Spy Excursions: Baja California Sur

In May 2016, after the San Diego celebration of daughter Katy’s marriage to Ali, Jane and I headed south. We flew Alaska Air from San Diego to Los Cabos at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. May is not quite the high season in Baja California Sur. While Cabo San Lucas seemed about as crowded as it could be and San Jose del Cabo was also pretty busy, we got discounted hotel rates in Todos Santos and La Paz. Their high season is months earlier, when whales are giving birth in the warm waters.
La Paz is not nearly as big a tourist destination as Cabo San Lucas or even San Jose del Cabo. At restaurants in the city, many or most of the other guests are likely to be Mexican, and you’ll see few gringos at the beaches north of town. Souvenir shops are few and far between, even along the waterfront. For some people, La Paz may offer what seems like a more “authentic” Mexican experience, while Los Cabos has an international ambiance. There is no subtlety in Cabo San Lucas: the focus is on booze, sun and separating visitors from their money. Parts of Cabo San Lucas, with its Luxury Avenue mall and stores like Cartier, could be mistaken for Miami. San Jose del Cabo is more charming, but almost all the people shopping, eating and drinking are from El Norte.

The rooftop pool and bar area at Hotel Guaycura in Todos Santos. The house margarita (a classic lime margarita) can be recommended.

We picked up a rental car (be prepared to pay for mandatory insurance in Mexico even though the rental company may not tell you about it in advance, as well as to have as much as a 2,000-U.S.-dollar hold placed on your credit card) and drove the hour or hour and a half to Todos Santos, where we stayed one night at Hotel Guaycura (click HERE for its website) in the central historic district. Guaycura also has a restaurant and beach club a few miles away on the Pacific Ocean.  We had our first dinner in Mexico at La Casita (click HERE), a few blocks from our hotel. We can heartily recommend the ribs if not the cactus quesadillas. On the way back to the hotel we stopped for a drink at the Hotel California, which is much more touristy than the Guaycura.

Early morning on a Monday found the streets of Todos Santos very quiet.

Todos Santos is a picturesque small town that seems totally dependent on tourism. Lots of shops and places to eat and drink. The Pacific beaches a short drive away are said to be nice if not terribly safe for swimming, but we didn’t get over to them. After one night in Todos Santos, we drove northeast to the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) side of the peninsula and the city of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. La Paz, which has more than 200,000 residents, is on its own little peninsula, jutting north into the Gulf of California, giving the city a west-facing waterfront and nice sunsets despite being on the east side of Baja.

We stayed farther north on the Pichilingue peninsula at a sprawling resort called CostaBaja (click HERE). It’s a golf, sailing and fishing destination (we do none of those), but it’s also an excellent base for exploring the beaches even farther north as well as going back south into the city. We stayed there three nights, had two dinners in La Paz, and spent two days visiting the beaches at Balandra and Tecolote, the latter of which has a great view of Isla Espiritu Santo, a desert island known for its sea lions, other wildlife and many bays. Boat excursions to Espiritu Santo are popular, but we settled for a distant view.  In La Paz, we had one dinner at a lively tourist place on the waterfront called Tailhunter (click HERE), where anglers are invited to bring their catch in to be turned into dinner. The second-floor balcony has a great view of strollers on the Malecon (seaside promenade) and sunset views of La Paz Bay.  A second dinner was a few blocks from the waterfront at Las Tres Virgenes (The Three Virgins; click HERE), a fine-dining establishment that serves probably the best food in town and offers a lot of Mexican wines, many from the celebrated Guadalupe Valley.  Our third and last La Paz dinner was at a sushi restaurant at CostaBaja.

The hotel building at CostaBaja. The resort, just north of La Paz on the Pichilingue peninsula, includes an 18-hole golf course, a shopping area with several restaurants, a beach club, a marina, condos and private homes. In May 2016 our large room with  a balcony was only 95 U.S. dollars a night, and the  hotel seemed almost empty. It’s a short drive from here to nearly deserted public beaches.

 

Balandra Beach has no food concessions, just beach umbrella and kayak rentals. Tecolote Beach, above, has a handful of restaurants. We had lunch twice in the largest one, whose high thatched roof is visible here. Like Balandra, the beach was nearly deserted midday on weekdays in May. At Balandra, the water is amazingly shallow (like six to 12 inches) for maybe a hundred yards out into a cove. At Tecolote, the water gets deeper much closer to shore, and there is a view of Espiritu Santo island. Balandra, where no food is sold, has a much cleaner beach; Tecolote has more litter, though the water itself seems just as clean.

 

Walking in the warm and shallow water at Balandra where we rented kayaks for an hour of paddling around the cove. One attraction here is a large rock
that the sea has eroded so much that it now resembles a mushroom. We saw it from our kayaks, but it can also be  reached by walking around a rocky headland.
That’s the Luxury Avenue mall on the left, overlooking the marina at Cabo San Lucas. The marina is surrounded by a promenade lined with bars, restaurants and tour
companies, all of which seem to have people accosting passers-by with sales pitches. There’s probably as much English spoken here as Spanish.

We had driven mostly on Mexico 19 from the airport at San Jose del Cabo, to Todos Santos, and then all the way to La Paz. That route took us west and along the Pacific before crossing the peninsula. Our next destination was San Jose del Cabo and we mostly took Mexico 1 along the eastern side of the peninsula. GPS  and most guidebooks will tell you to take Mexico 19 again; the reason is that Mexico 1 is a serpentine mountain route with hairpin turns and low speed limits. Nonetheless, it was nice to see new scenery.  All of Baja Sur, by the way, is pretty much desert. Loads of cacti, dry gulches and dead-looking weeds.

Rooms at Casa Natalia in San Jose del Cabo overlook a courtyard. Farther down the courtyard is a small but pleasant swimming
pool. Between the street and the courtyard are the hotel lobby and its bar and restaurant. Tip for getting a room here: ask
for a room above ground level for a good bit more privacy.

In San Jose del Cabo, the last two nights of this trip were spent at Casa Natalia (click HERE), a charming inn on the town square. The location could hardly be better, though it required finding street parking for our rental car.  On our one full day in Los Cabos, we drove over to Cabo San Lucas (via the “corridor” of resorts that connect the two towns) hoping to rent kayaks to paddle out to The Arch, a rock formation at Land’s End, but the kayak rental person said the harbormaster wasn’t letting kayaks go there because of high winds. If you want to browse souvenir shops for items you might also find at Pier One or Amazon, or if you want to drink yourself into an early-afternoon stupor, San Lucas is the place for you. We headed back to quieter San Jose.

Both of our two dinners in San Jose are worth mentioning. One was at La Pesca (click HERE for TripAdvisor listing), a fish restaurant a short walk south of the square on Boulevard Antonio Mijares, the same street as our hotel. We shared a tuna tartar appetizer (sauced tuna chunks and pineapple; absolutely excellent) and a red snapper that was roasted in savory sauces. Again, wonderful. Our other dinner in San Jose was at La Lupita Taco and Mezcal (click HERE), where a long list of interesting tacos are offered individually. Not surprisingly, there’s also a good list of mezcal-based cocktails along with a longer list of mezcal brands.  The evening we were there, a band was setting up in the open-air garden, though when we left around 9 the live music still hadn’t started.  Still, a lively and pleasant place and, as at La Pesca, very good food.

There’s more to Baja Sur than the ostentation and alcohol of Cabo San Lucas, the cafe life in San Jose del Cabo, the charming streets of Todos Santos and the beaches around La Paz.  It’s the climate. It was hot and dry while we were there, and it was cold and rainy at our home in Maryland. For my money, that’s the best reason to visit.

    Steve Bailey of Tilghman formerly worked in various editing positions at The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Sun Times and other newspapers. He and his wife, Jane, travel widely and he writes about their travels at TouristFirst.blogspot.com

Spy Excursions: Iran by Steve Bailey

Our three-week March 2016 trip to Iran was not a typical vacation.  We spent the first week or so traveling and seeing sights, four of us (me, Jane, daughter Katy and new son-in-law Ali), and the rest of the time with Ali’s family in Mazandaran Province, between the Alborz Mountains and the Caspian Sea.  The purpose and highlight of our trip was Katy and Ali’s amazing and wonderful wedding celebration in his hometown. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help thinking about Iran as a tourist destination – and how odd it was that one U.S. travel magazine, Travel & Leisure, had just listed Iran as a hot destination for 2016.  We encountered no other Americans. What appeared to be a small German (or German-speaking) tour group was at our first hotel in Tehran, and indeed the only other foreign tourists we spoke with were two German men and two Austrian women at a desert lodge hundreds of kilometers from anything. Iran is not so much a hot destination as one waiting to thaw.

This little shrine in Esfahan (a.k.a. Isfahan) probably isn't on many tourists' must-see lists, but there were about 100 people there when we stopped by to see how, when one minaret is shaken (by a burly man who pushes against the wall), the other one also shakes. The shaking has been done daily for centuries and the building still stands. We were fortunate that the phenomenon is explained in English, below.

This little shrine in Esfahan (a.k.a. Isfahan) probably isn’t on many tourists’ must-see lists, but there were about 100 people there when we stopped by to see how, when one minaret is shaken (by a burly man who pushes against the wall), the other one also shakes. The shaking has been done daily for centuries and the building still stands. We were fortunate that the phenomenon is explained in English, below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some issues that might concern international tourists in Iran

Women’s clothing: My wife and daughter knew in advance, of course, that they’d have to wear headscarves and loose-fitting clothing. What they didn’t know was how hot the clothing could become and how aggravating the scarves could be. Even while eating, women are expected to keep their scarves on. And it is scarves – I don’t think we saw a single woman wearing a hat.  Everyone says the standards are being relaxed, and some women put their hair in topknots and cover only from the topknot back, leaving a good bit of their hair exposed. Beneath the shapeless coats and capes it’s clear that a lot of Iranian women are wearing skinny jeans and tight sweaters.  But the scarves and shapeless coats remain, and I suspect a sizable number of Iranian women are perfectly fine with the requirements.  What I found weird, however, was the number of women who dressed head-to-toe in black, making themselves resemble Death in  “The Seventh Seal.”

The northern part of Tehran abuts the Alborz Mountains. City streets narrow and become pedestrian- only walkways lined with produce stands, cafes and hookah bars. Eventually the walkways become mountain trails and then rock-climbing routes. This part of Tehran is called Darband.

The northern part of Tehran abuts the Alborz Mountains. City streets narrow and become pedestrian-
only walkways lined with produce stands, cafes and hookah bars. Eventually the walkways
become mountain trails and then rock-climbing routes. This part of Tehran is called Darband.

Currency: The Iranian rial comes in denominations at least as large as one million, which is handy because that one-million note is worth only about 33 U.S. dollars.  At this writing, Iran is still not allowed access to western banking networks, meaning that Americans cannot use their credit or debit cards there. The ATMs are for Iranians with local bank accounts. So Americans have to arrive with a good bit of American cash and then exchange it for rials. Change a thousand U.S. dollars and you get a huge stack of paper currency that you then must carry around with you unless you buy a plastic cash card at a bank, which is not the place to get the best exchange rates. Prices in stores may not be in rials; they may be in tomans, which is a notional currency (a calculating device, not a real currency).  One toman is worth 10 rial.  So you see something priced at 5,000. That’s likely to be 5,000 tomans (because you can buy almost nothing for 5,000 rial), and you pay 50,000 rial, which is about 1.5 U.S. dollars.  Handing a clerk a credit card would be so much simpler.Alcohol: Streets in Tehran and other cities look lively, with brightly colored and flashing LED and neon lights adorning all sorts of buildings, from auto parts shops to plumbing supply stores.  Even the new mausoleum for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini looks like an amusement park or a casino hotel at night. So you get these visual clues that there’s a wonderful cocktail bar nearby, always followed by the reality that you’re in Iran.  I think the population would love for this prohibition to end. One restaurant in Iran served water in what looked like whiskey flasks, and sparkling grape juice is often bottled to resemble sparkling wine and served in wine glasses. But you have to be prepared to do without.  On a poignant note, one man in his early 20s who has never left Iran, asked me what wine tastes like. “Is it really good?” he asked.

Toilets: The most common bathroom fixture is the hole-in-the-floor squat toilet, even in modern airports, restaurants and hotel lobbies. We also saw them in private homes.  Most public bathrooms are a series of stalls with squat toilets, although I was told that sometimes the women’s restroom would have one western-style toilet.  Every hotel we stayed in, however, had western-style toilets in the rooms.  I don’t know the reason for this preference, but it’s clear that the squat is more popular than the throne.  All toilets are equipped with handheld bidet hoses, but remember to carry your own toilet paper.

Language: English is widely spoken at hotels and restaurants and is used in some street and traffic signage.  English is not so common in shops. Restaurant and hotel bills and receipts are likely to be in Farsi with Farsi numerals, which are not at all like the Arabic numerals used in most of the world.  I wish I had made a list of the Farsi numerals to carry around for reading price tags. Another language-related problem is the lack of consistent English-language place names. Esfahan (the spelling used by Lonely Planet) is also Isfahan (my son-in-law’s preference). Qa’emshahr, Ali’s hometown, is also Ghaemshahr. Road signs are not consistent.  I noticed one street in Tehran spelled one way on one corner and another way at the next intersection.

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Freeway through the Alborz Mountains between desert-dry Tehran and the rain-rich provinces along the Caspian Sea.

Road safety: Iran records 92 traffic deaths per year for every 100,000 vehicles on its roads. This compares to a rate of 13 in the United States and a rate of 43 in Mexico. You’re more than twice as likely to die in a traffic accident in Iran than you are in Mexico.  We were in taxis and private cars a great deal in Iran. Drivers who seem cautious by Iranian standards frequently straddle the center line, even in the face of on-coming traffic. A roadway divided into two west-bound lanes might have three cars abreast headed west, often with only inches between them.  I’m often astounded by how close drivers in some parts of the world (Central America, Southeast Asia) come to actually striking pedestrians, but in Iran it seemed worse.

Sightseeing:  Guidebooks and websites will point you to such obvious places as the Golestan and Niyavaran palaces and the Jewels Museum in Tehran, the square in Esfahan, and Persepolis near Shiraz. Don’t be surprised if your ticket prices are as much as 10 times the amount charged Iranians. Also, be prepared to walk – the Niyavaran palace complex is huge and some of the buildings are up a fairly steep hill, and the tombs that overlook Persepolis require clambering up a steep and rocky path. Be aware that signage and on-site brochures may be only in Farsi. You may find buildings even in the Golestan complex looking rather shopworn. Iran has preserved a lot of its pre-Islamic Revolution past, but it’s not always taking great care of it. An exception is Persepolis, where authorities seem to have struck a good balance between preservation and tourist access.  If you’re interested in a Caspian Sea beach resort, be aware that due to restrictions on apparel, beach resorts in Iran aren’t like beach resorts elsewhere. Also, at least in Babolsar on the Caspian, the beach was awash in trash, not attractive for swimming or even walking. One thing happened repeatedly in parks, at Persepolis and other places: Iranians asking to have their photo taken with us. Many people, apparently, had never seen Americans in person and wanted to document the encounter. Others also wanted a chance to use their English.

Infrastructure: Iran seems to have reliable electric and Internet service. The Internet was out for part of one day at our hotel in Shiraz, but we encountered no other problems. We stuck with bottled water in Tehran, Mesr, Esfahan and Shiraz, although we did eat salads and other foods that we generally avoid when traveling. We drank tap water in Qa’emshahr and Vaskas without any ill effect.  Iran also has a good highway system (unfortunately beset by what I see as reckless driving) and good domestic air service with a number of carriers. Again, Iran’s isolation from the international banking system makes things more difficult for tourists – you’ll probably have to go to a ticket counter to make an airline reservation.

Environment: Most of Iran has been in drought for years. You’ll see dry riverbeds and trickles of water that once were usable rivers. As a result of drought, there is a lot of dust, much of which seems to stay in the air, joining with thick air pollution in cities to cover outdoor benches, parked cars and everything else with a thin, gritty coat of grime. Add to this a major problem with litter along major roadways as well as city and village streets, and one could get the impression that Iran is a dirty country.  Indoors, however, is another story, with restaurants, hotels, shops and private homes kept immaculate.  And even outdoors, city parks are usually extremely tidy and well-tended, and are often adorned with interesting modern sculpture.

The Shahrzad restaurant in Esfahan, easily the most elegant restaurant we visited in Iran, and the food was excellent.

The Shahrzad restaurant in Esfahan, easily the most elegant restaurant we visited in Iran, and the food was excellent.

Restaurants: Iran does not seem to be an eating-out culture, and most restaurants are more like fast-food places with kebabs and other simple fare. And even though tea is clearly the national beverage, and bazaars and markets sell a wonderful variety of flavored teas and infusions, restaurants and cafes seem to offer only plain black tea. And don’t expect to while away afternoon hours at a sidewalk cafe sipping that tea. Most places with sidewalk seating aren’t places you’re likely to be interested in. TripAdvisor, however, can help you find the few fine-dining restaurants, but don’t take the ratings too seriously. Read the comments. Also, familiarize yourself with Persian cuisine; there are a lot of Persian recipes and food discussions on the Internet. Even restaurants that have English-language menus are unlikely to have enough description of each dish. Beef and even steak, for example, are usually chopped or ground and at best taste something like Salisbury steak.  Lamb, however, is often still on the bone and almost always a good bet. Fesenjoon and dizi, two traditional dishes, are also good bets. And to drink?  That sparkling grape juice isn’t bad.

The lobby of the Zandiyeh Hotel in Shiraz is adjacent to the hotel's small garden with fragrant plants such as night-blooming jasmine. The lobby was crowded in the evening with guests (and non-guests, I suspect) taking advantage of free wi-fi.

The lobby of the Zandiyeh Hotel in Shiraz is adjacent to the hotel’s small garden with fragrant plants such as night-blooming jasmine. The lobby was crowded in the evening with guests (and non-guests, I suspect) taking advantage of free wi-fi.

Hotels: Other than having to be prepared to pay the bill in cash, a guest’s hotel experience in Iran is pretty much what one would expect anywhere. Sometimes the front desk staff would be helpful, sometimes not. Most large hotels in Iran seem to date from before the 1979 overthrow of the shah. We stayed in relatively new hotels – the Aramis in Tehran, the Hasht Behesht in Esfahan, the Zandiyeh in Shiraz, and then in the Mashad Hotel our last night in Tehran – and all were decent enough. The shower in our room at the Aramis leaked and flooded the bathroom floor. This isn’t seen as a problem in Iran where bathrooms are often wet rooms with the shower nozzle simply on a wall and the drain in the middle of the floor. Hotels (and private homes) have plastic clogs for people to put on when entering a bathroom to keep their feet dry. However, we requested and eventually got another room with a shower that did not leak.  The Hasht Behesht, an apartment hotel, had sturdy shopping bags to give guests who spent too much time in the bazaar. The Zandiyeh has an expansive and beautiful lobby with free wi-fi. It was the only place we stayed, however, that made guests pay to access wi-fi in their rooms. The Mashad was right around the corner from the old American Embassy, and our room had a view of snow-covered mountains. The most interesting hotel we visited, however, was the Barandaz Lodge near the desert oasis Mesr, about 400 kilometers east of Esfahan. We ate and slept on the floor, rode camels and climbed sand dunes. One note: hotels may require that you leave your passport with the front desk for the length of your stay, so it’s advisable to have photocopies of your passport and your Iranian visa to keep with you.

Steve Bailey of Tilghman formerly worked in various editing positions at The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Sun Times and other newspapers. He and his wife, Jane, travel widely and he writes about their travels at TouristFirst.blogspot.com.

Meet the Dem. Candidates for Maryland’s First Congressional District

As the 2014 political season gets off to an unusually early start, Democrats in Maryland’s First Congressional District are being introduced to two candidates, each of whom wants to challenge the Republican incumbent in the general election more than a year from now.

The two candidates so far –and there is still time for others to announce in this race – are John LaFerla, a Chestertown physician, and Bill Tilghman, a Centreville lawyer.  LaFerla has filed for the election; Tilghman says he’ll file in the fall.

Tilghman, who is new to politics, has lived on the Eastern Shore off and on since he was 6 years old.  He has worked as a lawyer and businessman for several major companies in the U.S. and abroad. He currently lives on property that has been in his family since the 1600s.  More information about him and his positions is on his website, TilghmanForCongress.com.

After teaching, doing research and practicing medicine as an OB/GYN in the Midwest for years, LaFerla moved to Chestertown 12 years ago and has since delivered almost 800 babies there. He is a former president of the Democratic Club of Kent County, a former chair of the Kent County Democratic Central Committee and a member of the Maryland State Democratic Party Executive Committee. He was a candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary and came within 0.2 percent of winning.  When the Democratic nominee eventually withdrew from the campaign, it was too late for LaFerla’s name to be placed on the ballot, although he did run as a write-in.   More information about him and his positions is on his website, JohnLaFerla.com.

The remaining months of 2013 are critical for both of these candidates as they try to win endorsements and appeal for money to demonstrate that they have what it takes to win in the general election. This means that politically active Democrats in the First District need to focus soon on which of these two candidates to put their efforts and money behind.  To help with that decision, questions were put to each candidate. Here’s where they stand on some of the most important issues.

 

Jobs

John LaFerla

John LaFerla

LaFerla:   “For District One, the way I would encourage job growth is to (1) create new educational systems that include practical skills; (2) increase access to broadband information technology to ensure our students are competitive in the global economy and give them the means by which they can build their futures here at home; (3) help cities, towns and counties repair and rebuild eroding infrastructure that new businesses can depend upon to move materials, products and employees; and (4) support targeted tax cuts to lower the tax burden on the middle-class, working families, which we know stimulates the economy by increasing consumer spending.”

Tilghman: “I favor the following measures to address the jobs challenge:

“Substantially increase the federal investment in education at all levels so that more young Americans can fill job vacancies in knowledge-intensive industries and do so without starting their working lives with outsized student loans.

“Invest in infrastructure to ensure that our roads, rail lines, airports, etc., are all up to the task of supporting a growing economy.

“More aggressively assert our rights under the World Trade Organization to stop foreign manufacturers from selling goods below cost and create public awareness that reducing trade deficits is a national priority directly linked to creating more jobs.

“Require multinational corporations to repatriate the large amounts of cash they have in offshore accounts and reinvest that money at home or face penalties.

“Simplify the corporate tax code and compel multinationals to start paying their fair share.  This will put more cash in the hands of the typical small and medium-size companies based in Maryland’s First District which will use that cash to grow.”

 

Obamacare

 

Bill Tilghman

Bill TilghmanTilghman: “Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, Congress has tried numerous times to repeal it. Our current congressman, Andy Harris, has voted in favor of repeal every time. What Congress should do instead is to make adjustments to what is admittedly a complex and sprawling program and make it better.

“The ACA brings health care coverage within reach for 45 million previously uncovered Americans and favors preventative medicine over more reactive alternatives – as we all know, excessive use of emergency room services are a significant cost burden on the system.  In Congress I will support continued evolution of the ACA.

“The alternative to health care reform is a system that costs us approximately 17.6 percent of GDP – a staggeringly high amount far above the comparable cost in other developed countries, which average around 11 percent of GDP.  On those numbers, we are spending roughly $1 trillion more each year than we should.  Every single American is directly or indirectly paying for this.  Forty-five million Americans are not even covered, our health outcomes and live expectancy are just average and we are falling behind in many significant areas (some surprising, like the number of doctors or hospital beds per capita).  Our health care system is a colossal percentage of our economy and growing too fast for us to sustain it. There is simply no credible argument for continuing to live with it as it is.

“I am in favor of the mandate requiring businesses and individuals to purchase health care insurance. The mandate is the very heart of the ACA’s cost-containment promise. Not insuring people is more expensive than insuring them. We all contribute without a lot of fuss to Social Security, starting with our very first paychecks. The health care mandate is no different.

“I am open to working with willing Republicans and Democrats to address some of the open issues with the ACA, including, for instance, its failure to more specifically focus on cost containment, or the burdens it places on small businesses, specifically businesses with full-time, non-salaried employees, like franchises.  I favor reasonable tort reform and redesigning the system’s financial incentives by moving toward pay-for-performance on bundled payments and away from pay-per-service.

“Finally, it is important that we closely measure whether the cost savings anticipated from the ACA are, or are not, being realized.  If not, then we must keep working until we see them.”

 

LaFerla:  “In contrast to House Republicans, who have voted 40 times to repeal Obamacare, I believe strongly that it is a step in the right direction.  Previously, access to affordable health care insurance has simply been out of reach for 50 million Americans.  Obamacare is already improving the lives of many in our district and will do more when it goes into full effect in 2014.  No longer will millions languish without basic care or medicine, or lose their homes or life savings to pay for it.

“Once the new law is in full force, however, we must turn our attention from the issue of access to that of cost.  As a physician and as a public health practitioner, I have first-hand experience in identifying costs that can be reduced while maintaining high-quality care. We need a congressman who will pay attention to the needs of his constituents, not ideological advocacy groups.  What we don’t need are decisions made on emotion that ignore scientific facts.”

 

Environment

LaFerla:  “Paying attention to the environment does not have to hurt business. Job growth and care for the environment can go hand-in-hand: witness possibilities for public works projects such as that for cleaning up the silt accumulating above the Conowingo Dam.  Because there are six states that impact the Chesapeake Bay, the federal government has a crucial role.  The congressman from Maryland District One should be the champion for Bay restoration.  Like our former congressman, Wayne Gilcrest – who has endorsed me – I feel it’s imperative that we work together to improve the quality of water in the Chesapeake Bay.  That we work together to solve the silt buildup at Conowingo Dam; that we work together to restore the population of crabs, oysters and other wildlife; that we work together to reduce pollutants, including agricultural runoff and industrial waste.  It will take all of working together to protect and preserve the Chesapeake for our children and grandchildren.

“In the past, we have taken for granted clean air and a healthy water supply. But now we know that toxins and waste products have been building up so we must act to protect our world for future generations. The world’s seas continue to rise above historic levels. Pollution and rising sea levels represent major threats to millions of Marylanders, especially on the Shore. We must not wait for the next crisis, the next Hurricane Sandy, but start taking sensible actions now to anticipate future challenges.”

 

Tilghman:  “We have a moral obligation to protect the environment.  Global warming is real and I support taking steps to actively address greenhouse gases.  American has two environmental success stories that we can build on. We reduced acid rain by 50 percent since 1990 using a cap-and-trade system, which is still very much in effect today. The CAFE standards for the automotive industry have gradually increased fuel efficiency for all automobiles and light trucks and even created new kinds of vehicles – hybrid and electric. There is wide, across-the-board support for these initiatives and no call for their repeal.  The key to both is a limited role for government in establishing standards, leaving the greatest possible freedom for private industry to innovate to achieve mandated targets. Carbon emissions can and should be addressed using both of these approaches. We should start by looking at coal-fired power generation and ways to encourage converting these plants to natural gas.

“I strongly support our ongoing efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. As many people know, water run-off from water treatment facilities, storm drains and agriculture is the heart of the issue.  Infrastructure and technology are needed to get a handle on these problems – better drainage systems in our fields, GPS-powered fertilizer application, improved municipal storm water drainage and holding systems, and research into how we can better use fertilizers including poultry waste. We all treasure the Chesapeake, so we should all participate in improving it. If every year, year after year, we make the many smaller, local investments needed to address problems, we will succeed.

“I actively support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and its goal of restoring the water of the Bay to 70 percent of its natural state by 2025.  We must ensure that the Blueprint is not compromised by congressional hostility, litigation and lobbying, and I will work with energy to see that this does not happen.

“Our current congressman, Andy Harris, has a 7 percent approval rating for his votes on environmental matters.  The First District deserves better.”

 

Abortion

Tilghman: “The decision whether to terminate a pregnancy must remain a personal decision left up to the woman involved.  We do not need the government to tell us right from wrong.  This is a personal decision. Women faced with the issue will make better decisions if they are free to decide for themselves.”

LaFerla:  “I believe that abortions should be rare, but safe and legal. It is a difficult decision that a woman should be able to seek guidance about from people she trusts including her family, religious leader and doctor, without fear of interference from the government.”

 

Gun Laws

LaFerla: No response on this issue.

Tilghman: “We often hear that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’  If we accept that idea, then we must be very clear about which people should have guns.

“I support requiring background checks prior to the purchases of all guns, including purchases at gun shows and online.  I also support improving state and federal databases relating to felony convictions, mental health issues and the like, and the free exchange of information among agencies that manage those databases and are charged with performing background checks.

“I support the right to own and use guns for all sporting and recreational purposes, including gun collecting.  I support the right to use guns for self-defense and defense of the home.

“I believe the correct approach to military-type guns, ammunition and clips is to first ask whether they have legitimate sporting or self-defense uses. If specialty guns have capabilities or specifications that exceed these purposes, then, with input from responsible gun owners, we should develop guidelines for higher levels of control.

“Gun violence is part of a larger picture affecting disadvantaged communities and demographics.  Addressing the issues of these communities will improve many things simultaneously, such as health outcomes, educational achievement, family strength and jobs, and it will also reduce gun violence. The availability for treatment for drug-related and mental health issues is a major factor in this mix, as it community and educational outreach.”

 

Why Be a Democrat?

Tilghman:  “I believe that most successful countries have at their core a powerful public-private partnership which works to solve issues using the special skills represented on each side of that table.  Government is no more ‘the problem’ than the private sector is the problem.  The problem arises when the two do not work together.  The Democratic Party is comfortable working to achieve this special form of teamwork, and I believe that is the most important thing a Democrat can do in 2014.”

LaFerla: “I am a life-long Democrat because I believe that we are all here to help one another, not just look out for No. 1. We are truly all in this together. At an early age, my parents instilled in me the importance of a strong work ethic and serving the community through volunteerism. My father, a World War II veteran, and mother raised me and my siblings to value service to our country. It’s an honor and privilege to serve one’s community and it’s why I became an OB/GYN and public health advocate more than 40 years ago.

“I have done volunteer service both in communities where I live and also abroad.  In my church I have served on the social justice committee, worked with Habitat for Humanity, and I currently serve on the boards of For All Seasons (which helps victims of sexual, mental, and physical abuse on the Eastern Shore) and Med-Chi (the Maryland State Medical Society).

“America is blessed with hard-working people who are creative problem solvers.  Working together, we can and will make a better future for our children, but only if we take responsibility for taking on important problems, meeting them head-on, and making the hard choices that these times so desperately call for. These are the values my parents instilled in me all those years ago, they’re the values I passed onto my children, and they represent the values of the Democratic Party – hard work, commitment to service, and ensuring everyone equal opportunity to reach their goals.”

By STEVE BAILEY

SteveBailey.us

 

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