Op-Ed: Where are CBF and CCA? By Marc Castelli

The Baltimore Sun reported on a 4.1-million gallons sewage spill into the Jones Falls on Monday the 16th of April. It stated that heavy rains inundated the sewer system. Baltimore is consistently the worst offender of raw sewage pouring into the Bay. That is to the tune of millions of gallons of raw sewage. Yet no one from either of the self-proclaimed Bay’s apex environmental groups raises the alarm about Baltimore’s sewage problem. If you aren’t aware of where all that sewage ends up let me tell you. It simply ends up in the Chesapeake Bay.

For two organizations that constantly crow about their stewardship of the Bay and its resources, it seems odd that when such a serious water quality issue like raw sewage arises, they are strangely silent. Apparently, it is much easier for the Bay’s “watchdogs” to go after the low hanging fruit of the commercial fishery. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Coastal Conservation Association are just not visible when it comes to the constant threat that Baltimore’s ongoing inability to handle large rain fall amounts resulting in urban runoff and sewage overflows. Granted these spills happen at an alarmingly frequent pace but to not be heard about them reeks of a jaded attitude towards such serious issues.

Past president of the Maryland Waterman’s Association, Larry Simns and current president, Robert T. Brown, declared the MWA’s environmental concerns should be about wastewater management problems. If you pause to consider this, it will be easy to understand why a commercial fishery would be concerned about sewage in the waters from which it makes it’s living. Water quality is after all what we all are most concerned about. MWA does not have anywhere near the financial assets that both CBF and CCA could use to help ameliorate the issue of Baltimore’s repeated sewage overflows.

Let me give you a short history about the oyster industry and Baltimore’s sewage system. In the early parts of the last century, Maryland’s oyster industry was threatened by a cholera outbreak. You may ask how do oysters and cholera get together to sicken and kill people? Raw, untreated sewage is the answer. Baltimore did not always have a sewage system. It’s waste usually ran down the streets along with all of the garbage directly into Baltimore harbor waters and nearby tributaries. Somewhat like today. Oysters harvested in and near these waters were routinely shipped cold all over the U.S. to places like St. Louis, and Chicago among other cities. Maryland oysters were considered by aficionados to be the zenith of shellfish. That is until people started to get sick, and in some instances died.

Maryland oyster shucking house owners went to Baltimore and flatly told them the city was responsible and that if the city did not install sewers and a waste water system that Maryland would not only be responsible for widespread diseases like cholera but the state would stand to lose millions of dollars in profits and revenues. The sewer system that is currently in place dates back more than 100 years according to the Baltimore Sun.

The article goes on to state that the system is currently being up graded to prevent such releases of sewage into the waters of tributaries and the Bay. For the 25 or so years I have been involved in Bay issues I can only say I have been hearing such claims and they are not at all reassuring.

I just spent ten days working alongside watermen from the upper Bay doing what we call, “ghost potting”. Translated, it means retrieving derelict and lost crab pots. This work was done just outside of the Baltimore harbor at the mouths of the Gunpowder and Little Gunpowder Rivers. It was funded by MDOT and managed by the Oyster Recovery Partnership. The purpose was to mitigate wetland issues that will arise from the Route 40 bridges reconstruction over the two tributaries. Can you imagine what would happen to one of Maryland’s most iconic tourist draws if people started to put two and two together to conclude that crabs caught in that area are living in sewage-tainted waters? Go one step further and wonder what sport and tourist anglers would think if they realized the fish caught in the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay were having to swim in such waters? The folks that go swimming off the public beach at Miami Beach, where closures after such heavy rains are a common event, might also want to be concerned.

According to the Sun information about health concerns as a result of such overflows may be found here. Is there any reason why that information is not available from the CBF or CCA?

It has been nearly a week and yet no word from either organization. So again, I ask…Where are the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Coastal Conservation Association when such sewage overflows occur. Just because this happens, every time it rains hard on Baltimore does not mean that these well-funded organizations should not constantly be raising the alarm and pointing out the need for Baltimore to lead the way in its own wastewater management.

Marc Castelli is a artist and photographer living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. His work is focused on watermen, lobstermen, their workboats, America’s Cup racers and their yachts, and the extended families that race their log canoes of the
Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore.

Art Commentary: Elizabeth Casqueiro’s ‘Entrances and Exits” by Heather Harvey

The paintings in Elizabeth Casqueiro’s new exhibition straddle and combine abstraction with realism. Her imagery nearly comes into focus, only to dissolve and shift into various alternate readings. Brightly saturated colors and vivid painterly strokes seem jubilant and humorous in moments, then soften into quiet passages and muted colors, then shift again into dark, brooding, more sinister marks. These divergent painting strategies allow multiple storylines and moods to co-exist on one canvas.

Entrance and Exit

The multilayered, fluctuating quality may grow out of Casqueiro’s biography. She has lived most of her adult life in the United States, but her birth and formative years unfolded in the authoritarian malaise of post-world war Portugal. As a child she was deeply drawn to the promise and excitement of American culture. Imported pulp fiction and comic books offered her a heady mix of hope, heroism, drama, risk, and romance. This gave young Elizabeth what she calls her first “early glimpse of an outside world,” beyond home, neighborhood, country, culture, and the confines of her own mind. Many decades later and a fraught American political landscape have added new layers of complexity to the narratives of her youth.

In some paintings Casqueiro draws mainly from superhero stories. She breaks compositions down into smaller areas loosely suggestive of comic book panels. Unclear dramas unfold with flashes of superheroes, villains, and good (hopefully) conquering evil. Other paintings allude more to theater, drama, and the stage as metaphors for life. Casqueiro is particularly interested in the tension between private, inner life versus social, communal life. She recognizes that many consider private inner life as more ‘authentic’ or ‘true,’ but Casqueiro doesn’t see it quite that way. For her, the social masks and personas we wear are as much a part of our identity as solitary periods spent with oneself.

Come On Batman

In her work Casqueiro mines both the heroic exuberance of childhood and the complex absurdities of adulthood. Childhood becomes more complicated then we typically give it credit for, and adults not so different from their younger counterparts. Superheroes and dramatic personas perhaps reflect our ego’s need for respite and protection from the barrages of reality. They create a barrier between delicate interior experience and pressing external demands.

Elizabeth Casqueiro’s solo exhibition Entrances and Exits is open April 14 through July 15, 2018 at the Academy Art Museum. Reception: April 20th 5:30-7pm and Artist Talk: May 4th at 5:30 pm. For more information on Elizabeth Casqueiro’s work see https://www.elizabethcasqueiro.com

Heather Harvey is an artist living in Easton, MD and Associate Professor and Chair of the Art and Art History Department at Washington College.

CASA of the Mid-Shore Honors Volunteers

On April 18, 2018, Piazza Italian Market hosted its first evening event at their dining room, a cocktail party for the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) organization. CASA of the Mid-Shore held this event to thank its many volunteers from Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Kent Counties who stand against child abuse and take action by advocating for maltreated children. Attendees were CASA’s Board of Directors, staff, local judges and magistrates and many CASA volunteers. Each guest was presented with a blue pinwheel, the national symbol for child abuse prevention. Reflecting hope, health and safety, the pinwheels are an uplifting symbol of childhood that mirror CASA’s own goal to advocate for every child’s right to a safe, permanent home.

CASA of the Mid Shore is a private, non-profit organization whose mission is to provide Court Appointed Special Advocates to all children who are under court protection in Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s or Kent Circuit Court due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or their parents’ inability to safely care for them.

CASA volunteers are adults from the community who are screened, trained, and supervised by professional staff members. When a CASA volunteer is appointed by a judge to a child’s case, the CASAs are officers of the court and, as such, are ordered to make assessments and recommendations to the judge regarding the best interest of the child to whom they are appointed. He or she is responsible for taking the time to learn as much as possible about the child. CASA volunteers search for information that might be helpful to the court by talking with parents, teachers, relatives, physicians, therapists, attorneys, social workers, and others. They work closely with all agencies involved with each child. Most importantly, the CASAs get to know the child, and frequently become one of the most consistent adults in the child’s life. Then, the CASAs provide a written report to the court with recommendations as to what is in each child’s best interest.

Over the past 28 years, CASA has grown to the point that they are able to provide a CASA volunteer to close to 100% of the children under the protection of the Talbot and Dorchester County Circuit Courts. They are currently accepting applications from residents of Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Kent Counties who are interested in applying to become Court Appointed Special Advocates for children under court protection. To learn more about CASA or to support CASA of the Mid Shore, please contact Jane Crawford at 410-822-2866, ext. 6, or visit www.casamidshore.org.

For more information about reserving Piazza’s dining room for evening corporate or private events, please contact Emily Chandler or Jennifer Martella at 410-820-8281.

Atlantic Security’s Famed Ospreycam Is Back and Better Than Ever

Atlantic Security, Inc. (ASI) has just announced the return of its Ospreycam for the 2018 season.

The ospreys return to the Mid-Atlantic region in mid-March, right around St. Patrick’s Day, and this year the first sighting of our resident ASI ospreys was on March 16th.

Once an endangered species, the ospreys, also called “fish hawks” have made a strong comeback and are abundant in our Mid Atlantic area during the spring and summer. They typically nest near any water source where fresh fish are plentiful, which makes the Chesapeake Bay region a perfect habitat. With an average length of 22-25 inches and an average wingspan of 4 ½ -6 feet, the osprey is one of the largest birds of prey in North America. While smaller than the bald eagle, the osprey has no trouble standing up to its larger foe and skirmishes between the two species are not uncommon.

Atlantic Security installed its first Ospreycam in 1996. At that time the hard-wired camera was mounted in a tree on the shoreline and aimed at the nest. The image was displayed on a small television monitor in the kitchen of ASI’s president’s home. Eventually the camera was mounted above the nest and the black and white image was replaced with color. As technology rapidly improved, so did the Ospreycam which now wirelessly transmits an HD image straight from the nest to your computer, tablet or phone. Infrared night vision allows night viewing.

The female osprey typically lays 2-3 eggs, with 2 chicks hatching. We have seen 3 chicks hatched and raised successfully on several occasions, and one year even 4 which is very rare. Eggs are laid in April, with chicks hatching mid to late May. This year the first egg was spotted in the nest on April 11. Both the male and female osprey take turns sitting on the eggs and fishing.

Atlantic Security Inc would like to state that webcams such as ours can be valuable educational tools which show daily activity that occurs in the nest. Unfortunately, at times real life is not completely cute and fuzzy, and things such as sibling rivalry, bad weather and predator attacks can occur. These things are part of nature and will occur whether on camera or not. While it is true that we own the camera and equipment, we do not own the ospreys or the nest, nor are we responsible for anything that might happen to the ospreys or the nest while our camera is in place.

Based in Chestertown, Atlantic Security Inc has been protecting fine homes and businesses since 1977. Our Ospreycam can be viewed on the “live camera feed” page of our web site and on our dedicated osprey information page.

Democrat Colvin Outraises Rep. Harris in Contributions for Second Consecutive Quarter

Democratic candidate for Maryland’s 1st Congressional District Jesse Colvin outraised Republican incumbent Representative Andy Harris in total individual contributions over the first three months of 2018.

As reported by The Washington Post on Monday, Colvin’s fundraising over the past six months has helped turn what was once thought to be a solid red district into a competitive race.

After edging Harris by 38% in total fundraising during the last three months of 2017, Mr. Colvin continued to build momentum through the first quarter of this year, outraising Harris for the second consecutive quarter in individual contributions, which represented 99% of the contributions Colvin received. Harris, meanwhile, raised 36% of his money from national PACs, including the NRA and the Koch brothers.

“We’re focused on voters, not corporate PACs,” Colvin said in a statement about the quarter’s results. “The community we’re building around this campaign is what ensures we have a real shot at flipping this seat in November — folks from all walks of life are fed up with career politicians like Andy Harris.”

Having nearly doubled the campaign’s cash on hand, Colvin is focused on engaging as many voters as possible across the district, which is geographically one of the largest in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“Winning an election requires the tireless commitment of citizens coming together for a common cause. But it also takes resources, whether that’s printing yard signs or filling my truck up with the gas it needs to get to every corner of this district.”

ShoreRivers Needs Some Help: Development and Event Coordinator Position Available

ShoreRivers seeks a Development and Event Coordinator to join their team and help fulfill our mission to protect and restore our rivers and the living resources they support. The ideal candidate will be an energetic, outgoing individual who is organized, detail oriented, and enthusiastic about the environment and the communities they serve. The position is located in our Easton, Maryland office at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center.

ShoreRivers seeks to protect and restore Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

We have a dedicated staff of educators, scientists, restoration specialists, and advocates focused on policies and projects that will improve the health of our rivers. Our staff includes four Waterkeepers who regularly patrol and monitor our waters and serve as key spokespersons: Chester Riverkeeper, Choptank Riverkeeper, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, and Sassafras Riverkeeper. Our Waterkeepers and staff are a strong, collective voice for Eastern Shore waterways.

ShoreRivers was created in 2017 when the Chester River Association, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, and Sassafras River Association merged. We have more than 3,500 members and supporters across the Eastern Shore who help us achieve our vision of healthy waterways.

For more information please click here

Jerry Harris: A Hunter and Conservationist Who Is “Giving Back” by Kristi Moore

We are strolling with Jerry Harris on his 230-acre farm, Mallard Haven, when a group of ducks suddenly takes off from their marsh hiding spot. Harris, a committed conservationist and hunter, has created the perfect marshland habitat for migrating waterfowl for just this moment.

“Watching the birds come in, how they treat the marsh, how they fly around it, how they call—that whole symphony is quite intriguing to me,” Harris said. “I never tire of that.”

Harris, now 75, fell in love with waterfowl as a young boy when he started hunting, but has long seen the value of conservation over sport. On his farm, you shoot only what you can eat, and not one more. Those values were instilled in him from his first days hunting with his grandfather, Burr Love, at a family hunting cabin in the San Francisco Bay area.

”The first year when I was 11 or so, they felt I was too young to hunt, and so I got to pick the ducks. The second year, I got to wash the dishes, do the cooking, and pick the ducks, and the third year, I got to finally hunt.”

Over the years, Harris hunted with two other men who influenced his values about hunting and conservation: Louis Rapp, an old-time duck hunter and friend of his great uncle, and Ray Lewis, who taught him about the soil management technique Harris uses on his farm today.

“Over a period of 30 to 40 years, I hunted and gained extensive knowledge from all three of these people,” Harris said. “I was extraordinarily lucky to be able to partner with them over my lifetime.”

Living in New York in the early 1970s, Harris would visit Maryland’s eastern shore to hunt geese, and he recognized the area’s bountiful appeal to waterfowl. And to him. Harris, his wife, Bobbi, and their three retrievers, Maddie, Rusty, and Bo, now spend their winters on their eastern shore farmland before flying west to spend summers in Montana.

Even before he retired, Harris decided to devote much of his time to wetland conservation. He has been a member of Ducks Unlimited ever since he started a new Ducks Unlimited chapter as a student at University of California, Berkeley, and he has reached out to a variety of organizations, including Delta Waterfowl, Waterfowl Chesapeake, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and of course, Ducks Unlimited to determine how to best use the funds from the family foundation he and Bobbi set up. Wanting to preserve vital marshlands and “to give back some,” Bobbi and Jerry created a family foundation that dedicates most of its funding to wetland conservation, with a smaller portion going to secondary education.

We’re trying to demonstrate how collectively we can all make this a better place and preserve some of the rich heritage the Eastern Shore—Maryland, Delaware, Virginia—has had from a waterfowl standpoint.

All the lessons Harris absorbed from his hunting friends and experiences have turned him into a teacher for new generations of conservation managers. He thinks of Mallard Haven as a demonstration farm to teach others how they can use their properties to attract more waterfowl and how his moist soil management system attracts waterfowl and feeds their nutritional needs.

The farm is a natural maze of dirt paths, cornfields, wetlands, and a long trench that serves as freshwater storage. Depending on the time of year, it might look like another grain farm in the countryside, but when he wants to beckon ducks, Harris and his farm manager, Sam LaCompte, will flood pockets of his farmland, or impoundments as he calls them. At the end of the season slowly draining the water encourages the growth of smart weeds that provide a diverse, appetizing food source to migrating waterfowl.

“We’re trying to demonstrate how collectively we can all make this a better place and preserve some of the rich heritage the Eastern Shore—Maryland, Delaware, Virginia—has had from a waterfowl standpoint,” he said.

Harris is also helping facilitate a course that shows wildlife managers and leaders how hunting can balance with conservation. He was impressed with a course on the West Coast that UC Davis conducted with Ducks Unlimited and a local waterfowl conservation group, so this past winter, Harris and Dr. Chris Williams, wildlife ecology professor at the University of Delaware, developed and ran a similar course for the East Coast on Jerry’s Dorchester farms.

The first class, which included 10 students, recently ended and Harris considers it a success.

“None had experienced waterfowl hunting or shooting and over that three-day period, they went from 0 to 60 miles per hour. We’ve just seen their review of the program, and it was very exciting to read their comments and how it had changed their perception to the role hunting plays in wildlife conservation,” Harris said. “And that’s our goal—to make sure the future managers and leaders understand the role that hunting plays.”

Harris hopes to keep offering the course, serving as long as he can as a mentor to others, much as he was guided throughout his life.

This year, Horn Point Laboratory will honor Jerry Harris with its 2018 Chesapeake Champion award for his vision and leadership in marshland restoration and conservation. “We could not find a more fitting partner in our efforts to ensure our marshlands are preserved for wildlife habitat and coastal sustainability,” said Mike Roman, Director of Horn Point Laboratory. We are delighted to honor our good friend and devoted educator, Jerry Harris.”

The Chesapeake Champion celebration will be held Friday, April 27th, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Waterfowl Armory, Easton. Tickets are $50, sponsorships are available, and can be purchased online or by contacting Carin Starr at 410-221-8408.

Proceeds from this year’s event will be used to launch a new Marsh Ecology and Restoration Laboratory at Horn Point Laboratory. The new Lab will conduct vital research into the role marshes play in: providing critical habitat for waterfowl, birds, plants and animals; providing green infrastructure to mitigate erosion and flooding; and, filtering pollutants to improve water quality.

Jerry Harris, the Horn Point Laboratory 2018 Chesapeake Champion, talks about running a Dorchester County farm, which, with careful planning and management, turns marshland into a paradise for migrating ducks.

Kristi Moor is the Digital Communications Manager for University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science UMCES.

For more information on the Horn Point Laboratory please go here

 

Letter to the Editor: Talbot County Tax Revenue & Tax Caps

Beginning on March 18, 2018, with Councilman Price’s excellent Guess Comment Column detailing why Talbot County needs moderate growth in its tax revenue, I have read numerous comments published on the subject.

First, I think it should be said Councilman Price did a masterful job explaining the fiscal needs of the County and the challenges the Council faces funding those needs.

Second, I think many comments on Price’s March 18 column, some published in this paper (e.g. Mr. Desanctis, Mr. Howell ), some Talbot Spy comments, all recognize our County has legitimate fiscal needs. To me, the questions really boil down to two points. First, what is a “true need” vs. a “wish list”. Second, how do the citizens fund those “true needs.”

On the first point of “true needs”, in general such are driven by two components. The first should not be controversial, as we all understand and experience inflation, the costs we pay for things, every day. Hence, whether it’s the CPI-U or some other recognized index, such should be built into each approved budget without any cap or artificial ceiling.

The second, however, is another story altogether. In any political subdivision the demand for more and more government services will be never ending. Since demand for those services, and those mandated to the County by the State, are what generate much of the needs for County revenues, it’s obvious that those demands are a self- fulfilling prophesy for never ending tax increases. And that is where the rub comes in to play. What is a ‘need, or demand, for essential services’ by a liberal constituent will not be the same as that for a conservative constituent. And that will never change. So, as the debate on tax revenue and the tax cap moves forward, the Council must recognize, and in the proper context emphasize, that close examination and strong justification will continue for any requests coming from the demand side of the equation.

Why is that important? Simply put, because those paying the bills (the taxpayers) don’t want to see a blank check given to those spending our money. All of us living in this beautiful County have skin in the game. Liberal, Conservative, Republican, Democrat or Independent, we all have a stake. Our taxes pay the County’s bills, the Councils salaries, our votes elect the Council members. It is, indeed, right and proper to have legitimate, civil, informed debate on all issues. That said, when done, the Council’s budget must conform to the wishes of the majority.

Second, how do we citizens fund those “true needs?” In the feature article published March 25, 2018, on Councilman Callahan, I was much encouraged to hear him described as a listener and doer, and a calm voice of reason. Talking about the tax Callahan says “I’m not smart enough to know how to craft it, but I’m smart enough to understand that’s where we need to go.” And he adds “When (a citizen) reads it, it better be short, and you better know where the money is going period. Because the citizens are going to have to make the decision.” Well put Councilman Callahan!

Stated another way, we citizens need a plan easy to understand, identifying where our money is going to go, which also means the Council needs to understand the same thing. We don’t need a plan that is complicated, we don’t need a plan designed by the County attorney, we don’t need a plan designed by County staff. The plan should be designed, proposed and explained to us by the Councilman proposing it. Those are the people we elect.

Councilman Price is capable enough and dedicated enough to analyze the details of the County’s fiscal needs and design a plan to address them. Councilman Price is articulate enough to explain her analysis and plan to us in a straightforward, honest manner. And Councilman Price suggests a simple, finite, not open ended, solution to address our County’s tax revenue “true needs.”

I would support the concept of “The Price Penny Plan.” To get it on the ballot for all of us to vote upon, four of the Council members must approve and do so. If any of the other four Council members has an alternative plan, let them propose it and explain it in detail as Price did. Otherwise, let’s put “The Price Penny Plan” before the voters to decide. It’s a big step in the right direction.

Paul D. Denton
Easton

 

Jesse Colvin Endorsed by Cecil County Progressive Caucus

The Cecil County Progressive Caucus announced its endorsement of Jesse Colvin as the Democratic candidate for Congress in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District on Wednesday.

Formerly known as Cecil County for Bernie Sanders, this group got thousands registered to vote and out on Election Day in 2016. They are a major force in grassroots politics in Cecil County, and now they are committed to helping Jesse win the Democratic primary and ultimately to defeat Andy Harris.

“We don’t agree on every issue, and sometimes we take different approaches, but this remarkable group exemplifies the tent I am building to flip the 1st District,” Jesse said after receiving the group’s endorsement. “Several members of Cecil County Progressive Caucus protested at Standing Rock. Several have been in the trenches of our healthcare system for decades. Others are veterans. Still others are dedicated public school teachers.”

Here’s the text of the endorsement:

“The Cecil County Progressive Caucus is pleased to announce the group’s endorsement of Jesse Colvin, the Democratic candidate for Maryland’s First Congressional District. After meeting with three of the four Democratic Primary Congressional candidates for the First District, we found that Jesse’s platforms and attributes most closely aligned with our values and priorities. Jesse is authentic. He doesn’t act or talk like a politician — he listens and shows up. His energy and integrity are particularly compelling, and helped cement our decision. We will work tirelessly to help Jesse win the Primary and beat Andy Harris in November.”

Jesse is running for Congress because he wants to bring courage and civility back to Washington. He is focused on making the 1st District a place where his kids and grandkids want to stay. He wants to ensure folks have access to decent and affordable healthcare. He wants a comprehensive plan of attack for ending the opioid crisis, and a robust effort to generate jobs of the future across the district. He wants to be the Chesapeake Bay’s most ardent and committed champion in Congress.

Jesse served four tours as a U.S. Army Ranger in Afghanistan, and worked on investigating wrongdoing on Wall Street and as a management consultant before deciding to pursue public service. He holds a Masters from Columbia University.

Letter to Editor: Time to Raise the Revenue Cap in Talbot County

The Talbot County Council is once again wrestling with the question of what to do about the county’s property tax revenue cap. As things stand now and for the past several years, annual property tax revenues cannot increase over the previous year by more than 2% or the Consumer Price Index-Urban (CPI-U), whichever is less. Two percent might be a reasonable limit, but from 2010-2015, the CPI-U came in well under 2% in five of six years. Annual increases of 0.55% or less are negligible, especially when viewed cumulatively.

The revenue cap has stymied efforts to collect more property taxes, and kept Talbot County’s tax rate in last place statewide. The current property tax rate is 57.08Ȼ per $100 of assessed value. To be exact, even with the Educational Supplement, our tax rate is 43.8% below the statewide average. The property tax rate in the county with the second-lowest rate in Maryland (Worcester) is 46% higher than it is in Talbot. Our tax rate is truly an extreme outlier.

In the normal course of events, when property values and assessments increase, as they have since the end of the recession of 2007-2009, property tax revenues increase accordingly. But the course of events in Talbot County is not normal. Rather, it harks back to the dark, 20th-century days of the Constant Yield, when, the property tax rate actually fell from one year to the next because the county was prohibited from collecting any more property tax revenue than is had in the previous year.

Since education consumes almost half of the county’s annual budget, it is tempting to think of calls for revenue cap reform as the whining of greedy teachers and administrators. But think again. An insufficient annual budget squeezes many county departments. In fiscal year 2018, for example, 22 of 61 departments were not fully funded. An increase in property tax revenue would remind us that, as President John F. Kennedy once said, “A rising tide buoys all boats.”

What about the effects of a rising tide? A 1% increase, to 3%, would generate $344,000 in additional revenue for the county. A 2% increase, to 4%, would generate an extra $688,000.

And what about the cost? A 2% increase in the revenue cap, from 2% to 4%, would only cost the owner of a million-dollar home less than an additional $100 a year!

In the interest in meeting the needs of its citizens and continuing to provide the high level of services that we have come to expect, it’s time for the County Council to bite the bullet and raise the revenue cap. At the very least, the CPI-U loophole should be closed.

Pete Howell
Easton