Spiritual Medium and Grief Specialist Roland Comtois Returns to Talbot County in June

Roland Comtois, Internationally acclaimed Spiritual Medium, Grief Specialist, best-selling Author, and Inspirational Speaker returns to the Eastern Shore after Sold Out Channeling events in years past here. He returns for a channeling event on June 21st at The St. Michaels Inn, St. Michaels and will be offering a new event at the Avalon/Stoltz Listening Room in Easton on June 22nd. All events are open to the public.

Roland is a gerontology nurse by profession who commits full time to his mission of healing and love. He has been sharing specific and meaningful messages now for over 45 years. Attendees to Roland’s events are truly touched by his abilities to connect with departed loved ones and share direct powerful messages that the attendees can understand. The messages truly change people’s lives. This is Roland’s 3rd year returning to the area, and his events are always anticipated with great enthusiasm from past attendees, who gain a greater understanding of the afterlife and communicating with your loved ones, and some received one of Roland’s signature Purple Papers.

Roland’s unique signature Purple Papers with documented messages he receives daily in meditation are pre-transcribed messages that bring peace and comfort beyond words to the recipients. The Purple Papers truly set Roland apart from others in his field. Examples of the Purple Papers are shown here:

For these June events, Roland will again be providing messages, address how to remain connected with your loved ones who have passed and overcoming grief, and the eternity of love. A new addition for the Avalon event includes Roland telling first-hand the story of his near-death experience, including an original musical score and songs, and then deliver poignant channeled messages from loved ones, including his Signature Purple Papers. Roland will deliver as many messages as possible as time permits, and some may also receive a Purple Paper. The events are such a compelling experience to help those who have suffered loss to find strength through the love they shared. Roland is dedicated to helping people recognize that life – and love – do not end when someone passes from this plane. Roland’s following includes a global audience of all faiths and ages who look to him for affirmations that love is eternal and heaven exists, and that spiritual connections are possible in every moment of time.

Roland is also the co-host with Bobbi Parlett, owner of Simpatico, Italy’s Finest, St. Michaels, MD for their annual St. Francis pilgrimage to Italy around St. Francis feast day in the late September/early October time frame. Bobbi met Roland in her own grief journey after her husband Ed Parlett passed in 2012. Bobbi says “Roland has helped me tremendously to gain a much better understanding about eternal love and connections that continue with our loved ones who have passed, including how to notice signs from them. I have received signs, messages and several Purple Papers over the years which are irrefutable evidence that our loved ones are with us always and that our spirits live on. The comfort and comprehension of

this realization helps people move forward with their lives and brings a new level of understanding of life and love everlasting.”
The events are open to the public and attendees must be 18 years of age. Tickets can be purchased through www.rolandcomtois.net for the St. Michaels event and the other events in the area or www.avalonfoundation.org for the Easton event.

For more information about Roland or to schedule a media interview visit www.rolandcomtois.net under Events or call Bobbi Parlett at 610-209-5409.

The schedule for all of Roland’s events in the area include:

June 21st – Channeling Event: The St. Michaels Inn, St. Michaels, MD 7 PM to 9 PM
June 22nd – “Through the Door’ and Channeling Event: Avalon/Stoltz Listening Room, “Through the Door” the story of Roland’s near-death experience and the second part is channeling of messages. 8 PM to 10 PM

Tornado Destroys Arena at Worthmore Equestrian Center by Marita Wilson

On the evening of May 29th, Pam Kuster had just come home from a Special Olympics meeting with her son Scott. Her husband Eric was home already, and as they began sorting the mail a thunderstorm rolled in.

For Pam, Eric and Scott, home is a special placethey share their property with the 44 horses of Worthmore Equestrian Center, a riding, boarding, and therapy center they started in 2003.

Worthmore and its facilities have withstood two hurricanes, constant high winds, and countless sudden thunderstorms. So when Wednesdays storm hit, Pam wasnt too concerned. In fact, the horses were all spending the night outside in the paddocks and pastures, as is normal in good weather.

And then a tree came down over her porch.

I turned around and looked out the back doorand Im watching our big honey locustJust so you have perspective, we have been here through two hurricanes. We were here for Isabel. We were here for Sandy. And Ive never seen that tree move like that.

The bushesIm surprised they actually stood back up because they were laying on the ground. And the rain came horizontal.

And I saw sheet metal fly.

Watching stunned from her kitchen window, Pam immediately assumed the roof was coming off the old barn, which has stood on the property for 80 years.

But when she opened the door to get a clearer picture, she received a total shock.

Their indoor arena was totally gone.

Eric yelled, Dont even think about going out there,’” Pam recalls. Of course, he knew she was thinking about the horses in the 10 paddocks downwind from the indoor, completely out of sight.

It was awfulknowing that the horses were out there in this mess.

Genna Kuster, Pams daughter who works and teaches at Worthmore, remembers getting a call.

Mom called me and she said, Genna, the indoor has gone down and I cant see the horses over the wreckage.And I pictured…” Genna gestures down an imaginary hill. “…dead horses. I thought that BP, Fancy, Musette, Byzwere gone.

When the winds eased after 5 agonizing minutes, Pam and Eric rushed out into the rain.

We have to go to the side paddocks, because we have horses out. And to come through that barn and to see that first paddock, and all the metal in that first paddockand there was no horse in the paddock.

There was so much metal, it was like, Okay, hes got to be dead under the metal.Where else are you going to go?

The horse they were looking for was Trojan Fan, a 12 year old gelding owned by a family in Tennessee.

Miraculously, Trojan had managed to escape the paddock and was several yards away, standing near the other horses.

He hadnt escaped without injuries, though.

Pam immediately called her vet, who made it to Worthmore in 5 minutes and spent three straight hours giving Trojan hundreds of stitches.

He was incredible. He just stood. You know, after 2 hours of suturing to then say he started to get a little dicy? Thats an amazing animal.

The first day we really werent sure if he was going to make it. [But] Im feeling really positive. Hes going to come through.

——

Worthmore isnt just home to Pam, Eric, Scott, and the horses. Its a second home for many others on the Eastern Shore as well.

Dozens of special-needs children from six local schools come to the barn weekly through the Kent Association of Riding Therapy (KART) program. Dozens more, both with and without disabilities, take private lessons as well. Disabled adults spend time with horses each summer through KARTs Easterseals Camp Fairlee. Bridges at Worthmore serves veterans and their families, at-risk youth, and children of incarcerated families. KART and Bridges also work in partnership to run programs for the Kent Center and local veterans. Kent County Parks and Recreation runs programs at Worthmore for kids that have never been around a horse. And for adults who havent been around horses, Worthmore serves as an Equine Discovery Center, which provides guided and supervised horse experiences.

And amidst all of these programs, countless people seek out Worthmores horses to ground themselves in the midst of a busy, sterile, technology-filled world.

All of those people and programs relied on the indoor arena.

The indoor arena is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It allows programs to run rain or shine. It contained lighting, fans, a video security system, a ramp and lift to allow wheelchair-bound people to ride, and large mirrors on the walls to let riders evaluate their posture. Private horse owners and students of Worthmore alike used the arena constantly.

And while insurance will cover the replacement of the building, they wont cover many of those lost assets, nor the lost revenue from programs that wont be able to run while construction is underway.

Normally we do all of our sessions in the indoor,Pam said. That means that with the indoor down, theres no conceivable way they can run Camp Fairlee. As for their other summer camps and their regular lessons, theyre hoping to find a way to continue them.

But they will have to reimagine what that will look like without the indoor arena.

That building has changed more lives than I can even tell you,Pam says.

She doesnt have to tell youits easy to see. On Friday, people brought donuts, coffee, muffins, soup, and homemade lasagna all in the space of an hour. The wall outside the office is stacked with water bottles and iced tea. On Saturday, only two days after the news got out, people are chopping up felled trees, taking over horse chores, sharing the story on social media, and pooling their talents and connections for future plans. Volunteers are clearing debris with whatever they have, whether its their hands, their trucks, or a backhoe.

Avery, a Worthmore riding student whos on the spectrum, called Pam in hysterics, saying We have to rebuild. This has to happen. Nobody understands.She offered Pam her life savings$500 in a lock boxto help rebuild the arena.

I am honestly so thankful for the people Im surrounded by,Pam said with quiet honesty. Because it really was like a death, where youre kind of wandering. You cant really think about what you need.

By Saturday afternoon, people had donated over $5000 through Worthmores GoFundMe campaign. Worthmore is hoping to eventually raise up to $200,000, not only for the rebuilding costs that insurance wont cover, but also to keep the horses fed and cared until they can get their programs running again.

And, of course, to help pay for Trojans ongoing medical costs.

On Saturday, Trojan was bright-eyed and moving around his stall, looking to visitors for scratches and munching from a huge pile of hay. He seems to enjoy being the center of attention now that he lives in the stall closest to the office.

The worry at this point is that the numerous drugs in his system will ruin his appetite and his health will start to deteriorate.

In retrospect, one injury out of 44 animalsits a godsend. I chalk it up to God. I really honestly do. All I have to say is, Well, Im not exactly sure why. Its not important that I know why. But hes got something else going on.But seriouslyI always look at it for a higher reason. There has to be something. Why else are we here?

But that higher reason wont happen without continuing support.

We appreciate anythinganythinganybody can do. Whether its five dollars, whether its a donation of a mounting block, whether its a donation for a lesson for somebody, or a therapy session for somebody. Hands on deck are going to be really important over the coming weeks.

Worthmore will be posting updates and instructions on their Facebook page and website (www.worthmoreequestrian.com) for those looking to volunteer.

As for Scott, who has autism, it took him a while before he was able to process the big change.

Indoor arena X X,he told his mom on Friday morning.

To Scott, X X means destroyed.

Yes. Indoor arena X X,Pam replied. But were going to build a new one. Were going to fix it.

Indoor arena X Xfix it,he repeated.

And with the help of the community, they will.

For those looking to donate, please visit www.gofundme.com and search for Worthmore Equestrian Center,or make a check payable to Worthmore Equestrian Center and mail it to 11570 Still Pond Rd, Worton, MD 21678.

Links to their GoFundMe page and their Venmo can also be found on their Facebook page. 2Follow their progress on Facebook or at www.worthmoreequestrian.com.

Harris Applauds Trump Announcement of Conscience Protection Rule

On Thursday, May 2, President Donald Trump announced a finalization of a rule on conscience protection in a statement during the National Day of Prayer. In his remarks, the president stated, “Just today, we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students, and faith-based charities. Together, we are building a culture that cherishes the dignity and worth of human life. Every child – born and unborn – is a sacred gift from God.”

Today, Health and Human Services is enforcing its authority on previous conscience protection policies by implementing a rule titled, “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority.” This rule enhances the authority of 25 pre-existing laws that protect the longstanding conscience rights of Americans in healthcare funded by HHS.

Congressman Andy Harris introduced H.R. 2014, the Conscience Protection Act, on April 1, 2019, with 80 additional Members of Congress co-sponsoring the bill. The Conscience Protection Act would take the next step in protecting the rights of conscience for medical providers by guaranteeing a private right of action for individuals whose conscience rights have been violated and supporting Americans in having freedom of religion and conscience in healthcare.

Rep. Harris made the following statement supporting the president’s remarks:

“I support President Trump in his remarks today and in his efforts to protect the conscience of Americans who provide health care. Just last month, I led 80 Members of Congress in introducing the Conscience Protection Act, H.R. 2014, which amends the Public Health Service Act to prevent any federal, state, or local government from penalizing or discriminating against a health care provider if the provider does not participate in highly controversial abortion practices. As a physician and lawmaker, I support conscience protection because I strongly believe that health care providers should not be forced to violate their conscience when providing care for patients, and I applaud President Trump and his administration in their efforts to support conscience protection for all Americans.”

Tragedy on the Mid-Shore: 7 Bald Eagles & Great-Horned Owl Fatally Poisoned

WJC is reporting that that U.S. and Maryland officials are looking for information after seven bald eagles and a great-horned owl died due to poisonings in the Kent and Talbot counties.

The first reported poisoning happened on March 1 near Route 445 and Swan Creek Road in Chestertown. Six bald eagles and a great-horned owl died and several other eagles were significantly injured. On April 3, police were called to a farm in Talbot County near Lewistown Road and Colby Road in Cordova.

To read the full story please go here

John Dillon Resigns From UM Shore Regional Health Board Of Directors

John Dillon, chairman of the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health Board of Directors, has announced his resignation from the Board, effective immediately.

Dillon, whose tenure on the Board was set to end on June 30, 2019, notified the Board of his resignationApril 9, citing his belief that leaving the Board at this time is in the best interest of UM Shore Regional Health to minimize the distraction caused by current discussions regarding University of Maryland Medical System Board relationships.

“With regret, the Board of Directors has accepted John Dillon’s resignation, effective immediately,” says Board Vice Chairman Richard Loeffler. “ We are grateful to John for his years of service to UM Shore Regional Health and appreciate that his decision to step down is in an effort to allow the organization’s Board and leadership to remain singularly focused on our mission to create healthier communities together.”

Richard Loeffler, UM SRH Vice Chair, of Cambridge, will serve as Acting UM SRH Board Chair until July 1, 2019 when new officers are confirmed.

 

Gillibrand: Missing a Compelling Case for Running? By J.E. Dean

This morning I watched Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Morning Joe. I was unimpressed. Her practiced answers to even softball questions were disingenuous.  She is a fast-talker, which some dictionaries define as someone talking quickly, often to trick someone or persuade them to buy something.  I was not buying this morning. I also cannot remember any details of any policy position she referenced. There was too much chaff for me to find wheat.

Gillibrand is clearly an intelligent woman, but has yet to make a compelling, or even attractive, case as to why she should be President.   I suspect that Gillibrand believes she is a logical heir to the political empire of Hillary Clinton. Not a bad thing given that Clinton easily won the popular vote and was arguably robbed of the Presidency by the Russians, Trump or both.   Gillibrand has described Clinton as a mentor. She brands herself as something of a policy wonk, just like Clinton (although without evidence of conviction on individual issues except in the broadest of outlines). And she is a woman, standing ready to be the candidate of the millions of voters, not all of them women, who were excited about Clinton because of her gender, obvious intelligence, and, her resume.

The Clinton comparison gets complicated on what I suspect Gillibrand views as dissimilarities.   So far, she has no baggage similar to Clinton’s problems with emails, Whitewater, how she handled the Lewinsky scandal, and the Clinton Foundation.  This is an unambiguous plus. There is nothing to fuel chants of “Lock her Up” and, as someone younger than Clinton, she can credibly hope to appeal to younger voters in a way that Clinton didn’t.   Nobody doubts she has the stamina necessary for two years on the campaign trail.

Is Gillibrand Clinton without the negatives?   In 1988, Democratic Vice Presidential hopeful Lloyd Bentsen ridiculed his rival, Dan Quayle, effectively after Quayle had the audacity to compare himself to John F. Kennedy.   Bentsen responded, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”  The quip is memorable to this day and, if Gillibrand were to compare herself openly to Hillary, a similar rebuttal would be justified and likely offered by a chorus of her competitors.

Some observers have noted that Gillibrand is an opportunist.  Her positions have changed radically as her political career has progressed.  She once had an A rating from the National Rifle Association and claims to have shot her own Thanksgiving turkey.    Then, after she was elected to the Senate, she became “a rabid supporter of gun control.” This is only one example.  Gillibrand explains the flip-flopping away by noting that she always fights for her constituents. Her constituents used to be conservative upstate New Yorkers.  Today they are the Democratic base.

Gillibrand will do whatever it takes to win.  For some, she is “too transparently opportunistic to be a viable candidate,” as Ciro Spotti said in an op-ed.  Maybe that’s why she muddies her policy positions—so most voters will give up trying to figure them out and focus on gender, youth, and enthusiasm.  It’s difficult to sort through her policu machinations. She will be well-served if she is never forced beyond aspirational truisms mixed into a slew of no-brainer positions such as support for the middle-class, better schools, and “bravery” and questionable positions like her endorsement of the Green New Deal.

With each passing day the case for Gillibrand gets weaker.  Why would anyone contribute to her long-shot campaign? She has yet to have a media appearance or TV interview (including announcing the formation of her “exploratory committee” to run on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)  that could be described as “impressive” or “inspiring.”   I sincerely doubt that this is likely to change. Gillibrand is a struggling candidate who believes that she will emerge as the victor in the coming royal rumble called the Democratic primary season.

J.E. Dean writes on policy and politics based on more than 30 years working with nonprofits and others interested in domestic policy.  Dean is an advocate for the environment, civil public debate, and good government. He resides in Oxford.

 

Report from Annapolis – Part 6 by Laura Price

It’s “crossover” time in Annapolis.  So, what does that mean?  It means that the legislature is done with introduction of bills and now those that have had favorable committee reports in either the House or the Senate, can crossover to the other chamber.  There were some bills, that were “cross-filed” at the time of introduction, but most are just filed on one side to begin.  Overall, there were almost 2500 bills introduced and about 926 have crossed over.  The MACo policy team analyzed over 900 of the total bills that were introduced and brought about 150 before the legislative committee that have met each Wednesday.

We have had some wins and some disappointments on the bills I have written about so far.  First the wins.  The biggest is the “Next Generation 911 Implementation” bill. (HB397/SB339)   This was MACo’s biggest initiative bill.  As I wrote in week 1, our system is built on 1970s technology and because 80% of all 9-1-1 calls are now coming from cell phones, we need to be able to accurately pinpoint their location and also be able to respond via a text message.  It will cost approximately an additional 50 cents per phone line, not per plan, but it is well worth it and is vitally important in emergency situations.

The small cell bills, “Wireless Facility Siting” (HB654/SB937 – the industry bill and HB1020/SB713 – the community input bill…the one we like), puts the counties at odds with the industry.  The industry bill would allow refrigerator-sized boxes to be mounted anywhere, on any pole or building, without having to comply with any of our local zoning laws.  It would not require the industry to help our rural, underserved areas.  These bills have been referred to an interim study.  The committee could look at them during that time, but they don’t have to.  This issue may have been put to bed without the industry getting what they wanted, which the local governments consider a success.

A bill we were quite concerned about and opposed was HB264, “Homestead Property Tax Credit.”  This would have transferred the existing tax credit to any new first-time homebuyer in Maryland, which totally undermined the purpose of the existing law and would have a devastating effect on county revenues.  This bill did not move and is considered dead.

Two of the three election bills I discussed have had favorable results.  SB363 “Voting Systems for Voters with Disabilities”, would have mandated every voting machine be equipped with a special ballot device at a cost of $4000 per machine.  SB411 “Polling Places at Continuing Care Communities” would have required each local board to establish a polling place at any continuing care community of 200 or more on the premises.  Both of these would have been very costly to the counties, we opposed them and fortunately, they are dead.  The third bill HB286 “Same Day Registration and Voting at Polling Places” requires every polling place to have additional poll workers at every precinct to handle the same day registration.  The fiscal note is $2.1 million collectively for the counties.  MACo’s amendment was for the state to split this cost with counties, since it is their mandate. The amendment was rejected and the financial burden will fall completely on the counties.  The bill is still moving forward at this time and because of the voter referendum will pass.

We supported several bills on Public health, Mental health and substance abuse that are not moving.  First up is SB645/HB1082, this was another MACo initiative to “Reprioritize Public Health.”  Thanks to the recession, the counties have incurred dramatic funding reductions that jeopardize being able to provide critical services – especially with the opioid epidemic.  The State needs to restore this funding and help us provide this treatment.  We are disappointed that this bill has had no movement.

HB306/SB402 “Mental Health Inmates in Correctional Facilities.”  This would require the state to reimburse our local detention center if the inmate has been identified that they should be in a state mental health facility. This bill is not going to move, but there is likely to be an interim study, so there’s always next year.

SB506 “Mental Health Substance Use Disorder Study”, would require the Maryland Department of Health to conduct a study to determine existing capacity and estimated unmet needs for services by region.  This bill is not moving and is also considered dead.

HB102, “Transportation – Toll Roads County Consent Required” as written said “expanding to all counties in the State, a prohibition on State agencies constructing with the nine Eastern Shore counties a toll road, toll highway or toll bridge without the consent of a majority of the affected counties.”  The Eastern Shore was very concerned that it would apply to a “new” Bay Bridge crossing and that it would remove “veto” power from an Eastern Shore county that didn’t want it.  MACo didn’t take an official position but submitted a letter to leave the Shore out.  This bill is dead.  Very good news for us!

Of the previously discussed bills, the last one is HB92, “Conowingo Dam/Water Quality Certification would have required Excelon to do more to remove the trash and debris as part of getting approval from the MD Dept of the Environment for their relicensing with the Federal Energy Regulation Commission.  Maryland has identified and worked extremely hard to clean up the bay and spent millions of dollars, mostly focused on the sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous removal.  We now know that we need our upstream neighboring states to help.  The debris is also a part of the problem and even with a strong Bi-partisan sponsor line, this bill did not get out of committee.

Of the 150 bills, the legislative committee reviewed, there are only 14 left that MACo is closely following until the end of session.  One is HB109 “Property Tax – Collection of Unpaid Taxes and Tax Sales.  This is another mandate on county government that would place restrictions on when a property can be sent to tax sale.  The local effect is that our revenues would decrease, potentially significantly, as a result of the bill’s limitations on the use of tax sales to enforce liens.  Tax sale is a necessary and important tool used by counties to enforce these payments – it is worth noting that about 99% of properties sent to tax sale NEVER CHANGE HANDS.  The homeowners usually pay the overdue accounts once the property gets to this point.  Removing this tool would be a costly mistake. This passed out of the House committee, but is unlikely to pass in the Senate, MACo is strongly opposing and we have some good allies to help defeat it.

Another of the “final 14” is HB532/SB744 “Blueprint for Solar Energy” establishes a commission to evaluate proposed solar energy projects and submit a report by January 1, 2020.  Solar photovoltaic systems are land intensive (several acres per megawatt).  The demand has grown and has the potential for conflict over the appropriate use of the State’s finite amount of land.  MACo supports this creation of this commission, but is advocating for more balanced representation in our amendment.  As drafted, there is only 1 MACo representative and 4 members from the industry.

The rest are a mixture of Support, Support with Amendment and Oppose.  They are all still in the policy areas of Taxes (HB884/SB533 Residential Lodging Sales Tax), Environment (failing septic and forest tree canopy bills), school construction (HB727/SB731 – Build to Learn Act), and Public Safety (HB116/SB846 – Correctional Facilities Opioid Use Treatment) and Health Services funding (HB1082/SB645).  If you want to follow along, the MACo website, www.mdcounties.org is a great resource.  There is also a blog that is updated daily and I will be following right along until Annapolis is done for this year’s session and report back right here.

Laura Price is on the Executive Board of Directors of MACo, the legislative liaison and member of the Talbot County Council.

Letter to Editor: Tragedy Of The Soft Shell And Razor Clam

I read Tragedy of the Commons many times in my undergraduate career. We are all familiar with the premise: overuse of a common resource for personal benefit ultimately eliminates that resource, spoiling it for everyone. To ensure that our common resources do not become depleted in Maryland or the Chesapeake Bay, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) works to “preserve, protect, restore, and enhance our environment for this and future generations.” Specifically, DNR strives to create balance between our economy and our environment, which we at ShoreRivers commend and support.

Consider the eastern oyster, for example, a filter feeder that improves water quality and habitat, and is an iconic menu item for locals and tourists alike. A DNR Fishery Management Plan is needed for this species to ensure that we continue to see both ecological and economic benefits for generations to come. This is an example of a state agency regulating a natural resource so that all can benefit.

Two lesser known bivalve species in the Bay provide similar ecological value. Soft shell clams and razor clams filter the same volume of gallons in one day as the oyster. Numerous studies have found that these species once played an integral role in the Chesapeake’s food web, as a primary food source for multiple predators. Unfortunately, also similar to the eastern oyster, these clam species are on the brink of extinction in the Chesapeake Bay.

The soft shell clam fishery has been “boom and bust” since the invention of the hydraulic dredge in the 1950’s. “Boom” times with high harvest rates and high numbers of clamming licenses are followed by “bust” times with significant drops in clam populations, which result in lower harvest rates and fewer licenses.

Considering the high ecological value these species provide and their current low populations, ShoreRivers believes they are in need of conservation. Without a DNR Fishery Management Plan, there is currently no balance between the economic and ecological value of these clams. To ensure this balance is established and that there are clams in our Maryland waterways in the future, ShoreRivers fought for a Fishery Management Plan for the clam fishery during the 2019 Maryland Legislative General Assembly. This bill would have initiated relatively low-cost studies of current clam populations and habitats, impacts to the population from climate change, and economic and ecological values of clams.

Unfortunately, the Department of Natural Resources was not supportive of this bill and was unwilling to compromise. DNR’s main argument was that these species are too transient and difficult to study. However, considering that there have been studies of these species in the past (although none that inform regulation), and the fact that these species continue to be harvested, we feel that this decision clearly states that DNR is supportive of the economic value of these species, more so than the ecological value. If we are unable to study a species, consider the ecological value, or make regulation recommendations that promote sustainability, then we should not have that commercial fishery.

Yes, we are all familiar with the Tragedy of the Commons, but it seems as though our current administration is choosing to ignore the warning signs of resource depletion. To be clear, I am in support of sustainable fisheries – fisheries that provide economic value, support our local watermen, and ensure that species continue to provide ecological benefits to our ecosystems.

However, if, according to DNR, it is not possible to find balance between economy and ecology, then which side should we choose? What repercussions might we see if we lose the soft shell and razor clams? As Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, I have the privilege of giving a voice to the river; I have no doubt the river would choose the side of ecological benefits.

Elle Bassett
Miles-Wye Riverkeeper
ShoreRivers

Letter to Editor: Reds and Blues Need to Talk to Each Other

We are two residents of Talbot County, a Republican and a Democrat, in search of other reds and blues who want to talk with folks of different political opinions.

While our views differ on some issues, the two of us share a concern about the current extreme polarization in our country and have both signed on as volunteers with Better Angels. Better Angels is a national organization formed in 2016 after the Presidential election by folks who felt that the divide between red and blue Americans had become so severe that we were headed for civic breakdown. In response, they have developed a series of facilitated workshops organized by citizens in their own communities including their signature Red-Blue session which we’re bringing to Easton this spring.

Neither of us is out to change anyone’s minds. We had the opportunity to observe a recent Red-Blue Workshop in D.C. After hours of discussion, those who came as conservative, libertarian, Republican citizens left the same. Likewise with the liberal, progressive, Democratic participants. What took place instead was that people listened to one another without trying to correct, coerce or argue the virtue of their views.

To date, well over 300 such workshops have taken place around the U.S. Participant feedback shows they’re helping people on both sides decrease stereotyped thinking and develop more trust in our hope for the common good. From Fox News to CNN along with other national and local media outlets, reports on the Red-Blue workshop have been supportive, often with a common theme: there’s such a need for this.

In Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address in 1861, with the nation on the brink of civil war, he urged that Americans hold onto their common bonds and appealed to the ‘better angels of our nature.’ His words resonate now more than ever when talking about politics seems almost taboo.  Wouldn’t it be nice to discover we’re not really as different as we’ve been told we are?

If you are interested in being part of this civic experiment, visit the Better Angels website or contact us. The workshop format requires an equal number of red and blue participants. Community members can also take part as observers. We hope our April 6, 2019 event in Easton will be the first of many such conversations on the Eastern Shore.

Pat Ingram, Oxford
Nancy Andrew, Easton

Letter to Editor: No Sunshine In Talbot…Yet

As discussed in a short piece last week, on February 20th the Talbot County Council sent a letter to the legislature in Annapolis expressing the County’s position on certain bills. This was noteworthy not because of the issue and the County’s position, but because the County had taken that action in the dark, in complete disregard of procedure, with no public discussion or public vote. Citizens would have known nothing about it except that the “Talbot letter” was referred to in open meeting. But my charge remains only an accusation without proof.

Here is the update to the story.

On, February 25 when the matter first came to light, I sent a letter to Mr. Pack (copied to all other Council Members, the County Attorney and the County Manager), saying that “unless you and the County Attorney can confirm that the matter was properly handled in all material respects, we respectfully request” that the advisory letters be withdrawn. I expressed the reasons we suspected the matter had been mishandled—“please correct us if we are wrong”—and bulleted 10 question about how the letter came to be issued, followed by “If we are completely off base in our concerns about process, advise us of course.”

No reply. Nada. From anyone. Dawn’s light has not yet broken.

All we are trying to do here is get answers to a few simple questions about how the matter was handled, answers that are known at this very moment by Mr. Pack, Mr. Hollis, Mr. Kupersmith, and all the other participants.

On March 5th, I emailed the County Attorney requesting a factual reply, noting that “not being directed to the corporate entity, perhaps [the questions in my letter] were not taken seriously.” He replied, “as far as your inquiry to Mr. Pack is concerned, I obviously cannot speak for him. I will review your letter but am not promising a response.” The Public Information Act (PIA) regs were also cited—more on that below.

In frustration, I wrote Mr. Kupersmith asking that he just forget the original letter addressed to Mr. Pack, and instead “ let me simply ask you directly as the County Attorney these questions” (5) about how the letters to the legislature were authorized. I asked for no documents. Here is the meat of his answer:

“As you’re aware, the Office of Law provides legal advice to the Council, boards/commissions, and departments. In this instance, you have directed a request to one of this Office’s clients (Mr. Pack/County Council) [sic] and we may provide legal advice to the client in connection with the request. Therefore, I am not in a position, at least at the moment, to offer any comments on this beyond helping direct you to relevant County resources, such as the PIA policy I provided earlier. I realize this may not be satisfactory to you, but you must recognize that when you write a letter alleging that the Council did not act appropriately and making demands, you have put the matter in an adversarial posture that does not lend itself to casual responses.”

So, it appears the public will not—or at least I will not– be receiving any explanation. Accordingly, this morning I sent to the County a broadly drawn PIA request to obtain all of the documents related to this affair. From those we can surely deduce what unfolded, and obtain the simple answers to the simple question we started with: were the February 20th letters properly issued, or were they sent under the cover of darkness.

(I realize one of the other Council Members might be willing to provide the answer in full. But they all have known from the beginning what I am looking for. My sense is that if Mr. Pack, as the Council President, does not want to talk about it, then that is his message to others too. To lean hard on anyone else to step up and tell the story is perhaps unfair, as that might mean creating a bad relationship with Mr. Pack near the beginning of a long 4 years.)

But back to the PIA request. In the lead article of Sunday’s Edition, the Star Democrat reported on the unreasonably high cost per page for getting simple police reports in Maryland. But in cases like this, the “cost per page” for a copy of a document is almost beside the point. (To boot, we only want to inspect documents, and may want only a few copied.) Mr. Kupersmith described the issue thus:

The PIA policy also sets out the fees, which are not limited to copies. See section 1.10. They cover the time it takes staff to collect and review the records, including legal review for any applicable privilege / PIA exemption.

Indeed, Section 1.10(B)(3) of the County’s PIA Request Regulations say (emphasis added) that, apart from copying and such, “the fee to search, compile, review, prepare and otherwise respond to a request…is the cost calculated by multiplying the actual time spent by each individual employee involved in the response, including attorney review time, by his or her hourly salary, including benefits…” although there is no charge for the first two hours of work. Arguably this is all fair and reasonable. But it can also seem pretty intimidating, unlimited, and unknowable, and many citizens might not be a position to step up.

So in summary, this is how it works: since the Council President, Mr. Pack, (the addressee of a letter) does not wish to respond to questions because the letter sounds (let’s say is) adversarial, then the County Attorney also cannot provide answers—because the addressee is his client. But a citizen IS legally entitled to dig out the answers himself via a PIA request, so long as he or she agrees to pay the costs, whatever they turn out to be.

And I could be completely wrong. Maybe the County handled this properly but has refused to explain it just because someone is in a snit about the audacious allegation that they erred. If so, I am prepared (as always) to eat crow. In just measure, I find it a healthy component of the human diet.

So that is the status of things folks, here in Talbot County during Sunshine Week 2019. Update to follow.

(By the way, the letters to the legislature approved in public by the Council last night are a completely different than the matter above. It is confusing, but poor government can unfold both in the dark and right out in broad daylight.)

Dan Watson
Easton

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