Archives for August 2017

Spy Minute: Meet the Purple Ambassadors

Truth be told, it is very hard to remember a more successful early rollout of a public education campaign then Talbot County’s recent kickoff for Talbot goes Purple. Over the last few weeks, there has been a cascading awareness throughout the County of the Purple project through the use of bumper stickers, T-shirts, and a regular stream of press releases and community outreach events. All in the name of creating much greater awareness of local substance abuse.


Ambassadors Savanah Turner, John Duty, Colin Elliott and Corey Wazniak.

This initiative of the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office and the Tidewater Rotary, in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, seems to many as an extremely promising first start in a long-term effort to engage young people to understand the dangerous drug epidemic that now surrounds them.

Given that the primary audience for Talbot Goes Purple is young people, the Spy spent a few moments with four leaders of the Easton High School this week to understand first hand how they became involved and what the main message will be to their peers over the next year.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Talbot Goes Purple please go here

Easton Sidewalks: Shapers on the Rails to Trails

It’s hard to call the Shapers sign on the Easton Rails to Trails a billboard. It stands discreetly placed behind an equally discreet wooden fence where Needwood Avenue intersects the pathway. Nonetheless, it seems to be the only commercial signage along the 2.5-mile walkway that might even come close to that description.

The Spy marvels at the kind of care taken to inform potential customers as they are walking their dogs or biking before work that all of their hair, nail care, tanning, waxing, facial and body treatment needs can all be found at what must be one of the most lovingly restored dairy plants on the Eastern Shore.

For more information about Shapers please go here




Op-Ed: The Right Solution to Our “Talbot Boys” Problem by Dan Watson

The “Talbot Boys,” standing tall in front of our Court House, loom over Talbot County fraught with symbolism that divides us.

This statue is indeed part of our history and heritage–and as it is tied to race, it is especially important that this statue remain at the Courthouse, to remind us how central race relations are to our local community. We forget history at our peril. I agree with those who say we must keep it, because we can not and should not erase history

And we also know this statue it is a deeply offensive symbol of slavery and racial dominance, paying homage to a particular group of men (some who were even “come heres” after that War) who fought against our Nation in support of slavery and human bondage. Honoring these men today, and indirectly honoring the cause for which they took up arms, is morally offensive, and by no means only to our black brothers and sisters.

Here is the right solution: we keep the Talbot Boys statue on the Courthouse grounds, but present it in a totally new manner, as part of a dignified and honest display of the racial history in Talbot County. Being quite serious about this proposal, and notwithstanding that I am no landscape architect, I want to lay out this concept in some detail.

There is a walkway heading south from Federal Street, along the back side of the Court House. Along that path, we install seven small exhibits (maybe just an informative plaque with a photo or two, and maybe a single artifact at each stop). illustratively, I’d suggest these as appropriate chapters telling all so briefly an accurate story of race relations in Talbot County:

1636-1861: Slavery…and Free Blacks. We tell of bondage and suffering, our nation’s original sin if ever we had one. Mentioned also is Easton’s Hill District, where free blacks built a small community. Links of chain are not too harsh to represent this darkest of chapters.

1861-1865: War, Blue and Grey. We tell of men from Talbot County who went to war, mostly for the Union, a sizable minority for the Confederacy. Artifact—perhaps a cannon.

1865-1895: Recovery. We tell of the quiet spell, the hangover, as rural Talbot adjusts—or not—to a new basis of relations between whites and blacks. Is an old plow an appropriate fixture?

1895-1960: Jim Crow and Resurgence of The Lost Cause. We tell the truth of the rise of de jure alongside de facto segregation, and the extreme social, political, and cultural dominance of whites in this era. The proper artifact for at this stop, of course, is the Talbot Boys statue, presented anew as I’ll discuss below, and perhaps the story of how it came to be erected. The Talbot Boys, of course, is all about 1914, not 1865.

1960-1970: Civil Rights Ascendant: Explain how the civil rights movement was manifest in Talbot in the context of the nation’s experience, and our neighboring town of Cambridge. Artifact? A stool from a soda fountain works for me.

1970-2018: Progress and Tension: The hardest chapter to write, as we’re too close. Without question enormous progress has been made in race relations over a half-century. Some are pleased and self-satisfied, claiming things are fine. Most others know that daily injustices and race-based problems remain. What is the right artifact for this era? I’m not sure.

2018-________: The Future–Black and Brown and White Together. I think this starts by recounting the removal of the Talbot Boys from the place of honor in front of the Courthouse to its proper spot along “the path of race relations” in Talbot. It is an event of significance and promise. And importantly, we need to tell of the relatively new members of our community from Latin America and elsewhere—a new thread in the tapestry. Then we just leave the rest of this plaque blank, so our children have someplace to write the story of how they saw us live our lives among people of different colors.

All this is done in brief of course, and refers visitors to other resources around the County, like the Talbot Historical Society and the library right across West Street.

Now, as to the Talbot Boys statue itself. The problem in my opinion is not with the thing per se; it is that it stands in a place of honor, public honor. That is fundamentally what must change. The thing needs to be desanctified, made secular. (And that is not an act of disrespect to descendents of those families, whose sensibilities do not in my opinion trump the public’s need to get this right in any event.)

The statue is comprised of 3 elements. The 2’ high base stays where it is, and is repurposed—and not for statuary. The pedestal and statue are moved to the right spot along the pathway described (set far back against the wall perhaps), and the statue comes off the pedestal. Keep the large stone with the names—those men were who they were. And keep that boy and his furled flag, but at ground level, not raised in glory. Let folks take note how those in power in 1914 wished to glorify the past, perhaps to assert a renewed confidence in their own dominion.

A couple of final thoughts. I think this installation would be a boon. Talbot County is a great place, and it’s not just the land and the water. While other towns and cities are removing statues in the dark of night, or providing backdrop to riot and violence, Talbot County can make a different statement. We embrace our history, we are truthful and respectful of our history, and we’re moving forward, not stuck in the past. And we know how to compromise, in order to reach workable solutions.

As to the cost of all this? Well, this County Council has so far been unimaginative, embarrassingly unable to deal with the Talbot Boys. So I have little confidence they can find a way to finance it, even though grants should abound. If they can’t come up with the money, you know others in the community can.

Dan Watson, a 20 year resident of Easton, operated a small commercial real estate development in Baltimore and also was the major financial backer and CFO of a successful healthcare IT company. He serves on the boards of Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy and Talbot Mentors. Dan graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in American Studies and received his MBA from Wharton.

Consumer Advocacy Group Protests CareFirst Rate Hikes

Many Marylanders face sharp rate increases for health insurance after the Maryland Insurance Agency (MIA) approved requests by CareFirst, the state’s largest insurer.

The MIA on Aug. 29 approved increases averaging 34.5 percent for CareFirst’s HMO plans and 49.9 percent for its Preferred Provider plans for the individual market for 2018. The increases granted were pared back from CareFirst’s original request for more than 50 percent increases in its rates.

Other insurance companies also requested increases. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, which accounts for nearly a third of the statewide market, requested increases averaging 25.1 percent across its plans. Uncertainty over what Congress may do to reform or possibly repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was largely to blame for the requested rate increases, according to a July report in the Baltimore Sun.

Leaders of Consumer Health First, the statewide consumer policy and advocacy organization, expressed deep concern about the effects of such a high rate increase on Marylanders and the stability of the state’s insurance marketplace.

The state’s decision will have devastating consequences for consumers and the long-term sustainability of the individual market,” said Leni Preston, president of Consumer Health First. “These rate increases are inconsistent with CareFirst’s statutorily mandated mission to provide affordable and accessible health insurance to its members.”

The premium hikes will especially harm Marylanders who do not qualify for a federal subsidy and could further destabilize the marketplace as healthier CareFirst customers either find a different carrier or drop coverage completely, Consumer Health First said in a news release Tuesday.

Beth Sammis, former acting commissioner of the MIA and a Consumer Health First board member, said, “It is time to hold CareFirst accountable for its performance in the individual market. CareFirst needs to demonstrate it is doing all it can to build a partnership with health care providers and consumers in the individual market to improve health and lower costs.”

Sammis called on the president and Congress “to take the steps necessary to guarantee the federal government will pay insurers the amount due for subsidies.” She said, “Failure to make these payments will result in even higher rate increases.” 

We also urge Governor Hogan and our elected officials to move forward with state programs to stabilize the individual market, such as a state reinsurance program, and to require the Commissioner to consider CareFirst’s statutory mission when reviewing rate filings in the future,” added Sammis.  

A previous analysis by Consumer Health First raised a number of concerns about CareFirst’s justification for its proposed hikes to premiums. It said that CareFirst remains on solid financial footing, with a surplus far exceeding what is required by law for a health insurer, despite its losses on the individual market since 2014.

Piazza Food Bites: Spy Notes on Piazza’s Latest Wine Dinner

Two great Easton entrepreneurs joined forces with Folio Fine Wine Partners to produce an extraordinary tour through Sicily’s Donnafugata winery. With Amy, Chef Chris and the Out of the Fire Restaurant team preparing a perfectly paired five-course meal to match the carefully selected wines by Emily and her team from the Piazza Italian Market, the nearly forty who signed-up for the event were in for an evening of sensational taste experiences.

Piazza’s Emily Chandler briefs the wine dinner attendees

Out of the Fire was opened only to the wine tasting guests and they were greeted by pickled shrimp with melon, speck and basil at the table as they entered and Donnafugata’s Anthilia was poured. That was followed by grilled swordfish on a perfect green heirloom tomato accompanied by the second white wine, the Lighea from Italy’s Zibibbo grape.

The red wine courses were remarkable and really highlighted two very popular Donnafugata wines. The Sherazade was paired with a Sicilian-style pizza topped with heirloom tomatoes, anchovies and calabrese sauce. The Nero d’Avola grape from Sicily delivered on Donnafugata’s promised ” pleasantly fruity bouquet with fragrant notes of cherry and red plum, combined with light spicy scents of black pepper.

The Nero d’Avola grape blended with Petit Verdot and Syrah provided the second red wine in what Donnafugata calls its “flagship red,” Mille e Una Notte. Paired with lamb meatballs that included toasted semolina polenta, arrabbiata sauce and ash goat cheese, this course made for a magnificent conclusion to the dinner entrees.

Of course, Out of the Fire and Piazza had one wonderful treat left, a fresh goat cheese cheesecake and peach preserve, paired with Donnafugata’s Ben Rye 9, described as “one of Italy’s most appreciated sweet wines.”

Thus, another of Piazza’s wine tasting dinner came to a fulfilling conclusion.

Watch Piazza’s website  for information on future wine tasting dinners and drop by after 1 PM on Friday’s for the weekly tasting of a featured wine.

Upcoming financial issues best handled by Congress, not Wall Street by Robert Ketcham

Events this September will be a key test for our Republican Congress—the land of Oz needs them to step up and shoulder the burden of governing.

The first agenda item is the debt ceiling. It needs to be passed by the end of September. On Monday, August 21st the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there was “zero chance—no chance” that Congress would fail to raise the debt ceiling although he offered no clues about how that would be achieved. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has requested a “clean increase”- a bill similar to what has been passed as many as 80 times since 1960.

The debt limit was first established in 1917 to facilitate Congress’ ability to raise money on the eve of America’s entry into WWI. Before that short-term debt instruments had to be specifically legislated, even for specific appropriations. From the time a debt limit was first established the members of Congress have understood that the debt limit was a legislative act required to ratify the debt that their previous legislative actions had obligated the country to pay. These amounts are contained in the Budget that has been approved, in Appropriations bills passed and signed into law, and in “Entitlements” like Social Security and Medicaid that have already been voted on.

For a few years now the vote on the debt ceiling has been mischaracterized by some feckless Republicans as a vote to add more debt obligations, a statement that is simply not true. Since 1960, whenever the debt ceiling bill was brought up in the House or Senate there were usually partisan votes, mostly predicted by the party affiliation of the incumbent president. But it was well known to be a legislative charade without consequences since it was understood by whichever leadership was running the show that they had the votes to pass it when the vote was called. Members have a history of posturing during debate on both sides of the issue. Congressional leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, the then Senator Barack Obama, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell each engaged in their own political debt ceiling drama.

But things changed starting in 2011. At that time Republican obstructionists decided to create legislative havoc and terrorize the Obama Administration by demanding unilateral policy changes in return for preserving the full faith and credit of the US. Some readers will remember the name Eric Cantor, the former House Majority Leader from Virginia who sought radical policy changes with his threat: to either cave into House Republican demands or there would be a default.

Last Monday’s statement by Mitch McConnell, the very leader so maligned by President Trump, is a hopeful sign that the Republican Congress is planning to get its act together and carry out its legislative duties in a responsible adult manner. If this turns out to be so, it will constitute a major policy shift. It should be noted that Democratic members also will be put on the spot. It is my hope that they will act in a bi-partisan manner and vote for the debt limit, and honor their obligation to continue funding for programs already legislated.

Republican leaders have their work cut out for them. A real leadership test is coming up. The Senate Majority Leader has stepped up, and the Treasury Secretary. House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose support is essential, has been around long enough to have been involved when former Speaker Boehner had his troubles with Eric Cantor and other conservative House Republicans. Ryan will also be tested. On Thursday, August 24, Speaker Ryan stated “there are many different options in front of us on how we achieve that,” he added. “We pay our debts in this country. We will continue to do so.”

The Republican congressmen who previously adopted or supported the tactics of obstruction will have to change their stripes. It is their party which is in power now, and with that power comes responsibility to govern. Not only should it dawn on these congressmen, but it surely will also be a standard that their constituents will require—just look what happened to Eric Cantor who went from being Majority Leader to losing his next primary!

Thus the first test for the Congress in September, as I see it, is to pass the Debt Ceiling bill, and get that business out of the way. Armed with that first success, they must then tackle the budget itself and several key pieces of legislation that are required for immediate action. Stay tuned. September will be a busy month for the Congress even without President Trump’s twitters and speeches. It remains to be seen if Congress can pull off the needed success in spite of him. It’s a tall order. And, waiting in the wings is the Republican’s stated interest in tax reform. If the Republican Congress demonstrates it can work together with Congressional Democrats to accomplish its key legislative business this fall, then this path will open up the possibility of tackling the issues involved in tax reform.

Reforming the United States tax code is an enormous undertaking even in normal times; the complexity of the task is usually stated as the reason why it’s been some twenty years since it was last accomplished. So many competing interests have a stake, therefore taking on tax reform requires an enormous commitment of time and hard work. To do it right will require regular legislative order, with many many hearings, followed by many many markups, then floor consideration, including amendments, passage in both houses then a House-Senate conference, and then the final passage in both houses. This kind of legislative hard work to produce good legislation has been sabotaged for the last eight years. Ironically, the last time Congress took on anything nearly this complicated was the Affordable Care Act, which may be no model at all since in the end it was adopted without bipartisan support.

In this first year of a new Republican administration, everything hangs in the balance until something positive happens in the Congress. Timely passage of the Debt Ceiling can get things started. At present we have to hope that our elected legislators in the Congress will find a way to work together for the common good to fill the leadership void, and by their actions provide the needed proof of who we really are as a nation.

Robert Ketcham served as the chief of staff of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology and staff director of the Fossil and Nuclear Energy Subcommittee during the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to those positions, he was Special Counsel to the House Select Committee on Committees chaired by Richard Bolling (D-MO).  He holds a BA and JD from Washington and Lee University as well as a SG from Harvard University’s Senior Managers in Government Program. He has lived in Easton since 1999 with his wife, Caroline.


Out and About (Sort of): Too Many Generals? By Howard Freedlander

In recent weeks I’ve read articles and op-ed pieces about the prominence in the Trump White House of three generals. Gen. John Kelly, chief of staff; Gen. Jim Mattis, secretary of defense and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, national security advisor. The question raised is whether the presence of these gentleman undermines the long-held and well-respected tradition in our country of civilian rule over the military.

In other words, is our nation threatened by a potential military coup due to the high-level positions held by these generals (two of whom, Kelly and Mattis, are retired)?

Do these military officers exercise too much influence over policy development and execution?

Before I offer my opinion, I should state that my favorite room in the Maryland State House in Annapolis is the Old Senate Chamber, where General George Washington resigned his commission, thus illustrating and exemplifying the primacy of civilian rule over the military establishment. It was not a mere gesture. It was purposeful on the part of a man blessed with abundant common sense and love of country. He understood that democracy demanded civilian jurisdiction over the armed services—though this civilian governance could and would often over nearly 240 years rankle wartime commanders bothered by interference considered ill-informed by uniformed individuals.

Now reading a book describing President Harry Truman’s firing of General Douglas McArthur during the Korean War, I feel even more strongly about the civilian-military relationship in our nation. It was a messy but necessary divorce.

Back to our current state of affairs and the supposedly influential generals mentioned in the lead paragraph. I see no danger of the militarization of the top rungs of Trump Administration. I see no threat or degradation of our long-established tradition of civilian control. My reasons follow.

These three gentlemen are exceedingly competent and intelligent people who have long occupied positions of responsibility.

In today’s foreign policy environment, involving numerous conflicts and flare-ups across our earth, military leaders like Kelly, Mattis and McMaster have become fluent not only in warfare but diplomatic maneuvers. They have not sat in a metaphorical foxhole sheltered from complex international issues and debate.

Anybody who has served in combat and experienced death and destruction on the battlefield is typically reluctant to enter another fray. Simply, concern by some that generals situated in high-level civilian positions are trigger-happy warriors is plainly mistaken. Gen. Kelly lost a son in Iraqi combat.

Since World War II, retired generals have played significant roles in national security roles, to the benefit of American citizens. General George Marshall served as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense during the Cold War. He was widely respected, if not revered in some quarters, for his competence, steadiness and integrity. More recently,

General Colin Powell served as National Security Advisor under President George H.W. Bush and then as Secretary of State under President George Bush. He too was exceptional.

While I realize that Kelly, Mattis and McMaster have gained media attention because three is a larger number than one, and they are serving an erratic, undisciplined president, they are gifted individuals who view public service as a noble, sometimes treacherous undertaking. They provide much-needed stability and orderly thinking at a time when both are in short supply in the current White House.

One final reason: Generals Kelly and Mattis are retired, fully deserving of being full-fledged citizens able and willing to serve their country in suits and ties, bringing a wealth of experience and wisdom. Lt. Gen. McMaster is still on active duty; he’s been willing to serve in a civilian capacity while putting his military career on hold.

I feel totally comfortable with both the number and quality of generals in the Trump Administration. They are qualified and capable. They are learning that political and bureaucratic combat is difficult and demanding. They realize that recommendations they make (or don’t) have far-reaching consequences.

As I pray in church for peace and political wisdom, I express thanks for the likes of Generals Kelly, Mattis and McMaster. Their fellow Americans are fortunate they are still serving and serving well.

George Washington might cringe a bit at the prominence of the three generals. Upon reflection, he would understand their invaluable contributions to a nation in need.

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. 

Spy House of the Week: 315 Morris Street in Oxford

At first glance, this house appears to be a renovated older house but it is actually a newer house that was seamlessly fitted into Oxford’s historic streetscape. Its street and side elevations are traditionally detailed. However, as you move around the house, the side courtyard’s extended balcony and the rear decks have an almost invisible contemporary steel post and cable handrail.  

Even though this is a small urban lot, the house offers plenty of options to enjoy being outdoors. A wrap-around deep front porch is a spacious outdoor room.  Two covered porches and a third-floor deck for soaking in the sun offer expansive views of the harbor.

The house has three floors to easily accommodate family gatherings or weekend guests. The open stair to the second floor is a striking architectural feature and the clerestory window floods the stair with light. There are many other large windows and oversized doors to brighten the rooms throughout the house. Teak floors and other high-end quality finishes complete the contemporary interior.

For details about this property contact Cornelia Heckenbach at Long and Foster Real Estate Cell: 410-310-1229 or Email:

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from HUD neighborhood revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio to renovate an abandoned barn into a library for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee. Her passion for Italian food, wine and culture led her to Piazza Italian Market where she is the Director of Special Events, including weekly wine tastings and quarterly wine dinners.

Spy Minute: Dancing through the Decades for St. Michaels Community Center

St. Michaels Community Center hosted a fundraising dance on Saturday, August 26 at the St. Michaels Inn. Tickets were $50 per person as the event was sold out. Guests of all ages were invited out for a night of music, food, and fun. A homecoming court was elected and the winners were announced at the dance. A live band performed as guests danced the night away. Justine’s, a local ice cream parlor, served delicious treats.

Congratulations to Jen Shatwell and JD, the 2017 Homecoming King and Queen.

This video is a minute long in length. For more information about St. Michaels Community Center or the Homecoming Dance, click here.

Join Adkins Arboretum for CHIHULY at the New York Botanical Garden

Artist Dale Chihuly has mastered the translucent and transparent qualities of ice, water, glass and neon to create works of art that transform the everyday experience. He is globally renowned for his ambitious site-specific installations in public spaces as well as exhibitions in museums and gardens worldwide. For the first time in more than 10 years, Chihuly’s artwork is on view in a major garden exhibition in New York. CHIHULY, on view through October at the New York Botanical Garden, showcases more than 20 installations and includes drawings and early works that reveal the evolution and development of Chihuly’s artistic process during his celebrated career. Join Adkins Arboretum on Sat., Oct. 28 for an afternoon and evening adventure to NYBG to view Chihuly’s breathtaking works of art that dazzle with color, light and form in both day and night.

Set within NYBG’s landmark landscape and buildings, this sensory-filled exhibition is a must-see as the Garden’s dramatic vistas become living canvases for work created specifically for NYBG, showcasing Chihuly’s signature shapes and brilliant colors. The exhibit includes a monumental reimagining of his storied 1975 Artpark installation, with new works enlivening the Garden’s water features and reflecting the interplay and movement of color and light. One-of-a-kind installations highlight the synergy between Chihuly’s organic shapes and the natural environment. 

The trip includes CHIHULY Nights, when the artworks are spectacularly illuminated amid NYBG’s sweeping vistas and magnificent Conservatory. The after-sunset atmosphere is thrilling as the exhibition is infused with magical energy, heightened drama and luminous colors and forms when works are lit under the evening sky.

This trip is offered during the final weekend of CHIHULY and CHIHULY Nights. The bus departs from the Easton Firehouse on Aurora Park Drive at 10 a.m. and from the Route 50 westbound Park and Ride at Route 404 at 10:20 a.m. An additional stop at the 301/291 Park and Ride will be added upon request for Chestertown-area residents. The bus will depart for home at 8 p.m. The program fee of $150 for members and $205 for non-members includes transportation, admission to NYBG and CHIHULY Nights and driver gratuity. To ensure the trip proceeds, please register by Fri., Sept. 29 at or by calling 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature, conservation and gardening. For more information, visit or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.