So where are we headed in Talbot County? These are challenging times; but we generally trust our Census, and 2020’s findings don’t surprise us. We might have guessed that Talbot County’s household incomes are 6th highest in Maryland.
We’ve also been ranked 1st in Maryland by SmartAsset for our small business environment. Their criteria focused upon higher business incomes and lower tax rates. The Eastern Shore generally ranked favorably.
Counties at the top nationally included Petersburg, Alaska; Sully, South Dakota; Haskell, Kansas; and Bristol Bay, Alaska. Ever heard of them? The lesson here may be “don’t get too big.” Get too many people, and before you know it you need more roads, more police, more schools, more utilities, and more taxes. So it could be a good thing that Talbot County’s population was up slightly over the past 2 years, but still down since the 2010 Census.
Talbot County also has the second lowest income tax rate of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. It can be more difficult to hire teachers, police, and firefighters when we pay less, but our Comprehensive Plan keeps us green and desirable – and our environmental and fiscal concerns might not be challenged, so long as we can hold onto it.
Maryland’s median age is 38.3. Talbot County’s is 50.5, up from 47.4 in 2010; and according to Maryland’s 2019 Vital Statistics Report, we could continue to head in this direction. Talbot County also has both lower death rates and lower birth rates than all but 3 other Maryland counties. Hopefully our businesses won’t need many more employees. 38 percent of our workers are already coming from outside the county, and affordable housing is in short supply.
According to Census Bureau QuickFacts, 86.1 percent of us have internet access; but most of us know someone struggling with a poor connection or no connection at all. Talbot County may be Maryland’s 6th wealthiest county, but funding infrastructure can be challenging with the state’s second lowest tax rate. Fortunately, we have federal assistance.
Many of our young people are leaving to find more affordable housing or pursue opportunities elsewhere, but more might stay with broadband access. Retirees will likely continue to be a higher percentage of our population for the foreseeable future; but developers could impact all these outcomes. We’re feeling that pressure constantly.
Approximately 70 percent of Talbot County’s land is still devoted to agriculture, but our proximity to large bodies of water may be the reason many of us come here. Talbot County is beautiful; but blessed with so much shoreline that we are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Sea level rise is virtually certain, and we’re already seeing evidence of this in Dorchester County and along the shores of Tilghman Island. Elevations below 5’ cover pretty much every shore of our county, and with an average elevation of 35’ across the Delmarva Peninsula and 23’ in Easton, a three-foot higher tide could swamp considerable portions of Talbot County.
We routinely address developmental and environmental issues at state and local levels; but climate change is most effectively addressed nationally, and it could concern us that the congressman currently serving us has a 3% score from the League of Conservation Voters.
As his voting record confirms, he has voted against bills for cleaning up sewage and septic systems, clean energy research, regulation of several chemicals harmful to the environment, Environmental Protection Agency programs, a carbon tax, remaining in the Paris Climate Agreement, the implementation of ozone standards, reduced emissions for energy companies, a rule protecting streams, minimum energy-efficiency standards for appliances, requirements that power plants emit less pollution, and even designating PFAS leaking into the Bay from military installations as hazardous chemicals.
A healthy environment is fundamental to a community’s well-being, and it’s becoming clearer every day that the threats posed by climate change are real. Competing interests must be weighed and balanced, of course; but it seems that Andy Harris has lost this ability when it comes to planning for a sustainable future.
Having suggested that he would serve no more than 12 years and introduced a bill mandating this time limit, by his own reckoning his time is up. Ours isn’t yet, though; and in this case, change would seem to be in our best interests.