Editorial: We’ve Been There with the Talbot Boys Before but Haven’t Done Anything

When the full impact was felt from the violence in Charlottesville that took place in front of a statue of a Confederate general last weekend, it is suspected that more than a few Talbot County citizens felt a certain degree of deja vu as the media once again put the spotlight on similar Civil War memorials commemorating those who served to defend the institution of slavery and state rights.

Two summers ago, Talbot County faced its own moral dilemma in discussing the fate of the Confederate soldier monument entitled “For The Talbot Boys” on the Courthouse lawn in downtown Easton. This came in the aftermath of the Charleston massacre, which motivated the local chapter of the NAACP to file an official complaint with the County requesting that the statue be removed.

That NAACP complaint led the Talbot County community into an intensive six-month conversation about racism and the history of the Eastern Shore and slavery. Several town hall meetings were arranged to discuss these issues, dozens of letters to local newspapers were published, and open hearings were hosted by Talbot County Council.

The Talbot Spy also felt the need to provide extensive coverage of this issue. Thinking it was consistent with our educational mission, and also seeing it as what educators called a “teachable moment,” we completed an eight part special series (re-published in today’s Spy) with historians, religious leaders, elected officials, and local citizens to provide context and commentary on what Talbot County needed to do in the face of this difficult moral dilemma. We also didn’t hesitate to offer our own opinion on the statute.

The outcome of this debate, as ratified by the Talbot County Council members, was to keep the Talbot Boys statue where it stands today. Their decision, represented by Council President Corey Pack remarks, talked about the legal and cultural reasons why monuments like the Talbot Boys should not be disturbed. While President Pack made it clear that more could be done to acknowledge the real history behind the statute, as well as the Union boys that also died in the conflict,  the Council did not see these solutions as part of their legislative responsibility but encouraged citizens to take on a leadership role to rectify these profound gaps.

But since that summer of 2015, it is sad to note that not one group or individual has stepped forward to ensure that the full story of Talbot County in the Civil War is honored. The Talbot Boys still sits on the Courthouse lawn without interpretation, without a balanced viewpoint, nor acknowledging the other four hundred young boys from Talbot County that fought for the Union and end slavery.

Perhaps the Charlottesville tragedy will spur our community to take action finally. But this time, let’s please finish the job.

 

 

 

Easton Sidewalks: Thinking about Anne Truitt on South Street

Anne Truitt childhood home in Easton

One of the more interesting projects that the Talbot Historical Society recently introduced was a running list of the most respected and well-known Talbot County residents over the last three hundred years or so. It’s a fascinating lineup but one can’t recall seeing Anne Dean Truitt’s name among the top one hundred.

There should be no surprize with that omission. While Anne Truitt’s sculptures and art are just a few degrees south of Andy Warhol’s work in commercial value these days, and the subject of more than a few major retrospectives at such places as the Hirshhorn Museum since her death in 2004,  it is still understandable that this brilliant art minimalist, who grew up on South Street, would not be on the tip of the tongue of most folks living in Easton these days.

Nor was Truitt in Easton that long. Her family left town when she was fourteen for Asheville, and never really returned to the Eastern Shore except to visit friends from time to time. The artist would move on to Bryn Mawr College, then training in psychology at Yale, and eventually marry to James Truitt, a Washington Post reporter who eventually became president of Newsweek.

Anne Truitt

One would think with that kind of biography, Anne Truitt’s Easton days would be a very limited chapter in her memory bank of experiences. But the truth was that the artist would continue to keep her memories of Easton and Talbot County very much alive as she matured as an artist.

We know this to be true from the publication of her best-selling journal, Daybook, which was published in 1982, where she recalls her life in Easton and documents the impact that the landscape of Talbot County had on her work.

Attention Rewarded: Anne Truitt

Whether it be on a farm just off of Leehaven Road or the family home on South Street, Truitt’s mother philosophy that, “children should be brought up like cabbages — with lots of sun and space and let alone to grow,” allowed Anne to roam as she pleased during the 1920s and 1930s. Or, as she wrote, “and so it was with the little town of Easton, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore: an orderly scattering of houses, mostly white clapboard, so small that even on my short legs I was able to encompass the town’s dimensions. ”

Truitt also fell in love with proportions as well as dimensions in Talbot County. She writes in her journal:

“The actual landscape, of course, remains, and I returned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland now and then to look at it again. And at the houses in which I grew up.  The first of these is owned by a friend, and when I visit her I can see once again, by scrunching down, the proportions that taught me as a child. The house was probably built around the middle of the 18th century and is never been remodeled in any way. But what I remember is clearer to me than what I see today. I go back and yet cannot go back. Time has locked it all away from me as if I had died. I am irremediably thrust into my own mind, and there I find it all, in weights and lines and colors distinctively my own. Just as in my work I found it was the essence  rather than the objects that held me, so I find it is only the abstract part of my experience that is real for me. I wonder around the houses and gardens and see them with my physical eyes, while behind them glimmers the radiance of my vision. I have no home but me.”

Easton Sidewalks is an ongoing series of portraits of its streets and people

 

 

 

Editorial: The Departures of College Presidents Sheila Bair and Barbara Viniar

Just as with friends getting divorced, when colleges separate from their presidents there is that familiar feeling of sadness as well as the usually unanswered question as to why it had to come to “this.”

“They seemed like the perfect couple, or “what a terrific team,” or, better yet, “they were made for each other, what happened?” The phrases that come to mind when everyone’s favorite couple announces they are getting a divorce seem no different than when a school’s board of directors sends out press releases that their current CEO has abruptly resigned.

And that seems to have been the case with the recent announcements by the Boards of Chesapeake College and Washington College that their current presidents, Barbara Viniar and Sheila Bair, both of whom had records of significant accomplishments, would be leaving their posts under less than clear circumstances.

The general public, just like friends of divorcing couples, is not in a position to seek clarification for these quick changes. Just like in observing a marriage from afar, they are not privy to the kind of private conflicts, misunderstandings, or simple incompatibility that college presidents may or may not have had with their governing boards. The community at large is left to mind their own “beeswax” having neither the authority, nor the position, to press for better answers.

The Spy finds itself in a similar position. We are not in the business to speculate or second-guess volunteer boards on managing these local institutions of higher education unless there is evidence of malfeasance which, to our knowledge, does not seem to be the case with in these two cases.

But that does not preclude us from saying that both of these women demonstrated a love of their institutions that achieved great and significant improvements in how their schools pursued their mission.

Barbara Viniar’s ten years at Chesapeake College almost perfectly paralleled the remarkable sea change in community college education throughout the country. And during that time, Dr. Viniar held firm in her conviction that through innovation and curriculum reform, Chesapeake College could navigate through the pitfalls of funding shortages and political conflicts to become all the more useful and relevant to the communities it serves. She should take pride that she has left the community college in Wye Mills stronger and more vibrant as a result of her leadership.

And while Sheila Bair at Washington College did not enjoy the same lengthy tenure as Dr. Viniar had, it was stunning for many observers, including the media, how quickly she was able to define the mission of the College to include an intensely public campaign to reduce student debt. She also instantaneously became the primary national advocate in shedding light on the precarious subprime educational loan market, earning her well-deserved coverage in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

It is these records of accomplishment that make these transitions painful to hear. But it also a reminder of how extremely difficult being a college president is these days. Beyond the usual tensions that come with faculty demands, alumni grievances, and high board expectations, college leaders must operate will fewer resources, tighter regulations, and new performance metrics based on “return on investment” calculations. In short, these are really hard jobs.

As the Mid-Shore awaits news of their successors for both schools, it behooves us all to acknowledge the personal leadership offered by these impressive women. They both should feel a sense of accomplishment as they move on to their next role.

We wish them well and with our gratitude.

 

Editorial: Voting for the Status Quo in Easton on May 2

The Spy has taken a particular note of interest in a recent Star Democrat article that three Easton Town Council seats are up for election on May 2; but in all three cases, there will be no opposition to the incumbents.

Normally this would be a pretty dangerous sign of community indifference. To have these many seats up for a vote without other candidates, much debate, nor new points of view aired, is not an especially healthy thing for our democratic process.

A case in point was the remarkable news a few years ago of the unchallenged rule of the mayor and city council of Bell, California (pop. 35,000), who approved such mind blowing acts as setting the town manager’s salary at $1.5 million a year. In the end, seven Bell officials, including the former mayor, four city council members, the town administrator and his assistant, were convicted on graft and corruption charges. Bell is a worse-case scenario that happens when citizens are detached and where election challenges are few.

The good news for Easton is that this kind insouciance is not the case here.  Instead, the opposite might be true. The May ballot reflects the subtle, but nonetheless clear indicator that the community supports the status quo and its leaders.

The words “status quo” these days immediately suggest in our increasingly divided political life a bad thing. That by voting for the status quo, or being at peace with it, is somehow a problem or too passive. But literally, it just means “the current state of things.” It doesn’t mean tough issues are being ignored, nor does it mean things can’t improve. In Easton, it means that our current elected officials are doing the very best they can for a town they deeply care about.

As our Spy profiles last year so powerfully indicate, it is hard to see how this town could find more conscientious, thoughtful, and altruistically-motivated individuals in leading Easton then President John Ford, Megan Cook (Ward 4), and Peter Lesher (Ward 2).

Through a combination of well-managed, respectful, and transparent deliberations, as well as a strong impulse against unnecessary drama, these three leaders have carried on the business of government with reassuring results during their last terms in office. It is no wonder that no challenges have come forward.

That does not mean there’s no reason to go to the polls on May 2. For a variety of reasons, including to demonstrate vigilance, show affirmation, and offer a bit of a pat on the back for these office holders, the Spy encourages voters to continue to mark their ballots for this wise leadership. As the town continues to be challenged with economic development needs, as well as a sundry of difficult social issues, including opiate crisis, multiculturalism, and affordable housing, it would be a nice time to send a message to these three that the community is so very grateful that they have Easton’s back.

Megan Cook (Ward 4)

John Ford (Council President)

Peter Lesher (Ward 2)

Editorial: The Serious Threat of Fake News

As our more observant readers noticed today, the Spy has run our annual fake news story in honor of April Fools’ Day with the announcement that the Eastern Shore will have its own rapid transit system next year. We have also enlisted columnist Howard Freedlander into this fictional project with his reporting that Annapolis is moving ahead with a tunnel from the Bay Bridge toll center to Claiborne to connect with the new system. We hope these two breaking news stories will be enjoyed as much by the Mid-Shore region as it has been for the Spy team to produce.

April Fools Day has always been a cherished tradition at the Spy. From our announcement last year that Trump International was constructing a luxury twenty-four story apartment building in Claiborne to the Town of Chestertown accepting responsibility of Binny, an orphaned giraffe, in exchange for funding the town’s Marina on the Chester, The Spy writers allow this field day of imagination to test readers aptitude in depend on their judgment of what is true or false, no matter how crafty our art director is with photoshop

We are also glad that this unofficial national holiday comes only once a year, since the Spy, like any responsible publication, depends on the community’s trust to fulfill our mission as an important educational news source for the Mid-Shore. While it is always tempting to take poetic license during the rest of the year, our desire to maintain our reputation for credibility will always trump our enjoyment of irony or mischief.

Sadly, we are living in a culture where an increasingly large number of independent media sources have turned April Fools Day into a daily occurrence. The production of fake news, from every end of the political spectrum, has invaded our daily consumption of information. And the results of which has been devastating.

In the last year alone, fake news impacted a presidential election, caused a gun assault at a family pizza restaurant in DC, and has sent the United States Congress into endless and costly investigations using false news reports on such topics as Benghazi or presidential wiretapping.

It is particularly hard to imagine that this harmful practice will end anytime soon but that doesn’t necessarily mean it must remain such a potent force in our culture. But it does require that citizens, the country’s consumers of news, become increasingly become more vigilant in relying on their good judgment and common sense rather than accept at face value what they find on the internet.

Home by Sue Ellen Thompson

While it may seem traditional to share with our Spy readers a special holiday message or image as Talbot County ends one year and begins another, it is our instinctive choice to turn to poetry to celebrate this important passage of time.

In this case, we turn to poet Sue Ellen Thompson and her reading of her poem “Home” to set the tone as family and loved ones return to the Shore for reunions and holiday cheer.

We chose “Home” for the same reasons that National Public Radio’s Garrison Keillor chose this particular poem two years ago for the award-winning program devoted to poetry. It is a poem that creates unforgettable images in the mind’s eye for all who listen and think of their own homes during this season of memories.

The Talbot Spy editors and writers send our best wishes to our readers and those coming to our very special home of Talbot County.

This video is approximately one minute in length. “Home” by Sue Ellen Thompson, from They. © Turning Point Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission and can be purchased here.

Sue Ellen Thompson is the author of five books of poetry, including They (2014), The Wedding Boat (1995), and This Body of Silk (1986). Her two other books, The Leaving: New & Selected Poems (2001) and The Golden Hour (2005), were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Known for her elegant control of form, Thompson’s poetry has been praised for its metaphorical heft and sinuous syntax. Poet B.H. Fairchild praised The Golden Hour for its “elegant, wild, beautifully disciplined quatrains and casually rhymed sonnets.” She is also the editor of The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (2005).

Thompson has received numerous awards and honors, including the Samuel French Morse Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize, the Maryland Author Award, and two Artist Fellowships from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. She has taught at Middlebury College, Wesleyan University, Binghamton University (SUNY), and Central Connecticut State University. She currently works at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and tutors adult poets.

Spy Recovery Urgent Message for Mid-Shore Heroin Addicts

With the news that the Talbot County Narcotics Task Force seized the largest heroin bust in county history this week, it is very likely than many of the estimated 400 to 600 active heroin users on the Mid-Shore will be facing a major shortage of the drug’s supply.  For those addicted to the substance, the anticipation of the shortage will undoubtedly cause severe and life threatening withdrawal symptoms.

The Spy and the Mid-Shore Recovery Community want to alert those individuals that it may be an ideal time to seek treatment for their addiction rather than face a painful withdrawal process. We are recommending that they contact Chesapeake Treatment Center in Easton as a starting point.

The CTS is a clinic located just off our Route 50 dedicated to the recovery of individuals struggling with opioid addiction. You can start the process for treatment here

We would also remind those suffering from addiction to go here to see a summary of resources on the Mid-Shore.

 

Publisher Note: The Spy Launches Senior Nation for a New Generation on the Mid-Shore

Simply stated, the Mid-Shore has one of the most extraordinarily large and diverse senior communities in the United States. In addition to its native population of people over 50 years old, the Eastern Shore has become one of the most sought out retirement communities for Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. residents, all of whom have been attracted to the local beauty of the Chesapeake and its extraordinarily diverse cultural opportunities.

Kent County News June 1978

Kent County News June 1978

To match this remarkably unique constituency, The Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, the Mid-Shore’s non-profit, educational online newspapers, has launched a unique portal we call Senior Nation that is dedicated to this important Shore demographic. With the support and partnership from Heron Point at Chestertown, Londonderry on the Tred Avon, Shore Regional Health, Upper Shore Aging, Talbot County Senior Center, and a dozen other stakeholders focused on those Mid-Shore senior issues, we plan to expand our primary mission of being a major educational conduit for this unique demographic.

Since the Spy began in 2009, we have always been interested in senior life. While this may reflect our readership, since, over 70% of the Spy’s 250,000 readers that come to our online newspapers every year, are over 50 years old, I have been acutely aware of Mid-Shore aging issues since working with Upper Shore Aging in the late 1970s to run their Meals on Wheels program. From those early years, when I was twenty-two years old, in learning of the particular hardships that come with aging in rural communities, that interest has expanded, since reaching the age of sixty, to lifelong learning, cultural programming, caring for aging parents, and new models of aging-in-place practices.

I am also pleased to announce that William C. Rolle, Jr. (Bill) has agreed to serve as editor of Senior Nation. Before his retirement to the Mid-Shore in the early 1990s, Bill spent his career running a highly successful marketing firm in Washington, D.C. and now serves on the Talbot Hospice, Londonderry on the Tred Avon, the Easton Airport Boards, and serves on the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Executive Committee. Rolle graduated from Georgetown University with a master in communications from American University. He also has taught branding at Georgetown and courses on advertising and marketing at Washington College.

Through the use of original content articles, reader-provided columns, features on services, and a public forum and comment, The Spy intends to move beyond a bulletin board format to provide a comprehensive overview of being older on the Mid-Shore for a new generation of senior citizens.

Dave Wheelan
Executive Editor

Editorial: On Zoning and Gun Control

The New York Times recently reported the 100th birthday of zoning in our country. In 1916, New York City enacted the first zoning ordinance in the nation.

Like many other nationwide trends, the implementation of zoning ordinances spread slowly but surely across our country such that they are now a ubiquitous reality although there is the inevitable exception to the rule – Houston is a major city which still does not have a comprehensive zoning ordinance.

The idea of zoning was embraced, and ordinances were enacted, in many towns and counties on the Eastern Shore in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Today zoning ordinances are accepted – mostly – as effective tools in maintaining the “quality of life” that is unique to the Chesapeake Bay region.

But the essence and stark reality of zoning regulations are that they are profound restrictions on our fundamental property rights.

Those rights were established by centuries of the development of Anglo American “common law”. They were more fully legitimized and expanded by and through the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and later codified by zoning regulations and other legislation.

Indeed, the right to the ownership, use, enjoyment and protection of property in the United States is one of the most fundamental and cherished rights of our democratic society and republic. Yet as a nation, we now universally accept the impact of the restrictions land use laws impose on our use of that property.

In 1926 – in a seminal case known as Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. – the Supreme Court confirmed that zoning regulations are a reasonable exercise by state and local governments of their “police powers” to protect the collective best interests of our citizens and communities.

Perhaps there are others who agree that a reflection upon the 100 year history of zoning in our country can give rise to a thoughtful and enlightened perspective on the current debate about the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

On one extreme side of that debate are those who believe that there should be virtually no governmental restrictions on the right to own firearms. On the other equally polarized side are those who believe that firearms of all types should be all but totally prohibited.

Unfortunately, the groups who advocate those extreme positions are not infrequently the loudest, to the end that they drown out the voices of those who believe that there can be a reasonable and appropriate middle ground which both limits and protects our Second Amendment rights in fairness to all – in many ways like the restrictions imposed on our property rights by zoning regulations.

The majority of us cherish and embrace our right to own and use firearms for recreational and safety purposes. Therefore, it may be that those people who fear that the “slippery slope” of gun ownership regulations will mean the decimation of our Second Amendment rights are unreasonably paranoid.

The key point is that reasonable regulations of gun use and ownership can be implemented – in the same fashion as zoning regulations – to the end that the Second Amendment will retain its profound importance to the psychology, culture and realities of our collective safety and enjoyment.

There are many Americans – probably a significant majority actually – who are “in the middle” in their belief that the right to bear arms was intended to be interpreted reasonably as time has passed since that essential Bill of Rights protection was enacted more than 200 years ago during the Age of Enlightenment & Reason in America.

Many people reasonably and instinctively believe that our Founding Fathers could not have intended for the Second Amendment to be interpreted expansively to allow individual citizens to bear modern weapons of war for the simple reason that they could not have anticipated the development of such destructive arms – and the potential harm they could cause if in the wrong hands. Likewise, notwithstanding their wisdom and intentions for the establishment and protection of personal liberties and property rights, the Founding Fathers could not have anticipated the need for and benefit of zoning and laws.

While there are some inevitable imperfections in our zoning laws, the reasonable regulation of land use has given rise to our fantastic kaleidoscope, fabric and diversity of cities, towns and rural areas, and serve to protect the interests and rights of us all. There is no reason why reasonable regulations of firearms cannot do the same.

And one other thing . . . what is the big deal to and consternation of Second Amendment advocates about the imposition of “waiting periods” and gun registration and licensing requirements?

After all, our zoning ordinances include all sorts of waiting periods before the issuance of many types of building and use permits, zoning board approvals and the like, which in many cases are not issued until after weeks of public notice and hearings.

We all accept that permits – which are a type of registration and licensing – are needed for all sorts of land use, the most benign of which are for new homes . . . perhaps our most cherished property of all.

A dispassionate view of gun licensing and waiting period regulations is that they really should not be – and are not – a big deal when compared to the same type of restrictions on our property rights.

The point here is not subtle . . . if we can all accept restrictions on our property rights, should we not also be able to accept them on our right to bear firearms?

As we reflect upon the 100th birthday of zoning, perhaps there can be hope, and should be optimism, that we can find a common ground on a reasonable modern day interpretation of the Second Amendment . . . but like zoning regulations that restrict our most cherished property rights, it must be “somewhere in the middle” to reasonably protect the individual and collective interests of us all.

In other words, there are many of us who appreciate, have faith and believe that if the Constitution permits a century heritage of the reasonable regulation of our cherished property rights by zoning regulations, then it also permits reasonable regulation of our Second Amendment rights . . . no more and no less.

Editorial: The Importance of Ruth Starr Rose

Some thirty-five years ago, the stepson of a deceased local artist stepped into the Chestertown studio of art conservationist Ken Milton with the idea that Ken may have some interest in his mother’s work. Ken agreed to look at the art, and a few weeks later, Ken and Dick Rose met at Rose’s Colchester home to look at Ruth Starr Rose’s portfolio.

Remarkably, the artwork was not protected inside steel cabinets, or even carefully stored in an attic, but instead on Rose’s back porch. It was quite apparent that the paintings had been exposed to the elements for many years, but as Ken began pulling the art into the daylight, it didn’t take him long to realize he had come across something quite amazing.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.59.16 AM

Ruth Starr Rose

One by one, images of beautifully dressed children, handsome men in suits, pretty women in dresses, all African-Americans, started to emerge while Dick Rose slowly recalled his mother’s love for her neighbors in Unionville, who had become Ruth Starr Rose’s subjects for most of her career.

Over the next three decades, Milton would painstakingly repair and restore a significant number of her work, but it wasn’t until art historian Barbara Paca noticed one of them in his studio a few years ago that a unique partnership formed to find and protect Ruth Starr Rose’s work and the legacy of the families of Unionville and Copperville.

The cumulative effect of that hard work has finally emerged, and starting Friday, through the generosity and vision of the Dock Street Foundation, it will be on display at the Waterfowl Building for the next seven weeks. It might be the most important art exhibition ever to be shown on the Eastern Shore.

That may be in part due to Ruth Starr Rose’s skill as an artist. Trained at the Maryland Institute College of Art in the early 20th century, Rose quickly adopted a form of portraiture that demonstrated superior ability. But to place emphasis exclusively on the artist’s mastery would tragically misunderstand why Ruth Starr Rose’s art is so relevant. As competent an artist as she was, it was her subject matter that makes this exhibition the powerhouse that it is.

When she moved to Talbot County after her marriage, Rose rejected the temptation to continue her artwork with drawings of the Chesapeake Bay landscape or waterfowl in flight, and instead chose to concentrate on human portraits. But rather than work on traditional subjects of the times, like wealthy estate owners and their children, Rose instead was drawn into the community and its church that lay just outside her door.

And it is this cumulative impact of art, community, and spirituality that Rose brought to her portraits of African-Americans that makes this so invaluable to the Eastern Shore and its history. At a time when racial tensions still remain high, Rose’s work brings into focus a different kind of world of beauty, pride, and humanity.

From documenting families to finding visual imagery for traditional spirituals, Rose depicted the quiet dignity and historical relevance of Unionville and its residents in ways rarely seen. It was through this artist’s eye that one is reminded of the real Eastern Shore, and its African-American communities of strong families, local heroes, and breathtaking history.

Over the next few days, the Spy will be sharing some of that history with its readers to entice many on the Shore to make the trip to Easton to see Ruth Starr Rose: Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World. This once in a lifetime event not only brings to life a part of the Eastern Shore too often ignored or misunderstood. but it will remind us again of what a special place it truly is.

Ruth Starr Rose: Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World
April 30 to June 16
The Waterfowl Building
40 South Harrison Street
Easton, Maryland