Letter to Editor: Support Annexation Plans at Easton Point

I am writing in support of the expedited approval of the annexation of Easton Point. It has been neglected far too long. Sewer and street runoff coupled with industrial remnants exude a distasteful first impression of Easton’s only waterfront access.

As new residents we are in strong support of restricting development along 322. We were informed a natural barrier between pavement and storefronts would be preserved. We were drawn to the charm of downtown with its absence of chain franchises. We believe this vision would benefit those local investments of downtown merchants who have been impacted by the development along 322. We understand concern with the GC component requiring a never ending diligence of leadership to withstand urban sprawl.

However, we believe Easton Point’s vision is one of transformation. The area has already been developed; Easton Point requires a fresh commitment. It needs to be elevated into an asset for the surrounding downtown businesses and nearby residential communities. The presence of the marina and boat ramp lend a recreational resource for those who come to the shore. Current scientific water sampling reflects a deteriorating reality most notably at Easton Point. Samplings confirm an enhanced water quality as samplings progress away from Easton Point toward Oxford. Rigorous application of best of class standards must be required by gatekeepers whose motivation is driven by wise stewardship not short term profit.

Donna Hager

Op-Ed: Aleppo – The Reality Show and Its Next Season by Tom Timberman

Contemplating the Middle East writ large or even its component countries tends to be a short-lived experience for most Americans. We inwardly shudder at the inexplicability of these places and the “rationality” of their populations’ suicidal urges. We remember our 8 years in Iraq and the heavy US human and financial costs paid (4500 KIA, 33,000 WIA, $1.1 trillion), and the absence of “success”. And since 2011, the Syrian Civil War complicated by the presence of various vicious groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda etc who kill and destroy ostensibly for religious and ethnic reason, defies our minds. Some authorities say easy sex, power and lots of money are also involved and that is understandable.

In Syria, it’s a case of a dictator desperate to remain in power who is willing to kill some 500,000 of his own people and destroy their economy and much of their cultural and historic heritage, to do so. After Ukraine, Russia saw an opportunity to expand its influence in the Middle East, demonstrate its intimidating military prowess and restore the glory of the Soviet Empire. Assad and Putin’s motivations are not difficult to grasp.

When confronted with a jumble of impenetrable puzzles or a problem with multiple moving parts, it’s easier to break them apart and focus on a single element and learn enough to proceed.

In terms of the Middle East, Aleppo, Syria’s former largest city is an excellent starting point.

Aleppo: The Reality Show

The death, destruction and human experience in Aleppo have become the narrative and image for the entire Middle East. Daily we see and hear grieving fathers holding their dead children and screaming at the pain of a lost son or daughter; we see brave men digging through the rubble to rescue or remove the survivors or more often, the dead. We learn how many cluster bombs were dropped, hospitals and schools in ruins and always the mounting daily toll. We are exposed to the doctors, nurses and support staff who chose to remain at great risk, but in declining numbers, to care for the victims. And always, we’re told there is little food or potable water or safe shelter.
This in microcosm, is the reality of lives across the Middle East, albeit to different degrees with idiosyncratic back stories and different adjectives and adverbs describing the people involved. However, the human emotions, suffering and lost history, memories and faded futures are all much the same.

If you think Chicago instead of Aleppo and imagine its residents – Americans – subjected to this same level of misery amid the ruins of the city’s landmarks, we come closer to understanding what is happening to people like us, except people who unfortunately live in Aleppo, not Chestertown or Easton.

Aleppo’s Next Season

Aleppo, as was Berlin, is now divided between East (regime controlled) and West (insurgents). The current devastation from the air, will likely soon add another more dangerous dimension: ground and tank attack. Large Syrian army forces and armor with their Russian advisors surround the city (10/16). How this situation will unfold is unknown, though it promises more civilian suffering and distress. It took 45 years after the final assault, for Berlin to emerge united and whole. And, for Aleppo?

Tom Timberman is an expert on military policy and now lives on the Eastern Shore. Among his many assignments with the US Department of State, he has headed a provincial reconstruction team, embedded within a combat brigade in Iraq. He has also helped implement a new counterterrorism strategy in South East Asia as Senior Advisor for South Asia in the Office of Coordinator for Counterterrorism.

 

Op-Ed: Blessed are the Peacemakers by George Merrill

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God, states one of the Beatitudes. At four thirty last Thursday in Easton, at the five corners bordering Idlewild Park, I saw sixteen children of God.

Some held plaques bearing the timeless inspirational phrases of peace and reconciliation, witnessing to the hope for peace and justice in the world. A ploughshare stood at the front of the small group. The group consisted mostly of aging people who have been witnessing for peace here in Easton weekly for twenty years. A young mother brought her infant and an older child to participate. The older boy waved the U.N. flag. A bevy of small national flags were placed in a semi-circle along at the corner. As cars drove by, some drivers beeped and waved in solidarity, most looked straight ahead and one driver, shaking his fist, yelled from his car, “build the wall.”

September 21st was the World Day of peace. The U.N invites us to celebrate the universal vision of peace and justice. The day comes and goes every year, largely unnoticed, unlike the anniversaries of military victories, which we celebrate with music, parades and bargain sales. Experience reveals that military victories don’t bring peace. Like the eye of the hurricane they bring a brief calm before the violence resumes again, this time from another quarter.

Peace on earth is tenuous. One of the great ironies of our human condition is that while most everyone yearns for peace, it’s achieved only episodically. War and violence, on the other hand, which almost everyone abhors, we wage regularly on one another.

St. Paul understood this: “The good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do,” he writes.

I see peace as something that ascends like incense, rather than trickling down, like water. The faith earned in the hearts of individuals possessing a spiritual vision of peace, like Dag Hammarskjold, has ways of working its way upward and outward, offering the potential to calm and heal a troubled world. A state of peace achieved by warring factions does not necessarily trickle down to individuals – individuals may remain deeply troubled long after hostilities have ended, say, in our own civil war, in Germany between World War I and II, and the transient truces of the Middle East conflicts. Rage can smolder just under the surface of declared peace.

In Christianity, the mustard seed is the signature metaphor for faith. Faith, like the tiny mustard seed may be barely visible but once rooted, it grows to become a sanctuary for other living beings.

I am grateful for the vigil that our faithful peacemakers keep weekly. Without them, who’d keep the vision of peace alive for us?

Letter to Editor: Bring High Speed Internet to All of Rural Talbot, by Frederick Wyman II

Bringing high speed internet and cable to residents of rural Talbot County is long overdue. Not only would this benefit all residents of the County who so far have been deprived of this basic necessity it would allow school children to have access to the tools that will make them contributing citizens in the future, enhance property values and stimulate economic development on the Eastern Shore.

It can not be emphasized enough how important affordable high speed broadband is to the education of the Counties student population as education is, as we all know, the largest component of our local communities budget and depriving our young people of this valuable tool will preclude them from reaching their full potential in our ever more technological world.

Recently the County Council had a work session to explore potential avenues to bring high speed internet and cable to rural areas in the County. They listened to a presentation from an ad-hoc committee who has been studying the options available as well as a potential supplier of “dark cable” explaining a possible process that was recently adopted in Kent County after a long study. The County Council as you know directed Mr. Mark Cohoon to prepare an RFD for the Council to consider when requesting proposals to wire the County for these essential services.

As someone who does not have access to these basic essentials of modern life, I wholeheartedly support the County Council’s efforts to bring our County into the 21st Century. I was therefore surprised, when it came to my attention that Easton Utilities who had let their franchise to provide cable and internet to Talbot County lapse in 2006, that the Council was entertaining and negotiating with Easton Utilities over granting them a new easement to provide these services in the County. Particularly bewildering is that this was discussed on the same day as the work session on broadband and no mention of this was made at the time of the work session.

As I understand it, Easton Utilities has been negotiating with two communities in Talbot County to provide cable and internet services to these areas exclusively and in order to do so they need to receive County permission to run their cables along County owned property and rights of way. It is troubling to me that the County Council on the verge of issuing an RFP, to provide high speed internet and cable throughout the County to all rural residents, would entertain a proposal from Easton Utilities to cherry pick specific areas where understandably they would make a profit and not require that Easton Utilities provide these same services to other rural areas.

While I am empathetic to the residents of these communities who presumably have been negotiating with Easton Utilities for a long time and undoubtedly being required to contribute to the capital cost of this undertaking and being required to sign long term contracts for this service that the County is not insisting Easton Utilities provide services in other areas of the County.

It was evident at the Council work session on Broadband that for this undertaking to be economically feasible Talbot County would need to contribute to the cost of the installation of the so called “dark fiber.” In addition it was suggested that Talbot County would also avail themselves of this new service for a fee for many worthy municipal programs including emergency services, government offices and schools. It is clear to almost anyone that for this project to be successful the entire community including the Town of Easton and Easton Utilities needs to work together to ensure a greater community good.

The County Council should consider the overall goal of delivering Broadband to all the residents of Talbot County in conjunction with any agreement with Easton Utilities. I will try to attend all meetings that the County Council has regarding Broadband as well as Easton Utilities pending agreement with the County to the extent that my schedule allows. Since I will be traveling in the near future I respectfully ask that my letter be read into the record so that all residents of Talbot County who may be interested in the subject are aware of the significance of the potentially precipitous actions the County Council is considering before entering into an agreement with Easton Utilities.

Frederick Wyman II

Op-Ed: Spoils System Back on Md.’s Marijuana Licensing by Barry Rascovar

Maybe Donald Trump is right: The system is rigged. For proof, look at how interest groups are feverishly trying to “rig” Maryland’s choice of authorized marijuana growers and processorsThe Black Legislative Caucus wants to “rig” the selection procedure so that people of color get their share (and more) of the lucrative payoff from legalized pot-growing, despite their lack of high rankings in the objective selection process.

Others recently got the system “rigged” in a way that denies licenses to a few top-ranked growers who were chosen on merit. Instead, lesser-rated groups in politically sensitive geographic areas were awarded this rich financial prize.

Picking the best, most qualified growers gave way to political “rigging” of the system.

So much for the commission’s carefully planned “double-blind” selection procedure designed to remove political favoritism and eliminate any hint of subjective bias.

Guarding against tainted results

This well-established, scientific method works beautifully in drug-testing and picking the most skilled musicians for the Baltimore Symphony. So why not use this proven way to guard against tainted results in the state’s effort to find the best and most capable cannabis growers and processors?

Silly idea. An honest evaluation of the applicants proved too much for state politicians and lobbyists. Their favored applicants failed to make the cut.

Suddenly, criticism rained down on the medical marijuana commission. The cry went out: Bring back Maryland’s spoils system.

“This is a good modern-day civil rights fight,” said Del. Cheryl Glenn, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus.

Well. . . that’s a stretch.

It’s an effort to ensure that already financially well-off minorities get a slice of the action – regardless of their capabilities for handling the growing, processing and distribution of medical marijuana.

After all, this is expected to be a national multi-billion-dollar business.

To heck with selecting the most qualified cannabis growers. What Maryland needs is some good old favoritism!

Merit selection process

The commission tried its best to keep politics out of its decision-making. It came up with a way of choosing winning applicants that was devoid of political pressure and influence-peddling – a double-blind ranking system conducted by an outside group.

Applicants’ names, and their investors’ names, were removed from proposals so the rankings would be based entirely on merit.

It turned out, though, that none of the applications submitted by minority-controlled companies ranked high enough to gain a cultivation license. That’s when impartiality and merit-selection went out the window.

Attorney General Brian Frosh, in an incredibly two-faced action, contradicted his own assistant attorney general and other higher-ups in his agency, who had concluded the commission could not legally tilt the playing field.

Frosh rallied to the side of the Black Caucus. Gov. Larry Hogan expressed concern, too. Word came down from on high: Work something out.

Oh, well, so much for a color-blind government that allows only the best-qualified cannabis cultivators and processors to ply their trade in Maryland.

Gift-wrapped permits

The commission quickly buckled under the pressure.

In August, the panel stripped two winning companies of their licenses not because they had done something wrong but because one commissioner argued there wasn’t enough “geographic diversity” among authorized growers.

Lower-scoring applicants with more politically acceptable locations were gift-wrapped these valuable permits.

Not surprisingly, the disqualified applicants are threatening to sue. More litigation is inevitable.

If the Black Caucus succeeds in pulling the licenses of other applicants for the sake of diversity – or gets the entire process re-started – we’ll have enough legal action to set back the cause of medicinal marijuana for a long time.

Yet while minority groups fight for a bigger slice of the cannabis windfall, sick and terminally ill patients in excruciating pain are denied the relief cannabis might provide.

No one seems agitated about that. Mammon rules the day.

It’s a royal mess.

Politicians get involved

Years ago, attempts in Maryland to “rig” the system sent a vice president into shameful exile and a governor and several county executives to prison. The quest for money can be a corrupting influence.

So it is with legalizing medical marijuana – at least in Maryland.

Choosing the people who will grow marijuana plants and turn them into safe medicinal products is serious business. It seemed to make sense to pick them based purely on expertise and merit.

But not to the b’hoys in Annapolis.

So now politicians have their hands in the action. The result could be lengthy delays and a more expansive and pliable process that allows Maryland’s spoils system to work its magic.

Is an impartial, unbiased selection system about to be manipulated for the benefit of lesser-qualified applicants who have friends in high places?

You don’t need to be Donald Trump to answer that question.

The Remains of Our Days by George Merrill

As a young assistant priest in a New York City church, I visited many of our parish’s elderly and shut-ins. I liked visiting. Many of my contemporary clergy didn’t. They were impatient with the inclinations of the elderly to balk at change, ruminate about health, talk about who died while fussing about changes in the churches décor or services.

I can say honestly I didn’t feel impatient. I had developed a knack for nudging the conversation in the direction of the “old days,” and how life was for these elderly in the days before my time. It was like history coming alive before me, as if I was back there. Elderly parishioners welcomed my enquiries and many of the tales I heard were spellbinding. It was a win-win.

The wheel of Karma turns. As those folks were then, so I am now. I balk at some changes and am regularly saddened by the people I’ve known who have died. I am, however, as curious about my own past as I had been about those of my parishioners in the city sixty years ago.

The experience of exploring one’s life is exciting in the way rummaging through attics can be, where over the years, all kinds of things were put away to gather dust until circumstances conspired to encourage our return to the attic. There, we rediscover what we’d long forgotten but see it with fresh eyes.

I found an old family photograph, recently. It shows the front parlor and the adjoining room in my grandparents’ home where, during my boyhood, we’d celebrate Thanksgiving. The rooms were small.

The photograph was taken long before I was born, maybe near the turn of the century. It was a grand old house located on Richmond Terrace on Staten Island, a once fashionable residential area along the Kill Van Kull, the water boundary between Staten Island and New Jersey.

I remember the house as always filled with smoke – from my grandfather’s and my uncles’ pipes and cigars – along with the lingering smell of Yardley lavender perfume that my grandmothers and great aunts wore with their holiday finery. The collective aroma became for me a kind of tribal scent by which I knew I was home among my own native kin.

In the room, bric-a-brac, knickknacks, gewgaws, photographs, odds and ends of every description covered the surfaces of mantels, tables, a china cabinet, and even the floor. There, two cuspidors sat prominently on either side of a table in the middle of one room.

The fireplace was black wrought iron. On its mantelpiece, among various vases and statuettes, sat a clock with two horses on top bearing the triumphal figures of what I guessed were conquistadores. The table in the middle of the room was also filled with photographs and I saw the black ivory elephant that had been there when I was a boy. The figurine had an elegantly smooth sheen and I could never pass it by without touching it.

Walls were papered in various floral designs, crown moldings edged the upper walls and on the ceiling in the middle of the sitting room, a chandelier hung from a round plaster floret adorned with sculpted flower buds. The chandelier had three fogged glass shades in which gas flames once burned. I saw the Morris chair I eventually inherited. In this photograph, a lace doily had been draped over the back.

Seeing the picture now, I realize that in my lifetime I witnessed the remains of the Victorian era. I was enchanted with its extravagant décor, its insatiable appetite for collectibles and the intimate spaces in which people, despite limited room, maintained careful distances from each other.

The Victorian code of conduct served to manage family secrets. My widowed great aunt had the “handyman” living with her in her Victorian home next door to my grandmothers. It never occurred to me until I was in my fifties just how in those days certain personal “arrangements,” while considered abhorrent, were nevertheless quietly accommodated, and never discussed.

I adored my Great Uncle John. He was a retired New York City policeman and a bachelor. He was considered “course.” My mother liked him, too, although she occasionally complained how he liked putting his hand on her rump. That Uncle John dated Margaret – an Irish Catholic – with whom he went to bars, shocked his Methodist sisters. It was scandalous enough that Margaret was Catholic, but to add insult to injury she was also Irish. The Methodists of the family were staunchly abstemious, terminally Protestant and defiantly waspish. I never saw Margaret at family affairs, but only occasionally with Uncle John. I liked her. She was salty.

My mother resented Grandma Merrill. Years ago, when having my father’s family for Thanksgiving, Grandma Merrill spent half of Thanksgiving day instructing my mother just how the turkey should be prepared. My mother remained civil, but the invisible walls of distance were erected.

Today, at holiday gatherings, families take a minimalist view of dress codes. Come as you are is in vogue. Flip-flops and tank tops will do. Back then, I recall with fondness that when my relatives arrived for the day, everyone was dressed to the nines. Men donned suits, vests, ties, topcoats, and wore fedoras and the women came in hats, white gloves and flowered dresses. There was an implied respect in the way that even relatives, who were certainly familiar with each other, still chose to meet looking their best. Keeping up appearances is not a bad thing. It lends dignity to an occasion.

Photographs remind us of the people and places that formed our identity. They are formed partly by our sense of place and more particularly by the personalities of the people who occupied those places. In one sense we are formed like onions, less organized by a center than consisting of layers of memories that remain with us until the remains of our days.

Seeing an old yellowed photograph brings them back.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Op-Ed: The Promises They Keep by Carl Widell

A surprising fact – U.S. presidents keep most of their campaign promises. People don’t believe this; when promises are made, many feel “it’s just a politician talking.”

But it’s a mistake to disregard campaign promises. From President Wilson through President Bush over 75% of the promises made on the campaign trail were kept. (see Ezra Klein, ”Presidents keep their campaign promises.“ The Washington Post, January 20, 2012.) PolitiFact has tracked all of President Obama’s campaign promises and found he has delivered on 70% of them.

The press, the candidate’s committed supporters, and major donors all pressure presidents to keep their promises. Clinton, with her many published briefings, leaves little doubt of her plans, and will no doubt be held to them. Trump is more elusive, but he cannot expect his supporters to forget what he has said in his speeches. Just look at the trouble he has had trying to ‘soften’ his immigration policy. He promised over and over again he would “ship the illegal Mexicans out.” When he later proposed a way to re-register illegal immigrants, his supporters cried “Amnesty,” and he has had to backtrack.

John McCain and Mitch McConnell have argued that the separation of powers in the Constitution will prevent Trump from doing many of the things he has promised. This may not be true. Eric Posner, a Chicago Law School professor, has examined whether Trump could actually carry out his policies and concluded that he could. With Congress’ assent, George Bush and Barak Obama have expanded presidential powers over the past fifteen years. Posner concludes that Trump could use these expanded powers to push through the majority of his policies.

It follows that we should pay close attention to promises made on the campaign trail. For example, both candidates promise large projects to create jobs. Trump talks of a trillion dollar program to repair highways, bridges and public transportation, something the American Society of Civil Engineers feels we sorely need. Economists agree that Trump’s program will create jobs, but worry that he has no plans to pay for it. Instead he proposes the largest tax cut the U.S. has ever seen with the largest cuts going to the wealthy. Together these programs could put us in $10 trillion of debt (according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget). Clinton also proposes a large infrastructure plan and she also plans a large tax cut, but only on the middle class. Both of these measures will create jobs. She pays for these plans by increasing taxes on the wealthy to levels seen in the 1990s. Clinton maintains that because all of her programs are paid for they stand a good chance of getting through Congress (the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says her programs will cost $250 billion over 10 years).

Trump promises to cut back our commitments to our European allies (NATO), to our Asian allies (ASEAN) and encourage them to create their own nuclear arsenals. Clinton has worked to decrease the number of nuclear bombs both the U.S. and with other nuclear powers, such as Russia and Pakistan. As a voter, think whether you want to live in a world with more nuclear weapons or fewer.

Trump promises to renegotiate our trade deals with most of our partners. To get better deals he will threaten to raise tariffs which will almost certainly result in tariffs raised against the U.S. Many economists predict these types of trade wares will lead to a world wide depression. As a voter, do you want to live in a world of trade wars or with stable, growing trade relationships?

In short, the press, the voters and the desire to get re-elected will put tremendous pressure on the next president to live up to what he or she promised. Take a close look before you vote. What you see might be exactly what you get.

Carl Widell ll is a Princeton graduate, a former Marine Corps aviator, and an active Democrat. He is the former chair of the Democratic Central Committee in Talbot County.

Op-Ed: Talbot County to Hold Event to Commemorate 15th Anniversary of 9/11 by Oliver C. Brown

It is hard to believe that this year will mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

The events of 9/11 are seared into the memories of many of us. Yet, most of today’s high school sophomores were not even born on September 11, 2001.

A whole generation never experienced the sacrifice made by the 343 firefighters who died in the Towers and the 2,410 policeman and civilians who perished there as well.

A whole generation has not known the fear, angst, and heartbreak we felt that day; and on the days to come as we waited for “the other shoe to drop”.

A whole generation did not know that this was the first attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.

A whole generation does not know that, somehow, we Americans, for 15 years, have kept our country safe.

But, this new generation will shortly acquire the mantle of leadership. And, they will assume the responsibilities that we share with them on this day of Remembrance.

To mark this special occasion, Talbot County is pulling out all the stops to mount a ceremony of remembrance to honor the victims and responders of 9/11 as well as a day of events for firefighters, families and kids. It will honor those who sacrificed their lives for our common cause, it will honor the contributions of the people who keep us safe every day, and it will help our kids understand why they live in a special, caring community though which they can make all other lives better.

The location will be Tilghman Island, and post-ceremony activities will include a community-wide, all-you-can-eat breakfast at the Tilghman Firehouse followed by a “Fireman’s Olympics”, where firefighters from around the region will convene to test their skills against each other.

The remembrance ceremony will be held at Tilghman’s Dogwood Harbor and will begin at 8:30 a.m. The cove, with its skipjacks and workboats along with a multitude of assembled rescue boats, dive team boats and Coast Guard vessels will serve as a dramatic backdrop to the ceremony.

Fire companies from throughout the Eastern Shore will be in attendance in full dress regalia accompanied by over a dozen fire trucks and rescue vehicles; all buffed to a spit and polish shine.

The Talbot County Sheriff’s Office and town police departments will be participating along with military groups, clergy, school bands and choirs, and a wide variety of public officials. All of this, plus some special guests and special touches to be revealed at the ceremony, will make this a truly unique, stirring, and memorable experience.

The Ceremony of Remembrance will be followed by a hearty community-wide breakfast from 9:30 to 11:00. The cost for the all-you-can-eat breakfast is $10 per person (with discounts for EMS, military, police, firefighters, and kids), and all the proceeds will benefit the Tilghman Fire Company and the Fallen Firefighters Fund.

At 11:00 the real fun begins as Fire companies from around the state engage in a test of skills known as the Fireman’s Olympics. At the sound of a siren, firefighters will sprint to their trucks, don their gear, and race their trucks down Tilghman Road to a point where they will undergo a series of firefighting tests. Among other things, these include ladder climbing, forced entry, spraying targets with fire hoses, fire truck driving skills, and rescuing a “survivor” from an overturned car. They will finish up the competition with an old-fashioned bucket brigade. To share the spirit and excitement, there will also be a water balloon contest for kids. Grandstands will be set up so that spectators will have a bird’s eye view of all the events.

Food and refreshments will be available throughout the day.

Jesse Gottleib, Firefighter and Event Coordinator, put it best when he said, “Lights, sirens, horns, and firefighters running to danger should make this an awesome event not just for kids, but also for the kids we have in all of us.”

9/11 will forever be a day that will honor America’s resilience and character.

It is a day that Honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great country and, also those who serve it. It is a day that makes our country, our firefighters, our police officers and our community service personnel proud.

It is a day to thank those who sacrificed their lives so that we, as a nation, could lead lives of safety and security.

It is a day we can be proud to be an American.

Letter to Editor: Thinking Big Does Not Necessarily Include Another Bay Bridge, by Rob Etgen

While it is admirable to hear the Governor’s concerns about traffic at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, an announcement focusing on a shiny new bridge lacks any real discussion about cost, impact on communities, and the understanding that a sprawling flood of people, traffic, and pavement can detract from rural Maryland.

There is a large and growing body of evidence and near consensus that our conventional approach of solving traffic congestion by increasing roadway capacity is ineffective over the long term. The most immediate example that comes to my mind is Route 1 in Delaware – an expensive, new north south highway in Delaware that was over capacity starting with the day it opened. Concurrent with the highway construction was massive amounts of sprawl housing in southern New Castle County, which immediately overwhelmed the new infrastructure.

We are long overdue for a more modern approach to transportation planning – one that emphasizes mass transit and other forward thinking measures that make the most out of the infrastructure we have, and emphasizes land use decisions that decrease auto dependence and increase transportation choices. What about expanded bus services with a stronger backbone service from Baltimore and Washington to Ocean City, stopping in key population centers and complementary service from rural areas to the backbone stops? Or public-private partnerships such as a high-speed ferry option? And should an eventual new Bridge be built, what about revisiting passenger rail (which used to exist on the Shore)?

With declining gas tax revenues, changing living preferences for millennials, and a warming planet caused in part by our poor transportation habits, the time is now for fresh thinking.

Fresh thinking on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge situation could also include ideas such as setting up telecommuting centers in our Eastern Shore small towns, and work policies such that State and Federal employees could work from the Shore on peak traffic days or even more often, in turn saving fuel, pollution, and traffic while also stimulating the vibrancy of our towns. Implementing new tolling technologies and policies which do away with the toll booths, increasing rates during peak use periods and decreasing rates for high occupancy vehicles is yet another direction that could be explored for considerably less money.

These ideas and many others can be done now and for very little cost relative to a new Bay Bridge.

Spending $5 million to study the environmental impacts of a new Bay Bridge feels like fiddling while Rome burns. Let’s talk about the things we can do today to relieve congestion immediately, then think about what might be needed to manage cross Bay travel demand over the long term, and only thereafter consider whether a new bridge is worth its considerable financial and environmental cost.

Rob Etgen
Executive Director
Eastern Shore Land Conservancy

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy is a regional nonprofit organization that has worked to advance strategic land conservation and sound land use planning on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Op-Ed Cartoon: Walled World by G.O. and Valerie D’Orazio

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 8.29.23 AM Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 8.29.29 AMScreen Shot 2016-09-05 at 8.29.36 AM  Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 8.29.43 AM

 

 

Artist J. Longo, http://www.jlongoart.com/