Constitution Day was a beautiful day in Easton, and the celebration at our courthouse was timely and inclusive. Sheriff Joe Gamble inspired us by sharing his personal mantra: “Freedom over fear,” and adding for emphasis, “You must not lose your individual personal freedoms.”
Reverend Steven Mosher of St. Michaels Christ Church elaborated, suggesting we might “live together in peace and true freedom.” We then rose in unison to sing “God Bless America.”
Joseph Prud’homme, political science professor and director for the Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture, Washington College, spoke of the importance of enhancing our knowledge of our Constitution and its promise of liberty for all. “We the people must keep that promise,” he reminded us. “Our federal Constitution wasn’t meant to be carried only in the briefcases of lawyers, but to allow every man and woman to carry this Constitution in our hearts.”
“Freedom” was mentioned frequently today. It was certainly timely to be reminded of freedom at a time when our right to vote and other rights are being threatened across our nation. And Nicole Bennett of Frederick Douglass on the Hill reminded us, “The interpretation of these rights is where the rubber meets the road.” Frederick Douglass celebrated the fact that while we may have prejudices and biases, we also have a “compass to right the ship,” our Constitution.
That reminder was appreciated, and history offers perspective. Fearing tyranny, our nation’s founders established the Articles of Confederation for 13 independent states. Each state retained its freedom, sovereignty and independence; but within a decade our nation was on the verge of tearing itself apart. In 1786 the Articles of Confederation were abandoned in favor of our Constitution. We would work together, and three coequal branches of government were created to prevent the rise of a tyrannical form of government.
Benjamin Franklin was astonished to find this system “approaching so near to perfection as it does,” but his efforts have proven to be worthwhile. Our civil liberties in the wealthiest nation on earth include freedom of speech, the right to a free and fair trial, the ownership of property, freedom of religion, and possibly most importantly, our freedom to vote.
That right isn’t being threatened in Maryland, but it’s always possible to find an example of how one person’s rights could negatively impact others – and “laws in the briefcases of lawyers.” Stumbling blocks might have been expected for granting the freedom to build a development of 2,500 homes in Talbot County when our schools are full and our comprehensive plan specifies a rural atmosphere. Homes are currently being built in Lakeside; but sales have been postponed, possibly due to legal issues. And perhaps most importantly, the spray wastewater irrigation system proposed was a concern.
Lakeside’s contractor may be working on the wastewater system in Wye Mills and has become a contractor for the proposed salmon facility in Federalsburg. He’s busy. He is also currently updating our county’s comprehensive water and sewer plan, and suggested at a recent planning meeting, “These (towns) are independent, sovereign entities with their responsibility to do what they need to do within their jurisdictions. The county’s responsibility is to incorporate those plans and be the keeper of those plans.” Eliminating county oversight would allow the town and the developer more freedom, but at what cost to our county and the rest of us?
Maryland Environmental law states “each county plan shall provide for the orderly expansion of the community water supply, sewerage and solid waste disposal systems in a manner consistent with all county and local comprehensive plans and laws of state and local government (Land Use and Local Government Articles).” Consistency between local comprehensive plans is also required by the Maryland Land Use Article, and the Smart and Sustainable Growth Act codifies the requirement of consistency for comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances.
We are fortunate to be living in Talbot County, and LaShawn Tucker, Eastern Shore native and basketball coach at Cambridge High School, is urging us to “Dream Big!” Let us recognize our Constitution as a “compass to right the ship.” And let us allow it to guide us toward a more perfect union.
Carol Voyles is a graphic designer/illustrator who retired to the Eastern Shore and became interested in politics. She serves as communications chair for the Talbot County Democratic Forum and lives in Easton.