Letter to the Editor: Conversations With Charity and Civility

Dave Wheelan, founder and publisher of The Talbot and Chestertown Spy was criticized this week on social media for publishing a piece by David Montgomery, the contents of which offended many people, including us. Rather than respond to Montgomery directly through The Spy’s comments section, some contributors vilified Dave Wheelan publicly. We find such action highly questionable. Challenging Montgomery is reasonable, in fact appropriate, but castigating the publisher of a sound publication which provides a forum for news and opinions is misguided. Social media provides a welcome opportunity for all of us to express our opinions protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but it is not a substitute for good journalism. We support The Spy publications, the founder and publisher and the exercise of rights to free speech.

Charity and civility go hand in hand. In today’s caustic and fractionated environment when words are weaponized through all forms of media, it’s particularly important for us to be mindful and gracious. In the face of opinions we oppose and even find offensive or hurtful, we can still be charitable. We can also choose not to engage, but if we choose discourse over silence, let us be respectful and civil with a tone that engenders positive feelings, not one driven by fear and antagonism.

Richard Marks and Amy Haines

A Statement by Adam Goodheart

I have taken down my social media posts and do not plan to make further public comments. I want the following to stand as the record of my views:

I know the Spy’s publisher, Dave Wheelan, and indeed have always liked and respected him. I know how hard he works, for no personal gain. I have supported the Spy, including financially via the center that I direct at Washington College. The Eastern Shore needs more outlets for journalism and community discussion and we cannot afford to lose this one. The only happiness I have felt through this whole sorry saga was when he took down the original piece and wrote an eloquent and indeed rather courageous statement. I felt proud of Dave. I thought I could return to supporting Dave and the Spy in every possible way.

And then, sadly, the Spy published a statement by the original writer, David Montgomery, that was just as cruel and gratuitous as the original column.

People who have read any of my comments should know that I am coming at this most deeply as someone who remembers being a closeted gay teenager in the 1980s. I remember reading in the mainstream press that homosexuals caused AIDS and should be tattooed and put in internment camps. (Yes, that was in the New York Times in 1986.) I remember reading that we were mentally ill, prone to molesting children, and unfit to be teachers. I remember reading articles equating our life partnerships with pedophilia and bestiality. I remember reading that my own country’s leaders in the Reagan Administration were endorsing that bigotry.

Now, in 2019, I thought those dark and painful days were over, at least in the mainstream press. Then, this week — reading a publication edited by someone I like and respect, in the town where I have worked and taught young people for 17 years — I found out I was wrong.

I remember how horrible I felt reading those things at age 14 or 15 … how dark and hopeless they made my future seem. And I was lucky: I came from a loving, secular, liberal family and went to a progressive urban private school that embraced diversity. I was gay, white, male, comfortably off, rather than trans, or black, or female, or rural, or poor. I was a well-read kid and I had access to more favorable depictions. I can only imagine how much worse the pain and isolation are for kids from those latter categories, in the more conservative (much, much more conservative) areas of a place like the Eastern Shore, in environments where they are at daily risk of psychological and physical abuse, where even their homes are no shelter from bigotry.

Even in the homophobic depths of the 1980s, I don’t recall ever reading that we queer kids were at risk of becoming mass murderers if allowed to fully embrace our sexuality.

That’s where I’m coming from: imagining the very real pain and trauma being inflicted by David Montgomery – and yes, by the Spy — on the most vulnerable members of our community.

Actually, not just imagining: also hearing it directly from a brave and eloquent young trans person from Kent County, who wrote: “You have to understand the power of words. It’s a privilege to curate the information shared with a community… and the privilege has been abused… and so have I. So many people that I speak to have never even met a trans person before so to generalize me and my community as ‘confused’ and ‘brainwashed’ is so harmful to so many. It’s deadly. I often speak of my intense fear for other people’s ideas of me. I’m remembering why this fear exists.”

I am in favor of listening respectfully to many voices, including conservative ones, pro-Trump ones, and even ones that oppose LGBTQ rights. But when you allow a well-off, well-educated, privileged person to use a public platform to punch down and attack transgender teenagers — who are among the most vulnerable human beings in our community — that is beyond the pale. It can result in those kids being harmed physically and psychologically by others, or even harming themselves.

Speech is a right, but publication is a privilege, and publishers are not compelled to disseminate any opinion submitted to them. I worked as an op-ed editor at the New York Times, and I can tell you that if one of its columnists tried to publish a piece like David Montgomery’s, he or she would quite rightly be fired from the paper.

I don’t want the Spy to die. I don’t want to hurt its thoughtful, smart, and dedicated publisher, who has given a lot to our community. I do want those brave and vulnerable queer kids among us to be safe. They are as important to our community as any publisher, columnist, or advertiser. Yes, even as important as David Montgomery with his fancy CV.

Words matter. Words hurt — especially when they are published words. The Spy needs to use them more wisely.

Talbot Community Connections Holds Fourth Annual Senior Summit on Aging – Phil Burgess to be Keynote Speaker

Phil Burgess, PhD, an award-winning educator, businessman, and writer, will be the keynote speaker for the fourth annual Senior Summit, “Illuminating Your Life,” on Thursday, June 6, 2019, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Talbot Community Center on Route 50 in Easton, MD.

The day-long Summit for seniors, children of seniors, caregivers, professionals, and concerned residents will provide presentations and discussions on the issues that seniors face today, including health and wellness, technology, staying active, and transitioning in life. The event, sponsored by Talbot Community Connections (TCC) and the Talbot County Department of Social Services, helps to fund the unmet needs that are fundamental to the safety, security, health, and well-being of Talbot County’s children and adults.

Burgess, who has worked and lectured world-wide, has appeared on PBS, NPR, CNN, and CNBC, and his views have been reported in national and regional media – including “The New York Times,” “Wall Street Journal,” and “Christian Science Monitor.” He currently is President of The Annapolis Institute and a Senior Fellow, Center for the Digital Economy, University of Southern California. He writes a weekly column called “Bonus Years” – found in the Lifestyle section of the “Sunday Annapolis Capital.”

At the Senior Summit, Burgess will present “It’s Better To Wear Out Than Rust Out: How The New Longevity Is Changing Our Culture.” His presentation will discuss how the post-career, bonus years are as rich and dynamic as the years from 25-60; why the core value of continued social engagement is a key element in successful; and to review the implications of increasing longevity for aging individuals and the rapid growth of aging-in-place alternatives.

The Senior Summit will include workshops such as Rising Strength and Self-Defense, Body-Wise Gardening, End-of-Life Wishes, Increasing Resilience: Dementia; Scams, and Identity Theft, and Financial Exploitation; and Heart Health. In addition to break-out workshops, there will be the opportunity for participants to have lunch and to visit vendor tables to gather additional information on aging issues and services.

Talbot Community Connections (TCC), a nonprofit arm of the Talbot County Department of Social Services, has the mission to raise and distribute funds to help keep families together, support children in foster care, and support the elderly so they can remain independent, safe, and healthy members of our communities.

The cost of the Senior Summit is $15 for the General Public, including seniors, and $80 for Professional Social Work CEUs. A healthy continental breakfast and lunch are included in the registration fee. Pre-registration is required by May 31. For further information, contact Kelley Werner at kelley.werner@maryland.gov or call 410-770-5908 or visit talbotcommunityconnections.org to download a registration form or to purchase tickets online. Registration forms are also available at the front desk at Talbot County Department of Social Services at 301 Bay Street, Unit 5 in Easton.

Platinum sponsors for the 2018 Senior Summit are the Talbot County Department of Social Services, the Talbot County Government, and The Star Democrat. Gold sponsors to date are the Talbot County Health Department, University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, CareFirst, and Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Caption: Pictured is Phil Burgess, PhD, an award-winning educator, businessman, and writer, who will be the keynote speaker for the fourth annual Senior Summit. Talbot Community Connections and Talbot County Department of Social Services are hosting the fourth annual Senior Summit, “Illuminating Your Life,” on Thursday, June 6, 2019, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Talbot Community Center on Route 50 in Easton, MD.

Remembering Bill Wharton

The Spy was sad to note the passing of Dr. Bill Wharton this week. Bill had been the organist at St. Mark’s Church for over fifty years and was beloved in this community.

In 2007, the Spy profiled Bill at St. Mark’s and we have posted the interview here.

There are very few examples of a partnership that has lasted 50 years where one partner speaks of the other as a “monster.” But that’s what Dr. Bill Wharton says about the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church’s 1962 Tellers organ that he has worked to master since he arrived in Easton as the Church’s principal organist in 1967.

In Bill’s case, however, the use of the word monster is one of great affection and respect. In his interview with the Spy to celebrate his fifth decade not only playing the organ there but also a lifetime career in teaching music on the Mid-Shore, the Centerville native talks about harnessing the power that comes with this colossal instrument with its 2,437 wood and model pipes.

By his own admission, Bill does not put himself in the 1st tier of organists but is extremely grateful that he studied with some of them. The first being Clarence Waters, his college organ tutor and mentor at Trinity College. And it was through his relationship with Waters that he gained access to the famed Marcel Dupré in Paris, considered one of the finest organists of the 20th century.

Bill also talks about the exceptional spiritual connection that music provides a church and its congregation, as well as his personal experiences of sensing the divine when witnessing the masters perform in the World’s great cathedrals.

In celebration of Bill’s 50th anniversary, St. Mark’s has commissioned a unique composition that will be performed by Bill in late November one of a series of official acknowledgments by the Church of how valuable his service has been to the music on the Mid-Shore.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about St. Mark’s and its music programs please go here.

Chesapeake Report Card: Bay Health Decreased Last Year due to Rainfall but General Trend Improving

The Chesapeake Bay score decreased in 2018, but maintained a C grade, according to the 2018 Chesapeake Bay Report Card issued today by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). This was due to extremely high precipitation over the year. Despite extreme rainfall last year, the overall trend indicates that Chesapeake Bay health is improving over time.

“While 2018 was a difficult year for Chesapeake health due to high rainfall, we are seeing trends that the Bay is still significantly improving over time. This is encouraging because the Bay is showing resilience to climate change,” said Bill Dennison, Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Almost all indicators of Bay health, such as water clarity, underwater grasses, and dissolved oxygen, as well as almost all regions, declined in 2018. In particular, chlorophyll a and total nitrogen scores had strong declines due to very high rainfall causing nutrient runoff that then fed algal blooms. However, the overall Bay-wide trend is improving. Since 2014, all regions have been improving or remaining steady.

“Our administration is pleased to see continued improvement in the health and resilience of our most precious natural asset, the Chesapeake Bay. Since taking office, we have been focused on improving the health of the Bay, investing a record $5 billion toward wide-ranging restoration programs. This report, along with the great news that Maryland’s crab population has grown 60%, is yet another promising sign of ongoing improvement of the Bay and that our continued investment is making a difference,” said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Of the many factors that affect Chesapeake Bay health, the extreme precipitation seen in 2018 appears to have had the biggest impact. The Baltimore area received 72 inches of rain in 2018, which is 170% above the normal of 42 inches. As a result, the reporting region closest to Baltimore—the Patapsco and Back Rivers—saw a decline in health, decreasing to an F grade in 2018. The strongest regional declines were in the Elizabeth River and the Choptank River. The two regions that remained steady were the Lower Bay and the York River.

“The extreme precipitation in 2018 was a key issue, and current science shows that with climate change this area is going to be warmer and wetter,” said Peter Goodwin, President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “The Bay is in fact showing resilience in the face of climate change and extreme weather events, underlining that the restoration efforts must remain vigilant to continue these hard-won efforts.”

Fish populations received a B grade, showing a steep decline from the previous year’s score of A. Striped bass numbers sharply declined in 2018, while blue crab and bay anchovy scores declined somewhat (although blue crab are showing a revival in early 2019). These drops in scores are a cause for concern as smaller populations could lead to further declines in the future.

“This is not the time to put the brakes on efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay. Our progress has been hampered by extreme weather events, but we must keep fighting,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. “The health of the Chesapeake Bay depends on all of us in the region—federal, state, local, and private partners—working together toward a common goal: the preservation and restoration of the watershed, which in turn ensures better health for our citizens, economy, and local wildlife.”

“Improving the health of the Bay doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a month or a year. We must be constantly vigilant in our efforts to restore the Bay, and that starts with providing adequate funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program and other cleanup efforts,” said U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen. “I will continue working through my role on the Appropriations Committee to prevent attempts to cut funding and to provide the Bay with the resources it needs to thrive.”

Actions that individuals can take to contribute to a cleaner Bay include reducing fertilizer use from all sources, carpooling and using public transportation, and connecting with people across the entire Bay Watershed to work together.

This is the 13th year that the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Integration and Application Network has produced the report card. It is the longest-running and most comprehensive assessment of Chesapeake Bay and its waterways. This report card uses extensive data and analysis which enhances and supports the science, management, and restoration of the Bay. For more information about the 2018 Chesapeake Bay Report Card including region-specific data, visit chesapeakebay.ecoreportcard.org.

View The Chesapeake Bay Report Card here.

Letter to Editor: Jay Jacobs Got it Right with “War on the Shore” Report Description

Del. Jay Jacobs did set the record straight with regard to his War on Shore report description. He couldn’t have said it better. Some background is necessary. The Oyster Futures Workgroup was assembled from diverse cultural stakeholders. To which Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) was a participant. The OFG reviewed scientific models and made policy recommendations to the MDDNR with regard to the Choptank River complex. MDDNR accepted those recommendations.

This past legislature session saw CBF sponsoring a bill HB-298 that cut the knees off this groups time consuming hard work and rendered their time-consuming hard work useless. As a member of the Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) CBF sponsored legislation each of the last 3 years that went behind the back of this culturally diverse group. Simply put, CBF felt it can act on its own, because it does not have control this multi stakeholder group created to advise on complex oyster issues.

The oyster mega-sanctuary network was sold to the seafood industry as a cure all. These sanctuaries would act as breeder reactors, naturally producing vast number of larvae that would spill over repopulate the oyster bars throughout the bay. Ten years later we have not seen any hard-scientific evidence of a signal or trigger that this phenomenon ever took place.

If CBF really wants to support Maryland’s oyster harvesting heritage then they should stop engaging in activities that promote the singling out of a culture and class of people for perpetual persecution.

Jim Mullin
Maryland Oystermen’s Association

Anton Black’s Life Mattered: NAACP and Talbot Rising Host Forum May 23

Why did Anton Black die? How can similar deaths be prevented?

Anton Black, an African-American teenager from nearby Greensboro in Caroline County, was 19 when he died in police custody on Sept. 15, 2018. An aspiring model and soon-to be-father, Black was fleeing police when he was shot with a TASER and held down by police officers. An autopsy found that he suffered “sudden cardiac death” and that his struggle with police officers likely contributed to his demise.

The Coalition for Justice for Anton Black, the Talbot County branch of the NAACP and Talbot Rising, a nonpartisan progressive group, are hosting a discussion on May 23 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at The Talbot County Free Library in Easton on the life and death of Anton Black.

The forum will include:

  • An update from the Coalition and Anton Black’s sister, LaToya Holley, about Anton and the family’s demands for justice and the status of ongoing investigations.  (For example, the Town of Greensboro met the Coalition’s demand to place Thomas Webster IV, the Greensboro officer involved in Black’s death, on paid administrative leave.  Webster was hired despite a history of complaints of assaults while an officer in Delaware.  The Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission has decided to hold a hearing to decide whether to revoke Webster’s police certification.)
  • Excerpts from a body-camera video leading up to Black’s death
  • A discussion on what protocols are in place to prevent similar incidents from occurring in Talbot County with St. Michaels Chief Anthony Smith, Sheriff Joe Gamble, and representatives from the Easton Police Department and the Maryland State Police.

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 23, 2019
Where: Talbot County Free Library, 100 W. Dover St., Easton

For more information, contact: Richard Potter, Coalition for Justice for Anton Black, coalition4justice4antonblack@gmail.com; 202-750-0547 Denice Lombard, Talbot Rising denicelombard@comcast.net; 202-320-5588 

Quiet, Please! by J.E. Dean

At 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning my wife brewed coffee and suggested we enjoy it on our porch looking onto Island Creek.  It was a beautiful morning. The birds were chirping and the gentle breeze could be heard from the trees. Then, across the creek, a leaf blower was fired up.  For the next half hour—until we finally gave up trying to enjoy the morning—some sort of yard clean-up was executed.

Unfortunately, our disrupted Saturday coffee was not a rare occurrence.  In season, from late March until early November, the sound of lawn tractors, chain saws, hedge trimmers, and, worst of all, leaf blowers can be heard, usually from the crack of dawn until shortly after sunset. The noise produced is, some tell me, unavoidable. The alternative, some claim, is foot-high grass, uncontrollable weeds, and “jungle.”  

Are these claims right?  I don’t think so. Lawn and garden maintenance doesn’t have to mean deafening and/or irritating noise. Could there be alternatives that might make our community more pleasant, more livable, and more attractive?  The answer is yes.

Did you know that Washington, D.C. has banned gas-powered leaf blowers, effective January 1, 2022?  There are more than 100 communities that have already banned leaf blowers, including cities in Florida, California, Texas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and others.  Some entire countries in Europe have also banned them. Why shouldn’t we join this movement?

In addition to the simple pleasure of quiet, there are other more compelling, economic and health reasons for banning  leaf blowers and exploring alternatives to the whole array of hyper-polluting, noisy lawn tools. First, is the impact of the devices on our hearing. The Center for Disease Control estimates that leaf blowers produce at least 90 decibels of noise. This can cause permanent hearing loss with only two hours of exposure. Second, is pollution.   A two-stroke commercial leaf blower produces more pollution than a Ford F-150 pick-up truck driven more 3,800 miles. Third is cancer. The EPA has suggested that the emissions from gas-powered lawn tools are carcinogenic.

The time is now for governments at all levels to start crafting relief from the racket and poison produced by these devices. The following are a few starting points:

Local governments should purchase and use battery-powered, quiet lawn tools.

Dates should be set for a blanket ban on offending machines—the date can be set far enough in the future to permit the existing equipment used by contractors and homeowners to wear out.

Restrictions should be placed on the hours noise and pollution producing machines can be used.  Any mowing and leaf blowing before, say, 8:00 a.m. and after 7 p.m. should be banned. And why not consider freeing up one day altogether from noise—Sunday?

Access to information about “approved devices” should be posted widely as a means of encouraging all of us to convert to cleaner, quieter and healthier machines as soon as possible.

The eastern shore is already a great place to live. Why not make it better?    

I welcome readers’ reactions to these proposals—both agreement and disagreement. I hope you will leave a comment and share your views.  Thanks and here’s to a quiet and peaceful morning.

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


Long & Foster’s Linda Wilson Returns from Kenya

Linda Wilson, an agent in Long & Foster’s Easton’s office recently returned from Kenya, where she worked with orphans and underprivileged children.

Wilson founded Caring for Kids of Kenya (CFKK), a non-profit organization that sponsors children to go to school.  She travels to Kenya yearly to work with the children and the schools they attend.  Wilson also spends time in the orphanage where CFKK holds an annual Christmas party for children who would otherwise not have a Christmas celebration.

In addition to her work with CFKK, Wilson sells customized safaris.  While in the bush, she explored nearly 20 lodges, so she can make informed recommendations to her safari clients. “We were all amazed when Linda sent photos of lions right beside her vehicle,” said Martha Suss, manager of Long & Foster’s Easton office. Wilson commented that she has been to Kenya and Tanzania so often, that for her, it’s just another lion.

“Now that the spring real estate market is in full swing and simmering along quite nicely, it’s time to get back into real estate to help clients here on the shore,” said Wilson and Suss.

To learn more about Wilson’s work or safaris go to caringforkidsofkenya.org  or untamedexpeditions.com.


In Memoriam: Conor McDowell (1995-2019)

The Spy is profoundly saddened to report that Hugh Conor McDowell, the son of Michael, was killed in a training exercise in California on Friday.

A tribute from Conor’s father, Michael H C McDowell, is reposted here:

Hugh Conor McDowell (March 11, 1995-May 9, 2019. 1st. Lieutenant United States Marine Corps, Light Armored Reconnaissance, Camp Pendleton, California.

Our beloved and only child was killed yesterday in a bizarre accident on maneuvers, leading his new platoon. The light armored tank which contains 6 enlisted Marines and one officer, toppled over, and Conor was crushed underneath. He died en route to hospital.

Conor was due to announce his engagement and marriage to the love of his life, Kathleen Bourque, a beautiful, tall, slender, accomplished psychology graduate headed for a Ph D. They were deeply in love after a whirlwind romance which began in North Carolina in July of last year, and settled in an apartment near the ocean outside San Diego, with their dog Ruthie and cats Missy and Max.

Susan, my wife and I, loved Kathleen, having hosted her during Thanksgiving and over Christmas. She is a wonderful warm steady person and adored our son, equally.Conor was a warrior, like my father in the Royal Ulster Rifles in the Western Desert, Sicily and Italy in World War Two. Sadly, they never met but Conor felt as if he knew him.

Conor, since he was a small boy, wanted to be a soldier, and later, a Marine. He excelled. He read broadly and was intellectually curious, and was physically outstanding — slim, fit, six feet plus, and sunny and passionate in personality. He was above all a LEADER and majored in history, minoring in French, at The Citadel, the historic military college in Charleston, South Carolina. Junior cadets, while I served on the college Advisory Board would come up to me and tell me how much Conor had helped them and encouraged them, while holding them to a high standard. He helped and looked out for young women, minorities, etc. There was not a bigoted bone in his body. Conor graduated from The Citadel in May 2017 and was Provost Marshal of 1st Battalion and in Al[ha Company.

He grew up on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, until he was 3 and then we moved to Chevy Chase, on the DC side, where he went to Lafayette Elementary, and later Deal Junior High, both public schools. He chose St. John’s College High School, near us, the historic Catholic French Christian Brothers school, which had a crack Army ROTC unit. Conor in his senior year became Command Sergeant Major of the unit. He chose The Citadel because it graduated a huge number of Marine officers and had a rigorous physical and academic regime.

There is a massive hole in our hearts and there will be for the rest of our lives. He was our only beloved child, in whom we were well pleased. We hope to meet again with our son in some way at some time as we pass on, as he has, at so young an age, and with so much of life ahead of him.

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