Archives for January 2013

Analysis: In O’Malley Speech, Something New, Something Refreshing, and Something Disappointing

There was something new in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s State of the State address Wednesday, something refreshing, a lot of the same old same old and something very disappointing.

What seemed new about the governor’s State of the State address was the teleprompter and the six foreign ambassadors.

Most reporters could not recall the governor using a teleprompter for the State of the State speech before, though he had used one for his 2011 inaugural and the Democratic National Convention in September. He also seemed to be occasionally reading from an iPad. The new paperless O’Malley, an early adopter of smart phones and iPads, is a sign he’s stepping up his game for the national stage.

While the ambassador of Ireland had attended speeches before, the ambassadors of Russia, Poland, Qatar, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina added a new international flavor, not to mention the chair of the newly recognized Piscataway-Conoy tribe. (Maryland has sister states in Russia and Poland, a friendship agreement with Montenegro, and O’Malley visited oil-rich Qatar on his way to India in 2011.)

A refreshing change in rhetoric   

What was a little refreshing was some rhetorical restraint O’Malley showed in discussing spending. “We cut spending growth,” O’Malley said. Then, a little later he said, “We constrained budget growth and made government smaller.”

In many other times and places, O’Malley has claimed “spending cuts” of $8.3 billion over the last seven years, and even the footnotes to Wednesday’s speech reverts to this “spending cut” hyperbole, despite increasing the overall budget every year, but by smaller percentages than some of his predecessors. Much of what O’Malley did was reduce mandated increases in spending driven by formulas the legislature has passed and governors have signed.

This does require decisions about what future spending should be reduced, and it generally requires the governor to ask the legislature to change the law or formula to reduce spending. O’Malley has also cut some programs, mostly local aid, while increasing others. The number of executive department positions has also been cut by several thousand (most of them vacant), while the number of university positions has grown by several thousand (mostly grant or research funded, university officials maintain.)

Same old same old

But reporters had heard the bulk of the speech before in one way or another — all about the progress (7 times in the speech), moving forward (6 times) and the tough choices it requires (choice or choose, 20 times).

There was a PowerPoint presentation in December, the budget rollout with PowerPoint two weeks ago and separate news conferences on abolishing the death penalty, banning assault weapons and building wind farms. In a way, the State of the State address allows the governor to push all these priorities to all the legislators gathered in the same room at the same time, and make a big show of it. That may be useful for the governor, but it’s not news. (The speech plays much better on TV and on computer monitors than it does in person.)

The most disappointing part of the speech was the news O’Malley didn’t make. “There is no reason we should be content with having the worst traffic in the country,” O’Malley said, causing some numbskull to applaud. “Building a 21st century transportation network won’t happen by itself. We could be creating thousands of jobs and alleviating traffic congestion at the same time. We can either figure this out together, or every citizen in our state will continue to waste more time and more money sitting in more traffic.”

O’Malley thanked Senate President Mike Miller for his work on the issue, but provided no plan or proposal of his own, understandable given that O’Malley failed in 2007 and again last year to win an increase in the gasoline tax. Abolishing executions and tighter gun controls don’t cost a lot of money compared to new highways and transit lines, but they are also emotional distractions from the serious need for new and different revenue sources for the dwindling Transportation Trust Fund.

By Len Lazarick
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Under Creative Commons License: Attribution


Best Bets This Week


Marian Paroo (Claire Anovick) and Harold Hill (Erik Bell)

There is  “Trouble in River City”  when Easton Middle School presents the Tony Award winning (five of them, including Best Musical), Grammy winning (Best Cast Album) show The Music Man this weekend and next in the Easton High Auditorium. The plot: con man Harold Hill poses as a boys’ band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to naive townsfolk before skipping town with the cash. Librarian and piano teacher Marian Paroo sees through him but falls in love with him – and he with her, despite the risks. Grab the kids for a fun and quality family evening.

Looking ahead – Monday,  the Easton branch of Talbot County Free Library presents “An Evening of Jazz Guitar” featuring the Bob Johnson Trio. The trio will be performing selections from the Great American Songbook in this hour – long program.

And on Tuesday, February 5, the Maritime Museum presents Elizabeth Beckley of Preservation Maryland, who has spent her professional personal life, “, on, and under old Chesapeake houses.” The talk is part of the museum’s This Old Chesapeake House winter speaker series.

Friday, February 1 – 7:30 pm: The Music Man  Tickets are $10  adults/ $5  children, can be  purchased in advance from Easton Middle School, Crackerjacks, Little Rascals, Old Mill Deli or by contacting 410-829-9811. Shows 2, 8 & 9 at 7:30 pm and February 3 at 2:00 pm.

Monday, February 4 – 6:30 pm: Evening of Jazz Guitar with the Bob Johnson Trio   Free.   Talbot County Free Library, Easton, MD 21601

Tuesday, February 5- 1 pm: This Old Chesapeake House Winter Speaker Series  Space limited and pre-registration is required for all events. Call 410-745-4941.  $6 members, $8 non-members. Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St Michaels, MD


Not Everyone Biting on Pit Bull Liability Legislation

A bill meant to ease liability for pit bull dog owners and landlords was criticized by victims’ families, dog advocates, attorneys and legislators Wednesday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The committee heard testimony on legislation that would override a decision by the state’s highest court that imposed “strict liability standards” on owners of “pure bred pit bulls” and landlords who rent to these dog owners.

Sponsored by Delegate Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, the legislation mandates that evidence of a dog causing injury creates a “rebuttable presumption” that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had dangerous tendencies. While it reinstates common law that has been popularly referred to as the “one-bite” rule, Simmons rejected this characterization.

“Maryland has never been a one free dog bite state,” Simmons said. “You don’t need to prove a prior bite.”

Delegate Michael McDermott, R-Worcester, and others, said the burden of proof would fall to victims, as dog owners would always claim ignorance of the dog’s dangerous tendencies.

“The victims will not have any justice,” said attorney Kevin Dunne, who represented Dominic Solesky, a 10-year-old who was brutally mauled by a pit bull.

Dominic’s father Anthony Solesky agreed.

“The proposed bill fails miserably,” Solesky said. “The mere testimony of a dog owner that their beloved (dog) was a good, non-aggressive creature forces victims to relive the nightmare just like I have been living (by forcing defendants) to prove the vicious tendencies or aggressive tendencies of the attacking dog.”

Simmons argued that such cases would go to a jury, and the burden of proof would “shift to the defendant” to prove that he or she did not have knowledge of a dog’s vicious propensities, but others called for strict liability and rejected this assertion as incorrect.

For the advocates from B-More Dog and Bella’s Bully Buddies who rallied on Lawyer’s Mall to support the legislation, the court’s decision in the 2012 Solesky case that declared pit bulls “inherently dangerous” was more than false.

“It’s discrimination,” said Mindy Fitzgerald, a 29-year-old B-More Dog board member. “There is no such breed as a pit bull. It’s more of a grouping of several breeds of dogs.”

Angela Hartman, 46, said that the discrimination against breeds is also about discriminating against people.

“You end up being discriminated against when it comes to moving into a home or neighborhood or an apartment, or even walking your dog in a certain area,” Hartman said.


Geese In Flight And Fears At Night

Driving down a country road yesterday, I watched a sky filled with geese flying in strange patterns. Just as I realized that they were strange patterns, I heard a POP! and as I looked over my left shoulder, I watched a goose fall from the sky PLOP! onto the ground.

Honestly, I didn’t need to see that.

Kathy Bosin invites all Talbot Spy readers to visit her ongoing journal about living on the Eastern Shore –


Hours later, listening to howling wind in the night, I wondered about the geese. Where are they now? A field, perhaps, huddled up against the woods? They would know the best place to ride out the storm.

I flick on my smart phone, not so smart at 3:00 am. Smart would be to turn over and go back to sleep, but I don’t. Wind whistling and trees shaking, I scan dire predictions, facebook frights and meteorologists’ excitement.

I think of my friends in St. Louis, who purchased a steel box within which to seal themselves up during storms. I recall dogs and cats sinking to the ground, slithering slowly underneath furniture during those ferocious storms, and my desire to follow them. After 24 years living in the midwest, knowing the power of thunderstorms and tornadic winds, I can appreciate the feeling of safety knowing there’s a steel box in the garage with my name on it.

I read about one guy who was pierced by a tree landing on his bed, just over an hour ago, a few states south.

Around 5:00 am, I’m awakened again, this time by the sounds of thousands of geese. Flying in, landing on the cove, they surround the tiny schoolhouse. with their honks and chatter.

I fall backwards into sleep again, in the company of geese, on Harris Creek. No steel box, but a strong roof. And a sense of safety, knowing that the geese have landed back on the water, and are settling in.

I fly into a dream, arms outstretched, slowly rounding the cove. Feet out ahead, I land, skimming the water.



Fithian Blasts CBF, Says New Coalition Bringing Better Attention to Conowingo

Sediment from the Conowingo Dam after Tropical Storm Lee in 2011

Sediment from the Conowingo Dam after Tropical Storm Lee in 2011

Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian on Tuesday blasted the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for its deafening silence and lack of advocacy in addressing pollution coming from the Susquehanna through the Conowingo Dam — a point where many experts, and even CBF, say is the single largest source of sediment and nutrient pollution into the Chesapeake.

Fithian also blasted CBF for criticizing the Kent Commissioners’ decision to join the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, a seven-county coalition dedicated to addressing a fix at the Conowingo before the operator, Exelon Power, is approved for relicensing in 2014.

The coalition has hired the law firm of Funk and Bolton to challenge the science of the state’s new federally mandated Bay cleanup plan. The firm argues that the plan virtually ignores the Conowingo as the biggest source of pollution in America’s largest estuary.

In the ten minute video below, Fithian explains the work of the coalition, which Kent joined at a cost of $25,000.

“We were heavily criticized by all the so called experts,” Fithian said at Tuesday’s Commissioners’ meeting. “I would get calls at 7:30 in the morning, still in the shower, from people like the Chesapeake bay Foundation, who tried to tell us not to join the coalition.”

“I found that extremely puzzling to me that [an organization] whose motto is to “Save the Bay” would not want to take a look at something that was so important,” Fithian said. “I can’t understand it, and I probably never will.”

He said the new coalition has raised the attention of an influential state lawmaker, the Chesapeake Executive Council, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

“Nobody wanted to talk about the Conowingo Dam until the coalition was formed,” Fithian said. He said historically more blame has been put on farmers and waterman for the condition of the Bay. “Now it seems, and I’m pleased to announce, that everyone wants to talk about [the Conowing].”

He said the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Chesapeake Executive Council, consisting of 29 members appointed by governors of four states and the Mayor of DC, has written letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the EPA to look into the problems at Conowingo—before Exelon Corporation is relicensed to operate the dam in 2014.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, the powerful chair of the Environmental Matters Committee has recently made cleaning up the Conowingo Dam a top priority.

“One of the strongest committee members in Annapolis, without any exaggeration,” Fithian said. “She has just been appointed Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission…and she says her number one priority this legislative year will be to work on finding ways to solve the problems at Conowingo Dam.”

The seven-county coalition was formed in response to state’s federally mandated Watershed Implementation Program—designed to bring the Chesapeake into compliance with the Clean Water Act by 2025.

The state’s WIP plan sets timelines and milestones for Bay cleanup by requiring local governments to reduce farm, septic, and storm water runoff through locally enacted laws.

The seven-county coalition has argued that little attention to the Conowingo Dam puts an unfair burden on local governments and taxpayers to bear the most cost of Bay cleanup—while problems at the Conowingo Dam are ignored.

But CBF and other environmental groups are concerned that the coalition could use problems at Conowingo as an excuse to delay implementing local cleanup plans.

Maryland’s WIP plan was the result of a lawsuit won by Chesapeake Bay Foundation in 2010 that compelled the EPA to enforce the 1972 Clean Water Act. Under a consent decree, states in the Chesapeake Watershed, from New York to Virginia, were required to submit a WIP plan to the EPA that brought the Bay into compliance with the Clean Water Act by 2025.

So far, the cleanup costs to be shared by local communities in Maryland could reach as high as $14 billion.

Update: According to Clean Chesapeake Coalition Attorney Chip MacLeod, $3.7 billion will go to mitigate nutrient runoff from septic systems that  contribute 50,000 pounds of nitrogen into the Bay annually. By contrast, the Conowingo Dam releases 40 percent of the total nitrogen load into the Bay annually–131 million pounds.


The Year of Harriet Tubman Begins Saturday in Cambridge

2013 is the 100th year anniversary of the Eastern Shore’s greatest heroine, Harriet Tubman.

Tubman_c1885_VerticalCropAnd what an unlikely hero she was!

With five strikes against her, it’s beyond imagining that she would be remembered and celebrated by us today. She was illiterate, black, disabled, enslaved and female, in the 1800s, and in the marshes outside of Cambridge. Think about that for a moment. And wonder, as you might, how she developed a sensibility that she had the power to do anything about it.

But she did. A field hand, she endured cruel and brutal treatment, and escaped from the Eastern Shore, leaving her husband and family behind. She came back over a dozen times. Tubman used her invisibility as an enslaved, tiny woman as a cloak of protection, and managed to bring some 70 people to safety, at great personal risk. She was an underground railroad leader, became a Union scout, spy and nurse in the Civil War, fought for women’s right to vote and opened a nursing home in her later years.

Her present-day relatives will honor her with a wreath-laying ceremony on Saturday Feb. 2nd, at the Tubman Memorial Garden in Cambridge. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited, so RSVPs are required. To RSVP, email or call 800.522.TOUR (8687) or 410.228.1000. Click here for more information.

Major celebration events will be held during the week of March 8 – 10. Visit the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway website for more information about those and other Harriet Tubman events in 2013. You can sign up there for updates, and follow the celebration on social media.

Throughout the year, you’re welcome to take a self-guided driving tour including over 30 sites in Dorchester and Caroline Counties related to Tubman’s life and the Underground Railroad. More than 20 new interpretive signs, a new audio guide, and a map and guide are in the works.





Maryland 3.0: Community College Offers Technology Transfer Course

Photo by Amanda Rippen White

Photo by Amanda Rippen White

“Grow Your Business by Accessing New Product Technology” is a new 30-hour Technology Transfer course expecting to enroll its first students this spring at Wor-Wic Community College in Salisbury. The course, unveiled on Jan 29, 2013 at a luncheon at Wor-Wic, also will be taught later at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills; Delaware Technical Community College in Dover and Georgetown; and Eastern Shore Community College in Melfa.

For more information visit Delmarva Now.


ESLC Accepting Applications for Howard Wood Memorial Scholarship

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) is accepting applications for the Howard Wood Memorial Scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship honoring a founding board member of ESLC – Howard Wood – who was committed to maintaining the Eastern Shore’s rich rural and agricultural legacy.

The Howard Wood Scholarship was established by the family of the Mr. Wood to honor his lifelong commitment to youth, conservation and the Eastern Shore’s rich rural heritage. ESLC is currently accepting applications for the 2013 scholarship. The scholarship application is open to high school seniors who intend to pursue careers in agriculture, land use planning, alternative energy planning or other conservation related fields. The opportunity is open to residents of the six counties ESLC serves – Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot. Applications are available on ESLC’s website, or may be requested via phone.  To apply, applicants should fill out an application, provide a transcript and submit a 500-word original essay describing their response to the following question:

Consider the Eastern Shore in the next 25 years – what is your vision for the Shore? What will you do to ensure that the Eastern Shore remains a unique, rural gem long into the future?  Please include your academic plans, career aspirations and future goals when responding to this question.

Scholarship applications are due by March 29, 2013. Applications will be reviewed by family members of Howard Wood. One scholarship recipient will be selected, and the winner will be announced in May 2013.

For more information about the scholarship program, contact Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s Sassafras Environmental Education Center at

or (410) 348–5214.


About the Howard Wood Memorial Scholarship

Howard Wood spent summers at his grandmother’s farm crabbing, sailing and swimming if the jellyfish weren’t too thick. He helped with chores and learned to drive her Model T pick-up. After college and law school, Howard decided to live year round at Indiantown – the farm next door to his grandmother’s – and opened his law office in Centreville. He soon became aware that the increasing urbanization of the Shore threatened the livelihood of many of his clients – farmers and watermen – as well as the natural and fertile beauty of the area he loved so much. Howard spent many volunteer hours working with the Maryland Environmental Trust and was a founding Board member of ESLC. He helped many neighbors, clients and friends place conservation easements on their land. The Wood Family has established this scholarship in Howard’s memory and feel that helping a student interested in a career in conservation continue or start their education would honor his legacy.



Local Youth Donates to Pediatrics Unit

For the third year in a row, a young woman asked her friends and family to buy gifts for children staying at the hospital instead of buying birthday gifts for her. Donyae Miles recently celebrated her 18th birthday with a delivery of gifts to the Pediatrics unit at Memorial Hospital.


Pictured from left to right are Jennie Chambers, RN, Aryelle Miles, Natasha Wright, Donyae Miles, Fannie Wright and Janice Smith, RN. Shore Health thanks Donyae for her continued generosity and commitment to brightening the day of children who come to the hospital!


Sheriff’s Report

ST Michaels – On January 22, Deputies from the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 100 block of Bush Terrace for a domestic assault in progress. Upon arrival Deputies made contact with Charlotte Michelle Templeton, 43 of ST Michaels, MD. While interviewing Templeton, Deputies observed in plain view marijuana and paraphernalia in the residence. It was later determined Templeton had assaulted Stephen Ray Ruzika, 44 of the same address by striking him in the head with a coffee mug. Templeton was arrested and charged with second degree assault, possession of marijuana, possession of CDS paraphernalia. Templeton was taken before a District Court Commissioner and ordered held on a $5,000.00. Ruzika drove himself to the hospital for treatment.

Cordova – On January 24, Deputies from the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office were called to the 29000 block of Apple Drive for a residential burglary. Evidence showed unknown persons entered the garage of a residence and stole a 2013 Honda CRF 450RD off road motorcycle (photo attached). The homeowner reported seeing an older model 4 door passenger vehicle towing a small landscaping trailer with loud exhaust drive past his residence at approximately midnight and again at 1:00 am. The owner of the motorcycle has offered a $1,000.00 reward for information leading to the recovery of the motorcycle and the arrest of the persons responsible. If anyone has information they are requested to contact the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office at 410-822-1020 or

Easton – On January 25, Deputies from the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office arrested Tracy Earl Sherwood, 42 of Easton, MD for an outstanding warrant. Deputies observed Sherwood operating a motor vehicle without a license on Longwoods Road and attempted to stop his vehicle. Sherwood quickly turned onto Hailem School Road, exited the vehicle in a driveway a fled on foot. Several additional Deputies and the Maryland State Police responded to the area and were able to locate and apprehend Sherwood. The original warrant charged Sherwood with Theft over $1,000, unauthorized removal of property, conspiracy to commit theft under $10,000 and conspiracy-unauthorized removal of property. Sherwood had an outstanding warrant in Dorchester County, MD which was served by this agency and a violation of probation in Delaware. An accomplice, Andrew Glen Garber, 35 of Easton, MD was also arrested on this date and also charged with Theft over $1,000, unauthorized removal of property, conspiracy to commit theft under $10,000 and conspiracy-unauthorized removal of property. Garber was found to have two outstanding warrants from Howard County, MD. Sherwood and Garber were both ordered held at the Talbot County Detention Center.