Vision by Jimmie Galbreath

We all have visions of our country. One is a vision of what we see and the other a vision of what we want to see. I believe the vast majority of us want to see a Democracy, or to put it another way a government that is responsive to the majority will of the citizens. So for those who believe we have an unresponsive government read on.

Borrowing from The Gettysburg Address a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” sounds like a desirable vision for our government. I believe that something along this line was the original intent. Sadly, it isn’t what we have today. People from every part of the political spectrum, both voters and nonvoters seem to share a common view that politicians don’t listen to us.

Looking solely at the financial wealth of our politicians and senior judges we should all feel a lack of representation. These people are not from our neighborhoods and towns. You won’t see them in the stores where you shop. Their children don’t go to our schools. They don’t live with us in our neighborhoods. Well fed, well heeled and pampered for years they left us behind a long time ago. I can’t speak for you but I know that I have no sense of connection with my politicians. When I happen to see one, he/she is only talking at me, never with me. Was this the original plan?

What happened?

The Founders didn’t plan for political parties. Many of them were opposed to having political parties but shortly after Congress got going political parties were quickly formed anyway. This shouldn’t be surprising as we are social creatures and the best way to get things done is via collective action, thus political parties. On a somewhat comical note Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all” yet he and James Madison founded and led the Democratic-Republican Party in 1792. Our majority to win elections pretty well ensures that only 2 political parties can survive and no more.

This 2 party business is at the root of much of the growing indifference of the general population. With such a narrow choice the existing parties have ossified into essentially corporations which are funded by wealth and organized to ensure only members of the wealthy class or those friendly to the wealthy class get on the ballots. Since both corporate parties are chasing the same funding they have migrated to the same end of the political spectrum. Both wealthy people and corporate organizations are at heart authoritarian. They give orders and expect compliance.

Our citizens, however, are an ornery lot and not overly prone to obedience when it doesn’t suit or help them. Now that the country has a two party system made up of an ultra-right religious militaristic party and a watered down liberal militaristic party a significant number of citizens are refusing to support either one. The largest portion of the population is unaffiliated and I suspect many who are either Democrat or Republican are largely indifferent to their party leadership. This state of affairs did not arise overnight but developed as the two existing parties chased the money and filled our government with Millionaires working for the Billionaires. It is a rare politician that rises from our part of the population and when one does appear the media (owned by Billionaires) wastes no opportunity to smear and sneer at them no matter which party they belong to.

So, where do we go from here? The pressures for change are building in the general population as the standard of living of many people continues to decline. Those with wealth fill their media with the good news of ever rising profits and cooked data on unemployment to show that life for us is good. The stock markets profit only the upper 10% while employment continues to include far too many reduced hour or reduced wage jobs. The drumbeat of ‘good’ economic news flies in the face of our day to day struggles as well as the struggles of our children. The inequalities of wealth and income favor the wealthy. Since the wealthy fund and populate the political parties supporting those parties won’t change anything in our favor.

There have been efforts at reforming the two parties by the disgruntled. In the ultra-right party it was the Tea Party movement that shook things up. In the center-right make-believe liberal party the growing Progressive and Democratic Socialist movements continue to cause turmoil. These efforts to gain a voice for the general population are encouraging but will have little long term impact as neither corporate party can exist without the support of the wealthy and the wealthy will not support any party that sides with greater financial equality.

I would hope that in time enough people will realize that the only path out of this wealthy party trap is to move to a new party. While I agree that our political structure will not support more than 2 parties I see no reason why people turning to a new party couldn’t replace one of the two current wealth driven parties. There are more than enough disaffected voters to pull this off once people are willing to reach through the despair for the courage strike out in new directions. We are all kindling awaiting the match.

A retired Engineer, Jimmie Galbreath grew up on a small family owned dairy in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulated over 20 years experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way, he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served three years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat along the way. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Op-Ed: Another Term for our Fake President might be Fatal by Steve Parks

  “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” –Presidential oath of office

Never mind the Mueller report and whether or not the President of the United States can be indicted for anything, including murder on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, as President Trump once proclaimed that he theoretically could get away with.

Evidently, he can get away with plenty—maybe even thumbing his nose at House of Representative subpoenas following up on the still-redacted Mueller report. Is that faithfully upholding and abiding by the Constitution, Mr. President? It’s clear from his impetuous, imperial behavior that Donald Trump possesses little knowledge of and even less regard for the Constitution, especially when its application thwarts his reckless agenda.

Consider, for instance, Trump’s various “border-crisis” remedies: abolish asylum, get rid of judges, reinstate separation of immigrant children from their parents, keep immigrants on the Mexican side of the border or detain them indefinitely in cages on the U.S. side. These policies apply only to brown immigrants. Crossing the border with Canada? No problem—unless you’re a Muslim from anywhere in the world.

Defiance of constitutional restraints on presidential power, handy tools in Trump’s playbook, are rife in Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Did he or his bumbling minions conspire with Russia to influence the election on his behalf. Is ignorance, incompetence and/or stupidity an excuse? Trump exhorted Russians on national TV to hack their way into Hillary Clinton’s email server. (They failed.) Trump subordinates, including his campaign chairman, attorney general, national security adviser, personal lawyer and assorted subordinates all lied about myriad contacts with Russian operatives.

On the second count of what would be a multi-count indictment under normal circumstances, the report cites 10 examples of apparent obstruction of justice. Most are familiar to us due to Trump’s overt acts, such as firing FBI director James Comey, or through stellar news reporting. “Fake news,” it turns out, emanates instead from the White House and Fox propaganda agents.

The lying and cover up continues in high places. The president says Congress has no right to subpoena his financial documents or the testimony of White House witnesses, when in fact it is the legislative branch’s constitutional duty. This presidential stonewalling is itself obstruction of justice.  

Attorney General William Barr, previewing the release of Mueller’s redacted report, stated that it was evidence, not the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel policy, which led the special counsel to punt on recommending indictment of the president on obstruction of justice. Yet on page one of the obstruction volume, Mueller writes:

“The Office of Legal Counsel has issued an opinion finding that ‘the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting president would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions. . . .’ This office accepted OLC’s conclusion. . . .”

In other words, Mueller would have recommended prosecuting the president except for DOJ’s policy that no president can be indicted while in office.

The attorney general outright lied. Further, he repeatedly and incredibly stated there is no evidence—zero—of “collusion” with Russia, then offered the president an excuse on obstruction of justice. Trump, he said, was “frustrated and angry” when he committed acts that are classic definitions of obstruction. (Try that if you’re accused of, say, murder.) Suborning perjury, asking attorneys to place false statements in their files and firing a law-enforcement investigator, then trying to fire another are among Trump’s evident transgressions.

House Democrats rightfully demand the unredacted Mueller report and underlying evidence. But maybe they should consider impeaching Barr before he shuts down investigations Mueller spun off to New York and elsewhere. Impeaching Trump might elevate him as a political martyr after the Republican Senate predictably refuses to convict and remove him from office. By Tweet, Trump will proclaim “TOTAL EXONERATION!!!” all over again.

Meanwhile, besides the Trump presidency itself, what if we face a true national emergency? Trump owns the border crisis because he created it. Radio ads in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador cite the president’s rhetoric, warning prospective immigrants that it’s now or never to join a caravan. With the resources of the Department of Homeland Security wholly diverted to the southern border, who’s in charge of diverting a major terrorist attack, a la Sri Lanka, New Zealand or, God forbid, 9/11? How about the collapse of a denuclearization deal with North Korea that led Kim Jong-un to renew missile testing? And what if Vladimir Putin messes with the 2020 election? Have we learned nothing? Another term for our fake president might be fatal to democracy as we know it.

Steve Parks is a retired journalist now living in Easton.


Bringing Life to Oxford’s Conservation Park by J.E. Dean

Change comes slowly in Oxford, which is one of many reasons to live there.   In the past few years, new operators for the restaurants once known as The Masthead and Schooner’s were among the “big” changes. Reasonable people can differ on whether this change was good or bad, but most would agree it had little impact, one way or another, in the quality of life in Oxford.

One change, the creation of Conservation Park in  2016, represented the type of change that can make lasting improvement to a community. The lovely park, complete with a paved walkway, native fauna, and lots of birds, offered a new way to experience Oxford.  Even better, it was designed to be ecologically sound at the same time.

As is known by many and well-documented elsewhere, the creation of the park culminated a remarkable effort of visionaries in our community.  What might have been questionable new development likely to undermine the quality of life in Oxford was transformed into a “passive park” that contributes to the clean-up of the Chesapeake, better air quality, and maintenance of our fragile ecology.

Although these benefits are enough by themselves to celebrate Conservation Park, the Park could do more for our community, without betraying the principles on which it was established.  This would be done by getting more of us to visit the park, learn its lessons, and do more to protect the ecology that is central to what Oxford is.

To my surprise, when I visited the park last year, frequently with one of Oxford’s best Golden Doodles, Lucca, we were alone.   My neighbors appear to either not know exactly what the park is or is for, or find it uninteresting. While this loss may be my gain, I fear if visits to the park don’t increase, the town might place a lower priority on its upkeep. Or, in my view something worse—not explore ways to make it even better.

One reason for solitude the park currently offers is that the county seems to be doing little to promote it.   The Talbot County website, for example, limits its description of the park to this: “This natural park features walking trails, wetland viewing areas, native bird species, and open landscapes.”  That’s it. This is accurate but, for most of us, less than compelling.

Already, without anyone having to do anything, Conservation Park is likely to be nicer this year than last.  That’s because the trees and other plantings are now established and growing. In a few years there may even be shade on the walkway, which would be wonderful. This is all good, but more can be done. I won’t say should be done because changes to Conservation Park should be well-thought out, economically responsible, and consistent with the park’s theme—conservation.

Here are a few ideas:

First, a small section of the park near the existing parking lot could be opened for the planting of memorial trees.  For a fee intended to pay for the tree itself, a plaque identifying the dedication for each tree, and a pool of funds to maintain the tree, an individual could memorialize a loved one or a cause. I would envision the tree would be planted by a professional nursery and selections would be limited to native Maryland trees. Additional maintenance, such as fertilizing and otherwise caring for the trees, and replacement of trees that die, might be included.

Second, a few more benches could be added around the park trail, providing welcome opportunities for walkers to take a break or to better observe or reflect on the beauty of the plants. These benches, preferably made from recycled materials, could be paid for by offering community members the opportunity to memorialize a loved one.

Third, enhance plantings and habitat to attract even more birds.  Then formally encourage chapters and members of the Maryland Ornithological Society to sponsor collaborate on these efforts. The Society, and the Talbot Bird Club, could perhaps develop richer online resources about what birds live in the park and on when best to view them for the appropriate websites.  

Fourth, working with local nurseries or colleges, perhaps schedule occasional nature talks where the ecology involved might be explained and promoted. Because the park is subject to the Program Open Spaces rules, which prohibit scheduled events, the talks would be scheduled for the Oxford Community Center with the attendees encouraged to walk to the park immediately afterwards.  (The Community is an easy walk to park access trail next to the fire station).

The bottom line on these and other, probably better, activities, would be to get people to visit the park, learn what it is, use it, and love it.

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


Good Friday by George Merrill

Good Friday is Christianity’s most solemn observance.

It’s the account of religious authorities condemning Jesus as a false prophet with pretensions to power. They turn him over to the Roman authorities. The Romans fear an insurrection unless they convict Jesus and crucify him. Even Pontius Pilate was skeptical of the accusations, but mob rule prevailed.

Christians today contend fiercely with each other. The toxic kinds of “conservative” vs. “liberal” dualities play out in religion as they do in politics often with similar vitriol.

Commandments such as “Give all you have to the poor.”  “How many times I must forgive my brother.” “Seventy times seven,” Jesus claims. These teachings are unambiguous. But they don’t excite the same kind of energy or even advocacy, as say, love our enemies does.

Among the many commandments of Jesus, there is one called, ‘the last commandment.’ It’s the final direction Jesus issues to his disciples before he is crucified. It defines the kind of community Jesus lived and died to cultivate.

In the Gospel of John, the commandment is simple and unambiguous:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

In this regard, Christians haven’t done well. I have an idea why this might be. Considering loving one another, particularly one’s enemies, feels counter-intuitive; how can I love someone I viscerally despise or love someone who has deliberately wronged me?

Our daughter once brought up a similar matter to my wife and me years ago. She knew we had conducted marriage counseling. One day out of the blue she asked, “When you counsel a couple, you can’t take sides, can you,” she asked?  We assured her that was so.

“What do you do then if one of them is a real jerk?”

Thereby hangs a tale.

If love is defined as a feeling, loving a bona fide jerk is not promising for anyone. On the other hand, if love is the measure of how we behave toward others, the mindset, if you will – not how we feel – it’s a whole different matter. If love is practiced as principle although while not always felt as fondness, it might look something like this: we’d conduct our dealings with others justly, compassionately, and humbly.

Consider the recent congressional hearings involving Justice Kavanaugh. Imagine that they were conducted with self-discipline; with a level of humility by the interrogators? The hearings would have been dramatically different. Outcomes may have been the same, but without the demeaning grandstanding and the thinly veiled hypocrisy which made so many of us cringe.

The Good Friday drama was an epic exercise in religious and political hypocrisy.

With all the brutality and hypocrisy portrayed on Good Friday, from the first of Jesus’

last seven words – “Forgive them father for they know not what they do” –  to the final ones “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”- there is not a hint of retribution for the injustices he bore. Jesus held to a greater vision of what love means.

The kind of love inspiring forgiveness doesn’t necessarily feel-good. It’s about dealing justly. In short, love and moral courage are about compassionately informed discipline, not driven by feelings which are notoriously unpredictable and unruly.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.




Op-Ed: Buttigieg’s Challenge by J.E. Dean

It’s not easy to praise a candidate when you can’t pronounce his name. This is a problem. As the Democratic nominating process moves forward, “Mayor Pete” has to figure out what to do. Simply run as “Pete?” Try to make light of the multitude of mispronunciations out there? Turn the problem around by watching opponents stumble over your name? Remember watching 2016 candidates trying to pronounce the name of Russian President Demitri Medvedev or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Despite his name-handicap, Buttigieg seems to be doing pretty well, so far. His poll numbers are rising—he’s already ahead of better-known candidates like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Julian Castro. He’s raising money–more than $7 million in the first quarter, for example. Most pundits predict Buttigieg is in it for the long run.

Voter interest in Buttigieg is, well, interesting. For some it’s his status as the first openly gay candidate. For others its his status as a medium size city mayor—typically disqualifying. For “Mayor Pete,” it’s prompted curiosity. Who is this guy? Where, exactly, is South Bend? Then there is his background as a veteran and the fact he’s from Indiana. Both are likely to attract Republican voters. If the Democrats can be guaranteed to win Indiana, they are likely to win nationally.

Among the Democratic base, Buttigieg should be solid. His policy positions are those of a mainstream 2020 Democrat. Healthcare for all through a single-payer system, the Green Deal, addressing income inequality, and promoting LGBT rights. So far, he has also come across as intelligent—as the Rhodes Scholar graduate of Harvard and Oxford that he is. Detractors focusing on his negatives will suggest he can’t deliver Indiana or that his demographics will not generate the enthusiasm necessary to win.

Buttigieg’s chances are likely to rise or fall based on how he does when directly matched up with his opponents. He will either disappear quickly, perhaps being awarded with the consolation price of being a “rising star” in the party, or the party faithful, hungry to regain the White House, will adopt him as an effective counterpoint to Donald Trump—someone tested not only in battle (Afghanistan) but also as a gay man in a conservative State.are

Watch Buttigieg with interest. But if you want him to win, figure out how to pronounce his name.

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

Op-Ed: Local Hospital Board And Administration: Are They Our Advocates? By Dr. Eva Smorzaniuk

The Editors Opinion in the April 11 issue of the Star Democrat rightfully concludes that public trust in the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and UMMS Shore Regional Health (UMMS SRH) has been damaged, and that a full and independent investigation of both of these boards and hospital administrations is essential. Taxpayers deserve to know the extent of self-dealing on the boards, as well as the level of administrative complicity in the self-dealing.

A brief perusal of SRH Board members reveals occupations including health care consultants, healthcare providers, insurance brokers and underwriters, lawyer, lobbyist, wealth manager, and banker.  In addition to Mr. Dillon, there is another local member with a contractual relationship with the hospital. It would be nice to know if the contract between Wayne L. Gardner, Sr., previous owner of BestCare ambulance services, is legal and ethical, and that no other financial ties exist among Board members.

There is a larger and more critical issue that faces our community – have our local hospital Board and hospital administration been our advocates?  The promise of a new hospital that was dangled in front of our Board in 2006 has yet to materialize. Despite the fact that our local hospital is part of UMMS, which has been increasingly profitable over the last few years, it has faced almost annual budget cuts, constriction of services, and a frustrating work environment.  Meanwhile, we see UMMS, with a profit of nearly $5 billion in FY 2018, that can afford to pay its CEO in excess of $4.2 million, and gave out $2.7 million in bonuses to seven top executives in 2017.

Many of the myriad medical facilities under the UMMS umbrella have had construction/renovation plans either completed or in the planning stages.  To name just a few:

  1. An addition to UMMC in Baltimore for over $85 million completed in 2013.
  2. Plans for a $543 million 205 bed hospital for UM Capital Region (acquired in 2017).
  3. Plans for a $100 million renovation of UM St. Joseph’s Medical Center (acquired 2012).
  4. Plans for a new UM Upper Chesapeake (acquired in 2013) for $54 million.
  5. And then there’s us (acquired 2006) – $350 million for a new hospital.

My bet is that we will continue to be the neglected stepchildren across the bridge.

Our community needs a local hospital Board and administration with courage, commitment, and perseverance, that can function independently and stand up for quality care on the Eastern Shore. Their priority must be the patients, and not the profitability of UMMS.

I urge readers to talk to the doctors, nurses, and other staff,  at UMMS SRH facilities and hear their frustrations, as well as their ideas for how it could be better. I urge you to contact officials at UMMS, as well as your elected officials, and tell them you want a robust, state-of-the-art health care delivery system, one that is responsive to the needs of the patients and engages its workforce in its mission.

I also urge local elected officials, including the Easton Town Council, the Talbot County Council, as well as our state legislators, to put pressure on UMMS for a full and independent investigation, and to demand more local control of our hospital board and administration.

Dr. Eva Smorzaniuk is a radiologist in Easton, Maryland and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown and University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Dorchester. 

Gillibrand: Missing a Compelling Case for Running? By J.E. Dean

This morning I watched Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Morning Joe. I was unimpressed. Her practiced answers to even softball questions were disingenuous.  She is a fast-talker, which some dictionaries define as someone talking quickly, often to trick someone or persuade them to buy something.  I was not buying this morning. I also cannot remember any details of any policy position she referenced. There was too much chaff for me to find wheat.

Gillibrand is clearly an intelligent woman, but has yet to make a compelling, or even attractive, case as to why she should be President.   I suspect that Gillibrand believes she is a logical heir to the political empire of Hillary Clinton. Not a bad thing given that Clinton easily won the popular vote and was arguably robbed of the Presidency by the Russians, Trump or both.   Gillibrand has described Clinton as a mentor. She brands herself as something of a policy wonk, just like Clinton (although without evidence of conviction on individual issues except in the broadest of outlines). And she is a woman, standing ready to be the candidate of the millions of voters, not all of them women, who were excited about Clinton because of her gender, obvious intelligence, and, her resume.

The Clinton comparison gets complicated on what I suspect Gillibrand views as dissimilarities.   So far, she has no baggage similar to Clinton’s problems with emails, Whitewater, how she handled the Lewinsky scandal, and the Clinton Foundation.  This is an unambiguous plus. There is nothing to fuel chants of “Lock her Up” and, as someone younger than Clinton, she can credibly hope to appeal to younger voters in a way that Clinton didn’t.   Nobody doubts she has the stamina necessary for two years on the campaign trail.

Is Gillibrand Clinton without the negatives?   In 1988, Democratic Vice Presidential hopeful Lloyd Bentsen ridiculed his rival, Dan Quayle, effectively after Quayle had the audacity to compare himself to John F. Kennedy.   Bentsen responded, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”  The quip is memorable to this day and, if Gillibrand were to compare herself openly to Hillary, a similar rebuttal would be justified and likely offered by a chorus of her competitors.

Some observers have noted that Gillibrand is an opportunist.  Her positions have changed radically as her political career has progressed.  She once had an A rating from the National Rifle Association and claims to have shot her own Thanksgiving turkey.    Then, after she was elected to the Senate, she became “a rabid supporter of gun control.” This is only one example.  Gillibrand explains the flip-flopping away by noting that she always fights for her constituents. Her constituents used to be conservative upstate New Yorkers.  Today they are the Democratic base.

Gillibrand will do whatever it takes to win.  For some, she is “too transparently opportunistic to be a viable candidate,” as Ciro Spotti said in an op-ed.  Maybe that’s why she muddies her policy positions—so most voters will give up trying to figure them out and focus on gender, youth, and enthusiasm.  It’s difficult to sort through her policu machinations. She will be well-served if she is never forced beyond aspirational truisms mixed into a slew of no-brainer positions such as support for the middle-class, better schools, and “bravery” and questionable positions like her endorsement of the Green New Deal.

With each passing day the case for Gillibrand gets weaker.  Why would anyone contribute to her long-shot campaign? She has yet to have a media appearance or TV interview (including announcing the formation of her “exploratory committee” to run on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)  that could be described as “impressive” or “inspiring.”   I sincerely doubt that this is likely to change. Gillibrand is a struggling candidate who believes that she will emerge as the victor in the coming royal rumble called the Democratic primary season.

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


Op-Ed: Us vs. Them by Maria Wood

Country music star Jason Isbell has a song on his most recent album titled “White Man’s World.” The song begins with the lyric “I’m a white man living in a white man’s world,” an acknowledgement of the systemic marginalization of those who are not male and are not white.

Rejecting the idea that this systemic oppression even exists is one of the tools of white nationalism, an ideology that holds that whiteness is an identity, not a construct, and that it should be the basis for our national identity. The gradual normalization of this ideology, clothed in the reassuring garments of patriotism and American exceptionalism, is one of the more insidious tools for the perpetuation of the power dynamics that have dismissed the traumatic legacy of brutality, oppression, and marginalization for centuries. It allows racist ideology to hide in the depths of an “us” versus “them” mindset, leaving the specifics of who is “us” and who is “them” unspoken but well understood.

A cruder and more predictable technique is the kind of “hate incident” experienced here on the Eastern Shore this week, in which residents of St. Michaels woke to find outlandishly racist literature, spouting hateful nonsense and exhorting people to join the KKK, waiting on their driveways and front porches. It is perhaps indicative of systemic racism at play that this vile and destructive act did not make the top of the front page of the Star Democrat on Tuesday. Other, smaller, acts are part of the local landscape. They go unnoticed except by those who endure them in a grinding and infuriating routine of logistical obstacles and low-level harassment: being subtly (or overtly) discouraged from patronizing a local business, or being explicitly, if indirectly banned by a property owner.

Is white nationalism on the rise? President Trump says no. But in February the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the number of white nationalist groups in the US grew by almost 50% in 2018. Data released by the Global Terrorism Database in 2018 showed that more than half the terrorist attacks in the US in 2017 were spurred by racist, anti-Muslim, homophobic, anti-Semitic, fascist, or xenophobic ideologies. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, has said “modern white supremacy is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalized like never before.” This opinion is reflected in statistics reported by the ADL showing a 182% increase in incidents of the distribution of white supremacist propaganda—incidents like we saw in St. Michaels this week.

There is no question that white nationalism is on the rise. Intellectual honesty and lived experience require us to accept this. Ethics, patriotism, and—for many people—religious practice demand that we resist it, as we must resist all injustice and inhumanity. In Christian parlance, we must remove the beam in our own eye before we concern ourselves with the mote in someone else’s. We have beams in our eyes in the United States, in the form of systemic and institutional racism, increasing hate crimes, the continued dehumanization of fellow citizens and fellow humans who have black and brown bodies, or who speak accented English, or who practice certain religions.

In patriotic terms, national principles of liberty and equality—not to mention the rule of law—tell us that ideologies of white pride and white nationalism have no place in a country founded on the principles of liberty and equality for all. Common sense tells us that we are a richer, better, more stable nation when we do not discriminate, when we resist instead of embrace hatred, violence, and division. Yet we continue to debate and equivocate on the topic of racism and bigotry while allowing ever more extremist ideologies into the mainstream of our public discourse.

In 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “for the good of America, it is necessary to refute the idea that the dominant ideology in our country even today is freedom and equality while racism is just an occasional departure from the norm on the part of a few bigoted extremists.” In 2019, we must continue to refute the idea that racism is an occasional departure from the norm. The KKK lit drop in St. Michaels was doubtless the work of a few bigoted extremists; it was also a tool to recruit more extremists, and it was another signal that we need to continue the work of eliminating the scourge of racism on the Eastern Shore.

Many people and groups on the Eastern Shore are working tirelessly and valiantly to improve things. The Coalition for Justice for Anton Black is actively pursuing justice for the death of 19 year old Kent County native Anton Black while in police custody, and going further, to seek legal recourse to prevent similar future tragedies. The Social Action Committee for Racial Justice in Kent County is working towards an anti-racist future in schools, with law enforcement, in businesses, and in communities at large. The Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River are hosting a series of book discussions and an art exhibition focused on anti-racism.

The efforts of these groups and many individuals all over the shore are how we achieve a better Eastern Shore, a better Maryland, and a better world. Progress is maddeningly slow, and sometimes seems to stop or reverse, but as Dr. King said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Jason Isbell’s song concludes,

“I still have faith but I don’t know why
Maybe it’s the fire in my little girl’s eye”

That fire in any child’s eye is an unparalleled motivator for all of us to keep working and fighting for real justice and equality, and to defeat both the insidiousness of normalized discrimination and the dramatic violence of overt acts of hatred.

Maria Wood returned to academic life in 2014, after a two-decade career in the music business, earning a BA in American Studies and a Certificate in Ethnomusicology from Smith College in 2018. Most recently, she served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Jesse Colvin for Congress.

Op-Ed: Is Ageism Bringing Bernie Down? by J.E. Dean

Reports are out that Bernie Sanders’ popularity may be plummeting. Prediction: He won’t recover. His campaign will sputter out in coming weeks. That may help the chances for Democrats winning back the White House, but not if the reason is ageism. Unfortunately, that appears to be at least part of the story.

A majority of Democrats remain supportive of progressive proposals on education, health care and on climate change championed by Sanders. This support was reflected in then-record fundraising right after he announced his candidacy in February. Since then, signs are increasing that many Democrats think the 77-year-old Vermonter is too old to win. Many hope one of the younger candidates will emerge as a better, more relevant champion for the left. A ticket embracing Bernie’s policies but featuring Beto’s face is “magic” to some.

Is Bernie too old? It is legitimate to ask whether any candidate is physically or mentally fit to be President. Running the US can be hard work. Keeping out of war, addressing climate change, and building social justice requires a clear head. Can a 77-year-old (or, projecting forward, an 81-year-old) satisfy these criteria?

This is a valid question, but one open answers of “yes” as well as “no.” Think for a minute about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s performance since returning to head the House. By most accounts, her leadership has been extraordinary. She is 78 years old. And think about RBG, who is 86. And now think about the current 72-year-old President and ask yourself whether it is age or something else prompting his often bizarre tweets.

Sadly, some have apparently reached the conclusion that Bernie is too old to run without troubling themselves to look closer. They are likely to embrace a similar assessment of Joe Biden, who is but one year younger than Bernie. These observers, from both parties, appear to be taking their cue from the press or TV. Jimmy Fallon ridiculed Sanders in an aggressively ageist skit on February 19th. In it, Fallon, made up as Sanders, wrestles with technology considered simple by most 18 year-olds. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen opined both Sanders and Biden are “too old.” He opined that he “wouldn’t be surprised if Biden thought Snapchat was a breakfast cereal.” He went on to write, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Sanders thought Drake was the English pirate who defeated the Spanish Armada. (How’s that for being an influencer?)” Although Cohen is himself in his 70s, are his comments ageist? I thought so.

Like it or not Ageism could become an elephant in the room for Democrats if this continues. A large cohort of voters could be alienated. Seniors don’t enjoy being ridiculed. If Democrat leaders were whispering that the electorate was not yet ready for another President of color or a woman candidate, they would be shown the door. The party has so moved beyond those prejudices, and others, that those issues are not part of the discussion. Age isn’t there yet.

Many of us are as old as Bernie or Biden, or nearly so. We are watching. The wrong move could wake up the elephant.

Can the Democrats find their candidate without stepping on the Ageism landmine?

J.E. Dean is a retired Washington, D.C. attorney and a current resident of Oxford, Maryland

Report from Annapolis – Part 6 by Laura Price

It’s “crossover” time in Annapolis.  So, what does that mean?  It means that the legislature is done with introduction of bills and now those that have had favorable committee reports in either the House or the Senate, can crossover to the other chamber.  There were some bills, that were “cross-filed” at the time of introduction, but most are just filed on one side to begin.  Overall, there were almost 2500 bills introduced and about 926 have crossed over.  The MACo policy team analyzed over 900 of the total bills that were introduced and brought about 150 before the legislative committee that have met each Wednesday.

We have had some wins and some disappointments on the bills I have written about so far.  First the wins.  The biggest is the “Next Generation 911 Implementation” bill. (HB397/SB339)   This was MACo’s biggest initiative bill.  As I wrote in week 1, our system is built on 1970s technology and because 80% of all 9-1-1 calls are now coming from cell phones, we need to be able to accurately pinpoint their location and also be able to respond via a text message.  It will cost approximately an additional 50 cents per phone line, not per plan, but it is well worth it and is vitally important in emergency situations.

The small cell bills, “Wireless Facility Siting” (HB654/SB937 – the industry bill and HB1020/SB713 – the community input bill…the one we like), puts the counties at odds with the industry.  The industry bill would allow refrigerator-sized boxes to be mounted anywhere, on any pole or building, without having to comply with any of our local zoning laws.  It would not require the industry to help our rural, underserved areas.  These bills have been referred to an interim study.  The committee could look at them during that time, but they don’t have to.  This issue may have been put to bed without the industry getting what they wanted, which the local governments consider a success.

A bill we were quite concerned about and opposed was HB264, “Homestead Property Tax Credit.”  This would have transferred the existing tax credit to any new first-time homebuyer in Maryland, which totally undermined the purpose of the existing law and would have a devastating effect on county revenues.  This bill did not move and is considered dead.

Two of the three election bills I discussed have had favorable results.  SB363 “Voting Systems for Voters with Disabilities”, would have mandated every voting machine be equipped with a special ballot device at a cost of $4000 per machine.  SB411 “Polling Places at Continuing Care Communities” would have required each local board to establish a polling place at any continuing care community of 200 or more on the premises.  Both of these would have been very costly to the counties, we opposed them and fortunately, they are dead.  The third bill HB286 “Same Day Registration and Voting at Polling Places” requires every polling place to have additional poll workers at every precinct to handle the same day registration.  The fiscal note is $2.1 million collectively for the counties.  MACo’s amendment was for the state to split this cost with counties, since it is their mandate. The amendment was rejected and the financial burden will fall completely on the counties.  The bill is still moving forward at this time and because of the voter referendum will pass.

We supported several bills on Public health, Mental health and substance abuse that are not moving.  First up is SB645/HB1082, this was another MACo initiative to “Reprioritize Public Health.”  Thanks to the recession, the counties have incurred dramatic funding reductions that jeopardize being able to provide critical services – especially with the opioid epidemic.  The State needs to restore this funding and help us provide this treatment.  We are disappointed that this bill has had no movement.

HB306/SB402 “Mental Health Inmates in Correctional Facilities.”  This would require the state to reimburse our local detention center if the inmate has been identified that they should be in a state mental health facility. This bill is not going to move, but there is likely to be an interim study, so there’s always next year.

SB506 “Mental Health Substance Use Disorder Study”, would require the Maryland Department of Health to conduct a study to determine existing capacity and estimated unmet needs for services by region.  This bill is not moving and is also considered dead.

HB102, “Transportation – Toll Roads County Consent Required” as written said “expanding to all counties in the State, a prohibition on State agencies constructing with the nine Eastern Shore counties a toll road, toll highway or toll bridge without the consent of a majority of the affected counties.”  The Eastern Shore was very concerned that it would apply to a “new” Bay Bridge crossing and that it would remove “veto” power from an Eastern Shore county that didn’t want it.  MACo didn’t take an official position but submitted a letter to leave the Shore out.  This bill is dead.  Very good news for us!

Of the previously discussed bills, the last one is HB92, “Conowingo Dam/Water Quality Certification would have required Excelon to do more to remove the trash and debris as part of getting approval from the MD Dept of the Environment for their relicensing with the Federal Energy Regulation Commission.  Maryland has identified and worked extremely hard to clean up the bay and spent millions of dollars, mostly focused on the sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous removal.  We now know that we need our upstream neighboring states to help.  The debris is also a part of the problem and even with a strong Bi-partisan sponsor line, this bill did not get out of committee.

Of the 150 bills, the legislative committee reviewed, there are only 14 left that MACo is closely following until the end of session.  One is HB109 “Property Tax – Collection of Unpaid Taxes and Tax Sales.  This is another mandate on county government that would place restrictions on when a property can be sent to tax sale.  The local effect is that our revenues would decrease, potentially significantly, as a result of the bill’s limitations on the use of tax sales to enforce liens.  Tax sale is a necessary and important tool used by counties to enforce these payments – it is worth noting that about 99% of properties sent to tax sale NEVER CHANGE HANDS.  The homeowners usually pay the overdue accounts once the property gets to this point.  Removing this tool would be a costly mistake. This passed out of the House committee, but is unlikely to pass in the Senate, MACo is strongly opposing and we have some good allies to help defeat it.

Another of the “final 14” is HB532/SB744 “Blueprint for Solar Energy” establishes a commission to evaluate proposed solar energy projects and submit a report by January 1, 2020.  Solar photovoltaic systems are land intensive (several acres per megawatt).  The demand has grown and has the potential for conflict over the appropriate use of the State’s finite amount of land.  MACo supports this creation of this commission, but is advocating for more balanced representation in our amendment.  As drafted, there is only 1 MACo representative and 4 members from the industry.

The rest are a mixture of Support, Support with Amendment and Oppose.  They are all still in the policy areas of Taxes (HB884/SB533 Residential Lodging Sales Tax), Environment (failing septic and forest tree canopy bills), school construction (HB727/SB731 – Build to Learn Act), and Public Safety (HB116/SB846 – Correctional Facilities Opioid Use Treatment) and Health Services funding (HB1082/SB645).  If you want to follow along, the MACo website, is a great resource.  There is also a blog that is updated daily and I will be following right along until Annapolis is done for this year’s session and report back right here.

Laura Price is on the Executive Board of Directors of MACo, the legislative liaison and member of the Talbot County Council.

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