Editorial: One Way to Kill a YMCA in Queen Anne’s County

If Google Earth could display such things, the map program would have shown thousands of Queen Anne’s County kids crying and parents shocked in disbelief after hearing that QAC Commissioner President Phil Dumenil single-handedly killed any chance for a public pool being built in Centreville anytime soon.

He did that by informing the public on April 8th that he was withdrawing his support of an agreement between the county and Chesapeake YMCA to share the cost of constructing a new recreation center and indoor pool across from Queen Anne’s County High School.

By reneging on his commitment for the agreement, which was approved by a 3-1 vote in December, Mr. Dumenil has, in essence, frozen the project for the foreseeable future.

It doesn’t seem to take much for Mr. Dumenil to turn on a dime. After signing the agreement with great pride in November by saying, “this will be a great benefit to the families of our county,” Mr. Dumenil made a complete flip on his position with a statement at the end of the Commissioners’ meeting last week that he had changed his mind after talking to some constituents.  No specifics were given and nor were there suggestions on how to improve the agreement to move forward.

This was the same council president who only five months prior had boldly said:

“While some may question  why the County is providing funding for a Y, the lack of an indoor pool in this county would have eventually led us to funding one at one or both of the high schools,. Through this partnership though, the county will not be burdened with the operating/maintenance/staffing costs associated with an indoor pool which can be extremely high. We see it as a win-win.”

And yet, after talking to “some constituents,” he announces at the end of a two hour meeting that he had changed his mind.

Here is his statement which runs two minutes in length:

One is left only to imagine what those “constituents” had said that so quickly changed the mind of a once passionately committed proponent of the project. Mr. Dumenil does not say what wisdom was offered that led him to now call it, “not a good partnership.”

In short, Mr. Dumenil is saying that he does not have confidence in the Young Men’s Christian Association to fulfill their part of the agreement. Having first understood that time was needed for the Y to raise $4 million in individual gifts and foundation grants in order to reimburse the county after the building was completed, the councilman now is demanding all of that up front, presumably in cash rather than personal checks.

Remarkably, almost out of the blue, he also suggested that the YMCA might need to contribute more than the 50% they had already committed to raise, but did not indicate why and for what reasons. And this was done with full knowledge that the YMCA had also committed be providing the operational support for the building.

But the most troubling in his statement was his lack of respect for YMCA community leadership and their ability to fulfill their financial commitments.  Nor did he seem it fit to mention the YMCA’s extraordinary current contributions in the lives of thousands of QA County children and adults.

This is the same YMCA that voluntarily took over the management and costs of running the only existing public pool at Chesapeake College after the school could not operate it.  When they heard the pool building was to be torn down, it was the YMCA that invested staff time and financed the feasibility studies for the Centreville project to replace it.

For Mr. Dumenil to blindside such an important friend of QAC without warning is a action that he and his constituents will need to morally evaluate in the months ahead.  But to turn away from a project that would provide the only public pool and recreation center for over 10,000 kids in Queen Anne’s, in partnership with a world-class nonprofit organization willing to put up half the money for the building, as well as cover the costs of its operation, is unconscionable.

Perhaps Mr. Dumenil’s other “constituents,” like the children and parents of Queen Anne’s County, might have a word with him. It seems to work. He can be reached at:

email: pdumenil@qac.org



Editorial: Ending the Stigma of Recovery


When it comes to alcohol and drug addiction, American society is of two minds: On the one hand, we recognize addiction as a chronic brain disorder and primary medical disease; on the other, we perpetuate the notion that addiction is a moral failing — a weakness to be shamed and punished.

We know you are sick… but why have you made such a bad moral choice?

Such is the “logic” by which addicts are branded with the red hot “A” of stigma, and by which our response to addiction is as dysfunctional and damaging as the disease itself.

For 23 million Americans now living in long-term recovery from addiction, a sense of second-class citizenship still prevails. The culture and language of addiction recovery remains tied  to the concepts of “failure,” “suspicious” and “loser.” Time and time again, we see a judicial system punishing addicts in the name of a failed “war on drugs,” and continuing to punish them by restricting their access to the fundamental needs that constitute a recovery environment. For example, food stamps are withheld from mothers with previous drug convictions, the right to vote can be uncertain in the case of a drug conviction, medical insurance can be cut off or denied, children of parents with drug convictions can be placed in foster care, and employment opportunities are greatly diminished

For each one of the millions now in long-term recovery, it is estimated that there is one actively addicted person who is not seeking treatment. Two-thirds of U.S. families are personally affected by addiction.

However, there is a light shining through all this darkness – a light that is growing stronger and brighter. The stigma of addiction is being challenged by those with the most intimate understanding of its price: people in long term recovery. And it’s catching fire nationwide, thanks in large measure to the documentary film, “The Anonymous People,” which focuses on the new recovery advocacy movement.

“The Anonymous People,” produced by manyfaces1voice.org, is the clarion call of a nationwide grass-roots, social justice movement dedicated to helping  “transform public attitudes and policies affecting people seeking or in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.”

The film is a shared narrative by people in long-term recovery. Its power lies in the courage of those individuals who stepped out of the shadow of stigma into the public discourse in order to offer hope for the untreated. Often, the screenings – which are taking place all over the U.S. — are followed by a short talk given by a member of the community who describes his or her experience in long term recovery from addiction. Here on the Eastern Shore, the film was screened in late February at The Avalon Theatre in Easton, to a near-capacity and extremely appreciative, enthusiastic audience. More screenings around the region are scheuled, including one to be announced in Chestertown. Caroline County will be screening the movie 6:30PM on Friday, May 9 at the Denton Public Library, 100 Market Street.

The local screenings have been organized by Recovery for Shore, a new, regional advocacy group that includes individuals and organizations involved in the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol addiction and in providing support services for individuals and families dealing with related issues. Following their lead, The Community Newspaper Project (Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy) believes that the recovery advocacy movement should be a fundamental community health project. To that end, and with the support of Recovery for Shore, we have created a Recovery section that will now appear on the front pages of the Talbot Spy and Chestertown Spy.

The section banner will read “Recovery for Shore — Ending the Stigma” to acknowledge the umbrella organization of medical, mental health, social and family services professionals involved in addiction recovery, and also to promote the group’s mission to end the stigma of addiction. Articles, interviews, first person accounts and essays, and regional recovery resource information (including specific initiatives, programs, services and schedules) will be ongoing themes in the Recovery section.

Our goal is to help end the mythologies and prejudices regarding alcohol and drug addiction, as well as the ongoing marginalization of people in long-term recovery. We encourage you, our readers, to follow this important social issue as it evolves in our local communities by checking in on this new page, Recovery for Shore, and we also invite your feedback.

Again, there are 23 million Americans living productive, meaningful lives in long-term recovery – our hope is to provide information that will support the strategies that have made their success possible and enable many more to join them.



Editorial: Chestertown’s FUBAR Moment

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It is a particularly painful moment when an editorial writer must reach back to an old World War II epitaph to adequately describe the calamity associated with the Washington College/Chestertown Task Force.

The Spy will leave it up to Wikipedia to help our readers understand the precise definition of the military acronym, FUBAR, but indeed this is the only accurate description of how Chestertown’s elected leadership, administrative management, and a local newspaper shot themselves in the collective foot last week.

The facts are simple enough. The town and the college recruited eight of Chestertown and WC’s best and brightest to help “fix” Chestertown’s economic woes with the necessary assurance they could conduct their work in private.

This dream team included a highly regarded former Maryland Stadium Authority chair, a former high ranking Pentagon official, and one of the county’s most respected historic buildings and land conservationists. Add to the list the locally revered names of Athey, Massoni, and Kuiper, and you begin to realize how successful and thoughtful the council and the college had been in balancing the composition of the task force.

Now, after a year’s work, which included dozens of meetings with over 150 different people from in or near Chestertown, all seven remaining members resigned last week* after being served a FOIA request by the Kent County News, and at the same time were told by Town Manager Bill Ingersoll and the town attorney that they should seek their own legal counsel just days before their final report was to be presented at the Jan. 27 council meeting.

Say what? How could this possibly have happened?

The simple part of this puzzle is understanding the motives of the task force members. Any citizen volunteering time and expertise to a economic development study, with the complete and full assurance of their confidentiality by the local government, and then suddenly be subjected to a hostile FOIA request, left only one rational option, resign with an appropriate Bronx cheer.

This is what the KNC asked for in their FOIA letter:

1. From Councilwoman Linda Kuiper, member of the “task force.”:

Waterfront Task Force “draft report” and drawings of “waterfront concepts.” All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to Margo Bailey Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014. All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to John Moag Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014.

2. From Mayor Margo Bailey:

Waterfront Task Force “draft report” and drawings of “waterfront concepts.” All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to any task force member Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014. All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to John Moag Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014. All emails/memos between Margo Bailey and Mitchell Reiss, over the same period.

3. From Mayor Chris Cerino/Planning Commission Chairman Chris Cerino”

Waterfront Task Force “draft report” and drawings of “waterfront concepts.”All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to any task force member Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014.All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to John Moag Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014.

4. From John Moag, Chairman of the “task force.”

Waterfront Task Force “draft report” and drawings of “waterfront concepts.”

5.  All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to Al Massoni Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014.

6. All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to Matt Tobriner Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014.

7. All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to Rebecca Flora Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014.

8. All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to Linda Kuiper Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014.

9. All emails/memos addressed, cc’d or bcc’d to Mitchell Reiss Oct. 1 to Jan. 6, 2014.

No sane person could respond to this kind of witch hunt request and not decide they had much better ways to spend their free time.

The piece of this puzzle that is more hard to understand is why the town’s leadership, both elective and administrative, allowed this disaster to unfold.

Why, for example, did the mayor and council, after agreeing to allow the task force to deliberate and consider options in private for twelve months, not protect or forewarn the volunteers of potential legal and other liabilities as a direct result of council’s May vote to re-define the obligations of the town’s volunteer-led committees?  How could they allow their own volunteers to be exposed to this kind of disclosure requirement?  And why did the town manager and town attorney, Stuart Barroll, recommend to the volunteers that they obtain their own legal counsel to deal with the FOIA request?

Even more troubling is understanding the motivation of the Kent County News. Why did a local newspaper make the careless choice to intentionally endanger Chestertown’s long term economic future by dropping this bomb only one week before the task force was to present their report to the public?

One can only guess why institutions and people shoot themselves in the foot. But this is truly Chestertown’s FUBAR moment.

The test now is to see how Chestertown’s new mayor and other town leaders can possibly resurrect the task force and its important work. The community will find out at the next council meeting on Monday night.

But perhaps it is not too late to have another kind of FUBAR moment, which is Fixed Up Beyond All Recognition.

* Rebecca Flora, a town-appointed task force member, resigned in December on professional grounds after the task force began the process of requesting public funds from the town council for conceptual drawings.