Letter to Editor: Speak Out Against Hate on the Eastern Shore

The members of the undersigned organizations condemn the dispersal of white supremacist flyers on the Eastern Shore on March 31. In addition to being found in the Rio Vista neighborhood of St. Michaels, as reported in the Star Democrat, flyers with different text – though equally hateful and containing the same organizational name and contact information – were found on Tilghman Island.

Similar flyers have also been found over the last year in both Eastern Shore counties of Virginia; and in Maryland, in Anne Arundel, Charles, Queen Anne’s, Somerset and Worcester Counties; and the towns of Gaithersburg, Germantown, Eldersburg, Ellicott City, Glen Burnie, La Plata, Lothian, South Baltimore, Sykesville, Upper Marlboro and Waldorf.

Unanswered questions remain. Was this a coordinated action as it seems? Who dispersed this bigoted literature? Are they our neighbors? Have they succeeded in their recruitment campaign?

Just like nooses and swastikas, these acts are not pranks to be taken lightly, but symbols designed to spread fear of violence against African Americans and Latinos and Jewish people. We will not tolerate the spread of racial and religious terror with its potential to incite violence in our community. Though the President has fanned the flames of hate, we must fight this wildfire with all we’ve got. We cannot remain silent and allow bigotry to take root in our communities.

We raise our voices against hate and prejudice. We call on all people of moral conscience to speak out to provide a bulwark against bigotry. We also call on our elected officials – our Midshore Delegation to the Maryland legislature – and Congressman Andy Harris to publicly denounce these acts immediately.

Please participate in creating a public presence of love and tolerance and against all forms of hatred by printing a sign from this website and putting it in your window

Bay Hundred Citizens for a Just Society (The Hedgehogs)
Indivisible Worcester Maryland
Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible
Lower Shore Progressive Caucus
Salisbury University College Democrats
Social Action Committee for Racial Justice – Kent County, MD
Talbot Rising

Letter to Editor: Talbot County Planning Commission Vacancy

Recently there was an article in the Star Democrat and the Talbot Spy regarding the various Talbot County citizen boards and commissions. Interested citizens are invited to apply for these positions The County Council weighs the merits of each applicant and makes appointments based on qualifications. One very important position that needs to be filled is a seat on the County Planning Commission, vacated by the untimely death of Commissioner Mike Sullivan. The deadline for applications is April 19.

Diversity should be a County Council goal in filling this position. In addition to the credentials and experience of applicants, there should be an effort to achieve diversity on each commission or board. A glaring omission of gender diversity has existed for many years on the Planning Commission. There has not been a woman on this five member board since 2007, even though there have been several well qualified women applicants over the years.

I hope qualified women will apply, and I hope the Council will appoint a qualified woman to this very important commission.

Jane Bollman
Easton

Letter to Editor: Who’s afraid of Science?

Most of us don’t see ourselves as scientists or as being involved in scientific pursuits.  But we all want the latest technology we can afford in our homes and cars: things like security systems and smart home controls, parking assist and smart cruise control, and of course all the latest infotainment systems.  Most of us have phones that can record videos and send them anywhere in the world. When we go to the doctor’s office, we want to see the latest scanning, testing and monitoring equipment and we don’t ignore x-ray results or blood pressure readings they provide.  So why is it that some of us fear scientific tools and technology when it comes to addressing our larger world – our great State of Maryland for example?

Luckily for all of us, science and technology scored a big win at the Maryland Statehouse on the last day of the legislative session.  Our General Assembly approved a measure called the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). The legislation is not exactly rocket science, but is an effective application of public policy facilitated by technology that addresses some very disturbing symptoms our state is exhibiting.  The bill confirms that Maryland’s leaders recognize the benefits of renewable energy, want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, seek to establish a market for green energy produced in Maryland, want to create clean energy jobs and apprenticeships in our state, and are working to reduce the cost of energy to consumers.

The problems CEJA addresses are especially evident here on the Eastern Shore.  When Talbot and Dorchester County farmland is repeatedly flooded by tidal surge and many aquatic plants and animals can no longer survive in our rivers and streams, it’s time to act and to use all the latest science and technology in the battle to preserve our home.

The good news is that the alternative energy systems (solar panels and offshore wind turbines that CEJA mandates to produce a portion of our electricity) are proven performers in other parts of the USA.  Their application on the Mid Shore will bring with them jobs and other economic benefits. The conversion to green energy is well underway in this country and CEJA provides Maryland’s residents the opportunity to produce and sell clean energy to other communities and states and to produce and sell clean energy hardware for which there is a ready market.  I applaud the courage and foresight shown by our Legislators in passing CEJA by a veto-proof margin, and putting Maryland on the path to 50% sustainable energy resources by 2030.

James Brennan
Easton

Letter to Editor: We Deserve Better From UMM Shore Regional Health

The self-dealing scandal involving 9 of 30 UMMS Board members continues to occupy headlines. Both the MD House of Delegates and the MD Senate have unanimously passed legislation to reform the Board, and are awaiting likely approval by Governor Hogan. Comptroller Franchot has asked the state prosecutor to investigate, and blasted the Board’s choice of consulting firm to investigate. To quote him: “The State Prosecutor, thank God, is involved. This independent consulting firm that’s been hired by the system from California, I mean, forgive me, take a look at that consulting companies client list and tell me that that is an independent look at anything.”

Meanwhile, there has been very little public discussion of this on the Eastern Shore, despite the fact that one of the self-dealers on the UMMS Board who resigned within a few days of Mayor Pugh, continues to serve on our local Easton hospital board. Indeed, despite the fact that Mr. John Dillon has received more than $150,000.00 per year from UMMS for “capital campaign and strategic planning” he continues to hold the position of Chairman of the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health (SRH) at Easton, a position he has held since 2013.

The merger of our local hospital in 2006 was done in hopes of gaining access to subspecialty care, and to financial resources that would aid us in building a new hospital. Of note, Mr. Dillon was one of the people instrumental in promoting that merger. In the last decade, UMMS has been acquiring hospitals at a rapid rate of speed. As a result, individual hospital visions get a little blurry, and their mission statements more generic. Decisions regarding care locally are no longer decided locally. Remote control of care structuring has often resulted in clinical situations that make it more difficult for healthcare providers to give what they consider optimal care.

The patients of the Eastern Shore deserve better.

The dedicated workers of Shore healthcare facilities deserve better.

We need to challenge the members of the our local Board to ask Mr. Dillon to step down, and, even more so, to focus on strengthening our regional health care delivery processes. We also need to let our legislators know that we expect a truly independent audit of the UMMS board, with any illegal activities reported to the State Attorney General’s office.

Eva M. Smorzaniuk, M.D.
Talbot County

 

Letter: Clean Chesapeake Coalition Intervenes in Exelon’s Petition to FERC

Last week, the Clean Chesapeake Coalition (CCC), on behalf of its Maryland member counties, filed its Motion to Intervene in the Petition for Declaratory Order by Exelon Generation Company now pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The CCC has been at the forefront of this issue for years, long before the current surge of interest in the threat the Conowingo Factor poses to Bay health, back when certain special interest groups were still calling the impacts of the Conowingo Dam a “red herring” in the context of saving the Bay.

CCC member counties and their county official remain disappointed at the lengths Exelon is willing to take to shirk environmental responsibility associated with the operation of this lucrative power station. This private, for-profit corporation which, according to its own website recorded $35.9 billion in revenues in 2018, claims that the Maryland Department of the Environment’s qualifications for a Water Quality Certification are “impracticable.” Meanwhile, Maryland counties with annual budgets that are a tiny fraction of Exelon’s revenues, are spending enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars to develop and implement their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP) and help Maryland meet its Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals; and the local economies of Bayside counties are hurt by the Conowingo Factor impacts on the seafood industry.

Well-supported by science and enforceable under the law, the Hogan Administration has embraced the once-in-a-generation opportunity to impose licensing conditions requiring the owner of Conowingo Dam to properly manage the vast quantities of nutrients, sediment and other contaminants that are accumulated in the reservoir above the Dam and scoured into the Bay, not just during major storm events but now, with increasing frequency, because of the loss of trapping capacity in the reservoir.

Consider the following: in 2016, according to United States Geological Survey (USGS) monitoring data, the average daily discharge at the Dam reached or exceeded 100,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on a total of six (6) days throughout the year; in 2017, this happened 18 times; in 2018, this happened on 77 different days. In fact, in 2018, there was only one month, June, in which there were no days with an average daily discharge rate at 100,000 cfs or higher. Thus far in the first quarter of 2019 (January 1 – March 31), USGS provisional data has recorded 16 days with an average daily discharge at or above 100,000 cfs. We know that when the water is coming through the Dam at 100,000 cfs, scouring begins to occur, loading nutrient-laden sediment into the upper Chesapeake Bay in shocking proportions. At this rate, we are on track to reach our allowable nutrient levels for the entire watershed solely through the inability of the Conowingo Reservoir to keep upstream pollutants trapped behind the spill gates.

Exelon maintains that the Dam is not a source of pollution and while it may be true that the Dam does not itself create pollution, CCC and other intervenors contend that its operations have a severe negative impact on the health of the Bay and that the 14-mile reservoir behind the Dam, also the responsibility of Exelon, must be properly maintained so that the downstream cleanup progress made to date is not wiped out by the next major storm event. Given that there is an 80% chance of a 25-year storm occurring during the re-licensing period sought by Exelon, the billions that have already been spent downstream to improve the quality of our country’s largest estuary will be washed down the proverbial toilet if Exelon continues to dodge any meaningful role in Bay stewardship.

A copy of the Coalition’s recent Motion to Intervene in the FERC relicensing process may be found on its website: www.cleanchesapeakecoalition.org

Charles D. MacLeod
Clean Chesapeake Coalition

Letter to Editor: Public Trust Betrayed by UMMS Board of Directors

About two weeks ago the details of the appalling ethical breach of the UMMS Board of Directors appeared in the news, thanks to the work of investigative reporters at The Baltimore Sun. The revelation that nine of the thirty Board members were engaged in lucrative business deals with the health care system came to light. The amounts varied from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per person, and were ethically suspect for lack of competitive bidding and/or financial disclosure. The one who has gotten the most press is the Mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh, who received $500,000.00 for her children’s health book, “Healthy Holly”. (Of interest, 8,700 of these remain, unread, in a warehouse).

Both the State Senate and House rightly responded with outrage, and introduced companion bills SB619 and HB1428 that call for a comprehensive audit, place more stringent requirements on contracts, and require vetting of board members by the Senate, among other things.

Thus far, three Board members have resigned, and the others with system contracts have been placed on leaves of absence. After a closed door session on March 21 that included Governor Hogan, Senate President Miller, and Mr. Chrencik, CEO of UMMS, Mr. Chrencik was placed on leave. Governor Hogan has called this situation “unseemly” and “appalling”. As a retired physician, formerly associated with Shore Regional Health, I agree.

All self-dealing is deplorable. The fact that it has occurred in an institution that is largely funded by Maryland taxpayers makes it an absolute betrayal of public trust. Our Shore Hospitals have worked hard to maintain quality patient service, largely through the effort of dedicated hospital workers. It is hard for hospital supervisors to read facts such as UMMS revenue of $4.4 billion in 2018, when they are told for the umpteenth time to cut costs and staffing. And Mr. Chrencik’s salary of $4.2 million a year seems an insult, particularly in view of his lack of ethical oversight of the Board.

The UMMS Board has voted to have an “independent audit”. Hopefully, there will be assurances that this legal/accounting audit will be truly independent, include in-depth forensic and investigative evaluation of the Board’s processes, and have the authority to refer any illegal activity to the State Attorney General’s office.

Eva M. Smorzaniuk, M.D.
Trappe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elle Bassett
Miles-Wye Riverkeeper
ShoreRivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pat Ingram, Oxford
Nancy Andrew, Easton

Letter to Editor: Sanctuaries are not Working, Why Make Them Permanent?

I am writing this letter in response to Matt Pluta’s Letter to the Editor. First, I want to thank the Talbot County Council for their support. It is a comfort to know that in our time of need they take action. When 50% of Talbot & Dorchester County’s productive oyster bars were taken to create 3 tributary size sanctuaries our counties experienced a great loss economically, socially, and, yes, environmentally. As president of Talbot Watermen’s Association, member of Oyster Advisory Commission, member of Oyster Futures, Chairperson of the Talbot County Oyster Shell Committee, and past member of Choptank Trib Team (now known as ShoreRivers). I would like to share some of the scientific data that shows that Harris Creek Sanctuary is not performing as well as Public Oyster Harvest Areas and why sanctuaries success is still unproven.

Since I live on Tilghman, I have watched every phase of the reef construction in Harris Creek including many years of the planting of Spat on Shell (SOS) until its supposed completion in 2016. I say supposed because, in 2017, I started to see more plantings of SOS, and a total of 31 of the 64 reefs were replanted. See attached Harris Creek Reseeded in 2017.

At an Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) meeting, I brought up the question of why a project that was announced to be completed the year before would need such extensive reseeding. The response was that the sanctuary restoration plan allowed for additional plantings if bars did not meet certain metrics. In other words, as the oysters die from disease or old age, new oysters are planted at taxpayer’s expense. How convenient that the plan was written with safeguards so that it would not fail! I thought that, once completed, the reefs would sustain themselves through natural reproduction and, according to the disproven computer model created by UMCES, this spat would spread outside of Harris Creek to harvest areas.

Low spatfall is another factor. Spatfall is clearly not occurring as evidence from the current 2017 Fall Survey (a survey of oyster bars done around the state for the past 60 years by the DNR). See Table 2 – Spat pg. 32. In Harris Creek, the number of spat per bushel is 55, slightly above the 33 year average 40.3 (see notation #1), but just outside of Harris creek the number per bushel is only 13 which is a lot lower than that bars 33 year average of 67.2 (see notation #2). Also noted is that both spat counts are well below that of Broad Creek which is 205 per bushel, almost double the 33 year average of 118.1 (notation #3), and let’s remember this is a creek that we harvest and have not planted over 2 billion SOS and spent 32 million dollar in taxpayer’s money.

As for the next computer model created by VIMS and UMCES mentioned by Mr. Pluta that shows the filtering capacity of Harris Creek and the removal of nitrogen of 100,000 pounds of nitrogen is a theory not real data. Lisa Kellogg of VIMS clearly states, “Through the model she and her colleagues hope to provide a tool that natural resource agencies could use to gauge the ecological benefits of this and other reef restoration projects”. Where can you find water testing data? I know ShoreRivers does water testing in Harris Creek. On ShoreRivers website, I found data showing nitrogen levels; the data shows Harris Creek was actually going backwards with nitrogen levels rising from .47 in 2013 to .958 in 2014  (see attached HC05), with overall numbers increasing.

Broad Creek, a public harvest area, during those same years was declining in nitrogen levels to .114 (see attached BC04).

Also of importance are high disease levels in restoration sanctuaries. Harris Creek, Tred Avon and Little Choptank River have 97% prevalence of Dermo and the intensity ranges from 3.3 to 4.1 resulting in death of the oyster when this range reaches 5. When oysters die, they re-release nitrogen back into the water. See Table A. Disease Levels at Three Restoration Sanctuaries and Adjacent Open-Harvest Areas from the 2017 Fall Survey.

On Tilghman Wharf, a public oyster bar outside of Harris Creek Sanctuary, had a 10% prevalence of Dermo and the intensity range was 0.2 in 2013 but by 2017 (when the sanctuary was well established), the prevalence rose to 70 with an intensity of 2.2 as the disease spreads to public oyster bar just outside the sanctuary area. See Table 3 – Dermo.

And finally, the Morgan State study (I actually participated in this study as a member of the Oyster Futures project) about increase in crab harvest to offset the economic loss of the oyster harvest. The theory is crabs will feed on the barnacles of the reef.  However, what about when the crab defecates (feces are high in nitrogen) after feeding? When I asked the scientist this question, he seemed perplexed and had not considered the impact. Second, our trotlines get snagged on the stone piles of the reef, so, not many watermen will crab on them. This combined with the loss of crab lays due to aquaculture water column leasing allowed in sanctuaries (i.e., Phillips Wharf Environmental Center and Green Pearl, LLC. leases on Lomax oyster bar in Harris Creek Sanctuary) creates a significant decrease in crab harvest.  And, lastly, what Mr. Pluta and others have failed to report is this study concluded the overall increase to the oyster population would not be significant at all.

So, my question to the citizens of Maryland, after reviewing all this data which proves that sanctuaries are not working, why would we make them permanent?

Jeff Harrison, President
Talbot Watermen Association

 

Letter to Editor: Andy Harris the Cowardly Congressman

When I first heard that our Congressman Andy Harris was bringing a young protester up on charges for recently video streaming an interview from his Salisbury office, I was shocked that Harris would go that far to prosecute. But I was not in the least surprised that Harris approved this approach. It is unapologetically cowardly.

Just as a quick primer background history about Harris and Marijuana laws, Harris tried to derail a recent DC Referendum where voters approved a ballot initiative to allow for the legal sale of Marijuana in the District. Harris has sorely angered many in DC, ( not even his jurisdiction) , and to say the least, he his not loved by either the MD Marijuana justice group,  and the DC Marijuana justice group that attended the rally.

To be clear, I also have no love or affiliation with DCMJ or MDMJ, but I feel their civil rights as demonstrating citizens in a free country have been violated by our congressman ( pathetically) seeking “ sanctuary”’ from his own constituents. What could be more absurd or perverse! You can’t legally eliminate your political enemies by restricting access to government. As a public servant you must represent all sides.

When Harris’s office filed the current complaint that his office privacy had been violated , he employed an ancient ( an barely applicable) state statute that has regulated privacy in the State of Maryland to defend himself. This “wiretapping” statute is a term held over from the McCarthy Era. The use of this statute seems completely out of context to the event. The term , in an if itself, tends to incriminate the public nature of the event, as if covert evil was intended , which was not the case. Maryland’s “wiretapping” statute requires both parties must agree to be “tapped” to allow the covert information to go public. The protesters had no such agreement with the Harris office , thus the charges.

So we get to the big question, why wouldn’t an elected public official within his office expect to be in the public realm at all times? Isn’t personal privacy in a public state office an unreasonable expectation? Wasn’t this state business, and isn’t there a deliberate confusion attempting to confuse the differences between personal world and government business here? I think so.

In Maryland , the Open Meetings Act brought forth the idea that people deserve the right to see their government function. It blew open the “smoke filled “ lobbyist infested corridors of government and let the sunshine in. In many cities and towns there’s a requirement to videotape the town meetings and broadcast them publicly on a public channel to encourage open and transparent governance.

In the same way the MDMJ group felt they had a right to show others what was happening in the meeting with the Harris office. An attempt at making the meeting public is no crime. In this way , the Open Meetings act was more relevant a precedent to guide this public event than any questionable right to privacy our elected officials have conducting business in office.

What bothers me most about this is the lack of traditional protocol, 1) why didn’t Harris meet with the crowd as part of his responsibility to his constituents, 2) why didn’t Harris recognize that the MDMJ was only trying to bring others into the room with modern technology, and 3) why would Harris want to avenge a group perfectly within their rights to demonstrate, 4) Why did Harris used a completely outdated ( inapplicable) law to seek revenge on these perfectly peaceful protesters and claim personal sanctuary.

Most of all, this is a sets dangerous precedent that leaders are no longer bound to represent their constituents , can hide behind the wall of secrecy ( privacy) and continue to pretend to do public business in their own shuttered world of dark folly. A hearing for the MDMJ indictment is scheduled in Salisbury in March 22.

Jay Corvan
Trappe

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