Letter to Editor: Concern over Rapid Growth of Talbot County Short Term Rental licenses

Did you know that Short-term rentals (STRs) have been permitted in Talbot County for almost 20 years? Over the last 10 years, STR licenses have increased at an alarming rate, for example, so far according to a Planning & Zoning document as of August 7, 2019, 142 licenses have been issued, a 58% increase from 2010 when 90 were issued.

As we sit here today, no one (not Planning & Zoning, not the STR Board and not the Talbot County Council) has an accurate count of all the STRs existing in Talbot County, let alone whether they are legal or illegal.

The above rate of growth is scary. But, it is not the scariest thing about STRs! Listen to the story about the FROG and the pot of water. It goes like this:

If the frog is put into a pot of boiling water, it will jump right out!
However, if the frog is put into tepid water which is then brought
slowly to a boil, it will not perceive the imminent danger
and will be cooked to death.

This story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly.

This is exactly what is happening in Talbot County with this rapid growth of STR licenses. The three FROGs already in warm water are: Talbot County residents, those that have bought second homes in which to retire and our tourism economy. The temperature is rising. Our Next Step 190 legislation is to be respected for its efforts, but it has miles to go before a balanced temperature is found. In this small community, there are overlapping interests, many of which feel their interests are being ignored. Property rights and the character of their neighborhoods are being pushed aside while non residents (and pure investors) and the generation of more income and tourism to Talbot County is being favored. Talbot Count needs a timeout so that a better balance can be restored for the long-term health and well being of this great County in which we all live.

It is often argued that property rights are sacrosanct. Yet, zoning has always existed to balance property right with citizen rights. Having an STR on your property is NOT an ownership right. It is a privilege granted by the County. This grant comes with important responsibilities including: operating the license according to all the rules of the Code, respecting the rights of property owners surrounding the STR, and the preserving the character of the neighborhoods in which the STRs are located. If these are not followed, the character of the neighborhoods will break down and the fabric of our County will suffer.

So, I ask the STR Board and the Talbot County Council to declare a MORATORIUM (of at least 6 months but no more than one year) on the issuance of any new STR licenses. In the meantime, the STR Board can deal with STR renewals. This moratorium time can be used to provide at least the following benefits for the County and its 37,000 residents:

Time to determine how many STRs actually exist, whether legal or illegal, and develop rigorous enforcement of and consequences for those who do not comply. The enforcement burden should not fall on the neighbors.

With that in place, pursue the illegal ones and either bring them into compliance or shut them down with appropriate fines and other action allowed by the Code.

Sanction those legally licensed STRs that are “out of compliance,” such as, noise level and when an approved occupancy capacity is exceeded.

Fix the broken STR complaint systems so that they work easily and equally well for both neighbors who live near STRs as well as those who rent the STRs.

Provide accurate online information accessible to all such as an electronic mapping system so the STR Board and others can knows how many STRs exist and their location and accurate, online lists of all applications.

Clarify the notification requirements: for when the STR applications are made and when the STR Board hearings on applications will take place; so all interested parties may attend and be heard. Consider holding STR Board meetings between 5 and 7 PM and encourage written statements to give working people more opportunity to be involved.

Clarify the roles of both the P & Z staff and the STR Board vis a vis renewals e.g. inclusion of complaints received by Resident Agents, criteria for determining duration of licenses .

Allow the STR Board and County Council time to answer the question: Why don’t we follow the good lead of Talbot County towns like Easton and St. Michaels when it comes to rules regarding licensing and controlling STR operations? Why should there be different rules about STRs depending on which side of the #322 By-pass you live on?

Modify the role of the P & Z staff. Next Step 190’s regulations have shifted the discretion to grant new STR licenses to the Short Term Rental Board and should give that Board the power to determine which renewals come before them.

Recent publicity, nationwide and international, about STRs has raised the alarm. For instance, the Long Island Hamptons, which we are purported to resemble, is beginning to have the feel of an Ocean City. Thankfully we are not there yet. However, the purchase of the largest Talbot County vacation rental company by an Ocean City business is a great concern.

One last danger I want to point out for our friend, the Frog. Here is a site for an article about Sedona, Arizona: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/07/27/vacation-rentals-killing-arizona-city-locals-say/1846713001/, where a citizen has identified the next step in what I would call Runaway STR Abuse…a contractor buying up land for the purpose of building large houses to be used (from the very beginning) solely as STRs. Locals there feel helpless as vacation rentals overrun them.

This is actually happening in Talbot County. I understand that there is a pending new STR application for a rental whose building is under construction. Could Talbot County become the next community that regrets allowing an unfettered proliferation of STRs?

Give the moratorium serious consideration. After all, who wants to have the same experience as the frog?

Howard E. Snyder
Easton

Letter to Editor: After El Paso and Dayton, Congressman Harris Needs to Take Action

It is early Sunday morning, August 4, 2019.  Yesterday families in El Paso Texas and Dayton, Ohio woke up and they had fathers, mothers, kids, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends.  This morning, at least 30 of those families are grieving because they don’t have those fathers, mothers, kids, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends.

So I am writing to you early on this Sunday morning to ask you to do something to make sure other families, today, tomorrow, the next day don’t have to begin grieving too.

You are an elected leader.  Your constituents elected you to take on the many problems our country faces, propose solutions, and enact laws that might begin to address them.

Today, not tomorrow, not the day after, you have to address the problem of gun violence in our country.  You have to ban assault weapons, demand background checks for every gun purchaser, and improve mental health care.  You must also begin impeachment proceedings to replace a president who denigrates as “vermin” anyone whose heritage is different from his own and encourages violence against innocent people who are immigrants, just as your parents were.

In 1962, Bob Dylan asked a question that I am now asking you.  “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died”? Will 20 people in El Paso do it?  Another 9 in Dayton? 3 in Gilroy?  Why didn’t 20 kids and 7 of their teachers in Newtown get the message across to you?  Or 11 people in Pittsburgh? 17 in Parkland?

How many deaths will it take until you know that too many people have died and you decide you decide to use the power your constituents gave you to do something about it?

We’re waiting for an answer, Congressman Harris.

Linda Cades
Kennedyville

 

Letter to Editor: Shame on You Representative Andy Harris

Shame on you, Representative Andy Harris.

The President recently tweeted that four of Harris’ colleagues in Congress, three of whom were born in the United States and the fourth a naturalized citizen, should “go back…to the crime infested countries from which they came.”

Rather than condemn this racist rhetoric, Harris told reporters that there was perhaps a misunderstanding, that the President may not have meant countries but rather congressional districts or cities.

This disingenuous reply reveals the extent to which our congressman is willing to twist himself into knots to go along with anything that the President does or says, no matter how divisive and harmful.

As a coalition of progressive groups on the Eastern Shore, we believe that Harris has lost sight of what makes America truly great—its diversity and the opportunity it extends to those yearning to be free.

He also seems to have forgotten his own background. Like many of us, Harris is a child of immigrants. According to the public record, Harris’s own Hungarian father and Polish mother emigrated to the United States in 1950 as stateless refugees. The United States took the Harris family in, allowing them to thrive here, eventually raising a son to be a U.S. Congressman.

Given his own experience with the American dream, why would Harris be willing to look away when the President questions the rights of other immigrants and children of immigrants to participate in the political life of the United States? Sadly, the answer seems to lie in Harris’s acceptance of the racial division that Trump sows in his tweets and at his rallies.

One key difference between Harris and the four Congresswomen targeted by Trump is they are women of color. That makes Harris’ response doubly shameful. He represents the district where Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman began their struggles for racial equality. He should know better. We call upon him to uphold the real American dream – equality for all—and condemn hateful and dangerous comments from the members of his own party, including the President.

Dr. Harris, it is your moral responsibility and civic duty to hold the President accountable when he seeks to sow racial division. You represent all of the people in your district, whatever their origin and however they arrived in this country. You need to recognize that whatever policy disagreements there may be, this is no way to act.

Denice Lombard
Indivisible Dorchester
Indivisible Worcester
Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible
Talbot Rising

Letter to Editor: Back to the Telephone Party Lines of the 1950s by Corey Pack

People who know me, realize that I seldom write a Letter to the Editor, in fact in the last 10 plus years on the Talbot County Council, I probably have submitted maybe one. This is because I believed that most issues would be worked out over the course of time or the topic just didn’t warrant a written reply. But recently, the Talbot County Council received an opinion from the Open Meetings Compliance Board (OMCB/the Board) that has such far reaching implications as to how elected officials can communicate with one another, that I simply cannot stay quiet. The Board’s over-reaching decision will “dramatically” harm the day to day operation of local governments across the State of Maryland. No one is objecting to transparency in government, but the question is at what expense to impede the legitimate operation of local governments?

The question arose with the OMCB about whether emails between elected officials in Talbot County constituted “a meeting” where a quorum of the Talbot County Council participated.  Members of the Talbot County Council over the course of two days had contacted each other to discuss a matter pending before the Maryland General Assembly. Those discussions were not in the form of a “group” email, but in fact were one on one, just as if the members had met over a cup of coffee. This is a practice which has happened countless times over the lifetime of the Talbot County Council and indeed happens every day throughout the State of Maryland and across the nation. For the OMCB to conclude that elected officials talking to each other “one on one” constitutes a meeting of the elected body is absolutely preposterous! 

Elected officials must have the freedom to speak to each other to flush out ideas and gather a better understanding of each member’s position. Since the creation of sub-categories of government – counties, cities and towns – it has been an understood practice to have independent deliberations of those elected officials. I can’t believe when the General Assembly created the Open Meetings Compliance Board, it could have imagined that the Board would be so far reaching as to consider communications between two elected officials as constituting a meeting of the elected body.  

In fact, in 2016 during its annual meeting, the Board discussed whether the Open Meetings Act should be amended by the General Assembly to address electronic communications. But instead of taking the matter before the proper authority, the OMCB chair “suggested” to the members of the Board that “the Board may discern whether the public body is using email as a means of conducting business and interpret the Act accordingly.” 

Open Meetings training has been presented at State and Municipal conventions for elected officials since this 2016 Board decision, but never has the Board communicated its intentions to consider electronic communications within its purview. Nor has the Board ever sought direction from the General Assembly as to whether the “suggestion” of the Board chair was in fact correct. I believe that the OMCB is using Talbot County in an attempt to further their own agenda to prevent the use of electronic communication by local elected officials. For the OMCB to use a made-up violation of the Act to further its own political agenda is shameful. If members felt so strongly about the use of electronic communication, then they should have gone to the General Assembly for a change in the law, as they started to do in 2016. In fact, in a 1996 Opinion of the Attorney General, it was ruled that the exchange of emails between members of a planning commission spanning over two days, were not simultaneous communication and thus not considered to be a meeting. 

In the Board’s most recent letter to the Talbot County Council, it did not stop with redefining a meeting and a quorum. The Board went further to state that a public body cannot assert its administrative function when independently discussing whether to give an opinion on matters before the General Assembly. This means that whenever a Council member picks up the phone to call one another to get their opinions on a piece of legislation, they must first announce that they are calling the other members of the Council and then invite them to listen in on the call. I think telephone party lines went out of style in the 1950s. The Board went further with its conclusions, stating that communications spanning over a 24-hour period constituted “near-simultaneous electronic discussions, among a quorum.” 

A decision of this kind will nearly cripple most elected bodies and will severely limit the free exchange of ideas and deliberations between members. Citizens trust public officials to gather the best information they can when making decisions about their welfare, whether this information is gathered in a public setting like a meeting, or with the public official talking with his or her colleagues to better understand an issue. Conducting business today is based on the convenience of the technologies available to us.  

The Talbot County Council has taken every precaution to make sure it is in compliance with the Open Meeting rules and procedures. The Council has already made adjustments to the announcement of its Closed Session agenda items to stay in compliance of the Act. The Council prepares signed Statements for Closing the Meeting of each Closed Session in accordance with the Open Meeting Act and as Council President, I assure that only those items stated on the Closed Session agenda are discussed. As required, the Council gives notice of their Closed Sessions and welcomes a member of the local press to sit in on the beginning of the Closed Session vote, to hear openly the items on the agenda to be discussed. The Council has also included a brief summary of the Closed Session deliberations at the end of the Open (public) Session minutes. In my 10 plus years as a member of the Talbot County Council, there has never been a deliberate attempt to evade the Open Meetings Act or to deceive the public trust. This Council, and Councils before, understand the importance of an open and transparent elected body and working with County staff have always taken steps to ensure we stayed in compliance with current law. 

This decision by the OMCB will not just negatively affect Talbot County, but every county and municipal body in the State of Maryland – we all will suffer from this gross over-reach. Clearly, this issue warrants further examination by the OMCB and the Maryland General Assembly if elected officials in our towns, cities and counties are to be able to do their jobs in an efficient manner. 

Corey Pack
Easton

Letter to Editor: Rep. Andy Harris Response to Mueller Report Appalling

As members of a coalition of progressive groups on the Eastern Shore, we were appalled by Congressman Andy Harris’ response to the Mueller report.

In a statement on his website, Congressman Harris makes it clear that he believes Attorney General William Barr’s assertion that “there was no collusion between President Trump and the Russian government, and there was no obstruction of justice.”

Attorney General Barr’s statements on this matter are not credible. He claimed in a press conference that the Trump administration cooperated with the Mueller investigation. But the Mueller report shows otherwise, citing Trump’s public attacks on the investigation, behind-the-scenes attempts to control it, and public and private attempts to encourage witnesses not to cooperate. The report also finds Trump’s own answers inadequate.

Contrary to Congressman Harris’ assertion, the Mueller report lays out in detail incontrovertible facts proving Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to the benefit of the Trump campaign but finds insufficient evidence to establish a conspiracy between the campaign and the Russian government.

Further, Part II of the Mueller report establishes substantial evidence (eleven instances) for a charge of obstruction of justice but notes that Department of Justice policy prevents bringing charges against a sitting president. He clearly leaves the matter in the hands of Congress. Included in these instances are:

    • attempting to have the investigation stopped and Mueller fired,
    • attempting to have the purpose of the investigation shifted to future attempts at election interference and away from the actions of his own campaign,
    • attempting to prevent his personal lawyer Michael Cohen and White House Counsel Don McGahn, from cooperating with the investigation.
    • the appointment as Attorney General of William Barr, who had made clear his own disapproval of the investigation—and indeed who proceeded to lie about the content of the report after receiving it.

Robert Mueller has made it clear that it is up to Congress to take action, and that includes our Representative Andy Harris, who gives no indication that he understands or believes the content of the Mueller report. Constituent calls to Representative Harris’ office asking whether he has read the report do not yield answers. We call upon the Congressman to acknowledge the fact that it was not appropriate for the President and his campaign to welcome and exhort Russian interference in our elections. Nor was it appropriate or even legal to so blatantly obstruct the investigation. Read the report. Do your job, Congressman Harris.

Indivisible Worcester
Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible
Talbot Rising
Together We Will Delmarva

Letter to Editor: The Flaws in Current Bay Grass Protection

Underwater grasses, otherwise known as Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV), are vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The grasses provide habitat for fish and crabs, oxygenate the water, filter sediment, absorb nutrients, and protect shorelines. These grasses are so valuable that the Chesapeake Bay Program has prioritized restoring them to 185,000 acres from their current 104,900 acres Bay-wide.

Underwater grasses are vulnerable to the hydraulic escalator clam dredge. This dredge uses hydraulic jets to cut into the bottom sediment and access buried clams, and in the process scours trenches along the river bottom, kicks up sediment plumes that cloud the water, and tears up our essential grass beds. Even dredging in a seemingly grassless area of river bottom can be harmful, as it can destroy any dormant seed bank buried in the sediment.

According to studies by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), “the direct impact of dredging in seagrasses is catastrophic.” The hydraulic clam dredge, which is banned in Maryland Coastal Bays, suppresses seed germination, restricts or completely inhibits growth, and completely uproots underwater grasses. Also according to DNR, “because of their importance, the restoration of bay grasses in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays is a priority for the department as well as the other Bay partners.”

In an effort to protect grasses from clam harvesting activities, DNR delineates SAV Protection Zones that prohibit clamming activity within grass beds. Currently, the Department updates these zones every three years based on annual fly-over data from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Updated zones are due this year. The problem with this process is that when grasses start growing in new areas they can be vulnerable to dredge activities for up to three years until the Department delineates the next Protection Zones.

Claiborne, Maryland is a prime example of how the current three-year update process is failing to protect our natural resources. The cove by the public boat landing is a prime clamming location and currently has no SAV Protection Zones. According to the Virginia Institute for Marine Science, on which DNR bases their Protection Zones, this cove has had significant acreage of underwater grasses since 2014. However, DNR did not delineate SAV Protection Zones in the area for the 2016 update. While we wait for the updated 2019 zones, this area continues to be harvested almost daily.

To address this issue, ShoreRivers introduced a bill in the 2019 Maryland legislative session that would require the Protection Zones to be updated annually. However, we withdrew our bill after DNR indicated they would revise their protocols to enhance protections. We are disappointed that, six months later, we continue to wait for DNR’s promised enhancements while Maryland SAV Protection Zones continue to fail in achieving their original intent of protecting and restoring underwater grasses.

The current process of identifying and delineating SAV Protection Zones every three years is ineffective and inadequate. These zones should be updated annually to adequately protect new, recovering, and expanding grass beds. It is a waste of both natural and personnel resources to put protections in place after a grass bed has been dredged in. If we are going to meet our goal of increasing SAV acreage, we need to protect grasses both during peak bloom and during dormancy, when they do not show up on aerial maps. It’s time for DNR to walk the walk for grass protection.

Elle Bassett
Miles- Wye Riverkeeper
ShoreRivers

ShoreRivers anticipates the release of 2019 Protection Zones this summer, which will include a 90-day public comment period. We urge our members, advocates, and supporters to advocate that the Department adequately protect our underwater grasses from the hydraulic clam dredge. We are working to better map grass beds on the Eastern Shore and document clamming activity within these beds. We must hold DNR accountable to their job of protecting our natural resources. Continue to alert your Riverkeepers of any activity on your river by calling 443.385.0511 or emailing info@shorerivers.org.

 

Open Letter to School Superintendent Griffith from State School Librarian Association

Dear Dr. Griffith,

We are writing to you on behalf of the Maryland Association of School Librarians (MASL) in regard to the reduction of certified school librarians serving in that position. We’ve been informed that last summer two Certified School Librarians were moved out of School Library positions and were replaced with Instructional Assistants. More recently we learned that another Certified School Librarian would be moved into a classroom and replaced with an Instructional Assistant. This leaves just two Certified School Librarians to serve the 4,500 students in Talbot County Public Schools. MASL opposes the decision that leaves the students and teachers of Talbot County without necessary resources. The need for Certified School Library personnel is specified in COMAR (13A.05.04.01) and is echoed by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) statement that “… every student in every school, including independent schools and public charter schools, should have access to an updated school library with a certified school librarian.” With this in mind, MASL is writing this letter to inform you that we believe your choices are in violation of COMAR and will widen achievement gaps for years to come.

School library media specialists and effective school library media programs are needed now more than ever to enhance the ability of students and teachers to use resources in multiple formats to improve academic achievement, and support innovation and collaborative learning. As schools in Maryland embrace “digital” transition – moving away from traditional textbooks and other print resources, the school library media specialist’s expertise in the use of devices and content is indispensable. They are assuming leadership roles by teaching staff and students to use technology to retrieve and manage information, curating digital resources; collaborating with teachers to personalize learning for individual students; assisting in the creation of new content; and leading professional learning communities. School library media specialist’s skills in the selection and evaluation of information and instructional materials are critical in providing appropriate resources to support the implementation of College and Career-Ready Standards with an emphasis on the use of open educational resources. With the newly released National School Library Standards by the American Association of School Librarians, and the adoption of them by Maryland, it is vital and critical that Certified Librarians are at every school implementing these standards.

Support in promoting reading for personal and academic success continues to be an essential role of school library media specialists. Additionally, they are critical to helping students master the information literacy process to become independent learners, assisting them by sharing their expertise in the use of technology to retrieve and manage information, and providing much needed guidance with the creation of multimedia to demonstrate what they have learned. School library media specialists support students by providing instruction in digital citizenship, including the appropriate use of electronic resources, safety and security while online, and respect for intellectual property.

As technology advances, schools are becoming sophisticated participatory cultures where everyone becomes a teacher, learner, producer, and contributor — and school and teaching as we know them are moving beyond traditional walls. School library media specialists are focused on developing “learning communities,” in which students acquire positive habits that include study, the ability to persevere, and digital citizenship that promotes lifelong learning and the use of a vast array of current information resources.

Sincerely,

Emmanuel Faulkner
President, Maryland Association of School Librarians 507 W. Preston St.Baltimore, MD 21201

Brittany Tignor
President-Elect, Maryland Association of School Librarians 9815 Stephen Decatur Highway Ocean City, MD 21842

Letter to Editor: Harris Says Nay on Community-Based Healthcare and Spousal Impoverishment Protections

1st District Representative, Andy Harris, voted against the bi-partisan, healthcare bill H.R. 3253 (5 Republicans and 4 Democrat co-sponsors). This bill — the Empowering Beneficiaries, Ensuring Access, and Strengthening Accountability Act of 2019 — would extend a number of provisions within the Medicaid program that serve to make the program more effective.

This bill would extend the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration (MFP), which helps states rebalance their Medicaid long-term care systems by transitioning people with chronic conditions and disabilities into community-based care, through FY 2024. In addition, this bill would clarify that state Medicaid fraud and abuse control units are authorized to investigate abuse and neglect of Medicaid patients in board and care facilities, as well as patients receiving Medicaid-funded care in non-institutional settings.

Additionally, this bill would extend spousal impoverishment protections for seniors who receive long-term care in their homes or community settings through March 31, 2024.
Finally, this bill would; extend the Community Mental Health Services Demonstration Program thru 2021, fund the Medicaid Improvement Fund, and prohibit drug manufacturers from blending drug prices, a practice which lowers rebates to consumers.

The vote was 371 YEA, and 46 NAY. Harris voted NAY.

For more information on H.R. 3253 go here

Christopher Koch
Easton

Letter to Editor Get Ready for Oxford’s Cardboard Boat Race

The Cardboard Boat Race, as it has in the past 30 years, will commence on the Saturday after Fathers Day in June. This year that date falls on June 22th. The race is held at the beach at the end of the Strand in Oxford Maryland. Boat registration will be starting at nine am. Most boats tend to wait till race day to register. Some years there are as many as 50 boats participating in the various races. The Battle of the Brave or Iron person race is the longest and is in Memory of Police Chief Wally Jones who was a founding member of the races and it is in his honor the proceeds go to Special Olympics of Maryland and the Tred Avon Players a community Non-profit Theater group operating out of the Oxford Community Center.

To start the races the dunking of the politicians will commence the start. This event is where the political inspired walk out into the river to see if the can lose sight of their sneakers and when they accomplish that feat the measurement taken will give some indication as to the health of the Bay. The river keepers can explain it better but that is the reason all materials used to make a boat be water solvent.

This year races will start at 11:00 and there will be the Battle of the Brave or Iron Man the longest of the races then the Fast Race and the Corporate Challenge in Honor of Tom Kleppinger, The funny race the Children’s race those 15 and under and the Senior Survivors for those over 60. All races are starting and ending on the Beach at the north end of the Strand. There is no spectator fee but attendees are encouraged to purchase ice cream from Highland Creamery or the food cooked by the upper Shore chapter of Special Olympics Maryland.

This being a “fun raiser” for two nonprofit organizations there is no fee for those who wish to watch the race can do so at any vantage point along the shore line. Those who wish to enter a race may do so at the fee of $25.00. If they wish to rent a boat and decorate it as they wish the fee for a limited fleet boat is $100.00 per boat and if the desire is to own their own boat that too can be arranged for a fee of $400.00. All checks are to be made out to Special Olympics Maryland or Tred Avon Players. All boats that enter must have the proper survival gear onboard.

The web site is http://give.classy.org/2019cardboardboatrace . As always we are also looking for volunteers to participate or build or repair the Boats. If you wish to find out more please contact Skipper@exitlathamrealty.com or skipper3212@gmail.com unless you have the need to hear a real human voice then try 410-924-3212. This year after the cardboard races the Smith Island Crab Skiffs will be having their Doug Hanks/Col.Martin memorial race. The crab skiffs are motorized and will circle the fleet of anchored boats that have come to see the races like Indians around a wagon train. Some of these boats will be at the far end of the beach for viewing as they are marvels of boat building and Oxford has Built the Slippery Eel to partake in these races.

William Skipper Marquess
Easton

 

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

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