Looks Like Harriet Tubman Park is Happening


Harriet Tubman, the famous freedom fighter and Underground Railroad conductor, may soon become the first African-American woman to be honored with her own national parks.

The U.S House of Representatives on Dec. 4 approved the National Defense Authorization Act, which included creation of two Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Parks — in Maryland and New York.

The U.S Senate voted to proceed with consideration of the massive defense bill, with the Tubman parks intact, on Thursday. A final Senate vote is expected on Friday at the earliest.

The park is expected to increase tourism, create jobs and strengthen Dorchester County’s local economy. In 2010, tourism represented one-fifth of Dorchester County’s employment, generating more than $132 million for the local economy, according to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

The new historic park will trace Tubman’s early life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she spent 30 years as a slave before escaping from bondage in 1849.

She went on to become one of the leaders of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses designed to help African-American slaves find their way to freedom in the northern states and Canada during the 19th century.

The park would include sites in three counties: Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot.

A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act allows for the National Park Service to acquire seven non-contiguous parcels of land that hold historical significance to Tubman’s life.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 7.32.30 AM













The bill also calls for the creation of a historic park in Auburn, N.Y., in order to commemorate the area where Tubman spent her later years. The park would include her home; the Home for the Aged named for her; and the Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church.

In 2013, President Barack Obama established the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, allowing for the National Historical Park designation. A national monument preserves at least one important national resource; a national park is usually larger and includes a variety of nationally significant resources, according to the National Park Service.

The monument in Cambridge will serve as a part of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, which is under construction and expected to open in 2015, according to the National Park Service.

Mikulski has been advocating for the parks since 2008 along with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. They helped to secure more than $900,000 in federal funds to improve historical signs, infrastructure and utilities, according to a statement from Mikulski’s office. Maryland has also been granted $11 million from the U.S. Departments of Interior and Transportation. The funds will go toward the park.

“A Harriet Tubman National Historical Park is a fitting tribute to honor her lasting legacy in Maryland and our nation while inspiring future generations of women and girls,” Mikulski said. “I look forward to swift passage in the Senate so that President Obama can sign this legislation into law.”

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., have also been active in the process.

“Through bipartisan work with Sen. Cardin, we are able to create a national park to honor Harriet Tubman while protecting local property owners,” Harris said.

A large portion of the designated national park area will be on federal land owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. It will remain under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and part of the national monument, according to the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets budgetary guidelines for the Department of Defense.

The park will consist of 775 acres in Talbot County, 2,200 in Caroline County, and 2,775 in Dorchester County.

The sites include Tubman’s likely birthplace in Dorchester County; the Brodess Plantation parcel, where she worked as a young girl; the Cook Plantation parcel, where as a teenager she worked as a seamstress; and Poplar Neck plantation, where Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in 1849.

“Tourism has been a big help to our business,” said Anthony Thomas, owner of Canvasback Restaurant and Irish Pub in Cambridge. “I’m sure when the park comes, it will be even better.”

Thomas estimated at least 16 tour buses a year come to visit the Harriet Tubman Museum and Learning Center next door to his restaurant. Many visitors stop by to eat at Canvasback after they’re finished at the Museum.

Carol Ruark, owner of A Few of My Favorite Things Gourmet and Gifts, also located on the same block as the Tubman museum, said she hasn’t noticed a significant tourism impact. However, she appreciates the educational opportunity that the museum and future park will provide.

“When they hold conferences that brings a lot of business,” she said. “But usually, there is no difference.”

While visiting the museum, on Race Street in Cambridge, patrons may view paintings and photographs of Tubman as well as some of the landmarks that will be included in the national park. Visitors at the museum can also schedule 2- to 3-hour guided tours of the historical sites and stops on the Underground Railroad before the park’s 2015 opening.

Chris Kendrick, an audio-visual engineer visiting Saturday from Kensington, said he appreciated the Tubman museum as a student of history and noted its relevancy amid today’s racial climate in the United States.

“What I love is that we are in a time where people will finally be able to love each other and be neighbors and not promulgate the kind of attitudes that Harriet Tubman was willing to fight against and even die for,” Kendrick said.

“Harriet Tubman was an iconic figure our nation’s history, for whom liberty and freedom were not just ideas,” said Sen. Cardin in a press release last week. “More than 100 years after her death, Harriet Tubman will become the first African-American woman and first individual woman to have a National Historical Park named in her honor. It’s a great day for the Eastern Shore and our country.”


By Daniel Kerry

Denton’s Harry Hughes Looks Back


With the Choptank River in his backyard and his dog by his side, former Maryland Gov. Harry R. Hughes enjoys a low-key life after decades of public service.

Hughes, 88, resides alone in his two-story home — referred to as Hazelwood — hidden from passing cars on Pealiquor Road in Denton, Maryland. Next door and across the street, golf balls soar through the air at Caroline Country Club, where Hughes is a member.


His aging rescued yellow Labrador retriever, Miller, greets visitors with friendly barks. Miller and his master are slowing down, but eagerly meet their guests. Miller with inquisitive sniffs and Hughes with firm handshakes.

The house, which he and his late wife, Patricia Hughes (née Donoho) moved into about 15 years ago, was built in 1941 and previously owned by Mrs. Hughes’ parents.

The two did some remodeling of the historic house.

Mrs. Hughes died in 2010 at 79 years old.

“She was quite an interesting person,” Hughes said. “She was very smart, much smarter than I.”

He said life without her is different and somewhat lonely.

Hughes credits her with pushing him to attend law school, which led him to public service, at George Washington University.

“She supported me in all the political endeavors I was involved in,” he said.

The pair met around 1948 when his mother, Helen, tutored Patricia Donoho in preparation for prep school.

They married June 30, 1951, at an Episcopal church in Seaford, Delaware. At least, that’s what they told everyone.

“She came down to Washington when I was in law school at G.W.,” he said. “We went to Prince George’s County and we got married. Never told anybody.”


Hughes said there was no reason why they didn’t tell anyone about their Feb. 7, 1950, elopement.

“After we were married, we never discussed it,” he said. “We didn’t tell anyone until after Pat died.”

Patricia gave birth to their daughters, Ann Fink, now a retired special education teacher, in 1953 and Elizabeth, now a retired lawyer, in 1956.

“We had a very, very close family and just did everyday normal things that families do,” Fink said.

Fink said the family had a pony named Butterball and that Hughes would be in the stables baling hay and cleaning stalls.

“He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. That’s what he instilled in me,” she said.


Hughes grew up in Denton.
“You learn to entertain yourself,” Hughes said of small-town life. “I spent many an hour knocking fly balls to a friend of mine and him knocking them out to me.”

Hughes played baseball throughout his childhood. A baseball glove was the first birthday gift he remembers receiving.

When Hughes reached the age of 17, baseball went to the wayside when he joined the Navy Air Corps to serve in World War II.

But before he saw action, the war was over and Hughes began his academic career at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, then studied at the University of Maryland, College Park.

He pitched for Maryland’s baseball team while studying business and public administration.

“The whole idea was to play professional baseball,” he said. “I was just taking whatever course I could get to get through college.”

At Maryland, he played under hall-of-fame coach Burton Shipley, who Hughes said “did strange things,” like pulling the team off the field after two bad calls and sitting along the baseline to berate an umpire for a whole game.

He played in leagues during summers and played for a New York Yankees farm team in Easton for a year.

Hughes forsook his dream of playing in the majors at about 24 years old when his career faltered and Mrs. Hughes pushed him to enroll in law school.

“My about-to-be wife was just as happy that I didn’t stay in baseball. She used to come watch the games and read a book in the stands.”


Hughes wasn’t asked to participate in campaigning for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in his run for governor, but he made a $500 contribution to Brown during the primaries, according to state campaign finance reports.

Brown’s defeat wasn’t a shock to him.

“I wasn’t terribly surprised that he lost,” he said. “But I was surprised by the size of the victory.”

The 4 percentage point margin of victory by Larry J. Hogan Jr. was attributed to many factors, including Brown’s apparent lack of accessibility to voters and press, according to some experts.

“That’s foolish,” Hughes said. “It sounds like a combination of some very bad things and decisions that the Brown campaign did.”

Hughes held press conferences weekly and made himself available while he was in office.

“Having a press conference every week makes it so they don’t have to call you,” he said. “You’re available to answer questions.”

Hughes still makes himself available — by answering the phone at home.

“He doesn’t use email,” said Hughes’ gubernatorial campaign manager and friend Joe Coale. “I said, ‘Harry, if you can use a phone, you can use email! If you can understand the intricacies and are able to articulate the detail of the Maryland state budget, you can use email.’”

Hughes’ lack of email comes after someone Coale called a “hotshot” showed Hughes how to use the technology.

“In an effort to impress Harry,” Coale said, “he went through all these options.” Coale said all the bells and whistles overwhelmed Hughes, who gave up on the idea of
using email.


Hughes is no longer involved in politics, but maintains his presidential position with the eponymous Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, which partners farmers and environmentalists to improve Maryland’s environmental health, in Queenstown.

The center conveys Hughes’ dedication to protecting the environment in Maryland, something he championed during his administration.

He said saving the Chesapeake Bay is still one of the biggest issues in the state.

“I remember telling people it’s not going to happen overnight,” Hughes said of restoring
the bay.

Despite growing up in Caroline County, the only county on the Eastern Shore without direct access to the Chesapeake Bay, the bay was very important to him.

“I always liked the bay,” he said. “You kept hearing all this bad stuff about the crab population, the oyster population.”

Hughes said he considers himself a “reasonable environmentalist” and says the bay, crabs, and oysters identify Maryland.
Transportation, Hughes said, is another crucial topic.

“Transportation is a big issue,” he said. “There are issues right now today.”

“The mass transit in Baltimore is an issue.”

He mentioned a bridge in Denton has needed updating for years.

“It’s now going to happen,” he said. The new bridge will be high enough over the Choptank to eliminate the draw it has now. Hughes said it will be expensive, but necessary.

Hughes said taxes are used as a scapegoat for Maryland expats.

“You keep reading every once in a while about people that are complaining about the state, that there’s a large number of people that have moved to Florida to get out of the state of Maryland because of taxes,” he said. “I don’t know whether that’s true.”

One main reason people leave the state? “Primarily the weather for one,” Hughes laughed.


Hughes practiced law in the 1950s. When Jack Hogan left the House of Delegates, Hughes successfully ran for the open Caroline County seat in 1954. In 1958, he made a bid for state Senate in Caroline, won, and held that seat for 12 years.

When serving on the Senate began affecting his law work, he decided to forgo another term.

“Then Gov. Marvin Mandel named him Secretary of Transportation,” said John Frece, co-author of “My Unexpected Journey,” Hughes’ autobiography. On Jan. 4, 1971, Hughes was officially named to the position.

As the first Maryland Secretary of Transportation, Hughes helped bring agencies, including the Port Authority, the Motor Vehicles Association, and the State Roads Commission, together under one umbrella.

“It was really interesting. I think I enjoyed that job more than any other job I’ve had,” Hughes said.

Unlike being a legislator, Hughes said, his secretarial position allowed him to see the changes his department made.

But he resigned amid a controversial contract bidding process for the first leg of the Baltimore subway.

“There were some shady deals being pushed,” Frece said. “He wouldn’t go along with it and tried, and tried, and tried to straighten it out and decided to resign rather than go along with it.”

In May 1977, Hughes quit.

“That night, my wife and a couple our friends were meeting for dinner and I said, ‘Pat I’m going to resign tomorrow.’ Just like that. And I did.”

Frece said Hughes’ resignation catapulted him to the 1978 election.

“My wife and I talked about (running for governor) a lot, I talked to several people about it. I figured if I didn’t do it I’d probably regret it for the rest of my life,” Hughes said.

During his gubernatorial primary campaign, Hughes lagged with only about 7 percent of voters saying they would cast their ballot for him.

But a week before the primary election, the Baltimore Sun featured a front-page Hughes endorsement.

“When a paper like the Sun gave an endorsement, it was generally influential,” said Frece, a former Sun reporter. “For them to say that Harry Hughes is their choice legitimized his candidacy.”

Coale recalled sitting in the Lord Baltimore Hotel with Hughes on election night, wondering what the outcome would be.

Coale began receiving phone calls from thought-to-be-lost precincts, saying Hughes was winning overwhelmingly.

“I said, ‘Harry, break out the champagne, you’re going to be the next governor,’” Coale said.

Hughes defeated acting governor Blair Lee III in what Lee’s son, Blair Lee IV, called a “shocking” upset.

“It was as much as a surprise as Larry Hogan winning,” said Lee.

Lee said his late father was somewhat relieved Hughes won because his father didn’t really want to be governor.

“I think he was happy Harry won,” he said. “He knew Harry. He trusted Harry.”

The general election went smoothly and Hughes emerged victorious over Republican John Glenn Beall Jr.


Starting out with a surplus, the state was doing well early in Hughes’ first term. But the recession hit the state hard.

Hughes managed to push legislation curbing state spending as well as established a joint Maryland-Virginia veterinary school, which opened federal funds for both states.

Hughes made prison changes, established the Task Force on Violence and Extremism, and created the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence.

Task force chair Connie Beims said the group was “too far ahead” of the times in terms of protecting minority populations and the institute fizzled out after Hughes left office.

Hughes made waves in environmental policy by establishing the Critical Areas Act — which protects land within 1,000 feet of tidal waters or tidal wetlands from development for the first time. He also banned catching rockfish until the population was stable; and appropriated $37 million in funding for bay-restoration projects.

“He was a shining example to me in terms of environmental policy,” former Gov. Parris Glendening said.

Hughes faced criticism for his handling of the 1985 Savings and Loan Crisis, where unstable savings and loan associations failed due to risky investments with depositors’ money.

He was scheduled to visit Israel and Egypt on an economic development trip at the same time the situation was becoming worse. Hughes was concerned that either going or cancelling would hurt the tense atmosphere. In the end, he went on the trip but cut it short to address the crisis.

Hughes said when the issue came up in the 1985 general assembly, “the damage was already done.”

“It was incredible,” he said. “I had some special sessions at the General Assembly and got some legislation passed, put up a lot of money to protect depositors.”

Hughes eventually got his constituents’ money back. The only missing money was potentially
accrued interest.

But Marylanders were not happy with the way he handled a memo explaining the delicate situation regarding the banks and the depositors.

The implication was that the governor should have known that some of these S&Ls were being run by “crooks,” according to Hughes’ autobiography.

“It was a tough time for me because I was getting a lot of the blame,” he said. However, some people since then have thanked him for saving their money.

Frece said Hughes saw a moral responsibility to protect depositors who were about to
ose their life savings.

“In a way it was his worst moment and his best moment,” Frece said.


“In my assessment as a Marylander, a former governor, and political science professor, Harry Hughes is one of the best governors the state has ever had,” Glendening said. “Also, unfortunately, one of the least appreciated.”

He said the Savings and Loan Crisis clouded two great gubernatorial terms.

“Despite all that, Hughes’ legacy is as a reform governor who was as honest as the day was long,” he said. “It was eight years of honest government.”

While Maryland faced ethical and moral challenges from some individuals, Hughes was a model of integrity, Glendening said.

Frece said Hughes is a decent man who is “clear eyed.”

“Politics never drove him, he was one of those rare elected officials that had the best interest of the state and best interest of citizens at heart,” he said. “He steadily achieved good things for the state over those two terms.”

Beim said Hughes was a man of conviction before he took office.

“I’m always proud to say I was a member of the Harry Hughes team,” she said.

Fink said her father’s time in office was nothing short of hard work. “He’s had to make some tough decisions, I think. But he got the job done,” she said.


Hughes ran for a United States Senate seat. He was up against Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. Michael Barnes in the primary.

“I remember meeting with Barnes and saying to him, ‘If we both stay in this, we’re going to split the vote and Barb’s going to win,” he said. “But I couldn’t get him to get out so that’s what happened.”

However, Hughes said that was for the better: Patricia was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease around that time.

He decided to stay home with Patricia.

He still is active with the Agro-Ecology Center and holds season tickets, right off first base, for his beloved Baltimore Orioles.

“Now I put him first,” Fink said. “I take care of him because he took care of us.”

Fink said Hughes always put others before himself.

“He’s family and that’s what we do: We take care of family,” said Fink’s husband, Mike Fink. “I couldn’t ask for a better father-in-law.”

“I think he gets lonely sometimes, but we try to include him as much as we can,” Ann Fink said. “He’s getting frailer, we worry about him more.”

But Hughes has old Miller and personal assistant Cindy Sharer, who visits during the day, to keep him company. He sees Ann and Mike Fink as well as this three great-grandchildren and their father often.

Out in his backyard exists a small fenced-in area with a fussy latch and a backdrop of the marshy Choptank River.

Inside the fence are two headstones. One for Mrs. Hughes, and one for the governor. The pair will spend eternity in Denton, looking out on the Choptank.

By Max Bennett

Maryland Public Schools: Which Districts Recognize Religious Holidays


This school year, 14 of Maryland’s 24 school systems will not recognize any religious holidays — such as Christmas and Rosh Hashanah – by name.

The 14 include every school system on the Eastern Shore, and five others around the state.

These districts instead use secular terms, like “Winter Holiday” or “Spring Break,” to describe the school closings.

The 10 districts that will recognize religious holidays by name during this school year include Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

The issue of using religious names for school holidays received increased attention recently when Montgomery County’s Board of Education voted to remove all references to religious holidays from its 2015-2016 calendar.

The decision came after Muslim community members called for the board to recognize the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha holidays.

Of the 10 school systems recognizing religious holidays by name this school year, six include both Christian and Jewish holidays. None of Maryland’s school districts have a policy of closing on Muslim holidays, but some school districts have closed on some Muslim holidays when they happened to fall on the same day as a Jewish holiday.

Teresa Tudor, chairwoman of the calendar committee for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, said the district recognizes religious holidays by name in order to be straightforward with families about school closings.

“We specify Easter because the reason you’re getting time off is Easter,” Tudor said.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools began recognizing and closing for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur roughly a decade ago. Tudor said the decision came down to student absence rates.

“There was a push among parents and students who were Jewish, and we were at a point where our data supported closing,” Tudor said.

The district has recognized both Christian and Jewish holidays by name since then, and Tudor said there are no plans to change the practice.

During this school year, four districts recognize some religious holidays by name, but not others. Allegany County, for instance, recognizes Christmas and Easter by name, but not Rosh Hashanah.

Mia Cross, a spokeswoman for Allegany County Public Schools, said the district’s calendar is built around the public school holidays listed in the Annotated Code of Maryland.

These include days off for Christmas and Easter, but no other religious holidays. School districts are required to close on these holidays, unless granted an exception by the State Board of Education.

Carroll County public schools close at both Christmas and Easter and Rosh Hashanah this school year, but the district only recognizes the Jewish holiday by name. The 2014-2015 calendar refers to school closings around Christmas and Easter as “Winter/State” and “Spring Break” holidays, respectively.

Roughly 15 years ago, Carroll County Public Schools stopped recognizing Christmas and Easter by name on its calendar. During the 2009-2010 school year, the district began recognizing Jewish holidays by name.

Carroll County’s Board of Education elected to change this for the 2015-2016 calendar, which will recognize both Christian and Jewish holidays by name. The decision was in response to feedback the board received when it asked for community input on the calendar.

“Some of the public pointed out that we call every other holiday by its name,” said Carey Gaddis, supervisor of Community and Media Relations for Carroll County Public Schools.

Tracy Sahler is a member of the calendar committee for Wicomico County Public Schools, and has worked with the school system for 16 years. She said the district has kept the names of religious holidays out of its calendar for as long as she can remember.

The district refers to school closings around Christmas as “Winter Holidays” because they happen to occur in winter, Sahler said.

“They’re not religious holiday breaks. They are breaks from school,” Sahler said.

By Stephen Waldron

Maryland Film Tax Credits at Risk; No More Wedding Crashers for Shore


Frank Underwood may be looking for a new base of operations.

Maryland tax credits worth millions have kept “House of Cards” in the state for three seasons, but a real-world budget crunch may mean Kevin Spacey — who plays the political villain — and rest of the cast and crew will head elsewhere.

A state legislative committee held a public hearing Tuesday on the feasibility of Maryland’s film production tax credit, most notably associated with the Netflix series.

Hannah Byron

Hannah Byron,, assistant secretary for the Maryland Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts

Film productions are exempt from state tax when purchasing goods or services related to the production, but the state is reaping only 10 cents for every dollar it gives up, according to a report from the state’s Department of Legislative Services.

The report concludes that the credit does not promote long-term economic growth for Maryland and recommends that the General Assembly allow the film production activity tax to expire as scheduled on July 1, 2016.

Legislative Services staff members who contributed to the report were present at the meeting to defend their recommendations.

“The current funding amount is about $25 million (per year). But is that what optimizes economic benefits to the state?” said Robert Rehrmann, a policy analyst who contributed to the report.

Film production tax credits have become more popular in the last decade, with 37 states and the District offering some form of incentive in 2014.

In a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley last year, Charlie Goldstein, senior vice president of MRC Studios, which produces “House of Cards,” warned that if the show does not receive tax credits, they will look to film in another state.

In total for all productions, Maryland has provided or set aside $62.5 million in tax credits from fiscal year 2012 through 2016.

Supporters of the tax say the film industry promotes economic growth in Maryland by bringing in jobs and more local spending, and that we need to offer at least $25 million in credits each year to be competitive with what other states offer.

“For many small businesses in the state, it has made the difference for keeping their doors open, the difference in hiring new staff, or the difference in making capital improvements to their property, ” said Hannah Byron, assistant secretary for the Maryland Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts.

While some small businesses are reaping the benefits, the Department of Legislative Services’ report estimates that Maryland is only getting a 10-cent return for every dollar of tax credits provided to the film industry.

Byron countered that another independent study calculated a return of $1.03 — or 3 percent — on every dollar in credits, and that the Legislative Services report did not focus enough on indirect benefits of production, such as the potential for film tourism.

Still, the report has a few more criticisms, one being that 96.5 percent of all credits are going to only two productions — “House of Cards” and HBO’s “VEEP.”

The report also points out that a few jurisdictions benefit much more than others, and also that the productions are short-lived and will not add any permanent benefit to the economy because jobs provided will be temporary.

Michael Davis, a scenery builder in Maryland for over 27 years, disagreed with this idea Tuesday in testimony before the committee.

“I worked on project after project, sometimes more than one at a time, and other times no work at all … and the pay is at least 30 percent more per hour and we will work 50 to 60 hour per week during a production,” Davis said.

However, Rehrmann reminded, the report shows less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Marylanders are employed by the film industry.

The decision on whether to extend or modify the current tax credit will have to be made by the General Assembly by July 1 and could be influenced by Gov.-elect Larry J. Hogan Jr.

“We’ll take a look at (the report) and have something to talk about later … there’s one governor at a time,” Hogan said Tuesday.

By Dani Shae Thompson

Exelon Commits to Pepco Charities


Local charities are looking forward to continued support from Pepco, the region’s oldest utility provider, even as state authorities review a proposed merger with Chicago-based utility Exelon.

Philanthropies were initially concerned that management changes would affect Pepco’s commitment to non-profits. But Exelon has issued assurances that the company will remain committed to Pepco’s 2013 level of philanthropic giving.

That is good news for charities throughout the region.

“I look forward to watching our Pennies for Patients program surpass the million dollar mark,” said Beth Gorman, executive director for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, speaking of one of her organization’s regional projects. “With Pepco’s help and commitment I know that we’ll be able to get there.”

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is one of the world’s largest health organizations, dedicated to funding blood cancer research and helping patients through more than 60 chapters in the U.S. and Canada.

Pennies for Patients has been around for about two decades. In the metro area, the majority of the approximately 470 participating schools come from Maryland.

In the last two years combined they raised close to $1.7 million by encouraging schoolchildren of all ages to bring spare change and dollars to school to support the society’s mission.

Exelon has pledged a total commitment of about $50 million in charitable contributions over 10 years in the Pepco service territory, which spans D.C., Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. That’s about equal to the $5 million a year, or so, that Pepco has been giving.

“We’re…going to…continue to work with non-profit partners without missing a beat. We have already been there. And Exelon’s support to what we have been doing is just going to continue,” said Debbi Jarvis, Pepco’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility.

Gorman said she would like to see the partnership with Pepco expand.

Each year about 20 local high schools compete against one another in a fundraising effort as part of the Pennies for Patients program.

“In fact, our two top high schools typically come from the Maryland area,” said Gorman, adding that out of all the participating institutions, Walt Whitman and Walter Johnson high schools each raised more than $80,000 this year.

The society’s goal for the program in the upcoming season, which lasts January through April, is $900,000.

Pepco became involved with the program three years ago, Gorman said.

In addition to a direct contribution of about $45,000 a year, Pepco has provided a summer internship to one student from the school that raises the most money, Jarvis said.

“Over the next five years, Exelon alone on the utility side of the business will be investing $16 billion in the communities we serve,” said Chris Crane, Exelon’s CEO, when questioned about implications of the acquisition for the local philanthropies at an October event in Washington.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the proposed merger of Exelon Corporation and Pepco Holdings last Thursday.

The company is now awaiting approvals on the deal from public utility commissions in the district, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

According to the Maryland Public Service Commission, the next set of hearings where public comments about the merger will be heard are scheduled for January.

By Yevgeniy Trapeznikov
Capital News Service

Maryland Democrats Debating Where to Go Next


Maryland Democrats, looking to rebound from the upset victory of Republican Larry Hogan over Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, are debating whether to treat the loss as a brief hiccup in the blue state’s politics or as a sign of more serious voter discontent.

“I think everyone thinks it was just a one-off,” said David Heller, a political consultant who works for several Maryland Democrats, including U.S. representatives Elijah Cummings and Dutch Ruppersberger.

Heller said the general feeling around Democrats he represents is that the Brown loss was caused by a “perfect storm” of factors, such as a weak Democratic candidate, frustration over Gov. Martin O’Malley’s performance and a general negative attitude toward the state. A similar storm is not likely to come around again, he said.

“No one can imagine another Hogan victory again in four years. No one,” he said.

But David Moon, a newly elected Democratic delegate for the state’s 20th District, which covers parts of Silver Spring and Takoma Park, said Democrats would be foolish to think the party can go back to business as usual and voters will simply come back.

Moon ran a progressive campaign that focused on issues such as banning corporate contributions to candidates and combating climate change. In light of the Hogan victory, he said, he plans to turn toward more basic pocketbook issues, such as paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage when he enters the General Assembly in January.

The party has had scores of major victories with social policy over the last eight years, he said. Democrats need to address economic issues with the same urgency.

“Like it or not, voters said something,” he said. “We didn’t do a good job of selling them on what we’re offering them. If we don’t begin to address their economic needs directly, it’s entirely possible we’ll be in the same place in four years.”

Hogan’s victory is largely credited to his ability to address voter dissatisfaction over the state’s economy and taxes, which were raised substantially under O’Malley. He campaigned as a businessman who understood the pinch to working families of having to fork over dollars to pay for government programs.

But many Democrats have argued that his victory was more due to Brown’s lack of discipline as a candidate, an inability to connect with voters and his lack of a progressive vision for the state.

David Lublin, a professor of political science at American University who runs a blog, Seventh State, dedicated to Maryland politics, said voters may have just met the point where their liberalism conflicts with their pocketbooks.

“It’s hard to believe that that would’ve got the Democrats more votes,” he said of Brown presenting a progressive vision. “It doesn’t mean necessarily that Maryland has gotten more conservative. It just means there’s a limit to how much people want to pay for social programs.”

On Monday, Maryland U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski held a meeting at the state party headquarters in Annapolis with Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation, statewide elected officials, and the presiding officers of the General Assembly.

The meeting was held to discuss “the path to new leadership” for the party in the wake of the election loss.

Structurally, the composition of the state still favors Democrats. The party holds nine of the state’s 10 seats in Congress and has large majorities in both state houses. Other major state positions such as attorney general and state comptroller are held by Democrats.

Demographically, Maryland has seen its largest population growth among Hispanics, who tend to vote Democratic. Since the last U.S. Census in 2010, all but 4,200 of the state’s 111,000 population increase was due to the growth of minorities, according to Maryland Department of Planning figures.

The majority of state residents also tend to favor issues supported by Democrats. According to a 2013 poll conducted by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc., which surveyed more than 800 of the state’s registered voters, 58 percent supported the gun control law enacted under O’Malley. Support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare law was 57 percent.

Much of the possible future success for Republicans resides with the man who will enter the governor’s mansion in January.

“He’s huge,” Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said of Hogan. “The party goes where Hogan goes.”

Cluster said Republicans are counting on Democrats in the General Assembly pushing for the same progressive policies they’ve promoted the last eight years. If the state ends up gridlocked over policies the voters rejected, he said, Republicans will likely be the beneficiaries.

“I’m actually going to like to see the Democrats with large majorities,” he said. “It can only help us to have them pushing their agenda.”

Bob Fenity, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said the party is in the process of looking at what went wrong in the election in terms of voter turnout and messaging. There has not been much discussion of policy changes, he said.

“It may be something we’ll have to look at,” he said. “But we’ve done a lot of good in the last eight years. Unfortunately we didn’t convey well enough what we stand for.”

By Mike Persley
Capital News Service

Corps of Engineers Report: New Understanding of Conowingo Dam Impact on Chesapeake Bay


The Chesapeake Bay may have water quality issues, but according to a new study, the Conowingo Dam doesn’t seem to be a major cause of them.

A multi-agency report found that the Conowingo Dam is not the biggest culprit for water quality issues affecting the bay, and dredging sediment from the reservoir behind the dam should not be considered a cost-effective solution.

Rather, the report points to nutrients associated with the sediment, washed down from states upstream, and from other tributaries to the Chesapeake, that pass through the dam and are contributing to dead zones in the bay.

The Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment, made public Thursday, details the movement of sediment and nutrients through the river, reports how they may affect the Chesapeake Bay, and offers suggestions for how to best manage the problem.

Suggestions include continued research and monitoring of nutrients, stormwater management, and a recommendation that the EPA integrate findings of this study into their water quality assessment of the bay.

“The overwhelming majority of pollution entering the bay from the Susquehanna River comes not from behind the Conowingo Dam but from the 27,000-square-mile watershed upstream,” Alison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said in a statement Wednesday.

According to measurements taken from 2008 to 2011, only 13 percent of sediment pollution came from the Conowingo Reservoir—the other 87 percent came from the greater watershed area, said Anna Compton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist and manager of the study.

The Susquehanna begins in Cooperstown, New York, flows through central Pennsylvania and into Maryland where it winds its way down to the Chesapeake Bay.

Along the way, the river collects runoff—sediment and nutrients—from farms, cites, yards, and anywhere in between.

Sediment essentially means dirt—clay, silt and sand—but it has the potential to carry nutrients, pesticides, oil residue, manure and other toxic particles.

Dams are designed to hold back water, but they also collect and hold back this sediment—millions of tons of it.

Some of that sediment gets through the dam, and for dams in the greater Chesapeake Bay watershed, this means sediment will continue on to the bay, where it has the potential to harm the aquatic ecosystem.

Before the new assessment was completed, researchers thought that this sediment was causing major harm to the bay because an abundance of particles floating in the water could block out light or bury bottom-dwelling aquatic species.

The study concludes that this is not the case.

“When we ran the model simulations looking at removing a really large amount of sediment, we fully expected to see water quality improvements in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Compton.

“We were surprised. We simply didn’t see it.”

The reason for this is that sediment quickly settles and dissipates without burying bottom dwelling species.

The Spy Interview with Assessment team leader Colonel Richard Jordan of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers from August 2014

The assessment found that even in a major weather event, like Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, large sediment plumes in the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake dissipate quickly without affecting water clarity for long.

“(The satellite imagery) looks very catastrophic. You think ‘Oh my goodness. This has got to be impacting the bay.’ And it does, there are short-term impacts, but the sediment falls out quickly,” said Bruce Michael, the Resource Assessment Service Director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The problem with sediment is that it carries nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, along with it.

These nutrients can stimulate the growth of algae, leading to low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. This can create dead zones—areas uninhabitable for aquatic species that need oxygen to survive.

Since the sediment itself is not harming the Chesapeake Bay, the study suggests, one way to improve water quality would be to reduce nutrient pollution upstream.

“The nutrients are more the driving factor in this and not the sediment alone. Further reductions in nutrients will have a larger impact on meeting our water quality standards,” Michael said.

This includes better management of storm water, agricultural runoff, and runoff from paved surfaces like roads, or residential areas.

For Marylanders, fees to pay for this kind of management have become known as the “rain tax.”

The bill, more formally known as a “stormwater management fee,” was signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2012, and requires nine counties and Baltimore City to implement watershed protection programs.

As part of the program, local governments charge landowners based on the amount of impervious surface on their property.

Despite political controversy about the tax, the new study recommends stormwater management as an important strategy to lower nutrients and protect the water quality of the bay.

The assessment (link: http:bit.ly/LSRWA), was released for public comment Thursday morning. The 185-page report was three years in the making and cost $1.4 million to complete. It involved several agencies, including the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Maryland Department of the Environment and The Nature Conservancy.

Another recommendation of the assessment is to continue long-term monitoring of the lower Susquehanna River system.

Exelon Generation Co., which owns and operates the Conowingo Dam, has offered to cover the $3.5 million price tag of this enhanced monitoring over the next few years.

Exelon currently leases the Conowingo Dam and Reservoir. The lease was issued on Aug. 14, 1980, but it expired on Sept. 1.

So now Exelon is in the process of negotiating a new leasing license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The final decision will be made by FERC in January, and a new lease would be effective for another 46 years.

Of course, what comes of the report could also depend largely on the opinion of governor-elect, Larry J. Hogan Jr. , who has pointed to upstream states as complicit in the pollution of the bay, and responsible for their shares of the cleanup.

“I think we can help clean up the bay by standing up for Maryland and fighting back against some of the upstream polluters,” Hogan said in a YouTube video (link: http://youtu.be/d3RNXzHKCAU) produced by his campaign on Aug. 19.

“We’ve got to push back against the EPA, the federal government has a role to play … and we’ve got to get the other states to pay their fair share.”

Hogan’s staff confirmed they received a copy of the report on Wednesday, but the governor-elect could not be reached for comment as of Thursday afternoon.

The Big Four—Important Findings from the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment

1. Before the completion of the assessment, it was thought that the Conowingo Dam would continue to trap sediment for 10 to 20 years. But the report found that the reservoir is essentially at full capacity for sediment.

• The assessment says the dam is in a state of “dynamic equilibrium”—meaning sediment continually accumulates, but every so often a large storm event will push enough sediment from the reservoir through the dam to leave extra room for additional trapping.

• Because of these storms, the reservoir never reaches a “full” capacity of sediment, but it also can’t be expected to trap much more. This means any additional sediment coming into the Conowingo Reservoir from upstream will pass through the dam and continue on to the Chesapeake Bay.

2. The nutrients carried with the additional sediment passing through Conowingo Dam is affecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

• Sediment contains nutrients that can stimulate the growth of algae, leading to low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. Low dissolved oxygen levels can cause dead zones—areas uninhabitable for aquatic species that need oxygen to survive.

• If nothing is done to mitigate the amount of sediment and associated nutrients flowing through the Conowingo Reservoir, water quality standards set for the Chesapeake Bay (intended to be met by 2025) will not be attainable.

3. Upstream sources of sediment and nutrients have more impact on the Chesapeake Bay than the sediment and nutrients collecting at the Conowingo Dam.

• The Susquehanna River watershed upstream of the Conowingo Dam is responsible for the majority of pollutants, which include phosphorous and nitrogen, associated with negative impacts on the Chesapeake Bay.

4. Dredging (removing) sediment from the Conowingo Reservoir would not be an effective method for improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

• Dredging would cost between $48 million and $267 million each year just to keep the sediment at its current levels. It would have to be done annually in order to make even a short-term difference in sediment storage capacity in the Conowingo Reservoir. To dredge enough sediment to return to 1996 levels, the assessment estimates it could cost as much as $2.8 billion.

Read the full report here:


By Dani Shae Thompson

Governor-Elect Names Democrat to Head Transition Team


Governor-elect Larry J. Hogan Jr. named Robert Neall, a Democrat and former state senator, delegate and Anne Arundel County executive, to his transition team Wednesday afternoon.

Neall will head up Hogan’s budget and tax team, making the appointment one of the most important during his transition. The Republican Hogan’s surprise win in a majority-Democrat state was based largely on a campaign message of fiscal restraint.

“He’s the most respected fiscal mind in the state of Maryland,” Hogan said. “There’s nobody in the state that knows tax and fiscal budget issues better than Bobby Neall.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 6.10.39 PMNeall said that the transition team will look at the remaining seven months of fiscal 2015 to “see if there are any mid-course corrections that the governor-elect could do if he chose to in landing that budget in a different place than where the trajectory is.”

Hogan won’t have an opportunity to present a budget entirely of his own making until fiscal 2017, as most state budgets, which run based on a July-June fiscal year, are prepared by the previous Christmas time.

“There will be precious few opportunities for the new governor to tweak a budget that was really put together by his predecessor’s staff,” said Neall.

Hogan, who ran on a policy of cutting spending and taxes, has crossed the aisle by selecting Neall, a Democrat who switched parties during his state senate tenure in 1999 due to feeling increasingly “uncomfortable and unwelcome” within the Republican party, according to Capital News Service reports from the time.

Neall served in the state House of Delegates from 1975 to 1987, was Anne Arundel County executive from 1990 to 1994, and then a senator from late 1997 until early 2003.

Hogan also named Carville Collins, a Baltimore lawyer with DLA Piper, as general counsel to his transition team. Collins has represented clients in the energy, water, telecommunications and transportation sectors, according to a profile on the DLA Piper website.

Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus with the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, said that Neall’s appointment is a clear signal that Hogan is reaching out to Democrats.

“I would expect that the transition team will include other Democrats as well,” Crenson

By creating a bi-partisan transition team, it becomes harder for Maryland Democrats to take shots at Hogan, Crenson said.

Hogan has reached out to key state Democrats, he said, having scheduled meetings with Comptroller Peter Franchot, and Speaker of the House of Delegates Michael E. Busch (Anne Arundel).

He also had a breakfast meeting with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (Calvert
and Prince George’s), on Wednesday but did not offer up any details of what was discussed.

“We had a frank, open and honest discussion,” Hogan said.

The governor-elect continues to decline to offer up any specific policy platform, saying that it doesn’t make any sense to roll out policy initiatives until he’s assembled a team of advisers to help him make those decisions.

“I think you’re trying to put the cart before the horse,” Hogan said.

By Lejla Sarcevic
Capital News Service

Maryland Election Could Weaken Maryland’s Influence on Capitol Hill


With just days to go before the midterm elections and an increasing likelihood that Republicans will win back control of the Senate, Maryland’s congressional delegation is in danger of losing some of its power to influence national policy on issues such as the environment, health care and the economy.

Both of the state’s Democratic senators, Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, would be in the minority if Republicans take over.

Seven of Maryland’s eight House members are Democrats in a chamber already controlled by Republicans, meaning that the overwhelmingly Democratic state will have only one member of congress, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, in the majority party.

“Elections are consequential,” Cardin said about the possibility of a Republican-led Senate. “If the Republicans win, they’re likely to roll everything back we’ve been fighting for, like the minimum wage, policies for social equality. They’ll do what they need to do to pass their agenda.”

According to the most recent model by FiveThirtyEight.com, which combines hundreds of opinion polls with voter demographic information, Republicans have a 64 percent chance of taking back the Senate Tuesday.

Some members of the party have already been vocal about what their goals will be if they win the majority, and many of those goals are anathema to Democrats like Cardin and Mikulski.

In audio from a private meeting in June reported by The Nation, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the presumed Majority Leader of a Republican-led Senate, said that if victorious, he would use amendments to spending bills to try to pressure the president to agree to dramatic policy changes.

“We will be pushing back against this bureaucracy … We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board,” McConnell said.

Earlier this month, Sen.Ted Cruz of Texas outlined a 10-point plan in an op-ed for USA Today that called for a repeal of the president’s healthcare plan, passing a balanced budget amendment and abolishing the Internal Revenue Service.

Mikulski currently chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, the committee that controls discretionary spending bills. But she’ll lose her ability to control the spending agenda if she falls into the minority.

The big question for Democrats, said Benton Strong, associate director of communications at the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund, is how Republicans will handle the budget once they are in the majority. Their recent history has led them them toward shutting down the government and constant budget battles with the president, he said.

“They’ve showed no sign that they’re going to change that,” he said.

Cardin sits on the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, which will likely be chaired by its current ranking member, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana.

Vitter, in a recent committee report, referred to environmental groups as “an elite group of left wing millionaires and billionaires who directs and controls the far-left environmental movement, which in turn controls major policy decisions and lobbies on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a series of new rules that seek to lower carbon emissions nationwide by 30 percent before 2030. Maryland would be required to reduce its carbon emissions by 36.5 percent from its 2012 levels once the rules go into effect.

But Republican opposition toward environmental regulations leaves the possibility of a confrontation with the president that could see the new rules either weakened or eliminated.

Other items, such as the state’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which is projected to cost Maryland $1.02 billion by 2018, with the majority paid by federal funding, could be at risk. With repeal unlikely, Republicans who have been eager to see the law weakened could use their newfound control over the budget to cut part of its funding.

“It would leave this gaping hole to fill,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, of possible cuts to the program’s federal funding.

“It would say you either get rid of the whole thing or you pay for it all yourself,” DeMarco said.

But it’s not likely that Republicans will be able to check off many of the items on their wishlist, said Thomas F. Schaller, professor of American politics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Obstacles, such as the the 60-vote limit to pass Senate legislation, which Republicans will fall well short of, will prevent their most ambitious attempts to roll back legislation from passing through the chamber, he said. The rule may also be the only real way Cardin and Mikulski have left to affect policy, he said.

A more likely scenario is a Congress and president that spend the next two years at odds, with only minor concessions on issues that have some degree of bipartisan support, such as trade and tax reform, he said.

“I think you’re likely to see a lot more vetoes if the Republicans get ambitious,” he said. “It would take some incredible skill for them to accomplish what they’d like to accomplish. It’s more likely that they’ll (Congress and the president) just halt each other at every moment.

By Mike Persley