Op-Ed: Political Earthquakes are Cruel and Avoidable by Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Sinnott

A truly devastating 2001 earthquake prompted our government to grant “Temporary Protected Status” to homeless families from El Salvador.

Today, some 260,000 Salvadorans work and live in our country. About 20,000 of these men. women, and children, live right here in Maryland. Republican and Democratic administrations extended the program, for humanitarian reasons.

These residents, who live peacefully among us, are law abiding, have been demonstrably productive workers, paid taxes, raised families, bought homes, bolstered economic development of their communities, and graduated from schools and universities.

For example, I have known a Salvadoran family who came here after the earthquake. Since then, their five children have grown into model Americans and are now in the work force. All have graduated from high school. One attends university and is also an office manager in an insurance firm, two work in agricultural related concerns, and two are managers in service and food businesses. All attend church. All are kind, generous, capable and caring people of whom I’m very proud. They are testimony to what makes us a great nation.

But those decent people are in danger, and very afraid. Now a political earthquake is threatening both them and the Eastern Shore itself.

Out of the blue, on Jan. 8, Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, announced she would end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador, with a delayed effective date of 18 months, to allow for an “orderly transition”, before the designation terminates totally on Sept. 9, 2019.” (www.uscis.gov retrieved January 11, 2018.)

So, ask yourself, “What is a family who has lived here for 16 years to do now? Should they leave all that they have built and achieved and move back to a country that is not ready to receive them? Should they leave their children, many of whom are in fact U.S. citizens, behind?”

Ask too: “Who will replace the workers forced to leave their jobs?

Above all, ask: “Why is this sudden change of policy necessary?” It is an affront to our fundamental values as an immigrant nation. It is mean-spirited. Don’t we value the “American Dream?”

Don’t we want to keep families together, not split them apart? Can’t we give our Salvadoran neighbors, who have given so much to this nation, a path to obtaining a Green Card and eventually become citizens? Terminating this program is not in our own self-interest.

Please join me in asking our Maryland Senators to work toward a humane and comprehensive immigration policy. Senators Van Hollen and Cardin are doing their best to protect all of the people in Maryland.

The real problem is on the Republican side of the aisle. The Republicans and the Trump administration just bequeathed to our children and grandchildren a $1.5 trillion deficit to pay off, so that the rich and corporations have even more largesse. They are dismantling programs that give working and middle class people a fair chance to improve their lives. They are fostering division between classes, races, and nationalities.

For the Eastern Shore, one of the biggest problems in Washington is Dr. Andy Harris our Congressional representative. He votes against anything that helps us — for example, to name just one matter, Federal aid to help Eastern Shore Marylanders to recover from Hurricane Sandy. He votes for legislation which helps the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class citizens, like the recent tax scam.

Join me in asking Dr. Harris, to stop hurting the Eastern Shore business community because of his punitive and mean ideology. Most of all, ask Dr. Harris to stop punishing the Eastern Shore

by raising our taxes, depleting our workforce, supporting regressive immigration policies, and undermining the democracy we all hold so dear.

 

Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Sinnott is affiliated with Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible

I Didn’t Know about Mental Illness until I Did By Liz Freedlander

For most of my life, like many of my friends and family, I knew hardly anything about mental illness until I started a consulting relationship for a few hours a month with Channel Marker. This piece about my experience has been writing itself in my head for a while.

I have had my heart broken open by the people who Channel Marker serves. I now know about persons diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness and their families. Please read these words again: SEVERE and PERSISTENT. You can often tell by looking that people living with mental illness do not fit our definition of normal. We want to look away. I don’t look away any more because I now know about mental illness.

The chemistry of the brain of mentally ill persons usually has been changed. In some cases, by exposure to terrible things as a child that have resulted in PTSD. All this time, I thought PTSD was relegated to war experiences. Channel Marker does serve war veterans. (One Vietnam vet still hears the screams of men and the sounds of gun-fire). It also serves children and youth diagnosed with PTSD.

Many of these ill persons suffer from schizophrenia, often occurring out of the blue while in their twenties. They hear voices or have visual hallucinations – often – sometimes constantly.

During a conversation at the Channel Marker Holiday Party, one of these young men and I were having a pleasant conversation when he apologized for wearing his sunglasses. He said, “They help me with the voices.” This was once a young boy, like any young boy, who grew up riding bikes with pals in his neighborhood and enjoying family vacations. Now, he can look a little scary.

For some reason the tattoos, including the one in the middle of his forehead, give him meaning in his difficult life. He is polite and sweet and has a sense of humor. He religiously takes his meds although the side effects make him feel debilitated. They help him cope.

I have met parents. The heartache never goes away. One mother said, “The stigma of mental illness makes me feel as if my son spends each day out in the middle of a field where he is pecked to death.” One father’s sadness was palpable as he explained that his son does not take his meds so his symptoms, out of control, make it very difficult to have a relationship.  Still this father  faithfully makes an effort. You can see the pain in this man’s eyes as he describes the vibrant young man with a blossoming career who was once his son.

Lisa is a grown woman whose children live with other families. She has pretty red hair like I once did. She has PTSD with symptoms of chronic depression and anxiety disorders. She told me her life story. I cried. Her childhood with a cruel, narcissistic mother portended poor choices of men in her life. The ultimate result was fleeing for her own survival from a marriage so abusive that she had to leave her children behind with their father. She mourns the loss of her kids. I leave it to your imagination as to what might be part of her story – when she wears a skirt, she always wears pants under it. Her anxiety causes her to be unable to work in an environment where she might be alone with a man.

But this is not the totality of my experience. I have experienced hope and help delivered in the most compassionate and professional manner by Channel Marker. While mental illness may not be curable; it is treatable. The caring staff see beyond the illness into the hearts and personhood of their clients. They provide emotional support, life-skills, goal setting, job-training and placement, triage for health problems, places to live, a peer group and just plain normal laughter. There are success stories.

Only the brave and the optimistic can do this work every day. I think they are heroes. Marty Cassell, a therapist who has worked at Channel Marker for 25 years and a married father of four boys, is tall and attractive but rarely smiles. I asked him one day if the work is heavy. He said, “I love my work because I can see positive changes in my clients. Do you know that in addition to my day job here at Channel Marker, I work evenings for Mid-shore Council on Family Violence to provide one-to-one counseling for battered women. I also have a support group for men who are batterers.” He answered my question.

There are victories to be celebrated because of Marty and his colleagues at Channel Marker. Lisa who lost her children is strong and clear about her past and her future. Her goal is to have a job in an agricultural setting and be an advocate for sustainable farming. She has poured her maternal love into her cats and has a fiancé. She is a student at Chesapeake College and was recently invited to take an honors course. She, like many others, credit their successes to Channel Marker.

Channel Marker annually serves about 400 individuals almost 50% of whom are ages 21 and younger, in Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester Counties.

Liz Freedlander has been a resident of Talbot County for 41 years. She was executive director of Talbot Hospice from 1990 to 2004 and recently retired as director of development from the Horn Point Laboratory after 10 years. She has been a fundraising consultant to a number of local nonprofits. Liz has been raising money for nonprofits since the age of 9 when she canvassed her neighborhood with a tin can and collected $5.94 for the Baltimore Symphony.

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Exelon: Analysis Shows Conowingo Revenues Insufficient to Fund Additional Sediment Mitigation

Providing clean, reliable and affordable electricity has been the paramount focus for Exelon Generation and the Conowingo Dam for the last 90 years.

In December 2017, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy released a statement and accompanying report by Energy & Environmental Economics (E3) that incorrectly assessed the economic status of the Conowingo Dam. The NorthBridge Group, performed a detailed analysis of the E3 report and found that the E3 conclusions are fundamentally flawed due to a gross over-estimation of the future revenues of the Conowingo Dam.

The E3 report inaccurately inflates future revenues in two ways. First, the report greatly overestimates the dam’s capacity revenue, which Conowingo earns for being available as an electricity resource. The dam’s capacity revenue going forward is expected to be roughly 80 percent less than the E3 report estimate. Second, the report bases Conowingo’s future revenues on 2013 energy prices, which are much higher than today’s prices and expected future energy prices. Energy prices in the market available to Conowingo were 30-45 percent lower in 2016 and 2017 versus 2013, yet the E3 report ignored this fact.

When the E3 analysis is run using current information, the analysis demonstrates that Conowingo’s revenues are not even high enough to cover costs plus an adequate return, let alone sufficient to fund additional contributions for sediment. Conowingo provides significant benefits to the region, as confirmed by more than 50 studies since 2010.

As a member of the Chesapeake Bay community, Exelon Generation remains steadfast in our commitment to helping identify the most effective ways to address the health of the Bay.

Exelon Generation
Kennett Square, PA

 

NorthBridge Group Report

Exelon’s Share for Mitigation on the Conowingo Dam by Tom Zolper

The Conowingo Dam 20 miles north of the mouth of the Susquehanna River has been the focus of scientific scrutiny and concern since the 1990s, and public worry for the past five years. The reason is simple: the pond behind the dam that trapped dirt for decades now has filled up.

More of the dirt (also called sediment) and phosphorus clinging to the dirt are reaching downstream water. In addition, storms scour sediment and associated nutrients from the pond and flush it downstream.

These additional pollutant loads are a problem because we already have too much phosphorus and nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay – from farms, sewage plants, and other sources. These chemicals are plant food, causing algae blooms that suck oxygen from the water when they die and decompose. The added sediment coming through the dam also is a concern for effects on downstream habitats.

When Bay states and the federal government agreed in 2010 to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake —the so-called Bay pollution diet—they thought we had more time to deal with the situation at the Conowingo. We don’t. What to do?

In 2015 the U.S. Army Corps said the most cost-effective solution was to reduce pollution reaching the dam from upstream in Pennsylvania and New York. Governor Hogan has also proposed a small $4 million pilot program to see if dredging at the pond could also be a part of the solution.

Whatever is determined to be the best solution or set of solutions, one thing is clear: it will cost more money. That’s why a new report commissioned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) offers some good news: The owner of the dam can help chip in.

The report, “An Economic Analysis of the Conowingo Hydroelectric Generating Station,” concluded Exelon can afford to contribute $27 million to $44 million a year to help fix or mitigate the problem and still make a healthy profit. The study used publicly available finance numbers about Exelon’s operations at the dam, as well as standard industry information. It was prepared for Water Power Law Group and CBF and TNC but researched and written by Energy+Environmental Economics in California. Exelon to date has offered to contribute only $200,000.

The company shouldn’t be responsible for the whole solution. It didn’t cause pollution from upstream farms, sewage plants and other sources to discharge into the Susquehanna and flow downstream.

While it is important to hold Exelon accountable for the impact of the dam on downstream water quality and habitat, it’s important to keep the Conowingo issue in context. First, the impacts of the lost trapping capacity and scouring during storm events are significant but not catastrophic. In fact, as the situation at the dam has worsened for the past few years, the water quality in the Bay has steadily been improving.

Also, studies show that the slug of new pollution moving past the dam will cause effects primarily on the mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay. Most rivers that feed the Bay such as the Choptank, Nanticoke and others will not be impacted, nor will the thousands of fresh water streams in Maryland. Local counties and communities will remain responsible for cleaning up pollution in their backyards.

So, we can’t blame Conowingo for all our water woes. The dam is only one of many problems we face trying to clean up the Bay. But we can ask Exelon to do its share, just as we ask everyone else to pitch in. We know the company can afford it.

Tom Zolper is the assistant media director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The Virtue of Slow By Tom Horton

My bike has but one speed, unfashionable in a high-geared, tech-fueled world that now affords cyclists push-button shifting through a range of gears sufficient to conquer the Alps and pass Porsches.

Single-speeding is limiting — but also liberating. It makes you respect the lay of the land, seek the gentler slopes that meander alongside the hills, value the wooded corridors that block headwinds. Your pedaling becomes more efficient, your legs stronger. There is more to the joy of bicycling than more gears, more mileage, higher speeds.

The virtues of slow are especially relevant now to saving the Chesapeake Bay and the larger environment, as Congress debates major tax reforms based on a single, awful premise: We must grow the economy faster and bigger than ever.

“We face a crushing burden of debt which will take down our economy,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said. But his tax plan will add an acknowledged $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion to national indebtedness. It’s the only way “to get faster economic growth,” Ryan said. And “faster economic growth is necessary for us to get our debt under control.”

Never mind the circularity of that argument, or the fact that economists across the political spectrum think the level of growth Republicans are counting on is unachievable. The real dirty secret is that virtually no one on either side of the political aisle thinks that roaring faith-based growth would be undesirable; just unrealistic.

But environmentally, such growth would be disastrous, as will be Congress’s all-out, desperate attempts to achieve it if the tax package passes with its present, pedal-to-the-metal economic expansionism — think repeal of regulations, fast-tracking fossil fuel energy projects, suppressing troublesome climate science.

And what’s bad for the planet is bad for the Chesapeake, where a warming climate and sea level rise threaten wetlands, water quality and habitat. Plus, even under the best of circumstances we’re going to be hard-pressed to meet air and water quality goals by 2025.

And, environmental success is linked to economics as surely as my rear wheel is chained to my pedals.

The day may come when we achieve the inspiring vision articulated by green architect and designer William McDonough: “Imagine they announce a major new mall and your reaction is, ‘great’ that will mean cleaner air and water and more habitat for wildlife.”

In the meantime, despite progress in greening our economy, we still can’t grow without a negative impact on air and water, without depleting the habitats and natural resources we share with a shrinking array of other species, without adding to climate change.

And we scarcely even know how to hold a meaningful conversation about the broad implications of economic growth and environmental quality. Nor how to talk about the very real alternatives to high growth, and the benefits of steady-state economies that put no premium on growth at all.

An economy not devoted to growth is usually disparaged in grow-or-die terms, but it is more about quality over quantity. It emphasizes moderation of the rampant depletion of natural resources or filling the air and water with wastes like carbon dioxide. Education, innovation, community, time to ride a bicycle — all these can still grow. Population would not need to.

We need such conversations — not just because of growth’s environmental impacts — but because uncritically chasing after high growth as the path to greater national well-being is a dead-end strategy.

Consider the 4- to 6-percent annual economic growth projections spouted wishfully by supporters of current tax reforms — the way Congress pledges to atone for all the loss of revenue.

There were several decades where growth did come at least near the current, wild projections, writes economist Robert J. Gordon in his epic, The Rise and Fall of American Growth (2016; Princeton University Press).

But that ended by the 1970s, and was fueled by truly fundamental innovations, such as the automobile, the electrification of the United States and antibiotics, as well as the kind of world-shaking events we always capitalize: World War II and the New Deal that followed the Great Depression.

That period is not repeatable, Gordon and others argue, and the modest economic growth of recent decades bears him out. Productivity, or output per unit of labor and capital, is key to real growth, and it has been comparatively sluggish for decades.

But Congress persists in chasing high growth like an old dog that in puppyhood found something gloriously stinky to roll in, then revisits the spot daily with undiminished expectation.

An old dog may be indulged, but the crew in the U.S. Capitol would profoundly change our economy, environment be damned, addicted to growth that can’t happen.

Let them ride single-speeds.

Tom Horton has written about Chesapeake Bay for more than 40 years, including eight books. He lives in Salisbury, MD, where he is also a professor of Environmental Studies at Salisbury University.

“Talk Sense to a Fool and He Calls you Foolish” by Joseph Prud’homme

When the moral perversity of the Hollywood culture-crats is bemoaned by modern liberals, I can’t help but exclaim, in the same way, Dionysus replied to Pentheus in the classic play The Bacchae: wisdom is foolish—most especially to a fool.

How foolish it was to think the very same men who gave us Magic Mike and Bad Moms—obscene filth with degraded trash on nearly every scene—could be paragons of moral virtue. Sleaze is what sleaze does. Only the fool fails to see.

Yet, mugged by recalcitrant reality (to paraphrase Irving Kristol), liberalism’s leading lights now denounce the predations of Harvey Weinstein and similarly sleazy scoundrels. But, I hasten to ask, how can liberals denounce with moral or intellectual consistency the depraved actions of Weinstein and his Hollywood hoodlums yet still praise the vile porn these men push in the malls and cineplexes, from Seattle to Sarasota? They can do so only by becoming even greater fools.

The greatest of fools, in fact.

Indeed, it was Chelsea Clinton’s favorite hack-site, Common Sense Media—a Hollywood-celebrating “review” rag purporting to “improve[e] the media landscape for kids and families”—that suborned moms to see the disgusting skin flick Bad Christmas Moms 2 with their teenage daughters. Yet Chelsea Clinton lionizes the (often quite necessary) #Metoo advocacy ascendant in the cultural zeitgeist.

It’s high time liberals not only decry the sexual perversities of the men who run the Hollywood movie houses, but also decry the very filth these men spew in theatres across the country. To condemn one without the other is to be blind to the toxic culture Hollywood pedals—and the negative consequences the smut they merchandize has on our nation’s moral conscience.

The pop-Media moguls and all the politicos dependent on their ill-gotten cash will no doubt cast me a prude for asserting a tight nexus between the smut these men pander and the vice these ogres live. However, the social science data on mainstream smut is staggering. Social psychologist Ross O’Hara, for example, has documented that highly sexualized content—especially when created or viewed in a mainstream setting and in the normalized context of a close circle of friends—has a powerful impact on one’s sense of propriety and forges sexual scripts in the minds of makers and viewers that heighten risks for aggressive and offensive behavior.

These men on the tops of the Hollywood Hills scarcely do much more than rehash smut upon smut upon smut. That that they should be smutty scumbags themselves only heightens a truism we all used to know, before these Titans of Titillation convinced us otherwise: “monkey see”—your mother, your minister, your teacher knew too well—“monkey do.” Indeed, it was no unctuous preachiness that led St. Paul to instruct all individuals of moral seriousness to “set one’s eyes on higher things.”

Proverbs, moreover, tells us that “doing wrong is like a joke to a fool.” “Oh, it’s all escapist fun; it’s simply raunchy humor”:

The last refuge of a Hollywood porn pusher—and a sexual harasser—or worse. Proverbs, however, also reminds us that “the wise will inherit honor, but fools only get disgrace.”

Better words scarcely have been spoken.

Joseph Prud’homme is a professor at Washington College, and founder of the school’s Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture. He lives with his wife and family in Easton, Maryland. 

From South of Left Field: Trajectory – Be the Message by Jimmie Galbreath

Life, governments, societies, and organizations are all moving constantly along a trajectory. People have trajectories too. Since the only constant is change, we have no choice but to follow some kind of evolving path. Like the shark, we must remain in motion to live.

Much has been made of voting to ‘send a message.’ I have a question for the reader. Given a choice would you rather cast a single vote as a message or actually be the message yourself every day?

Not marching all over the place carrying signs, not writing innumerable emails and letters, not making phone calls or canvassing. Make yourself the message around the clock by making occasional single acts which combined with many others can become an irresistible force in politics. No worries about tear gas, police violence or arrest. It doesn’t take much time out of your life and calls for only a slight effort on voting day and a little attention in between. Write only when you wish and march only if inspired.

This path has not been followed in over one hundred years. It is a new experience, and it would scare the bejesus out of Washington and all the lap dogs that populate it. It isn’t illegal, in fact, it is what the Founding Fathers envisioned so long ago.

I am tired of living on the political treadmill that has been created by the politicians to wear us out and divert us. The very fact that so many of us want to be heard and yet feel that we aren’t important is telling us something. Stop thinking about it and just listen to your gut reactions. If you share my feelings of despair, anger, and disgust and find yourselves seized by a sense of helplessness, then we are together.

Our government is made of two parties that, like the laws they vote on, have so woven the turds with the tulips that it seems nothing generally desirable ever makes it into law. The issues thrown out by these parties are an artful balance that keeps us focused on just one thing because we have been conditioned to believe that only one thing can ever be done at a time. Since when are we so mentally deficient that we can’t see a larger picture? Why would any of us choose to believe that? Are we really completely satisfied with a sound bite or a meme? Have we been trained that well? I don’t believe it!

The growing anger and activism by both ends of the imaginary line the politicians play on reflect the gut sense that we are being betrayed. Let me say again, the IMAGINARY line. Right wing and left wing. Who decided this? The desire to have a path for going up the ladder isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘left’ anything. The desire to have a way to support our children going to college or training a marketable skill isn’t a right or left thing. Improving our safety by replacing desperation with hope isn’t a right or left thing. Who else feels manipulated? Who actually trusts a politician? I stepped outside my world for a moment and realized that I didn’t trust them, yet I listened to them and voted for them. I felt foolish.

How many of you have ever picked a candidate before they appeared in front of you in a primary? Who picked them? Why were they picked?

Our political system like our stock market is rigged to favor the elite class and restrain us. We can play at them but the game is rigged to favor the upper class. Occasionally someone breaks the ceiling, but it happens less and less. Does this image ring true to you? If these words paint a picture that feels true then what do we do with it? How can it be changed?

The laws and actions that fill the news can be changed. Every tax, every law, every regulation can be changed or reserved by those who have votes in Congress. Even the way the weaving of turds and tulips is done can be prevented by new laws. Our problem as common citizens is that we don’t have an organization free of control by the upper class to listen to us. The biggest problem is that we have been taught to wait on ‘the party’ to put up a candidate. We have been taught to wait on a leader to step forward. Don’t look to any other organizations outside the Republican or Democratic parties to respond to us no matter how they actually don’t respond to us. Do you feel they respond to you?

A new trajectory requires a new organization. Both parties today are dealing with ‘progressive’ movements that garnered the support of people screaming for something new. Both groups of ‘new’ voters rose like a newly formed and young army, and both are bleeding out their energy and focus by assaulting the existing organizations head-on. I don’t believe reforming these parties will yield results. They belong to the upper class, they are supported by the upper class, and they have a long, long history of going against the common voter on behalf of the upper class. It is sad to say we can’t outvote them with dollars. Income inequality is making sure of that. We can however out vote them. It is our only real power.

We need to deny these parties the only thing we have that they cannot do without. Votes. Find another party and join it. Join it in large numbers and use your votes within the party to select the new leaders that will step forward. Organize where the elite class has not established itself, then deny them entry. Don’t be put off by the quality of the old candidates because they can be replaced by new leaders who will follow the votes or arise from the new organization.

Find a party and be the message by not belonging to the old parties. Be dedicated to the new and don’t support the old. Remain firm in the new party and vote for it wherever you can. A large shift in registration and voting will drive change. Courage and focus by us all can shake Washington to the very ground. Don’t allow yourselves to be limited by just one issue. Hold a wider vision and reject anyone who says you can’t get more than one thing at a time. Be the message. Be the change.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served 3 years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Op-Ed: The Dumbing Down of Smart Growth will Fail to Preserve MD Landscape by Tom Horton

If you’re not yet worried about Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s abandonment of Smart Growth, you might want to read a new study on how Dumb Growth could cost Frederick County taxpayers some half a billion bucks.

First, a brief Smart Growth primer (which was once available on the Maryland Department of Planning’s website — until the website and department became a joke under Hogan): Smart Growth is the antithesis of sprawl, which is development outside areas planned and built for growth. Sprawl gobbles open space, increases air and water pollution, and costs more in new services than it ever offsets with taxes from new residents.

Sprawl, or Dumb Growth, can work politically, though, at least for a while. You just call it Economic Growth, or just Growth, which sounds fine to many people, especially bankers and developers and pavers and homebuilders — all of whom are good at electing candidates who’ll butter their bread.

That’s the way it worked in Frederick County for several years, until a more progressive slate of county officials took over in 2015 and began toting up the cost of “progress” under the former regime.

An August 2017 report done for Jan Gardner, the county executive, examined developments in the pipeline that will create 21,000 new housing units in the county, adding 50,000 new residents, 10,000 of them school age.

The fiscal bottom line: Taxpayers will fork out $340 million for roads and another $167 million for schools beyond anything that was planned or budgeted for, the county spokesman said.

A number of these developments also lock the county into agreements for up to 25 years, so that even if zoning gets stricter or developer fees are raised, the presently approved growth remains exempt.

The Frederick experience illustrates the perils of poorly planned residential growth, as well as the fallacy of believing it generates enough new revenue in property taxes to outweigh the demands it makes on government services.

This was one of the reasons that Maryland, under Gov. Parris Glendening in the 1990s, became a pioneer in pushing Smart Growth. Martin O’Malley, who preceded Hogan as governor, added teeth to Smart Growth in 2012 with a landmark law sharply limiting new development in areas that are predominantly farm and forest.
That law did not literally usurp traditional county power over land use; rather it dramatically curtailed, across rural landscapes, the use of septic tanks, on which sprawl development depends.

The law in recent years has begun to make a difference, and a major reason was the vigilance and “jawboning” of the Department of Planning, combined with the assistance it provided to counties in complying.

That threatens to unravel under Hogan, who announced in August to the Maryland Association of Counties that “Plan Maryland,” as O’Malley’s version of Smart Growth was called, “is off the books.” He was putting land use “back into the hands of local authorities,” Hogan said to applause.

The governor has also made it easier to develop using septic tanks again and given Cecil County a pass on complying with the 2012 anti-sprawl law.

He has not overtly tried to repeal the law itself, but in addition to Cecil, at least three more of Maryland’s 23 counties — Wicomico, Allegany and Queen Anne’s — have adopted plans or are pushing developments counter to the law.

But nothing is stopping any county whose citizens want to grow smartly. Charles County in Southern Maryland is a shining example after a six-year campaign to overturn a ruinous development plan.

As of 2016, Charles finalized a plan that stopped an estimated 339 major subdivisions on septic across 88,000 acres of open space. It also stopped about 123 new subdivisions in watersheds designated high water quality.

The new plan finally protects Mattawoman Creek, one of the Chesapeake’s best fish habitats; saves an estimated $2 billion on new roads; and cuts projected population growth in the next 30 years from 75,000 to 37,000.

Several Maryland counties have excellent compliance with the anti-sprawl law, while several others remain a mixed bag. For information on your county, contact 1000 Friends of Maryland, a statewide environmental land use group.

Rating Gov. Hogan environmentally is complicated by the reality that he is a tree hugger compared with national Republicans and the Trump administration, which set the lowest of bars.

He’s been good by any measure in important areas like Program Open Space, the state’s premier land preservation effort, and in aspects of air quality, such as greenhouse gas reductions. His transportation programs, though, remain far too road-improvement oriented, as opposed to pushing mass transit and mobility.

His environmental secretary, Ben Grumbles, gets high marks from environmentalists. His natural resources secretary, Mark Belton, might be good if nastier Hogan appointees would butt out of managing Bay fisheries.

The governor got a “needs improvement” grade on his 2017 report card from the Maryland League of Conservation voters; that’s the next to lowest of five ratings the group gives.

Hogan remains popular and has a good shot at re-election in 2018. But if the housing economy picks up, I fear a return to major sprawl development. In his re-election bid, the governor will face tougher questions about Smart Growth than he’s gotten so far.

Tom Horton has written about Chesapeake Bay for more than 40 years, including eight books. He lives in Salisbury, where he is also a professor of Environmental Studies at Salisbury University. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.

Op-Ed: Shore Residents should Save the Historic Tax Credit by Nicholas Redding and Katie Parks

Caught up in the current effort to reform the federal tax code is a critical program that has completed nearly $25 million worth of rehabilitated historic buildings on Maryland’s Eastern Shore since 2002. The Federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) is a 20% credit on the cost of rehabilitating a historic building and is a powerful and efficient tool for revitalizing our nation’s small towns and cities.

For every $1 invested by the federal government, the program attracts nearly $4 in private investment. Better yet, for every $1 in credits, the program returns $1.20 to the federal treasury – actually yielding a profit for the government. The results have been stunning and have changed the outlook for many communities.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore the program has a long history of revitalizing communities while also saving important historic buildings. Since 2002, in Easton alone the program has incentivized the rehabilitation of $10 million worth of buildings – from main street shops to former industrial buildings. A perfect example is the McCord Laundry facility, home to the Eastern Shore Conservation Center – a mixed-use campus of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and apartments. In Cambridge, the program is supporting the rebirth of Race Street, providing critical equity to make the rehabilitation of the Hearn Hardware Building a reality. The formerly vacant and crumbling building will now host market rate apartments and first floor retail space; yet another positive outcome thanks to the Historic Tax Credit.

Elsewhere in Cambridge, the Historic Tax Credit is incentivizing an ambitious and potentially catalytic project that will convert the vacant Phillips Packing Co.’s Factory F into a hub of commerce, industry, and education. Without the Historic Tax Credit and the New Market Tax Credit program, which is also seriously threatened, tackling difficult projects like this in rural communities would not be possible.
Repeal of the Historic Tax Credit should be of grave concern for anyone who cares about the future of the Eastern Shore’s charming small towns and cities. Reuse of historic buildings will plummet and investment in downtowns will become increasingly cost prohibitive. In turn, property values will sink and local coffers will suffer as property tax revenue plummets. New construction will move to the fringes of communities – resulting in more sprawl and the subsequent loss of farmland. Fortunately, this is a future we can avoid.

Organizations and municipalities all across the state and the Shore are calling on Congress to save the Historic Tax Credit. It’s also a rare opportunity for bipartisan agreement – it was a favorite program of President Ronald Reagan and has been championed by Republican and Democratic leaders alike in this latest tax reform debate. Eastern Shore residents should reach out to Congressman Harris and let him know they support preservation of our historic properties and investment in our towns.

Nicholas Redding & Katie Parks

Nicholas Redding is the Executive Director of Preservation Maryland, the nation’s second oldest statewide preservation organization.Twitter: @PreservationMD. Katie Parks is the Director of Conservation at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, a land conservation and community development non-profit organization. Twitter: @EShoreLandC

Opinion: Tangier Island needs Help no Matter how you Define its Woes by Tom Horton

When I began a documentary film this year about climate change and the Chesapeake, I knew that even though local residents were affected by it, I’d never be able to record most of them talking about sea level rise.

They know what they see. And around Dorchester — Maryland’s lowest-lying county and the focus of our film — residents see erosion of the shoreline, high tides that seem to come more often and forests dying along the marsh edges.

It’s easy to talk past one another, we who are comfortable with the lingo and concepts of climate science, and those who are not — even while all talking about the same thing.

This was on my mind recently when my friend, James “Ooker” Eskridge, the mayor of Tangier Island, VA, appeared on a CNN Town Hall with former Vice President Al Gore, one of the world’s foremost proponents of how humans are warming the planet.

Eskridge, who’s not convinced that this is really happening, was invited on the cable TV show because of a phone call he got earlier this summer that brought him in early from fishing his crab pots.

The caller was President Donald Trump. He’d heard about Tangier’s plight: battered by erosion that will soon spell its demise if it can’t find an estimated $25 million to $30 million to bulwark its Bay shore with rock. He’d also heard that the island of some 400 residents, with a culture harking back to 17th century England, had voted nearly 90 percent for him last November.

Ooker heard Gore out, but maintained: “I’ve lived there 65 years and I just don’t see it (sea level rise).”

I talked about the disjunct between the two men with Michael Scott, a colleague at Salisbury University and a professor of geography whose specialty is environmental hazards.

He and I are both in Gore’s camp on climate; but Scott has as good a feel as any scientist I know for explaining the nuances and complexities of such global, long-term phenomena at the level of the average citizen.

“I was upset that CNN portrayed (Eskridge) as this sort of pro-Trump nut job,” Scott said. Eskridge is not wrong at all when he says Tangier’s problem is erosion, the professor said, adding that it’s happening very quickly and is very noticeable.

“But there are really two processes going on and they are not separate,” Scott added.

The second process he refers to is sea level rise, propelled by a warmer climate that is melting glaciers. That’s exacerbated by land around the Bay sinking back to its original contours after being pushed upward by the glaciers that extended into Pennsylvania during the last Ice Age.

Add to that the thermal expansion of the oceans as they warm and the potential slowing of the Gulf Stream that could back up more seawater in the Chesapeake.

Rising sea levels make erosion worse. But Scott’s not at all surprised that Tangier’s mayor said that he “didn’t see it (sea level rise).”

Sea level rise at this point, unlike erosion, “is happening very slowly,” coming up mere inches throughout Eskridge’s lifetime on the Chesapeake.

“It’s been slight enough up to now that it’s actually very difficult to measure unless you’re taking very precise scientific measurements,” Scott said.

But the overwhelming scientific consensus, he continued, is that the Earth’s temperatures have reached the point where a measurable acceleration in sea level is under way. In the Bay, it will add 2 feet or more to everyday tides by around 2050.

The forecasts for 2100 are less certain because we can’t tell how fast the massive ice sheets of Antarctica will melt. But estimates foresee everyday tides 5.5 feet above present levels, “and that’s probably on the low end . . . every time we look at it, it seems our estimates are too low,” Scott said.

A couple wrinkles disguise the coming impact further, he said.

First, it is quite possible for waters locally to shallow up as seas rise. In our filming, we’ve found examples of this in Dorchester County. The sediment eroding from shorelines and disintegrating marshes has to go somewhere, and it may fill in channels and other places where currents carry it.

The larger complication, Scott said, “is that sea level rise is not linear.” In other words, it isn’t going to happen steadily, inch by inch, over the years. That would be relatively easy to predict and respond to.

Unfortunately, the path to 2, 3, 5 or more feet of daily tide around the Bay is going to resemble a curve that steepens as average high tide levels rise.

“The trouble with an increasing curve is that for a while, things will seem as if they’re OK, but then the rate’s going to really increase and you’re going to lose the ability to adjust to it,” Scott said.

Helping localities around the Chesapeake adjust is where Scott’s passion lies; and he said we’re still at a point on the curve where we can act reasonably and cost-effectively.

“This (Delmarva) Peninsula is very precious to me and to my family . . . we want to preserve it for our children and we can do that if we are honest with what’s happening and with how we can try to respond,” he said.

He finds most people don’t care too much about why the tides and the erosion are getting worse, or about the politics of climate change.

“They want to know what is going to happen to them and what they can do about it,” Scott said. For many, the real threat won’t come in their lifetimes, and they aren’t likely to pay tens of thousands of dollars to jack up their houses.

The key he said, is to honestly acknowledge the threat and install public policies that over time guide “the way that development takes place, rearrange the way people build their homes, the way roads are maintained.

“And as we lose marshes we are going to need spaces on the landward edge for them to move into. . . . We’re going to need to buy the development rights to such places from the people who own them now . . . a very appropriate response.”

In low-lying places like Dorchester County, he said he thinks that “if we can get a hold of this in the next five to seven years, we have time to fix it that way. If we wait, then we will be in crisis mode, and things are going to happen in a very shocking and upsetting way.”

As for Tangier Island, it won’t make much difference now whether Mayor Eskridge and his townspeople vote yea or nay on closing coal-fired plants to reduce the long-term buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Tangier needs rock, pretty soon, and no change in energy policies is going to change that.

Even the best seawall at Tangier is not the same as a dike, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and realistically isn’t going to happen. Even less likely are Trump’s assurances to Eskridge that his island would persist for “hundreds more years.”

But a seawall would buy time for another generation or two of Tangier residents to continue the island’s unique culture and heritage, time enough for hundreds of thousands of us to visit and enjoy that — a reasonable investment in my opinion.

Tom Horton has written about Chesapeake Bay for more than 40 years, including eight books. He lives in Salisbury, where he is also a professor of Environmental Studies at Salisbury University. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.