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: But How Did We Get Here? By Carol Voyles

But how did we get here?

Despite the hardships they may have faced, our nation’s settlers could be compared to lottery winners. Land ownership was a measure of our wealth, and the Land Ordinance of 1785, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 promoted “an empire of liberty” through broad land ownership at bargain prices. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered land at no cost, and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1865 doubled the acreage.

Opportunity was ours, and we owe our forefathers a large debt of gratitude. Aristocrats claimed title to the land settled in South America. Our founding fathers revolted not only against taxation without representation, they made a revolutionary departure from a tradition of aristocratic oligarchy, and the United States of America would become the greatest nation on earth.

There were bumps in the road. From the ashes of our Civil War, we would transition from a predominantly agrarian society into an industrialized society. Our wealth doubled during the Industrial Revolution, but fewer winners made it into our Gilded Age. Labor unions gained ground following WWI, but market speculation ended in the Crash of 1929. We suffered our Great Depression.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal of 1933 included public works and financial reform. There were objections to government intrusion and an 8 percent increase in government spending, but WWII would increase spending by 52 percent. We also experienced levels of economic growth only dreamed of today, and would elect more Democrats and only a Democratic Congress over the next 3 decades.

Our veterans worked hard and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, but were offered a hand up at the starting line. Their education was free. VA mortgages made homes affordable, and wages supported a family. Our middle class became the wealthiest on earth during our nation’s Golden Age.

We were also paying down an enormous war debt, and likely complained about taxes as we piled our families into our new cars and headed out to dinner and a movie. I had wondered at this phenomenon at a family gathering, but those taking these complaints seriously had Frederich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.” The “conservative bible” warned against government intervention.

Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” soon followed, also rejecting “collectivism.” Rand Paul was named for Ms. Ayn, but by 1973 journalist Irving Crystal had become the “godfather of neoconservatism.” Embracing supply side economics and the concept that tax cuts pay for themselves, he would later acknowledge a “cavalier attitude toward budget deficits,” but prioritize “political effectiveness over government accounting deficiencies.”

In other words, trickle down hadn’t worked, but one might claim it does. That message would persist, and the party that had led us into our Great Depression would create 2.5 times more debt as a share of our economy, advise us “deficits don’t matter,” and lead us into our Great Recession.

Since WWII Democratic administrations have, without exception, reduced budget deficits. Yes, even President Obama.

Jobs and wages top our list of concerns, though. Plowing through government data, we also find that since WWII nearly 3 times as many jobs have been created during Democratic administrations, wages and median household incomes increased more and faster, and minimum wages were up 16 cents annually versus 6 cents.

We’re all about business by now, and our bottom line is that our economy has grown more and we have all done better during Democratic administrations. Economists Blinder and Watson made our job easier by presenting undisputed government data, acknowledging economic cycles, and confirming that since WWII our economy has performed better by every positive economic measure during Democratic administrations.

This outcome may have been foretold in 1792. Record keeping was spotty then, but we chose the “tyranny of democracy” over the tyranny of aristocratic oligarchy, and our bill to revive our cod industry required everyone from the cabin boy to the captain to share in the profits.

Examining the eternal struggle between personal freedoms and a civilized society, William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” was published in 1954 and remained on required reading lists in 1980; yet we would be led into the Republican Revolution. We got tax cuts, and while our government is spending less as a share of our economy than other industrialized nations, it is not yet “small enough to drown in a bathtub.” We are being promised our “biggest tax cuts ever.”

As CEO compensation is reaching hundreds and even thousands of times the wages of average employees, and McDonald’s CEO recently tripled his multi-million dollar compensation package in just one year as taxpayers supplement employees’ wages, it’s hardly surprising to find that the 1 percent of us that amassed 40 percent of our nation’s wealth heading into our Great Depression is closing in upon than level once again.

We’re angry, and perhaps understandably have elected a president who is embracing the politics of division, tweeting “alternative facts,” and taking credit for deals made before he took office, magazine covers that don’t exist, phone calls he hasn’t received, and a nation called “Nambia.”

President Trump has advised, “When the president says it, that means it’s true.” We have no idea how frequently his “great friend” Carl Icahn is visiting, though. The White House visitors’ log has been done away with.
President Obama apologized for his misstatement, the one quoted so frequently, and advised, “Democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.” We have his birth certificate, his White House visitors’ log, records of those meetings, his tax returns, and millions more of us are at least seeing a doctor.

Accountability would be timely. William Jennings Bryan observed over a century ago, “There are those who believe that if you legislate to make the well-to-do prosper, their prosperity will leak through onto those below. The Democratic idea, however, is that if you legislate to make the masses prosper, prosperity finds its way up through every class.”

That’s what we have experienced in the United States of America. We all do better when we all do better, and achieving the highest level of income disparity in the industrialized world isn’t serving us well.

Thomas Jefferson feared an “aristocracy of our monied corporations,” and advised us to “leave no authority existing that is not responsible to the people.” He may have sensed that while capitalism is vital to our economy, working together for a strong middle class nets positive results, while moving in the opposite direction results in the dysfunction we’re experiencing today.

Our forefathers did their part to promote the general welfare. Now it is up to us.

Carol Voyles is the Treasurer of the Talbot County Democratic Central Committee and Board member of the Talbot County Democratic Forum

Letter to Editor: But How Did We Get Here?

Despite the hardships they may have faced, our nation’s settlers could be compared to lottery winners. Land ownership was a measure of our wealth, and the Land Ordinance of 1785, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 promoted “an empire of liberty” through broad land ownership at bargain prices. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered land at no cost, and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1865 doubled the acreage.

Opportunity was ours, and we owe our forefathers a large debt of gratitude. Aristocrats claimed title to the land settled in South America. Our founding fathers revolted not only against taxation without representation, they made a revolutionary departure from a tradition of aristocratic oligarchy, and the United States of America would become the greatest nation on earth.

There were bumps in the road. From the ashes of our Civil War, we would transition from a predominantly agrarian society into an industrialized society. Our wealth doubled during the Industrial Revolution, but fewer winners made it into our Gilded Age. Labor unions gained ground following WWI, but market speculation ended in the Crash of 1929. We suffered our Great Depression.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal of 1933 included public works and financial reform. There were objections to government intrusion and an 8 percent increase in government spending, but WWII would increase spending by 52 percent. We also experienced levels of economic growth only dreamed of today, and would elect more Democrats and only a Democratic Congress over the next 3 decades.

Our veterans worked hard and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, but were offered a hand up at the starting line. Their education was free. VA mortgages made homes affordable, and wages supported a family. Our middle class became the wealthiest on earth during our nation’s Golden Age.

We were also paying down an enormous war debt, and likely complained about taxes as we piled our families into our new cars and headed out to dinner and a movie. I had wondered at this phenomenon at a family gathering, but those taking these complaints seriously had Frederich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.” The “conservative bible” warned against government intervention.

Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” soon followed, also rejecting “collectivism.” Rand Paul was named for Ms. Ayn, but by 1973 journalist Irving Crystal had become the “godfather of neoconservatism.” Embracing supply side economics and the concept that tax cuts pay for themselves, he would later acknowledge a “cavalier attitude toward budget deficits,” but prioritize “political effectiveness over government accounting deficiencies.”

In other words, trickle down hadn’t worked, but one might claim it does. That message would persist, and the party that had led us into our Great Depression would create 2.5 times more debt as a share of our economy, advise us “deficits don’t matter,” and lead us into our Great Recession.

Since WWII Democratic administrations have, without exception, reduced budget deficits. Yes, even President Obama.

Jobs and wages top our list of concerns, though. Plowing through government data, we also find that since WWII nearly 3 times as many jobs have been created during Democratic administrations, wages and median household incomes increased more and faster, and minimum wages were up 16 cents annually versus 6 cents.

We’re all about business by now, and our bottom line is that our economy has grown more and we have all done better during Democratic administrations. Economists Blinder and Watson made our job easier by presenting undisputed government data, acknowledging economic cycles, and confirming that since WWII our economy has performed better by every positive economic measure during Democratic administrations.

This outcome may have been foretold in 1792. Record keeping was spotty then, but we chose the “tyranny of democracy” over the tyranny of aristocratic oligarchy, and our bill to revive our cod industry required everyone from the cabin boy to the captain to share in the profits.

Examining the eternal struggle between personal freedoms and a civilized society, William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” was published in 1954 and remained on required reading lists in 1980; yet we would be led into the Republican Revolution. We got tax cuts, and while our government is spending less as a share of our economy than other industrialized nations, it is not yet “small enough to drown in a bathtub.” We are being promised our “biggest tax cuts ever.”

As CEO compensation is reaching hundreds and even thousands of times the wages of average employees, and McDonald’s CEO recently tripled his multi-million dollar compensation package in just one year as taxpayers supplement employees’ wages, it’s hardly surprising to find that the 1 percent of us that amassed 40 percent of our nation’s wealth heading into our Great Depression is closing in upon than level once again.

We’re angry, and perhaps understandably have elected a president who is embracing the politics of division, tweeting “alternative facts,” and taking credit for deals made before he took office, magazine covers that don’t exist, phone calls he hasn’t received, and a nation called “Nambia.”

President Trump has advised, “When the president says it, that means it’s true.” We have no idea how frequently his “great friend” Carl Icahn is visiting, though. The White House visitors’ log has been done away with.

President Obama apologized for his misstatement, the one quoted so frequently, and advised, “Democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.” We have his birth certificate, his White House visitors’ log, records of those meetings, his tax returns, and millions more of us are at least seeing a doctor.

Accountability would be timely. William Jennings Bryan observed over a century ago, “There are those who believe that if you legislate to make the well-to-do prosper, their prosperity will leak through onto those below. The Democratic idea, however, is that if you legislate to make the masses prosper, prosperity finds its way up through every class.”

That’s what we have experienced in the United States of America. We all do better when we all do better, and achieving the highest level of income disparity in the industrialized world isn’t serving us well.

Thomas Jefferson feared an “aristocracy of our monied corporations,” and advised us to “leave no authority existing that is not responsible to the people.” He may have sensed that while capitalism is vital to our economy, working together for a strong middle class nets positive results, while moving in the opposite direction results in the dysfunction we’re experiencing today.

Our forefathers did their part to promote the general welfare. Now it is up to us.

Carol Voyles
Treasurer, Talbot County Democratic Central Committee
Board member. Talbot County Democratic Forum

 

From South of Left Field: Cover and Concealment by Jimmie Galbreath

Let’s see if I get some blowback for this one, Gun Control.

Now, I grew up cutting my teeth on ‘The Lost Cause’ and World War II as an impressionable little redneck. Liberal colleges and Unions were hotbeds of Communism and guns were tools for hunting and killing wild dogs and vultures to protect new born calves (baby cows for you city folk).

A little over the top but it does reflect my background and my view of guns; not automatic weapons and 30 round magazines by any stretch. I would have laughed at someone saying they needed such things for sport. This brings me to the point, why do some people ‘need’ these things?

I know that the Constitution and Bill of Rights are founding documents and they are clearly deserving of our respect. Time and reading have also allowed me to understand that the Constitution was intended to be a living document rather than a fossil. Amendments have been added, and one actually deleted in our history as our earlier generations have made changes to keep up with world developments and social evolution.

Some actions taken to improve our society have been the 13th Amendment (1865) which abolished slavery (finally), the 15th (1869) protected the right to vote regardless of race and the 19th (1919) which allowed women to vote. Now please reread those three again and try to imagine the society and values that required Amendments to state these rights.

Folks, Americans have demonstrated by these three Amendments the growth AND the gap between the world of the Founding Fathers and the world as of 1919. Our society and our world are still changing and what is and is not in our Amendments reflect who we are today. We have passed an Amendment to abolish alcohol, the 18th, and then repealed it with the 21st Amendment. We decided with the 17th Amendment in 1913 to elect our Senators by popular vote rather than let the State Legislatures do it. In short, the idea that a Constitutional Amendment sits on a pedestal set in stone for all time is silly. So is the concept that the Constitution is like a bible, fixed for all time and beyond tampering or improvement.

Now to guns. The Second Amendment states ‘A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’ In the 18th Century, this was a concept rooted in the history of England so people would have recourse by combat against their government or with their government in defense against invasion. In the world of black powder muzzle loading guns, muzzle loading smooth bore cannons and uncontrolled free flight rockets that sounds reasonable enough.

In America, the presence of a frontier with raids by or against Native Americans as well as a total absence of law enforcement to shield citizens from criminal attack gave further need for having weapons at hand. For me, the image of the Minuteman reflects the reason for the Second Amendment.

Now passes some hundreds of years from then to now. Welcome to the world of scoped sniper rifles that can kill over one mile away, laser scopes, night vision goggles, grenade launchers, machine guns, mortars, flame throwers, rapid fire artillery, napalm, computer guided missiles, drones, armored personnel carriers, tanks, air strikes, cruise missiles, chemical weapons, biological weapons and so much more. That list should paint a picture of what a ‘well-regulated militia’ needs to be ‘necessary to the security of a free state.’

At this point, most would launch into an impassioned argument, but I am largely done. The point here is that for America, times have changed. For our Constitution times have seen it changed to reflect what is hopefully an evolving people. Our struggle to remain a united Nation and to move in the direction of retaining some degree of greatness requires we challenge what is held to be true from time to time.

For myself, I believe the 2nd Amendment is obsolete. State power has grown and changed dramatically, and our best path to internal freedom and a greater sense of security is through our votes, not our guns. The answer to the fear of government is the power of our votes applied in defiance of what any media outlet says. Don’t trust the media, don’t trust the politicians because if we don’t watch them, no one else will. Use your own mind and values and reject all candidates of any Party who don’t pass your own smell test. No vote cast is wasted.

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.

 

Letter to Editor: Time to get Serious about Healthcare

We might recall President Trump admitting to his “great friend” from Australia, ”You have better health care than we do.” That moment of accountability was refreshing.
Perhaps he was reminded that Australia is ranked 4th for positive healthcare outcomes by the Commonwealth Fund, while the U.S. is in last place. We also have the highest drug prices and lowest life expectancies among the nations studied by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the OECD is finding better healthcare outcomes in 29 other industrialized nations, although our costs are by far the highest.

A resident of Scotland visiting relatives in Easton suggested the “big lie” underpinning American health care is that “markets are always more effective than collective action.” She may have a point, considering our outcomes. Capitalism is essential to our economy, but oversight is frequently required in consideration of our general welfare.

Her friends back in the U.K. “thank their lucky stars for universal coverage.” Like the citizens of most other industrialized nations, they have proportionately more physicians and see them more frequently. We were heading to the U.K., too, until their system became overwhelmed, and we were required to do more than establish a local address.

Our own Dr. Andy Harris has been warning us, “Medicare is not single payer,” and suggesting that the marketplace must lead the way. Competition is helpful, but Medicare offers options for additional coverage, as do the single-payer systems of nations whose citizens are spending less, enjoying better outcomes, and living longer.

Once the Affordable Care Act was passed following a year of public hearings, review by 3 congressional committees, and the consideration of 130 amendments. President Obama continued to prioritize reducing costs. A measure he proposed shortly before leaving office would have reimbursed physicians a set amount for the Medicare prescriptions they write rather than basing their reimbursements upon a percentage of the cost of each, thereby encouraging prescribing more expensive medications and driving costs up.

Having attempted to repeal the ACA 60 times over 7 years, Republicans rejected that, too. Now, with control of both the White House and Congress and 7 months of behind-closed-doors meetings, no viable replacement plan has been offered. The Republican health care bill has virtually no industry support and little public support. We have been promised a viable plan within 2 years.

In the meantime, progress is being made. Kaiser Health News and the National Alliance Healthcare Purchasers Coalition are reporting that covering preventive care is paying off. The impacts of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure account for a majority of our health care spending, up to $2.3 trillion per year, yet preventive care for these conditions is rarely covered by insurance with high deductibles.

Coverage for the maintenance of type 1 diabetes is paying off in Minnesota. Over $1 million has been saved on emergency room utilization and hospitalization so far. HealthPartners is suggesting it’s time to change our conversation about healthcare spending.

Our president has made pretty much every statement imaginable concerning health care, from “Everybody’s going to be taken care of,” to “Let it fail,” and “We’re not going to own it.” At this point we might simply hope to hear someone ask, “What good capitalist could argue with better outcomes at less cost?”
Carol. Voyles
Sherwood

Letter to Editor: What Party by Jimmie Galbreath

Political parties. I am sure that we have all gotten tired of the two we have from time to time. Watching elections in Iceland, England and France did create a feeling of ‘choice’ envy for me as these countries have multiple political parties to choose from. It made our two party system seem dull and simplistic.

Looking back to the birth of our Constitution it was mildly surprising for me to see that political parties were not mentioned at all. The Founding Fathers were aware of the existence of such organizations from the Mother Country and there seems to have been some debate about them. My two favorite quotes from their writings are;

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution. ~ John Adams

The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. ~ George Washington, 

These are just two observations from the early leadership of our country. Many of them were seemingly worried about the rapid rise of the political parties of the day. Sitting back and trying to look from afar I think I can see why. Our two party system has settled into two unyielding camps who seem to only care about the “Party” first,  and America only when it is convenient and when elections loom. Each politician wrapped in a flag, legislating for dollars and pandering for votes. This is a far cry from a serious, sober debate about the real issues of our time and how they affect the common citizen.

It doesn’t help that what passes for news today, both in video and print, is often little more than slander. Labels such as Fascist, Libtard, Communist and many others are thrown like mud in passionate declarations, memes, and accusations. I have been driven into near seclusion and left starved for a calm discussion of anything serious because an insulting label comes flying out almost immediately. Once that happens the emotion clouds, and any conversation and reason becomes impossible. Even talking about the weather can get a person labeled if the comment can be linked to climate change by the listener.

What can a citizen do? Well, if we want to be active and can’t stomach our current party choices, vote independent or third party. The current parties holding on to power rests with them getting votes and silencing those who don’t cooperate. Both sides use the same philosophies to achieve this end. Who hasn’t heard, “voting third party is a waste of your vote,” or “he/she is not a Democrat or Republican and so they can’t get anything done.” Another goldie oldie is, “there can only be two parties.” Now, this last one IS true because our Founders for good or ill set us up this way. That doesn’t mean it has to be THESE two parties. Let’s circle back to an inconvenient truth for the current Parties. They cannot maintain power if they can’t get our votes.

The only reason independents don’t wield more power is that there aren’t enough of them. The citizens that can’t stomach the current power duo outnumber the supporters of each of the main parties. Going to the polls and ‘wasting’ your vote is the only avenue open if you want to be noticed. Be defiant, be a rebel, raise a stink, vote for someone else. Not at the presidential level perhaps but absolutely at the state and local levels. Teach yourself to recognize the mindless label when it slithers out from the thrown rock, and understand that the one who threw it isn’t driven by a desire to support their fellow Americans. The rock thrower just wants you, and everyone like you ,to go away; they will pass by the other side.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, Mississippi. He earned a B.S in petroleum Engineering from Mississippi State University, with twenty years nuclear technology experience. Along the way he worked a s 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 and then in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 

Remarks: Jim Brighton on Maryland’s Biodiversity at Horn Point Lab’s Chesapeake Champion 2017

Editor’s Notes: Remarks made by Jim Brighton, co-founder of the Maryland Biodiversity Project, upon receiving the Horn Point Laboratory’s 2017 Chesapeake Champion for the Environment award on June 23, 2017 at the Waterfowl Festival Armory in Easton.
This is so cool!

Thank you Dr. Roman and faculty of Horn Point for honoring me with this award. Thank you for all you have done to make this evening such a success! Thanks also to Amy Haines, Richard Marks, and all the sponsors that have made this amazing event possible. There are too many people that I need to thank without whose help, inspiration and friendship I wouldn’t be here tonight. But a few people stand out that I would like to honor.

First off, if you haven’t met my parents and my sister you need to! They are the most kind, smart, and inspiring people that I know. Their love knows no bounds and they have supported me through all of my crazy wanderings and endeavors.

My wife Colleen. She is my backbone, my partner in all things.

Tommy and Susan Campbell. I have worked for the Campbell’s for almost 20 years. Their kindness and support has never wavered especially when I’ve needed it most.

And finally my partner at the Maryland Biodiversity Project, Bill Hubick. You could not ask for a more kind and energetic person to work with. His drive and knowledge is what really makes MBP work. He puts up with my rants, talks me down from the ledges I often find myself standing upon, and is a constant inspiration. Thank you brother! The next five years are going to be so awesome!

I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to spend most of my life with my two grandfathers. James Richardson, my mom’s dad, was a well known boat builder. My parents and my sister along with my grandparents lived in a small house outside of Cambridge along LeCompte Creek.

My sister and I would be dropped off by the school bus everyday at my grandfather’s boatyard. It was not unusual to see film crews from companies like PBS or one of the major networks interviewing my grandfather. People from faraway places would arrive un-announced at our house just to sit with my grandfather on the back porch. These folks were always welcome. They would listen to my grandfather tell stories late into the evening. It wasn’t until I was older that I would realize that these people had names like James Michener and Howard Chapelle.

My grandfather would take me on walks around the farm, along the river shore and in the woods. He would point out the beauty of a large beech tree or patterns caused by the waves etched in the sand. He liked to sit and watch the sun set over St. Anthony’s and if it was particularly spectacular he would request that the entire family come out and enjoy the vista, mostly in silence.

My dad’s father, the first Jim Brighton (there are lots of Jims in my family) was a Marine Corp Colonel and a naval aviator. He flew corsairs in the Pacific during WWII and flew AD-6’s along Mig Alley during the Korean conflict. What I didn’t realize until I was much older was that he flew communication jamming runs which meant he didn’t have any armament. Everyday he would fly up and down Mig Alley without any protection. After Korea he worked for the government, travelling through East Asia. When he retired he became the head test pilot for Boeing in Philadelphia where he tested every double-bladed Chinook helicopter that was made during the mid and late ‘60’s.

After his second retirement he went back to school and got his masters degree in education. For a few years he was the boys’ dean at a private school in Iowa and then taught high school science at North Dorchester up till the late 1970’s. Grandfather Brighton also took me for walks in the woods. He took a more practical approach to nature walks than my grandfather Richardson. He would quiz me on what things were, what birds were singing or what animal had made tracks in the mud.

I was lucky. From these two members of the Greatest Generation I learned about aesthetic beauty and a practical understanding of that beauty.

My grandfather Brighton gave me my first bird book, the Golden Guide to North American Birds. At night I would sit in bed with my two favorite books, my field guide and my atlas. I would look at the range maps of exotic birds like Roseate Spoonbills and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and then figure out in my atlas where exactly these amazing creatures lived and how I could get there.

When I was finally able to drive I was soon heading to those same places I had read about earlier in my life. One evening after returning from one of my trips my grandfather Richardson told me to come out on the porch and sit with him. We sat there together quietly and then he turned to me and said, “When are you going to realize that there are things to see right here. You need to go and walk the river shore and go to the woods.”

It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that my grandfather was right. There are amazing places right here in our own back yards.

When Bill and I started the Maryland Biodiversity Project one of our main goals was to create a community that revolved around the species that are found here in Maryland. We wanted to stimulate an emotional revitalization with the land and our immediate surroundings; to foster a sense of stewardship that would radiate across any barrier; to once again experience that sense of wonderment that we have all felt when we are surrounded by the unknown.

With this sense of stewardship comes good works. Like the people who have won this award before me, we must all claim our stake in the fight. It is not enough to say that our environment is important. We must act accordingly. Some of us will have bigger impacts than others but we must all accept the responsibility and act. Action is what will make the difference.

The great poet Wendell Berry said it best, “I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with thoughts of grief…For a time I will rest in the grace of the world, and once again be free.”

Thank you.

Op-Ed: Open Letter to Easton Town Council: Role of Retail by Dan Watson

Retailing in America today is in more disarray and turmoil than at any time in my 72 years, with extraordinary churn and instability. I spent 40 years in commercial real estate and finance, including a 15-year stint as a Director of Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Investment Trust that owned and operated the Giant shopping center on Elliott Road. With this perspective, I am very worried about this contradiction: the absolute permanence of land use decisions (especially new development on the edges), versus the completely transitory nature of retail business today.

It used to be that a big name, in retailing especially, meant something steady and reliable. No more. Never have retailers and retailing formats come and gone so quickly. (See, for example, 6 links below.)

Towns like Easton are presented with the retailing idea du jour, sure to become the next big thing. Yours is a heavy responsibility: to keep the fabric of our community in tact in a generational sense, and not just to follow the pied piper of development trends, which were never so capricious as they are today in the retail sector.

A newly arrived retailer with a name and an idea is hardly bedrock. A “deal” with a 10 or 20 year lease sounds like something, but its an eye-blink compared to the permanent impact the resulting land use decision will have on the community, from the details of traffic patterns to the broadest sense of character of Easton and Talbot County. And sudden closures driven by market-side corporate-level tumult rather than specific lease term are all too common. This affects not just small stores like Radio Shack and Chico’s; recent headlines regarding store closings also involve Kohl’s, Target, Staples, and others—Penny’s not to be overlooked.

Adaptive re-use and redevelopment of sites already built upon will be the next strategic challenge for the Town of Easton–that’s where the Council should turn its attention, before, not after, a veritable crisis.

The revolutionary tumult in today’s retail world (mostly driven by technology) means the benefits of any new scheme may be especially transitory, while the community impact is as permanent as ever. I urge that you not further change the Waterside Village PUD, which reflects community-driven land use principles, just to accommodate a particular retailer as it experiments with yet another retail idea of the moment.

m/sites/walterloeb/2015/11/03/bad-news-for-weak-retailers-most-retail-bankruptcies-lead-to-liquidation/#4fc05cdf5e04

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.

 

Op-Ed: Hogan Rolls back Septic Laws; Paves the Way for Dumb Growth by Tom Horton

Critics claiming Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s rollback of modern septic tank requirements will modestly increase Bay pollution are misguided.
It’ll be a lot worse than they think.

Hogan’s administration is opening the gate not only for more-polluting septic systems, but for a lot more of them — for a return to the sprawl development that Maryland has spent most of the last 20 years trying to channel into smarter, cleaner growth.

A little background: Most of the 465,000 septic tanks that serve Maryland homes not hooked to sewage treatment plants are one step up from outhouses and cesspools. They remove bacteria, but not the nitrogen, from wastes flowing to groundwater, streams and rivers, and ultimately to the Bay, where it degrades aquatic life.

The newest septics remove twice as much nitrogen, but not nearly as much as do Maryland’s rapidly upgrading sewage treatment plants. Last month, Hogan’s Department of the Environment said the state will no longer require nitrogen-removing septics, except on lots close to the water. This will make it cheaper for developers to build in rural landscapes.

The ties between septic tanks and the countryside are widely underappreciated. State health laws have long served as a crude substitute for more protective rural zoning, which bar development on significant acreages where soils were too soggy, too sloped, too rocky to pass “percolation” tests required to site septic tanks.

“Without septic, you don’t have sprawl,” says Richard Hall, who was Maryland’s secretary of state planning for eight years under Gov. Martin O’Malley, Hogan’s predecessor.

Historically, in the absence of protective rural zoning, septic perc tests steered development toward prime farm soils and bigger lots — toward the suburban sprawl that’s well-documented to increase air pollution through more driving; raise taxes as counties extend services; and gobble up an average eight times as much land per household than do homes connected to sewers.

So with Maryland looking at a projected increase of 1 million people and 500,000 households by 2040, one of the biggest questions for the environment and for quality of life is this: How many will be on sewers, how many on septic?

Minimizing septic tanks seemed the logical answer to Hall and his boss, O’Malley. In 2012, they crafted a widely accepted law that dramatically limited development on septic tanks wherever the landscape was “predominantly agriculture and forest.” About the same time, O’Malley required all new septics to remove nitrogen, making sprawl development more expensive, but also less polluting.

Some rural counties chafed, most notably Cecil in northern Maryland. They submitted for state planning’s review a zoning map that essentially said “in your face” to restrictions on septic-based development on farms and forestland. A county planning official compared then-Secretary Hall to Adolf Hitler.

The septic “tier mapping law” as it is known, left ultimate land use power with the counties; but it gave Hall’s Department of State Planning, and the MDE broad latitude to pressure counties into compliance, even to hold up development if it was contrary to the law’s anti-sprawl intent.

Hogan has quietly reversed all of this. Letters sent to Cecil County from both his environment and planning departments say, in effect, the county can go its own way.
The signals from the state are clear, not just to Cecil, but to Calvert, Queen Anne’s and other rural counties under growth pressure. They need no longer fear state intervention against sprawl. Smart growth is out; dumb growth is back.

The majority of Maryland counties have largely complied with the new law’s requirement that “Tier Four” lands, those where farms and forests predominate, allow only minor development on septic, which is to say only limited development.
But there’s little now to keep them from backsliding, and you can bet that’s not going to be lost on the development community, a powerful political force at the county level everywhere.

State planners these days “pay more attention to the casual Fridays dress code” than they do to Smart Growth laws, says longtime land use advocate Dru Schmidt-Perkins, head of 1000 Friends of Maryland.

“The message to the counties is, ‘Do what you want’,” Hall says of his old department.

Fifty thousand new septic systems would be prevented from being installed in rural landscapes, the O’Malley administration calculated when its 2012 law went into effect. No one should expect that now. We can’t know yet how many will be built, but we know most won’t have to control nitrogen.

Hogan might have helped developers without harming the environment if he had looked at why less polluting septic tanks cost so much — $10,000 to $15,000 apiece.

I’ve seen them done well for half that, by Rich Piluk, a sanitarian in Anne Arundel county. I had one installed myself. But apparently only a few big companies met the state’s requirements for certification and accountability. It’s been suggested counties could set up their own septic management districts to lower costs.

But it’s easier to tout Maryland as “open for business,” with talk of “getting the state off your backs.” With policies that reach well beyond gutting septic restrictions — such as shifting transportation money from mass transit to more roads — Hogan seems determined to defeat the “war on rural Maryland” that his supporters claim O’Malley waged. “Victory” for them means a return to sprawl development.

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.