Archives for November 2016

The Hospice Movement in Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne’s with Compass Director Heather Guerieri

On any given day Compass Regional Hospice might be treating as many as eighty patients throughout the Kent, Caroline, and Queen Anne’s counties with end-of-life care and support. That is a remarkable number for such a rural region as the Mid-Shore, but it also is a very positive sign that the acceptance of Hospice care is increasingly being embraced in those communities.

The job of directing the care for those eighty patients and their families has been the primary charge of Heather Guerieri, the executive director of Compass, at a time when demand is clearly growing. But with that growth has also come regulatory and health care complexities that could easily swamp an untested administrator.

This is not the case at Compass. Closely tied to the Hospice movement on the Shore since starting her work in Caroline County as a student nurse in the 1990s, Heather has seen over twenty years a dramatic change in how our culture deals with end of life decisions.

In her interview with the Spy, Heather talks about the future of Hospice, particularly in Kent County, and her organization’s ability to successfully navigate the challenges of our health system to continue to provide an exceptional level of service for Mid-Shore families.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Compass Regional Hospice please go here.


Delude Ourselves to Death by Al Sikes

One of the more revealing occurrences at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was replying to complaints about news coverage. We received a lot of complaints and, as I recall, never more than during the confirmation hearing for Justice Clarence Thomas.

The responses to virtually all the complaints were polite, but also a teaching moment. We stated that the First Amendment precluded the FCC’s opening up inquiries into the fairness of news coverage. The media was free to report. The audience was free to believe or disbelieve. This all happened when the only possible feedback was in the form of Letters to the Editor. How quaint.

At the time, I felt reasonably confident that the Fourth Estate would sort out the complaints and provide some balance in its coverage. If nothing else advertisers sometimes pushed back. I have my doubts today.

The Fourth Estate was first recognized by Irish Parliamentarian and philosopher Edmund Burke, who said “there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” Burke did not overstate its importance in a democracy.

The Fourth Estate, with a few exceptions, no longer enjoys a healthy business model. The classified advertising revenue stream was crucial for newspapers and significant audience share for broadcast networks is necessary if they are to maintain a strong journalistic staff. Newspapers have largely lost their classified advertising revenue base and TV news is spread among at least seven networks and has lost significant audience share to Internet based news, often Facebook and Google.

Facebook and Google claim that they are not news media, but simply distributors of what their users choose to post. Yet, Vox Media, a robust online news service, reports “the legitimate news stories outperformed the fake ones in the early months of the 2016 election campaign. But in the last three months, fake news sources saw their engagement surge.” Social media have become major sources of all news—real and fake.

Traditional media has weakened, social media has flourished. Most alarmingly, various online media have become the primary distributor of fake news. Paul Horner, a blogger and a source of fake news, is quoted in a Washington Post interview saying: “Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore…………” Horner claims to be a satirist and makes thousands of dollars monthly as the incurious and biased pass his stuff around.

Too many Americans allow their preferences to define their curiosity. Preferences should be contingent on asking questions, getting to the truth. I received by email forwards of fake news in the just concluded campaign. Most seemed to me implausible on their face. And when in doubt, there are web sites that specialize in sniffing out fraud, such as

It is also clear that with aggressive market expansion and platform dominance, plus significant cash flow, that Facebook and Google have responsibilities. In 2015 Facebook’s cash flow was $8.6 billion and Alphabet (Google’s owner) was $16.11 billion. They can afford to implement a credible news model since they, like it or not, have become news media.

It would also be encouraging to see TV networks live up to Fox’s clever branding: “fair, balanced and unafraid” while Fox News works on the “balanced” part. While it is hard to assess cause and effect, it seems certain that part of social media’s gain is because of the low opinion most have of legacy media.

My final thought: we live in complex and rapidly changing times. Curiosity, an essential trait for adapting, must be exercised daily to be a well-informed, prosperous citizen in a healthy Republic.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Letter to Editor: Stop Smoking in 2017

Make a New Year’s Resolution to Stop Smoking!

If your New Year’s resolution is to quit smoking, you’re in good company. It’s a popular goal, and many people succeed. In fact, there are more former smokers in the U.S. – about 50 million – than current smokers. Make this your year to join the ranks of those who’ve quit.
Quitting can prove challenging, and many people make multiple attempts. Nicotine is extremely addictive, but don’t give up! To help you better achieve a smoke-free you, here are three steps you can take that increase your odds of quitting for good.

1. Develop a quit plan. Pick a date and tell your friends and family.

2. List your reasons for quitting.

3. Use our free resources. Call us at 410-819-5600 for FREE help quitting, including cessation aids like Chantix, the patch and gum.

Statistics show that almost half of all adult smokers have tried quitting in the past year. Quitting has immediate and long-term health benefits at any age, and the Talbot County Health Department Prevention Office is here to help you.

Please call the Talbot County Health Department at 410-819-5600 if you’re ready to stop smoking. We can help you quit cigarettes, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco – even flavored cigars.

If you’d like to learn more about tobacco, alcohol and other drug use prevention, call me, Alexandra Duff, Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Coordinator at Talbot County Health Department, at 410-819-5600.

Alexandra Duff, Talbot County Prevention Coordinator

Wye River Upper School’s Board Chair Issues $50,000 Challenge Grant

Alexa Seip, Board Chair of Wye River Upper School, announced a challenge grant to increase financial aid in honor of John and Susan Devlin. She made the announcement at the school’s fall fundraiser celebrating the geographic diversity of its students, who come from eight Maryland counties east and west of the bay. The Devlin Family Financial Aid Fund challenge will match dollar-for-dollar gifts up to $50,000 before December 31, 2016.

Alexa Seip, left, Susan Devlin, middle, John Devlin, right)

Alexa Seip, left, Susan Devlin, middle, John Devlin, right)

This tuition assistance program will go to the heart of Wye River Upper School’s mission––to provide outstanding opportunities for bright students with learning differences, regardless of their ability to pay. When fully funded, the Devlin Fund will enable students, who would otherwise not be able to attend this extraordinary school, to receive the financial support they need to prepare for success in college, career and life.

The Devlins were honored for their long-time commitment to the school. Serving as Board
Chair since 2010, John led the school through two strategic planning processes. Under his leadership, the school conducted a Capital Campaign that relocated the school from Chesapeake College to its home in Centreville, the historic Maryland National Guard Armory.

With several years of fundraising experience, Susan became the first chairperson of the Wye River Upper School Resource Development Committee and played an important role on the committee for the school’s grand opening gala in 2014.

“John and Susan are always motivated by the kids––they work to change the course of a deserving student’s life. Sending a student to WRUS is the ultimate game-changer for a teenager, so the Devlin Family Fund is a perfect way to honor them”, said Chrissy Aull,
Executive Director of WRUS.

“The opportunity to fund the Devlin Family Financial Aid Fund with $100,000 is awe-inspiring and very motivating. So many more students will have the door opened to success and a lifelong love of learning. Wye River Upper School will meet this challenge and I hope beat it,” said Seip.

Contributions can be made here or by check to the Devlin Family Financial Aid Fund at
316 S. Commerce Street, Centreville, MD 21617. Pledge forms are also available at For more information, contact Chrissy Aull at

TCFL to Provide Teachers with Fine-Free Library Cards

The Talbot County Free Library is an essential resource for area teachers. To give their students the chance to discover for themselves how much fun reading can be, elementary school and daycare teachers regularly check out large numbers of picture books to hand out in their classrooms. Middle and high school teachers check out books on topics they are teaching, and then place them in their classrooms as reference materials for their students’ use or to have on hand for free reading times. And, of course, the library’s large and comprehensive collection is a life-saver for any parent hoping to home-school their children. The problem for all of these different teachers is that, as they go back again and again to check more materials out, it becomes harder to keep track of which books are due back when.

But the Talbot County Free Library has a solution. To make sure no one committed to the education of our young people ends up being fined for their dedication and hard work, the library will now offer “fine-free” teacher cards. Without fear of fines, teachers will be able to create temporary classroom collections and encourage the reading skills so necessary to a successful life in today’s world.

Only educators who work in Talbot County will be eligible for the Talbot County Free Library’s fine-free teacher cards. Library director Dana Newman said “educators” include: public and private school teachers, media specialists/librarians, licensed child care providers, and home-school parents and guardians residing in Talbot County.

Applicants for a teacher’s card must provide a driver’s license or other valid form of identification that verifies their current home address, as well as proof of their current teaching assignment. Acceptable proof of a current teaching assignment will include: a teacher’s work ID with a pay stub issued in the last 60-days; a letter on school or daycare letterhead (signed by the principal of the school or the owner of the daycare) that lists dates and details of the teacher’s assignment; a current State of Maryland Child Care Certificate (for licensed daycare providers); or written verification from Talbot County Public Schools of home-schooling status.

Library director Newman said, “We are excited about offering teachers these new cards. With them, teachers will be able to supplement their curriculum with an abundant, ever-changing supply of books on a broad range of subjects and reading levels. Students will have their eyes opened to the wide, wonderful world around them.”

Marketing Professional to Lead College Relations and Marketing Team

College President Sheila Bair today announced that Rolando Irizarry, a marketing and communications professional, will join the Washington College senior leadership as Vice President for College Relations and Marketing, effective December 5, 2016. Irizarry, whose award-winning branding campaigns have positioned both MedStar Georgetown and the George Washington University Hospital as healthcare leaders in the region, brings a wealth of experience in brand management, strategic planning, business analytics, integrated marketing, and digital advertising.

irizarry“Our college relations and marketing team is integral to the success of the College’s strategic initiatives, and I am so proud of the work they have been doing to share the Washington College story in support of student recruitment, alumni engagement, fundraising, and elevating national visibility,” President Bair remarked. “Rolando is inheriting a strong and creative team, and I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of their collaboration, particularly as the College undertakes a comprehensive fundraising campaign.”

“The campaign will help provide the energy and awareness needed to advance our message on scholarships, campus diversity, and the quality of our faculty,” Irizarry says. “I’m fortunate to be part of a talented CRM team that is passionate about the Washington College legacy. We have the opportunity to elevate the College’s presence on the national stage. Everyone on campus and in the community has a vision of what the College could become. My job is to provide structure and a unified voice to what Washington College means to all of us.”

Irizarry’s career spans 20 years in higher education, healthcare, and agency work. As senior public affairs officer for Florida International University, Irizarry worked with one of the largest, most diverse media markets in the country and organized the largest press event in campus history—a visit from the Dalai Lama that involved more than 200 journalists. He was also responsible for crisis communications and collaborated with the university president on legislative matters.

At Miami Children’s Hospital, Irizarry managed marketing communications and business development, while also serving as managing editor for the hospital’s medical journal International Pediatrics.

 He has worked with leaders at the George Washington University School of Medicine and George Washington University Hospital on a number of successful campaigns that significantly increased market share, grew revenue, and promoted patient education. Those campaigns garnered more than four-dozen awards.

Most recently, Irizarry served as regional marketing director in the Washington region for MedStar Health, Inc., and was on the faculty at the George Washington University School of Business. He is moving to Chestertown with his fiancée, Julia Belanger, a general practitioner with the University of Maryland Community Medical Group in Chestertown.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at

Chesapeake Charities Offers Free Workshop for Rural Health Care Providers


Linda Kohler, Chesapeake Charities Executive Director and Mary Ann Gleason, Grants and Evaluation Specialist.

A free workshop, “Development Strategies for Rural Health Care Providers” is being offered by Chesapeake Charities in cooperation with the Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center (“ESAHAC”) for local health and fitness organizations. The workshop takes place on Tuesday, December 6 at the ESAHEC facility in Cambridge, Maryland. Participants will learn new strategies to maneuver the changing dynamics of business in the health field.

The course will be led by Mary Ann Gleason, Grant and Evaluation Specialist and Linda Kohler, Executive Director. Gleason said “We’re happy to assist rural health care providers identify additional resources. After this hands-on course, they will have what they need to make a case to potential funders.”

Course content will include tips on:
• Identifying rural health resources and opportunities
• Effective strategies to make the case for funding
• Diversifying your funding base and impacting sustainability
• Partnering with the community
• Connecting with local government officials
• Modifying business/strategic plans to address new market opportunities in population health and preventive care

The free workshop runs from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon. Online registration is available on Chesapeake Charities website at For questions, please call Mary Ann Gleason at Chesapeake Charities (410) 643-4020 or send an email to

Chesapeake Charities is a local community foundation with over a decade of success in obtaining funding for local programs and initiatives and supports a wide range of charitable causes including arts, education, health and human services, animal welfare, and the environment. All of our 75 component funds have a common cause – a passion for making a difference in their communities. Together we have invested more than $9 million in the Chesapeake Bay region since 2005.

For more information, contact Chesapeake Charities at (410) 643-4020 or, or visit Chesapeake Charities is accredited by the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations.

Future of Affordable Care Act in Maryland is Uncertain

While President-elect Donald Trump vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act on the campaign trail, his recent promises to maintain key components of the law have reassured Marylanders, though many still feel the law’s future is questionable.

Members of Maryland’s Democratic congressional delegation have warned Trump about interfering with Obamacare, though the president-elect has said he plans to keep parts of the law that ensure coverage for people with preexisting conditions and grant people younger than 26 permission to remain on their parents’ plans.

“I think Republicans need to be very careful because the reality is that the uninsurance rate in Maryland and around the country is at a low,” Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, told WBAL News.

In Maryland, 120,145 people were signed up for coverage under the Maryland Health Connection exchange as of February 2015, and people covered under Medicare have saved almost $230,365,408 on prescription drugs with Obamacare since the program was started, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2009 — before Obamacare took effect — 24 percent of people living in poverty in Maryland were uninsured, while in 2014, 15.7 percent were uninsured, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Bruce Oppenheimer, a public policy professor at Vanderbilt University, said people who would be stripped of their Affordable Care Act benefits might feel more concerned.

“They do not want uncertainty, so they’re going to be asking for — where is it going to go,” Oppenheimer told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “Okay, you’re stripping this away. What are we going to have left? Are we returning to health care the way it was before the Affordable Care Act, or is something else going to come in its place?”

With a Republican White House and a Republican Congress, it’s possible that legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act could be introduced as early as next year.

Medical professionals in Maryland are in favor of Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, but are looking to the new administration to consider some changes within the Affordable Care Act, said Gene Ransom, the chief executive officer of MedChi, the Maryland state medical society.

“We don’t want to keep things that create barriers between a physician-patient relationship,” he said. “We’re seeing this as an opportunity to look at it and maybe try and make things better.”

Among the components MedChi is looking to roll back include the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel responsible for enforcing a limit on Medicare spending increases.

“We don’t think the government bureaucrats should be deciding what services are delivered to the patient,” said Ransom. “It should be decided by the physician and patient, not someone sitting in an office in Washington.”

But any changes to the Affordable Care Act aren’t going to happen overnight, said Leni Preston, president of Consumer Health First, an organization launched in May to continue the work of the Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care Reform.

“When we woke up on Wednesday morning (after the election), our agendas changed completely,” she said. “Instead of continuing to move forward, we are now looking at an agenda that requires us to look carefully at those state laws and those state regulations and make sure that we can provide policies and advocacy to make sure that Maryland keeps moving forward.”

Maryland’s use of a state-based exchange might work in the state’s favor to ensure some protections under the Affordable Care Act, but nothing is for sure, said Preston.

“It’s incredibly complicated; there are a lot of players from the president-elect on down and there are a lot of moving parts that people are going to be watching out for,” she said.

If the Affordable Care Act were to be completely repealed, it could be salvaged at the state level — but only if Gov. Larry Hogan decided Maryland would cover the cost of the program.

Currently, the federal government covers 59.8 percent of the cost of the program in the state, while Maryland is responsible for the other 40.2 percent of the funding, according to data from the Kaiser Family Health Foundation.

However, Maryland is “several months out” from being able to tell just exactly what Trump’s impact on Obamacare will be, said Chris Garrett, the director of communications for Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“It’s way too premature for us to be able to lay out specific changes to the Medicaid program as it pertains to the new administration, because the president-elect hasn’t been inaugurated yet,” he said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois and minority whip, is hoping that Trump’s softer comments about Obamacare during his Nov. 13 interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” could mean reform to the law instead of complete eradication.

In the interview, Trump called the stipulation to ensure coverage to people with preexisting conditions one of the program’s “strongest assets,” in addition to the rule that allows people younger than 26 to remain on their parents’ plans.

“If President-elect Donald Trump is serious about pre-existing conditions, he has just really taken a major step toward keeping a big element of Obamacare,” Durbin said. “You cannot have that protection without a large pool of insured people.”

By Hannah Lang and Maya Pottiger

Maryland Looking at Virginia’s Oyster Management Method

As Maryland watermen seek to shake up their state’s management of the Chesapeake Bay oyster fishery, they’re looking south, where landings in Virginia’s public fishery last year were six times what they were a decade ago.

Maryland’s wild harvest has actually surpassed Virginia’s in the last four years, as it enjoyed a similar boom. With a strong tradition of private oyster farming, Virginia gets more bivalves from leased bottom areas than from its public fishery.

But it’s the way that the Old Dominion manages its public fishery, rather than the overall result, that has drawn the interest of its northern neighbors.

A waterman harvests oysters from the Nansemond River. The use of power equipment to haul

A waterman harvests oysters from the Nansemond River. The use of power equipment to haul

Virginia regulates the harvest on much of its public oyster grounds on a rotating basis. Oyster reefs are opened to boats using power gear — dredges or smaller, motor-driven “hand scrapes” — only once every two or three years, and then for just a portion of the October-through-May harvest season. The schedule is staggered so some reefs in every part of the Bay remain open at any given time.

To hear Jim Wesson tell it, the state more or less backed into its rotational harvest system about a decade ago, as managers tried to keep watermen from rapidly depleting reefs that had just been restocked with oyster shells.

Wesson is the long-time chief of oyster conservation and replenishment for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). A former waterman, Wesson has a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology and more than two decades of experience in oyster management. With Maryland watermen expressing an interest in trying rotational harvest in their end of the Bay, that state’s officials recently invited Wesson to brief Maryland’s oyster advisory commission on rotational harvest.

“It started in the Rappahannock (River), in an area where we did a major restoration,” Wesson recalled in an interview with the Bay Journal. The area was initially closed to harvest, to young oysters, called spat, a chance to grow to market size after they had settled on reefs.

That normally takes three years. But back then, the diseases MSX and Dermo were rampant in the Bay and were killing oysters before they could be harvested. With landings seriously depressed, watermen lobbied successfully to open part of the restored area so they could take what was there before it died.

Once those reefs were depleted, Wesson says, watermen began to press to open the rest. Worried that the restoration would be short-lived if that happened, VMRC officials negotiated with watermen to divide the lower Rappahannock into six regions, and to open two areas a year in different parts of the river.

“They wanted to get in the lower areas so bad they were willing to go with rotation,” Wesson says. “If we had started from scratch, it would not have taken off.”

When reefs are closed for two to three years at a time, Wesson explains, oysters have time to spawn, and their young can grow without being hurt by constant harvest pressure. Even though watermen are supposed to throw back any oysters smaller than 3 inches, they’re often lost for good as the reef itself is torn up by the dredging gear.

By forcing watermen to wait, the rotational harvest not only prevented the rapid depletion of oyster reefs, it resulted in a bigger overall catch, Wesson says. “You get more bushels than if (they are) harvested every year,” he says. But to realize those rewards, he notes, “you’ve got to put up with some pain.”

Since then, Virginia’s rotational harvest has been extended to the York River and Mobjack Bay, to the Great Wicomico River and to Tangier and Pocomoke sounds. Meanwhile, Wesson says, the major threat to the survival of the Bay’s oysters — and to the viability of the oyster industry — has shifted. The diseases have abated; now, he says, the main challenge is harvest pressure itself.

“We have to control the harvest,” Wesson says, “in order to keep something out there for the watermen to harvest down the road.”

Virginia watermen have accepted it, for the most part. “I think overall, it’s been successful,” says J. C. Hudgins, acting president of the Virginia Waterman’s Association. “There’s so much pressure on the oyster resource now, two or three boats work an area for 30 days, they clean it up pretty good. It takes three years to grow back.”

Other areas in Virginia’s portion of the Bay are open on a yearly basis to hand tonging, the traditional scissors-like rakes on long wooden shafts that watermen with strong backs have used since the Civil War to muscle oysters from the depths. But Wesson says the hand-operated gear is so inefficient that watermen wielding it give up on working reefs once the oysters thin out to a certain point.

The motorized gear, though, is so effective that watermen can still catch their limit even when the marketable bivalves are widely dispersed. Any surviving adult oysters left can be so far apart that they have trouble connecting to reproduce. The gear also wreaks havoc on young bivalves, Wesson says, tearing up the reefs by breaking up and scattering the shells on which they’re growing.

That’s an unpopular view among watermen in both states, who insist that “working a reef” is vital to maintaining a healthy oyster population. Like a farmer plowing a field, they say, dredging improves a reef by turning oyster shells over and knocking off potentially smothering silt. But Wesson calls that “an old wives’ tale,” not borne out by the evidence. Surveys in Virginia have found, he says, that after watermen work a reef for just one month with hand scrapes to get the large, market-size oysters, 90 percent of the spat, or newly settled baby oysters, are destroyed.

“It’s pretty clear that working the bottom hurts; it doesn’t help,” he says. “They are not farmers; they are harvesters.”

Wesson’s views on oyster sanctuaries prove more to the liking of Maryland’s watermen, who want to be allowed to work in some of their state’s extensive network of areas closed to harvesting. To them, the rotational system sounds like the proverbial win-win.

“Really, it’s better than a sanctuary,” argues Robert T. Brown, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association. Leaving the reefs alone for a while means the oysters perform the ecological role for which the sanctuaries were established, Brown says, filtering water and providing habitat for other fish. But then by allowing harvests every few years — maybe even four or five, he suggests — watermen can collect the older oysters on the reefs, which he contends are bound to get infected by disease and die if left in the water.

Wesson says it’s unclear what, if any, benefit oysters enjoy in sanctuaries beyond being spared from harvesting. Surveys have found that the reefs in Virginia’s sanctuaries have no more oysters or better spat set than those nearby that are regularly harvested, he said.

Even so, he says he wouldn’t support eliminating Virginia’s sanctuaries, which tend to be smaller than Maryland’s. They’re natural monitors — “canaries in a coal mine,” he says — for the impacts of disease and harvest on the overall oyster stock.

Virginia’s rotational harvest system could still use some tweaking, Wesson says. The Tangier and Pocomoke areas are open every two years instead of three, and the landings from that region have plummeted of late. He has proposed lengthening their rotation to three years, but watermen have successfully resisted that. Meanwhile, the James River, home of Virginia’s most productive oyster grounds, is open every year, and the hand-scrape harvest there is expected to be down this season.

Even with rotational harvest, Wesson says, the fishery is showing signs of stress. The rebound in oyster stocks that came as diseases abated has brought a resurgence in the number of watermen seeking to harvest the bounty — so many, in fact, that they’re having a hard time catching enough lately to make a living. The VMRC has responded by trying to reduce the number of oyster harvest licenses.

Maryland has seen a similar surge in its oyster industry, but the state’s oyster advisory commission is talking about opening sanctuaries to harvest rather than controlling the amount of harvest pressure.

To Marylanders considering emulating Virginia’s rotational harvest system, Wesson offers some cautionary advice. First, he says, the reefs put in rotation need to get a dependable spat set of new baby oysters, or there won’t be a new crop to harvest every few years. That’s more likely to happen in the saltier waters in Virginia, he pointed out — in Maryland’s lower salinity water, good natural reproduction occurs less frequently.

Another key, he says, is ensuring that the shells on the reefs remain in good condition. That, he says, is his big concern for the future of the public oyster fishery in the Bay. Oysters create shell as they grow, and their shells provide the foundation for succeeding generations, as initially free-swimming oyster larvae need hard surfaces on which to settle. But Wesson says the Bay is suffering a net loss in reef habitat — they disintegrate naturally over time, and their destruction is hastened by being repeatedly raked over by harvesters.

The VMRC gets $2 million a year from the General Assembly to replenish reefs where the shell stocks have been worn down by harvest pressure. But Wesson says that’s nowhere near enough. The VMRC this year was only able to pay for dredging up or buying enough shell from oyster-packing houses to replenish about one third of the 1,500 acres of reefs in need of rebuilding.

“We don’t have enough oysters creating enough shells to replace what’s lost,” he warns. “We are always losing shell, and if we don’t put shell back, then we cannot maintain any stability in our oyster beds, and we’ll lose them all.”

Timothy B. Wheeler is managing editor and project writer for the Bay Journal. He has more than two decades of experience covering the environment for the Baltimore Sun and other media outlets.
By Tim Wheeler

Out and About (Sort of): Feeling Thankful, and Saddened Too by Howard Freedlander

When I wrote last year about Thanksgiving in Rehoboth Beach, DE, I wrote as poetically as I could about the wonders of celebrating this purely American holiday with family and a sumptuous turkey at a house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The holiday respite this year was just as wonderful and joyous as last year’s gathering, albeit several degrees cooler.

Surrounded this as well as last year with mostly harmonious sounds of two toddler-grandchildren, constant chatter among the adults and even brief periods of silence while engaged in reading and cooking (not my activity), I felt that life was just right. I couldn’t ask for more.

Days began with lovely sunrises, viewed from a comfortable deck. An IPhone works beautifully in capturing the magnificence of the sun rising from its slumber.

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-9-06-47-amThe beach beckoned after ample dinner meals. On Thanksgiving evening, adults and children watched as my ever-patient son-in-law successfully figured out how to fly a “wish balloon.” Also known as a Chinese lantern, it is a small hot air balloon made of oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame, with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended.

According to Wikipedia, “sky lanterns” have been typically produced in Asia “for play or as part of long-established festivities.” A” sky lantern” is a translation of the Chinese name, also referred to as “sky candles” or “fire balloons.”

Both the two children and four adults were mesmerized when one of the balloons actually rose and flew across the ocean before it fell in the water. We were not sure, or too concerned, about whether the paper was biodegradable. This normally environmentally sensitive group took a break from its constant earth-saving concerns.

Thoughts that come to mind during Thanksgiving devolve on thankfulness: are we grateful for family and friends, a good job, strong community, God, personal security, memories, inner peace, outer peace and being loved and being able to love?

All of the above?

Like a plate full of turkey and delicious sides, a panoply of thanks is something to behold—and treasure. We often are at a loss for words to express our gratitude. I suspect we know the words but are loath to express our feelings, except on rare occasions.

It’s human to hold back. It’s also human to wish for openness, a view into someone’s soul. Watching a “wish balloon” ascend into a dark sky elicits some internal, probing thoughts.


Lt. Gen. (MD) James F. Fretterd

As the Thanksgiving holiday came to a close the past Saturday, I received a phone call that Lt. Gen. (MD) James F. Fretterd, the adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard from 1986 to 2002 and a longtime Caroline County resident, died at age 86. He had struggled with poor health in recent years.

I served closely with General Fretterd during his 16 years as the Guard’s commanding officer. Our professional relationship combined with a strong personal friendship.

I had last seen General Fretterd six days before he died. As he did during his career, he fought hard to survive. His strong will was insufficient to prolong his life. He was fighting too many physical infirmities.

Jim Fretterd—whose first name I never used—was resolute and passionate. He loved his family, and he loved the Maryland National Guard.

Under his steady, aggressive leadership, the Guard grew stronger and better as a military organization. Its highest ranks in the officer and non-commissioned officer corps grew more diverse. Overseas missions increased. Public awareness of this historic organization took on greater eminence in Annapolis and Washington, DC.

He served our state and our nation exceedingly well, tirelessly so.

After General Fretterd retired in 2003, and I became a deputy treasurer for the State of Maryland, we kept in touch. Our favorite place to talk and reconnect was Suicide Bridge Restaurant in Secretary in Dorchester County. We always sat at his favorite table. The staff knew and liked him; they also knew his favorite menu choices.

I wrote earlier about thankfulness and feelings often tough to express. I feel no reluctance in thanking my friend, General Fretterd, for his loyalty, for giving me the chance to serve effectively in the Maryland National Guard and enabling us to form a strong professional and personal relationship.

I will miss my longtime boss and friend.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.