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that the matter was properly handled in all material respects, we respectfully request” that the advisory letters be withdrawn.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

The Lure of Certainty by Angela Rieck

I am a seeker. To that end, I have read and attempted to learn from some of the most profound spiritual thinkers of our day including Tolle, Rohr, Beckwith, Steindl-Rast, Chödrön, Beckwith, Thich Nhat Hanh, Young, Dali Lama, Osteen, Chittister, Ram Das, to name a few.  

Despite differing perspectives, most share of a set of common beliefs: connectedness, living in the now, importance of gratitude, universalism, abundant love, the negative impact of the ego, and spirituality. I am especially connected to spirituality since science and history have taught us that just because we can’t perceive or measure something, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist (e.g., the world is flat, elephants don’t have a language).

Religion offers similar constructs (a) life after death (in some form), (b) connectedness in worship, (c) all-embracing agape love, and (d) comfort and compassion in difficult times.

But what religion and spiritual leaders really offer us is certainty, and it is compelling. Despite believing that the other side is “unknowable”, I continue to be drawn to those who are convinced that they have an answer. I think that this explains why cults and semi-cults are able to attract people. All that a seeker needs to do is join and, she too, will get the answers.

If only it were that simple.

Angela Rieck was born and raised on a farm in Caroline County. After receiving her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland, she worked as a scientist at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. Throughout her career, she held management jobs at AT&T, HP and Medco, finally retiring as a corporate executive for a large financial services company. Angela is also a wife, mother and an active volunteer serving on the Morris County School Board for 13 years and fostering and rehabilitating over 200 dogs. After the death of her husband, Dr. Rieck returned to the Eastern Shore to be with her siblings. With a daughter living and working in New York City, she and her dogs now split their time between Talbot County and Key West, FL.   

Breaking Takes by Al Sikes

Socialism at Its Worst

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in speaking to his supporters said “I went to the future and came back, and I saw that everything turned out fine.” Amusing and horrifying. Venezuela has suffered innumerable hardships under his despotic rule and he has run out of pledges affixed to a measurable future. Perhaps this will hasten his departure. When political leaders encapsulate themselves in a forward to the future capsule there is a need for a rocket stage that takes them to Mars where their stupidity will not find people.

Capitalism at Its Best

Jack Bogle died last week. Essentially he invented index funds and sold them to millions who profited from broad stock diversity while enjoying drastically lower transactional costs. Bogle himself was a tireless advocate for his investment approach and lived a relatively modest lifestyle. Thank you, for this contribution to your country. When investment is efficient and productive, capitalism has more friends.


Gridlock is the word; it attaches to polarization, most think. Indeed polarization often results in teeth-baring gridlock. But gridlock can also be associated with goals that are emotionally appealing but illogical.

It is now chanted on the left: “Medicare for All”. What does that mean? Medicare insureds begin paying for this benefit at the start of their work life and decades later begin to enjoy the benefits. It is now projected that the Medicare Trust Fund will run out of money by 2026. In short, it will need increasing allocations from current tax revenues to pay for claims. Is there anybody on the east side of the Potomac who might develop a rational future for US healthcare?

In our country of immigrants we have a President who pillories immigrants without articulating missional and operational alternatives. A subset of his base attacks him yelling amnesty over and over regardless of the details. He shrinks—some leadership.

I could of course go on—indeed maybe I will for another minute of your time. Elites are in love with a carbon tax. Those who live hand-to-mouth wonder where the additional money is going to come from to pay more for their home and automobile energy needs. If you think a carbon tax makes political sense, take a look at France where the Yellow Jackets revolt was first triggered by new carbon taxes.

My suggestion; work on the supply side. If the electric automobile, for example, is our future then alternative fuels to produce more electricity are essential. But, solar and wind solely are not up to the task. Incentivize next generation nuclear power plants. And in the course of our fuel transition, incentivize carbon recapture technologies on a worldwide basis because fossil fuels worldwide will dominate for at least another generation.


I am not a devoted NFL fan, but do watch some games played by my favorite teams. As my emotions took a seat in front of our living room TV last Sunday, I was treated to the Saints defeat by the Rams because of the most outrageous oversight perhaps in NFL history. If you are at all interested, you know what I am talking about. The NFL had much of America glued to their screens; they had four extraordinary football teams competing, yet seemed to have chosen some officials that would be hard put to make a good blizzard at a Dairy Queen. Too harsh, maybe, but I was rooting for the Saints.

Beyond the officiating, we have the puzzle of the over-time rules in which a flip of the coin determines who first receives the kick-off. If that team scores a touchdown they win. In the AFC game between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, led by brilliant quarterbacks, it was clear that the coin toss winner would have a big advantage. Characteristic of over-time, both teams are tired. The offense initiates and the defense reacts; the latter is at a significant disadvantage.

I remember playing sandlot football; we had more logical rules.

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

Op-Ed: The State of Shore Regional Health in 2018 by Ken Kozel

Looking back at 2018, I want t to share the great progress made by UM Shore Regional Health in realizing our Mission, Creating Healthier Communities Together, and our Vision, To Be the Region’s Leader in Patient Centered Health Care.

November and December were dominated by preparations for our successfully completed week-long accreditation visit from the Joint Commission, followed by the transition to EPIC, our new electronic medical records system, linking patient care information within and outside of Shore Regional Health and the entire University of Maryland Medical System. Both of these achievements required an enormous amount of preparation and work for team members at all levels and all locations of our organization. I am particularly proud that throughout these near-simultaneous events, patient care remained our priority in every aspect of our inpatient and outpatient programs.

2018 was marked by several other important milestones:

Our Cardiac Catheterization Center exceeded our expectations in the number of life-saving emergency percutaneous coronary intervention (STEMI / PCI) procedures – when a heart attack results from a critically blocked artery and time is heart muscle. We are approaching 60 since the designation as a Cardiac Intervention Center (CIC) by MIEMSS in February, 2018. The Center’s Electrophysiology Service is effectively migrating patients from various medications taken prior to ablation and improving their quality of life.

UM SRH programs earned recognition from several prestigious accrediting and certification organizations during 2018. Cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs in our three hospitals were recognized by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). At UM Shore Medical Center at Easton, the Primary Stroke Center earned re-designation from MIEMSS, and the American Heart Association’s Gold Plus and Target Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus designations. Our Requard Center for Acute Rehabilitation earned re-accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
Expanding access to care, a challenge for rural health care organizations such as ours, has been an ongoing focus for UM Shore Regional Health. 2018 saw considerable progress in this arena, as UM Community Medical Group added 18 new providers in primary care and several specialties. In palliative care and behavioral health, barriers to care formerly posed by geographic distance and travel times have been greatly diminished by telemedicine programs launched during the past year.

The Regional Opioid Task Force, formed in 2017 by UM SRH and including representatives from law enforcement, health departments, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation, accomplished its mission of creating a standard intervention for patients involved in an opioid overdose. Our four emergency departments now offer consistent interventions that include medical evaluation and stabilization, a voluntary behavioral health assessment, a standardized educational message, connection with treatment providers, and expedited referral to A.F. Whitsitt Center for continued treatment and rehabilitation.

Plans for improvements and additions to our physical facilities also moved forward during 2018. We filed a Certificate of Need (CON) application with the Maryland Health Care Commission in September for a new, six-story, 135-bed hospital to replace Shore Medical Center at Easton. Three other regulatory applications, known as Certificates of Exemption (COE), were filed in July, 2018. These detailed the proposed conversion of Shore Medical Center at Dorchester to a freestanding medical facility that will include a state of the art emergency department, observation beds, diagnostic services, primary and specialty care, outpatient services and ambulatory surgery. These applications include proposals to relocate the inpatient beds and the behavioral health inpatient unit from UM Shore Medical Center at Dorchester to the existing Easton hospital, with very minor renovations, possibly as early as spring 2021, when the freestanding medical facility campus is complete. Coming much sooner is our new Shore Medical Pavilion at Denton, slated to open in early February 2019, which will provide “close to home” care for residents of Caroline County. The new pavilion will house primary and specialty care providers, laboratory and imaging services, outpatient behavioral health and rehabilitation care, and a home health office. We look forward to a formal opening event in the spring.

The three volunteer Auxiliaries and Foundations associated with UM Shore Regional Health continue to play a key role in advancing the quality of care provided in our hospitals and our outpatient services. Auxiliary volunteers contributed more than 57,000 hours and thousands of dollars to their respective hospitals in 2018. Support from individual donors, local businesses and foundations enabled us to purchase upgraded medical equipment and life-saving technologies. We are so grateful for the support of the Auxiliaries and Foundations, and that of our UM Shore Regional Health Board members, who devote their time to our mission.

Our focus upon a service excellence culture has transformed the ways in which we provide care, how we interact with patients, family members and loved ones, and how we support each other throughout the organization. It is heartwarming to feel the positive energy, caring and compassion in our team, our physicians and advanced practice providers, and the many volunteers who support these efforts. I am grateful for the support of our communities and the dedication of UM Shore Regional Health team members – our board, our Foundations and Auxiliaries, our physicians and providers — in all locations throughout the five county region we serve. Shore Regional Health is Where the Health of the Eastern Shore Comes First and we are so proud to serve your needs.

Ken Kozel is the president and CEO of UM Shore Regional Health

Out and About (Sort of): Me-Against-Them by Howard Freedlander

I sensed during the run-up to the county council election an uncomfortable undercurrent of me-against-themism. It bothered me.

I found it off-putting, smacking of a bit of class warfare on a small scale.

It struck me that the supporters of councilwoman Jennifer Williams viewed her opposition, namely the Bipartisan Coalition for New Council Leadership, as representing wealthy, waterfront property owners opposed to business-oriented change in Talbot County. An Easton resident for more than 42 years, I see water only when my backyard is flooded.

I supported the Coalition because I was concerned about land use decisions that would destroy the mostly pristine environment that draws people of all socioeconomic levels to our county.

Were change as represented by the planned and yet unfinished community of Waterside Village the norm, I gladly would applaud similar improvements that enhance, in my opinion, our wonderful quality of life.

I digress a bit.

Class warfare, either real or imagined for political matters, achieves very little. It presumes that owners of waterfront property are less concerned about the economic viability of our community than those who think that growth, however executed, represents progress and prosperity.


Those who wake up to waterfront views, and those who awaken in cozy neighborhoods are similarly concerned about governmental leadership of a county whose beauty and allure are known and appreciated worldwide.

Who in their right mind would want to create a community that devalues the wonderful assets that draw people who simply appreciate beautiful viewscapes, reasonably uncluttered roads and a way of life that values friendly human interaction?

Now, readers, I realize that the bottom line is politics. Political campaigns, particularly as they draw to an end, produce silly and vicious comments. That’s the nature of the game. It won’t change. As the finish line approaches, some candidates believe the end justifies the means.

Dump the trash on the public, and if the voters’ reaction reflects the stink and odor of ridiculous accusations and hurtful innuendo, so be it. It’s the final vote that matters, truth and ethics be damned.

After the election, a small businessman wondered to me if Talbot County faced the prospect of becoming a rich retirement enclave. Admittedly, the average age is 49.4, the median salary is $61,395, the median poverty rate is 10.9 percent and the median house cost is $320,500, according to. Data USA. These figures certainly connote wealth.

As a comparison, in neighboring Caroline County, the median age is 40, the median income is $50,830, the median poverty is 17.1 percent and the median house cost is $192,600.

The figures, however, don’t illustrate the significant engagement of Talbot County residents, evidenced by their personal and financial investment in the economic and cultural strength of our county.

Do town and county residents equally want to preserve our rural character and its human dimension? Of course they do. Are they determined to fight to preserve what they consider special about our part of our Shore? Again, yes.

Change, however, is necessary, though unpleasant at times. Real estate development can’t stop. No community can become static and survive. Business development should be encouraged. Adequate and appropriate housing should be available. All age groups should feel welcomed.

I started out bemoaning the me-against-them comments that underscored the response by some to the relentless effort by the Bipartisan Coalition to unseat Jennifer Williams from the County Council. Her backers resented the criticism of her policies and land use decisions. The Coalition never attacked her personally.

Class warfare is ludicrous. Disagreement about the future direction is not. References to the motives and actions of wealthy, waterfront landowners accomplish nothing but poison the discourse and hamper cooperation.

Elections and the nonsense they sometimes engender thankfully come to an end. Winners celebrate; losers grieve. Rancor diminishes; passion does not. Political wounds take time to heal.

The holiday season awaits us. It’s a good time to embrace a sense of unity.

It’s worth the effort—way beyond December.

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.

Food Friday: Eight Wonderful Nights

We are still working off the two half turkeys we ate for Thanksgiving last week (one half turkey smoked, the other half roasted), the two kinds of pie (pumpkin and pecan), the extra fancy mashed potatoes (Mascarpone cheese was added for maximum creaminess) and the buckets of homemade Chex Mix. And even though I am still waddling around, I am feeling the need to bake, and to feel cozy in the kitchen. I long for comforting and familiar smells to waft through the house. I’m seeking warm firelight and twinkling candles. Winter is coming.

Let’s dive into the foods that celebrate Hanukkah, and the miracle of the Festival of Lights. Light your candles and remember how the lamp oil for one night became enough oil for eight nights. And then get ready for latkes, sufganiyah and rugelach; fried or oily foods that traditionally symbolize the miracle of Hanukkah.

Latkes are delicious crispy potato pancakes. I love potatoes in almost any form, but hot, crunchy latkes are particularly delicious. Shredded potatoes, onion, flour and egg, with applesauce and sour cream as toppings. Yumsters. With Hanukkah starting next week, we threw ourselves into exhaustive research for latkes. It is easy to fry up extras, and then freeze them for future use. That way, if you have company for a Hanukkah meal, you are not stuck in the kitchen, while everyone else is enjoying your light touch and handiwork. Or, you can keep a stack or two in a warm oven, if you want to prepare them ahead of time and serve them in one fell swoop.

I heeded the extra hint to wring the grated potatoes in a dish cloth, twice, before mixing them with the egg, onion and the flour. That step made for lighter latkes. And I do not have a food processor, which I think would have reduced the time spent preparing the potatoes – but I did have a willing assistant who grated the potatoes on the box grater, and managed to do it without scraping his own knuckles. There is nothing like holiday ritual meal for bringing everyone into the kitchen. And eight nights of practice.



Sufganiyot (the plural of sufganiyah ) are delicious jelly doughnuts. Yes, you can make them at home. Do not give into temptation of buying them. You will impress yourself and your dinner guests with the joy of doughnuts, hot and fresh.


Bon Appétit has a handy dandy video if you have any doubts.


Rugelach cookies can be served both for Hanukkah and Christmas holidays. They are a forgiving cookie. You don’t need a t-square, or special cookie cutters or a bottle of silvery dragee sprinkles to make them. They are rolled pastries with fillings like fruit preserves, marzipan, raisins or chocolate. They are universally loved because of their crunchy exteriors and their chewy interiors. Rugelach are a great way to ease into you holiday baking. Dorie Greenspan has an excellent approach to rugelach:


Hanukkah starts on December 3, just in time to light some candles and start baking.

“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!”
― Dave Barry

Editorial: Fussiness and Kindness in Talbot County

As one of the news portals that were duty bound to cover the Talbot County Council election of 2018, it was hard for The Spy to put its finger on why things became so manifestly ugly at the end. For a community that has prided itself as having Quaker-like respect for listening to other points of view, there was a breakdown of those norms this fall in ways unimaginable in the recent past.

It is not within The Spy’s mission to determine the innocent and the guilty of this kind of thing. This happens in all towns, rich and poor, large and small. But its occurrence here is still considered at the Spy as a temporary departure from the Talbot County’s genuinely courtly DNA. This is not a permanent condition; things will be reset.

The “cause” of such things though is hard to answer. It is true that the Trump era has introduced an “in your face” approach to political dialogue, but how and when that gets trickled down to a community level like Talbot is hard to determine.

The Spy, however, has another theory and it involves fussiness.

Simply stated, Talbot County has more fussier people living here now. Some of the fastidious were born here, while a good number have moved here, but collectively they are surely growing in numbers.  This may be due to our ever-expanding retirement population; since it is a truism that the older one gets, the fussier one becomes; but to single out one group is a pure form of ageism.

Nor should fussiness be seen in negative terms.  The “fussy” count some of the world’s most successful people as part of their tribe. They have become accomplished in building businesses, leading governments, or other forms of enterprise because of that fussiness. They are by nature, according to Webster’s, “overparticular, fastidious, discriminating, selective, exacting, demanding, choosy, picky” in their fields of concentration. Without those traits, very few things would get done well in American life.

Nevertheless, this personality trait carries some baggage. When seen in a professional life, the use of fussiness can mean the difference between success and failure, or, in some cases, life and death; but in almost any other context, the characteristics of being “over-elaborate, over-decorated, ornate, fancy, overdone; busy” might be misunderstood as “stubborn, uncaring, arrogant, deaf, and mean-spirited.”  So when Talbot County’s fussiest, whether they be in public office or as concerned citizens, engage in such issues like zoning, development, noise reduction, comprehensive plans, or short-term rental policies it exposes them to significant criticism including being seen as very unkindly in a county that likes kindliness a lot.

The plight of the locally fussy is a sad one, since many, if not all, are known to the Spy as caring, generous, and passionately committed to improving and protecting Talbot County, even if that means offering their all too frank opinions on what are the correct decibels of noise in a particular neighborhood. The suggestion that special interests outweigh their instinctive (and typically uncontrollable) impulse to solve these problems on their own holds little weight.

Nothing is more frustrating or hurtful than being misunderstood but that is the price the fussy of Talbot County pay for this inclination. Quickly their “overparticular” approach to solving problems is quickly perceived as being off-putting, egotistical, and at times a bit threatening.  What seems to them as good common sense tend to be greeted with doubt, distrust, or even worse, as being seen as unkindly to those with different views.

The Spy is not the only one who suggests the fussy get a bum rap. Indeed, there is a classic handbook to help the fussy among us, entitled How to Do Things Right: The Reflections of a Fussy Man by L. Rust Hills more than forty years ago.

Self-aware enough to accept and embrace his own life as a fussy person, Hills, a highly respected fiction editor at Esquire for over 30 years, highlighted the challenges of being picky in the modern world.  He offers helpful suggestions on how to do things the right way in chapters which include “How to Refold a Road Map,” “How to Eat an Ice Cream Cone” and ways on “Mapping Out The Errand Routes,” but also useful guidelines for the fussy how to navigate such things like, “How to Avoid Family Arguments,” and “Training for Leisure.”

Perhaps the most helpful for the fussy in Talbot is Hills’ tips on how to appear more kind. Knowing that the perception of being unkind is a severe handicap in winning an argument, Hills provides some very basic strategies in his chapter, “How to be Kindly,” including tips like:

“The first step toward being kindly is to appear kindly. You should smile sweetly a lot, more or less all the time… Practice your sweet smile when you’re alone, in the bathroom mirror… practice saying soothing and reassuring things.”

“Everyone knows that the way you act sooner or later becomes the way you are. If you act kindly long enough, surely you’ll really become kindly…Besides even if you can’t actually manage to become kindly, people may sort of let down their guard and begin thinking of you that way.”

While Talbot County should be extremely grateful that we have so many fussy people here, this “hard to please” crowd must build a certain degree self-awareness so that their wonderful ideas on land protection, economic development, the rights of property owners, or noise abatement will be heard by more people if they are perceived as doing it in a kindly fashion.

Equally, for the less fussy of us, the next time a controversial local issue comes up, or better yet, a letter to the editor rubs one the wrong way, L. Rust Hills would advise taking a deep breath and think of the special burden the fussy must carry as they share with us how to do things right in the right way.

In short, our fussy fellow citizens and elected officials really do care and, with the right tools at hand, will undoubtedly be more effective in the future after brushing up on their  kindness skills.


First Night Talbot Turns 25 Years Old

It almost seems like ancient history when and where the first First Night in the country took place, but for the record, it was in Boston in 1975. And within a decade or so, the number of communities hosting such events grew to be 160 cities and towns. That’s the good news. The bad news is that by 2014, only 45 municipalities were continuing this remarkable tradition of celebrating local arts and culture.

Thankfully, one of the last remaining First Nights has been alive and well in Talbot County since 1993. For 25 years, First Night Talbot has been one of the regional highlights of the year, with young families arriving for “Crab Drop” at 9 pm while the adults can stick around for the formal drop at midnight, with another unique programming to go alongside.

The Spy spent some time with longtime First Night volunteer Marie U’Ren and Ross Benincasa of the Easton Business Alliance to recall some of the past and highlight the event’s 25th-anniversary activities this year.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about First Night Talbot please go here 



Op-Ed: President Loh and Maryland Football by Steve Parks

The University of Maryland may never be absolved of its moral responsibility for the death of 19-year-old football student-athlete Jordan McNair. But maybe the last shoe has finally dropped in this tragic debacle.

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents has elected its new chair, Linda Gooden, retired Lockheed Martin executive already serving as regent. The announcement followed the firing of the athletic trainers who treated McNair. After a long and torturous process, those most directly responsible for his death now have parted ways with the university. Previously, Rick Court, the strength and conditioning coach identified by ESPN as instigator of the “toxic culture” surrounding the football program, was forced to resign.

Last month, on the heels of two investigations—one ordered by the regents—into the heatstroke death of McNair, the board recommended that head football coach D.J. Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans be retained while accepting the retirement of University President Wallace Loh. (Evans, formerly acting athletic director, was not fully in charge of athletics until after McNair’s death.) The regents lack authority to fire the football coach or athletic director, both hired by Loh. But they do have authority to fire the university president. So they gave Loh an ultimatum: Let Durkin and Evans return from administrative leave, imposed while circumstances of McNair’s death were investigated, or the regents would find a president who would. From his subsequent praise for Evans and silence about Durkin, we can surmise that Loh held the coach at least partly responsible for McNair’s death. (An ice-water immersion for overheated athletes is a proven remedy. McNair never received such treatment and the football staff waited an hour to call 911.)

The damage inflicted by the regents’ initial decision remains incalculable. But thanks to Loh’s defiant firing of Durkin one day after the verdict delivered by then board chairman James Brady, the university’s academic standing is on a path toward restoration.

Brady, former Larry Hogan campaign chair, resigned following widespread outrage over the board’s favoritism of football over academics. What a gift it might have been for Hogan’s gubernatorial opponent, Democrat Ben Jealous.

It had taken generations for the university to dispel its former reputation as a jock school. H.C. “Curley” Byrd, a Maryland alum from back when it was known as Maryland Agriculture College, was head football coach (1911-34) and university president (1936-54). Near the end of his presidency, the Terps won their only football national championship.

Byrd was succeeded by Wilson Elkins, president until 1970 before stepping up to head the University of Maryland System. A Rhodes Scholar, Elkins instituted more rigorous academic standards resulting in probation for students earning less than a C average and establishing a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, which had twice spurned Maryland. Success in athletics declined sharply in my Class of ’70 time at Maryland, but a bachelor’s degree was more highly regarded.

During Loh’s watch, a degree earned at College Park became even more prestigious. Maryland is regularly ranked in the top 25 nationally among public universities. Off-campus, the most visible changes since Loh took the reins in 2010 have transformed the school’s College Park doorstep. Route 1 was lined with seedy bars, strip malls and no-tell motels in my years at Maryland. Today, it’s booming with stylish high-rise hotels and apartment buildings for students, staff and visitors, plus inviting shopping and dining experiences.

Some observers suspected that a few regents held a grudge against Loh for renaming Byrd Stadium in response to a student resolution citing Curley Byrd’s “separate but equal” stance barring African-Americans from admission until 1951 and Loh’s decision to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference for the more lucrative Big 10 athletic conference. Others second-guessed his acceptance of “moral and legal responsibility” for the university in McNair’s death.

It’s possible that Loh, who will be 73 next year, might have retired at the end of his contract anyway. But I urge the regents, under its new chair, to offer Loh a contract extension. Maryland could hardly have expected to lure a stellar academic to succeed him as president in a climate that suggested even a tainted head football coach had more clout than the boss.

Loh has since shown who’s boss.

I’ll always be a Terp fan. (Yes, fear the turtle!) I rooted in vain for the Terps to secure bowl eligibility with a victory on either of the last two Saturdays. I still hope for a long-shot end-of-season win this Saturday over Penn State. But regardless of wins or losses, I’m even more appreciative of the academic integrity that made my daughter’s 2011 degree a star on her resume.

Steve Parks, now living in Easton, is a retired journalist who worked for Newsday on Long Island and The Sun in Baltimore among other newspapers. He is a still-proud Maryland alum.


Talbot Election Results — Updated

In updated election results from the Nov. 6 General Election for Talbot County, four Republicans and one Democrat appear to have been elected to the Talbot County Council. As of the close of voting on Election Day, Laura Everngam Price, Pete Lesher, Corey W. Pack, Chuck Callahan, and Frank Divilio are the winners. Results will not be final until absentee and provisional votes are counted over the next two weeks. Divilio has a lead of 257 votes over Democrat Keasha N. Haythe.

In the District 1 Congressional race, Democrat Jesse Colvin took the Talbot County vote by nearly 500 votes over incumbent Republican Andy Harris. However, district-wide, Harris won re-election handily, scoring 60 percent of the votes cast as of the close of polls Tuesday.

Incumbents also won in the General Assembly races for District 37B, with State Senator Adelaide “Addie” Eckhart gaining 61% of the votes in Talbot and more than 60% district-wide. Delegates Johnny Mautz of Talbot and Christopher Adams of Wicomico, both Republicans, were also re-elected by comfortable margins.

In statewide races, Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot, Attorney General Brian Frosh, and U.S. Senator Ben Cardin were returned to office with substantial margins. However, in Talbot, Frosh trailed Republican Craig Wolf, 8,763 to 7,949. Two amendments to the Maryland State Constitution — one to restrict the use of funds raised by commercial gambling to educational purposes, and the second to allow residents to register and vote on Election Day — were approved by statewide voters.

The state Board of Elections did not release any results until after 10 p.m. Tuesday, due to polls in some parts of the state remaining open to accommodate voters still in line as of the 8 p.m. closing time.

For a complete list of Talbot County election results, see the Maryland Board of Elections website.



Vote Count in Talbot County 



Talbot County Council



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