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Eastern Shore Women Join March in Washington


As Olivia Brant marched through Washington, she thought of her diploma from the University of Maryland, her three years living in New Orleans, her opportunity to attend graduate school – all possible, she said, because she had an abortion when she was 19 years old.

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 6.58.27 AMBrant joined hundreds of thousands of grandmothers, mothers, daughters and allies from across the country during Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington in standing up for reproductive and other rights they feel are at risk under President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Having that right taken away is something I fear for women in the future,” said Brant, now 25.

Thousands of people from Maryland – a state that voted overwhelmingly last November for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton – were among those who flooded the streets of Washington wearing pink “pussy hats.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 6.57.38 AMThe massive crowd, which was estimated by organizers at about half a million people, swelled throughout the entire planned route and threatened the formal march to the White House, though protesters were told they could make their way to the Ellipse, south of the White House.

The women said they were protesting Trump’s offensive comments toward women and minorities. His Cabinet picks. His stance on climate change. His ties to Russia. And their lists went on.

“I wouldn’t want him to be in the same room as my daughter, much less be my president,” said 47-year-old Noreen Welch, who came from Clarksville, Maryland, to march with her daughter and niece.

As she stood in the crowd, Welch thought of her mother, who worked as a computer programmer in the 1950s. Back then, Welch said, her mother wasn’t allowed to sit with the other professional staff because she was a woman.

“I’m going to carry her memory with me as I march,” Welch said. “She paved the way for all of us.”

Others who marched said they were doing so for family members, as well.

Sixty-year-old Mary O’Byrne traveled from Towson, Maryland, with her daughter in mind. Seventy-year-old Havre de Grace resident Jean Johnson thought of her mother, a feminist who always got involved with her community. Sixty-nine-year-old Silver Spring, Maryland resident Duane Kidwell came to march thinking of her four granddaughters.

“I want them to grow up in a society where they’ll have equal rights,” Kidwell said, “without fear of pussy-grabbing.”

Some Maryland lawmakers also marched Saturday, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington, and former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was also a Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential election.

Cardin posted photos with women sporting pussy hats and tweeted that he was proud of the Marylanders marching.

Clinton, who won the popular vote by about 3 million, also weighed in on the march via Twitter, where she wrote “Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values @womensmarch. Important as ever. I truly believe we’re always Stronger Together.”

The number of people protesting overflowed the initial rally area, where speakers such as feminist icon Gloria Steinem and actress America Ferrera addressed the crowd. Instead, pinked-hatted women overtook the streets surrounding the National Mall, many chanting Clinton’s famous line that “women’s rights are human rights.”

Lea Nerby’s husband was nervous for her safety at such a large protest and asked her not to go. But the 39-year-old mother of two said she’s acutely aware of her position in life as a white, upper middle class, educated woman and came from Prince Frederick, Maryland, to speak up for those less fortunate.

“I have the choice to stay at home because I don’t think it’s safe, but there are so many people in the United States who don’t have the choice,” she said. “I’m here because they shouldn’t have to be afraid…I was given that privilege and I’m using it to support others.”

Trump’s behavior throughout the campaign, in which he called Mexicans rapists, mocked a disabled reporter and was caught bragging about sexual assault in a leaked video prompted new levels of activism, marchers said.

For Melody Meyers, 19, this was her first political rally and she brought her 17-year-old sister along. “We care about reproductive rights of women and we don’t like Donald Trump,” Meyers said.

William Evans goes by “Rock” while working as a personal trainer, and “Miss Toto” when dressing in drag about four times a week. The 2014 University of Maryland graduate flew from Miami for the march and has been inspired by the people coming up to her and thanking her.

Miss Toto said she was offended that deleted the LGBT rights page after Trump’s inauguration. Despite the new president, Miss Toto said standing with the fellow marchers “feels amazing. I’m doing this to literally be on the National Mall in full drag. It’s so powerful.”

Barbara Gourdin, with about 150 others, traveled with Planned Parenthood of Maryland to the rally. Trump has threatened to defund the nonprofit organization, which provides women’s health care services, in addition to abortions, for many low-income women.

Some protesters held signs of coat hangers and wrote frustrated remarks about “still fighting” for these rights.

“In a democracy, you should have the ability to make your own choice. No one should tell you what you can and can’t do, especially about your reproductive rights,” said Gourdin, a Towson, Maryland, resident.

Michelle Peyton, 66, came from Havre de Grace, Maryland wearing a state-flag pussy hat. Since the election, she said she often finds her husband sitting at home, screaming at the television over news regarding the Trump administration.

“I told him, ‘I’m going to the March,’” she said. “‘I’m tired of hearing you scream about it, I want to do something about it.’”

By Talia Richman And Ellie Silverman. Photos by Lori Yates


New President Words Worry Maryland Democrats, but Republicans Praise Them


President Donald Trump’s inaugural address did little to quell some Maryland Democrats’ anxieties over what they see as a potentially divisive administration.

But Republicans like Holly Malec, who recently moved with her family to Rockville, Maryland, from Texas, said she was heartened by Trump’s promise to unite Americans and work for the people.

“I think he can help Americans get along,” she said.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, was doubtful, issuing a statement denouncing the tone of Trump’s remarks.

“President Trump had an opportunity today to unite this country in his inaugural remarks. He chose not to do that,” Hoyer said. “The president will have to set aside such divisive rhetoric. He must extend a hand to the plurality of Americans who did not choose him to be our next leader.”

In Maryland last November, 60 percent of voters backed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. She was in attendance at Friday’s inauguration.

While Hoyer went to the inauguration, more than 60 other Democratic lawmakers boycotted, including Maryland Democratic Reps. Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin.

In his speech, Trump criticized what he described as elitist Washington politics that ignored the needs of regular citizens, and vowed to put power back into the hands of everyday people. But he offered little in the way of addressing what many see as his own brand of elitism — and potentially conflicting relationships — within the private sector.

Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s expansive business ventures and potential conflicts of interest, released a statement on Twitter condemning Trump’s complex web of multinational business ties.

“Now @realDonaldTrump is president, he is bound by oath to uphold & defend the #Constitution. Mr. President, you must divest from businesses,” Cardin tweeted.

Citing a phrase from the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, he added, “This is not an esoteric argument about rules. Divestiture from business dealings protects @POTUS and the country from #conflictsofinterest. @POTUS remaining entangled w/ private businesses invites foreign entities to curry favor through leases, deals, gifts.”

Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is part of a group of Democratic legislators working on a bill that would force Trump to remove himself from any conflicts of interest regarding his domestic and international businesses.

As Thomas Monje, 30, listened to Trump’s inaugural address on his way home from Lanham to Rockville, he said he felt shocked.

Trump assumed office with unprecedented unpopularity, and Monje, who voted for Clinton, said Trump’s remarks did not show a willingness to heal a divided country.

“The only silver lining I see from all of this is when the American people get pushed into a corner they are very resilient,” said Monje. “I think in the next four years we’ll be seeing a lot of activists and people who will rise up to the challenge.”

The first move of Baltimore’s newly elected city council last month was to unanimously pass a resolution condemning Trump’s “divisive and scapegoating rhetoric, rooted in hate and prejudice.” In Trump’s inaugural address, he referred to crime and “poverty in our inner cities,” and said “this American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement after the address that she looked forward to working with the incoming administration on “infrastructure improvements and putting Baltimore residents to work.”

Despite Maryland’s deeply Democratic electorate and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s refusal to vote for Trump, Hogan attended the inauguration, as well as other pro-Trump Marylanders.

Malec, 46, said she’d been frustrated by the amount of negative discourse in politics recently and hoped Trump could help in mending the divisions she believed had grown up among various sectors of the population.

Rick Villareal, 45, a Trump supporter from Severn, soaked in the moment. His greatest takeaway from the speech was optimism.

“The energy level of trying to make America great again, that whole theme,” Villareal said. “There is hope, and we just continue striving together.”


Maryland Lawmakers, Residents Worried after Obamacare Repeal Report


First, Diana Muller’s vision starts to blur. Next, she loses feeling along her left side. Then comes the debilitating pain.

The 39-year-old Silver Spring resident suffers from seizure migraines, some of which last more than four days. But after President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, worrying about how she would pay for health insurance was no longer a headache.

That changed after the election.

Now Muller, along with many of Maryland’s Democratic lawmakers, has plenty to worry about.

President-elect Donald Trump said throughout his campaign and in the months since his election that he would make repealing Obamacare a priority, although no clear replacement plan has been set forth.

The potential impact of such an action was revealed Tuesday, when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report saying that 18 million people would lose their health insurance within a year if Congress repealed certain major provisions of the law.

Over the next decade, the report said, repealing the health care law without a plan to replace it could translate into an increase of 32 million uninsured Americans, while individual non-group insurance premiums could double.

“I’m really, really scared,” Muller said. “If the Affordable Care Act goes away, then so does my health insurance.”

The budget office’s report analyzed a proposed 2015 measure to repeal the bill, which was ultimately vetoed by Obama.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, criticized the report’s conclusions, saying it represented a “one-sided hypothetical scenario.”

“Today’s report shows only part of the equation – a repeal of Obamacare without any transitional policies or reforms to address costs and empower patients,” said Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “Republicans support repealing Obamacare and implementing step by step reforms so that Americans have access to affordable health care.”

But Maryland Democrats have used the findings to fuel their fight against repealing the Affordable Care Act.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer called the report a “damning indictment of Congressional Republicans’ irresponsible and dangerous repeal proposal.”

“This report ought to alarm all Americans who care deeply about the future of health care in our country and of our economy, no matter their political affiliation,” Hoyer said in a statement.

Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin tweeted that “numbers don’t lie,” adding that repealing the legislation without a plan to replace it “would be financially devastating and morally irresponsible.”

“It’s not just about 400K MDers who will lose coverage if #ACA repealed w/o replacement. We all will have higher premiums and less coverage,” Cardin tweeted.

Hours after the budget office released its report, five members of the Maryland congressional delegation spoke about the importance of Obamacare at a town hall meeting in Clinton, Maryland.

In Maryland, the uninsured rate has fallen 42 percent since 2010 and 278,000 people in the state have gained coverage, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data.

Muller already is thinking about the ways in which the legislation’s repeal would change her life. Before Obama’s landmark healthcare law, she said, she paid a $500 premium every month and needed financial help from her parents to make it work. Her seizure migraines have made it difficult to find work.

Muller’s current insurance plan makes it possible to visit a neurologist and pain management doctor, and covers her trips to the emergency room and urgent care.

Last week, the Republican-controlled Congress voted to pass a budget resolution that signaled the first step toward repealing the law. Some GOP lawmakers have said they’ll announce their replacement plans in coming days, as House and Senate committees are preparing to write legislation rolling back large portions of the law.

Trump told The Washington Post last weekend that he was almost done with a plan to provide “insurance for everybody,” but The Post noted that he did not provide details or a timeline.

Confirmation hearings began Wednesday for Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services. In this position, the Georgia Republican would play an integral role in shaping the administration’s policy on health care.

Price has introduced his own legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare four times.

As Muller awaits Trump’s inauguration, the uncertainty has her worried and the recent CBO report didn’t help.

“This is something that’s extremely important to a lot of people, including me,” she said. “People don’t realize how they’re going to be affected – and I think it will affect more than 18 million people.”


Gov. Larry Hogan touts Smaller State Budget but No ‘serious cuts’


Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that his 2018 budget proposal includes less spending, in real dollars, than last year’s budget but includes “no serious cuts to any agencies or programs” and no new taxes.

The governor said this was accomplished by making minor cuts to programs that were providing fewer services and by drawing on money appropriated for the state’s “rainy day” fund.

When asked about the kinds of programs that did lose some amount of funding, Department of Budget and Management Deputy Secretary Marc L. Nicole used Maryland’s Temporary Cash Assistance Program as an example. He said the program, which provides cash assistance to poor families with dependent children, has a declining case load, which allowed the governor to cut its budget without reducing services.

Delegate Tawanna P. Gaines, D-Prince George’s, vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service Tuesday that she was looking forward to seeing the whole budget but that “it’s kinda hard to believe we could spend less when there’s a deficit.”

Hogan chastised the legislature for adding mandated spending increases during the 2016 session, saying that Maryland is already in a position where spending is outpacing revenue and called for bipartisan efforts to address overspending.

The governor claimed that much of the budget is on “autopilot” due to the amount of spending, approximately 83 percent, that is allocated by legislative mandates.

He said “every Marylander understands that if you are consistently forced to spend more than you take in, eventually, you are going to have a problem.”

Specific figures are not yet available, but the governor’s office says this year’s proposed operating budget totals $17.1 billion.

Hogan said his budget this year would total less than last year’s proposal; he is required by law to release specifics on Wednesday.

The governor announced two bills on his agenda designed to curb required spending and to mandate savings in the state’s “rainy day” fund.

The Common Sense Spending Act would place limits on mandated spending and enable the reduction of mandates that increase spending faster than state revenues grow.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act would automatically add budget surpluses to the state’s “rainy day” fund, preventing the government from spending unpredicted surplus revenue. The fund, formally known as the Revenue Stabilization Account, is where the state stores money, often surplus revenue, for future use.

Hogan said this would help stabilize spending and revenues by ensuring that the fund gets replenished during richer years to so that it is available to offset losses in leaner years.

The governor said that debt service payments are the fastest growing line item in the budget and will soon be more per year than the state spends on school construction.

Hogan, a Republican, called the rising cost of debt service “devastating” and laid blame for it on the policies of his predecessor, former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat.

Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, R-Baltimore and Harford counties, said he thinks “it’s a pretty good budget” and that he was not concerned about the budget drawing from the “rainy day” fund. “That’s what the money is there for and let’s be honest,” Jennings said, gesturing out the door of the State House where a steady drizzle was falling, “it’s raining.”

Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore, said her focus would be on ensuring that education remains a funding priority. She also said she plans to take a look at the budget’s funding for transportation and infrastructure in Baltimore, but did not offer specifics.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Hogan touted that the budget spends more on Baltimore City than anywhere else and funds programs there for which no other area receives state monies.

Hogan also said that no funding has been allocated by the state for reforms in the Baltimore City Police Department. Former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake requested $30 million for that purpose in 2016, but Hogan said her request has since been rescinded and that Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has not made a similar one.

Hogan did not offer specifics, but implied that certain legislatively required spending was not included in the budget by saying that he would put forth a budget reconciliation and financing act, which would modify the value of certain spending mandates to create a balanced budget.

For example, the governor’s 2015 BRFA proposed reductions in dozens of funding items ranging from a 25 percent reduction in the cyber security tax credit to lowering and slowing mandated funding increases for libraries.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said that “what (Hogan) has outlined is the good news” and that the “bad news” and cuts will be in the governor’s forthcoming budget reconciliation and financing act.

By Jacob Taylor

Budget Highlights:
Total operating budget: $17.1 billion
Maryland Medicaid program: $11 billion
K-12 education investment: $6.4 billion
Transportation infrastructure and economic development investment: $2.8 billion
Funding for mental health and substance abuse disorder services: $1.3 billion
University System of Maryland funding: $1.35 billion
Community college funding: $256 million
Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund: $51.3 million


Andy Harris Meets with President-Elect Trump on NIH Job


Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, who reportedly is in the running to head the National Institutes of Health, met with President-elect Donald Trump in New York on Wednesday.

Harris, the lone Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, is also the only member of Congress to have conducted NIH-funded research.

The Johns Hopkins-educated anesthesiologist’s name has been tossed around for weeks as the possible new director of the medical research center in Bethesda, which has about 18,000 employees in the state.

“I am willing to help Mr. Trump in any way I can to make America great again,” Harris, R-Cockeysville, said in a statement. “Given my background as a physician and medical researcher, I provided input to help make sure that one of the Crown Jewels of the federal government, its medical research enterprise, is positioned not only to maintain, but to accelerate its world leadership position.”

Dr. Francis Collins, the agency’s current director, also attended a meeting Wednesday at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan.

Collins is backed by several prominent Republicans, who sent a letter to Trump last month urging him to keep the director, who was appointed by President Barack Obama. Collins has also told multiple news organizations that it would be “a privilege” to remain at NIH.

“Dr. Collins is the right person, at the right time, to continue to lead the world’s premier biomedical research agency,” four lawmakers, including Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, wrote in the letter.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a former GOP presidential candidate, has also said he would like to see Collins remain at the helm of NIH.

But some in the scientific community want Trump to select new leadership.

In a letter addressed to Trump, Michael Eisen, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote that Collins has “systematically undermined the effectiveness of the institution and overseen a decline of American science.”

Under Collins, Eisen said, NIH has “lost its way” and made it increasingly difficult for both well-established and new researchers to secure necessary grant funding.

Harris has called on Congress to push NIH to award more research grants to younger scientists.

In a 2014 New York Times op-ed, Harris cited a National Bureau of Economic Research study that found most notable scientists come up with their ideas for a scientific breakthroughs in their mid- to late 30s, while the average age for first-time recipients of NIH’s most desired funding is 42.

Eisen said Harris’ interest in the issue is encouraging, though he doesn’t know enough information about the Baltimore County lawmaker to say if he’s the right choice for the job.

“He clearly cares about the NIH and wants it to be successful,” said Eisen, who is an investigator for the Chevy Chase-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “It’s a really good sign he would be willing to leave Congress to take on a somewhat thankless job. It signals to me he really wants to make the agency work.”

Some of Harris’ stances, however, could make him a controversial pick for the director position.

An abortion foe, Harris has long opposed stem cell research, and in 2005, he unsuccessfully spearheaded an effort to block the establishment of a stem cell research fund in Maryland.

Last summer, he led a push to ban the discarding or destruction of embryos created by Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs-funded treatments.

For Steven Salzberg, a biomedical engineering professor at Johns Hopkins University, it’s not Harris’ ideological positions that would make him a problematic pick.

“There are hundreds of men and women who are highly qualified scientists who know about biomedical research,” he said. “I would not choose a politician and Andy Harris is a politician.”


While Not Mainstream Sport, Falconry has Dedicated Following


Greg Dorsch’s falcon Glory, a northern goshawk, stares ahead after eating a quail.

With blood on her beak and her prize between her talons, Glory looked up, pleased with herself.

The search for the rabbit had been going on for about 10 minutes, but the hunt itself lasted less than two seconds.

Two seconds of flight time for Glory, a northern goshawk, to catch and kill her prize.

After 20 years in falconry, Glory’s owner, Greg Dorsch, is still amazed by what the birds can do.

“Goshawks will fly underneath (other) birds of prey to force them up, because (the birds of prey) are not as strong of fliers,” Dorsch said. “They will catch up to them and then flip over and grab the prey with their talons.”

Dorsch isn’t just a man with a bird; he’s part of an exclusive group of Maryland residents involved in falconry.

Falconry is the sport of taking wildlife by means of a trained raptor, according to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.

More simply, it is hunting, but instead of using a gun, the falconer uses a bird.

While not a mainstream sport, there are still a number of people in Maryland who partake in falconry.

There are between 100-125 licensed falconers in Maryland in any given year, according to Glenn Therres of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. In 2016, there were 109 licensed falconers.

Each falconer chooses their own way to obtain their bird.

Trapping is the most common way to obtain a falcon, but neither of Dorsch’s current falcons, Glory, and Xena, an American kestrel, was caught through trapping. He obtained Glory from a nest, and Xena from a barn.

“A farmer called me… he found (Xena) on the barn floor when she was a baby,” Dorsch said. “She didn’t have any feathers when I got her and she was near death. She smelled awful bad, I don’t know what happened. I nursed her back and got her healthy.”


Greg Dorsch’s falcon Xena, an American kestrel, protects her food.

Dorsch’s children named the falcon Xena after the warrior princess. Both Glory and Xena are females, as Dorsch prefers hunting with female falcons, which are typically one-third larger than males.

Most falconers, however, turn to trapping to get their birds.

Dorsch’s trap uses a metal box made of wires, which he puts prey inside. The outside of the box has nooses that catch the bird’s talons when it lands on the box.

When Dorsch sees a bird he wants to trap, he will set the box down and drive out of sight. The bird sees the prey and dives to attack it. When it lands, it attempts to take the prey and fly away, but its talons are already caught.

In Maryland, people who want to own raptors must find a General or Master falconer to serve as their sponsor for two years. These apprentices must be at least 14 years old and can only have an immature red-tailed hawk, American kestrel or red-shouldered hawk, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

During those two years, the sponsor teaches the apprentice about different aspects of falconry, from catching their bird to training it, hunting with it and general advice on taking care of it day-to-day.

After the apprentice passes the state falconry exam with an 80 percent or higher score, they become a General Class falconer. General Class falconers must be at least 16 years old and can have no more than three raptors at a time.

After they are a General Class falconer for five years, the falconers enter the Master Class. Master falconers are allowed to have up to five raptors from the wild.

After trapping his bird, Dorsch will then spend the four to six weeks training the falcon to ensure it listens to him and does not fly away.

“That’s always a concern, because it’s a very real possibility,” he told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service.


Greg Dorsch’s falcon Glory, a northern goshawk, spreads her wings as she attempts to fly.

“That’s why you make sure they are on weight. You have them trained, then they are looking for you to provide the slip for them so they can catch something.”

“But (birds flying away) does happen. If a Cooper’s hawk or a red-shouldered hawk or a sharp-shinned hawk or something comes in the area and wants to scare her, they could easily scare her away.”

The bird is trained using a lure, a fake animal that the bird will hunt.

“The training process is very tedious because you do it every day,” Dorsch said.

Before the falcon can be taken out to the wild for hunting, the falconer needs to ensure they are in good shape to fly and hunt.

“You have to check on your bird every day,” Dorsch said. “Weigh them, take log of them.”

Taking log of the bird entails making notes to see how the bird responds at certain weights, Dorsch said.

“You want the bird to fly as heavy as possible and still respond,” he said.

When the bird is in the correct weight range, it is ready to be taken to hunt.

“What you have to understand is, once you take a bird like that, you don’t take a bird from the wild and then just keep it in a cage,” Dorsch said. “You’ve got to hunt them, because that’s what they’re to do.”

There is no exact start to “hunting season” for falconry, as different animals are eligible to be hunted during different months.

Squirrels can be hunted starting Sept. 1, while others, like the rabbit, are not eligible until Nov. 1.


Greg Dorsch and his potential apprentice, 14-year old Tristan Engelke, help unload Glory, a northern goshawk, and Dorsch’s two beagles, Lily and Jessie.

All falconry hunting ends March 31.

Dorsch trained his falcons to hunt ground animals, like squirrels and rabbits, but they can be taught to catch other birds.

Once the falcon catches the prey, it is up to the owner whether it will eat the animal entirely. Often, Dorsch will switch the prey with a dead quail so the bird can fly again that day.

He will save the bigger game to feed them during the summer months when the birds are not allowed to hunt. As Dorsch pointed out, even during off-months, the birds need to be taken care of.

“You have to understand the commitment you are getting into,” he said. “It’s not like hunting season, where at the end of the season, you put your shotgun away, oil it up and you are good to go for next year”

“You have to take care of these birds 365 days a year.”

By Robbie Greenspan
Capital News Service

Post-recession Wage growth Underscores Maryland’s Urban-Rural Divide


Recent months have brought a spate of positive economic news, suggesting to many economists that American industry is finally starting to pick up again after a long, post-recession hangover.

Unemployment is holding steady at or slightly below 5 percent, the decline in labor force participation appears to have slowed in the last year and the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found family income rose 5.2 percent in 2015, the fastest rate on record.

Parts of Maryland are certainly feeling that optimism. Wages in the Baltimore-Washington corridor have been lurching upward over the last decade, up 7.2 percent since 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Survey of Employment and Wages.

But east of the Susquehanna River, it’s a different story. Wages are up just 0.75 percent, essentially unchanged from their level in 2006.

Gains in Caroline County, the Eastern Shore’s lone bright spot, haven’t been enough to overcome tepid growth in nearby Cecil, Dorchester and Kent Counties, where collectively wages are still 6.5 percent below their 2007 peak.

While the recession slashed wages in nearly every Maryland county – wages fell about 2.1 percent statewide between 2007 and 2009 – its toll on the Eastern Shore’s manufacturing sector was particularly devastating, said Angela Visintainer, Caroline County’s director of economic development.

“One of our big industries in Caroline County is manufacturing, particularly manufacturers that make these commodity types of products that have low skill production,” Visintainer said. “The recession hit manufacturing hard, and a lot of those businesses were either lost or have become a lot smaller.”

Wages fell for six straight years in Kent County, dropping almost 7 percent between 2007 and 2013. In Dorchester County, it was five straight years of free fall, equating to a 9.4 percent loss. And in Cecil County, wages plummeted nearly 20 percent between 2007 and 2011, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data.

Across the Chesapeake Bay, most counties in Maryland’s urban core managed to weather the recession well. Wages fell after the financial crisis in 2008, but started ticking up again within the next two years.

The resilience of the region largely is explained by the presence of the federal government.

Nowhere is this more evident than in St. Mary’s County, perhaps the closest parallel to Cecil County west of the Susquehanna. Both regions have populations just over 100,000 and both are about as far from a major city as a county can be while still falling within its metropolitan area.

But St. Mary’s County is home to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. With a workforce of over 22,000, “Pax River” is the third-largest employer among Maryland’s 17 military bases.

“Our economy is very closely tied to federal defense spending,” said Robin Finnacom, St. Mary’s deputy director of economic development. “Pax River is the second-most economically productive base in the state. Median income here is about $88,000, but if we look at the average civil servant income, it’s about $105,000.”

Wages in St. Mary’s County grew 7 percent in 2009 alone, a staggering outlier on both a state and national scale.

It wasn’t until Congress’ failure to agree on a budget in 2013 triggered automatic cuts to defense spending, known as sequestration, that wages took a hit. Despite meteoric growth early in the recovery, wages stayed essentially flat in St. Mary’s County from 2012 to 2014.

“There were some furlough days. Contracts were delayed and even canceled in some cases,” Finnacom said. “Government revenues are a lagging indicator of our economy and we’re only just now starting to see an uptick in that.”

The sequester highlighted a need in St. Mary’s County to branch out from the public sector, according to Finnacom. Depending solely on funds from a Congress increasingly resistant to passing much of anything simply isn’t a sustainable strategy, she said.

So in recent years, the county has looked to leverage the resources it has to offer: a highly skilled technical workforce and infrastructure to support private aerospace and aviation firms.

A keystone to that effort is the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site. The collaborative project between the University System of Maryland and the Naval Air Systems Command is part of a national research effort on how to implement unmanned aerial systems into the commercial sector.

“The test site created a distinct draw for commercial opportunities,” Finnacom said. “We are now a magnet for this type of work.”

In Maryland’s more centrally located counties, a similar story is unfolding.

Recent consolidation of U.S. cyber intelligence around Fort Meade has been a tremendous boon to the economies of Howard and Anne Arundel Counties, according to Larry Twele, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. The high-skilled professional technical service workforce that has grown in the region is attracting private companies, and the area is reaping the benefits of that productivity, he said.

Wages in Howard County are up roughly 27 percent in the last nine years and officials are now focused on how to maintain that momentum.

Twele and the Howard County Economic Development Authority see attracting young, well-educated adults — who are increasingly drawn to the amenities of urban life — as the key to sustaining growth. Injecting life into a traditionally sleepy area is the authority’s long-term goal.

“Your classic suburban office park models aren’t as attractive as they used to be,” Twele said. “Companies looking for talent are looking for folks who want to be in these walkable, livable environments.”

Revitalization efforts have already begun in downtown Columbia, where new apartment buildings, shops and restaurants are popping up. The Economic Development Authority is also looking to reinvent the Columbia Gateway, the roughly 900-acre former General Electric manufacturing park, into a vibrant, walkable community with mixed-use real estate.

“Right now, the area is restricted by all sorts of covenants and zoning regulations,” Twele said. “But if we want to attract companies to the area, the talent they’re looking for is wondering ‘Where can I walk to work, bike to work, where can I go nearby to eat?’ You’re starting to see this pattern of companies moving back into urban centers because that’s where they’re finding their talent.”

This shift toward sustained growth highlights a growing divide between Maryland’s urban core and rural border regions. The focus in the east isn’t so much on maintaining growth as it is jumpstarting the dormant economy to avoid falling farther behind the rest of the state.

It’s a task that’s easier said than done. The region’s low population narrows the range of industries it can attract, according to Visintainer, and traditionally reliable forms of employment, like low-skill manufacturing, are increasingly difficult to come by.

“The projects where a manufacturing plant is going to plop down with two- or three-hundred employees, the state has the tools for that through aggressive tax credits, but those opportunities aren’t there like they used to be,” Twele said. “It’s really now a problem of enabling the technology to do business there.”

Visintainer says the Eastern Shore’s most pressing need is help from the state in education and workforce development.

Caroline County sees huge growth opportunity in advanced manufacturing, where order volumes are lower but production requires a higher level of skill.

The creativity and problem-solving skills required for these jobs cannot be found by outsourcing production to lower cost regions, according to Visintainer. But officials are having trouble reconciling state education policy with the skills local employers are demanding.

“I think the state gets stuck defining success as going to college, and that’s not necessarily true for our area,” Visintainer said. “In rural areas like ours, with the industries we’re focused on, some of our best job opportunities don’t require a four-year degree.”

Caroline County has already taken some initiative, with plans to launch a new manufacturing curriculum in its high schools this spring. However, local efforts can only go so far without the financial backing of the state, officials say.

“Some of the state-level target industries require college education and even advanced degrees, so it makes sense that they would be pushing that,” Visintainer said. “But, that doesn’t make sense for the Shore. We’re never going to have the population to support those types of businesses.”


College Becoming less Affordable for Maryland Students


During this past election cycle, presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both highlighted increasing college debt as one of the most important issues in the country.

Since the 2008 economic recession, student loan debt is the only form of consumer debt that has continued to increase, surpassing auto and credit card loans, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Fifty-eight percent of Maryland undergraduates from public and private nonprofit four-year institutions who graduated in 2014 had debt, and the average total was $27,457, according to the Project on Student Debt.

Many of the reasons loans have increased is because the price to attend college, even at state schools that subsidize costs for some students, has also increased, including in Maryland.

In 2007, the in-state cost of tuition at the University of Maryland, College Park was $6,566. For Maryland residents who enrolled this academic year, the cost of tuition is $10,180.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education created a report diagnosing college affordability in Maryland and found, “Despite Maryland’s strong overall showing on college affordability, the state’s public institutions — enrolling 90 percent of Maryland students — have declined in affordability since 2008.”

This is especially true for the state’s most economically disadvantaged areas.

“Putting food on the table seems to be a higher priority than going to college,” said Cindy Clement, an economics professor from the University of Maryland. “Paying for the price of college requires a lot of means testing; poor people are less able to document what their income is.”

For public two-year institutions in 2008, the percentage of average family income to attend college full time in Maryland was 17 percent. This number only increased by 1 percent by 2013, but it ranks 33rd in country, according to Penn’s report. Public two-year institutions enrolled 45 percent of Maryland students.

The report also estimates that students would need to work 23 hours a week at minimum wage to attend community college and about 40 to pay for tuition and fees at any four-year institution.

Maryland’s most disadvantaged areas in terms of net price as a percent of family income for four-year institutions include the state’s Eastern Shore, Baltimore City and western Maryland.

Under the University System of Maryland, which comprises 12 of the state’s public institutions, tuition, on average, has increased a little less than 3 percent annually since 2009. The system’s budget totals $5 billion annually.

“If you think about budgeting that, you want to be able to deliver the services and necessities students need on campus,” system spokesman Mike Lurie told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “Costs include not only having functional facilities but also safe facilities.”

Clement explained that the cost to attend college has also increased because of students’ expectation for technology to be integrated into the learning experience.

“Technology has gotten more expensive but has not necessarily lowered the cost of education,” said Clement, who teaches a course on the college affordability crisis.

As the job market in certain industries becomes more competitive, the value of a college degree increases, which Clement also attributes to the increased cost to attend school. The Penn report ranked Maryland 16th in terms of states with the highest percentage of jobs that will require a postsecondary credential in the future.

As of 2014, 46 percent of young adults and 47 percent of working-age adults in Maryland had an associate’s degree or higher, compared to the national averages of 42 and 40 percent, respectively, according to Penn’s report.

“The value of a college education has gone up so more people are seeking it,” said Clement, who added that the cost to pay professors also has increased. “Highly educated individuals command a higher wage. That means you have to pay them more to teach.”

However, some Marylanders are working to mitigate the college affordability problem.

Joe Fisher is the president and CEO of First Generation College Bound, which is a college access program that helps its participants, who are primarily moderate to low income, secure financial opportunities.

For 27 years, Fisher and his organization have been helping high school students understand their financial situation and look for grants and scholarships that greatly decrease the cost to attend school. Fisher advises many of his participants who are from Maryland to consider attending in-state schools that provide many financial aid opportunities to their students.

“Many of these students do not realize they can attend college; the money is there,” Fisher said. “Our goal is not only to students to be accepted and attend but also to be able to stay there and graduate.”

Dontra Scott was one of these children who never believed he could attend college. Although he performed well in school, Scott was raised by a single mother in Columbia, Maryland, and no one from his family ever graduated from college.

Fisher was Scott’s sixth-grade teacher and through his guidance and mentorship, Scott was able to attend college at the University of Maryland from 2002 to 2006, only taking out one loan for $2,000.

“One thing I love about this country is that they do have a lot of grants and scholarships for people whose parents aren’t making that much money,” Scott said.

Although Scott wanted to attend Florida State when applying to schools, he said Fisher discouraged him from that because he would have to take out thousands of dollars in loans. Fisher advises students to attend schools that do not require taking out huge amounts in loans, even if it is a dream school.

“College affordability is about going where you can afford to attend,” he said. “Parents and students clearly understand the excitement of college acceptance, not the commitment to understanding financial aid.”

By Katishi Maake

Maryland’s Heroin and Opioid Crisis Reaches an All-time High


Barbara Allen signs her emails with the names of her family members she has lost to addiction.

Jim’s mom, Bill’s sister, Amanda’s aunt.

Her son, Jim, died from a heroin and alcohol overdose in 2003 after battling substance abuse disorder for 22 years.

“What I found really annoyed me and made me angry was there was so little support, and in fact people didn’t have to continue to to die,” said Barbara, who lives in Howard County, Maryland.

In Maryland, heroin-related deaths tripled from 2011 to 2015, rising from 247 to 748, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The death rate from drug overdoses in the state is the fifth-worst in the country, and it’s only likely to get worse, experts say.

The rise of heroin and opioids

In the early 2000s, the popularity of heroin and opioids as illegal narcotics soared in Maryland around the same time as overdose deaths due to drugs or alcohol began to increase, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If you go back to 2006 and 2007, it was most notable here where the conversation internally to the (sheriff’s department) really began because of overdose deaths from opiate painkillers,” said Tim Cameron, the sheriff in St. Mary’s County and a member of the Governor’s Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force in 2015.

When the epidemic first began, most of the people dying from overdoses were young, white and in the middle and upper classes, but that trend soon gave way to include almost all demographic and socioeconomic groups, Cameron said.

“It pretty much affects everyone,” said Sgt. Johnny Murray with the Hagerstown Police Department. “It’s just (a result of) the pill epidemic, when that was uncontrolled and people were being able to ‘doctor shop’ and go to 4 or 5 different doctors and get these powerful narcotics.”

Often after people get addicted to prescription opioid painkillers, they turn to heroin, which is cheaper and provides a similar high, said Murray.

In Washington County, Maryland, Delegate Brett Wilson, R-Hagerstown, who also served on the Governor’s Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, said people in almost all demographic groups are dying from heroin and opioid overdoses.

“With our patients, they were often completely unaware that the heroin or sometimes even just the pills that they were using had fentanyl in it,” said Dr. Olsen, who is also medical director of an outpatient program in Baltimore.

Because of its potency, users require less of the drug to get the same effect as heroin, which makes people who inject fentanyl more susceptible to overdoses. Fentanyl-related deaths have doubled during the first six months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Race, gender changes

Arrest trends in Maryland have shown that for at least the last five years, at least 4,000 to 5,000 more people between the ages of 20 and 24 were arrested for drug abuse violations than those in the next oldest age group — people aged 25-29.

However, the vast majority of people who have been hospitalized for opioid-related disorders are between 45 and 64. According to a Capital News Service analysis, 14,843 people aged 50 to 54 were hospitalized from 2013 to the beginning of 2016 for opioid-related disorders in Maryland — more than any other age group during the same time period,

There is also data to suggest that drug use in middle and high school is declining, perhaps due to renewed drug education efforts, according to Harford County’s Office of Drug Control Policy.

There may also be a disparity between whites and blacks using heroin or opioids.

Between 2012 and 2014, 88,043 blacks were arrested for drug abuse violations while 53,125 whites were arrested for the same crimes during the same time period in Maryland, according to the Maryland State Police.

However, between 2013 and the beginning of 2016, 60,462 whites were hospitalized for opioid-related disorders in Maryland while just 41,918 blacks were hospitalized, according to a Capital News Service analysis of Maryland hospital data.

Even as opioid and heroin use and overdoses have increased across many demographics in Maryland, arrest rates have declined steadily since 2010. While 12,551 people were arrested in 2010 for possession of opium, cocaine or derivatives, just 9,618 people were arrested in 2014.

The Maryland State Police collect arrest data according to the National Uniform Crime Reporting Program guidelines, which consolidates opium, cocaine and like drugs into one category.

Though men are hospitalized more for opioid-related disorders in Maryland, there is evidence to suggest that women may be using heroin and opioids at a higher rate than other drugs.

Between 2012 and 2014, men were arrested at almost five times the rate for drug abuse violations than women.

However, hospitalizations for opioid-related disorders for men have increased 16 percent from 2013 to 2016, while those for women have increased by 15 percent.

“In looking at our numbers, we see that in some categories women are outpacing men related to this problem, and when it comes to (number of deaths), it’s even,” said Dan Aliato, the commander of vice narcotics for St. Mary’s County.

So far this year, the county has had 118 cases where someone was sent to the emergency room for a drug-related condition. Of those 118, 65 were women and 53 were men, said Aliato.

“It’s something that’s different and something that’s evolving,” he told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “We’re not used to seeing those kinds of numbers and our jail is not used to seeing those numbers and not equipped to handle those numbers.”

Loss of Affordable Care Act

President-elect Donald Trump began discussing the issue about a month before Election Day.

“A wall will not only keep out dangerous cartels and criminals, but it will also keep out the drugs and heroin poisoning our youth,” he said during an Oct. 15 New Hampshire campaign stop.

In this speech, he detailed a three-pronged plan for combating the addiction epidemic, which included aggressively prosecuting illegal drug traffickers, closing shipping loopholes for drugs and encouraging the approval of drugs to fight addiction such as Suboxone and Narcan.

President Barack Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act — also known as CARA — into law July 2016. It is considered the most extensive effort taken thus far to address the opioid epidemic and covers prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform and overdose reversal.

“It would be really a major step backwards to something that would cost even more lives if the Trump administration did not continue and really build on and implement the pieces of both CARA and with the appropriate funding and other steps that will likely be needed to really address this epidemic,” said Olsen.

If Trump repeals the Affordable Care Act — which he promised to do while on the campaign trail — the coverage for many Americans in recovery and treatment who were previously uninsured could disappear, unless he institutes an alternative program.

Even so, Trump actually over-performed the most in counties with the highest drug mortality rates, according to a Pennsylvania State University study. He was even more successful than 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 81.7 percent of these counties.

In rural Somerset County, Maryland, the number of people hospitalized for opioid-related disorders has increased by 91 percent from 2013 to 2016, according to Maryland hospital-patient data.

Trump won Somerset County with 57 percent of the vote, while Obama won the county with 50 percent of the vote in 2012.

The two Maryland counties with the highest increases in hospitalizations — Garrett County with 161 percent and Worcester with 128 percent over the past three years — also voted in the majority for Trump.

The ‘national emergency’

On Dec. 7, the United States Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act, sending the bill to President Barack Obama, who signed it into law Tuesday.

The $1 billion bill includes $500 million a year to assist states in treating people addicted to opioids and preventing misuse of drugs.

Allen called the act a “huge step forward.”

“Every senator is being pressured because their constituents’ kids are dying, so I feel like we’ve begun to tip the balance of attention that we have this true epidemic,” said Allen, who founded the organization James’ Place to raise money for recovery services after her son’s death.

In Maryland, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program was started in 2011, but it wasn’t widely adopted up until this year. Starting Oct. 1, doctors authorized to prescribe controlled substances had to register with the program, which analyzes the number of prescriptions coming from medical professionals.

“There’s a lot of value and accountability, to be quite honest, in counting the medication and doing that and sharing that information with others,” said Alioto.

Counties have also begun using state money to hire heroin coordinators within police departments to analyze data, which could help government officials develop a better response to the threat of heroin and opioid abuse, said Glenn Fueston, the executive director of the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention.

“What we hope to do is continue that process of looking at the data that’s available in the community, looking at ways we can share that data (and) analyze that data, while protecting the privacy and civil liberties of people that the data is involved with,” he said at the legislature’s Nov. 2 meeting of the Joint Committee on Behavioral Health and Opioid Use Disorders.

However, the government needs to do more to address the addiction epidemic, said Carin Miller, the founder of Maryland Heroin Awareness Advocates.

“It needs to be declared a national emergency,” said Miller, whose son is recovering from a heroin addiction and husband is battling an addiction to opioids.

If addiction was properly seen as a disease, Allen said, advocates would get their “fair share of those donor dollars.”

“I’m going to do this anyway,” she said. “I’m going to do this work no matter what, and we’ll do what we can because I don’t have any other choice.”

By Hannah Lang