Letter to Editor: Do We Know No Shame?


In a democracy, there are two kinds of citizens: those who make something happen, and those who let something happen.

Both groups should feel a sense of national shame right now for making, or letting, the events of recent years happen.

First, think about school shootings. According to USA Today, “Since Columbine in 1999, there have been 25 fatal, active school shootings at elementary and high schools in America.” In addition, there have been multiple mass homicides at a college, a nightclub, a country music festival, a church Bible study and multiple other venues. Babies, school children, teachers, young adults and even politicians have been the victims. Why is there no political will to stop this “American carnage?” Shame on us.

Second, think about the toxic partisan politics of recent years.To put it simply, we have a majority party, the Republicans, who are systematically dismantling our democracy, allowing corporations to rape the environment, rigging the system to favor the rich, and punishing the poor. This party still claims to represent a majority of voters, who, by their silence, and lack of urgency, allowed this to happen. Shame on us.

Third, we have a nation which has lost its moral, ethical, religious compass. On our currency is printed: “In God we Trust.” For those who espouse belief in God, do we really follow the moral and ethical precepts of God? Read Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” While you are at it, read Matthew 22:36-40 where Jesus teaches that following God’s law requires loving God, and loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
Shame on us.

Fourth, we have an administration in Washington whose President lies most every day and who burdens middle class and poor people with overwhelming debt. This administration shows no compassion for immigrants. Its foreign policy tactics are to bully others (allies and enemies alike) and to build walls along political borders and between religious and racial groups. Shame on us.

How can we remove this shameful stain on our nation? Citizens need to speak up and cry, “SHAME” on public officials who make or allow these shameful things to happen.

Citizens need to VOTE for candidates, not by their party affiliation, but by their willingness and ability to represent all of the people, guided by a moral and ethical compass, not lust for power or financial gain. If we citizens don’t do this, then “shame on us.”

Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Sinnott
Associated with Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible

Letter to the Editor: On Guns


Let’s look at the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

What does it mean? What was Madison’s intent? The first phrase suggests the founders were talking about a state-regulated militia ensuring security of that state. The second phrase, most often quoted by gun-rights folks, sounds like a right to bear arms given to individuals.

In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the Supreme Court ruled that “The right [of individuals] to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence” and limited the scope of the Second Amendment’s protections to the federal government.

That ruling has morphed, via other rulings over the years, e.g. U.S. v. Miller (1939), D.C. v. Heller (2008), McDonald v Chicago (2010), to Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016), where the court reiterated (Wikipedia):
“its earlier rulings that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding” and that its protection is not limited to “only those weapons useful in warfare”

The U. S. Supreme Court’s latest interpretation is that any individual can own/possess any kind of weapon(s) which would be “bearable” (e.g. rifles, grenades, home-made bombs, chemical, biological, nuclear) and does not place restrictions of any kind (age, mental capacity, criminal background) on weapon ownership.
What did our founders envision? Could they have imagined that a “mentally-challenged” individual with a weapon of mass destruction (modern assault rifle) could murder scores of people in a short period before authorities could stop him? I submit that this was not what they had in mind.

In practice, states put their own restrictions on the broader interpretation of the Supreme Court. But even here there are no standards state-to-state which common sense should dictate. Each state, then, has the right to create its own standard so long as it complies with the broad outline of the Federal government.

What is the practical result?

Our lawmakers are mainly concerned with keeping their jobs. They keep their jobs by expressing the collective will of their constituents, the vast majority of whom are gun owners. Part of their income (or campaign funding) is contributed by the gun lobby, particularly the National Rifle Association. The gun lobby, in maintaining their mission and relevance, wants no restrictions on gun ownership. Some of their policies, mantras, and propaganda statements are:

1) The more guns we have, the better/safer our society will be.

2) Democrats want to take your guns away. Banning assault rifles is only the first step in that process.

3) Don’t blame the gun. The gun is not the problem. It’s the bad person who misuses the gun who is the problem.
The gun lobby, and their shills (especially GOP members), after every mass shooting, say “Now is not the time to talk about gun control. This is grieving time. We can talk about gun control later when everybody is done grieving and we can address the situation without emotions getting in the way.”

These folks are counting on the fact that people have short memories, that next week the news cycles will return to the latest controversy involving Trump and his dysfunctional enablers.

But here is the problem with blaming people rather than the gun. When we say “Oh, there were warning signs that that particular murderer was likely to start shooting people, how can we realistically know? Where is the line between mental stability and mental instability? Aren’t we all a little crazy? And could someone who is considered mentally stable today become mentally unstable tomorrow? Who could predict the point where someone’s dark thoughts become dark actions? It seems an intractable problem to me.

What is not an intractable problem, though, is the ready availability of the weapon. If the mentally disabled person has no access to a weapon of mass destruction (AR-15 with multiple high-capacity magazines) wouldn’t it be less likely that he could do mass damage?

At the very least we should:

1) Reconstitute the ban on assault rifles and their high capacity magazines.

2) Require criminal and mental background checks for all gun purchases.

3) Close gun show loopholes which allow purchase of any kind of weapon (from a dealer or private person) with almost no checks or regulations in play.

4) Outlaw bump-stocks which easily convert semi-automatic rifles to full automatic.

A better long term solution is to vote out of office our representatives who put their personal objectives ahead of the safety of our children and fellow citizens.

Bob Moores

Letter to the Editor: Embarrassed by Trump Administration Again


Once again, I am embarrassed by our current administration’s top officials! According to the International Olympic Committee “the goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” Yet, there our Vice President sat on at the opening ceremony of the Olympics studiously avoiding even eye contact with Kim Yo Jong, the representative from North Korea.

How hard would it have been to extend a hand and word of greeting and wish their Olympic competitors good luck during their events? Why can’t we ever seem to actually represent the “better” person as opposed to the country with the bigger button? Shame on you Mike Pence!

Ellyn Vail, Worton, MD

Letter to Editor: Bidding Farewell from Tractor Supply in Chestertown


I am a local born and raised here in Kent County MD and have worked for Tractor Supply for the past year and a half as a member of the management team.

It is with great sadness that I am writing this. As many of you may have already noticed, I have not been there in a few months. This is due to a severe medical condition diagnosed in early September of 2017. I will no longer be one of the wonderful management team members at Tractor Supply and will be leaving indefinitely to address and handle my medical needs on Feb 23, 2018.

At this time I would like to thank all of my loyal and wonderful customers and business partnerships for their business and a chance of getting to know the community. It was my pleasure to serve and help you with all your pet, livestock, farm, lawn garden, truck, home and personal needs while there.

I would also like to thank Tractor Supply for their full support during this time and say it was my pleasure to work for you. I enjoyed serving my local community and working for a company that gave back so much to a lot of wonderful programs in our local community such as 4-H, FFA, Humane Society of Kent County, Shop with a Cop with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and Chestertown Police and so many more.

I have the utmost confidence that the managers and team members will be able to help you with your needs from this point out. As well as welcome the new store manager, and the new assistant manager to the team.

Thank you all for a wonderful year and half and your support

Michael Davis-Haithcock

Letter to the Editor: Bay Crossing Study and Being Too Little & Too Late


On January 25th, along with many others, I attended the meeting of the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance to listen to a cogent presentation by Janet Christensen-Lewis and Elizabeth Watson on the current status of the Bay Crossing Study now in progress.

The Task Force for this Study was commissioned to analyze traffic data from the western to eastern shore and propose solutions to current and future Bay Bridge congestion and suggest alternative routes from a possible 3rd bridge across the bay to the Atlantic shore beach communities. If you have the time, I would encourage everyone to read it. You can find it on the MDTA website and also at the KCPA website. It will give you a clear picture of the methodology devised for data collection and review, while raising quite a few questions, as well as introduce you to many acronyms which lend the report a seemingly comforting professional sheen.

But the content of the Task Force’s Report left me wondering if there are any scenario planners participating in this Study.

Clearly there are traffic engineers, civil engineers, environmental scientists, and other agency heads, etcetera, but is there also someone from the Department of Unintended Consequences? (representation of which would be well advised).

For those of you who missed this presentation last week I was hoping I could entice some of you to perform a thought experiment. I’m sure you have seen the map the KCPA has produced showing one possible Bridge location in Kent County, but if you haven’t, find a map of Kent County or the Delmarva Peninsula which includes the bay and part of the western shore. Now draw a straight line from route 702 on the Baltimore side (just north of Baltimore) to Tolchester. This is one of a few contemplated routes for the proposed 3rd bridge (although I’d argue the Report implies this might be a preferred route). From the Tolchester landing point, draw 2 more lines, each about 15 miles long, one slightly south from route 21 down to 213 at Centreville and one slightly north of Chestertown hooking up to route 291 (it seems logical the state would consider two routes in lieu of one across the peninsula).

Now, if you can, mentally lift the commercial corridor straddling route 50 from the existing bridge to Queenstown (all the businesses, malls, restaurants and bars, motels, tattoo parlors, etc) and plunk that down along these 2 new routes through Kent County. Then retrieve the secondary developments which stretch to either side of the route 50 commercial corridor (all the condos, hotels, side roads, mini-malls, and adjacent sprawl) and add that to your mental map. Make sure there are lots of condos along the bay shore from Swan Point Farm in Rock Hall to Worton and into Swan, Fairlee, and Worton creeks, as well as the Chester River. I’m not even sure Churn Creek and Still Pond Creek would be immune to the development pressure. This is nothing less than supplanting one ‘culture’ with another (merely to relieve traffic densities, and provide more affordable housing to employees in Baltimore), and anyone claiming they can mitigate or minimize the development pressures that would occur along these improved routes is suffering from TLS (Temporary Loss of Sanity). That is not how growth patterns should occur, if at all, particularly here in Kent County.

What might be the ultimate cost of this proposal for Kent County? Think of the resultant air pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, water pollution, and human pollution that will be created as a by-product of a solution to primarily move goods and people from the western shore of the bay to the Atlantic in as expedient a manner as possible. Then too, we will be beset with loss of wildlife habitats, loss of fertile farmland, disruption of wildlife corridors, complex (and poorly understood) changes to existing commercial and recreational fishing sites, loss of viable hunting sites, more planned unit developments and commercial enterprises feeding this traffic, causing drastic impacts on existing infrastructure and straining municipal budgets.

It may be too soon to predict how this study will conclude and with what proposed, but considering the speed with which it is proceeding, everyone’s opinion must be accounted for, otherwise it may be TLTL (too little too late). All bad ideas begin as good ones. A third span into Kent County may be one of those.

Ken Schiano

Letter to Editor: A “No Build” Option on New Bridge the Answer


We attended the recent meeting on the latest iteration of the Bay Bridge crossing study and are very grateful to the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance for bringing this important issue to Kent County residents’ attention. On the Alliance’s advice, we reviewed the Chesapeake Bay Crossing Study Task Force Report commissioned by the Maryland Department of Transportation on proposed options for solving the traffic congestion problems on the existing Bay bridges. We were left with several concerns about the report itself and the conclusions that were reached.

First, I’m surprised that a plan for the 21st century—focused on the year 2025–is based only on 20th century traffic congestion solutions and not looking to future technology. The report focuses on studies which led to the building of the 1952 and 1972 bridges as the solution to current traffic congestion. It also uses quite old data to support conclusions for solving the current problems – e.g., costs per mile data from 12 years ago!

Second, since a primary goal of the Task Force is to expedite travel from the Western Shore to Atlantic Ocean beaches, then, given the acknowledged fragile nature of the Chesapeake and its environs (and the vast resources that have been spent to protect and preserve the Bay), we do not understand why any proposal would focus on damaging so much of these fragile areas that are not primary destination points. Shouldn’t the focus be on the gentlest way to move people from point A to point B using new technologies, not old?

Third, reading the Task Force Report, none of the proposed options significantly reduces the existing and projected traffic overload on the existing bridges; it seems as though the Task Force should look for solutions that would actually solve the problem it has described.

We are deeply dismayed at this faulty decision-making which uses old data, no future thinking and offers no good options. This strikes me as an embarrassing methodology to evaluate such an important and obviously expensive issue – both in terms of dollars and potential negative impact on the Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore.

The answer here is not simply “Kent County says no.” Relocating this project as currently imagined—a bridge for motor vehicles–elsewhere on the Shore does not address its fundamental flaws or limit its adverse effects on the Chesapeake Bay.

We urgently need the “no build” option, while we think more deeply about 21st century transportation possibilities and the Eastern Shore we want to leave to our grandchildren.

Ellyn and John Vail

Is Another Bay Bridge Even Necessary? by Benjamin Ford


“Is another Bay Bridge crossing even necessary?”

A recent meeting in Chestertown regarding a potential third span crossing into Kent County was incredibly well attended. By my very rough count, there were at least 250 people there on the Thursday evening. Most seemed to be against the idea of a third span and the explosive development a span would doubtlessly bring to the most rural of MD counties. Arguments were made about economics and debt, about why MD taxpayers should bankroll expenditures at Delaware beaches, about rural vistas, about prime agricultural land, and about disenfranchisement and political backstabbing. These arguments are all good ones, but I hope that the powers that be seriously look to the future to determine if creating a third span at any point across the Chesapeake is even a valid idea.

Since November of 2017, appliances have been delivered to warehouses in Southern California from manufacturers in El Paso, Texas in “big rig” trucks. Now, this isn’t anything new, but you would hardly recognize the long haul truckers driving these rigs. Disappearing fast are the men and women who delivered 70% of all goods in the US. Indeed, these new trucks are autonomous (though a human rides along as backup for now); piloted by computers and sensors, they drive through four states to deliver your washing machines and ovens at a lower cost while avoiding the busiest traffic times.

Forbes Magazine predicts that there will be over 20 million self-driving cars on the road by 2020. A recent beer delivery in Colorado was delivered by a driverless rig made by Uber. Tesla’s Elon Musk says “”Every truck we sell has Autopilot as standard,” Musk said of the Semi, which goes into production in 2019. “This is a massive increase in safety.”” Daimler, the company that owns Mercedes, is in on it too and hope to have a truck in production within a few years.

The teamsters don’t think their jobs will be obsolete for another 40 years; the developers of these trucks and software engineers in Silicon Valley say less than 5.

Our transportation system may be transformed for the average person. Most people at this point have used Uber or Lyft, or at least know what these services do. Imagine a commute where your subscription driving service pilots an autonomous car (or van) to your front door exactly when you need to leave for work? Imagine being able to order a car that will meet you in your driveway so you can go see a movie or go buy groceries. Imagine being able to meet friends out on Friday and not having to worry about overindulging.

Imagine not owning a car at all.

There is no other modern “investment” that fails to provide any sort of return (in fact, it depreciates as soon as you buy it) and sits around unused most of it’s time (with the exception of, hopefully, health insurance). Imagine all the billions of capital sitting and peoples garages and driveways instead invested in portfolios, vacations, or educations!

Imagine getting on an autonomous car, van, or bus and going to Ocean City from DC or Baltimore!

One of the coolest potential features of the autonomous driving revolution is the ability to drive in convoy. Long haul autonomous trucks will be able to essentially “park” right on another trucks bumper and draft, saving lots of energy (did I mention most of the trucks are fully electric?) and space. The same, hopefully would go for commuter autonomous vehicles.

Take the image below. It’s a satellite image of the east bound span from 2014. There are 24 cars in the quarter mile of road shown. If each car carries 1.5 people, that’s roughly 612 people on the bridge at any given time.

The image below (excuse my sloppy photoshop) shows what autonomous commuter vehicles could do for traffic “bandwidth”. If the cars (there are now roughly 70) were drafting in convoy and had the same passenger density, the passenger count on the bridge at any given time is now 1785. If ride-sharing bumps the number of people per vehicle to say, 2.5 on average, that’s 2975 people on the bridge at any given moment.

Now, I’m no engineer, but Washington State commissioned a study in 2004 (which was a LONG time ago as far as construction costs go) that sought to project cost per lane mile of suspension bridges. Their number was $67.2 million per lane mile. Even if the necessary 9 mile bridge to Tolchester were only two lanes (yeah, right), the cost would be over $1.2 billion dollars to Maryland taxpayers (and that’s just the bridge, not the legal fees or approach roads, etc.). I would hate to see Marylanders make that extraordinary investment just to see the need for increased connectivity be rendered obsolete by other, free-market technological changes.

Benjamin Ford
Chestertown, MD

P.S. Weren’t we promised flying cars by now?”


Open Letter to Annapolis: Let Chestertown Have a “Special Rural Community Hospital”


We represent the Chestertown-centered physician/community effort known as “Save Our Hospital.” As we approach the start of the General Assembly, our goal is to ensure that, with your leadership, the hospital in Chestertown will become a “Special Rural Community Hospital” as recommended by the Legislative Workgroup on Rural Health Care Delivery. That designation will, we are told, ensure that our hospital will continue to serve this community as an inpatient facility.

While our community has focused on retaining inpatient medical and surgical care in Chestertown, we want to make it clear that we support the entire Final Report of the Workgroup, led by co-chairs Joseph Ciotola, M.D., and Deborah Mizeur, administered by the Health Care Commission, and enhanced with research by the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis.

We agree with the report’s conclusion that Maryland will well serve its rural communities and take a giant step toward becoming a national rural health leader with policies that:

foster collaboration and build coalitions in rural areas to serve rural communities; bring care as close to the patient as possible to improve access; and  foster participation in statewide models and programs in rural Maryland.

You are likely aware of the unwavering effort to retain hospital services for Kent and Northern Queen Anne’s Counties, begun in late 2015 when we learned of plans to eliminate in-patient care in Chestertown and reduce the facility to a free-standing medical facility.

We publicized those plans in a full-page ad signed by 31 (virtually all) local physicians in December of 2015, then explained our concerns at “The Firehouse Meeting” attended by more than 500 area residents in January. In follow-up action, often covered by Eastern Shore and Baltimore media, more than 5,000 locals signed a petition asking UM Shore Regional Health to retain inpatient services and return lost services; 1,000 people sent postcards to Governor Hogan; and many attended and testified at General Assembly hearings.

The result was the unanimous passage of SB-707 in both Houses, thanks to Senator Hershey and our Mid-Shore delegation, and thanks to Senator Middleton’s belief that all Maryland residents should have access to high quality health care. The bill, signed by Governor Hogan, saved our hospital at least until 2020 and established the Workgroup. We cannot adequately express our gratitude for all you did to make that happen.

As the 2018 General Assembly approaches, rural hospitals in other states continue to close (more than 80 have closed since 2010), but UM Shore Regional Health System is now committed to maintaining the Chestertown hospital as an inpatient facility if the state will help with necessary financial support.

Please tell us what we and our neighbors can do to help secure a “Special Rural Community Hospital” designation so our community will have the accessible hospital care that we need.

With continued appreciation,

Gerard O’Connor, M.D. and Wayne Benjamin, M.D., Founders of “Save Our Hospital”
Kurt Landgraf, President, Washington College
Richard L. Goodall, Dixon Valve & Coupling Co.
William Pickrum, President, Kent County Commission
Garret Falcone, Director, Heron Point Retirement Community
Glenn Wilson, President, Chesapeake Bank & Trust
CEO Chris Cerino, Mayor,  Chestertown, Maryland


Thanks for Community Sing-Along


To the Editor:

The Community Sing-Along on Sunday in Fountain Park was a great success! We had good weather and the large crowd was enthusiastic. Chestertown has terrific singers!

The Chester Valley Ministers’ Association thanks our many government, corporate and media sponsors, including the Chestertown Spy, for their support. Our community came together to support this endeavor and we appreciate it.Those who led the singing were wonderful and Philip Dutton on keyboards was perfect. Thank you!

Donations and pledges to date have covered expenses and have allowed for a generous contribution to the Good Neighbor Fund (PO Box 227, Chestertown, MD 21620).

Best wishes to all for a Blessed and Happy Holiday Season!

Rev. Jim Van de Wal

President, CVMA