just went by here.) It doesn’t matter which county you are in, citizens feel they have enough taken from them by government but the public sector demands more. Martin O’Malley’s solution of tax increases and additional debt was bad for Maryland, so the new approach promised by Larry Hogan is in the process of being enacted. It’s not our fault the schools aren’t thrilled about the prospect of making do with less. Welcome to the real world.

The longest 2 1/2 months

January 19, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Believe it or not, there will be 78 days between the time Larry Hogan won his election and the day he will be sworn in. Those 11 weeks have seen practically every other unit of government turn over since the November election – for example, Wicomico County changed over in early December while Congress went two weeks ago and the General Assembly last week.

In that timespan we’ve seen much of Maryland turn in a decidedly more conservative direction. But as one Facebook observer pointed out, Larry Hogan has bent over backwards to appease most of the groups in Maryland with his cabinet and executive branch selections, which include at least one O’Malley holdover and several former Ehrlich staffers. The one group he has not tapped, however, is the TEA Party branch of the Republican Party.

And with most of the prime spots already taken, it looks like the Maryland government will shift rightward but only about as far as the middle of the road because there’s not going to be anyone there to really push it hard right. Likely this is by design as the perception of bipartisanship may be necessary to win again in 2018, but then I always work under the assumption that the dominant media will support the Democrats in this state so it really doesn’t matter just how much our side panders to the left. So why not try to beat back the other side with conservatism on all fronts?

Now I also know that there are people on my side and who I call friends who say that we have to work with Democrats on things we can agree on. That’s okay as far as that goes, although I think that list of agreements is a lot shorter than my more moderate friends think it is. There are some functions of government I believe are necessary, though, and to the extent that we can improve them to make them more user-friendly I can deal with it.

But then take budget items like the Purple Line. In the 2 1/2 month lame-duck gap between the election and Larry Hogan’s inauguration that special interest has taken the time and money to lobby for its very existence. History and logic would dictate that the Purple Line would be a cronyist boondoggle to build and a money pit to maintain because ridership will never pay for the cost of running the trains, but I’m detecting a softening of Hogan’s previous hardline stance. A couple billion dollars would fix a lot of bridges and potholes, but those aren’t as sexy as a rail line which proponents will claim will improve the environment – of course, that’s based on full trains which we won’t see.

Everyone who is a prospective victim of the budgetary chopping block will be out in force over the next month or so trying to plead the case that they should be spared the axe, like the state’s arts community. But catering to everyone is how we got to where we are in the first place.

Obviously Larry Hogan needed a little time to make sure he won the election and mull over those people who he will need to run his administration. But this change in government couldn’t come soon enough for those of us who would like it rightsized, and while job one of the Hogan administration has to be that of getting the state’s economy back on sound footing and moving in a positive direction, not far behind that effort should be one to have a FY2019 budget that’s no larger than the one we passed last year.

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