Meet Jim Shea, Candidate for Governor

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Jim Shea

Saturday, October 21 Jim Shea, a candidate for Maryland Governor, will meet with interested voters at the Kent County Democratic headquarters, 347 High St., Chestertown from noon to 2 p.m.

Jim Shea is a native of Baltimore, and has lived in Baltimore County for the last 40 years with his wife, Barbara, and their family. After graduating from University of Virginia law school in 1977, Jim was a federal law clerk before entering private practice. Shortly after that he served as a Maryland Assistant Attorney General. He then went to work for the law firm of Venable LLP in 1983. For 22 years beginning in 1994, he served as Venable’s managing partner and its chairman, making it Maryland’s largest law firm.

Shea’s civic involvement has included serving as chairs of the Board of Regents of the University of Maryland, the Empower Baltimore Management Corporation, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, and the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance. He has also served on the Equal Justice Council Of the Maryland legal aid bureau, the board of the Greater Baltimore Committee, the board of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and was a founding member of the Board of the Hippodrome Theater.

Marylanders Collect Donations to Help Puerto Rico

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Organizing aid collections is one way that many Puerto Ricans on the mainland have begun to shake off the “impotencia,” or powerlessness, they feel since Hurricane Maria slammed into their home island almost two weeks ago.

While Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that he was sending a 26-member team of the Maryland National Guard to assist on the ground in Puerto Rico, many people from the territory believe that more work needs to be done. As a result, donation sites, many set up by former residents of Puerto Rico, have sprouted across the state.

A sign on the front door of the Tabernacle Church lists items it is collecting in its lobby for relief efforts in Puerto Rico. (Photo by Helen Parshall / Capital News Service)

“The fact is that our families being alive is not enough,” said Carolyn Faría, of Gaithersburg, Maryland. “It is a blessing and we are happy that they are alive, but it is not enough. We need them being okay day-to-day.”

Faría, originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico, was one of several people in neon vests directing cars through the drop-off lines at Dynamite Gymnastics Center on Saturday. The Rockville site served as a centralized hub for some of Maryland’s suburbs to send donations to be shipped to the island through the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA).

“Everyone here today has been touched by a family member who is suffering in one way or another,” Faría said, speaking both for herself and other volunteers, many of whom have family on the island. “We are voters, we are citizens and we are part of the United States. We are here and we need help.”

There were more than sixty volunteers on site Saturday, Faría told Capital News Service. On Sunday, the number had almost doubled with more than 100 people lending support.

Over the course of the two days, Faría said that volunteers filled a dozen 26-foot trucks with the donations bound for Puerto Rico.

“We’re a big community of Puerto Ricans in this area,” Faría said. “When bad things like this happen, although I pray they never do again, it doesn’t matter what town you’re from. We’re all working together because our families need us.”

Hyattsville was another of several sites in Maryland that sent shipments to the Dynamite Gymnastics Center. Candace Hollingsworth, Hyattsville’s mayor, was outside the municipal building with several volunteers to “stuff the van” for Puerto Rico on Saturday morning.

Hollingsworth has been critical of the federal government’s actions since the storm, saying in a tweet that President Donald Trump should “work harder” at relief efforts in the Caribbean. She drove the van to Rockville herself on Saturday afternoon.

“I’m here because I have friends from Puerto Rico, and I think it’s important that we help since the federal government isn’t doing anything in a timely fashion,” said Justine Christianson, one of the Hyattsville volunteers.

In the days after the storm, friends Waleska Cruz, Tanya Malpica and Eileen Romero channeled their heartbreak into working across almost two dozen local collection sites to gather supplies to send through PRFAA to communities on the devastated island.

“Being in the United States, you never think you’re going to get the call from your family that they need food and water,” Romero said. “The tedious work of these donations is almost therapeutic when you’re stripped of the ability to be there and help them.”

All three women are from Carolina, a northeastern town in Puerto Rico. While Malpica and Cruz were friends growing up, they did not meet Romero until they were living in and around Laurel, Maryland.

“Most of my family is on the island,” Malpica said. “I’m blessed that even though I can’t be there yet, I have amazing friends checking in, and I know people are taking care of my family.”

“I want to be there and help,” added Cruz. “From food, water, gas – there are so many concerns, and we want take a flight down there to do anything we can.”

Tabernacle Church and Loving Arms Christian Center are two of the main collection sites the women are working with in Laurel, Maryland. The churches’ involvement means a lot because it is the “home churches” opening their doors, Romero said.

Vernice and Roberto Gonzalez, the pastors of Loving Arms Christian Center, canceled the usual Thursday Bible study to be able to organize donations and fill trucks with supplies.

“We are joining forces with everyone willing to sow a seed to Puerto Rico,” Roberto Gonzalez said as he led the community in a closing prayer. “In this difficult and trying moment, this is where the Bible becomes reality.”

“This is us putting our love for one another into action,” said Vernice Gonzalez. “We’re praying for God to help them, and we will be continuing to do this as long as there is need.”

For Cruz, Malpica and Romero, it also important to plan for the future.

“In the longer term, things will stabilize and get better, but right now we don’t want to deplete resources from people who need them on the island,” Romero said.

The three are brainstorming ideas – from 5K races to dance parties – to keep communities on the mainland engaged once the immediacy of the storm damage begins to fade from public consciousness. They hope to be able to fly down by the end of October to be able to help rebuild and clean up their homes.

“The hardest part is the waiting game,” Romero said. “It feels like it’s been a month since Maria but it’s not even been two weeks.”

“We have to understand that this is not a three-, six-, or even one-year situation,” Malpica added. “This will take years to recover from. When the hype dies down, people on the island will still be suffering. That’s when our support matters even more.”

by Helen Parshall

To Counter Opioid Epidemic Leads State Panel to Revisit “Recovery Schools

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A fire led to the eventual end of Phoenix — a groundbreaking Maryland public school program for children with addiction that closed in 2012 — but the state could see institutions like it rise again from the ashes.

Recent spikes in the Maryland heroin and opioid epidemic have triggered calls for substantial changes in education systems statewide, and a state work group is weighing the return of recovery schools after a Sept. 7 meeting.

For Kevin Burnes, 47, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, attending a recovery school separate from his hometown high school was life-changing.

Burnes said in a public letter that he began to experiment with drugs and alcohol at age 10, and his addiction to alcohol quickly escalated to PCP. He found himself homeless and was admitted into a psychiatric institute, he wrote.

However, after finding Phoenix, a recovery program for secondary school students with addiction, and attending for two years, his whole life turned around.

“What I can tell you is that this program undeniably saved my life,” said Burnes, now a full-time musician living in Frederick, Maryland. “The largest part of Phoenix’s success was due to the fact that everyone was involved. It was a community effort. It’s a community issue.”

State legislation that passed this year — known as the Start Talking Maryland Act — came into effect in July and directed schools in Maryland to take precautionary measures against opioid exposure and abuse. It also established the work group.

The panel is charged with evaluating and developing behavioral and substance abuse disorder programs and reporting their findings to the General Assembly, according to a state fiscal analysis.

The legislation additionally requires:

–To store naloxone in schools and train school personnel in the drug’s administration
–Public schools to expand existing programs to include drug addiction and prevention education
–Local boards of education or health departments to hire a county or regional community action official to develop these programs
–The governor to include $3 million in the fiscal 2019 budget for the Maryland State Department of Education for these policies
–Schools of higher education that receive state funding to establish these similar policies and instruction in substance use disorders in certain institutions

The Phoenix program and similar secondary schools that followed it were created specifically for students in recovery from substance use disorder or dependency, according to the Association of Recovery Schools.

“What we’ve known anecdotally for a while, we are starting to finally see with data. These high schools have positive effects on preventing and reducing adolescent alcohol and drug use as well as supporting the abstinence of kids post-treatment and seeing a positive impact on academics,” Dr. Andrew Finch, Vanderbilt University researcher and co-founder of the Association of Recovery Schools told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service.

The first of its kind in the United States, the original Phoenix I school opened in 1979 as an alternative program in Montgomery County, Maryland, that provided both an education and a positive peer culture centered on recovery. Phoenix II followed, also in Montgomery County.

Since then, about 40 schools have opened nationwide, according to Finch, but none remain in the state of Maryland.

“It was amazing the support that the students gave to each other. We would have weekly community meetings where they would praise each other for their commitment, but if they weren’t working toward sobriety these kids were the first ones to rat on each other,” Izzy Kovach, a former Phoenix teacher told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “It was a real sense of family…”

Critical to the Phoenix schools were outdoor challenges, said Mike Bucci, a former Phoenix teacher for 20 years, in a report. Along with regular days of classes and support groups, students would go from climbing 930-foot sandstone cliffs at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, to biking the 184-mile length of the C&O Canal to sailing the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

“These trips helped form lifelong bonds along with an ‘I can’ attitude,” Bucci wrote.

The Phoenix schools at their largest enrolled about 50 students each at a time, according to a state report.

After years of successful work, the Phoenix schools began to lose their spark. Tragedy struck in 2001 when the Phoenix II school burned down.

However, instead of remaining a standalone recovery school, Phoenix II continued on as an in-school program, and eventually Phoenix I followed, according to Kovach.

“The program lost its validity with this model (with students back in traditional high schools). The students knew it, the parents knew it, and eventually key staff left because they also saw it was ineffective,” Kovach said.

Eventually, enrollment dwindled down to only three students and the Phoenix program closed its doors in 2012, according to a report compiled by a community advocacy group Phoenix Rising: Maryland Recovery School Advocates.

Five years later, with the rise in drug use throughout the state, talk of bringing back recovery school programs have reemerged.

“Whenever you have a program where there aren’t many of them, like recovery schools, people just don’t don’t think of them as an option. But, it is slowly changing and it’s even starting to be picked up by the media,” Finch said.

The epidemic is gathering attention and resources in Maryland — Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency from March 1 to April 30 and committed an additional $50 million over five years to help with prevention.

From 2014 to 2017, the number of opioid-related deaths reported in Maryland between Jan. 1 and March 31 more than doubled — taking the death toll up to 473, according to state health department data. Since then, the work group has begun to look at these numbers and is beginning to discuss various models for these new recovery programs.

Lisa Lowe, director of the Heroin Action Coalition advocacy group, said she fears that the work group will not be able to understand how to move in the right direction without having students, parents or teachers with lived experience contributing.

“Instead of just guessing what’s going to work, why not ask the people who are living it?” Lowe said.

The work group has considered either creating a regional recovery school or bringing the recovery programs into already existing schools — both models in which Burnes, Lowe and many others are not in favor.

Lowe said students in recovery need to get away from “people, places and things,” a common phrase that is used in 12-step programs. With a regional school or an in-school program, Lowe said, it is more difficult to maintain after-school programming and local peer support groups, and it will bring recovering students back to where their problems started.

The start-up costs for Year 1 for one recovery school are estimated to range from approximately $2,258,891 to $2,473,891 depending on whether the school is operated only for Montgomery County students or as a regional recovery school, and again should enroll about 50 students age 14 through 21 years (or Grades 8 through 12), according to a state report.

“The overdoses are not occurring as much at the high school level, but that’s where they start. They start in high school and they start in middle school. We have to get the program in place so that we don’t have the deaths later on,” said Kovach, the former Phoenix teacher.

Rachelle Gardner, the co-founder of Hope Academy, a recovery charter high school in Indiana, said that these recovery schools are needed all over the country to help battle this substance abuse crisis.

“Addiction is addiction, when you walk into a 12-step meeting you’re in a room of addicts. You have to treat the addict in itself and we have to meet everybody where they’re at regardless of their drug of choice,” Gardner said.

The workgroup is continuing to develop their ideas for recovery schools and are expected to present their findings to the State Board of Education on Oct. 24.

By Georgia Slater

Candidate Baker to Visit Kent County Democrats Sept. 30

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Rushern Baker

The Kent County Democratic Club’s “Meet the Candidates” series continues Saturday, Sept, 30, when  Rushern Baker, candidate for governor of Maryland, will visit the Democratic Club’s booth in the Farmers Market at 11 a.m. At noon, he will move to a Meet & Greet session in the Yellow House at the Kent County Public Library.

Baker, age 58, is the County Executive of Prince George’s County, a position he has held for nearly seven years. He is a former Delegate to the General Assembly. He holds a law degree from Howard University. If elected, he would be Maryland’s first African American governor.

Meet Candidates at Democrats’ Meeting Sept. 21

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Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver

Owen Bailey

Michael Pullen

 

The Kent County Democratic Club’s “Meet the Candidates” series continues  on Thursday, September 21, at Cassinelli’s, 323 High St. with three candidates on hand..

Michael Pullen, who served 24 years as Attorney for Talbot County, is a  candidate for Maryland’s First Congressional District seat, currently held by Andy Harris. Learn more about Pullen at his website.

The other two are candidates for Chestertown Town Council. Owen Bailey is running for the  1st Ward seat, and the Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver is a candidate for the 3rd Ward seat.

Doors open 5:30 pm for a meal with a brief business meeting at 6:45 and the main program starting at 7:00 pm.

Meet Congressional Candidate Michael Pullen at Queen Anne’s Democrats Sept. 7

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Michael Pullen

Looking for a Congressional representative who cares about jobs and wages, education, healthcare, and the climate? Who has lived and worked in our community? The Queen Anne’s County Democratic Club invites you to meet Michael Pullen, who is running for the First District congressional seat currently held by Andy Harris. Pullen believes investing in the future for Marylanders in the First District is a good thing.

As Talbot County Attorney for 24 years, Pullen says, “I spent my career helping the government help people.” Pullen will fight against stagnant wages and for economic growth, affordable college and trade school education, and universal healthcare; and he is committed to breaking the current “slow undoing of human rights to which this nation has always been committed.”

“Andy Harris — our absentee representative and a thorn in our side since 2010—it’s time for him to go. What has he done for District 1?” asks the Democratic Club in its meeting notice.

Also at the meeting, Scott Boone, Director of Information Technology for Kent County, and a resident of Queen Anne’s, will speak on the benefits of fiber optic, which promises improved Internet service to Kent County, and soon, Queen Anne’s. Internet service is a 21st century utility. Good service can attract business to the region and enhance educational and communication opportunities. Come hear what it’s all about.

Join the Queen Anne’s Democratic Club at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, September 7,  at the Centreville Library. Stand with Democrats in defense of human rights and democratic values.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet & Greet Rich Madaleno, Democratic Candidate for Governor

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Come and meet the Candidate

State Sen. Rich Madaleno

Saturday, August 26

11 a.m. -12 Noon at the Chestertown Farmer’s Market

12 Noon -2 p.m. at the Democratic Club of Kent County Headquarters, 357 High St. Chestertown

Senator Rich Madaleno has succeeded in passing vital legislation to expand economic opportunities, make college more affordable, improve transportation, protect the environment, enhance government transparency and improve services for people with disabilities.

As a leader on budget issues in Maryland, Rich is a leading advocate for sustainable investments in education, health care and transportation. He is vocal critic of Governor Hogan’s continued attempts to finance tax cuts for the wealthy by cutting needed funding for schools and environmental programs.

In 2012, Rich was a leader in the fight to pass marriage equality in Maryland, which became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage by ballot.

Come Meet Alec Ross, Candidate for Governor of Maryland

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Alec Ross, Democratic candidate for Governor of Maryland

Come meet Alec Ross, Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland on Saturday, August 12.  Ross will be at the Chestertown Farmers Market at the Democrats’ booth for an hour from 11 a.m. to noon.  Following that, he will be at the nearby Democratic Club Headquarters at 357 High Street from noon to 2 p.m. This is the latest in the Candidate Meet & Greet Series sponsored by the Democratic Club of Kent County.

Ross’s background includes experience in government, education, and private business.  He has focused on technology.  Recognizing the inequities that made it nearly impossible for low-income families to get ahead, Alec co-founded a non-profit startup called One Economy, which helped deliver high-speed Internet access, educational content and education to low-income communities. One Economy started in a basement and grew into a global organization serving millions of low-income families. After serving on the Obama-Biden Transition Team, Alec was appointed Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In that role, he developed new and creative ways to use technology and innovation to serve America’s diplomatic agenda around the world and was the diplomatic lead on a range of issues including Internet Freedom and the use of network technologies in conflict zones. Alec currently serves as a Senior Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, resides in Baltimore City with his wife, Felicity, and their three children who all proudly attend Baltimore City public schools.

Candidate Meet & Greet Series: Alec Ross, Democratic Candidate for Maryland Governor,  Saturday, August 12, 11 a.m. – Noon at the Chestertown Farmers Market, and Noon – 2 p.m. at the Democratic Club of Kent County Headquarters, 357 High St. Chestertown.

A Mile In Our Shoes: An Artistic Demonstration Against the Senate Healthcare Bill By Marita Wilson

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As seen from above, Fountain Park in Chestertown with a display of over 1,000 shoes in an artistic and symbolic protest of the proposed TrumpCare which would result in over 900 people in Kent County losing healthcare coverage.

On Thursday, July 13, over 1,00 pairs of shoes stood empty in Chestertown’s Fountain Park, representing the number of individuals in Kent County who would lose their health insurance under the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Kent and Queen Anne’s County Indivisible, a local chapter of the nation-wide Indivisible grassroots movement, organized the event as a local expression of the national concern surrounding changes to health care legislation.

 According to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA), 15 million people, or more than 4.5% of the total US population, would lose their healthcare coverage by next year. That translates to 930 people in Kent County losing their healthcare coverage. By 2026, the CBO estimates that 22 million Americans would lose healthcare coverage, which would translate to over 1300 individuals in Kent County. This number is nearly equal to the total enrollment of Chestertown’s Washington College, or over half of all students enrolled in Kent County Public Schools.

 The group titled the event “A Mile In Our Shoes” as a nod to the saying, “To really know a man, walk a mile in his shoes”.

 “We are hoping that when people who attend the event see what 930 people in their community really ‘looks like’ (represented by shoes), they will understand that the decisions made in Washington, DC, really have an impact here on a local level,” says Raven Bishop, a local artist and KQA Indivisible member who advised on the artistic aspects of the project.

 “A Mile In Our Shoes” was spearheaded by KQA Indivisible leaders Raven Bishop, Erin Anderson, Kitty Maynard, and Linda Cades. The group began organizing the event in March, just after the American Health Care Act was introduced. The event quickly gained momentum, with several community members contributing to planning and execution. Shoes were collected by the Kent County Democratic Club, other Indivisible groups from around the state, and several local individuals, businesses, and community organizations.

 The event kicked off at 7:00 pm with shoes surrounding the fountain in the park, although attendees were relocated to the breezeway on High Street when rain, thunder, and lightning rolled in.  Several speakers, including representatives from Senators Cardin and Van Hollen’s offices, Jeananne Sciabarra of Consumer Health First, Kathy Appel of the Kuhmerker Consulting Group, and Matt Celentano of the Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative, provided information on the current and potential future state of healthcare in the U.S. Areas of critical concern emphasized by the speakers were healthcare coverage for children, the elderly, and the disabled, the impacts of pre-existing conditions, lack of insurance coverage for preventative care, and the possible return of lifetime limits on insurance coverage.  Mr. Cenlentano shared that one of his children spent more than two weeks in neo-natal intensive care after she was born prematurely.  Without the protections of the Affordable Care Act he said, “She would have [reached] her lifetime limit before she left the hospital.”

 Ms. Appel, the former director of Medicaid in New York state, drew attention to the necessity of the Medicaid program: 50% of kids in the United States rely on Medicaid during their first year of life and 60% of people in nursing homes require the support of Medicaid coverage.  Although both the AHCA and BCRA recommend turning over more responsibility for Medicaid to the states, the audience was reminded that Governor Larry Hogan has not publicly shared a position on the efforts to repeal and replace the ACA despite the fact that it is expected to cost Maryland $2 billion.

 Cades shared a personal story about her son, who became disabled when he was 5 months old due to a seizure disorder. Cades’s son is 38 years old and is unable to live on his own, but the waitlist for a group home in the area is 4,000 families long.  Group homes get 50% of their funding from Medicaid. She expressed doubt that the state could come in and cover those costs if the AHCA passes and funding to Medicaid is cut.“We don’t dare die,” she said of her and her husband, for fear her son would have nowhere to go without them. The oldest caregiver in Maryland is 101 years old.“That’s my story,” she said in conclusion. “If I walked around this group with this microphone, everyone would have a story, too.”

 Allison Galbraith, a Maryland native who is challenging Andy Harris for his congressional seat in 2018, is one of those people with a story.  Due to gender rate spikes and her pregnancy-related pre-existing conditions, Galbraith was unable to afford private insurance after giving birth to her son. But because of the ACA, she can now afford insurance and is able to run her own small business.

 Kimberly Kratovil, the Eastern Shore Field Representative from Sen. Ben Cardin’s office, told the audience “Keep Calling. Keep letting your voice be heard.” Both she and Melissa Kelly, a representative from Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s office, passed on their appreciation for KQA Indivisible’s efforts to fight against the inadequate House and Senate versions of an ACA replacement bill.

 “A Mile in Our Shoes” came to a close with a candlelight vigil.  Shoulder to shoulder, the crowd stood together in a last demonstration of their commitment to speak out and protect the most vulnerable amongst them.

KQA Indivisible hopes to hold additional informative demonstrations, especially on issues of paramount importance in this area: education and environmental policy surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.

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