Archives for February 2012

Op-ed: Teacher Pension Shift Not Fair to Maryland Counties by Steven J Arentz

Budget proposals now being considered by the General Assembly bring dire consequences, undermining recent County efforts to structure a sustainable budget. Of greatest concern are proposals to redefine the County’s public education obligations and to shift teacher pension burdens from the State to the County.

The redefinition of the County’s public education obligation would cost $4.5 million with the pension shift costing $1.9 million, making the immediate new County burden $6.4 million. And, projections show the pension shift burden growing significantly each year due to past State neglect. The County cannot accommodate this new burden.

When the five newly elected County Commissioners took office in 2010, they inherited a budget in disarray. There was a projected $19.2 million deficit, which was 17% of the baseline budget. This deficit arose from using reserves to fund operations; continuing substantial reductions in what had been longstanding State distributions, primarily for County roads; funding the school board at an unsustainable level; and the recession.

The Commission took difficult yet decisive actions to fix the budget mess, with a goal to create a sustainable budget. Expenditures were cut almost $11 million, with County employees taking the biggest hit. Now, the County workforce is approaching 20% less than what it was when the Commissioners took office. The remaining employees are truly being asked to do more with less. And, they have been furloughed and are paying twice what they had been paying for health insurance.

With three County Commissioners having kids in the public schools and a fourth having a grandchild attending public school, it is not suprising that reductions to school funding was a last resort. After the County cuts were implemented and to avoid the $10 million School Board cut recommended by a budget sustainability task force, taxes were increased.

Even with the tax hike, while the school board had to take a $4.5 million hit, on a percentage basis the County took twice the hit. And, to the School Board’s credit, consistent with the Superintendent’s assurance, classroom instuction was not compromised.

The budget mess has not been fully fixed as there remains a deficit attributable to the slow economic recovery and the need to fund reserves. But, the County now has the sustainable budget the Commissioners sought through their decisive action. This sustainable budget is completely undermined if the State budget proposals now on the table are implemented.

With the County’s income tax now at the maximum rate, the only revenue recourse would be another property tax hike. To fund these new County burdens the State is considering, that property tax hike would approach nine cents.

With further School Board cuts likely to be precluded, the alternative to the property tax hike would be further cuts to the County. With the County workforce down to the bone, these cuts would certainly decimate already strained County services, such as those for road maintenance, EMS services, and deputy sheriff response.

If you agree that either alternative is unacceptable, please let you sentiments be known. And, if you have any questions or ideas about further promoting county budget sustainability, please contact the Commissioners. All five of us appreciate your input.

Steven Atentz is the President of the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners


Best Bets This Week

If you are concerned about the  sustainability of the Chesapeake (and isn’t that most of us ?)  consider attending the “Eating our Way to a Healthy Bay” discussion on Thursday, March 1 at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Chef/author Barton Seaver, Steve Vilnit from the DNR Commercial Fisheries Outreach program, and Carol Bean and Mark Connolly of Pot Pie Farm will discuss the future of watermen, fishing sustainability in the Chesapeake, and how consumers can protect the environment and community.

Spring may technically start on March 20, but don’t tell the crocuses and daffodils that. The Talbot County Visual Arts Center celebrates the coming season with their spring membership show, opening Friday with a reception from 5 to 7pm. Local artist David Grafton will be judging.

Why not stay in town after perusing the galleries and art shows during Easton’s First Friday Gallery Walk, eat a (relatively early) dinner, and get your Irish on early with Maggie Sansone and Friends, performing traditional and contemporary Celtic tunes at the Avalon Theatre , 8pm Friday. Sansone is America’s premier hammer dulcimer recording artist and performer. Her ‘friends’ are all virtuoso musicians in their own right: Irish singer Pat Egan, Grammy nominee fiddler Andrea Hoag and percussionist Matt Bell.

Saturday the St Michaels branch of the Talbot County Free Library is hosting a discussion on close-up  photography with Susan Ellis, will demonstrate how your camera can reward you with dramatic close-up images and a way of observing the seldom-seen world of the small. Leave yourself some time to view the St Michaels Art League Banners now on exhibit -and for sale-  at the library.

Barton Seaver cookbook

Thursday, March 1- 6pm:  Eating Our Way to a Healthy Bay at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum part of the winter/spring lecture series, “An Abundant and Fruitful Land: Foodways of the Chesapeake, Now and Then.Sample some local seafood and share in this conversation about caring for the Bay through responsible consumption. $12 members, $15 non-members. Pre-registration required. Contact Helen Van Fleet at or call 410-745-2916. Van Lennep Auditorium, Museum Campus, 213 N Talbot St., St Michaels, MD 21663

Friday, March 2 – 5 to 7pm: The Talbot County Visual Arts Center Spring Membership Show TalbotTown Shopping Center, Easton, MD  21601

Maggie Sansone

Friday, March 2 – 8 pm:  Maggie Sansone and Friends at the Avalon Theatre Maggie has been featured on CBS-TV Sunday Morning, and NPR’s All Things Considered, Performance Today, andThe Thistle & Shamrock. Toe-tapping jigs and reels ! Tickets $25
Avalon Theatre, 40 E Dover St., Easton, MD  21601.   410 822 7299

Saturday, March 3 – 2pm: Saturday Speaker Series at St Michaels Library – Close up Photography with Susan Ellis Susan has recently expanded her photographic interests into infrared and ultraviolet photography and specializes in natural-setting portraits of insects, capturing their remarkable shapes and colors, as well as, their behaviors and expressions. For more information, call the library at 410-745-5877, or visit

St Michaels Art League Banner Exhibition The original artwork for these banners will be exhibited and available for sale in the St. Michaels Library for the month of March during  normal library hours.


Rivers, Metaphors, and Quilts @ Academy of Lifelong Learning

Join Tim Junkin, Executive Director of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, for a special evening of remarks on our local rivers and the showing of MRC’s new film (20 minutes in length): Let Our Rivers Flow, narrated by Tom Horton, music by Bird Dog and Road

Tim Junkin

Kings and other local musicians, produced by award winning filmmaker, Sandy Cannon-Brown. The program will be held on March 22, from 5-6 pm, at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

Midshore Riverkeepers Conservancy(MCR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration and protection of the waterways that comprise the Choptank River watershed, Eastern Bay, and the Miles and Wye Rivers. The organization serves as an advocate for the health of these tributaries and the living resources they support. Tim Junkin is the founder and Executive Director of MRC. He is an attorney with thirty years of experience as a trial lawyer and advocate of civil rights, an award winning writer with three books under publication (all centered around the Choptank River-Eastern Bay area), and a teacher. His books, in chronological order, are The Waterman, Good Counsel, and Bloodsworth.

Thursday afternoons from March 29 –April 19, Margot Miller will lead a class entitled ”Choosing Between Two Worlds” at the Manor

Margot Miller

House, Londonderry. Margot Miller, Ph.D. is a translator and writer who has published poetry, short fiction, and academic work. For several years Miller has led discussion forums around fiction, primarily foreign fiction in translation, at the Academy of Lifelong Learning. Most of her selections are by woman authors and often speak in a feminist voice. For her forums she selects books with common themes and she deftly leads an exploration of the material encouraging full participation from the group. “My classes are like a book club where I get to pick all the books” she notes with enthusiasm. There are many different levels to good literature and Miller’s background has made her an expert in unraveling these for the group. “My role is to unpack the metaphors for the class. People may not realize how much they know, but if some of it is explained, they will know it for the rest of their lives. What excites me is to help reveal the secrets in literature.”

There are three intriguing books on the reading list for this class. The international bestseller, What the Day Owes the Night is translated from French and explores Algerian and European worlds, past and present, love and loyalty, fate and autonomy. Orlanda, also translated from French, lightheartedly explores gender confusion. And Benny and Shrimp, a Swedish book in English translation explores death and life, sorrow and joy, solitude and solidarity. Miller earned a Master of Arts in Counseling in 1977 and a Ph. D. in French literature in 2001. She is the Fiction editor at The Delmarva Review and maintains OCCASIONAL ART, a painting studio and gallery in Easton, MD.

On March 12 the Academy for Lifelong Learning at CBMM will welcome Susan McKelvey, author of  Far on Distant Soil. From an


Susan McKelvey


1850’s Chatham, Massachusetts Signature Quilt. Susan McKelvey regularly peruses antique shops for old quilts. One day a year ago she spied, wadded under a footstool in a poorly lit corner of a booth, what looked like might be a quilt. When she examined it, she found that although it was literally a rag, it was a signature quilt from the mid 1800s. The messages the signers wrote indicate that the recipient was traveling across the sea. The blocks were lovely and many of them were original and worthy of being added to the quilt world’s lexicon of quilt blocks. She decided to write a quilt pattern book. The project grew to include the quilt signers and their town’s history. Susan McKelvey holds a B.A. from Cornell College and an M.A at the University of Chicago.

For more detailed information about these classes and the Academy for Lifelong Learning, call the CBMM at 410-745-2916 or download a catalog online at Also on Facebook at for lifelong learning at cbmm.

March 12, 2012  Susan McKelvey

March 22, 2012  Tim Junkin

March 29 – April 19   Margot Miller

Talk on St Michaels Civil War Soldiers & Sailors – March 15

Betty Seymour

Mrs. Seymour is a native of St. Michaels in Talbot County, who after a career in nursing and nursing education turned to researching family roots and local history. She has been curator and is currently co-curator of the St. Michaels Museum at St. Mary’s Square, past-president of the Upper Shore Genealogical Society and longtime volunteer in the Maryland Room of the Talbot County Free Library.

For the past 10 years, Mrs. Seymour has researched and conducted historical tours of the Olivet Cemetery in St. Michaels. During the past year, and as we begin to recognize the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, she has researched local graves of Civil War veterans in all 3 St. Michaels cemeteries – St. Luke’s United Methodist Church (Olivet), Union United Methodist Church and Christ Episcopal Church. She has learned interesting stories about many of these 56 Union soldiers and one (possible) Confederate soldier buried there.

The Friends of the Talbot County Free Library sponsor the Brown Bag Lecture Series. Guests are invited to bring their lunch and enjoy coffee and sweets provided by the Friends. Pre-registration is not necessary. The Hospice location is at 586 Cynwood Drive off of Idlewild Avenue in Easton. For more information, call the library at 410-822-1626, or visit

Thursday March 15, 2012
Noon to 1:00 pm

586 Cynwood Drive off of Idlewild Avenue
Talbot Hospice House, Easton

Popular Adkins Soup ‘n Walk – Saturday March 17

Track the changing landscape from winter to spring on Saturday, March 17 at Adkins Arboretum with their popular Soup ‘n Walk program. Following a guided walk with a docent naturalist, enjoy a delicious and nutritious lunch along with a brief lesson about the meal’s nutritional value. Copies of recipes are provided.

Buds and Early Blooms
Many trees and shrubs are sporting new spring buds, fiddleheads are emerging on Christmas fern, and early pink and purple blooms are beginning to appear. Register for a one-hour or two-hour walk to check out skunk cabbage, spring beauty, and bloodroot blooms and the soft buds of paw paw, dogwood, hickory, and tulip tree.

Carrot and cauliflower soup with herbs
Avocado and pink grapefruit salad
Dill rye bread with strawberry jam
Chocolate walnut cookies

Registration required. Click here to register. Fee: $20 members, $25 general public

Saturday, March 17, 2012
11:00 am – 1:30 pm

March Skywatch: Planets Galore

Just as in February, the planets of our solar system continue to be the prime focus for skywatchers in March. The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will join in a stunning conjunction in mid-month, while Mars will be seen better than we have seen in since 2010. Meanwhile, Mercury will put on its best evening appearance for 2012, and Saturn will brighten and appear earlier in the evening as it approaches its own opposition in April. Here are the details.


We will begin our planet watch with Mars which will shine bright at magnitude -1.2 when it reaches opposition on March 3rd. This is because Mars and Earth are coser to each other, at 63 million miles, than at any time since 2010. As the sky darkens in early March, look east, when Mars will rise there as the Sun sets in the west; then remaining visible all night. Though Mars will remain visible until next summer, March will be the only month when it will be really bright. Indeed, it will fade to -0.7 magnitude by the end of March. This is because Mars is actually quite small, being only 60% the size of Earth, and the distance between us and Mars will increase quickly as we move away from it in our smaller and fater orbit around the Sun. Mars will be seen among the stars of zodiac constellation Leo.

Mercury comes to greatest eastern elongation from the Sun on March 15th. It will be seen 18 degrees east of the Sun. That is to the left of the Sun as we look at it; so Mercury will be what the ancients called an “evening star.” Look in the direction of sunset, 30 to 90 minutes after the Sun goes down, and look about 10 to 12 degrees above the horizon. Mercury should be easy to spot at magnitude -0.4; but remember, it will be low in the sky. The sky too will retain some of the glow of twilight as you look, but Mercury is bright enough to shine through it.

Venus has also been an “evening star” these last two months, and it reaches its own eastern elongation from the Sun on March 27th; 46 degrees left of the Sun. It is unmistakable because it is so bright (-4.4 magnitude) and because it has a bigger orbit than Mercury, it gets farther away from the Sun. Consequently, it appears much higher.

Prior to Venus’s elongation, Jupiter and Venus will appear in close conjunction in the sky. On March 4th, the two planets will be about 9 degrees apart in the southwestern sky after dusk. The gap narrows so that between the 11th and the 15th of March, they will appeat just 3 degrees from each other. Venus will the the brighter, but Jupiter is no slouch in brightness, coming in at -2.1! This stunning pairing of the sky’s two brightest objects after the Sun and the Moon will be some 30 dgrees above the western horizon at sunset, and they will not set until after 10 pm!

The best way to enjoy this conjunction is with the naked eye or through binoculars, but both will be worthy telescopic objects individually throughout March.

Saturn rises about 10 pm in the east in mid-March, some 6 degrees above and left of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. Best views of Saturn will come after midnight, when it is higher in the sky.

The busy month of March will close with some nifty views binocular views possible of Venus and the waxing crescent Moon passing just 2 degrees below the brightest planet. Full Moon will be on March 8/9th; Last Quarter on the 14th; New Moon on the 22nd; and 1st Quarter on the 30th.

Art Director to Discuss Creating Images for Magazines – Mar. 5

On Monday, March 5, the Tidewater Camera Club will host Marie Boshoff, who will give a seminar entitled “Creating Images for Magazines”. Ms Boshoff’s presentation is about how Art Directors interact with photographers to choose, use, manipulate, and collect photography for a magazine.

Marie Boshoff is a native of Frederick County and is Art Director for Great State Publishing, LLC, “Maryland Life” magazine. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2002 and shortly thereafter started her career as Graphic Designer for Diversions Publications, “Frederick Magazine.” Following her years in the Midwest – designing custom publications and art directing photo shoots for Tiger Oak Publications and for the fashion-forward clothing company, Vanity. Marie has returned to her home state and is eager to connect with Maryland-based photographers in hopes of highlighting their talent in the pages of “Maryland Life” magazine. Marie will be one of three judges in this year’s Frederick Camera Clique Summer Photography Show and is looking forward to more state-wide involvement.

For more information please visit the club website at or contact Janet at 410-901-2223.

Visitors are welcome to attend the seminar.

Monday, March 5, 2012
7 to 9 pm

Wye Oak Room at the Talbot County Community Center
Rte. 50
Easton, MD 21601

Historical Society Celebrates Read Across America with Author Rebecca Jones

Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Read Across America Day, and the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 will be celebrated in one fell swoop when the Historical Society of Talbot County hosts children’s author Rebecca C. Jones on Saturday, March 3 at 11am.

Ms. Jones, who’s written 16 books for young readers, will tell the story of the 200-pound flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812. The Biggest (and Best) Flag That Ever Flew, along with her most recent book, Captain John Smith’s Big and Beautiful Bay, will be available for purchase at the Historical Society Museum Store.





Saturday, March 3, 2012
11 am

Historical Society of Talbot County
25 S. Washington Street
Easton, MD 21601

CBMM ‘Foodways’ Lecture Series Continues with ‘Eating Our Way to a Healthy Bay’

Barton Seaver

“We have a chance to eat our way back to healthy oceans,” says Barton Seaver, author of For Cod and Country: Simple, Delicious, Sustainable Cooking. Join chef and author Barton Seaver, Steve Vilnit from DNR’s Commercial Fisheries Outreach and Marketing, and Carol Bean and Mark Connolly of Pot Pie Farm as they discuss the future of watermen, fishing sustainability in the Chesapeake, and how consumers can protect the environment and community, deliciously on Thursday, March 1 at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The lecture is part of the winter/spring lecture series, “An Abundant and Fruitful Land: Foodways of the Chesapeake, Now and Then.”

Sample some local seafood and share in this conversation about caring for the Bay through responsible consumption. Copies of Barton’s book will be available for sale and signing.

$12 members, $15 non-members. Pre-registration required for all events. Contact Helen Van Fleet at or call 410-745-2916

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Van Lennep Auditorium, Museum Campus
213 N Talbot St
St Michaels, MD 21663

City Girl

I rode Baltimore city public transportation to school year after frigid year. With orange bus transfer slips clutched in my wind burned hand, I had no choice in how I rolled. People with dubious hygiene and intent sat next to me while an AM transistor radio in the back played the Eagles. “City girls just seem to find out early, how to open doors with just a smile”. I knew myself then. I was made of asphalt and dirty snow and transfer slips.

I was still that city girl the day I drove with my future husband to house hunt on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. His homeownership ‘must haves’ included bar free windows and his own personal parking spot. Eventually we found our Mr. Right Priced house on the Choptank River in a town called Denton. Known once as the Garden County, Caroline County, Maryland, is Talbot County’s northern redheaded step-sister.

My man was exhilarated by the smell of the salt air as we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. I was charmed by the tinny “Kum ba yah” blasting from Denton’s Methodist church’s tower at quarter past noon. And together we were sold when the honking snow geese flew over our heads as we stood gazing out over our future waterfront property. We said our “I dos” a year later in a backyard wedding extravaganza complete with a private fireworks finale.

We were no longer a couple of touristas headed “Downy O”. Nope.  Now we were ‘come here’s. And we had fallen off the edge of the known world. Our bizarre disappearance was confirmed as our friends bypassed our hinterland address by mere blocks barreling down Route 404 toward their beach destinations. As they passed up the use of our clean convenient bathrooms, we knew we’d become either fictitious or invisible.

Although surrounded by the sprawling bucolic farmlands of the Eastern Shore, we were pleasantly living on an island. Peninsula, island, whatever. I called it the “Rock”. The eventual housing market dump would confirm we had purchased our retirement home. There will be no ‘buying up’. That trapped feeling combined with the slower pace of the Shore would soon irk my inner city girl.

I whined about the lack of cultural entertainment, packaged goods after nine pm, and a Thai restaurant for goodness sakes. I bemoaned my destiny to be knocked up here and eventually planted in this ground. The swellest husband ever said,” Whatever you want to do sweetie”, a ridiculous statement since we’ll never get our money back out of this decrepit old house. I graciously responded, “Thanks for pretending there’s a choice. I’ll buck up and see what happens”. After he’d talked me in off the ledge, we planted a garden or bird watched or something.

The husband then landed a well paying job and offered to fund my opening Bally Eden, my own gift and antiques shop. And in the summer of 2003, I found my new identity as a shop owner. I was invested in this town and I waited to reap the rewards. Unfortunately, like my new baby’s naps, my patrons became fewer and farther between. And then the non-recession happened. After two and a half years, on a cold and windy January day in 2006, I cleared out my lovely little shop and swallowed the bitter pills of debt and grief. I was no longer a city girl or a shop owner. Time had come for my inevitable turn to sacrifice myself on the “Mommy” bonfire. I had fought a long valiant battle.

The seasons changed again and the town’s charm emerged. As downtown residents, we enjoyed the marching bands in parades down Main Street. Across the street, the Courthouse Green hosts Shakespeare plays, movies, and Summerfest, a free family fair in August ending with a fireworks display. My native born friends assured me, where once they couldn’t wait to escape this small town, they had migrated back here to have their families.

I began to relax as I stopped trying to jam the square peg of my past into my round holed present. Challenged to grow where I was planted, I found concerts to attend, joined the YMCA, and began to publish essays online. I spruced up my nest, poked futilely at my nine flower beds, and discovered I had friends. I forayed to the big city to remind myself of what I wasn’t missing. And, when we couldn’t afford or stomach our dining-out choices, I cooked. Consequently, I’ve become a better cook. My kid thrived and I figured both my parenting skills and life here might not suck after all.

Despite myself, my forward thinking had made the right choices for my family’s future wellbeing. We’d chosen to move to a safe and quaint little town. Caroline County’s school system is good and we have curbside school bus service. My son’s childhood will be enviably stable. And how could I not feel safe with the police station a block up and the sheriff’s office a block down? After twelve years, there is a sense of belonging. A continuity in knowing peoples faces and the changing of the seasonal fields.

Then, out walking with a friend, I spotted them. Two women with their butt cheeks clenched pushing doublewide strollers full of babies up Second Street. Decked out in pricey athletic gear instead of frumpy house-frau clothing, their monstrous modern perambulators proved the inevitable city folk invasion had begun. My walking partner informed me, these weren’t transplants, just native money “slumming it” downtown with us townies. I was relieved. They were just ‘been here’s too.