Playing chicken with local industry

After controversy about the prospect of large poultry operations with multiple chicken houses (up to a baker’s dozen in one case) as well as concern over the paleochannel that runs near the Salisbury area, County Executive Bob Culver organized a public meeting held earlier this evening to discuss some of these concerns with a number of state officials. Ten representatives, mainly from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) but also representing the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), were made available to answer questions from a large audience of onlookers.

Culver assured the audience that there were “no predetermined outcomes from this forum,” stressing that the idea was to explore the impact these operations would have on groundwater and the paleochannel, along with the possibility of airborne toxins. Culver noted that a Daily Times editorial penned by local activist Judith Stribling called on us to be “determined to avoid polarization,” and the crowd inside complied.

Outside? Well, that was a different story.

I shared this on social media, noting the anti-poultry zealots had arrived. Yet that band of perhaps three dozen was no more than a fraction of those inside. And it’s a sure bet that many thousands more will be alerted to the results of this meeting on local media.

Needless to say, once moderator Greg Bassett of the Salisbury Independent opened up the questions, which were written by audience members and passed to the front of the room, we had a lot of queries about how the operations would affect the water supply as well as the disposition of the natural by-products of the poultry.

In fact, the first question out of the chute was on how the PMT regulations were affecting the capacity of the land to handle manure. Dave Mister of the Department of Agriculture told those gathered that “we feel there will be adequate land to apply manure.” One thing he didn’t add was that much of the lower Shore has reached its saturation point for phosphorus, so that waste would need to be transported.

But the main thrust of the questioners regarding the waste itself was the effects it would have on peoples’ health. There were no “cancer clusters” being caused by these operations, said Dr. Clifford Mitchell of DHMH. Asthma from airborne particulates could be an issue, but that depended more on the individual and poultry operations couldn’t be blamed as a blanket cause.

The only possible issue could be nitrates in the water supply, which is regulated by the federal EPA to prevent what’s called “blue baby syndrome.” There is no regulation for phosphorus, added John Grace of MDE.

Moreover, the panel agreed health or environmental issues shouldn’t be a problem as long as the operation is run according to permit requirements. The idea is “zero discharge,” said Gary Kelman of the MDE. “No discharge will occur…if the permit is adhered to,” Kelman added. We also learned that they inspect based on complaints, and “we have lots of eyes out there,” said Kelman. Operations are inspected every five years at the minimum, but more often if there are complaints.

This to me may be an Achilles heel for the industry, since those who want to stir up trouble can make it difficult for CAFOs (short for concentrated animal feeding operations) to survive a week without some inspection. (To be considered a CAFO, a grower has to deal with 37,500 or more birds.)

And while they couldn’t answer a question dealing with the carrying capacity of our local industry, Mister admitted the number of chickens being grown was probably increasing. “The industry is growing, and that’s a good thing,” said Mister. The industry has to expand to be successful.

It was interesting to me that one of the more asinine questions was what they would do to protect smaller farmers; a question that received a smattering of applause. Mister simply said that was “best answered by the industry.” But on a compliance basis, he noted that all farmers have issues yet they get “phenomenal” cooperation from growers when there are problems.

We went almost the first hour without getting a question about the paleochannel, but one finally came. And the consensus was that there was “little chance” the paleochannel would be affected by these operations because they were all under roof – even the mortality composters were protected from the elements. In the event of a catastrophic loss, there was also the option of using the manure storage shed. There seems to be a lot of redundancy in the operation as well as in the permitting process.

That process also was a concern of some questioners, who worried that there was an effort to “fast-track” approvals. But the idea was to process them as efficiently as possible, protested Hussein Alhija of MDE, who noted “my job is to improve the process.” Several different state entities have to work in conjunction to get these permits in order. It’s a “very complex process.” noted Mister, who added that education on permitting was important. Kelman chimed in by pointing out lenders need the permits in order to fund the operations.

Nor is the paleochannel in danger from the water usage required by these operations. Poultry growing uses “several orders of magnitude” less water than cropland operations, said Grace. In fact, there is “no declining water level” in the aquafers. “We’re okay as far as the water supply goes,” Grace assessed.

Yet while the answers seemed to be satisfactory regarding water quality and permitting, those who thought CAFOs could be eliminated from being adjacent to residential areas were likely disappointed. The only standard that applies as far as the state is concerned is that operations must be 1oo feet away from “waters of the state.” Otherwise, Kelman conceded that it “seems to be a local zoning issue.” Given that residential development is oftentimes adjacent to land zoned agricultural, that will be something the county would need to address.

And there will still be people who are aggravated, even with all the assurances from the state group.

Perhaps the creator of this sign is related to the late William Donald Schaefer, the onetime governor who called the Eastern Shore the “shithouse” of Maryland.

In about an hour and a half, though, we all got a little understanding about the permitting process prospective growers have to go through, and perhaps it’s the idea that dealing with one big farm and one permit rather than several operations that is making the large-scale farms the better business model.

In his introduction, Culver noted there are 2,300 employees of local poultry companies. That’s a decent percentage of the local workforce, and it doesn’t count the ancillary jobs created by the need for these employees to live their lives. If the supply chain of chicken dries up, there will be a significant impact to our local economy that low-impact tourism can’t replace.

Given the evidence that the state of Maryland is trying to be of assistance to growers in maintaining a clean environment, the only explanation for the opposition is that it’s being whipped up by Radical Green, with the paleochannel just an excuse to stop vital development. With the steps being taken to treat stormwater and precautions being taken to keep farm operations as environmentally friendly as possible, I think that chicken growers are trying to be the best neighbors they can – it’s the outside extremists who are trying to foul our economic nest.

Ten Question Tuesday – June 11, 2013

As I noted in my original coverage last Wednesday, I received the opportunity to have a one-on-one interview with gubernatorial candidate David Craig after he concluded his public remarks. Rather than ask him strictly about his stump speech, I wanted to ask about some of the topics which may be more important to my fellow Eastern Shore residents.

**********

monoblogue: Just to ask you the first question, I know we’re the seventh stop or so on this tour…

Craig: Yes.

monoblogue: …so how’s your reception been?

Craig: It’s been very good. Started out good – a little rainy when we started out…

monoblogue: Yes.

Craig: …but good crowds everywhere we’ve been, the people who showed up have been very receptive (and) very happy about what was happening. Very impressive in Hagerstown, we got out there and did the walking tour of downtown and went in to see several businesses, went by the schools…a lot of people saw the bus, they saw me, and they started walking with us. Got a little reception afterward where people could just come in and talk about stuff.

We went to Silver Spring – how many Republicans are going to go to Montgomery County? But we drive through the neighborhoods and I think, “Why are these people voting for Democrats?” These people have their nice little homes, they obviously have nice jobs and stuff like that, paying income taxes

monoblogue: Well, the problem is they may have government jobs that depend on the government being large.

Craig: Well, they may depend on the federal government being large but not us. Anyway, it’s nice neighborhoods and things like that. The one in Prince Frederick was very good, Annapolis was Annapolis (laughs)…that was fun. So they’ve all been very interesting, you see the differences –  everybody says one Maryland, but there are slight differences.

monoblogue: Yeah, well, for example I come from a rural perspective – I grew up in a rural area – and I know you talked in your speech about the lost balance between environmentalism and that. How’s that going to affect our “outhouse” out here?

Craig: (laughs) You tell people that farmers were the first environmentalists that we ever saw. Farmers are usually pretty fiduciary – they usually don’t waste money.

monoblogue: No, they’re trying to make money.

Craig: They’re trying to make money, so they’re not going to do things that are bad. What I’ve found in doing this in Harford County is I do have an executive – I have an Agricultural Economic Advisory Board and I have an Agricultural Preservation Board that I work with, and one of my deputy chiefs of staff is the agricultural deputy chief of staff. 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: Well, that’s reassuring. After they passed the septic bill and they can’t tell you that? I know there was a bill – and it was one of our Delegates (Mike McDermott) put it up – to rescind that entire septic bill. Now, if it does somehow get through the General Assembly would you consider signing that bill rescinding the law?

Craig: I think there are many things that have been done over the last 20 years that ought to be rescinded, particularly when it comes – what was the one Parris Glendening did? I can’t remember, it was some kind of infectious disease thing…

monoblogue: I don’t know, it was before my time.

Craig: Anyway, they came up with all these ideas – for them it’s always about what’s the headline, what’s the media going to report in the next 90 days – after it gets done, do they ever go back and evaluate what the bill did, and whether it was effective? You know, William Donald Schaefer was the one who put the Critical Areas section in – I was the mayor, I had to adopt Critical Areas legislation in the city of Harve de Grace or no building was going to be permitted. I had to actually impose a tax, I was the first one to pay it because I was the first one to go for a building permit. And they kept saying, we need 1,000 feet from the bay to be doing this. And I would say we’re not the only ones polluting this, you think it’s just us, why are you doing this to us? And does it actually solve things? If I have someone who rebuilds something and fixes it up, isn’t that better than just letting it sit there the way it is? Let’s come up with real solutions for what needs to be done. Did the critical area and the critical area tax solve the Chesapeake Bay problem?

monoblogue: No. And the problem is they keep moving the goalposts…

Craig: Yes! And they’re made up – that’s the thing, the numbers are made up. Who came up with the idea a football field had to be 100 yards? Why couldn’t it be 120 yards, why couldn’t it be 90 yards? You know, it’s like – first they make a number up, I’ll give you this example. I was the mayor of Havre de Grace, we get hit with this issue with our sewage treatment plant that we have to do this change – $9 million it costs us to upgrade the sewage treatment plant.

A week later, the rules and regulations were changed. They came back and said, this is no longer functioning the way we need it to function, now you need to do this – $47 million. Here’s the problem, the analogy I use. Let’s say you decided to redo your kitchen – new refrigerator, new stove, new microwave, you buy new ones, you put them in there, spend $4,000 – and then you come back home, no I think we need to rip the whole kitchen out and you throw away those appliances. None of that $9 million was good enough to maintain the $47 million, so we wasted the $9 million. We’re still paying – the people of Havre de Grace are still paying…

monoblogue: Salisbury has the same problem, they’re messing around with their sewer treatment plant.

Craig: Yeah, so they keep changing the concept of what’s going on, and they don’t really look at real solutions. And if someone comes up with a real solution that’s not what the government wanted, then they ignore it.

**********

At this point, we were interrupted by a well-wisher. When we got back to the conversation, I changed the subject.

**********

monoblogue: You also talked about the – all the tax increases we had. I love how you used all the Change Maryland numbers, that’s great. I said I could tell Jim Pettit’s on his staff now…

Craig: Well, we’ve got them for a variety of things but when Larry Hogan started Change Maryland we talked about it and said, you know, I might run, I might not run, but if I don’t run Change Maryland’s going to go with you. And I’d like to admit that Larry’s done a good job getting that information out…

monoblogue: He does.

Craig: …and persuading people. I think in the long run Larry realizes that he’s making more money (laughs) being a private worker…

monoblogue: Oh yeah.

Craig: …and I think ultimately he stays there. But he can he huge in helping us reform the state party.

monoblogue: Right. But is there any chance we’re going to see some of that stuff rolled back if you’re elected?

Craig: I will look at all of them. But if somebody says “which tax first?” I’m going to look at all of them. There are certain taxes that probably haven’t been on the table that people said, would you ever get rid of this? If the state says that we’re going to make – we have a Public Service Commission to keep your BG&E rate as low as possible, why do we tax it? Why do we tax it? If we got rid of that, it gets rid of $5 on your BG&E bill every – well, it would save you 60 bucks. And guess what? You’re probably going to spend it somewhere else.

monoblogue: Well, that’s the idea. It’s where YOU want to spend it, not where the state wants to spend it.

Craig: You know, sales tax…I go back to that Calvin Coolidge thing with lowering the income tax, if you lower the sales tax more people would buy stuff here and it increases what gets sold. My wife’s not dumb – we live 17 miles from Delaware. You’re going to buy $4,000 worth of appliances times 6 – you do the math…

monoblogue: And seven miles from Delmar – if you go up 13 you’ll notice all the big-ticket items, furniture stores…

Craig: Yeah, look at the ads, look at the ads. I mean, I was looking at ads this morning on the TV when I was here and it was like – I forget what the particular issue was they were selling, and they go “in Delaware, no tax.” You know, it’s like – and how far away are you? Cecil County last month, in May, had twelve liquor stores give up their licenses…

monoblogue: Yes.

Craig: …and close. And they did it because, if you live in Elkton in five minutes you could be in (Delaware), you can buy your liquor, you can buy your gasoline, you can buy your cigarettes. All that tax is lower or non-existent and we got nothing. And so, I don’t know how many people but say each had three business people – so 36 to 40 jobs gone?

monoblogue: Right.

Craig: And all because “oh, it’s an alcohol tax, it’s okay to raise it.”

monoblogue: And the same thing is true (for cigarettes), because I go to Virginia for my job every week and driving back into Maryland the last convenience store I see – “Last Chance for Cheap Smokes.”

Craig: That’s right.

monoblogue: Because Virginia’s tax is, like, thirty cents and ours is two bucks.

Craig: And if I throw out the issue of the corporate income tax, people are like “oh, you’re only for the rich people.” All right, I’ll throw out other issues: Harford County, a lot of military people stationed there, when they get done they retire. They move to Pennsylvania because their military pension is taxed. We shouldn’t tax a military person’s pension, they already made their sacrifices. So let them live here in the state of Maryland.

monoblogue: I think they have tried to do that a few times, and the legislature just doesn’t go anywhere.

Craig: Well, they haven’t gone with it because they haven’t been told to go with it. If the governor had said go with it, they would have gone with it.

monoblogue: That’s true, it’s usually Republicans who bring it up.

Craig: Well, you know, I think if enough veterans were showing up and saying – what was this whole thing about the governor pointing out and bragging about what he was doing about creating jobs for veterans, about a month ago? Remember he was changing some policies, it was going to make it easier for them to get a job?

monoblogue: Right.

Craig: Why would they want to come here and get a job and pay a higher tax on their pension that they also get and then a higher tax on their income tax? So, we need to change the income tax…(also) the death tax is ridiculous, somebody in your family passes away, they pay taxes on that money for their entire life – why are you paying a tax to inherit it? If they were smart I guess they should sell everything and give you the money before they pass away. But people leave the state all the time, go to Florida, no tax, go to Pennsylvania, don’t have to pay that tax.

The gas tax – I do tell people I have to be cautious to (not) say I’m going to get rid of this tax or lower this right away because – I’ll have to use the septic tax for an example – when Ehrlich was governor the septics were all done through PAYGO, so he didn’t have capital projects. This governor turned it to bonding, so if I’m stuck with paying off a bond I’ve got to do that first before I can get rid of the tax.

monoblogue: Right, exactly. I’m sure he’s created a few mousetraps for his successor to deal with if they want to change things. It’s going to be harder to undo this Gordian knot then most people would think.

Craig: And then they brag about, oh, we’re going to do this private-public partnership, this 3P thing, it’s like – most likely that’s not going to work. If you look at something that’s going to be a good financial thing with some private company coming in and doing something, they probably could have done it if they didn’t have to pay the minimum wage, if they didn’t have to pay the union fee, if they didn’t have to deal with the minority business stuff – you could probably lower the prices of those projects by 35 percent. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake just gets a billion dollars for school construction, well, $300 million of that is going to be wasted and she could have had it – that would have done how many more schools for her?

monoblogue: Exactly.

Craig: So which is better? Is it better to have a good school for the kid, or you created this “fake” job?

monoblogue: Right. I remember, being from Ohio, when Ohio built all its schools they actually eliminated the prevailing wage for schools just to get more bang for the buck.

Craig: Yeah, that’s what you should do. Period.

monoblogue: Speaking of education, I liked how you tied in the lack of – lack of academic achievement with our so-called “number one” ranking. Now where do you – where do you prioritize your spending to bring up the actual achievement and not necessarily worry about being “number one” in the country?

Craig: A couple things. There’s a lot of duplication that we could…a lot of duplication. Here’s the situation in Harford County. Since I’ve been County Executive, the size of the school board employees has increased by 650 employees. The school population has declined by 2,500 students. Why didn’t the size of the working staff decline?

Now, if they had had 2,300 new students move in they would have come to me and said, “we need 100 new teachers.” But when 2,000 went down they didn’t say, “well, we didn’t need 100 teachers anymore.”

monoblogue: No.

Craig: So we have that situation, and I get teachers complaining to me all the time, “well, you know, the size of the class has gone up.” If you’re a good teacher, it doesn’t matter how many kids you’re sitting in the class. The first year I taught, 39 kids in the class. Second year, 42 kids in the class. Forty-two. I didn’t even have enough desks for the kids; one of them had to sit at my desk and one of them had to sit at a table. So when they say there’s 23 kids, the fact is, studies have been shown that the change does not occur until the size of the class falls below 15. So that’s what you’re going to do, if you say we’re reducing the size, we’re going from 24 to 23 – so what? If you’re a teacher, you can’t teach 24, can’t teach 25? That’s one thing.

But there’s duplication, so much duplication, in government – county government and school board government. I have a capital projects committee, they have a capital projects committee – why do we need both? I have the same guys that do the investigations, the inspections and all that stuff, I have a procurement department. I don’t buy chalk and all that stuff, but they have a procurement department. That’s duplication. I have a lawyer, a law department, they have a law department – duplication. They have a human resource department, I have a human resource department, duplication. Now, do I get rid of all those employees? No, but at least get rid of the top person. The person who’s making $150,ooo, instead of having two of them, you only have one. And you can probably merge a lot of things together and only have office – and none of that takes place in the classroom.

monoblogue: You need to think about that at the state level, and not necessarily the county level – I mean, if a county wants to do that, that’s fine and dandy, that’s their money. At the state level is where you’ll be concentrating…

Craig: Yes.

monoblogue: …I would think we need to rightsize the state Department of Education…

Craig: I agree.

monoblogue: …because the localities should control anyway.

Craig: Yes they should. Yes they should. And it has grown exponentially. And if you look at higher education, when I was in the House I was always assigned the higher education budget and you look at a college that’s got nine vice-Presidents – why? We only have one Vice-President in the country, yet nine in a college? Come on! And are they teaching? No. You know, all these different people, you have all these professors that are teaching one class, maybe two classes. I had someone, when I was doing a debate one time, who said “what are you going to do about the cost of higher – you know, how much my education’s going to cost?” We need to reduce it on our size – on our side, for one thing. We’re forced to spend this money on that, it doesn’t need to be spent.

So there’s a lot of duplication in both higher ed and elementary through high school at the state level that I agree we could change.

monoblogue: Okay, I appreciate it.

Craig: Thank you.

**********

Ideally, I wanted to come in about 15 minutes and with the interruption that’s about where I ended up. Hopefully this establishes some of where David Craig stands on various issues.

The understanding of ‘trickle down’

Well, I guess this old Senate candidate won’t fade away; then again despite celebrating a birthday yesterday Dan Bongino really isn’t that old. He showed once again his economic chops in a statement yesterday:

Maryland is preparing to take the gold medal in a competition only a fool would want to win. If we go over the “Fiscal Cliff”, my home state of Maryland will see an incredible $7,000 tax hike for a family making just the median income, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation. This dramatic tax hike ranks as the highest amongst the 50 states and would do untold damage to the state’s already fragile economic environment.

Noticeably absent from the 2012 campaign conversation was the real economic impact of these dramatic tax hikes on families living in high cost-of-living states such as Maryland. Disposable income simply does not buy in Maryland what it purchases in lower cost-of-living states and when combined with our total tax burden, it is creating an unsustainable economic environment. Nearly 40,000 Marylanders have fled the state since 2007 and the exodus stands to worsen without a change in course.

This tax hike on the “Rich” political pitch is a red herring designed to further a political agenda, not an economic one. It is time for the President to lead, the campaign is over and the country needs a President, not a politician.

Good luck with that last sentence. But there are a couple points which Dan misses here.

It’s assumed that Maryland is a among the wealthiest of states, and as an average that’s probably true because so much of the population lives along the Beltway and, quite frankly, living off the federal government is most lucrative when you’re an employee or employed by someone who depends on the same sort of skilled labor and has to compete salary-wise. But come out here to the “shithouse,” as the late Governor William Donald Schaefer once referred to the Eastern Shore, and you’ll find that the tax increases may not exact the same amount per capita but will make it even harder to live a reasonable lifestyle. Those of us in the lowest of tax brackets will see rates increase 50 percent, and it has to be granted that the 13.1% rate hike endured by the top bracket will look paltry by comparison.

The other point Dan left incomplete was mentioning not just those who fled Maryland, but their economic status in comparison to those who arrive to take their place. Several months ago Change Maryland released figures showing these differing numbers and I parsed them to find out the net outflow of income is real despite a slowly growing population. Obviously there are some places where the difference is positive, but the lower performing areas tend to be the poorer ones.

All in all, though, this is another excellent analysis from a guy who’s not choosing to stay quiet after a crushing defeat. I’m not sure why we would have expected otherwise.

This also gives me the opportunity to bring up an event Dan will be a featured speaker at next month. The Turning the Tides 2013 conference will be held in Annapolis at the Doubletree Hotel (site of several past state GOP conventions) and details can be found here. Along with Dan we’ll hear from state and national luminaries like Jim Rutledge, Ken Timmerman, gubernatorial candidate Blaine Young, Pamela Geller, Stanley Kurtz, and many others.

Odds and ends number 54

Yes, it’s time to clear out the e-mail box and since “random thoughts on the passing scene” was sort of taken by Thomas Sowell I call this exercise “odds and ends.” Usually I put up anywhere from a sentence to three paragraphs or so for items not long enough to stand a full post but interesting to me nonetheless.

Perhaps I’m reading more into this than I should, but the other day I found out Andy Harris is likely no fan of the FairTax. This is because, as part of an e-mail I received from him on real estate issues he wrote:

I oppose plans that would result in net tax increases by restricting or eliminating the home mortgage deduction.

Now maybe this is only in context with his next statement:

Reduction, modification, or elimination of all or some of the current tax benefits for homeowners will remain a risk as long as the Administration strives to reduce debt by raising tax revenue without getting wasteful and unnecessary spending under control.

This is where Andy was discussing recommendations by Obama’s deficit commission that would eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for certain (presumably wealthy) homeowners or cut these deductions across the board in an effort to raise revenue.

Andy makes the correct point in his note that we need to cut spending, but I’m hoping he’s not shut the door on a consumption-based taxation system.

One thing I can also say about Andy is that he’s not on any vice-presidential radar screen. But I got the results of a survey the other day which surprised me.

The Liberty News Network, which purportedly is representative of the TEA Party given its parent company is Grassfire Nation, conducted an online poll asking who Mitt Romney should select as his running mate. While the piece claims a “majority” of TEA Partiers prefer Marco Rubio, the last time I checked 36.6% wasn’t a “majority.” That, friends, is only a plurality.

Despite that LNN headlining faux pas, Rubio won the poll but I also find it interesting that the “racist” TEA Party’s top three choices were Marco Rubio, Allen West with 23.4 percent, and Condoleeza Rice, who had 18.2 percent. No one else was over 5.2% of the vote. Apparently almost 80 percent of these “racists” are fine with a Latino or black vice-president – I would be more happy with West than Rubio or Rice, though.

Speaking of Latinos, but more generally of the variety of those having dubious legality to be in our country, I was alerted to a Washington Post story that glowingly describes the city of Baltimore’s efforts to repopulate itself via the immigrant population. Shani George, the Post employee who occasionally feeds bloggers items of interest from the paper, wrote in her e-mail:

The welcome mats thrown out by struggling cities and states stand in stark contrast to the reception immigrants have faced in places such as Arizona and Alabama. Most of the immigrant-friendly measures around the country are in their infancy, so it is difficult to assess how effective they are.

Critics say cities that lure immigrants end up with high numbers of undocumented migrants. That also is difficult to measure, particularly now that immigration from Mexico, the largest source of illegal immigration, has dwindled to essentially zero.

And the story, by Carol Morello and Luz Lazo, starts right out with the emotional punch to the gut:

A native of Puebla, Mexico, (Alexandra) Gonzalez feels more at home in Baltimore with every passing year. She attends city-run nutrition and exercise classes in Spanish and takes her two young children to a Spanish-language storytelling hour at her neighborhood library. She plans to earn a GED and become a teacher.

Both of Gonzalez’s young children were born in America, so they are American citizens; meanwhile, the accompanying photo captions to the story say Alexandra and her husband are here sans permission. And it doesn’t sound like they’re looking to assimilate anytime soon, since she’s taking Spanish-language courses and sending her kids to similar classes. William Donald Schaefer is slowly spinning in his grave.

Of course, Pat McDonough weighed in. I did not change the text of this excerpt of his release – indeed, it is all caps:

THE MAYOR’S ‘AMNESTY ATMOSPHERE’ IS CREATING UNFAIR COMPETITION FOR JOBS AND ENTRANCE INTO COMMUNITY COLLEGE FOR THE LEGAL RESIDENTS OF BALTIMORE. THE MAYOR IS PANDERING TO THE HISPANIC VOTE, CREATING A SUPER MAGNET FOR AN INFLUX OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.

(snip)

I AM SURPRISED THAT THE MEDIA, PRESS, AND OTHER ELECTED OFFICIALS HAVE NOT CHALLENGED HER IN THESE EXTREME AND RECKLESS POLICIES.

For the most part Pat is right, but how many people are going to kill the messenger? Dude, lighten up a little, stop being a publicity hog, and fire whoever is writing your stuff in all caps. You just might be the reason no one is challenging these policies.

And it’s a shame because being a bull in a china shop like that, in many instances, drowns out more reasoned arguments like this one from writer Hans Bader about upcoming proposed rule changes in Maryland schools. In many, the inmates would end up running the asylum. (Sorry about the link – Examiner is really overdoing it on intrusive ads.)

Finally, I want to send out a bat-signal to a couple of my loyal readers who have items before the County Council, ones which will certainly be decided during their next meeting. Both the Charter Review Committee and Redistricting Committee have finished their work, and I know the County Council held a work session on both in their last meeting.

If I can get an executive summary of the proposed Charter changes and a copy of the proposed map, I would find it most helpful for analysis of both. The briefing book County Council used in their last meeting is 90 pages long with a lot of extraneous information. Even though I’ve been described as “wordy,” “verbose,” and “wonky,” I like concise information.

The next County Council meeting will be Tuesday, August 7, and it should be the monthly evening meeting. From what I’ve read on the Charter changes, they should be palatable to most but I just want to make sure my interpretation is correct. Meanwhile, I understand the county’s district map had to change quite a bit and I think it would be helpful for my commentary on it to have a copy for sharing!

So there you have it, the odds and ends of life.

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