Council Debates Surveillance Cameras

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Chestertown councilmen Marty Stetson (L) and Ellsworth Tolliver listen to the monthly police report.

“How effective is the surveillance camera on Calvert Street?” Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver asked that question at the Chestertown Mayor and Council meeting Monday, during the monthly police department report. Tolliver is the council representative for the Third Ward, which includes the Calvert Street area, a predominantly black neighborhood.

Sgt. Steve Lozar, who delivered the report, said the camera has solved a lot of crimes, including narcotics enforcement. He said the cameras provide a lot of “behind-the-scenes” information to police.

“How often are they used?” Tolliver asked. He asked if indications of drug transactions are followed up by K-9 patrols with drug-sniffing dogs.

Lozar said the camera feed is available to every officer in a patrol car. It is also shared with the Kent County Narcotics Task Force, which includes members of the Sheriff’s department. “We’re all working together,” he said. The camera feed can also be accessed from an app on officers’ cell phones, he said. He offered to show it to council members if they are interested.

Councilman David Foster said that when he lived near the corner of Kent and High streets he requested a camera for his neighborhood and saw a significant decrease in criminal activity there. He said he requested the camera because he felt the area was dangerous for his daughter.

Lozar said that camera was removed several years ago.

Tolliver said, “I have to explain to people in the neighborhood why they’re the only neighborhood in town with a camera, under 24/7 surveillance. That, to me, is uncomfortable.” He said school-age children are “under suspicion the minute they go out the door.” He characterized the effect of the camera as a “stigma” on the neighborhood.

Sgt. Steve Lozar of the Chestertown police department delivers the monthly report on the department’s activities.

Councilman Marty Stetson, a former Chestertown police chief, asked “Who’s uncomfortable? They can put one on my front porch if they want.” He said children in the area are being protected by the presence of cameras.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper said she learned a lot by riding with officers in a police car. She said it’s common for people to call in noise complaints to draw officers away from an area where something illegal is going on. Having the camera feed lets the officers see what’s really happening.

Mayor Chris Cerino said the Calvert Street camera was requested by residents of the neighborhood after a drive-by shooting. He said the neighbors also complained of litter, public drinking, and drug use.

Lozar said the request was fulfilled by moving the camera from High Street. He said a lot of residents of the neighborhood praise the camera.

Tolliver said singling out Calvert Street stigmatized the neighborhood. “It’s not the only problem area in town,” he said.

“There’s a lot going on up there right now,” Lozar said.

Cerino asked what other neighborhoods Lozar would put cameras in if funds were available. Lozar said the business area of High Street would be one spot.

Stetson said they would also be useful in the town’s shopping malls. Lozar said the owners of Kent Plaza have approached the police about putting a camera there.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the mall owners can put up cameras on their property and give the town police access to the feed. He said the Calvert Street camera was funded by a state grant for “hot spots” of criminal activity. He added that if funds were available, he would like to see cameras in the town’s parks and along the rail trail and near the town street department yard.

Cerino asked what cameras cost — “about $2,000 mounted?”

Lozar said the infrastructure to support the cameras costs a lot more. However, he said, the current system could accommodate up to 180 cameras on a 24/7 basis. He said the surveillance camera technology is becoming the norm in police and security work, supplementing foot and vehicle patrol work, He extended an invitation for any council member who is interested to ride with a patrol officer to see what the police are doing on a regular basis.

In addition to the discussion of surveillance cameras, Lozar reported that the Elks Lodge has donated a drop box for disposal of unwanted or outdated prescription drugs at the town police station at 601 High St. The box is available 24/7, and is in addition to the box at the Sheriff’s office off Flatland Road. He said the box was available for all prescription drugs, as well as over the counter medications such as aspirin. However, he asked that no needles be left in the box.

Police Chief Adrian Baker, who normally delivers the report, was at a conference.

Other topics discussed at the meeting– including farmers’ market rules, a bond bill for marina work, and a line of credit for the town from Chesapeake bank– will be covered in a Spy report later this week.

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The 1st District: Introducing Candidate Steve Worton

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It is almost too hard to believe that the 1st Congressional District of Maryland, which most political observers would say was specifically designed to be a safe and perhaps the only Republican district in the state, now has four very credible Democratic candidates eager to take on U.S. Representative Andy Harris this November.

Steve Worton is one of them. The last of the four candidates that the Spy has recently profiled, Steve comes to the race after working at the Department of Defense for 33 years. During that time, he managed over 3,000 people at 23 sites around the world maintaining operations and reducing personnel, as well as eliminated waste and improved business processes through sound management and electronic commerce.

With a degree in accounting from Temple and MBA from the University of Delaware, Steve wants to use these skills and experience in the next Congress.

The Spy met up with Steve at the Bullitt House a few weeks ago to talk about how his approach is different from his opponents in the Democratic primary in June as well as how he differentiates himself from Andy Harris in a possible Fall contest.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Steve Worton and his campaign please go here.

Town, County Strike Deal to Fund Chestertown Movie Theater Opening

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Kent County Commissioners Meeting, 2 April 2018: From left, Bryan Matthews and Mayor Chris Cerino ask Kent County Commissioners Ron Fithian, William Pickrum and Bill Short to lend $75,000 to the principals of Chesapeake Theaters, who plan to reopen the Chester 5 movies in Chestertown. County attorney Tom Yeager is in the background.

The Kent County Commissioners and the town of Chestertown have struck a deal that should result in the reopening of the town’s movie theater, hopefully by May 31st of this year.

At the county commissioners’ meeting, Tuesday, April 3, Mayor Chris Cerino and Bryan Matthews, representing the economic development committee of Main Street Chestertown, asked the commissioners to advance $75,000 to the Chesapeake Movies group, which is planning to refurbish the vacant theater for an opening Memorial Day weekend. The funds would come from the county’s revolving loan fund, which was created to facilitate economic development in the county. As an incentive to businesses and entrepreneurs, these county business loans have interest-rate below current market rate with terms of five to seven years. The town plans to repay the loan from proceeds of the entertainment tax, which the theater would pay after opening.

The Chester 5 theater closed in June 2017, leaving local residents with little option beyond driving to Middletown or Dover Del., Annapolis, or Easton for first-run movies. The long-time theater manager under the old management, Charlene Fowler, said that the newer theaters in Middletown and Dover had been drawing movie-goers away from Chestertown for several years, with tax-free shopping and dining opportunities as additional reasons for locals to make the thirty- to forty- minute drive. The condition of the local theater, which had not been renovated for many years, was also a factor.

Representatives of Chesapeake Movies were seen working in the theater, removing old seats, in September, and at the time they said they planned to open for the Christmas season, traditionally a busy time for theaters, with many Oscar contenders being released at that time. However, an anticipated deal with Silicato Development, the owners of the shopping center, fell through, and for a while it appeared the theater would not reopen.

But negotiations warmed up again in February, and the principals of the theater company appeared at the March 19 Chestertown Council meeting to request the town’s help in closing the deal. Mike Klein, Ira Miller, and Bob Weinholdt told the council they were near to a deal with Silicato. They said they were prepared to invest $500,000 in the renovation, and Silicato had offered to provide another $270,000, much of which would go toward the purchase of state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment for the theaters. To close the deal, they asked the town to advance them $75,000 on anticipated entertainment tax revenue to close the deal. The town would make the advance back from proceeds of the entertainment tax, which they said could be as much as $20,000 in a good year. The theater would be completely renovated, with upgraded seats, an expanded concession area, new restrooms, and a program of first-run films along with some indie films. “It’ll be unlike anything Chestertown has ever seen,” said Weinholdt.

Chestertown council members were enthusiastic about the prospect of the theater reopening, but as Cerino noted, the requested advance would amount to nearly 10 percent of the town’s cash on hand. Guarantees would need to be in place in the event of the theater going out of business before the advance was repaid. After discussion at the Mar. 19 meeting, the council authorized Town Manager Bill Ingersoll to carry on negotiations with the theater group to find a way to help them bridge the monetary gap and reopen the theater.

Then at the April 2 Chestertown Council meeting this past Monday, Ingersoll said the town had settled on a plan to sponsor a request for the Kent County Commissioners to make up the advance from Kent County’s revolving loan plan. He said that Cerino and Matthews were on the agenda of the next County Commissioners’ meeting scheduled for the next day. Ingersoll credited Kay MacIntosh and Jamie Williams, economic development coordinators for the town and county respectively, for helping to facilitate the plan.

Then at the Kent County Commissioners’ meeting last night,  Tuesday, April 3, Mayor Cerino succinctly outlined the proposal for the theater reopening and for funding it from the county loan program, with the town forwarding the entertainment tax proceeds on a quarterly basis to repay the loan.

Matthews gave an overview of the economic benefits of keeping theater-goers in Kent County instead of Delaware, spending their money in stores and restaurants in addition to the movies. He noted that the theater would employ 12 to 15 people, which he calculated as an annual influx of some $300,000 into the county’s economy.

Commissioners Bill Short and Ron Fithian were enthusiastic about the possibility of the theater’s reopening. Commission President William Pickrum, on the other hand, hit a note of caution about the use of taxpayer money to finance a private business. He said the plan to repay the county from entertainment tax revenues was dependent on the theater staying in business long enough to realize that level of income.

Cerino said the town would be willing to commit to a memorandum of understanding or some equivalent mechanism to guarantee the loan. He said he realized the $75,000 being asked for exceeded the $50,000 cap for the revolving loan fund, but he noted that the theater was a business that would benefit both the town and the county as a whole, describing it as “a win-win.”

The commissioners voted unanimously to grant the loan. While the final details need to be settled, the theater appears to be on track for its Memorial Day opening. Get your tickets now!

Pink Safety Hunting Gear Now Available in MD thanks to Easton’s Simonsen Sisters

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Anna Muckerman Thanks to the work of two novice hunters — young sisters from the Eastern Shore — Maryland hunters will soon be allowed to wear bright pink safety gear.

Before taking a hunter safety class in October 2016, sisters Paige and Brooke Simonsen, from Easton, stocked up on pink hunting clothes. Then, they found out that Maryland law did not allow hunters to wear any color besides blaze orange.

Brooke Simonsen, 9, looks at her father, Michael Simonsen, during a hearing in Annapolis, Maryland, on Feb. 23.

“Our instructor mentioned that other states have pink and we only have orange, and we wanted to change that so we went to Senator (Addie) Eckardt,” Paige, 12, said.

The legislation, which passed in both chambers Monday night, adds “daylight fluorescent pink” as an alternative color for hunters. The legislation is based in part on the Simonsen family’s research.

Part of that research, which made its way into testimony, included a blog post referencing a European Union study that found forestry workers were safer wearing pink than orange. But the post — and its references to a “major study” that included “cognition tests and adrenaline measurements” — turned out to be an April Fool’s joke by the Stihl chainsaw company.

The Stihl company confirmed in a tweet that the April 1, 2016, blog entry was a joke.

Eckardt, R–Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico, said she didn’t read the blog post until a Capital News Service reporter showed it to her.

“Yep, it’s all bogus,” Eckardt said March 27, while looking at the post. “To me it’s immaterial. It wasn’t a part of what we were all about.”

The joke study did not appear in the bill’s legislative analysis and the senator did not use the study in her own testimony, although she accompanied the girls to the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, where it was heard.

Vice Chair Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, said he was unaware the testimony was in part based on an April Fool’s Day joke, but said the information doesn’t change the premise of the bill.

“The idea that using pink to stand out against green still makes sense,” he said. “Reading each piece of testimony…is beyond our ability to do.”

Michael Simonsen called the mistake “a learning experience for the entire family” but said he is proud of his daughters for participating in the legislative process.

“It is so important to share, that Paige and Brooke used multiple sources in their research and it is unfortunate that this one used, was not legitimate,” he wrote in an email to Capital News Service. “They will want to continue researching everything, even more thoroughly, particularly on the other six states … who have already approved daylight fluorescent pink as an additional safety color choice.”

It’s no joke, however, that Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, Virginia, New York and Wisconsin allow hunters to wear pink.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources wrote in a letter to lawmakers that “there has been no nationally recognized study completed … on the effectiveness of this daylight fluorescent pink as a safety color.”

The department also noted that while there is a standard for hunter orange, none exists for pink, even in other states. Maryland’s bill leaves the definition of “daylight fluorescent pink” to the department.

When the Simonsens began looking into the topic during the fall of 2016, they had no idea that Eckardt, who represents the Simonsens’ region, has had an interest in pink since long before the sisters were born.

“Since I campaigned in 1994, I chose pink. I was outside the box. Everybody said don’t use that color,” the senator said. “I said … ‘I will do it the way I want to do it because I want to have fun.’”

Eckardt, a former psychiatric nurse, decided to use a bit of operant conditioning, she said, by associating herself with the color for more than two decades. She’s known for wearing pink on the Senate floor almost every day.

Paige and Brooke, 9, noticed the pink decorations in her office right away, but Eckardt contemplated the potential backlash of sponsoring the bill.

“My initial response was ‘Oh my goodness, I can just see it now – she doesn’t have anything better to do than to promote pink in an election year,” Eckardt said. “I was a little nervous about that.”

Brooke, whose favorite color is green, and Paige, who likes light pink, said their bill has little to do with being chic.

“We don’t like to think of it as a fashion statement,” Brooke said. “We just want it to be a safer choice and maybe another choice, but we’re not trying to eliminate fluorescent orange.”

The sisters pointed out that it is safer than orange for people like Matthew Hurst, a family friend who hunts and is colorblind.

“I have a really hard time picking up the fluorescent orange in the fall when the trees change, especially with the small amount you’re required to wear,” said Hurst, who also testified before lawmakers. “The blaze pink stands out more in the natural environment.”

When Talbot County, Maryland, hunter Leslie Milby first heard about the bill, she thought it might be another attempt to “pink it and shrink it” — manufacturers’ strategy of targeting women through less durable, brightly colored clothing.

“At first when I heard (of the bill) I kind of rolled my eyes because I was picturing bright pink camouflage,” she said. “As long as the gear is as tough as a man’s there’s no reason I wouldn’t support it.”

Now that the bill has passed, it won’t just be girls in the Simonsen family wearing the new color.

“I’m definitely going to wear fluorescent pink,” Michael Simonsen said. “I’m their dad but more important I’m going to be their hunting partner so the thing is I want to be seen.”

The girls occasionally shoot clay pigeons and said they plan to go hunting soon. In Maryland, children younger than 16 can hunt with an adult.

The girls said last month that they planned to share the joy of passing a bill with friends and classmates.

“We would be really happy if blaze pink became a color because we would be known for that,” Brooke said in March. “Sometimes it’s just nice to be known for making a law in Maryland.”

The law, Senate bill 341 and House bill 1118, will go into effect July 1.

by Anna Muckerman

Nutrient Reductions Credited for Remarkable Resurgence in Bay’s Underwater Grasses

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Nutrient reductions over the last 30 years are the primary factor behind the resurgence of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake — something that scientists cite in a new study as tangible evidence that efforts to improve Bay water quality are paying off.

Seagrass beds are in decline globally, but the Chesapeake Bay is one of the few places — and the largest example — where that trend has been successfully reversed, according to an article published in March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That’s good news for the Bay, as underwater grasses provide important habitat for fish, crabs and waterfowl. The scientists who led the study also said that the recovery likely foreshadows a broader comeback in the estuary’s health.

“We are thinking of the resurgence of the grasses as being the harbinger of things to come,” said Bill Dennison, vice president for science applications at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and a co-author of the study. “We are using them now as an early signal for the restoration of the Bay.”

The study, built upon an analysis of a wide variety of data collected over three decades, found that a 23 percent decline in nitrogen concentrations in the Bay and an 8 percent decline in phosphorus were the primary factors behind a nearly threefold increase in underwater grasses since 1984.

Like all plants, underwater grasses require sunlight to survive, and scientists have long known that algae blooms and sediment in the water can block light from reaching plants, causing them to die.

But the study found that nutrients play a “dominant role” in causing the loss of grass beds because they not only spur algae blooms, but also promote algae growth directly on the plants. That “epiphytic” growth, the study found, was three times more harmful to plants than the indirect effects of phytoplankton blooms in the water column.

“We show that nutrients are actually the primary control over these underwater grasses,” said Jonathan Lefcheck, the lead author of the report, who conducted this work while a post-doctoral student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. He now works at the Bigelow Institute of Marine Science in Maine.

The amount of underwater grasses still fluctuates from year to year, in large part because of weather — rainy years drive more water-fouling nutrients into the water than do dry ones. Nonetheless, while the amount of grasses has varied, their overall acreage has increased over time, from a low of 38,229 acres in 1984 to a high of 97,400 acres mapped in 2016.

“Beyond the noise of inter-annual variability, we’ve got the right trajectory, and we can link it to specifically the nutrient reductions,” Dennison said.

While nutrients are the driving force, other factors still play a role. Areas with several underwater grass species do better over time than those with a single species, the study found. The importance of diversity may explain, in part, why grass bed recovery in high-salinity areas, which has always been dominated by a single species — eelgrass — has been less robust than in other parts of the Bay.

It also offers a clue as to how to maintain comebacks in mid-salinity parts of the Bay, where widgeon grass dominates but its abundance often fluctuates greatly from year to year. The researchers said that Bay restoration efforts — which now focus only on water quality — should put more focus on restoring a mix of species in mid-salinity areas.

“When we look at those beds historically, we know diversity was important,” said Bob Orth, also of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who co-authored the study and has overseen the Bay’s annual underwater grass survey since its inception. “When you add one species, it has a significant effect on the stability of the meadow.”

The study has 14 co-authors representing universities and agencies from around the Bay region and the country. This team met five times over the course of two years in Annapolis, digging deep into the data. They compiled extensive datasets about land use, manure and fertilizer applications, wastewater treatment plant discharges and water quality, as well as the abundance, diversity and density of grass beds.

Using sophisticated new analytical techniques unavailable just a few years ago to analyze that data, the scientists were able to draw conclusions that sometimes challenged their assumptions about factors affecting the grasses.

For instance, while wastewater treatment may be locally critical for grass beds, actions on the landscape — such as changes in land use or fertilizer applications on farms — were more important to larger trends in grass bed acreage.

Similarly, while sediment in the water column may be locally important, it was a less important factor than nutrients in Baywide underwater grass abundance.

“With this multi-author, multi-partner synthesis type of science, you can bring in different types of expertise,” said Jennifer Keisman, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and co-author of the study. “It is really important.”

Further analyzing that data, the authors said, could provide new insights for managers and promote an additional comeback of grass beds. “This is not the end, but the end of the beginning for all of this work,” Orth said.

The Chesapeake is still far short of the goal to restore 185,000 acres of underwater grasses, but it is doing better than any other place on the planet, the article said.

Seagrasses have declined globally by 29 percent, largely because of nutrient and sediment runoff. While they have come back in places such as Tampa Bay and the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands, researchers found that the Chesapeake has seen a “greater total and proportional recovery.”

A continued comeback would be good news for the Bay. Grass beds are a critical component of its ecosystem. They pump oxygen into the water, trap sediments, buffer shorelines from wave action, provide food for waterfowl and shelter for fish and blue crabs.

That trajectory is likely to continue, at least for now. Orth said a preliminary review of data from last year suggests that the Bay’s underwater grasses will likely set yet another record.

By Karl Blankenship

Karl Blankenship is editor of the Bay Journal and executive director of Bay Journal Media. He has served as editor of the Bay Journal since its inception in 1991.

Supreme Court hears Oral Arguments in Maryland Gerrymander Case

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Attorneys presented oral arguments Wednesday before the Supreme Court in a landmark case that challenges the constitutional limits of political redistricting in Maryland.

Benisek v. Lamone, the second gerrymandering case the high court has heard this term, focuses on whether redrawing district lines in favor of one party is a violation of the First Amendment.

Michael B. Kimberly, representing O. John Benisek, a resident of Washington County, argued the partisan gerrymandering that occurred in Maryland’s 6th District under then-Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2011 was a violation of the First Amendment due to the additional challenges created by shifting districts for voters.

“The evidence is unequivocal,” Kimberly told the justices. “It’s deliberately making it more difficult for particular citizens to achieve electoral success because their views are disapproved by those in power.”

In 2011, O’Malley created the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee (GRAC) to redraw the congressional and state legislative districts in Maryland. A new map was created, passed both the Maryland House and Senate, and was signed by O’Malley.

Before the redistricting, Maryland Democrats controlled six of the state’s eight U.S. House districts. After the election following the new map, the Democrats controlled seven. Republicans argue the partisan redistricting caused irreparable damage to voters in the new district.

 

Kimberly went on to argue that “Governor O’Malley and others involved in the redistricting have candidly acknowledged their intent to dilute Republican votes in the 6th District to prevent Republican voters there from reelecting Congressman Roscoe Bartlett.”

“Given their evidence, (the appellants) certainly have enough to go to a jury on that question,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.

“Government officials may not single out particular individuals for disfavored treatment on the basis of the views that they have expressed at the ballot box in prior elections,” Kimberly argued.

Some justices questioned whether voters had truly been harmed by the redistricting.

Chief Justice John Roberts called the length of time between the redistricting and the oral arguments into question.

“To let go the elections in 2012, 2014, and 2016, suggests that maybe 2018, you’re not going to be irreparably harmed in a broader sense,” he said. “If you’ve been willing to accept that harm in three different cycles, I don’t know if we should get concerned about irreparable harm for one more.”

Many justices questioned the intent of the redistricting, suggesting O’Malley’s reason for redistricting was unconstitutional.

“The effects were exactly what the intent would suggest,” Justice Elena Kagan said. “A long-standing Republican incumbent is unseated by a Democratic newcomer, who withstands a wave election, who prevails three straight times. I mean, it appears that the Maryland legislature got exactly what it intended, which was you took … a safe Republican district, and made it into not the safest of Democratic districts, but a pretty safe one. … I mean, how much more evidence of partisan intent could we need?”

Steven Marshall Sullivan, representing Linda H. Lamone, Maryland’s elections administrator, insisted otherwise: “(The 6th District) is not safe. It was judged competitive.”

Sullivan said that 20 percent of voters in the 6th District are registered as independents. The result is that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats make up a majority there, he said.

“The independent vote is critical because, in the first election, the Democrat won more of the independent vote than the Republican,” Sullivan said. “The redistricting lines couldn’t have caused that to happen. That happened because of the views of those voters and the strength of that candidate.”

“What effect does the fact that this map was subsequently approved by the people themselves have when we’re trying to determine intent?” Justice Neil Gorsuch asked.

Ginsburg compared the current case to an historic racial gerrymandering case from 1995, Miller v. Johnson, in which the court struck down districts solely created based on race, known as “max-black” districts.

“It seems to me that what we have here is ‘max-Democratic’ (per district)” she said. “If ‘max-black’ was no good, why should ‘max-Democratic” be okay?”

Sullivan responded that the historic ‘max-black’ districts were “drawn from a history of exclusion of African Americans from our political process, something that Republicans can hardly claim,” because their party currently controls both the federal and state governments.

Earlier this term, the Supreme Court heard the Gill v. Whitford case from Wisconsin regarding gerrymandering. In January, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked a redistricting order from a lower court in North Carolina.

Justice Stephen Breyer suggested waiting until next term, at which point those two cases and the Maryland case could be heard together.

“It seems like a pretty clear violation of the Constitution in some form to have deliberate, extreme gerrymandering,” Breyer said of the Maryland map. “But is there a practical remedy that won’t get judges involved in dozens and dozens and dozens of very important political decisions?”

Courts have previously treated challenges to political redistricting as a “nonjusticiable ‘political question,’ based on the lack of a determinate, judicially enforceable standard to judge political gerrymanders,” according to the Preview of the United States Supreme Court Cases.

By JULIA LERNER

Mid-Shore Health Futures: The Chester River Health Foundation with Maryann Ruehrmund

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One thing that Maryann Ruehrmund, the executive director of the Chester River Health Foundation, hadn’t counted on as she developed annual fundraising plans for Chestertown’s UM Shore Medical Center, was the counter-intuitive response to Kent County’s  successful “Save our Hospital” movement.

Rather than see an increase in donations to do just that, the Chestertown River Health Foundation saw a actual decrease in giving starting a few years ago. While there might have been co-factors in the reduction of philanthropy, including, of course, the impact of the Great Recession, the question remained whether the Foundation would be able to continue keeping pace with the ongoing needs of the hospital in Chestertown.

To the great relief to Maryann, and her board of directors, the answer seems to be a resounding “yes.”

With the conclusion of the State of Maryland’s working group on rural hospitals last year, recommending that Shore Medical Center at Chestertown stay permanently open, along with the hospital’s parent, the UM Health System, wholly in support of this finding, there is growing evidence that the Foundation is once again on track in providing meaningful contributions to the hospital’s equipment and capital requirements.

The seeds of the Chester River Health Foundation were sewn in 1992 after a successful, campaign through which the community donated more than $2 million to build a three-story wing and completely modernize the facility. The Foundation was incorporated in 1985 as a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, to provide a source of charitable donations to make state-of-the-art medical equipment, facility improvements and advanced healthcare education for employees, possible. It maintains its mission today, governed by a local, all-volunteer Board of Directors in support of healthcare excellence at the hospital.

The Spy, as part of our continuing series of profiling philanthropy, spent a few minutes with Maryann to talk about why the community’s charitable support is so vital to the long-term vitality of the hospital.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Chester River Health Foundation please go here

Marching to End Gun Violence

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The march started at noon on High St at the corner of Mill St. in front of the old elementary school now the Kent County offices building.      Photo by Peter Heck.

Chestertown’s March for Our Lives was held on Saturday, March 24 to coincide with the big national march in Washington, DC. The local event was one of more than 800 nationwide and around the world in response to gun violence in schools, especially the murder of 17 students in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day earlier this year.

Around 500 marchers assembled at noon in front of the Kent County government office on High Street, then proceeded down High Street and Cross Street to Wilmer Park, where they heard speakers and musical selections. Marchers, carrying signs and banners, remained on sidewalks so as not to interfere with traffic. The line of marchers was at least two blocks long as it made its way through town. Along the route, many of them chanted, “Enough is enough,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, school shooting’s got to go,” referring to the epidemic of shootings that have plagued the country in recent years.

Gathered in front of the old school building now the county offices.     Photo by Peter Heck

At the park, Paul Tue, one of the organizers of the march, greeted the crowd and invited them to move closer to Hynson Pavilion, where a PA system was set up. Tue, who works with local youth as one of the founders of the Bayside HOYAS, said he was “blown away” by the turnout. He told attendees that if anyone was overcome with the emotions of the event, there were several therapists on hand for them to talk to.  He asked the therapists to raise their hands so people would know who and where they were in the audience.

Tue said there had been 209 school shootings since the Columbine massacre in 1999, and gave a list of several of the more notorious, concluding with the Parkland shooting and the murder of a schoolgirl by a classmate just a few days ago in St. Mary’s County here in Maryland. “I believe I live in the greatest country in the world,” Tue said, “but today is a day to put our point across.” He asked how many shootings would have to take place on Capitol Hill itself before lawmakers were willing to change the laws governing weapons. He said there was a booth set up to register voters at the rally and urged attendees to call their representatives in Congress and the Maryland General Assembly.

Barbie Glenn, who acted as master of ceremonies for the event, then took the microphone to introduce the speakers.

First up was Dr. Kathryn Seifert, CEO of Eastern Shore Psychological Services. “We know the way to prevent violence,” she said, It will require identifying young people at risk and providing services to help them. A lot of scientific research has been done, and the causes — though complex – are clear. It’s not just mental illness, but “a perfect storm of multiple problems.” Most school shooters are white males, who find their guns at home – not at gun shows. The majority of shooters were identified as unstable before they picked up a gun, she said. She recommended a mental health program in every school, to allow evaluation and early treatment of the problems that lead to gun violence. The U.S. has the second highest rate of child abuse worldwide, and is in the top five nations for its rate of sexual abuse of children, she said. Both have been shown to cause personality disorders including violent tendencies in later life. The victims need treatment “before something happens,” she said. “Let’s get started.”

Alana Fithian Wilson, an 8th grade sstudent at Kent County Middle School, speaks during the Wilmer Park rally that concluded the March for Our Lives Photo by Jeff Weber

A trio consisting of Clark Bjorke on guitar, Phil Dutton on keyboard, and Mary Simmons sang a version of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” with new lyrics targeting the problem of gun violence. The group later returned for two other numbers, including Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” Many crowd members sang along with the familiar protest songs from the 1960s.

Taking the microphone next was a group of Kent County Middle School students, Alana Fithian Wilson, Riley Glenn, Tilera Wright, and Ty-Juan Billingslea. They are members of Students Talking About Racism, a group formed after a racial incident at the school. Each gave a personal reaction to the issue of gun violence, with an equal helping of emotion and evidence. Wilson said that violence is one of America’s biggest problems, with racism as a leading cause. “We need people like you to get involved,” she told the crowd. “It’s time to take a stand, and it needs to be unified.”

 

Photo by Jeff Weber

Glenn said that gun violence has a devastating impact on American youth, backing the assertation with statistics. Particularly telling was the observation that more students have been killed in U.S. schools since Columbine in 1999 than American soldiers killed in combat since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Billingslea said guns are the third leading cause of childhood deaths, with 40 percent the result of suicides. Black children are three times as likely to die from a shooting as their white peers. Exposure to gun violence leads to greater likelihood of drug or alcohol use and criminal activity later in life, he said.

Wright said students at KCMS are being asked to perform “active shooter” drills. She said she would like to see more school resource officers and metal detectors at school. Parents need to take their children’s concerns seriously, she said. “Politicians need to pass stricter gun laws,” she concluded.

Ti-Juan Billingslea was one of four Kent County Middle School students who addressed the crowd at Wilmer Park.  Standing beside him is Paul Tue, of Bayside Hoyas, one of the rally organizers.    Photo by Jeff Weber

Tue praised the students’ passionate advocacy. “Activism has no age limit,” he said.

The concluding speaker was Grenville Whitman of Rock Hall, representing Kent County Citizens to Prevent Gun Violence. Gun violence kills Americans every day, Whitman said. “We’re here to petition our government for redress,” he said, noting that the right to do so is guaranteed by the Consitution. “It’s also our right not to be shot and killed,” he added and went on to say that the same right extends to our families, our children and our neighbors. “It’s everyone’s right.” He noted that some think that gun ownership is equally important, and the issue is being fought out in Congress and 50 state legislatures, with the Maryland General Assembly passing some sensible firearms regulations in the current session, making the state one of the safest in the nation. Whitman noted that the local assembly delegation voted for a ban on “bump stocks,” which transform semi-automatic firearms into fully-automatic weapons.  He said the delegates should be congratulated for their votes, noting that they will undoubtedly be criticized for it by pro-gun constituents.

 

 

Photo by Jeff Weber

Whitman noted that 2018 is an election year and urged participants in the march to register and vote. The crowd responded by chanting, “Vote, vote!” Many local offices are up for election, Whitman said, noting the presence of several elected officials and candidates in the crowd, including County Commissioner Ron Fithian and commission candidate Tom Timberman, as well as Andy Meehan, a candidate for State’s Attorney. Whitman said voters should ask all candidates about gun safety, and cast their votes accordingly. “(Rep.) Andy Harris…” he began — to be interrupted by a loud chorus of “Boos”– “Andy Harris is the only Maryland congressman to accept NRA donations. “Vote him out! Vote him out,” the crowd responded.

A last-moment addition to the list of speakers was Casey McQueen of Dover, Delaware, who said he had come to the march because students in his school had been shot. “Blow guns away,” he said, to applause.

Photo by Jeff Weber

Bishop Charles Tilghman, head of the Kent County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, closed the rally with a prayer. He urged the audience to continue rallying and marching to attain the goals of a country free of gun violence.

There was a multitude of signs in the crowd – both printed and hand-made – with clever and often very pointed slogans.  Some were slogans that are being used nationally while others represented the heartfelt responses of the individual marcher.  Slogans included “Protect Our Kids, Not Guns”, “Bullets Are Not School Supplies”, “Make America Safe Again”, “We Deserve to Live”, “Students Demand Action”, “Moms Demand Action”, “Civilians Don’t Need Assault Weapons”, “Love Not Guns”, and “Fear Has No Place in Schools”.

The Chestertown march was reportedly the only one on the Eastern Shore, though there were a couple in Delaware. The Chestertown event drew over 500 people, which is approximately 10% of Chestertown’s entire population.  However, not all participants were from Chestertown or Kent County.  Several marchers, including some from the Unitarian Universalist church, came from Easton to take part.  Marchers were there from several other Maryland counties and from Delaware. The event in D.C. was estimated as high as 800,000 strong, making it the largest single-day march in the city’s history. Across the country, in addition to the originating Washington, D.C. rally, there were supporting events in most major US cities including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Boston, Baltimore, Seattle, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis. Every state had at least one “March for Our Lives” event. Around the world, there were many more with most but not all in Europe.   Events in these cities were attended by both local citizens and Americans living or visiting in the various foreign countries.  In Canada, over a dozen cities, including Toronto and Montreal, held rallies. There were also rallies in London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, and Paris plus other European cities. In Japan, a large march was held in Tokyo, while in Australia, events were held in Sydney and Brisbane. There were two in Africa, one each in Ghana and Mozambique as well as some in various Asian and South American locales. The Washington, D.C., event was largely organized by the teen-aged survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Fl., February 14, 2018.

On average, more than 90 people are killed by guns every day in the US.

Photo Gallery by Peter Heck, Jane Jewell, and Jeff Weber

Relaxing after the march outside of Sam’s coffee shop are Leah Schell, Brook Schumann, Ilex Hoy (on lap) and Japhy Hoy (holding sign).      Photo by Jane Jewell

“Make America Safe Again” made and carried by Penny Block.      Photo by Jane Jewell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Jeff Weber

Photo by Jeff Weber

 

 

Photo by Jeff Weber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Jeff Weber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Peter Heck

Chestertown resident Charles Taylor      Photo by Jeff Weber

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Spy Minute: The Mid-Shore March for Gun Control

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While the Spy will have a much detailed account of the extraordinary March For Our Lives demonstration that took place on Saturday in Chestertown, we thought it would be helpful for those who couldn’t attend to capture some of the more remarkable moments as hundreds from the Mid-Shore joined the hundreds of thousands nationwide in support of stricter gun controls.

This video is approximately two minutes in length