Letter to Editor: Local Groups Seek Answers from Congressman Harris March 31

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This is an open letter from a number of constituent groups, all of whom share significant concerns about the many vital issues we face and the wholly inadequate amount of time you have allotted to the Town Hall on March 31. One hour doesn’t provide a fair chance to discuss our concerns and hear your views. We are concerned about these major items, among others:

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacement with a bill that will cost Maryland $2 Billion annually, substantially increase those who are uninsured and increase the cost of health care. These are just a few of the many groups that oppose the current bill:
American Medical Association – “the replacement bill, as written, would reverse the coverage gains achieved under the ACA, causing many Americans to lose the health care coverage they have come to depend upon.”

American Hospital Association & Federation of American Hospitals: “As lawmakers work to re-examine this law, patients and the caregivers who serve them across America are depending on Congress to make continued coverage a priority. We believe that any changes to the ACA must be guided by ensuring that we continue to provide health care coverage for the tens of millions of Americans who have benefitted from the law. We are pleased that so many in Congress also recognize the need to preserve patient coverage.”

AARP “…opposes this legislation, as introduced, that would weaken Medicare, leaving the door open to a voucher program that shifts costs and risks to seniors.”
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network “ACS CAN has long advocated that any changes to the health care law should provide equal or better coverage for cancer prevention, treatment and follow-up care than what is currently available. These bills have the potential to significantly alter the affordability, availability and quality of health insurance available to cancer patients and survivors. Changing the income-based subsidy to a flat tax credit, combined with reducing the standards for quality insurance could return cancer patients to a world where many are unable to afford meaningful insurance or are left to buy coverage that doesn’t meet their health needs.”

“In 2015, approximately 1.5 million people with a history of cancer between 18-64 years old relied on Medicaid for their insurance. Nearly one-third of childhood cancer patients are insured through Medicaid at the time of diagnosis. The proposed repeal of Medicaid expansion along with significant federal funding changes could leave the nation’s lowest income cancer patients without access to preventive, c”rative and follow-up health care.”

National Partnership Women and Families: “House Republicans’ Affordable Care Act repeal bill would wreak havoc on our health care system by making health coverage more expensive and inadequate for millions of women and families. The shroud of secrecy surrounding the Republicans’ process and their attempt to sneak through a bill that would have such a devastating impact, without allowing anyone to review it, is shameful.”

“Now that the bill has been revealed, it is clear why Republicans didn’t want people to see it. Their proposal radically overhauls and cuts Medicaid while simultaneously gutting the ACA by repealing financial assistance for low-income families and making it harder for people to afford coverage. It also defunds Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program, denying 2.5 million people access to essential health care.”

“Moreover, the Republican bill interferes with women’s ability to make health care decisions by making abortion coverage inaccessible. It would harshen and expand already harmful abortion coverage restrictions, denying women the ability to access the care they need.”

Over 50 organizations oppose the proposed healthcare plan that will make Americans will pay more for less. The list includes nurses, doctors, hospitals, teachers, churches, and more. You can see a few here:

https://cooper.house.gov/groups-opposing-republican-health-plan

Why did you co-sponsor H.R. 610 to take funding away from public education through vouchers, repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limit the authority of the Department of Education (ED) to award block grants to qualified states. Why did you, as a physician, co-sponsor a Bill that repeals nutrition standards for national school lunch and breakfast programs? Why repeal standards that require schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals, reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat and meet children’s nutritional needs? Whose side are you on?

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/610

H.R.861 – a bill to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Your constituents are entitled to know where you stand on efforts to eliminate environmental protection of the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers, steams, and farmlands. Whose side are you on?

This is just a partial list of our concerns. If you have a genuine interest in listening to your constituents, we demand you allot at least 3 hours to the Town Hall to hear our concerns and explain your views.

We have sent copies of this letter to news organizations throughout the 1st District and expect your early and positive response.

Thank you.

Talbot Rising
Michael Pullen

Together We Will, Delmarva
Emily Jackson
Deborah Collins Krueger
Michele Copper

Together We Will, Harford County
DeLane Lewis

Easton Huddle
Naomi M. Hyman

Kent and Queen Anne’s County Indivisible
Erin Anderson
Kitty Maynard

Talbot County Democratic Women’s’ Club
Lesley Israel

The Eastern Shore PAC for Social And Economic Justice
Meredith Girard
Michele Drostin
Lauren Harton

Kent County Democratic Central Committee
Pamela White

Md. 1st Dist. Indivisible,
New Harford Dem. Club
Allison Galbraith

Md 1st Dist. Indivisible
Baltimore County
Kirk Fairfield

African American Democrats
of Maryland
James A. Sweeting, III, Esq.

Dorchester Indivisible
Mike Brown

Indivisible Worcester Maryland
Susan Buyer, Toby Perkins

Maryland 1st Congressional District Resistance
Joseph Riedel

Bipartisan Alliance for Democracy, Eastern Shore
Maureen Johnston

Queen Anne’s Co. Dem. Central Committee
Elaine Mcneil

Indivisible, Harford County
Irene Whalen

Wicomico County Progressive Caucus
Michael A. Feldman

UMBC Progressives

Letter to Editor: Say No to Trump Military Budget Increase

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Given its $597.5 billion military budget, the United States already spends more for war and defense than the next 10 nations combined ($579.8 billion).

It’s idiotic for the president and Congress to propose a 10 percent increase for the Pentagon while also threatening to slash funds for schools, health services, education, research, breathable air, drinkable/fishable water, edible food, safe medicines, feeding and nutrition programs, affordable housing, non-injurious toys, music, museums, parks, public broadcasting, and highways and other necessary infrastructure, and all the while ignoring global warming and rising seas.

With little of worth left to defend, why spend more on the military?

Gren Whitman
Rock Hall

 

Letter to Editor: 1st District Voters Must Read Andy Harris Sponsored Bill H.R. 637

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There is a new bill in the House of Representatives called H.R. 637, sponsored by our 1st District Representative, Dr. Andy Harris. This broad, sweeping bill seeks to reclassify several chemicals so that they would no longer be regulated nor considered, “air pollutants,”

Dr. Harris’s bill says these are no longer air pollutants: methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, carbon dioxide. I researched these chemicals, and I can’t find any reason why we would want these chemicals in our air, unregulated. These chemicals are gasses that contribute to air pollution. If they go into our air, they will impact our crops, livestock, seafood, soil and waters that are the bounty of our Chesapeake Bay region, not to mention our lungs! Remember smog, acid rain, greenhouse gasses?  The polluted Potomac River? Let’s work together in a bipartisan way to protect our Bay Region. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Our God given air, soils, and water, need our good stewardship. This bill can be found online here. It is a very short, easy read, yet disastrous for our Bay Region. Our representatives work hard and deserve our respect. Often they may not know how we feel about certain bills.

Let’s make sure Mr. Harris knows that this bill is not in the best interest of a healthy 1st District Baltimore, Eastern Shore, and Chesapeake Bay Region. Dr.. Harris’ local office can be reached here . I encourage you to make your concerned, red and blue voices heard.

Chris Koch

Letter to Editor: Congressman Harris Should Not Repeal Affordable Care Act

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I’m deeply concerned that Congressman Andy Harris will vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act against the best interests of Marylanders, particularly the vulnerable communities he represents on the Eastern Shore. As a family physician serving the Eastern Shore’s neediest communities, I can tell you first hand that access to health insurance improves health. Investing in health has vast societal benefits, from helping our children to be better learners to increasing the productivity of working families.

Since the law was passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has helped 278,000 Marylanders gain access to healthcare. Maryland’s most vulnerable people such as children, people with disabilities, seniors and people living in poverty can more easily obtain and keep health insurance coverage. Marylanders can obtain vital preventive care that saves lives and lowers healthcare costs. Women are no longer discriminated against under the Affordable Care Act. Marylanders can now obtain information about the exact cost and coverage of each plan available. Yet, Congressman Harris voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and voted to repeal it twice, most recently on January 13, 2017.

Last week a gentleman in my office explained that his diabetes has been uncontrolled for years and that he has not sought testing for his chest pain because he did not have health insurance until recently. A pregnant woman postponed important testing I had recommended for her high-risk pregnancy while waiting to be added to her husband’s plan. Stories such as these are common within the communities I serve. People need easier access to health insurance, not more barriers. We need to improve our existing health insurance programs under the Affordable Care Act, not start from scratch with a new program that will take years to implement and disrupt the services we are already trying to provide.

Clearly our healthcare system is far from perfect. However we need to continue expanding coverage, not cancel it. We need to improve and expand services under existing insurance coverage, not limit it further. My position on this issue is not unique. On January 2, 2017, organizations representing hundreds of thousands of doctors throughout the country (The American Academy of Family Physicians, The American Academy of Pediatricians, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and The American College of Physicians) released a letter to Congress, supporting wide-spread insurance coverage in our country and voicing caution against dismantling the system we are working to build and improve.

Congressman Harris should work in the spirit of bipartisanship with Senator Van Hollen and the rest of the Maryland Congressional delegation to improve the Affordable Care Act, rather than dismantle it to the detriment of our communities. I urge readers to call Congressman Harris’ office today and ask him not to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Christina Drostin, MD, MPH

Letter to Editor: Reserve a Special Place in Heck for Kellyanne Conway

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Reserve a special place in Heck for Kellyanne Conway!

“I mis-spoke one word!” says the counselor to So-Called President Trump about the 2011 terrorist massacre in Bowling Green KY that, according to Ms. Conway, “didn’t get covered” anywhere in the media — mainstream, or alternative, or underground, or whatever, or the Kent County News, or the Chestertown Spy, or the Rock Hall Wave.

She now says she should have said ”terrorists” or “radical masterminds,” but not “massacre.”

But, hey! Don’t you admire the variety of Kellyanne’s views of our planet from hers?

And admit it, you were moved by that candlelight vigil for innocent massacre victims!

Gren Whitman
Rock Hall

Letter to Editor: Hard Work of Arts Advocacy Paying off for Kent County Public Schools

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The hard work of arts advocacy is paying off in Kent County Public Schools. In some counties, the arts are being eliminated. Kent County Superintendent, Dr. Karen Couch, considers the arts a vital part of a well-rounded curriculum. Kent County’s eleven Fine Arts teachers with the support of Gina Jachimowicz, KCPS Supervisor of Fine Arts, Dr. Nelson Fritts. Fine Arts Consultant, and Dr. Tom McHugh, Facilitator for Fine Arts, have developed a creative and collaborative project known as “Arts in Motion”. The main focus of the project has been to work collaboratively in Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) to build KCPS curriculum/assessment documents, share progress on Student Learning Objectives, and develop meaningful connections with the Kent County arts community.

Dr. McHugh has been able to help our teachers identify and pursue new initiatives for working with the abundant community arts programs and people in Kent County. Many of these initiatives were made possible by a grant from the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, secured by Dr. McHugh through the Mainstay in Rock Hall, a non-profit 501c3 organization.

Funds from the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust are focused on two initiatives: to enhance student arts learning by providing special materials, opportunities to see arts performers in professional settings and in their schools, opportunities for individual special projects. The second initiative is aimed at enhancing the role of the “teacher-artist” by providing learning opportunities, and enrichment experiences for the personal artistic growth of our fine arts teachers.

Highlights from 2015-16

The John Ben Snow Memorial Trust provided funds in FY2016 to:

• Support Leon Frison to provide professional musicians to hold master classes for his middle school band students;

• Cooperate with Kent County Arts Council to help Lori Armstrong fund a middle school production of Grease;

• Send Kent County High School Honors Arts students, under the coordination of Noel Morris and Stephanie Spencer, on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City for a private tour;

• Help fund trips by Keith Wharton and the Kent County High School Band to performances at the Lincoln Center;

• Hold an Arts Café at Mainstay in Rock Hall attended by our Fine Arts staff and visiting professional artists from the Kent County Community;

• Fund a trip for Melissa Walters’ class to see an Indian dance program at Garfield Center in Chestertown;

• Provide two ukulele workshops at Galena Elementary School;

• Fund photography from local photographer, Steve Atkinson, showing our arts teachers in action. The Photos were also used by the Maryland State Board of Education in a Baltimore exhibition;

• Partially fund a trip by Melissa Walter’s class on Romanticism, where students met with the Washington College Poetry Club, and then attended an art exhibit at the Kohl Gallery;

• Fund visits by local artists for Karen Frison’s classes during Black History Month and Women’s History Month;

• Establish the “Easels and Art” program to seven local sites (Peoples Bank, Chesapeake Bank, Kent County Public Library, Kohl Gallery and the Library at Washington College, RiverArts Gallery, and Chestertown Visitors Center) where Kent County student art continues to be displayed. Over 4,000 citizens and visitors have seen this art over the last several months;

• Partially fund a trip by Lebanon Valley College Jazz Band to perform at Kent County HS and Galena Elementary School, a program organized by 1st year music teacher, Mr. Charles Thai.

Mrs. Stephanie Spencer’s art students participated in “The Memory Project.” As part of this experience, they created portraits for children in Columbia. Watch this video and see how much the children loved the gifts and were so excited about the experience. University students dressed up as superheros to hand out the portraits made by KCHS art students! Another amazing arts celebration!

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 8.14.10 AM

Looking Forward to 2017 and Beyond

Looking ahead to the next several months, the Kent County Public Schools Fine and Performing Arts staff is developing the following Snow Grant projects to benefit student learning as well as their own professional growth

• Karen Somerville and/or Barbara Parker, Guest Artists, will be sought to present programs during Black History and Women’s History Month

• Elementary art teachers will collaborate with River Arts and “Kids Spot” to exhibit student artwork.

• Kent County High School Art Students will initiate the ceramic “Souper Bowl” (Empty Bowl) Project in which teachers and students will expand their ceramic expertise. Teachers may choose to take a pottery course offered by River Arts.

• Teresa Jetton’s students at Rock Hall will collaborate with KCHS art students to utilize the slab roller and ceramic equipment to help with the “Souper Bowl” project.

• Kent County High School art students will lead a basic pottery skills class for 5th graders. The high school students will earn Service Learning hours.

• Keith Wharton’s and the high school band students will attend a national festival in AtlantaGeorgia.

• Band and Theater students and guests can attend an eclectic array of performances at the Mainstay and Garfield Center, exposing them to artists outside of Kent County.

• Middle school theater students plan to attend the KCHS production of “The Little Mermaid” on Thursday, March 2, 2017.

• Professional local actors will perform Shakespeare selections for Lori Armstrong’s middle school students who are studying the “Bard of Avon”.

• A mural artist will consult with Aimee Boumiea and Stephanie Spencer to start work on their community mural project

• Saturday morning workshops will be held for identified 5th grade students and teacher, Ms. Boumiea, to work with local glassmakers on a STEM glass project at the Heglands.

A student created trash sculpture from a 5th grade Science, Technology Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics(STEAM)Coastal Clean-up unit is going to have a permanent home in Easton at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. This sculpture was displayed during Kent County’s First Friday in December at the Kent County Public Library. Attached is a picture of the 5 students from Mrs. Whitby’s 5th grade in Millington. Millington Elementary students from left, Drew Davis, Juliana MacLeod, Dylan Passwaters, James Huff and Lupe Duarte and art teacher, Mrs. Teresa Jetton.

The KCPS Arts in Motion team will continue school and community arts transformation, promoting student interest and growth in the arts as well as new learning opportunities. If you would like to know more about Fine and Performing Arts in Kent County Public Schools, please contact us at 410-778-7116 or gjachimowicz@kent.k12.md.us

Gina Jachimowicz
Supervisor of Fine Arts
Kent County Public Schools

Letter to Editor: Give the Fuehrer a Chance?

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Even after “Mein Kampf,” some Germans still said, “Give our new fuehrer a chance.” And even after his racist, violent, jingoist, nationalist campaign with full-frontal bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, and alternative facts—which hasn’t stopped after his inauguration—some Americans still say, “Give our new president a chance.”

A chance to do what?

Gren Whitman
Rock Hall

Letter to Editor: KCPA Celebrates Apex Decision to End Solar Project in Kent County

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Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance is pleased that Mills Branch Solar/Apex has accepted the considered decision of the Maryland Public Service Commission that its proposed industrial scale solar project will not be built at the location it selected in the middle of prime agricultural land and the Chesterville District of the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area.

We hope that Apex’s stated commitment to the development of solar energy in Maryland will be evidenced by choosing to build its project in one of the areas in Kent County, or elsewhere in Maryland, where industrial scale solar projects are permitted. Otherwise, the loss of valuable solar generation capacity that Apex regrets will occur because of its failure to develop such capacity in an appropriate location in Maryland.

By stating that “The weight of the evidence of harm being caused, if the Project is built, was significant and was a major factor in my decision to deny the Application”, Public Utility Law Judge Dennis Sober clearly was not persuaded by form letters submitted by Apex nor by the unsubstantiated claims made by Apex and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) of job creation and generation of tax revenues.
In his thorough and thoughtful 50 page ruling, Judge Sober recognized and upheld the hard work of Kent County citizens and planners. He stated that,

“Local opposition was based upon a reasonable application of land use policies that are based upon local knowledge of what is the best policy for the citizens of Kent County.” Kent County leads the state in per capita renewable energy production because of the progressive energy policies established which designated thousands of acres for utility scale projects and supported residential and community solar development.

Because of the lack of a State energy policy to guide the siting of large-scale renewable energy projects to suitable locations, the citizens of Maryland are being forced to make a false choice of using land for energy or for food production. KCPA believes we can preserve farmland and open space while still making Maryland a leader in renewable energy production. KCPA is working with legislators to promote the use of over 100,000 acres of brownfields, superfund sites and other non-productive land for renewable energy production. We welcome the support of other conservation and environmental organizations to help articulate and pass legislation to expedite renewable energy while preserving competing land use values that are of equal importance.

KCPA would like to thank the Kent County Commissioners and Kent County Office of Planning and Zoning, the 36th District Delegation, Kent County Farm Bureau, Maryland Farm Bureau, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, 1000 Friends as well as our many supporters for their steadfast opposition to the effort to undermine local governance. We are very pleased that Kent County’s cultural, agricultural and historic landscape will be preserved.

Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance

Letter to Editor: Safety Tips for Trump Land

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Uninformed loudmouths, Confederate-style racists, sexist bullies, and crude nativists who trade in lies, fantasies, bombast, and violence — Trump & Co., in other words — can be avoided if one applies classic defensive-driving principles to guide everyday activities.

1. Stay alert. Think safety first. A Trumpista can pop up anywhere, anytime. Avoid being blind-sided. Look ahead, to the left, to the right, behind, up, and down. Repeat. Anticipate a worst-case scenario.

2. Keep a safe distance. Yield wide margins to red golf caps, Rebel flags, “Lock-Her-Up” T-shirts, swastikas and other Nazi stuff, anyone sporting camo and named “Lewandowski” or “Bannon,” ethnic, racist, anti-Semitic, or anti-Muslim slurs, any little breitbarts darting around, hostile gestures, sexual aspersions, NRA button(s), etc. Alert others to real and potential hazards.

3. Have an exit strategy. Ensure you’re not trapped if a hostile Trump fan upbraids you for voting against Himself. If boxed in, respond as you would to an aroused grizzly. Shout. Wave your arms. Jump around. Avoid eye contact. Back away.

4. Carry insurance. Consider membership in the ACLU and the NAACP. Consider helping to insure the continuing public services of the Anti-Defamation League, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Public Radio, Earth First, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare, Social Security, Greenpeace, Friends Committee on National Legislation, etc. Subscribe to a credible news source, i.e., N.Y. Times, Washington Post, other big-city daily, etc.

Gren Whitman
Rock Hall