The right idea but with the wrong approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An early voting update

If you subscribe to the theory that the most motivated voters will be there with bells on when early voting starts, it appears that statewide Republicans are slightly more enthused than Democrats.

Final update, Friday 10/31: While Democrats pulled away ever-so-slightly to finish with a higher percentage of early voters statewide than Republicans (9.29% – 9.17%) there are two conclusions which can be drawn.

One is that early voting seems to have gained acceptance among Republicans, as the total nearly matched the 2012 Presidential election number of 9.31% of the electorate.

The second is that Eastern Shore voters are by far the most receptive to the concept. While the major parties picked up just under 10% of voters statewide, about 1 in 5 Talbot County Republicans and Democrats used the process. As for the four lower Shore counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 9.64%, Democrats 7.68%
  • Somerset: Republicans 11.69%, Democrats 9.27%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 10.50%, Democrats 8.92%
  • Worcester: Republicans 11.49%, Democrats 9.57%

If four more Kent County Republicans had voted early, the entire Eastern Shore would have had a Republican advantage in early voting. As it stood for yesterday’s final day of early voting, the Democrats held sway by a 827-795 tally. Republicans, despite a significant registration disadvantage, had more voters for five of the eight days locally and ended up with 5,056 voters to 5,024 for the Democrats.

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Update, Thursday 10/30: The race is almost tied between Democrats and Republicans (by percentage) statewide, as the two sides are 0.02% apart (7.35 to 7.33). Democrats maintain that slight edge statewide, but the GOP is still ahead locally by wide margins:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 7.52%, Democrats 6.12%
  • Somerset: Republicans 9.58%, Democrats 7.86%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 8.90%, Democrats 7.43%
  • Worcester: Republicans 10.01%, Democrats 8.18%

Republicans on the Lower Shore maintained a raw advantage for the day at the polls by a 678-671 count.

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Update, Wednesday 10/29: Democrats extended their lead on a statewide basis 6.04% – 5.97%. But the GOP maintains its edge in local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 6.12%, Democrats 5.11%
  • Somerset: Republicans 8.26%, Democrats 6.63%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 7.55%, Democrats 6.15%
  • Worcester: Republicans 8.35%, Democrats 7.04%

Republicans on the Lower Shore maintained a raw advantage for the day at the polls by a 671-621 count. And there are some incredible totals among some counties: both parties in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties are already over 10% turnout, but Talbot County Republicans have already eclipsed the 15 percent mark with the Democrats not far behind at 12.46 percent. Obviously that part of the Eastern Shore has embraced early voting, while the western end of the state seems to lag with Allegany and Washington counties well below average.

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Update, Tuesday 10/28: Democrats still lead by a slim margin on a statewide basis 4.80% – 4.76%. But the GOP maintains its edge in local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 4.91%, Democrats 4.24%
  • Somerset: Republicans 6.45%, Democrats 5.57%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 6.10%, Democrats 5.00%
  • Worcester: Republicans 6.96%, Democrats 5.86%

All but one of the Eastern Shore counties have Republicans leading Democrats (Kent is the exception), and Wicomico joined Worcester as the second-highest GOP margin in the state behind Talbot County at this juncture. Republicans added a county as well and now lead by percentage in 15 of the state’s 23 counties. Republicans on the Lower Shore regained a raw advantage for the day at the polls by a 624-606 count.

I was doing some research on 2010 election turnout and it looks like turnout is tracking about the same as it did back then, at least locally.

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Update, Monday 10/27: At the halfway point of the eight days (through Sunday), Democrats finally edged ahead on a statewide basis 3.58% – 3.56%. But the GOP maintains its edge in local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 3.72%, Democrats 3.31%
  • Somerset: Republicans 4.92%, Democrats 4.59%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 4.73%, Democrats 3.91%
  • Worcester: Republicans 5.68%, Democrats 4.68%

All but one of the Eastern Shore counties have Republicans leading Democrats (Kent is the exception), and Worcester remains the second-highest GOP margin in the state behind Talbot County at this juncture. Republicans lead by percentage in 14 of the state’s 23 counties and the Eastern Shore sha 8 of these 14. But local Democrats won this day at the polls by a 332-304 count.

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Update, Sunday 10/26: On a slow Saturday for voting overall, Democrats came back to close the statewide gap; it’s now 3.11% – 3.08%. New totals for local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 3.43%, Democrats 2.96%
  • Somerset: Republicans 4.21%, Democrats 3.90%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 4.03%, Democrats 3.35%
  • Worcester: Republicans 4.94%, Democrats 3.91%

All but one of the Eastern Shore counties have Republicans leading Democrats (Kent is the exception), and Worcester has the second-highest GOP margin in the state behind Talbot County at this juncture. But for the second straight day, local Republicans outpaced Democrats at the polls by a 342-331 count.

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Update, Saturday 10/25: The GOP extended its lead in the state to 2.56% – 2.47% partly on the strength of solid gains on the lower Shore. All four of these counties added to Republican gains, with the raw number of Republicans actually exceeding Democrats on Friday by a 750-697 count. New totals:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 3.11%, Democrats 2.57%
  • Somerset: Republicans 3.66%, Democrats 3.32%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 3.15%, Democrats 2.69%
  • Worcester: Republicans 4.17%, Democrats 3.30%

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1.34% of GOP voters statewide made it to early voting compared to 1.31% of Democrats, but this marks the first time Republican turnout as a percentage outstripped Democrat turnout on the first day of balloting in a general election. In the Presidential election of 2012, 2.56% of Democrats came out compared to 1.68% of Republicans, and that advantage grew greater with each passing day. Meanwhile, 2010 saw Democrats edge Republicans on the first day by 1.04% to 1% on their way to an overall advantage of just under 1 percent. So a Republican advantage at this juncture could spell good news for their candidates.

However, on the Lower Shore Republicans have a distinct advantage in turnout percentage and nearly eclipsed the Democrats – who hold a registration advantage in all four counties – in terms of raw numbers. Democrats held a slight 939-892 advantage in first-day turnout. (For the four counties overall, Democrats lead in registration 56,462 to 46,862.)

  • Dorchester: Republicans 1.66%, Democrats 1.49%
  • Somerset: Republicans 2.37%, Democrats 2.17%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 1.54%, Democrats 1.49%
  • Worcester: Republicans 2.39%, Democrats 1.86%

The turnout is brisk in legislative District 38C, where 2.02% of voters turned out on the first day and made it the fourth-best rate in the state. In Wicomico County, District 38B leads the way with 1.62% while, ironically, District 38C performs the worst at 0.82% – perhaps due to distance from the county’s lone early voting polling place in Salisbury. Reportedly, candidates from both parties are hitting this Wicomico County location hard and the Republicans are set up there with a table.

But on a state and local basis, this has to be encouraging to Republicans who didn’t adopt early voting originally but have been encouraged by party brass to take advantage of it to make sure their votes were cast in this important election. If Republicans can hang with Democrats in terms of percentage of early voters, it may be their Election Day turnout will push them to a better overall showing than expected, making the turnout models pollsters use overly optimistic toward Democrats.

2013 Pig and a Jig BBQ Festival in pictures and text

May 5, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

Once upon a time, the massive, weekend-long food orgy we locally call Pork in the Park got its start, and I imagine it went something along the lines of what was held yesterday down in Snow Hill, Maryland. Then again, our county doesn’t have a large defunct auto dealership turned into a body shop to hold an event at. This used to be Sho-Wil Chevy-Oldsmobile, or so the large tent said.

At least these guys went out and hired an expert, as Sandy Fulton (right) has been involved with Pork in the Park since the beginning.

Certainly the Snow Hill Middle School PTA may have hit upon a winner of an event. For those of you expecting thousands of people, a throng of vendors, and dozens of competitors, though, you would be a little disappointed with this modest beginning.

A total of eight amateur teams vied for the $100 top prize in chicken and pork, along with $200 for the overall winner. I’m not sure how the vendors did, but there were a few there.

There was also a somewhat limited selection of food at this gathering, including ribs for sale from Famous Dave’s and Phat Boyz BBQ. Hey, it’s a start.

By the way, the best chicken prize was won by Broke Bob’s BBQ (obviously Bob is a little less broke) while Spicy Guys BBQ (who sent their lone girl up to claim the prize) won the best pork. But the overall champion was Tribal Smokers, which finished second in both categories.

Lest you think there wasn’t much going on there, well, there was a variety of activities. We missed the cornhole tournament, but could have sharpened our horseshoe skills.

Now a number of people left after the awards, since they had likely arrived very early to the site for their chance at the cash. But quite a few hung around in the chill to listen to one of the five bands featured. (Spoiler alert: there is also the return of Weekend of Local Rock for a post next weekend.)

This couple made themselves at home in the hay, much to the delight of onlookers.

Others in the even younger set found the bales fun to horse around in.

I imagine the young teenage boy, unseen under the lump of straw on the right side of the photo, is still scrubbing it out of his clothes, hair, etc. He had a lot of fun with it.

Another entertainer not on the bill was this talented young man.

I suggested he should try his luck on the Boardwalk because he could probably pay for a semester or two every summer, with a little more practice.

But as the sun set over the horizon, the vendors had packed up and the food court was doing the same. I think Phat Boyz was the only one left selling as we left. Well, that and the beer tent.

Yet aside from the food, which was a little on the pricey side – not that it’s an uncommon thing at these types of events – this was a relatively cheap way to spend the afternoon. With a little better weather and a year’s experience under their belt, I see no reason why they can’t draw a couple thousand next year.

Their main goal is to become a KCBS-sanctioned event next year, which will certainly make the stakes a lot higher for the teams. If they can get to a point where they’re drawing 30 or 40 teams, perhaps 20 to 30 vendors, and maybe a dozen different restaurants (not all of them sell ribs) that would be a superb one-day event for the Snow Hill area to bookend their season (Blessing of the Combines is their prime tourism draw, and they also have the annual Worcester County Fair, both in August.)

So congratulations on a job well done to Pig and a Jig. I look forward to bigger and better things next year. And also, as I said above, look for the Weekend of Local Rock post on the event this coming weekend.

Odds and ends number 70

More and more items pique my interest as the General Assembly session wears on, so you might find these continue to pop up on a regular basis. As always, these are items to which I devote anywhere from a sentence to a few paragraphs, so here goes.

I’ll begin with this pre-emptive strike by Delegate Justin Ready I learned about a few days ago. He’s planning to introduce a bill which will prohibit the state of Maryland from enacting user fees based on mileage driven to replace or supplement the existing per-gallon gasoline tax. The state of Oregon has, for several years, been exploring ways of doing this and the latest ties into existing onboard and smart phone technologies. But the Luddites out there should take this under advisement; this comes from the Council of State Governments piece Ready links to:

Importantly, the use of GPS also will not be a requirement. For those who reject all the private sector technology options despite being able to choose between them and despite their information not being transmitted to a government entity, another option would allow drivers to pre-pay for the miles they expect to drive at a rate based on 35,000 miles minimum annually. Those drivers will pay a substantially higher flat fee than what most drivers whose mileage is more closely tracked will likely average. Instead of paying at the pump as participants in the initial pilot program did, motorists will pay at the end of the three-month demonstration. State transportation officials foresee monthly or quarterly charges if the system were to be adopted on a statewide basis. (Emphasis mine.)

So the options are, in my case, either “voluntarily” allow the government into my personal car to see that I drive roughly 20,000 miles per year or pay a significantly higher penalty to keep my freedom. Some choice. It almost makes raising the gas tax more attractive, which may be the overall aim of Annapolis liberals. They constantly harp on the fact we haven’t raised the tax in 20 years or so – well, if you would spend it on what it’s meant for instead of wasting it on mass transit no one rides, we may accomplish the road repairs and construction for which the gas tax was intended.

Another pro-freedom push to free Maryland’s roads comes from HB251, a bill introduced by Delegate Michael Smigiel to repeal Maryland’s speed camera laws – a bill which has my full support and should have yours, too. (Locally, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is a co-sponsor as well, and should be thanked for that support.) Meanwhile, the Maryland Liberty PAC correctly notes that these devices comprise a large portion of “O’Malley’s War On Driving”:

Speed cameras are nothing more than the privatization of our due process rights and the contracting-out of law enforcement duties.

The Maryland Liberty PAC has an ongoing petition drive to dismantle the speed cameras once and for all; they also stress that pressure should be brought to bear on Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh to give the bill a hearing (none has been scheduled yet.)

If speed cameras were truly about safety, the violation wouldn’t be a civil offense but a criminal one. Yet they know that, with a criminal offense, one has to be able to face their accuser and the evidence wouldn’t be admissible (because the speed camera can’t be a witness like a patrol officer can.) So they made it a civil offense based on the much lower standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” My judgment is that speed cameras should be banned.

There are also local steps which need to be undertaken, says Sam Hale of the Maryland Society of Patriots. Among them are:

  • Asking Wicomico and Worcester counties to nullify the “Septic Bill” and refuse to draw the counties into tiers,
  • Contacting Salisbury’s City Council and asking them to withdraw their membership in ICLEI, a group promoting anti-liberty incursions on rights such as PlanMaryland and the septic bill as an extension of the United Nations,
  • Asking Worcester County to join the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition.

So the liberty movement is well-represented here, but how about Washington, D.C.? Maybe not so much.

For example, take the debt ceiling. It was panned by both Americans for Limited Government and the Coalition to Reduce Spending. Bill Wilson of ALG reacted:

This is a partial repeal of representative government. Through the elimination of the debt ceiling, even just until May 19, the American people now have no say in the amount of debt the government contracts. The only say whatsoever representatives had on the some 60 percent of the $3.7 trillion budget that operates on autopilot, which includes Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of so-called ‘mandatory’ spending, was the periodic vote on increasing the debt ceiling.

“Now that it has been suspended, the debt ceiling may never be reinstated. All the Senate needs to do now come May 19 is again threaten default should the debt ceiling suspension not be indefinitely extended. Under those circumstances, House Republican leadership is likely to fold under even the slightest pressure.

Added Jonathan Bydlak of the Coalition to Reduce Spending:

Congress today again avoided its duty to be a responsible steward of the public trust. Stalling is not a serious solution to federal debt created by habitual deficit spending.

By delaying a vote on whether and at what cost the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money, House members chose to deny accountability to the public.

This move goes against the clear wishes of American voters. As a recent Rasmussen poll showed, 73% nationwide believe the federal government should cut spending in order to deal with the nation’s current economic problems.

The Coalition to Reduce Spending recognizes that choosing to increase the public debt is ultimately one of the most important decisions a legislator can make. It’s for that reason that this decision should never be pushed into the future haphazardly.

The only thing to like about the bill is that it holds Senators’ salaries hostage until they pass a budget, although our Senator Barbara Mikulski whined and cried poverty about the prospect. Well, all you need to do is your job.

Perhaps they can act on this measure which failed to get through the last Congress, something which could give the legislative branch a little control over regulators run amok. Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute sums things up brilliantly:

There is too much regulation without representation in this country. In an average year, Congress will pass a little over 100 bills into law, while regulatory agencies will pass more than 3,500 new regulations.

It’s easy to see why members of Congress like agencies to do their job for them. If a regulation turns out to be unpopular, or more costly than expected, they can just shift the blame to, say, the EPA or FCC. It’s well past time for Congress to take its lawmaking responsibility seriously again. REINS is the first step in that process.

In general, there are those who favor a more militant approach, even with the belief we should learn from our opponents. I look at it this way: if conservative principles are as popular as we believe them to be, we should stick out our necks for their adoption on a daily basis. If not, it proves my point from yesterday about the need to educate, although we should be doing that regardless.

This lesson isn’t lost on professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who, as my friend Jim Pettit points out, is simply doing what’s best for his personal situation by contemplating a move out of high-tax California. I don’t think he’ll be looking to move to Maryland; instead states like Florida and Texas – which combine a more temperate climate with non-existent state income taxes – may be attractive. (Thousands of professional athletes live in Florida for that very reason.)

Another angle those who love liberty are pursuing is finding the right Presidential candidate for 2016. Those who favor Judge Andrew Napolitano, a group I wrote about late last year, are still actively seeking petition signers. But they updated their totals to say they have over 10,000 signers now, and the Facebook page now boasts 3,319 fans. Napolitano may well say no, but the backing behind him is slowly growing.

Finally, this story has a little local interest as well as a tie-in to a group I’ve supported. Move America Forward is holding their “Super Bowl Rally for the Troops”:

The Ravens fans have taken an early lead, but there’s still plenty of time for Niners fans to come back! Vote for which team you think will win by sponsoring a package full of goodies for the troops!

SUPERBOWL XLVII is only ten days away so time is running out to participate in our Super Bowl challenge to all of our pro-troops supporters out there. Whether you happen to be a 49ers fan, Ravens fan, or just a football fan, the whole mission at the end of the day is to support our TROOPS serving overseas. They are the real winners in this competition and they deserve our thanks and gratitude. (Emphasis in original.)

If the Ravens win this particular competition, additional items will be included for a fortunate group of troops from Maryland.

Ironically, MAF ran a similar competition last year in which Giants fans outpaced the Patriots faithful. It’s sort of a sad commentary that fans of a team named after our colonial forefathers couldn’t win this competition, and maybe that karma got them this season.

That’s plenty for now, but it probably won’t be long until my mailbox is full of interesting items once again.

Aggressor sets the rules

I don’t know where this will be placed, or when, but this is just another case where an activist group of Republicans takes the bull by the horns and tells the truth.

This is made more interesting when it’s considered that the Kent County Republican Party was usually a no-show at our conventions and, by the number of registered voters, has been playing tag with Somerset County as the smallest Republican county in the state. (Overall, they have about 1,000 fewer registered voters than Somerset.)

But Kent’s jumped back into the state party by re-establishing themselves at our conventions, they apparently had a very successful Lincoln Day dinner last year, and the county party seems re-energized by new appointees (only four members of the seven ran in 2010.) So they’ve obviously made it their priority to establish the message in this campaign, and it’s at a scale which works for their county.

Some may think that the message will be a little bit “in the face” of people, but I disagree. (Otherwise I wouldn’t bring attention to it.) There’s no question the idea of a good Republican Central Committee is to elect Republicans, but in years where local parties aren’t going to have as much impact (because this year is a federal election cycle) it doesn’t hurt to establish a message to fire up the troops. So kudos to Kent County on this one.

I’ve also been made aware that Worcester County will have a message billboard, but I don’t have a good picture of it to show.

At the risk of making this sort of an odds and ends post, I have other items to add. I got this as part of a legislative update from Delegate Tony McConkey:

This week there are two hearings on my bills.  The first will be heard in Ways and Means on February 23rd.  HB 580 is to change the current method of appointing Anne Arundel County School Board members to a partially elected school board.  This bill still allows for some members to be appointed.

Naturally that drove me to see what progress we’ve had on SB99/HB966. While the Senate version has had a hearing cancelled twice, I’m pleased to report the House version has a hearing slated for Thursday, March 15. While I would have preferred an earlier hearing, it’s about a week before last year’s version was heard so there’s an improvement. And note this is the simple up-or-down vote bill we as a Central Committee and County Council wanted. Now it’s time to hold our legislature’s feet to the fire if you care about accountability.

Also, G.A. Harrison alerted me to this about the Maryland Senate:

The Maryland Senate will be debating SB 241 HB438, probably tomorrow.  To have a final vote on the bill, which would pass, they need to invoke cloture.  Sen. E. J. Pipkin is trying to organize a filibuster to stop the bill.  Last year (District 38 Senator) Jim Mathias voted against the bill (the Dems don’t need his vote to pass the bill), but voted for cloture.

We need to get as many people as possible to call Mathias’ office [(410) 841-3645] and tell him that a vote for cloture is the same thing as a vote for the same-sex marriage bill.  If five (5) Democrats vote against cloture, then the bill cannot come to a final vote.

Besides, we shouldn’t allow Jim Mathias to claim that he’s opposed to the bill while enabling its passage.

It’s likely the Maryland General Assembly will pass a LOT of wretched legislation this year, but perhaps we can secure a  victory or two for common sense.

Worcester County has some TEA

In days of old there was a superstition that a voyage should not begin on Friday and beginning it on Friday the 13th was a complete no-no. But the Worcester County TEA Party decided to buck tradition and have its inaugural meeting last week – it was an opportunity to have a good keynote speaker that they couldn’t pass up.

(All photos on this post are courtesy of Donald Stifler.)

Andy Harris speaks at the Worcester County TEA Party.

One source, a supposedly reliable one, stated that Harris made the statement at the TEA Party that he would vote for any of the Republican presidential candidates except Ron Paul – then again, the person relating this is a Ron Paul supporter. I’m seeing if there was any video of the event to corroborate this charge, but this wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise. Harris is one of the co-chairs of the Gingrich campaign in Maryland despite the fact that Newt endorsed Wayne Gilchrest in 2008 – as did Ron Paul. (Harris denies saying such a thing.)

According to a more legitimate news report, Harris held the audience of about 120 in the palm of his hand by answering a number of audience questions but he wasn’t the only speaker or even politician there. Three members of the Worcester County Commission were in attendance along with four of their Republican Central Committee – pictured below is Derrick Smith of the WCRCC along with U.S. Senate hopeful Corrogan Vaughn (right), who also spoke at the event.

Stifler noted that he was “pleased to see that Vaughn had to wait a couple of times during his speech due to the applause from the crowd when he compared the Civil Rights Movement to that of the Tea Party, speaking for his family that worked directly with Dr. King.” (Vaughn is a godchild of Dr. Ralph Abernathy, who worked with the slain civil rights leader and was with him when he was assassinated.)

“Corrogan attests to the fact that both were Republicans and if alive today these men would be active in the Tea Party,” Stifler continued.

That’s sort of an interesting flip side when compared to the other groups who have adopted the mantle of the civil rights struggle, such as the gay rights movement. Moreover, the TEA Party isn’t necessarily about adopting new rights but re-establishing the God-given ones we are granted in our Constitution.

This meeting won’t be the last for the Worcester County group. Based on the interest from the first go-round, their next meeting will be Friday, February 17, once again at the Ocean Pines Community Center.

I can’t close, however, without at least quickly addressing the snide remark in the newspaper about the lack of younger people at the event. It isn’t surprising coming from the media, but to be perfectly honest an older crowd is rather typical of the composition of the average TEA Party meeting. But as long as there is at least some interest from a small group of younger people it’s progress, given the vast majority of those under 30 who voted for Barack Obama. Perhaps the economy and dread of a future where they can’t succeed as their parents did is beginning to bring them around to the right way of thinking.

Another upcoming event on the opposite end of the Shore which doesn’t yet feature Vaughn but already has six of his opponents as confirmed speakers will be sponsored by the Cecil County Patriots and Americans for Prosperity on Thursday, January 26 beginning at 7 p.m. It will be held at the American Legion Hall located at 300 Cherry Street in Perryville, and the public is invited to attend.

All ten GOP Senate candidates have been invited, and confirmed as participants are Dan Bongino, Robert Broadus, William Capps, Rich Douglas, Rick Hoover, and David Jones. (No word yet on Joesph Alexander, John Kimble, Brian Vaeth, or Vaughn.)

Questions for the forum can be submitted to info@cecilcountypatriots.com. For more information, please visit the Cecil County Patriots website or call Jackie Gregory at (410) 620-7667.

Update: According to Gregory, Vaughn will be participating in the event.

Odds and ends number 40

It’s no secret that the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is traditionally a slow news week, so this is more of a reminder about a couple upcoming events which will sandwich a somewhat local news item.

On Saturday, January 7th the 18th Annual Rich Colburn Brunch takes place at the Holiday Inn here in Salisbury at 11 a.m. Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis is the master of ceremonies, and tickets are $25 (or 5 for $100.) Colburn noted that, “It is a great honor to again have Sheriff Lewis serve as Master of Ceremonies for this event. Since being elected in 2006, Sheriff Lewis has worked hard to reorganize and restructure the Wicomico County Sheriff’s department.  The dedication he has shown to this community show his commitment to Wicomico County and the citizens who live here.”

If interested, reservations may be made by January 3rd by calling (410) 924-0098.

This is more of a big deal than one may think as Colburn will gain a larger chunk of Wicomico County for his district in the next go-round. Obviously we Republicans are familiar with Colburn from his work in the Maryland Senate, where he’s among the busiest pre-filers in the state – he was first to the post with a bill to allow for a specialized “vintage” license plate similar to one Delaware allows on certain vehicles, which will be SB1 in the 2012 session. Perhaps that’s not a bill of great import, but Rich is one of the harder workers in the body.

The more newsworthy item is the repercussion from Gary Johnson’s withdrawal from the GOP Presidential sweepstakes to seek the Libertarian nomination. Because Johnson is changing parties, Gary’s Maryland campaign director Kevin Waterman had to step down. Since Kevin sits on the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee and party bylaws prohibit publicly supporting anyone but Republican candidates, he decided to resign from the Johnson campaign. In a note I received, Waterman writes:

My decision to step down as state chairman is not an easy one. I fully support Gov. Johnson’s platform and his message of liberty, and it has been an honor and a pleasure to serve as a part of this campaign and to work with all of you. I’m not leaving because I disagree with any of the moves the campaign has made. But I still hold out hope that even if the RNC has proven itself wanting that there is hope of moving the Maryland Republican Party in a more liberty-oriented direction and I can’t continue to work towards that end without remaining within the Party.

Some also paint me as an anti-establishment rebel within the MDGOP fold, and it sometimes drives me crazy when we try the same old centrist approach and wonder why we keep losing in this state. Obviously there are issues that Kevin and I don’t see eye to eye on, but I respect his efforts and think his decision and stated reasons are the correct ones. Indeed, we need to push this state in a more liberty-oriented direction.

And that explains my final item – a new TEA Party group is forming in Worcester County.

On January 13, 2012 their first meeting will be held in the Assateague Room of the Ocean Pines Community Center at 6:30 p.m. with Congressman Andy Harris as their featured speaker. With a mission statement like this…

We exercise, protect, and promote the principles embodied in The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights through attracting, educating, and mobilizing the people to secure public policy consistent with these core values; fiscal responsibility, open and constitutionally limited government, and free markets.

…the visit from Congressman Harris may not necessarily be the slam dunk he thought because of a couple of his votes.

But since Harris won’t have to worry about a third-time grudge match against Frank Kratovil, the atmosphere should be relatively cordial and ripe for a frank (no pun intended) discussion about what will happen in 2012. It’s a conversation which needs to occur for the TEA Party to be most effective.

Lower Shore gerrymandering in Friday night document dump

Late this evening, the Maryland Department of Planning released their versions (House of Delegates and Senate) of the redistricting map for the General Assembly. For the purpose of this post, though, I’m going to concentrate on Districts 37 and 38.

The new District 37 is a lot like the old one, as they maintained a majority-minority district in 37A which snakes along the U.S. 50 corridor between Salisbury and Cambridge, with a arm of the district heading up toward Hurlock in Dorchester County. But District 37B now makes nearly an entire crescent around the single-member district and swallows up much of the Wicomico County territory formerly in District 38A. Geographically it’s a huge district that takes in all of Talbot County, the southern end of Caroline County, most of Dorchester County and the southern and western ends of Wicomico County, plus a small area near Sharptown. In essence, it moved a little bit southward and eastward.

As for District 38, well, I got part of my wish as it will now be comprised of three single-Delegate seats. The 38A portion, though, now takes in all of Somerset County and the southern half of Worcester County, with a spike running along the U.S. 113 corridor into the Berlin area. I predicted this would happen because it would force two incumbent Republicans (Charles Otto and Mike McDermott) into the same district. Looks like we have our 2014 District 38 Senate candidate now.

District 38B maintains only a sliver of the Wicomico County portion of the existing district, and looks tailor-made for another run by Norm Conway. To me it looks like the western boundary hardly changed so it’s now primarily a Salisbury/Delmar/Fruitland district, as it did move a little bit southward to take in that former 38A territory. The eastern side of Wicomico County and the northern half of Worcester County (except Berlin) now become part of the new District 38C.

So who does this benefit? Obviously the new District 37 will probably keep the incumbents in office, or at least decrease the chance for a non-minority to win the 37A seat. Rich Colburn picked up a decently Republican chunk of Wicomico County but lost quite a bit of Caroline County to District 36. So that is probably a wash. But District 38 was built simply to eliminate one Republican from the area, and the extension of District 38A into Berlin may have been on the behalf of Berlin mayor Gee Williams, who tried for the seat before. Perhaps it’s a more lopsidedly Republican seat, but now it gets only one Delegate.

And I’m stuck with Norm Conway, since I’ll be in the new and smaller District 38B. Unless Mike McDermott moves closer to me, he won’t be my Delegate anymore in a practical sense. But that’s okay – it just means I can give old Five Dollar more flak if he decides to run again, which I hope he doesn’t. Given the fact the district maintained its irregular shape at the western end, my guess is that he will and they eliminated the rural parts of his district to help his cause.

Finally, I’m disappointed with the MDP’s map since it wouldn’t allow me to figure out the new districts close-up – that is unless my laptop isn’t up to the task. So forgive me my wild guesses as to where the districts lie, but before that site failed me I did verify my home is in 38B. Not by a whole lot, though.

Update: This example may illustrate how cut up our area is. Along the first two miles of Mount Hermon Road you can have houses in four different districts. At the far west end of the road and up to Civic Avenue it’s the border between the extreme eastern fringe of District 37A on the north side and 38B on the south side. Then about a mile or so it’s in entirely in 38B, until the road passes under U.S. 13. Then it’s solely in District 38C for a short distance until it crosses a creek just west of Hobbs Road, when the highway becomes the border between 38C on one side and District 37B on the other. Finally, just past Walston Switch Road, the road becomes part of 38C. To use east side landmarks, the airport is in 37B, Perdue Stadium is in 38C, WinterPlace Park is in 38B, and the established part of the Aydelotte neighborhood is on the edge of 37A.

Fresh maps, rancid gerrymandering

Or maybe it’s O’Malleymandering?

This actually came out late Friday night, but I wasn’t made aware of it until last night. Annie Linskey and John Fritze of the Baltimore Sun posted two maps they claimed were the top choices among Democrat redistricters. Neither is an improvement on the jigsaw puzzle we have now, particularly in the central part of the state – in fact, both of these solutions try extremely hard to ignore any semblance of honoring geographic boundaries. But it’s obvious the 10-0 project is in full effect with one option.

In comparison with a previous incarnation leaked to the Maryland Reporter website, there’s little change in the Democrats’ strategy of placing D.C. suburbanites with residents of the Maryland panhandle in the Sixth District. However, Option 1 brings in more rural voters by corkscrewing the district eastward from the Pennsylvania border in Frederick County around through the western reaches of MoCo back to the city of Frederick.

The question for Democrats seems to be whether to go for broke and try to oust Andy Harris or not. Their revised Option 1  tends to maintain the district as relatively Republican, but extends it west right along the Pennsylvania line to include portions of Carroll County for the first time. In return, much of Baltimore County is chopped away, with most of it going to the Seventh Congressional District of Rep. Elijah Cummings.

It’s Option 2 where they sell out to wipe out all the Republicans. While it’s a somewhat cleaner map geographically, for the first time in memory the Eastern Shore would be split among two Congressional districts – Salisbury would be the linchpin.

From Salisbury northward, the Eastern Shore would remain in District 1, with the Lower Shore population replaced by a bloc of voters accessed by a narrow strip through Anne Arundel County. Andy Harris, meet your new constituents in Prince George’s and Howard counties. Andy’s current residence would be a county removed from the new district, which would end at the Susquehanna River.

On the south and east sides of Salisbury, we would be introduced to our new Congressman – one Steny Hoyer. Yes, the Democrats would place all of Somerset and Worcester counties along with about 2/3 of Wicomico into the Fifth Congressional District. Good luck for us trying to outvote the swath of PG County left in Steny’s district to keep it a majority Democratic district. (In fact, adding Somerset might well make it a majority-minority district.)

It’s also interesting to look at the map and see the lengths Democrats went to in maintaining that each of their existing Congressional delegation remain in their districts, as pathways were created just long enough to keep  Chris Van Hollen in District 8 (which would either run westward along the Potomac or north into Carroll County) and Elijah Cummings in District 7.

Well, Democrats, you outdid yourselves. See you in court, because I would imagine either of these monstrosities will end up there.

Update: If Red Maryland is to be believed, the Eastern Shore will dodge a bullet with Option 1.

Blessing of the Combines in pictures and text

Today my significant other and I wandered down to Snow Hill for the 13th Annual Blessing of the Combines. In its short history the event appears to have placed the otherwise sleepy town of Snow Hill on the map.

(Just so you know, some of the photos I’m featuring come from my girlfriend, and if you can’t figure it out from the enhanced quality of her photography compared to mine I’ll have to clue you in. The one to start this post is by Kim Corkran.)

The event begins with a parade, and seeing a row of combines coming down the road can be impressive.

Some of the combines had politicians on them. Andy Harris joked that it was one of the few times he was on the left, but Norm Conway and Jim Mathias were at home there.

I did get the chance to bend Andy’s ear a little later. The lady in the center is former Delegate candidate and Worcester County Republican Chair Marty Pusey. (Photo by Kim Corkran.)

Now that they’ve wrapped up the budget, I want Andy to work on reducing those government mandates!

Both political parties were represented there, although the Republicans were a little more open about it.

Meanwhile, two tables down the Democrats were trying to register voters as well.

But there was something I noticed about their table – not one item I saw mentioned President Obama. Odd, don’t you think? Maybe the local Democrats are running away from him?

Interestingly enough, the featured speaker was Nelson Brice. He serves the federal government as the District Conservationist for the USDA, and he pointed out how farmers were helping the environment.

Still, most of the people there weren’t interested in politics. The actual blessing was handled by the Rev. Rick Edmund, a former Snow Hill pastor who now serves a church in the village of Ewell out on Smith Island.

For the kids, there was plenty to do – crafts, face painting, a bounce house, a petting zoo, and the chance to play in a bed of soybeans, all tucked away on Pearl Street.

If their parents wandered around the block the kids could have a pony ride as well.

This feathered friend awaited across the way (photo by Kim Corkran.)

And kids of all ages who like to eat had plenty to choose from. I took this while standing in line waiting for some pit beef.

While standing in that line, Kim took this unique crowd shot. (So did I but hers came out better.)

While we were eating, the band began to play. Mike Short, Jr. and Statewide were the featured performers, playing a mix of country and rock originals and covers.

The second photo of Mike is by Kim Corkran.

After listening to his band for a spell, we worked our way down to one of my favorite parts of the event, the Wheels That Heal car show.

Here’s a pair of Pontiac Firebirds from a bygone era.

My dad used to have a truck like this but it was in nowhere near this good of shape.

For those who wanted to really relive a bygone era, there was the opportunity to ride a horse-drawn carriage.

It also was a chance to meet friends old and new. Kim took this last picture of this couple, who have been married 55 years. Surely they saw a lot of people they knew and probably recalled a lot who are no longer with us.

If you weren’t there, you missed a chance to celebrate our rural heritage with a family-friendly event. Come the first Saturday in August 2012 you just might find us there again!

Toll hearing July 14

I actually knew about this already, but I was reminded by an interesting source.

A postcard came to my mailbox today, addressed to me or the current resident. The sender: Congressman Andy Harris.

Printed at taxpayer expense, it revealed the hearing would take place on Thursday, July 14 at Stephen Decatur Middle School, 9815 Seahawk Road in Berlin, beginning at 5:30 p.m.  It also restated Andy’s opposition to the “massive toll hike proposal” that “will destroy jobs and hurt rural Maryland families” as well as “hurt businesses we count on for jobs in the tourism, seafood, and poultry industries.” (Yep, that’s the Eastern Shore in a nutshell.)

No question Andy is right, but I guarantee some crank is going to get his panties in a wad because Andy is using his franking privilege in such a manner. Yes, the piece states Congressman Harris’s opposition to the toll hikes, but that was made pretty plain by news reports when the toll increases were announced. So there’s no new news there. He also informs the public about an opportunity to say one’s piece – for all I know, someone who got the card may be all for jacking up the toll over threefold during the next couple years but had no idea a hearing would be held on this part of the Shore. I don’t believe this particular hearing was in the original schedule but was likely added through popular demand and the behest of the Ocean City and Worcester County tourism industry.

Therefore, this is one of the cases where the Congressman is performing his public service and using taxpayer money in a relatively prudent manner. (The card is a simple black-and-white postcard and not a fancy full-color four-page mailing. But it conveys the message just fine.)

In the meantime, it will be interesting to hear how this meeting goes. If my work schedule allows I may just drop in.

Interesting petition facts

As many of you should know, the effort to stop the ill-considered SB176, better known as the in-state tuition for illegal immigrants bill, has been a fairly resounding success so far – over 58,000 petition signatures were turned in by the May 31 progress deadline when only around 18,000 were needed. Proponents of illegal immigrants are already threatening legal action to allow the law to take effect.

But thanks to the advocacy group Help Save Maryland, here are some interesting petition facts:

  • The top five jurisdictions for signing are Baltimore County with 14,307, Anne Arundel County with 8,586, Harford County with 5,922, Carroll County with 5,820, and Washington County with 3,310.
  • The county with the largest number of registered voters is Montgomery County, but unsurprisingly the liberal bastion has contributed just 2,301 signatures to the effort.
  • Locally among Lower Shore counties Dorchester leads with 587 collected, with Wicomico County second at 383, Worcester at 305, and Somerset the lowest in the state with just 50. But on the Eastern Shore we are pikers – Cecil checks in with 1,830, Talbot has 1,218, Caroline has 1,164, Queen Anne’s has 1,114, and even little Kent County has 435. Clearly we have some work to do!
  • According to petition drive leader Delegate Neil Parrott, “(P)lease note that over 25% of the signatures have come from Democrats, 15% from Unaffiliated voters, and the remainder from Republicans and 3rd party voters.” So it’s not just a Republican issue.

Between the Lower Shore counties there are 121,281 registered voters – at least that was the last report. We have signed up barely 1% of the voters in a conservative area where we should get AT LEAST 10 to 15 percent. If we hit the 10% threshold here, that would be about 20 percent of the total needed for the state.

It’s time to get to work.

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