Letter to the Editor: Is a 3rd Bay Bridge a Good Idea?

I want to add some thoughts to Howard Freedlander’s excellent column in the Spy of January 29, 2019 regarding a contentious 3rd Bay Bridge. I originally focused on a new bridge to Kent County since this seemed the most likely crossing option and Kent County residents are already alarmed.

From the economic standpoint in Kent County, there could be some reason for a 3rd bridge. Unfortunately, I see the unintended, but very foreseeable, consequences of a new bridge far outweighing the benefits.

Middletown, Delaware seems to be a huge concern to the Kent County people. I agree that Middletown is a poster child for destruction of a small town and its surrounding countryside. It makes me sick every time I ride through there. What forces allowed or caused this to happen I wonder.

To me, a better example of the threat to Kent County is what has happened to Kent Island; creeping sprawl, creeping haphazard commercial sprawl and inappropriate development.

I go back to the time of the 2nd ferry (Sandy Point to Mattapeake) before the first bridge. We lived in Catonsville after WW2 and went to Ocean City every summer. I remember waiting in the long line for the ferry; but then Kent Island was largely undeveloped rural countryside. The 1st bridge went in in 1952 and the 2nd in 1974 and you know the rest of the story of what has evolved over 66 years, not just to Kent Island but to other eastern shore counties as well. There is little doubt in my mind that a 3rd bridge will make history repeat itself. The rural character of Kent County will change for the worse forever. Maybe the rest of us too, depending on where the infrastructure (road) goes.

Kent County has a Comprehensive Plan I’m sure. While I haven’t seen it, like ours for Talbot County, I’ll bet it calls for preservation of the rural country side and quality of life. A bridge and associated infrastructure sure works against this.

An idea of a toll or limited access road to the bridge is an interesting one. I guess if you have to have a bridge, this might be the least worse option. I’ll bet there would be a huge battle over how many and where the exits would be. Over time many of the exits would assume the same characteristics that we see at exits all over the USA. Is this good?

My next comment concerns us in Talbot County. I have no idea where a road/roads serving a new Kent County bridge might go. If it goes inland and skirts Talbot County, traffic on Route 50 might actually go down for a while. I doubt this would be the case 60 years after the 3rd bridge opens. Heaven help us if a widened 213 connects in to the present Route 50. Perhaps 50 will be widened to 6 or 8 lanes. Or elevated going through Easton. Or a bypass around Easton like Salisbury (then 309 or 328 0r 331 can develop like Route 13 in Salisbury – a mess). Also, would it stimulate more development than would otherwise occur?

But wait, don’t options 8, 9, and 10 noted in Mr. Freedlander’s piece cross the Bay into Talbot County and connect to Route 50 in or near Easton. Unimaginable! Our County would be ruined.

Obviously, I am not in favor of a 3rd bridge but I do understand its importance to the “reach the beach” people, maybe economic recovery in Kent County, and probably real estate interests. But, the effects of a 3rd bridge are too high a price to pay.

Roger Bollman
Easton

Letter to Editor: Harris Votes 10 Times In First Month To Support Government Shutdown

Keeping a tab on our 1st District Representative, I checked in on his voting record for the first month of his new term to see how well we were being represented. According to www.countable.us Of the ten (10) bills voted on to reopen the government, so that our fellow citizens could get paid, and we could get the services that we pay taxes for, he voted NAY. Harris did, however, vote YEA for easing sanctions on 3 Russian companies, owned by a sanctioned Russian oligarch, and voted NAY for a bill which would have strengthened NATO and the European Deterrence Initiative, which bolster Europe’s ability to deter and defend against Russian aggression. See www.countable.us for details.

House Bill H. Joint Res. 31
Funds Homeland Security
Vote was 231 Yea, 180 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H. Joint Res. 28
Temporarily funds: Agriculture; Energy & Water; Financial Services & General Government; Homeland Security; Interior & Environment; State & Foreign Operations; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.
Vote was 229 Yea, 184 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 268
This bill would provide emergency disaster relief funding for Americans affected by recent hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires, and other natural disasters.
Vote was 237 Yea, 187 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H. Joint Res. 27
This bill would fund agencies impacted by the partial government shutdown by funding them through February 1, 2019.
Vote was 237 Yea, 187 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 266
This bill would provide FY19 funding for the Dept. of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies.
Vote was 240 Yea, 179 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 265
This bill would provide a total funding to support the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, rural development, and conservation programs for fiscal year 2019 as well as additional funding for nutritional programs.
Vote was 244 Yea, 10 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 267
This bill would provide funding for the Depts. of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development in fiscal year 2019
Vote was 244 Yea, 10 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 264
This bill would provide funding for the U.S. Treasury, the Judiciary, the Small Business Administration, several financial regulators, and other independent agencies.
Vote was 240 Yea, 188 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H. Joint Res. 1
This bill would fund the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) at current levels through February 8, 2019 and restore lapsed funding, allowing the agency to fully re-open.
Vote was 239 Yea, 192 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 21
This bill would fund roughly one-fourth of the federal discretionary budget by providing covered agencies with a total of $271 billion in funding for fiscal year 2019 (which runs through September). Specifically, it’d fund agencies covered by these six appropriations titles: Agriculture; Commerce, Justice, Science; Financial Service and General Government; Interior & Environment; State & Foreign Operations; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.
Vote was 241 Yea, 190 Nay. Harris voted NAY

Christopher A. Koch
Easton

 

Letter to the Editor: Don’t Count on Star-Democrat For Entirely Accurate County Council Coverage

A front page article in the December 19, 2018 print edition of the Star-Democrat did not include two important facts that helps refute recent concerns by some that “bloc voting” will be the norm on the Council. This article failed to report that Councilman Pete Lesher publicly stated his agreement with Councilman Frank Divilio’s suggestion that discussion on applicants for appointments to Boards and Committees should be done in Executive (private) Session.

The article also failed to report that such discussions have always been done in Executive (private) Sessions. Whether these omissions were intentional or due to a reporter at the meeting not paying attention to the Council proceedings and not knowing historical precedent, one has to wonder about the commitment of the Star Democrat to accuracy in their reporting. One also has to wonder whether or not omitting important facts is an example of a deliberate effort to present information that unfairly portrays certain Council members in a negative light while including grandstanding comments by another Council member on the need for “transparency”.

While the Star-Democrat did post a revised and more accurate article on their online version, I have yet to see a correction included in any print editions. Accordingly, all those who only read the print version of the article are likely unaware that the original article was incomplete and misleading. Going forward, Talbot County citizens need to be very cautious on making assumptions or drawing conclusions based on any information included in the print and/or digital editions of the Star-Democrat.

David Reel
Easton

The Elections Are Over But The Misinformation Campaigns Continue

Several writers of letters to the editor published recently in the Star Democrat have opined that the results of the voting process to elect the President and Vice President of the Talbot County Council was unprecedented. They are wrong. After reviewing a video tape of the County Council leadership election held in 2017; it is very clear the County Attorney handed out ballots for both positions at the same time (required by law to be secret ballots), collected both ballots from individual Council members at the same time, tabulated the results at the same time and announced the results for both positions at the same time. That is the exact same process used by the County Attorney again earlier this month. These same letter writers who suggest the final results indicate a 3-2 voting bloc are wrong … again.

The results may have been 3-2 but they may also have also been 4-1 on one or both positions. Either way, that is not bloc voting. It is simply majority rules. It is time to move on and allow the County Council to focus on addressing the challenges and the opportunities that really matter to Talbot County citizens.

David Reel
Easton

Letter to the Editor: A Question For Christine Dolan

In part two of Christine Dolan’s long tirade in the Star Democrat against the Republican Central Committee of Talbot County (and others) she asks the question “Why would David Reel write a letter with Nick Panuzio’s name on it for Talbot Spy without Panuzio even reading it?”

Christine — I have a question for you. “Why did you not have the common decency and sense of fair play to ask me that question directly? Is asking a question without reaching out to the person who can best answer it something you learned at CNN or from Ben Bradlee?

Since you chose not to ask me your question before fact checking your commentary, I will answer it here.

I wrote the letter for several reasons.

I wrote it because you and others have relentlessly and unfairly attacked the Republican Central Committee of Talbot County.

As a current member of and as former Secretary of the Central Committee, I felt an obligation to my Committee colleagues to address your rants.

I wrote it for Nick Panuzio as he was indisposed with a stay in the hospital and is also grieving over the recent death of his sister.

The facts are Nick was made aware of my writing the letter, he read it, he signed off on it and he agreed to have his name attached to it by virtue of his position as Chair of the Republican Central Committee.

The bottom line is, had you contacted me, I would have told you all of this. If you were a real investigative journalist focused on seeking information rather than advancing an agenda you would have been interested to know that information.

Your shock and indignation that someone wrote a piece for someone else to sign and submit to the media is incomprehensible. As a former political director at CNN you know full well that countless elected and appointed officials at every level of government and politics throughout this nation have individuals who write news releases, guest commentaries, op-ed pieces, speeches and related communications pieces for them. Even CNN news anchors use scripts prepared for them by others which makes them news readers, not news writers.

Ms. Dolan, I suggest you stop portraying yourself as an investigative journalist and acknowledge your current role is nothing more than a person with an agenda and no concerns about publishing your opinions without providing people you name in your rants a chance to tell their side of the story.

Maybe that works with the steadily declining number of CNN viewers, but the citizens of Talbot County deserve better. Much better.

David Reel
Easton

Letter to the Editor: Taking Issue with Christine Dolan’s Star-Democrat Articles

Below is a response to the recent two part article written by Christine Dolan and published in the Star-Democrat. The Board of Common Sense Talbot Pac believes that this article needs a response as it is filled with false innuendos that need to be corrected.

In response to Christine Dolan’s recent two-part rambling diatribe on a variety of issues she must think are important, we are first struck by her credentials. She is a self – proclaimed “investigative journalist” who was once with CNN.

Sitting down at the keyboard with the intent to trash people in public is best accomplished with innuendo, insinuation, carefully chosen half-truths, and a commitment to avoid the whole truth. Otherwise, wouldn’t a real “journalist” make a phone call or send an email to at least one of those she wants to make up stuff about? Don’t real journalists ask for comments from people they’re going to name? Well, apparently not if they have an agenda that might be adversely affected by actual facts.

Her investigation “reveals” the details of a private contract to put up a website for a newly formed PAC one month before the election. Of course, such contracts are private matters since they are competitively sensitive material. In other words, a website business doesn’t necessarily want the world to know what they charged a specific client. The PAC reported the expenditures, as required. Nothing illegal or improper here, but Ms. Dolan’s investigative disclosure and the indiscretion of a disgruntled business partner are certainly unethical, although not, apparently, by CNN standards.

Otherwise, this exhaustive inquiry relied on public records, available to anyone because the reports have all been lawfully submitted. Let’s see. Public records. The people involved must have been trying to hide something they were ashamed of! At least, in the eyes of Ms. Dolan, something must have been going on that shouldn’t have been going on otherwise why did she regurgitate their contents. Pray tell, what and where?

A PAC was formed one month before a contentious election as an attempt to bring sanity to bear. It wasn’t perfect because it was rushed, but the founders were simply frustrated that there was no source in Talbot County where one could find the truth.

The so-called Bipartisan Coalition for New Council Leadership PAC had a field day attacking a good person for no reason other than she had listened to all sides, rather than cater to the special interests that wanted the Council to force the rest of us to do things their way. So, what happens when attackers are allowed to run rampant? We lost a valuable, level-headed public servant to accusations without evidence, opinions without thought, and voters that had no place to go to find the whole story.

If Ms. Dolan didn’t have such an obvious agenda to support Laura Price, Dan Watson, and Tom Alspach, she might do some real investigating. She could look up the donors to the Talbot Preservation Alliance that spent $6,000 this year on four County Council campaigns to keep only one incumbent seat, spent $6,500 dollars in two years on a now defunct Citizens for Sound Growth PAC, and the other thousands of dollars contributed to County Council candidates over the years, all of whom lost their races except two (one this year and one in 2010). Looks like they’re not very good at picking winners.

Oh, that’s right, you can’t find out who the TPA donors are because TPA is not a registered political committee, even though they have spent tens of thousands of dollars of their members’ money on political activities. Why are they not a PAC, which has to disclose all contributions and expenditures to the penny? Let’s look into that. This might be a case of throwing stones from within glass houses. It certainly makes you wonder what TPA donors expect in return for that kind of “investment.”

Frankly, we don’t care about convincing the small minds that have orchestrated these attacks because those minds are closed; their mantra is, my mind is made up so don’t confuse me with facts. Open minds in Talbot County have a right to know what we have to say. Talbot County citizens need to have a place to go to “fact check” the BS that has been spread. We’ll be working on that over the coming months, and we’ll let you know when it’s available. After all, the Talbot County that a casual visitor, would see by reading the newspaper over the past few months is not at all the County we want to live in. So, we feel obligated to do something about it, and we invite anyone else that is equally incensed about the recent and ongoing misinformation campaigns to join us.

Bill Cockayne
Chair, Common Sense PAC

Letter to the Editor: Talbot County Council Meeting to Determine Who Represents Us in Annapolis

Tuesday will be the first meeting of the new Talbot County Council. At that meeting the council will vote to determine who will represent us to the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) and, hence, to the Maryland legislature.

Our current representative serves on the MACo Initiative Committee, a small, pro-active group that determines what legislation MACo will introduce each session to the legislature.

In addition to the MACo Initiative Committee, there are three subcommittees at MACo: Budget & Tax, Education and Land Use and Planning. Our current representative to MACo servedon the Education Sub-committee for 2 years, 2015 and 2016. That small group discusses the legislation and makes a recommendation to the full legislative committee on education matters.

For 2017 & 2018, our current representative was selected to be on Budget & Tax, which is the premier committee to be on. She is currently slated to be the new chair of the committee in 2019; that powerful position, of course, depends upon her being selected by her colleagues on the council to continue representing Talbot County on MACo.

Laura Price is one of a select few that is asked not only to testify, but to testify as part of the MACo panel. The testimony of MACo is critically important because it communicates the concerns of the counties to the legislators on the various committees before whom MACo testifies. Frequently, that testimony results in some modification of legislation, such as in the restoration of some of the highway funds to Talbot County when Ms. Price was invited to serve on the Sponsor panel by State Senator Waugh, which introduced legislation to fix the “Highway User Revenue” legislation.

Talbot County is frequently regarded as a rich rural area; it is important to have a senior representative who serves on influential committees correcting that misperception and effectively voicing the real needs of the citizens of this county.

Ms. Price was nominated in 2014 by MACo officers to serve on their Board of Directors, of which there are only 16 members. I am hopeful that the current council understands the importance to the county of having someone with seniority who is well respected by her colleagues and by members of the Maryland Delegates and Senators representing our interests. I encourage them to vote for her to continue her important role with MACo. Assignments such as this one must be made based on who can have the greatest impact on Talbot County’s interests in Annapolis. It is the only criterion that is valid and respects the best interests of the voters. Seniority matters in committee assignments and influence. We would surely be foolish to replace that experience with a representative with no seniority and no influence, regardless of other qualifications. Ms. Price is the only one on the council who has the seniority and assignments on MACo that will help protect our interests.

Carolyn Ewing
Easton

Open Letter to the Talbot County Council on Short Term Rentals by Jack Fischer

In my final days on the County Planning Commission, I have been reflecting on our efforts over the past five years and particularly on our recent work to update of the County zoning ordinance. Although satisfied with the resolution of many of the zoning issues with which we dealt, I believe now that we should have been much more aggressive in dealing with the negative consequences of the fast-growing short-term rental (STR) industry in the County.

During our public hearings on the ordinance, most citizens critical of STR’s focused on the negative impacts of disturbances caused by short term renters—straying dogs, loud outdoor parties extending to early morning, randomly parked cars, strewn trash, speeding vehicles, etc. The updated zoning ordinance includes several changes I believe will provide the County effective ways to deal with that issue. But I think we missed the forest for the trees. The negative impacts of STR’s go well beyond physical disturbance.

Each of us appreciates the sense of comfort, safety and security felt when living in a neighborhood within which neighbors are familiar to one another—who leaves home early in the morning, who arrives late, whose child is away at school, who might baby sit our children, who is ill, who holds the neighborhood Super Bowl party, who bakes a great apple pie, who might help build a new deck, on and on. Our neighbors become a second family. Inserting unfamiliar people, even well-behaved, into a home or into homes in that neighborhood, new faces week after week, creates uneasiness, discomfort and, in the end, a lost sense of family and security.

To better understand citizens effected by that situation, it is useful to ponder answers to these two questions: “If you were interested in buying a certain house and were told the house next door was a STR, would you be more likely to buy or less?” And “What would be your reaction if your next-door neighbor announced that he or she intended to turn their home into a STR?” In responding honestly to those questions, you will sense the day-to-day reality of the hundreds of County citizens living beside or near a STR. You have been elected to serve these people and those others who surely will be in their position soon.

Another impact of the fast-growing STR industry is that workforce and affordable homes in communities attractive as vacation destinations are being purchased by local and out-of-town investors and converted to STR’s. It’s profitable. Each conversion from family home to STR diminishes the number of workforce homes available for permanent occupancy. This causes the price of those homes remaining to escalate out of reach of the workforce. This is a nationwide phenomenon but has a particularly negative impact in our County in which the lack of affordable and workforce housing is an issue.

As STR’s cause the cost of remaining workforce houses to rise, it causes the value of homes of permanent residences adjacent to or near the converted STR to fall. The insidiousness of the situation is that the only way for the owner of the adjacent house to recover the value in his or her home is to convert it also to a STR. This sequence places whole neighborhoods at risk of becoming transient.

Other than the financial gain to local and absentee homeowners, it is difficult to find other positive contributions STR’s make to our County. As transients, short-term renters do not volunteer for the planning or execution of local events or activities such as Plein Air, the Waterfowl festival, CASA, the Avalon Foundation, etc. It is unlikely they shop in our stores or dine in our restaurants more often than permanent residents. They neither vote nor pay taxes. They do not support local charities or join our churches. They take no interest in our schools. In that light, each home converted from a family dwelling to a STR diminishes the foundation of the County, the stock that makes our County work.

In sum, STR’s constitute a significant negative impact on our neighborhoods, our communities and our County. In seeking remedies to deal with this fact, many towns and counties across the nation, including the Town of Easton, have adopted the simple and straight forward measure of requiring STR’s to be the principle residence of the homeowner. There are other options available to the Council but that single action would address most of the negative impacts outlined above.

The short-term rental industry is expanding rapidly here. Inaction is certain to result in a diminished quality of life for a fast-increasing number of citizens you serve and will alter our County quickly, markedly and adversely. I urge you to act.

Jack Fischer
Sherwood

     

 

Letter to the Editor: Price Should Lead the Talbot County Council

Dear Members of the Talbot County Council:

Congratulations on your successful election campaigns. You have been selected by the voters in a climate highly charged with raucous public behavior. Too much “ink” has flowed and we, The People have overcome the vitriol. We believe the public has spoken clearly and you are the new governing body of our beloved county.

Now as our new Talbot County Council you will be seated on December 3, 2018. One of your first tasks will be to choose the new County governing leadership. Jan and I believe Laura Price has earned her place to lead the Council. Consistently, she voted her conscience and kept her obligations to honor the best interest of her constituents. She’s earned this Council’s approval the hard way. She has continued to persevere regardless of the pressure to conform to a party line.

We call for you as members of our County Council to put aside the past history and recognize that Laura Price is the best choice of all candidates to represent the Comprehensive Plan and the Voting Citizens’ expectations. Isn’t it time to do the moral thing and resolve this underlying antagonism that has infiltrated the Council processes since 2015? Below are the reasons that we are contacting you:

  • Longevity: Laura Price has been elected and served for 8 years. Her families are long term residents of Talbot County.
  • Comprehensive Knowledge: Over her tenure, she has demonstrated to the electorate the most knowledge and understanding of the budget and all financial issues before the Council.
  • Constituency Advocate: She listens to all residents, does her research, attends community events, and has fought to protect our way of life, the rural character of our Villages and farms.
  • Appropriate Growth Advocate: needed. She supports appropriate growth and development when and where needed.
  • Vice President “Pass-Over Survivor”: Laura Price has been the Vice President twice but was passed over by the three Council Members who wanted to exclude her from having a leadership role because she is an independent thinker, does her homework, and works to represent all her constituents.

Please, seriously examine your conscience and find a way overcome the conflicts, acknowledge Mrs. Price’s contributions and grant her the formal leadership position on our County Council.

Janice and Barney Johnson
Sherwood

Three Letters to the Editor: Laura Price Should be County Council President

Examining the results of the recent Talbot County Council election,  I was delighted to see that Laura Price was decisively reelected. She deserves a seat for her committed, diligent and hard work on the Council for the last eight years and the voters recognized that.   Unfortunately during her eight years, she was not elected to serve as president, probably because she was frequently a part of a minority on the board with respect to some important but contentious issues.  The voters have indicated their approval of her work and its time the Council gave her a turn as president.

Marcia Fidis
Talbot County

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I voted for Laura Price for Talbot County Council. I did so because I studied all the candidates and found her to be principled, knowledgeable of County issues, capable of major financial responsibilities and supports the issues that I deem most important.

After the election, the voting history of past County Council elections to President and Vice President were recovered:

011 – Dirck Bartlett / Corey Pack
2012 – Corey Pack / Andy Hollis
2013 – Dirck Bartlett / Corey Pack
2014 – Corey Pack / Laura Price
2015 – Corey Pack / Laura Price
2016 – Corey Pack / Jennifer Williams
2017 – Jennifer Williams / Corey Pack
2018 – Jennifer Williams / Corey Pack

It appears that Ms. Price was denied a higher leadership role during eight years in office.

Whether this was unintentional or if purposely blocked by others on the Council, it is time to allow her the right to lead as President of Talbot County Council. Her past experiences and record of accomplishments, as well as her lead in the number votes she received in the election make this the obvious choice.

Please vote for Laura.

Abby Lewis
Easton

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Let’s be fair.

Laura Price has served on the Talbot County Council diligently and effectively for eight years, but has not had a turn to be president.  It is her turn now and the Council members should elect her as president when this decision is made on December 3.

Jane Bollman
Easton

 

 

 

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