Standing for Peace

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Women in Black, a local chapter of an international women’s peace group who keep a weekly silent peace vigil in Chestertown

Noon, Friday at Chestertown’s Memorial Park — a group of women stand silent, holding signs: “Peace,” “No War,” “Give Peace a Chance.”

The group represents an international network for peace and justice, the Women in Black. They began holding their vigils at the intersection of High and Cross Streets on Feb. 2. On Feb. 9, the group numbered ten. While the vigil is predominantly silent, the members speak to and answer questions from anyone who engages them A number of cars honked their horns as they drove by the group. Also, the women in the group distributed cards bearing the word for “peace” in a number of languages, English, German, Japanese. The back of the cards reads, “Join us for a silent Vigil for peace. WIB an International Network for Peace and Justice. Help put an end to war and violence in our world. Womeninblack.org”

The website contains the following explanation of the group’s purpose: “Women in Black is a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence. As women experiencing these things in different ways in different regions of the world, we support each other’s movements. An important focus is challenging the militarist policies of our own governments. We are not an organisation, but a means of communicating and a formula for action.”

The movement originated in Jerusalem in 1988, when a group of women held a Friday vigil in response to violations of human rights they believed were being committed in Palestinian areas occupied by Israeli troops. Vigils were eventually held throughout Israel, and groups in other countries held vigils in sympathy. Each group was autonomous, without a common political agenda beyond a concern for human rights and opposition to war. Because the members wore black clothing during the vigils, the name “Women in Black” naturally became attached to the movement.

Women in Black – Silent Peace Vigil – each Friday at noon

The movement’s concerns spread beyond the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to other countries where peace and justice were perceived to be at risk. Women in Black became especially visible during the civil wars that tore apart former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Protesting violent nationalism and sectarian bloodshed, the women themselves often became the targets of attacks by fanatical nationalists. In a number of countries, the focus of the vigils has been violence against women.

In 2001, the international Women in Black movement was awarded the Millennium Peace Prize for Women given by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, and the groups in Serbia and Israel were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The local group will be in Monument Plaza across from Fountain Park and Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Chestertown again this Friday at noon.  They plan to be there each Friday for the foreseeable future.

Come and join the Women in Black and Stand for Peace.

Women in Black – Silent Peace Vigil

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Chester Gras — Party On!

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Linda and Phil Dutton – founders and leading lights of Chester Gras.  Phil is also musician extraordinaire as he sings and plays keyboard with his band the Alligators.

Chester Gras, Chestertown’s celebration of Creole cookery and New Orleans style dance music, defied the elements  on Saturday to raise funds for needy Kent County kids.  Phil and Linda Dutton founded the festival five years ago and it has been sponsored by Peoples’ Bank right from the beginning.

Held on Saturday, Feb. 10, in a large heated tent on Spring Street outside the Peoples Bank entrance, Chester Gras drew a large crowd despite a steady downpour that caused a last-minute cancellation of the street parade. But not to worry – Phil Dutton and the Alligators got people’s feet moving with their hard-rocking music, and the party hardly missed a beat. In addition to Dutton on piano and keyboards, the Alligators are Pres Harding on electric guitar, Marc Dyckman on bass, and Ray Anthony on drums.

Kent County Marching Band – Chester Gras 2018

While the Alligators were on break, the Kent County Community Marching Band, undaunted by the cancellation of the parade, came into the tent and played several numbers appropriate for the occasion, including “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” A few other parade entrants also drove past the High Street reviewing stand before the rain drove everyone indoors.

The food lineup offered gumbo from ten local restaurants, plus red beans and rice from chef (and Peoples Bank President) Ralph Dowling’s kitchen as well as Mardi Gras-style king cake — all that along with hot dogs and Texas sausage for those with less adventurous taste buds. Peoples Bank personnel ladled out the gumbo, which came in a variety of flavors with chicken, shrimp, and spicy Andouille sausage. Food was provided by Lemon Leaf Cafe, Uncle Charlie’s Bistro, KB Market, Chester River Yacht and Country Club, Barbara’s on the Bay, The Kitchen, Chester River Sea Food, Fish Whistle, Luisa’s Cucina Italiana, Crazy Rick’s Food Truck, Kreuz Market and Little Village Bakery.

Good food – Cajun-style! – Chester Gras 2018

In addition to food and music, a costume contest was open to attendees who dressed for the occasion. Leslie Sea of WCTR radio served as announcer, and winners were chosen on the basis of audience applause. About a dozen children and a handful of adults — and one stylish puppy! — took part in the contest.

Best costumes – Stephanie and Dorian – kids division  – Chester Gras 2018

A photo booth was set up near the bandstand, with Rich Newberry snapping pictures of the attendees. A table of masks and hats was available so guests could put on their best Mardi Gras look for the pictures. Lisa Newberry, Rich’s wife, helped attendees with their costume choices. Later in the afternoon, Rich and Lisa recruited volunteers to move the booth away from the edge of the tent, where running rainwater was encroaching.

Bill Blake, auctioneer, Chester Gras 2018

A live auction, conducted by veteran auctioneer Bill Blake, offered half a dozen items: a pair of Orioles tickets; a half day fishing trip for a party of four; a custom-made 8′ by 10′ indoor rug; a goose hunt for a party of four; an original oil painting by Dan Kessler; and a weekend of pet sitting by Mary Simmons. All told, the live auction brought in more than $1,400 for the cause. A silent auction featured a variety of items donated by local merchants and organizations. Prizes included a backyard bird feeder, a ukulele, a basket of wine, artwork, and much more.

Proceeds of the festival went to the Kent County Community Food Pantry’s backpack program, in conjunction with the Local Management Board. The program provides backpacks carrying weekend meals for local students in need of nutritional support. Almost 50 percent of students in the public schools qualify for the program, according to the food pantry. Anyone wishing to donate can send a check, payable to Local Management Board of Kent County, to The Peoples Bank, P. O. Box 210, Chestertown, MD 21620. Donations are tax-deductible.

Phil Dutton and the Alligators rocked the tent! Phil Dutton on keyboard, Pres Harding on guitar, Marc Dyckman on base, (Not in picture Ray Anthony on drums) – Chester Gras 2018

The festival continued Saturday evening with a sold-out dance party in the Mainstay in Rock Hall, featuring the Dixie Power Trio playing New Orleans style jazz, zydeco and rhythm-and-blues stylings. Masks were available for guests to get in the Mardi Gras mood. As with the Chestertown event, proceeds were donated to the backpack program.

Sound reinforcement was provided by Kabam Entertainment group.

Photo gallery by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

William Brown, Sr.; holding William Brown, Jr. with Maleah and Naruyah Brown in front at Chester Gras 2018

Lisa Newberry helped out at the photo booth at Chester Gras 2018

A selection of hats, masks, boas and other accessories were available by the Photo Booth at Chester Gras 2018

Photo booth sponsors – Chester Gras 2018

A basket of wine was a popular item in the Silent Auction – Chester Gras 2018

Chester Gras 2018

Patti Maynot Dowling – Chester Gras 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chester Gras 2018

Rev. Jim Van de Wal getting in the Chester Gras spirit! –
Chester Gras 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Krew” at Kreuz Market included Brittany Rue, Jennifer Teat, Kathy Barnhart, Tanya Brilz, & Lisa Jefferson – Chester Gras 2018

Heidi Manning and Brandy Clark of Luisa’s Cucina Italiana restaurant

Chester Gras 2018

All net proceeds went to buy food and backpacks for kids in Kent County – Chester Gras 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Council Members Weigh In on Bay Bridge

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Chestertown Councilmen Marty Stetson and Ellsworth Tolliver

At the Chestertown Council, meeting Feb. 5, several council members commented on the possibility of a new Bay Bridge coming through Kent County.  Councilman Marty Stetson said he had attended a meeting at the Chestertown Firehouse at which members of the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance presented information on the project and encouraged residents to oppose it.

Observing that the meeting was “packed,” Stetson noted that nobody in the audience had expressed support for a Kent County bridge. He said the meeting organizers had suggested three ways for residents to express their opposition to the project – writing to the Maryland Transit Authority, putting up a yard sign, and telling friends and neighbors about it – and that he had done all three. He said that during his time as a Maryland State Police trooper, he had seen an increase in crime on Kent Island, which he attributed to the bridge.

Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver said he had attended a Super Bowl party at Bethel AME Church, where several attendees had asked him about the possibility of a bridge. “People see growth and economic development as a plus,” Tolliver said. “A lot of people seem to support it in Ward 3,” he said. “Some see it as the future of Kent County.” Tolliver, who was also present at the firehouse meeting, said he hadn’t made up his mind about the bridge.

Councilman David Foster said that residents curious about the bridge project who were unable to attend the firehouse meeting would have a chance to see Elizabeth Watson, who was one of the presenters at that meeting, at an upcoming meeting of the Community Breakfast Group, which meets Thursday mornings at the Holiday Inn in Chestertown. Foster said he had moved to Chestertown to escape urban congestion. “But I think people need to weigh the pros and cons and not just dismiss it,” he said. He said opponents of a bridge need to find ways of providing other economic opportunities for the community.

Also at the meeting, the council approved a letter of support for the LaMotte Company’s application for Enterprise Zone benefits in connection with a new building the chemical company is undertaking. The 9,000 square foot building would be for the production of a new water testing product. Kay MacIntosh, the town’s economic development coordinator, said the company expected to hire at least 15 new employees to work on the new product. She explained the Enterprise Zone benefits, which include a 10-year tax credit for new construction and a $1,000 hiring credit for each new employee, a figure that rises to $6,000 if the employee is from an economically disadvantaged group.

Kay MacIntosh (left) and Jamie Williams explain benefits of the Enterprise Zone at the Chestertown Council meeting, Feb. 5

Jamie Wiliams, economic development coordinator for Kent County, said that LaMotte has already added 35 new employees as a result of the new product.

The council unanimously approved the letter of support, which Mayor Chris Cerino read into the record.

At the end of the meeting, Jeffrey Carroll of the Fish Whistle restaurant told the council about a fishing tournament he is planning for this summer, with substantial cash prizes to the winners. He said he hoped to have 100 boats taking part. He asked what permits he would need to get from the town to put on the tournament, which would have its headquarters at the restaurant and adjacent town-owned marina.

“How much money will I win with my 15-pound rockfish?” asked Mayor Chris Cerino. Carroll said he hoped the top prize would be $10,000, assuming there were enough entries. He said he was talking to an underwriter about the possibility of an even larger prize if any of the participants catches a state record fish. The contest would be open only to rockfish and catfish, and prizes would be awarded on the basis of weight.

Cerino said Carroll should meet with Town Manager Bill Ingersoll to work out details. Ingersoll and Town Clerk Jen Mulligan were absent from the meeting on account of illness. Discussion of several items of business, including the possible sale of a town-owned property on Calvert Street, was postponed until the next meeting to allow Ingersoll to provide detailed information.

The next Mayor and Council meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 20, because the Presidents Day holiday falls on Monday.

Annapolis: Bills on Live Video, Pink Hunting Gear, and Organ Transplants

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In a move to bring more transparency to the state government, the Hogan administration has proposed legislation, Senate bill 295, that will require all sessions of the Maryland General Assembly — including floor sessions, voting sessions and hearings — to be livestreamed to the public. Maryland is one of seven states that doesn’t have audio or video of what’s happening on the floor, according to the governor’s office. The bill was heard by a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Tax bill would alter personal exemptions
A bill altering personal exemptions passed unanimously in the Senate on Tuesday. The legislation, Senate bill 184, clarifies that a taxpayer can deduct personal exemptions for themselves, their spouse and eligible dependents for state income tax purposes. Prior to 2018, taxpayers were able to write off personal exemptions but the value was indexed for inflation and reduced or eliminated if the taxpayer’s federal adjusted gross income exceeded a certain dollar amount.

Slavery-era insurance provision addressed
A bill repealing provisions of laws that would require insurers to provide the Maryland Insurance Commissioner with information regarding slavery-era insurance policies advanced in the House of Delegates on Tuesday
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Delegate Mary Washington, D-Baltimore, is sponsoring the legislation, House bill 189, which cuts provisions that authorized insurers in the state to submit information related to slaveholder insurance policies to the Maryland Insurance Administration, which could then compile and report that information.

The current law consists of a policy issuing or benefitting a slaveholder that insured against a slave’s injury or death. Insurers then had to submit information about the policy, but the proposed legislation repeals the “obsolete” provisions.

Hogan bill addresses repeat drunken driving
The Hogan administration is cracking down on repeat drunk-driving offenders with a bill scheduled to be heard in a Senate committee on Tuesday. Senate bill 296 increases the penalties for a person who is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and either has three or more prior convictions or was previously convicted of a specified homicide, manslaughter, or life-threatening injury by motor vehicle. Violators would be given a felony charge and could be subject to imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000 — up from a maximum of 4 years of imprisonment and/or fine of $4,000.

Legislation bans passenger-seat marijuana smoking
A bill that would prohibit both the driver and passengers of a motor vehicle from smoking or consuming marijuana in the passenger area of a motor vehicle on a highway was scheduled to be heard on Tuesday by a Senate committee. Sponsored by Sen. Robert Cassilly, R-Harford, Senate bill 345 would make the offense a misdemeanor and the existing public marijuana use and possession penalty of a maximum fine of $500 will apply.

Learner’s permit time may be shortened
Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, is sponsoring legislation, Senate bill 424, that reduces the period of time by six months during which certain adults younger than age 25 who hold a learner’s permit must wait before taking a drivers test for a provisional license. Young drivers must wait nine months before getting a license under current legislation. Instructional permit holders convicted of, or granted probation for, a moving violation are not eligible.

Hunting in neon pink could become law
A Maryland lawmaker is advocating for the authorization of “daylight fluorescent pink” as a color for certain outerwear hunters must wear. Sen. Adelaide Eckardt, R-Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico, has drafted Senate bill 341 that would allow hunters to wear specified pink clothing, or wear daylight fluorescent orange clothing. Daylight fluorescent pink has been authorized in six states. The bill was heard in a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Bills address organ donation
Two measures related to organ donation are under consideration in the General Assembly. A bill heard on Tuesday by a Senate committee would authorize the Motor Vehicle Administration to designate a vehicle used to transport organs as an emergency vehicle if it meets certain requirements. Under Senate bill 475, sponsored by Delegate Thomas Middleton, D-Charles, these vehicles would be equipped with lights or signal devices and all drivers will be required to complete a course approved by the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute. And on Tuesday morning, House Speaker Mike Busch, D-Anne Arundel, honored the University of Maryland Medical Center transplant team and his sister, who donated part of her liver to him last year. Busch is the sponsor of House bill 96, a tax measure that creates an income reduction for up to $7,500 of qualified expenses incurred by a living organ donor.

Motorcyclists could go helmet-free if bill passes
A bill heard on Tuesday in the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee could exempt some motorcycle riders from helmet requirements in Maryland. Any licensed motorcycle operator who has been riding for at least two years and has completed an approved motorcycle rider safety course, as well as their passengers, will be exempt from headgear. Senate bill 439 was sponsored by Sen. Wayne Norman, R-Harford and Cecil.

Bills would allow collective bargaining at college; crack down on hazing
Multiple Senate bills were on track to be heard in the House Appropriations committee on Tuesday regarding higher education, including collective bargaining rights to certain adjunct faculty (House bill 163) and graduate assistants (House bill 199) at certain public institutions of higher education; and written policy and educational programs on hazing (House bill 368).

By Hannah Brockway. Capital News Service correspondent Sean Whooley contributed to this report.

 

Mid-Shore History: Frederick Douglass at 200 with Harriette Lowery and Vicki Wilson

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There is always something quite remarkable about a bicentennial. For those who experienced it as a national phenomenon during the country’s 200th anniversary in 1976, it cemented the notion that these American milestones have a special reverence attached to them.

One of those unique moments will be taking place this month and throughout the year as the Mid-Shore, and the rest of the nation celebrates the legacy of Frederick Douglass on the anniversary of his 200th birthday.

Talbot County has had an exceptional history in acknowledging the native roots of Douglass on the Eastern Shore thanks in part to the diligent efforts of the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, including the moving 2011 installation of the Frederick Douglass statue in front of the Talbot County Courthouse. But even with that remarkable success story, and many others since then, the Honor Society, the Talbot County Council, and some helpful philanthropic angels have not taken lightly the task of being the first in the nation to honor this remarkable national hero.

The Spy sat down with Harriette Lowery and Vicki Wilson from the Frederick Douglass 200th Celebration planning committee to talk about the extensive programming and extraordinary outpouring of support that has come from Douglass native homeland. We also thought it would be fun to include a few of our images that came from that extraordinary moment in June 2011 when the County was blessed by a unique day of respect and harmony.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For the most current information about the Frederick Douglass Celebration schedule please go here.

“No Bay Bridge to Kent,” Say Residents

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Is a new Bay Bridge coming to Kent County? If a standing-room crowd that filled Chestertown Firehouse Thursday night has its way, the answer will be a resounding “No.”

The meeting, organized by the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance (KCPA), was meant as a way to inform residents of the process by which the state of Maryland will make its decision on a bridge, and to motivate opponents to get involved in stopping the route from coming through Kent.

Janet Christensen-Lewis opened the meeting by introducing KCPA board members and the elected officials in the audience. Present were Kent County Commissioners Ron Fithian and Bill Short, Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino, Councilmen Marty Stetson and David Foster, Judge Harris Murphy, Clerk of the Court Mark Mumford, and representatives sent by Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Andy Harris. Christensen-Lewis then gave an overview of the mission of KCPA, calling the landscape of Kent County “a natural oasis” that must be preserved. She said the Maryland Department of Transportation is “using a 20th-century model” to solve 21st-century transportation problems. A bridge from Baltimore to Kent County would not be “harmonious with the land or the people,” she said, turning the county into a suburb of Baltimore.  Large portions of Kent County’s fertile farmland would be turned into roads with the inevitable strip malls–picture Kent Island on Rt. 50.  Housing developments would most likely follow quickly–picture Middletown, DE.  And once lost, once paved over, this beautiful and fruitful farmland cannot be restored.

Elizabeth Watson and Janet Christensen-Lewis of Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance

The idea of a bridge from the western shore to Kent County goes way back.  The first known proposal for a bridge to cross the bay was in 1907 but nothing came of it until the 1920s, Christensen-Lewis said. Plans were proceeding in 1927 but the project was derailed by the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent arrival of the Depression. A revived proposal, in 1938, had to be put aside when World War II broke out. When the idea again became possible, after the war, the route chosen went through Kent Island, taking advantage of roads already existing to serve the ferry service that previously brought passengers across the bay, The bridge was completed in 1952, and a parallel span was completed in 1973. But with the increase of traffic over the years, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) now seeks a way to reduce strain on the current bridge – and thus the call for a new bridge – which would not, she said, be a solution in the long run.

Christensen-Lewis stated that we can stop this, but “The time to raise hell is now,” she said.

Some of the standing room crowd at the firehouse meeting

Elizabeth Watson then took the microphone to outline theMDTA process and timelines for major decisions and ways Kent County residents can work to influence them.  A new five-million-dollar study sponsored by the MDTA is looking at possible locations for a new bridge across the Chesapeake Bay.  The study began in fall 2017 and will continue through 2020. MDTA is considering sites along the entire length of the Bay from north to south. The study will identify 10-15 possible corridors for the crossing by fall 2018. From these initial possibilities, MDTA will select a single location for a crossing, including a bridge plus approaches (access highways and bridges) on both the eastern and western shores of the bay. MDTA’s final decision will come in 2020.

Public comment will be accepted at all phases of the project, but once the choice of a route is made, it will be all but impossible to overturn it. Therefore, she said, it is essential to apply pressure while there is still the chance for it to affect the process.

There is a good possibility that a Kent County location could be the final choice as it is almost directly across from Baltimore. However, if the study concludes that the bridge should originate somewhere other than Baltimore, then other routes — including a third span parallel to the existing two between Sandy Point and Kent Island — become possible. That is what the MDTA study is currently working to determine and why it’s important for residents to make their opinions known now. Some southern counties, including Dorchester, have said they would welcome a bridge to their shores. In Queen Anne’s which has the Route 50 traffic from the current bridge, opinion is mixed, Watson said.

A map for a Kent County option (above) shows three possible routes connecting a new bay bridge to Route 301; one going through Kennedyville and connecting to 301 near Millington, another routed slightly up the Chester River from Chestertown, and a third downriver from Chestertown.  The above map, prepared by KCPA, assumes a  third span originating in Baltimore and ending near Tollchester in Kent County.

Watson said the MDTA had received some 400 comments by mid-December 2017, which she said the agency characterized as an “unprecedented” high number.  She said KCPA has prepared sample letters for residents who want to add their own comments. Attendees at the meeting were given the samples along with a pre-addressed envelope to mail the signed letter. They can be downloaded from the KCPA website.  It is not too late to send letters, she stressed.  A large volume of letters will definitely make both politicians and government officials take notice.  But, she added that Kent County residents have basically only nine months to make their opinions known as the three recommended routes will be announced next fall. The address to send letters about a new Chesapeake Bay bridge, pro or con, is “Ms. Heather Lowe, Bay Crossing Study, MD Transportation Study, 21310 Broening Hwy., Baltimore, MD 21224.”

Suggested wording for one of the sample letters reads: “Dear Ms. Lowe: Building another bridge to the Eastern Shore is the last thing the Eastern Shore needs.  New highways encourage more travelers; more travelers encourage more development, and more development will destroy the very nature of the ‘Shore that attracts people to visit.  As the Baltimore Sun op-ed article said, “Let the Eastern Shore be.” Don’t build a new crossing over the bay.  Sincerely,”

An online comment form that you can fill out is here.

While Maryland government sources list the bridge itself as an estimated 4 billion-dollar project, Watson said that it would probably be more like 20 billion when all the associated costs are considered, including buying the land and constructing the connecting roads.  If some landowners were unwilling to sell, then their land would most likely be acquired through eminent domain at an estimated fair market price.

Just inside entrance of Chestertown Fire Hall where the meeting took place, the old fire truck was decorated with “No Bridge” signs

The Kent County route has its supporters, who see it not only as a more direct route from Baltimore to Ocean City but as a quicker route for trucks headed north.  Those who favor a new bridge believe that it will also have the benefit of reducing wear on the current bridges, where truck traffic is 10 percent of the volume. It would also open up Kent County to development much in the way Kent Island has become a suburb of Annapolis. Given that some 57 percent of the county is prime farmland, that could be a disaster to the agricultural community that makes up one of Kent’s strongest components. On the other hand, the Baltimore Sun printed an editorial Jan. 2, this year, titled “Let the Eastern Shore Be,” that strongly opposed the Kent County route.

Watson listed actions residents opposed to the Kent County route can take,  In addition to writing letters, actions can include displaying yard signs – there were several at the meeting with the legend “No Bay Bridge to Kent” – donating to KCPA, and passing the word to friends and acquaintances who may be unaware of the threat posed by the bridge.

County Commissioners Ron Fithian and Bill Short tell about efforts to prevent a new bridge from coming to Kent County

Watson then invited public officials to comment, and Ron Fithian took the floor to list actions taken by the commissioners. Fithian said the commissioners testified against a General Assembly bill that would repeal a provision by which five of the nine Eastern Shore counties must approve any new toll road, bridge, or highway on the shore. He said state Sen. Mike Middleton, chair of the committee studying the bill, called it “a terrible precedent.” Middleton’s probable opposition gives hope that the bill would fail. “I feel good about the situation,” Fithian said, implying that he thought the bill to repeal the Eastern Shore counties right to approve or disapprove any new toll road on the shore would not pass.  He said that such a bill would unfairly silence the voices of those directly affected.

Short said the commissioners are doing their part to oppose the bridge coming to Kent County and said it was good to see so many residents at the meeting. Both Short and Fithian testified against the repeal before the Maryland Senate Finance Committee. All nine Eastern Shore counties have sent letters opposing the proposed Senate bill 34.

Clerk of the Court Mark Mumford said he would lie down in front of the bulldozers.

Mark Mumford, during an audience comment period, said he swore in the 1960s that he would be the first to lie down in front of the bulldozers to prevent any bridge from coming to Kent County. He said he was ready to do it again if such a route is approved. He urged residents to “get to your delegates” and let them know you oppose a Kent County crossing.

More details of the proposed bridge crossing and links to other relevant websites are available on the KCPA website.  Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance, which organized the standing-room-only meeting, is a 501(c)3, all-volunteer, non-profit group. KCPA merged last year with Kent Conservation, which was founded in 1970 and has been a leader in local conservation ever since.  KCPA plans more meeting to keep residents informed.  An Op-Ed article titled A Bridge to Somewhere by KCPA stalwarts Judy Gifford, Janet Christensen-Lewis, and Elizabeth Watson published earlier this month in the Chestertown Spy, looks at some of the stated and unstated reasons for a third Chesapeake Bay bridge.

The current study–which will identify the recommended and two preferred-alternate routes for a third Chesapeake Bay bridge–is a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study.  The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) owns, finances, operates and maintains the Bay Bridge, officially titled the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge.  More information on the study, which is scheduled to end in 2020, can be found at $5 million Bay Crossing Study.

Correction: The above article was edited on 30 Jan 2018, to clarify that 10 to 15 possible bridge locations will be announced in fall 2018 while the final choice will be determined sometime in mid-2020.  As originally published, the article said that three possible sites would be announced in fall 2018.

Photo gallery below.  Photography by Jane Jewell

 

 

Professor John Seidel of Washington College urged audience members to take action now because it will be almost impossible to change it after a final location is selected.

Marjo Rasin (center) and former Chestertown Mayor Margo Bailey (left)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Theater Reopening Hits Snag

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The widely anticipated reopening of the Chester 5 Theater is not going to happen, at least in the near future.

The theater, which closed June 4, was originally anticipated to open in November, in time for the Christmas season, when many of the year’s top movies are released.

One of the partners in the Chesapeake Theaters group, which was behind the plans to reopen, spoke to the Chestertown Spy in September. He said that plans were to renovate the entire interior with new, more comfortable seats, an expanded concession area offering more substantial fare. The partners also planned to work with local youth groups to hold fundraisers to benefit children. However, those plans were delayed and rumors began to circulate that the deal was falling through. Those rumors were confirmed when the Spy spoke with one of the principals last week.

Mike Klein, a partner in Chesapeake Theaters, told the Chestertown Spy that his group “was not able to negotiate a favorable lease” with the management of the Washington Square mall. “We went in in good faith,” Klein said in a Jan. 18 phone interview. He said the partners had begun work on the interior, including removal of the old seats, on the assumption that they had an agreement with the landlord. “We wouldn’t have started renovations if it wasn’t good,” he said. They have invested quite a bit of money already in the project. He and his partners have been involved in theaters in the Baltimore area, though this would have been a separate venture, he said.

Klein said the landlord, Silicato Development of Millsboro, Delaware, made modifications in the terms of the final lease that they had not discussed in their initial negotiations.  The added terms would have made it too difficult to make a go of the theater. He said all negotiations with the landlord have stopped as of January. and he does not expect the theater project to go forward.  However, he said, if Silicato Development reached out to them, they would be willing to re-examine the situation.  

The partners also would be open to the possibility of an alternate location, Klein said, but the property needs to be suitable for the purpose. He said they would need at least 20,000 square feet, with ceilings high enough for a movie screen, and a rent that fell within their budget.

Klein said he met with Kay MacIntosh and Jamie Williams, the economic development coordinators for Chestertown and Kent County, respectively, to discuss ways to make the project possible, including the possibility of other sites, but he was unable to find anything that solved the problems.

MacIntosh said on Tuesday that she had discussed incentives related to the Enterprise Zone, a state-designated area where tax benefits are available for new or revived businesses. The benefits include possible abatement of state property taxes for renovated properties and income tax benefits for businesses hiring a certain number of new employees, she said. A possible waiver of a state tax on movie theater tickets was also discussed, although that would require the approval of the town council. Discussions of those incentives never got past the talking stage, she said.  But, McIntosh said, she and Williams were very disappointed about the stalemate and would be willing to work again with Chesapeake Theaters or any other parties interested in re-opening the movie theater. 

Klein said he was disappointed at the failure of the project to get past the starting line. He and his partner had come in good faith and they have already invested a good deal of money on the project.  He said he spent some time in town, talked to people, and ate at the Fish Whistle. He found people in Chestertown were friendly and welcoming and enthusiastic about the possible reopening of the movies.  This was the kind of town, he said, that they were attracted to and had hoped to open a movie theater in.

The representative of Silicato Development familiar with negotiations on the theater was on vacation and unavailable for comment until early next week.  We hope to speak with the Silicato representative in the near future.

Election 2018: Meehan files for Kent County State’s Attorney; Opioid Crisis is Priority One

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Andrew Meehan, local attorney and Still Pond resident, has filed to run for State’s Attorney for Kent County in the Democratic primary, renewing his promise to make tackling the Opioid Crisis as Priority No. 1. Meehan was the 2014 Democratic nominee.

Andrew Meehan, candidate for State’s Attorney, with campaign treasurer Beverly Birkmire.

“While Kent County has low crime rates, heroin and other opioid abuse continue to gnaw at our community’s core,” Meehan remarked. “In the past decade, we have seen a dramatic increase in opioid abuse, often resulting in overdoses requiring heroic lifesaving efforts by law enforcement and other first responders and sometimes tragic, avoidable deaths,” Andy reflected.

“I renew my pledge to support law enforcement with strong prosecutions to send drug dealers to jail, to help addicts seek treatment, and to work with community organizations on the front lines of educating adults and youth about the risks of opioid abuse.”

“I have practiced law for 30 years representing foster children, vulnerable adults, and families affected by domestic violence,” Meehan said. “The destructive havoc of opioid addiction is a common thread in many cases.”

Meehan is a native of Alexandria, Virginia. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1984 and earned his law degree from Washington & Lee University in 1987. He practiced in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia before moving to Kent County in 2001. He is a trial lawyer practicing with Charles D. “Chip” MacLeod at the MacLeod Law Group in Chestertown.

His wife Mattie is a former Maryland Parole Commissioner and is currently a social worker with the Kent County Department of Social Services. They raised their three sons, Crenshaw, William, and Henry, in Still Pond. Meehan is president of the Chestertown Rotary Club, treasurer of the Kent County Bar Association, a member of St. Paul’s Parish, Kent, and has worked with other community organizations.

Beverly Birkmire will serve as Meehan’s campaign treasurer. A retired local banker and lifelong Democrat, Beverly is a board member of the Chestertown Rotary Club (past president), Foundation for the Kent County Public Library (treasurer), Kent County Department of Social Services Advisory Board, and 2018 Seminar co-chair of the American Quilt Study Group.

“I have known Andy for many years and respect him as a highly qualified and conscientious attorney, family man, and community leader,” Birkmire said. “Maryland and Kent County are caught in an Opioid Crisis and Andy is the right choice as State’s Attorney at this critical time.”

 

Carrying King’s Legacy Forward

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Award winners and presenters at MLK Breakfast 2018 – Fahren Bartley, Alycia Wilson, Airlee Johnson, Leslie Raimond, Aniya Jefferson, Mae Etta Moore, Kurt Landgraf, Kim Kratoville

“Get out of your comfort zone!”

Because that’s when change begins.  This was the theme for several of the speakers during the Martin Luther King breakfast at the Rock Hall Firehouse on Monday, January 15.  The breakfast is organized by the Chester Valley Ministers’ Association with the help of the Kent County Arts Council.

The meeting room was soon packed as guests arrived for the 7:00 am breakfast and celebration.  The crowd of over 250 people was entertained as they entered by the Kent County High School Jazz Band. Led by Keith Wharton, the band played two up-tempo blues and an arrangement of the bossa nova standard, “Corcovado”.

KCHS Jazz Band at MLK Breakfast 2018

Washington College President Kurt Landgraf at MLK Breakfast in 2018

Washington College President Kurt Landgraf, serving as Master of Ceremonies, set the tone for the proceedings by noting that he grew up in an orphanage and it was there that he learned the importance of helping other people –  just as King taught.

“Education is important,” Landgraf said, “but providing basic needs is more important. A nation that doesn’t care for the disadvantaged will inevitably fail.” He urged attendees to get involved and unite to put their principles into action. To demonstrate Washington College’s commitment to racial equality, he said that at the Feb. 23 Convocation, the college will award an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Frederick Douglass, the Civil War-era abolitionist who grew up on the Eastern Shore. Douglas’s biographer from Yale will speak at the Convocation and a direct descendant of Douglass will be present to accept the degree.  This will be the first doctorate ever awarded to Douglas, either posthumously or during his lifetime.  And the first honorary degree since Howard University awarded one to Douglas in 1872.  The event is open to the public and Landgraf invited everyone to attend.

The invocation was given by Cantor Gary Schiff who prayed for peace in our times.  He noted that Jewish prayers traditionally end with a call for peace.  Following the invocation, Kent County commissioner William Pickrum read the official proclamation, declaring the January 15 Martin Luther King Day an official holiday.

The Chamber Singers of the Chester River Chorale were next with three beautiful songs.  The singers, led by assistant director Michelle Sensenig, were all dressed in black and wore long colorful scarves.  Their first song was a jazzy arrangement of “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” followed by the women’s voices a capella on “Down to the River to Pray.” For their final selection, everyone stood to join in “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the black national anthem.

Chester River Chorale at MLK Breakfast 2018

Chester River Chorale at MLK Breakfast 2018

Julie Lawrence with Chester River Chorale at MLK Breakfast 2018

Rosemary Granillo, Vice President of the CVMA, announced grants awarded to community organizations. Recipients were the Vincent Hynson Scholarship Fund at Washington College,  the Good Neighbor Fund, the Samaritan Group and the Kent County Food Pantry. The grants are funded by the proceeds from the breakfast and the “Lift Up Our Voices In Song” concert Saturday night.

Three students from Kent County Middle School received Vincent Hynson Youth Awards, recognizing contributions to the quality of life in the community and participation in school and community events. This year’s recipients were Taion Johnson (not present), sixth grade; Alycia Wilson, seventh grade; and Fahren Bartley, eighth grade.

Leslie Raimond presented certificates to recipients of the Vincent Hynson Memorial Youth Awards Alycia Wilson (7th grade) and Fahren Bartley (8th grade) at MLK Breakfast 2018

Airlee Ringgold Johnson and Kent County High School senior Aniya Jefferson were the recipients of the Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. Humanitarian Awards, presented by Rev. Mae Etta Moore. The award recognizes significant contributions to the quality of life in Kent County. Jefferson, receiving the award, thanked God and her parents. She quoted King saying. “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve others.”

Rev Mae Etta Moore presented the Humanitarian Award to KCHS senior Aniya Jefferson 

Johnson, who left Kent County after graduation from then-segregated Henry Highland Garnett High School, said she originally planned never to return. Living elsewhere, she became active in her communities and learned about the “big world” that was not segregated. She advised the audience to get out of their comfort zone and seek out members of other races, recognizing that things have changed. Chestertown is not just for one race or group — it is getting wide recognition for its cultural life. “We can’t afford to be separate any more,” she said. She mentioned her involvement in the Legacy Day committee and the Social Action Committee as examples of how change is coming to the community. “It’s a brand new day; we need to move forward,” she said in conclusion.

Airlee Johnson and Rev.Mae Etta Moore at MLK Breakfast 2018

The keynote speaker was Sam Abed, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. Abed, whose grandparents emigrated over 100 years ago to the U.S. from Palestine.  Working with young people who have fallen into conflict with the law, he said, he inevitably observed a disproportionate number of African Americans.

Abed warned the audience that parts of his story might make many of them uncomfortable. He then described the anti-Arab prejudice he encountered as a young boy in Virginia. He was called “sand-n****r” and “towel-head” at school.  Though it hurt, he tried to ignore the taunts, and he said he still believed in America and the values of democracy and equality that it stood for.  At the time, he felt the insults were isolated incidents, that most people did not feel or act that way, that America was not a racist country.

But the final blow came when, in the fall of 2001, he graduated from law school, passed the bar, and applied for jobs. A year afterward, every member of his class had found a job except him — he didn’t even have one interview out of more than 1,000 applications. And he had been a good student; graduating in the top quarter of his law school class.  Finally one of his professors told him, “You have to change your name.” Sending out the same application with a new name, he immediately got three interviews. The change consisted of dropping two letters from his birth name: Osama.  As soon as he became “Sam” Abed instead of “Osama” Abed, he got a job! He was glad to get the job but disappointed that people hadn’t been able to look past the name to the individual.

He told his staff to challenge them to take responsibility for their actions and not blame others  — the judges, police, schools or parents of the young people that came into the system. “Fix what we can fix, hope others will do the same,” he told his staff, reminding them of what King’s work means — “keep going and fighting” to make a difference in the world.

The keynote speaker, Secretary Sam Abed, Esq., Maryland Department of Juvenile Services

The Sensational Stars, a favorite at the MLK breakfasts, brought old-time gospel harmonies to “Heaven is a Beautiful Place” and “It’s Going to be All Right” before concluding with a soulful version of Sam Cooke’s powerful anthem, “A Change is Gonna Come.”

Sensational Stars at MLK Breakfast 2018

The morning ended just a little before 10:00 am with a benediction by Rev. Sheila Lomax.  Following the benediction, the entire audience rose and held hands to sing “We Shall Overcome.”

Photo Gallery below.  Photography by Jane Jewell.

Rev. Jim Van de Wal with Sam Abed at MLK Breakfast 2018

 

MLK Breakfast 2018

Marianne Leery, George Shivers at MLK Breakfast 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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