Thanks from Colchester Farm

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Thank you to our friends and supporters.

As the 2017 harvest season draws to a close, so, too, is Colchester Farm CSA. Over the last 15 years of operation, we have grown high-quality produce for our friends and neighbors, introducing you to fresh approaches to healthful eating. It has been our pleasure to train young farmers and to educate a new generation of consumers who appreciate the value of eating real food and who understand the relationship between food and the land. Week after week, our farm manager, Theresa Mycek, has orchestrated the planning and production of seasonal harvests, the stewardship of the land, the cultivation of our shareholder membership, and the labor it requires to bring the produce to market. We are grateful to Theresa for her years of dedicated service to the community, and to our shareholders who have consistently invested in our operations.

We know that Colchester’s closing is a blow to our friends and neighbors who have come to anticipate the first of the spinach and kale, or who plan their weekly menus around the array of offerings they find at the weekly pick-up. Happily, you will continue to see Theresa at the Chestertown Farmers Market in her new role as the farmer manager of Unity Church Hill Nursery. And two other local operations—Priapi Gardens and Oksana’s Produce Farm—are now accepting CSA memberships for 2018 season. We hope you will continue your patronage of all of our local farmers.

Taining young farmers has been an instrumental part of our mission as a nonprofit corporation, and we are honoring that commitment by directing all of our remaining assets to Future Harvest: Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. Our gift to Future Harvest will support the Delmarva Beginner Farmer Program and will establish a Colchester Legacy Farmer of the Foodshed Award specifically for a Delmarva farmer. Theresa also has been invited to sit on Future Harvest’s Delmarva Advisory Council; in that role, she can continue to mentor local farmers who share her passion for sustainable growing practices that respect the land and contribute to a strong sense of community.

In the spirit of farmers everywhere, we express our gratitude for successful growing seasons past, and look forward to even better harvests to come.

Stay well!

The Board of Colchester Farm CSA

Problems with Senate Tax Bill

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The “tax cut” bill currently before the Senate helps big corporations and wealthy people but does little or nothing for the middle class.  Some people will see a small, temporary decrease in their taxes, but that decrease may be wiped out because the bill eliminates deductions that many people use.  Here is what the bill does:

1)      It eliminates the ACA’s individual mandate, causing 13 million people to lose their health insurance, a conservative estimate because eliminating the mandate encourages younger, healthier people to forego buying health insurance.  That will create a sicker, more expensive risk pool, raising premiums and making insurance unaffordable for many. Republican leadership cynically describes this as “giving people the choice not to buy health insurance.”  People so choosing gamble that they won’t get sick or have an accident, but potential tax savings would be quickly wiped out by a major illness or accident.

2)      The Senate tax bill favors the extremely wealthy while providing little or no help to the middle class. It eliminates the estate tax for people with estates over 11 million, or 22 million for a couple, twice what current law allows.  How many Maryland families will benefit from this tax break?

3)      A New York Times analysis concludes that almost half of cuts in the Senate bill would go to people earning $200,000 or more; 10-15 million taxpayers earning less than $100,000 would see a tax increase.  Finally, 80% of people who earn between $50,000 and $75,000 would be worse off.  Even in Maryland, a wealthy state, the median family income is $69,272 according to the 2010 census.

4)      Tax cut proponents argue that corporate tax cuts will spur economic growth that will generate investment, create jobs and raise wages. Cuts in corporate taxes will “trickle down” to individual taxpayers. Few economists agree that will happen because previous attempts to implement such a plan have failed.  (See Kansas, state of.) Last week, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked a group of CEO’s if tax cuts would encourage them to hire more people and raise wages. Most said no.  The cuts will instead go to stock buy-backs and investors, again benefitting only the wealthy.

5)      So corporations will get a tax cut from 35% to 20% based on faulty assumptions about economic growth. In addition, the corporate tax cut is permanent, while tax cuts for individuals are not. The Senate bill eliminates individual income tax rate cuts in 2026. Any help that bill gives middle class people in Maryland will be temporary.

6)      The Senate bill eliminates deductions for state and local taxes and sales taxes. Maryland’s state income tax ranges from 2% to 5.75% . Maryland’s sales tax is 6%. Maryland property taxes average over $2,000 per year ($1700 in Kent County) and the Senate bill eliminates deductions for those too.  Maryland was listed in the 2017 Kiplinger’s “10 Most Tax-Unfriendly States for Retirees.” Might making taxes higher by eliminating those deductions discourage wealthier retirees with disposable income from retiring to Maryland?

7)      The elderly: Maryland has 740,000 people over 65 (12.3%). The Senate bill increases the deficit up to $1.5 trillion dollars unless Congress can cut enough other programs to compensate.  One proposal cuts Medicaid, a program that supports most people in nursing homes, children and people with disabilities by 1.3 trillion. Without cuts that large in existing programs, the Senate bill will increase the deficit causing automatic, immediate cuts to Medicare of $25 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office. Will that help our senior citizens?

8)      This bill is being rushed through with no input from 48 Democratic and Independent Senators, leaving over half of the country’s citizens with no voice in the process.  There have been no hearings, no expert testimony and almost no time for the agencies that advise the Senate to calculate costs and benefits. Without that information, Senators cannot make an informed decision.

9)      Republican leadership hopes to pass this bill quickly before people know what’s in it. That isn’t working either. A Quinnipiac poll taken last week found that: 61% think the bill favors the wealthy; 52% disapprove of the plan; only 6% think it will benefit low income people; only 36% think it will lead to more growth; only16% say it would decrease their taxes; 71% think it will either have no effect (36%) or will increase their taxes (35%).

Senators Cardin and Van Hollen will vote no on this bill.  However, to defeat it, at least 3 Republican Senators must vote no as well. If you have family or friends in states represented by Republican Senators, urge them to contact their Senators and tell them to vote no.

Linda Cades

Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible

An Open Letter to Rep. Andy Harris Regarding His Vote on the Income Tax Bill

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Dear Dr. Harris,

I understand that reasonable people can disagree about the merits of reducing corporate taxes.   And, as a non-economist, I suppose that you can be forgiven for buying into the illogic of supporting deficit spending as a stimulus at a time when we are already at full employment and business profits are high.  But, please help me understand how, as a doctor, you can fail to understand the irreparable harm caused by refusing to allow people with serious and expensive illnesses, often well in excess of the 10% threshold, to deduct those medical expenses from their income tax.

Yes, we all recognize that most people rarely have such high medical expenses and the average person will be better off without having to itemize their medical bills but just because such illnesses are rare makes them none-the-less painful and expensive to the patient.  What precisely would be the harm done by allowing people burdened by such illnesses to deduct their health care costs?  Now compare that to the harm done to the elderly and the most seriously ill among us by your thoughtless vote.  Physician do no harm!

Sincerely,

David Foster

United Way Campaign Kickoff

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United Way of Kent County has kicked off its 2017-2018 fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $210,000 to help local agencies provide an array of critical services to this community.  Your donations directly help out with emergency food and shelter, medical services, crisis intervention, youth character, educational enrichment and significant programs for self-sufficiency.

A United Way brochure and contribution envelope are being mailed to all Kent County postal patrons and you should receive yours soon.  It’s my hope that you’ll consider making a donation, regardless of how large or how small, to make sure our neighbors receive the assistance they need.

We appreciate the 25 agencies that use the donated funds to make a difference in our community.  We appreciate your donations in the past and hope that you can continue to support United Way in the future.  Along with your donation, countless volunteers are working hard to make a difference in Kent County.  We can’t thank you enough for your support.

Thank you.

Bob Grace
Honorary Campaign Chairman

Sumner Hall Salutes Veterans

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As the calendar marks another celebration of Veterans Day, we hope that each of us will take a moment to say “thank-you” to someone who has served our country as a member of the armed forces.

We also want to salute a unique group of veterans from Kent County:  the 471 African Americans who served as Union soldiers and sailors during the U. S. Civil War.

During the Civil War black soldiers were recruited from across the nation as members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT).  Of the 188,670 who served, 8,718 were from Maryland and 476 of the Maryland soldiers (426) and sailors (45) were from Kent County.   Of the Kent County solders, 175 died during the war, mostly from illness and non-combat injuries.   They served in the U.S. Navy and in 33 different USCT Army Regiments.  A large number served in one of the 7 USCT Regiments that fought at the Battle of the Crater and the Siege of Petersburg on July 30, 1864.

Sumner Hall

We invite and encourage everyone to come to Sumner Hall in Chestertown to learn more about the contributions of these brave citizens – at the Battle of the Crater and on other battlefields.  You can also look up the record of service and the homes of most of these veterans, thanks to the research of Professor George Shivers, whose book is on display at the museum.

In 1882, 28 African American Civil War veterans established the Charles A. Sumner Post of the Grand Army of the Republic  – one of 56 in Maryland.   One of the first racially integrated organizations in America, the G.A R. was known for its lobbying efforts to ensure the payment of government pensions to former soldiers and to advocate voting rights for black veterans.  For more than fifty years, it also provided financial aid, burial benefits and social support for its members and their families and honored all veterans on Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) each year.

Their legacy lives on at Sumner Hall!

Sincerely,

Robert Ingersoll, President

Larry Wilson, Vice-President

G.A. R. Post #25 (Sumner Hall)

A Council Endorsement

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Dear Editor,

With regret, I decided earlier this year for personal reasons not to seek re-election for my seat representing the First Ward on Chestertown’s Town Council. It has been an honor and a great pleasure to serve the residents of my district for the last four years. The fact that three worthy candidates have chosen to run for election to the First Ward seat speaks volumes about the love that people feel for this community and the importance of public service, even at the most local level.

I have carefully considered the issues currently facing the Town and the gifts that each of the three candidates might bring to the position of Council member if elected. I wish to publicly endorse the candidacy of Owen Bailey for the following reasons:

Owen Bailey, candidate for Ward 1 Chestertown town council seat currently held by Liz Gross

Firstly, Owen Bailey has lived in Chestertown for essentially his entire life. He has a deep understanding of, and commitment to, this community. From the moment he first spoke to me about his interest in running for election he emphasized that this is something he has always been committed to.

Secondly, I know Owen to be a thoughtful person who will carefully consider all sides of an issue, and will work as a team player with other members of Council, and with our skilled and loyal Town staff. I did not expect some of the rich relationships that I have developed while serving on the Council, even when we did not always agree with one another. I believe that Owen Bailey will be open to dialogue and compromise when needed in order to serve the interests of all of our community, but especially those of the First Ward.

Finally, and most important to me, I think it is important to have youth and energy on the Town Council. I was proud to serve with Sam Shoge who, regrettably, must also give up his seat. Sam spearheaded our efforts in several areas like the complete redesign and modernization of our web site, the creation of a group for young professionals in Kent County, the restoration of a park for young families in the Third Ward, and the ongoing attempts to improve WiFi and cellular service in town. These are all issues that younger residents understand better than we seniors! In interviews with the press last week, all three candidates mentioned the importance of attracting and keeping young families in Chestertown. How better to do that than including this generation in the Town Council? Without such representation, the average age of the Council members will be much closer to 70 than 40 or even 50!

For these reasons, and more, I am proud to endorse Owen Bailey as the next First Ward member on Chestertown’s Town Council. I urge all readers to vote for him, but, whatever you do, please exercise your right to vote on November 7th.

Elizabeth “Liz” Gross

First Ward representative

Town Council

Flying Confederate Flags

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On your right, at two homes, take note of two Confederate flags flying as you drive north on Main Street in Betterton.  Just because it’s legal to fly them doesn’t make it right.  They are symbols of hate, racism and slavery.  It’s ignorant, and makes our Eastern Shore county look bad and threatening.  “It’s legal” isn’t the last word.  Many things about free speech don’t involve words.  Flying a Union flag along with them doesn’t excuse anything.  Flying a Confederate flag says you are a “racist redneck.”  Is that really what you call a patriotic American?

Pam Cleary, Betterton

Save the ACA

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes called Obamacare, is legislation designed to help people who cannot get health insurance through their employers buy affordable health care.

It requires companies to cover pre-existing conditions which had made insurance unavailable at any price to many people.  It also eliminates lifetime caps on coverage that in the past forced people with serious illness into bankruptcy. Finally, it requires companies to cover essential services necessary to maintain good health and recover from illness or accidents. Those services include outpatient, emergency and rehabilitative services; hospitalization; maternity/newborn care; mental health, substance abuse services; prescription drugs; laboratory services; preventive and chronic disease management; and pediatric care. Even if you are healthy and don’t expect to need any of those services, you are covered if you do. With preventive care covered, people stay healthier and serious conditions can be caught earlier when they are easier and cheaper to treat.

The ACA also requires insurers to cover women at the same cost as men. It limits premiums for older people to 3 times that for younger people. It allows young people to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, giving them more time to establish careers and afford their own insurance.

What does the ACA mean for Maryland?  In Maryland, only 54% are covered by employer-based insurance. Those who are self-employed, working for small organizations, between jobs or who lose a job find themselves without insurance. The ACA solves this problem by helping people who cannot get health insurance through their employers.

Thanks to the ACA, 309,202 more people in Maryland have health insurance now than before the law was implemented. The ACA accomplished this by using federal funds through subsidies and tax credits to help those who could not afford insurance plans.

Though it has been controversial, and has some problems that need resolving, the ACA has enjoyed popular support. An October 13 Kaiser poll found that 71% of those polled wanted legislators to keep the ACA and fix the problems rather than adopting proposals designed to make it fail. Despite the fact that a majority of people would rather keep the ACA and resolve its problems, it has been under attack since the 2016 election, with several failed attempts to “repeal and replace” it.

With Congress unwilling to repeal the ACA, President Trump has now tried to undermine it using executive actions that do not require congressional approval. Last week, he signed two such orders that will undermine the ACA and make it more likely to fail.

The first executive order promotes small group insurance plans to be sold with no essential services required.  So while the premiums might be cheap, the policies would not cover services most people need, and insurance companies could exclude pre-existing conditions or charge sky-high rates to cover them. These policies might be attractive to healthy people, but they are useless if those people get sick. They could also exclude older, sicker people or charge them so much that they would be forced to go without. Trump’s proposal returns health insurance to the scatter-shot coverage the ACA was designed to correct.

We’ve been here before. Prior to the ACA, insurers could sell bare-bones plans many people bought because premiums were lower. Those plans were popular with younger, healthy people, but they were useless to people who got sick or were injured because they did not cover many services. That’s why they were so cheap! That’s also why so many people found themselves with serious medical debt or unable to obtain affordable healthcare.

The second executive order immediately ends federal subsidies to insurance companies that had helped insurers offer affordable plans to lower-income people. Under the ACA, insurance companies used that funding to subsidize the costs of deductibles and out of pocket expenses for people who otherwise could not afford insurance.  Without that federal funding, insurance companies still have to cover lower-income people but they will have less money to do so.  That means that they will have to raise rates for everyone, making health insurance costs out of reach for many people.  Their alternative is to stop offering plans on the individual market. If many insurers stop offering plans, that leaves fewer plans from which consumers can choose, making rate increases even more likely.

The ACA is under attack, but the fight to save it is not over. The are several bi-partisan proposals being discussed in the Senate, including one by Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray, that would keep the features of the ACA most people want while finding solutions for the problems.  If you or someone you love depends on the ACA for health care, or if you believe that everyone ought to have access to affordable health care, contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to find a way to keep the benefits of the ACA while resolving the problems:

Senator Ben Cardin:   www.cardin.senate.gov or call: (202) 224-4524

Senator Chris Van Hollen: www.vanhollen.senate.gov  or call: (202) 224-4654

Representative Andy Harris: www.harris.house.gov or call: (202) 225-5311

Linda Cades

Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible

Support Our Schools Response to Kent County Commissioners

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Support Our Schools was disappointed to read the letter written (to the Kent County News) by the Kent County Commissioners William Pickrum, Ronald Fithian, and William Short outlining their position on school funding. To use a time when our schools are in the midst of a busing crisis (our families facing unreliable or nonexistent transportation to and from school) as a time to promote and justify their assault on our education system is thoughtless and tone deaf. As concerned parents, we could not let this go unanswered.

Kent County Public Schools (KCPS) have been chronically underfunded for at least the last five years by fiat of the Kent County Commissioners. This underfunding has directly contributed to this crisis. In its preliminary findings, the Commission on Excellence and Innovation in Education (also known as the Kirwan Commission), found that our county’s economic health is such that Kent County schools could be fully funded by the county without state aid. The only reason we continue to rely on state funding is the county commissioners’ decision to allocate our hard earned tax dollars elsewhere.

We would also like to correct the record on some material misstatements made in the letter. While the overall KCPS budget is $26.3M, the Kent County Commissioners contribution to “Maintenance of Effort” (ongoing support for the schools) is only $16.9M. The difference includes contributions to Chesapeake Community College, debt service, and one-time projects, as well as the State of Maryland’s roughly $8M contribution toward KCPS. The Kent County Commissioners allocate a mere 37% of the county expenditures to KCPS, well below the state average of 50%. Further, for some time now, the Commissioners have incorrectly reported the actual percentage as 42%. The “error” was brought to the attention of the county financial officer, who agreed with our finding, but no official correction has yet been made. (An SOS member gave you an opportunity to publicly correct the record on this front, and you [the commissioners] refused to do it, making us wonder whether this is an error or a purposeful misrepresentation.)

Additionally, the Commissioners claim that the schools operated with a $2.9 million surplus in 2016 and a $1.7 million surplus in 2017. We can only assume that they are referring to the school board’s “fund balance” or contingency fund. 1) We question the validity of these figures. 2) Regardless, this is a deceptive characterization of those funds, and seems to demonstrate a misunderstanding of public accounting. And 3) It is essential for a healthy school system to maintain a contingency fund for emergencies, capital improvements, and other unforeseeable costs. The commissioners know this, as evidenced by the pride they publicly claim in operating with a “surplus” every year, holding up the County’s contingency planning as a representation of fiscal responsibility.

We respectfully ask the Kent County Commissioners to tone down their rhetoric and instead to act like actual leaders in this time of crisis. Finger pointing and buck passing should be beneath the dignity of their office. Moving forward, we hope to see a more positive tone, greater transparency, and closer attention to detail where the safety and education of our children are concerned. And, to make a bold suggestion, perhaps our Commissioners could strive for even a hint of personal accountability–a yet unseen quality that most consider a basic requirement of holding public office.

The Support Our Schools (SOS) Initiative is a grassroots advocacy effort devoted to increasing awareness of and support for the needs, challenges, and untapped potential of our public school system—both for the sake of the current student population and for its opportunity to serve as a catalyst for economic development.

Robbi Behr
Jodi Bortz
Piers & Rebecca Heriz-Smith
Elizabeth Profitt
and Francoise Sullivan

A related Spy article on the school bus problem in KCPS – the immediate instigating issue for this letter – can be found here.