Op-Ed: A Healthy Dilemma By Fletcher Hall

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Congress will not enact a new healthcare act at this time. The wheels of Congress grind very slowly; however, the legislative process has begun, and the horse-trading has been significant and vicious. As evidenced by the withdrawal of the proposed Trump health plan, the Republicans proved that their party’s schism is really harmful to their own political agenda.

Having watched the committee hearings in the House of Representatives, I am convinced it is dangerous to have anyone in Congress attempting to create a national healthcare plan. If they cannot understand and clearly explain the legislation, how can the American public?

My observations about the government’s involvement in the healthcare industry are that they should have no, or a very limited, role in the provision of medical care. Perhaps it should be limited to some oversight responsibilities to keep the industry on a level playing field and drug costs at a reasonable level.

For the first twenty years of life, my healthcare connection was that I saw the doctor who delivered me until I was out of college. Services were paid for by cash or check, with no third-party intervention. Having grown up in a rural area on the Eastern Shore, there were many stories of doctors taking eggs, chickens, and vegetables instead of cash for payment of medical services. Even my uncle accepted this method of payment for his services. But, progress and the march of time makes such stories simply memories of the past. And so it should be.

Medicine today, while still being a healing art, is partially governed by time and money. It is a given that the advances made in the field of medicine and the provision of healthcare services have been amazing and profound; however, government intervention in the delivery of healthcare has become so detrimental that it has made many advances in medical care unaffordable.

Since it will now remain a program “captured” by Congress, healthcare remains to be fixed. The capacity to make the long-needed changes is best left to the private sector. The president should appointment a national commission to identify the essential components and best practices of the provision of healthcare. This commission would then make their findings available to Congress for their consideration. Better yet, the conclusions of the commission could be adopted as a set of national standards for the provision of healthcare services throughout the United States.

The provision of healthcare services surely affects all Americans from cradle to grave. As the elderly population of America continues to grow, so to does the necessity of providing quality, affordable medical services. Rather than complicate healthcare services, now is the time to simplify service delivery and patient care.

America can do better. It now appears that the Trump administration and Congress are again attempting to address this issue. The current administration needs to have solutions enacted before the 2018 mid-year elections. Be careful what you promise—even when Congress is controlled by your own party. The Freedom Caucus can take a wrecking ball to almost any legislation with which they disagree.

The United States remains the preeminent provider of healthcare in the world. Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical System are primary examples of institutions providing cutting edge medical services. Baltimore is indeed fortunate to have these institutions and the prominent doctors drawn to this area by such medical facilities.

Medical care in this country is in flux. It can be improved, but the government and the private sector must identify their roles in the vast system of health services.

Each has a role to play. The private sector has opportunities to make significant changes and improvements and should speak up before the government forces changes that are either not desirable or even more onerous than those imposed at the present time.

Op-Ed: Even Individuals Can Help Save the Bay

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As someone who grew up in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the United States Environmental Protection Agency deeply concern me. Revoking the Bay’s federal funds would not only undermine years of progress, but would devastate communities within the watershed as well.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to nearly 20 million people across six states and Washington, D.C. The beloved Maryland blue crab and Virginia oyster support thriving fisheries thanks to the efforts that have been made to clean the Bay over the past decades. The Chesapeake Bay supports precious ecosystems, a thriving economy, and a way of life. Anyone who grew up on the coast knows what it’s like to meet up with old friends at a local oyster roast or to crack into the first “Jimmy” of the season. Unfortunately, with the proposed budget cuts, this way of life may become a luxury of the past.

One of the major problems contributing to the Chesapeake Bay’s health is runoff from farms, gardens, and lawns. Runoff includes excess sediments, nutrients, and chemicals that otherwise would not be introduced to the Bay. For clarification, I’m not blaming anyone in particular or suggesting that we more heavily regulate the sources of runoff to the Bay. As the granddaughter of a farmer and a resident of a small town in rural Virginia, I will always support the men and women who devote their lives to serving their community through farming. What I am suggesting is that each resident of the Chesapeake Bay watershed take it upon themselves to help alleviate the problem of runoff to the Bay.

But what can you, an individual, do to help “Save the Bay”? The answer is probably easier than you think and it’s something you can do in your own back yard (and front yard too!). Better management of your soil, yes—dirt, can make an impact on the Bay’s health. If everyone took it upon themselves to better manage their lawns and gardens, and even farms, we could make a big impact. Individuals can make a positive change in the Bay through conservation tillage, reduced or more targeted use of fertilizers and pesticides, and managing plant species to help reduce runoff.

Well managed soil can help reduce runoff by absorbing rainfall like a sponge. There is less pore space to “soak up” the water when soil is compacted. However, when the soil is rich with plant material and open pores, rain can infiltrate the ground and runoff is reduced. Another soil management approach is to never leave a field or a garden fallow. Empty fields expose the soil to erosion from wind and rain, which eventually enters the Chesapeake Bay. To reduce your input of sediments and other pollutants, make sure to plant cover crops for all seasons. A simple, but important soil management method, is to only fertilize your soil if absolutely needed. Cutting down on fertilizer application will help alleviate the input of nutrients to the Bay. A potential alternative to fertilizers is making your own compost.

When people across the entire watershed implement these management practices there can be great cumulative effects on the Chesapeake Bay’s health and prosperity. Better yet, individual action will not only help the Bay, but can help sustain a way of life.

Morgan Rudd is first year graduate student at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Op-Ed: Thoughts on Last Night’s Town-Gown Meeting by Matt Tobriner

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On Tuesday, April 11 Sheila Bair (President of Washington College) and Chris Cerino (Mayor of Chestertown) joined in a public discussion concerning town/gown cooperation. The well-attended event was hosted by Washington College (WC) and moderated by Dave Wheelan, publisher of the Chestertown Spy. To me, the discussion was open, frank, and informative, with audience participation. It started with prepared statements of recent progress and accomplishments, of which there are many. Here are a few observations and opinions:

WC is entertaining possible arrangements for a hotel that might be developed on property it currently owns adjacent to the Armory, possibly including the Armory. Rehabbing the Armory as a student residence has also been examined. Though all of this is very preliminary, the Mayor is supportive, will help where appropriate, and believes a hotel would be an excellent addition to the local economy.

Chris pointed out that Sheila had been instrumental in securing the recently awarded $500,000 grant for the marina from the MD State legislature. These funds, plus others the Town has gotten, will allow the ongoing work at the marina to be continued to completion this coming winter season. This was cited as a major victory and an example of how the two entities can best work together.

In response to a Wheelan question regarding formalizing a relationship between WC and the Town, neither party felt a formal arrangement that involved joint board participation would be particularly useful. But establishing formal standing or ad hoc joint task forces, or the creation of a non-profit development corporation should only be considered if specific work or projects could be defined and agreed upon, and that these joint efforts did not overlap and confuse other ongoing initiatives. They both seemed to prefer the informal communications approach, and mutual support of efforts when possible to obtain support from third parties.

The need and benefit of a college presence in the downtown was recognized by both parties. The new WC waterfront campus development and the move of the Center for Environment and Society to Cross Street were highlighted as significant forthcoming changes. Having students in the downtown area is seen as very useful for improved relations, as demonstrated by the College’s SandBox experiment.

In response to an audience question about the use of PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) arrangements, Chris pointed out that this would be divisive to a good working relationship, and ultimately such a program would have to be voluntary on the part of WC. The College and the Town are facing regional demographic and economic challenges, and both Sheila and Chris feel that such an arrangement is not well suited for a small college and municipality. WC is focusing on reducing its tuition costs to make it more competitive and PILOT would be counterproductive. Sheila also noted that the college pays real estate taxes on its lands that are not used in its educational program. Chris closed by saying he has to pick battles he can win and this is not one of them.

Both Chris and Sheila didn’t deal directly with the question of rezoning the WC property at the intersection of Routes291/213 to be sold to commercial interests. Chris cited “spot zoning” complications as a backdrop to the general problem of zoning relief for WC. In my opinion this is where a joint task force could make some real progress by adjusting the zoning and the Comprehensive Plan using a modified Planned Unit Development process that is allowed by Chestertown’s Zoning Ordinance. This could be a win-win situation if we think outside of the box.

The impact of the public education system on economic development in Kent County was discussed. It was agreed that it obviously plays an important role in recruiting WC staff and affecting real estate values, though neither the Town nor the College has any direct control. There was considerable heartfelt discussion from the audience about the public school system not being as bad as its reputation, and its recent trend is in the right direction under its highly regarded new leadership. It was suggested that the old reputation is old news and not relevant to the current situation.

There was considerable discussion about the hospital and its future. Both Sheila and Chris feel it is important and necessary to keep fighting to keep in-patient beds available locally. It was agreed that WC and the citizens of the region have a real job on their hands and need to keep working on this.

The audience ended by making suggestions and comments about developing a joint marketing relationship between WC, the Town, and the public school system– perhaps by creating a marketing curriculum and internships for local high school students. The creation of “Broad Reach” a piece of public art to be placed in Wilmer Park honoring Alex Castro, was cited as an excellent model for public/private cooperation within the Town and College communities.

The meeting was upbeat and useful and may mark a positive change in perceptions.

Matthew W. Tobriner is a engineer by training and is President of Tobriner Consulting in Chestertown

CBF View: Legislation Passes to Prevent Harvesting on Oyster Sanctuaries until Science Complete by Tom Zolper

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Harvesting on oyster sanctuaries won’t be allowed, at least for the time being, after the Maryland General Assembly reaffirmed that it wants to proceed with caution when it comes to the state’s famous bivalve.

A bill, HB 924, approved overwhelmingly in both houses, reiterated that the state wait for a scientific assessment of the oyster stock in Maryland waters before contemplating any major changes in oyster management. Governor Hogan took no action on the bill, so it became law April 6.

The legislature approved the stock assessment a year ago. But in the meantime, the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC), with support from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), had begun to consider a plan to harvest oysters on nearly 1,000 acres of oyster sanctuaries.

Sanctuaries are protected areas where oysters can’t be harvested. That protection allows the reefs to grow vertically out of the silt, to filter polluted water, and to create habitat for fish. Sanctuaries make up about a quarter of the oyster reefs in Maryland. The remaining three-quarters are open to harvest.

Scientists on the OAC, as well as 30 environmental groups, had repeatedly cautioned DNR and oyster industry representatives on the OAC that it was premature to consider opening sanctuaries to harvest without the scientific stock assessment, set to be completed at the end of next year.

Even current scientific information provides no justification for opening sanctuaries. A study by DNR in July found biomass had increased on sanctuaries generally. Oysters were growing, thanks to the protection. DNR cautioned in that report that the healthiest sanctuaries should be left alone.

Yet a proposal presented in February by DNR recommended that several of those healthy sanctuaries be “declassified” and opened for occasional harvest, as well as several other, slightly less healthy sanctuaries.

The passage of HB 924 indicated the legislature’s desire to continue a more precautionary approach than DNR and the OAC were pursuing.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) supported HB 924. With the oyster population at such precarious levels in the Bay, it makes sense to consider a sustainable oyster management harvest plan. The stock assessment will provide the science for that plan. All other fisheries have similar plans, but none has ever been developed for oysters.

Some watermen and others have blamed CBF for acting in “bad faith” by supporting HB 924. They say the bill was used as a tool to disrupt an otherwise collaborative OAC process. But we aren’t the bad guy here.

We agree that too many hours in OAC meetings were wasted developing a proposal to harvest on sanctuaries. We should never have started down that path—before scientists finish a stock assessment. The OAC could have looked into many other aspects of state oyster policy: aquaculture, harvesting in general, poaching, etc. We encouraged the OAC to look into a pilot program of rotational harvesting in the area of the Bay where harvesting already is permitted—but not on sanctuaries. Once the talks headed down the road of harvesting on sanctuaries, a process DNR Secretary Belton abetted, a clash was inevitable.

We also disagree that environmentalists had in any way agreed to harvesting on sanctuaries, only to renege later. Thirty environmental groups submitted a letter to OAC and DNR in December underscoring the need to leave sanctuaries alone, absent sufficient scientific information. CBF also presented a bipartisan poll showing that about 90 percent of Marylanders, across party lines, share those sentiments about sanctuaries.

Despite all this resistance, Belton asked county oyster committees for their proposals for how harvesting on sanctuaries could happen. Then, the secretary asked the environmental groups if they had any proposals for changing the sanctuaries.

Needless to say, that’s like asking someone who doesn’t like spinach to propose how he’d like to eat it. CBF kept our lips pursed. So did scientists on the OAC, and other environmental groups.

A few community groups stepped up with proposals for small expansions of oyster reefs that their volunteers had been planting with baby oysters over the years. They wanted official ‘sanctuary’ designation for those small reefs.

But no environmental groups expressed support for harvesting on sanctuaries. There never was consensus for this idea on the OAC. The idea came from watermen, seafood industry representatives, and legislators on the panel (all of whom generally strongly support watermen on policy issues).

In the end, CBF and other groups supported HB 924 because they weren’t being heard at the OAC, and by DNR.

That support wasn’t meant to disrupt. Just the opposite. It was meant to prevent a disruption of the state’s cautious, science-based approach to oyster management.
Tom Zolper is the Assistant Media Director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Op-Ed: Why Immigrants Should Be Valued, Not Feared by Anthony Principi

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President Trump’s revised executive order preventing legally qualified immigrants and visitors from six nations from entering the United States stirred deep feelings in many Americans.

Some were reminded of the 1939 journey of the transatlantic vessel St. Louis, in which European Jews were prevented from disembarking in the United States and were forced to return to Europe, where many died.

Others sadly recalled the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty, on which is inscribed the poem that begins: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” They noted the contradiction between those noble words and America’s new policy.

Still others were buoyed by President Trump’s executive order, believing it an important step that needed to be taken to keep our borders, and our citizens, secure.

I myself was reminded of three men: two of whom I had the privilege of meeting when I was Secretary of Veterans Affairs during the administration of President George W. Bush.

I met the first shortly after the Iraq War began, when I visited Bethesda Naval Hospital to talk to the first wave of wounded troops. I came to the room of a badly injured young Hispanic Marine who had been wounded in Fallujah. Unlike many others, he had no family with him.

Before I left his bedside, I left a book about the benefits a grateful nation offers those who have served her in uniform. I told him that when he got better, he should take some time to read the book, because he had earned every benefit in it.

Then I went on to the Marine who shared the room with him, and spent a few minutes with that young man and his parents. As I was leaving, I noticed the first Marine was already reading the book I had given him. So I went over to him, and told him how pleased I was he was taking the time to read through it.

Because of his injuries, the Marine couldn’t speak very well, but I saw he was pointing to one particular provision. I could barely understand what he was saying, but finally I understood. “That’s all I want,” he said. “That’s all I want.”

And I saw he was pointing at the provision that enabled him to become an American citizen because of his service to all of us. Three days later, without any fanfare, President Bush visited the young man’s bedside and administered the oath of citizenship.

Shortly thereafter, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I saw a young soldier, missing three limbs, with his father’s head down by his bedside. His survival was in doubt, and he was unable to talk to me.

Remembering my experience with the Marine, I tapped the father on the shoulder, and asked him: “Is your son a citizen?” He said “No. He came from Micronesia to serve in the Army, and becoming a citizen was the reason he enlisted.”

The soldier lived thanks to the extraordinary care he received at Walter Reed, and when he recovered, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and I were proud to administer the citizenship oath to him.

Immigrants are not demons to be feared: they are nearly always people with hopes, and dreams, and a willingness to support the ideals of their adopted country. Since the Revolutionary War, they have been willing to die to defend our borders—and our freedoms. Nearly 25 percent of the Union army was composed of foreign-born service members.

We must secure our borders from those who would do us harm that is certain, but we must do so in a way that maintains our nation’s values and ideals. By refusing to accept legally qualified immigrants, we are tearing the tapestry that has made America great. We cannot pull at any of the threads of that tapestry without losing some of its beauty, and without fearing that the entire piece, so painstakingly woven together over the course of 240 years, may unravel.

We must recognize that new arrivals, like the two service members I met, are overwhelmingly likely to make a positive contribution to our national story—not a negative one.

The third man I thought of was my father, an immigrant who served in the U.S. Navy in World War II alongside millions of citizens and others from many lands who joined together in the great fight to save humanity. He became a citizen himself, and instilled in his children and grandchildren an overwhelming love for the United States and its principles and ideals.

His guidance led me to proudly serve America in Vietnam, on Capitol Hill, and in President Bush’s cabinet. I have no doubt some of the children of today’s immigrants will better my accomplishments—if they are given the chance.

Mr. Principi served as United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs from 2001 to 2005 and was Chairman of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission. He now lives on the Eastern Shore. 

Op-Ed: Thoughts on Congressman Harris’ Town Hall Meeting

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It was cold, windy, wet and generally unpleasant Friday afternoon, when I lined up with hundreds of Dr. Harris’ MDCD-1 constituents, waiting to enter the Chesapeake College building, where the long-awaited town-hall meeting would take place. Despite the weather, the huddled crowd was good natured, chatty and for the most part, looking forward to challenging their Congressman for some explanations of his and his Freedom Caucus colleagues’ positions and votes. There was even some speculation he might not appear, given the raucous welcome other conservative House members had received at similar gatherings.

The atmospherics resembled a medieval fair waiting for the jousting to begin. Soggy, but very informative handouts were distributed. A woman in a yellow, hooded Orioles rain suit walked up and down and back and forth, wearing a sandwich board with signs: one side featured President Trump and the other a pithy health care message. She was besieged by the media. The 12th Century ambience was heightened by several tents, one for changing your voter registration and others for signing various petitions. The tent line backed onto a row of plastic tomb stones featuring more political humor.

After about an hour plus, the doors opened and we streamed in, walking past tables where one could write a question on a card after signing in (name, contact info etc). Few stopped because of the determined dash to get good seats inside. Many attendees carried small red and green signs (no/yes) and other, cleverer folks, had folded up longer, larger signs to escape the imposed size limit (8 1/2 X 11). I ended up in an aisle seat, close to the stage surrounded by good Kent County friends, similarly equipped.
Several Harris staffers began rather frantically to hand out and collect cards with questions. Slowly, the auditorium (seats some 908) filled up. The previously closed balcony was opened allowing more people to find seats.

Circa 6:05 PM, a moderator was introduced, a strong hint this event was not to be an open exchange of views with our congressman. Next up, was a four member uniformed high school ROTC Color Guard, that marched smartly on stage and we stood and pledged allegiance. The congressman executed and held, a firm military salute.

Next we were reminded of the strictures regarding deportment etc. Anxiously we awaited the first question. But, not yet; first, there was a 10 minute slide presentation narrated by Dr. Harris, tracing the US national deficit and debt since the late 18th Century. At slide #2, the yelling, booing started demanding he move to the questions. But, he continued until possibly #5 or 6, as the audience more loudly demanded the lecture stop. Congressman Harris, and the moderator, sighed and exchanged meaningful looks and he then walked across the stage and nonchalantly leaned against the podium waiting for the “mob” to regain a civil composure. It eventually did.

Finally, at 6:17PM, the moderator selected the first question to be asked and handed it to Dr. Harris. They addressed environmental clean-up of the Bay, the Affordable Care Act, the Administration’s budget proposal cancelling funding for the Clean-Air Act, coal sludge into rivers, then Russia, personal narrative re human suffering if ACA was repealed etc. The Congressman answered either tangentially or by repeating the maxim that while these were all good programs, they had to be balanced against the economy, which couldn’t afford them. There was another slide or two showing Medicare/Medicaid costs sharply increasing to a perilous point in 2050. More signs and shouting for a single-payer system erupted.

Yelling, booing, red cards (and a few green when he agreed the Chesapeake should be cleaned up) broke out during and after most answers. The audience stood up and screamed various messages and/or sat down. Two men marched around the inside of the auditorium carrying a very large sign “Single Payer”, leading to loud chants and cheers. At one point, the Congressman walked to the edge of the stage and sternly ordered a woman to sit down, at which point most of the audience stood up.

At 6:50PM, we had reached question 5 or 6, I decided to call it a night. The afternoon and early evening had definitely enabled the people to share with each other and then with their congressman, their anger and frustration. These are all signs of a healthy democracy, but to me there was little or no communication between the voters and their representative or vice versa. Would a more forthcoming willingness to discuss his voters concerns have made a difference? Would something less transparently designed to avoid such an eventuality have led to a more useful exchange? Possibly, but this has not been Dr. Harris’ style in the past.

I left feeling Dr. Harris had organized the short 60 minutes allotted to the entire session in such a way as to eliminate an personal engagement and to minimize the time available for the Q&As. This revealed something less than a serious commitment, to listen and learn. And further, he made no attempt to respond to the emotions clearly present. His rote answers are available on his and other Caucus members’ web sites. His demeanor throughout was condescending and reflected, to me at least, his perception the evening was an ordeal that must be gotten through for appearances’ sake.

I wonder if on the drive back, Dr. Harris thought, even for a second, that perhaps his constituents at Chesapeake College might have serious opinions and concerns worthy of his consideration.

Tom Timberman is an expert on military policy and now lives on the Eastern Shore. Among his many assignments with the US Department of State, he has headed a provincial reconstruction team, embedded within a combat brigade in Iraq. He has also helped implement a new counterterrorism strategy in South East Asia as Senior Advisor for South Asia in the Office of Coordinator for Counterterrorism.

Kent and Talbot County Move Forward with Bay Rapid Transit Project

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When President Donald Trump encouraged states and municipalities last month to quickly forward ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure projects to be included in his $1 trillion “Make America Great Again’ road, rail, and bridge funding bill, it was very hard to imagine how quickly Kent County and Talbot County responded to the new president’s request.

What was quickly approved by the Kent County Commissioners and Talbot County Council, without, it should be noted, any significant citizen input, was a radical and extremely expensive plan to implement a rapid transit master plan for the entire Mid-Shore with an estimated cost of $3 billion over the next 15 years.

The five-county transportation project will have extensive route systems in Kent and Talbot County in the first phase starting next year, and ultimately be expanded to Caroline and Dorchester Counties in 2019. Queen Anne’s Board of County Commissioners has repeatedly rejected the initiative but has allowed the plan to move forward with the construction of a Centreville stop as a compromise. In total, 25 new transit centers to accommodate the new trams line.

Worried that public hearings would delay or even stop construction of what is now being called the Chesapeake Bay Area Rapid Transit or CBART, lawmakers took the unprecedented steps to quickly approve the public transportation system last Thursday night at an undisclosed location near Chesapeake College. And it was during those same secret talks that elected officials made the environmentally friendly but costly decision to make the system almost entirely underground.

While news coverage of the creation of CBART has nearly nonexistent, details of the multi-county agreement have already started to cause alarm. In addition to using local bond measures to partially cover the initial costs of construction, tolls roads on Route 33, Route 50, and Route 213 will be used to collect the additional revenue needed for long term operations. While the cost of using those roads have not been made public, it is estimated that a typical car trip from Rock Hall to Chestertown will be in the range of $8 one way while it may take up to $22 from Tilghman Island to the Easton Airport during peak commuting hours.

It also remains clear that not every town will have its own subway stop. The town of Millington, who just recently lost its only remaining public school in Kent County through the districts’ consolidation plan, lost out in having a downtown stop which many observers suggest will only intensify that community’s isolation and pull down their economic development strategies.

Another loser will be the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton even though the complex’s landlord, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, had quietly developed and secretly lobbied for the CBART program for many years. While the reason given for this exclusion was the anticipated move of the Easton Hospital to a location near the airport off of Route 50, sources indicate that the move was a political calculation to deemphasize ESLC’s secretive role in passing the CBART plan.

In addition t0 the construction of CBART starting next year, Spy columnist Howard Freedlander, a former high ranking state official, reports that Annapolis has started to move forward to plans to operate a tunnel between the Bay Bridge Western Shore toll plaza and Claiborne. If true, this would once again bring the small Talbot County hamlet back to its orginal role of being a transportation hub.

To date, neither Kent or Talbot County government has indicated groundbreaking events.

Editor’s Note: For our less observant readers, it is important to note that this is an example of what fake news looks like. Happy April Fools Day. 

 

 

 

Op-Ed: A Chesapeake Bay Commentary by Philip Hoon

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I am an avid reader of the Washington Post but with all due respect take exception to the fatalistic sub-headline of its March 22 editorial that “The last, best hope to revive the estuary is now imperiled by the Trump administration.”

It is, of course, most unfortunate that the Trump administration has proposed a termination of Chesapeake Bay restoration funding.

But while there is good reason to contest that proposal as it makes its way through the Congressional budget process, the reality is that there are likely to be some, perhaps very significant, cuts to that funding. So now is the time to rise to the occasion. . . and begin to prepare for the stark reality ahead.

To that end, it seems appropriate to me that perhaps now is the time for private sector organizations and initiatives in the primary states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed – Maryland & Virginia – to collaborate in a common mission, and free of a organizational ego, with those in the secondary states – Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia & Delaware– in trying to work with state governments to accomplish the shared regional goal of a clean and healthy Bay.

In other words, let’s not cry in our beer. After all, remember the challenges of The Greatest Generation and how it responded to the challenges of the times. . .

I am not a scientist, but from all that has been published, it does not seem that more study of the problems of the Bay is needed. It is clear that excess nitrogen, phosphorous and siltation are the primary culprits. So let’s get to work.

I believe that I read that annual Federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay is currently $105 million. While that is not an insignificant amount, perhaps it should be put in perspective.

The US Geological Survey estimates that 18 million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Therefore, the per capita cost of replacing that $105 million Federal Government funding is $5.83 per person per year . . . that is less than 2¢/day.

And while we are at it, there is a view of many that the millions of Federal dollars spent over the past several decades have been ineffectively applied to accomplish the Bay restoration goal. After all, many of its tributaries are impaired so it is a bit disingenuous to assert that the Bay is really improving as it should be.

Another interesting idea might be to request Washington to designate the Chesapeake Bay as a national park so that it would receive the protections and assistance that such a special status would afford. I am not sure of all the implications of that, and do not know whether the Trump administration has proposed budget cuts to our great national parks. But all in all, I would think that the Chesapeake Bay might qualify to be one of the first new national parks in the 21st Century.

At times like this, I think that “out of the box thinking” is needed. So while these ideas might not be viable, the reality may be that something like them needs to be pursued if our cherished Chesapeake Bay is to be preserved.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and do what the Washington bureaucrats have not been able to do. After all, we who live in its watershed are the ones who have the greatest opportunity to enjoy the mighty Chesapeake Bay.

We are that “last best hope” for the Chesapeake Bay, and there is work to be done.

Philip Hoon is a private attorney in Chestertown, Maryland.

Op-ed: Marijuana legalization Shouldn’t be Held Hostage to Drugged Driving Concerns by Paul Armentano

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Maryland lawmakers are once again considering legislation to regulate the adult use and sale of marijuana to those age 21 or older. Nearly six in 10 residents support this reform, according to a February Goucher poll. But opponents charge that doing so could pose a risk to traffic safety.

Such concerns are not all together unfounded, but deserve to be placed in proper context.

First, it should be stressed that driving under the influence of marijuana is already a criminal offense in Maryland. Nothing in the language of Maryland’s proposed adult use laws changes this reality.

Second, scientific studies consistently find that marijuana-positive drivers possess a comparatively nominal accident risk, particularly when compared with alcohol-positive drivers. In fact, the largest ever controlled trial assessing marijuana use and motor vehicle accidents, published in 2015 by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reports that marijuana positive drivers possess virtually no statistically significant crash risk compared to drug-free drivers after controlling for age and gender.

By contrast, drivers with detectable levels of alcohol in their blood at legal limits possess nearly a four-fold risk of accident, even after adjusting for age and gender.

This finding is consistent with prior meta-analyses of crash risk data. For example, a review of 66 separate crash culpability studies published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention reported that THC-positive drivers possessed a crash risk on par with drivers testing positive for penicillin (Odds Ratio: 1.10 for cannabis versus Odds Ratio: 1.12 for penicillin) This risk is far below that associated with driving with two or more passengers (OR=2.2) and is comparable to the difference between driving during the day versus driving at night.

Further, data from states that have liberalized marijuana’s legal status show no uptick in motor vehicle crashes. Writing in December in the American Journal of Public Health, investigators at Columbia University reported, “[O]n average, medical marijuana law states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML states. …. Medical marijuana laws are associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, particularly pronounced among those aged 25 to 44 years. … It is possible that this is related to lower alcohol-impaired driving behavior in MML-states.”

A review of federal FARS data (Fatal Analysis Reporting Systems) further finds that trends in motor vehicle accidents in Colorado and Washington post-legalization are no different than crash trends in non-legalization states over this same period of time.

Nevertheless, the use of marijuana prior to driving ought to be discouraged and better efforts ought to be made to identify drivers who may be under the its influence. These include greater funding for the training of Drug Recognition Evaluators, the use of modified roadside field sobriety tests, and potentially the provisional use of roadside marijuana-sensitive detection technology, such as saliva test or breath test technology.

These efforts should not include the imposition of per se thresholds for THC or its metabolites, as such limits are not scientifically correlated with driver impairment.

Efforts should also be made to better educate the public with regard to the existing traffic safety laws, as well as to the evidence surrounding marijuana’s potential influence on driving. In particular, this messaging should stress that combining marijuana and alcohol greatly impacts driving behavior and is associated with far greater risk of accident than the use of either substance alone.

Such an educational campaign was implemented nationwide in Canada by the Canadian Public Health Association and could readily be replicated in the United States and promoted by groups like the American Automobile Association.

In addition to increasing public safety, implementing these steps would help assuage concerns that regulating the adult use of marijuana could potentially lead to an increase in incidences of drugged driving or limit the state’s ability to successfully identify and prosecute such behavior.

Adults’ consumption of and demand for marijuana is here to stay. It is time for Maryland lawmakers to acknowledge this reality. It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to untaxed criminal enterprises and to regulate its adult use and sale accordingly.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and is the co-author of the book “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink.”