“The Ghost”: Bio of a Spymaster at the Bookplate Friday at 6:00 pm

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Is there a traitor or Russian spy in the White House?

If that question had been asked in the mid-20th Century, the job of answering it would have fallen to James Jesus Angleton, head of counterintelligence for the CIA and one of the most powerful men in America.

On Friday, June 15 at 6 p.m., Jefferson Morley will discuss his new book, THE GHOST: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton, at the Bookplate, 112 S. Cross St., Chestertown.

The copy on the book’s dust jacket tells it well.  “CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton was one of the most powerful unelected officials in the United States government in the mid-twentieth century. …From World War II to the Cold War, Angleton operated beyond the view of the public, Congress, and even the president.  He unwittingly shared intelligence secrets with Soviet spy Kim Philby,  member of the notorious Cambridge spy ring. He launched mass surveillance by opening the mail of hundreds of thousands of Americans.  He abetted a scheme to aid Israel’s own nuclear efforts, disregarding U.S. security. He committed perjury and obstructed the FK assassination investigation. He oversaw a massive spying operation on the antiwar and black nationalist movements, and he initiated an obsessive search for Communist moles that nearly destroyed the Agency.

…from his friendship with the poet Ezra Pound through the gay milieu of mid-century Washington to the … Watergate scandal … the agency’s MKULTRA mind-control experiments.  [Angleton acquired] a mythic stature within the CIA that continues to this day.”

The author, Jefferson Morley, has been a reporter for more than 30 years, including 15 with the Washington Post. He is a specialist in intelligence, military and political matters. He also writes for Salon and The Intercept.

Refreshments will be served. Call 410-778-4167 for more information.

National Music Festival: One Week Left!

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Richard Rosenberg, NMF Artistic Director, conducts a concert during the 2017 National Music Festival.     Photo by Philip Rosenberg.

The National Music Festival, now in its seventh year in Chestertown, is one of the best classical music experiences around. And it’s a bargain! NMF concerts tickets run $10 to $20. You would pay $50, $100, or more for the equivalent quality in D.C., Philadelphia or New York. And some are even free! Most of the rehearsals are free and open to the public. They are very informal. You can come in at any point during the scheduled rehearsal time. Stay for fifteen minutes just to get the flavor or spend an hour and hear professional musicians hone their craft.

Monday, June 11, features The NewBassoon Institute. You can catch the small break-out rehearsals in any of three locations from 3:00-5:00 pm–at Tom Martin’s Bookplate or Chestertown Town Hall, both on Cross Street or at the River Club above the Evergrain Bread Company at the corner of High and Queen (entrance on Queen Street).  Then the three groups will come together for a full rehearsal with all musicians at the Sultana Education on Cross Street from 5:30-6:30. The concert itself starts at 7:30 at the Sultana. All the bassoon rehearsals and the concert are free and open to the public.

Check the open rehearsal schedule online here or the concert schedule here.

The National Music Festival will be Chestertown at various locations through Saturday, June 16, culminating with an all Tchaikovsky concert Saturday evening at 7:30 pm with the  Festival Symphony Orchestra at the  Chestertown Baptist Church.  Tickets are $20.  Richard Rosenberg will conduct.  Also featured will be cello soloist Gwen Krosnick and guest conductor Robert Stiles.

The Fiddlesticks ensemble with local children who took violin lessons provided free-of-charge by the National Music Festival staff during the school year got a chance to show their new skills during the opening concert of the festival held at the First United Methodist Church.      Photo by Philip Rosenberg.

Musicians rehearse for the first concert of the 2018 National Music Festival in Chestertown.     Photo by Philip Rosenberg.

 

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Letter to the Editor: Kent County Schools Budget Needs Increase

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Dear Mr Pickrum, Mr Fithian, and Mr. Short,

We have lived in Kent County for about a dozen years quietly paying our taxes and watching the School District struggle to improve itself against great odds. Those odds should not include our County Commissioners. We were ashamed of our Board of Commissioners when we read your comments from a few weeks ago disparaging our schools.

You talk about economic development and attracting more jobs to the county. That can’t happen without an excellent school system and an excellent school system can’t happen if school funding is always on the chopping block. The benefits of excellent schools reach far beyond the individual students and their families.

38% of the County budget puts us well below average for the state. Our teacher and administrator pay is way below average. Our spending per student is at the bottom of the heap. In spite of all the efforts of the administrators and school board, this is a downward spiral. You are pulling the rug out from under the efforts that have been showing measurable results. You can’t expect the schools to improve without giving them the resources to do so.

We are now retired and on a fixed income but we would rather see our taxes go up than see you slam the door in the face of the School District to the detriment of Kent County once again.

We hope you will reconsider.

Mary Lou Troy and Fred Kaiser
Rock Hall

Letter to the Editor: Fund Schools to Advance Economic Development

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I have a layman’s grasp of Kent County’s annual budget process. I attend most commissioner meetings and one recent cycle, I even attended every one of their afternoon budgeting sessions.

I’ve observed in detail how Mr. Pickrum, Mr. Fithian, and Mr. Short weigh and assess each department’s request and understand why they have such a difficult—maybe impossible—task: Compromising on a county budget that does not, and cannot, satisfy every need.

However, the commissioners’ proposed Fiscal 2019 budget is self-described as stressing “Economic Development” first and “Education” second. Why?

Kent County cannot assemble a successful economic development strategy/program without first guaranteeing that our public school system is fully funded:

  • Even if this means the commissioners must allocate more than 38 percent of the total county budget to the public schools.
  • Even if this means the commissioners must reduce spending elsewhere.
  • Even if this means the commissioners must increase the county property tax.

If the commissioners fully fund basic public services—public education, public safety, and public health—we can be assured that steady and healthy economic development can be a consequent result.

Yours truly,

Grenville B. Whitman

Rock Hall

Hard Talk: Residents Press County Commissioners to Increase School Budget

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Residents crowded the Kent County Commissioners’ hearing room Tuesday, June 5, to weigh in on the county’s proposed budget. The discussion grew heated as many of the crowd registered their disappointment with the education portion of the budget, which fell short by approximately $600,000 of the school district’s funding requests.

The above video contains most of the public comments made by audience members after the budget presentation.  Each person wanting to speak had to sign up at the beginning of the meeting.  Each was limited to three minutes and a loud buzzer indicated when the three minutes had expired.  Speakers were held fairly strictly to the limit.

The budget portion of the meeting began with Pat Merritt, the county’s chief financial officer, giving an overview of the budget’s provisions. With help of a PowerPoint presentation. Merritt showed that 65 percent of the county’s revenue, nearly $31 million, derives from property taxes. Another 28 percent, or nearly $13 million, comes from income tax. With over 93 percent of the revenues tax-based, Merritt said, the only way to increase revenue is to raise taxes.

Merritt went on to say that Kent County’s property tax rate, at $1.022 per $100 assessed value, is second highest on the Shore and seventh in the state. The income tax, at 2.85 percent, is fifth highest on the Shore and 16th in the state. Raising the income tax rate to the maximum allowed by law would produce another $3.3 million, she said. Meanwhile, growth over the last five years has been essentially flat, with property tax revenues up by some $700,000 and income tax down by roughly the same amount.

In response to the flat revenues, the county has taken steps to reduce its expenditure, including retiring $21.5 million in debt, roughly 52 percent of the total owed. It has also reduced its insurance costs by joining the Local Government Insurance Trust, and it plans to reduce vehicle costs by moving to a lease plan instead of owning its vehicles outright – a plan that will also reduce the age of the county’s fleet, Merritt said. Several departments have undergone cuts, including a $238,000 cut for county roads, $215,000 cut for parks and recreation, and nearly $100,000 less for information systems, and a number of positions have been cut. In addition to these steps, the county has taken important steps to encourage economic development, which in the long run will add to its tax base.

Addressing specific portions of the budget, Merritt paid particular attention to the allocations for education. The county allocates 38 percent of its budget to the school system, compared to 45.6 percent statewide. The FY 2019 budget for education, at $17,194,263, represents an increase of $228,000 over FY 2018 and is $303,000 over the maintenance of effort standard required by law. Over the last 10 years, the county has spent $2.2 million more than maintenance of effort, while the student population has declined by 216 and there are three fewer schools, she said.

Pat Merritt, the county’s chief financial officer, presented an overview of the proposed FY 2019 Budget for Kent County

The school district’s fund balance – in essence, a sort of “rainy day fund” – has been cut back over the last few years, and a further reduction of $695,000 is scheduled for this year, Merritt said. That would leave the schools with $605,000, which is more than $100,000 above a target amount set by the county for the fund balance. The commissioners argued that no other county department maintains a fund balance. They said that with the increase of $228,000 over the FY 2018 budget, the schools will receive more than $900,000 more than last year. In addition, a request for $423,000 for capital projects was fully funded, Merritt said.

In summary, Merritt said, the FY 2019 budget focuses on economic development, increases the operating funding for the schools, fully funds the schools’ capital projects, and provides resources for reducing ambulance transportation costs in the county.

Kent County Commissioners in session Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Following Merritt’s presentation, the commissioners opened the floor to public comment. First to speak was Dr. Karen Couch, superintendent of education for the county. She began by thanking the commissioners for their support of programs including laptops for all students, building repairs, and refurbishing the football field at Kent County High School. The FY 2019 budget presented by the school district was well-thought-out, she said. However, while the district has “made great strides” in addressing salary inequities, it needs more to become competitive and retain staff. Teacher salaries rank 22nd in the state, and administrator salaries are 24 – “dead last.” With shortages of teachers and administrators, the district is at a disadvantage in competing with neighboring counties.

The maintenance of effort standard was created to assure continuity from one year to the next, not as a ceiling, she said, and it does not address inflation, rising costs, or new programs. Combined with declining enrollment, it becomes “a prescription for disaster,” she said. She said the system has reduced positions in order to maintain salary and benefits for its staff. But the county ranks last in the state in per-capita expenditure per student, and keeping the schools on their path to excellence requires continued investment. In closing, Couch said that the schools must be considered an investment, not an expense, to the county’s budget.

Kurt Landgraf, president of Washington College; and Karen Couch, Superintendent of Kent County Schools.      Photo by Jane Jewell

Washington College President Kurt Landgraf said that looking at maintenance of effort in an environment of declining enrollment would put the county in a downward spiral, losing teachers and undercutting the economic base. He said the college was finding it increasingly difficult to attract faculty and staff to come live in the county. He said that Couch’s request for an additional $500,000 was well thought through, and would increase both the schools’ viability and the ability to attract more people to the county.

Rebecca Heriz-Smith, parent and member of SOS (Save Our Schools)      Photo by Jane Jewell

Rebecca Heriz-Smith was one of several members of the Support Our Schools (SOS) coalition to address the meeting. She noted that the education budget includes an increase of $15,000 to Chesapeake College, while the amount actually going to the county’s public schools is $13,000 less than last year, and $636,000 less than was actually requested. She said it is becoming clear that social workers and counselors are needed in schools all across the country. She said the district had already cut needed programs as well as both teaching and staff positions and would now be forced to cut more under the current budget. She said she was going to vote against the incumbent commissioners in the fall election and would urge her friends and neighbors to do the same.

Jim Luff, former chairman of the county’s economic development commission, said the commission had recommended supporting Kent Forward in its goals to make the school system one of the top five in the state, and that the county’s comprehensive plan said that county should strive to have the best school system in the state. He noted the many stories about families not wanting to move to the county because of the schools and made the link between economic development and the quality of the schools. While the commissioners frequently expressed their support for the schools during their meetings, Luff said the budget actually showed “an erosion of that support.” He said the county needs to find a solution to the problem, noting how residents have come together on the hospital and bridge issues. “We cannot afford to lose one more family,” he said in conclusion.

Deryn Tilghman, a Garnett Elementary School Parent, spoke of volunteering with a third-grade class her child is in. She said her family moved here a year ago, despite being told by colleagues at Washington College that the schools had a poor reputation. She said the family was proud to be part of the public school system, and had given many hours of volunteer work worth thousands of dollars. ‘We decided to see for ourselves, and I’m so glad we were lucky enough to meet some incredibly smart, passionate people on our very first visit to our public school.” She said they saw a lot of potential in the schools, but “potential won’t do.” She said she had hoped to see an indication of support, but “I just keep hearing adversity.” She expressed hope that the commissioners would live up to some of the ideas expressed at the meeting, going for collaboration rather than bemoaning expenses. “It’s the only way we can live up to some of this potential,” she said.

Gina Jachimowicz
Director of Teaching and Learning for Kent County Public Schools

Nathan Stroyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nathan Shroyer of Quaker Neck told of having two properties he bought to create affordable housing, one on High Street and one in Church Hill. He said that when he put them on the market, the one in Church Hill received more than 20 responses, most of them from Kent County parents looking to establish a Queen Anne’s base so their students could qualify for that county’s schools. There were no responses for the High Street property in Chestertown. He said several of the parents spoke of racial tensions in the Kent County schools they hoped to avoid in Queen Anne’s.

Another speaker, Tim O’Brien, said there are several property owners who are regularly delinquent in paying their property taxes, many of whom own a large number of properties through shell corporations and now owed cumulative taxes of $100,00 or more for several years. He said the county needs to enforce and penalize these owners so it can collect its full share of taxes.  The commissioners did respond to this by pointing out that legally they cannot just take over private property.  There are strict rules to follow.  When most of these properties became eligible to go up for auction due to unpaid taxes, no one bid on the properties.  Any bidder must pay the back taxes before they can take title to the property.  The properties in question tended to be empty lots or properties in areas that were not very commercially valuable.  Thus the county has trouble recouping the unpaid taxes by selling these properties at auction.

Tim O’Brien spoke about unpaid property taxes – the tax that schools depend upon for their revenue.

Francois Sullivan, parent and member of SOS (Save Our Schools)      Photo by Jane Jewell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also speaking for the SOS group were Francoise Sullivan, Jodi Bortz, and Robbi Behr. While they emphasized different points, they all said the proposed budget was inadequate to the schools’ needs. And they repeated Herz-Smith’s warning that residents unhappy with the budget’s allocation for the schools would be watching the commissioners and basing their votes on how they responded to the schools’ financial needs.  Some spoke angrily of feeling misled and betrayed by promises of support from the commissioners that never materialized. Several said that they believed that the commissioners were not doing their jobs as they were elected to do.

All told, nearly twenty residents spoke at the public hearing, all but a few addressing the school portion of the budget. At the end, the commissioners had several comments in response. Commission President William Pickrum said that the budget is “a zero-sum game,” with every increase for one department or program making it necessary to make cuts somewhere else. “Every agency and department wants more,” he said. He said the county has 20,000 residents, only 2,000 of whom are students in the schools, and the budget must address the needs of the whole county. He noted that senior citizens make up a large proportion of the county’s population and that health care and transportation remain crying needs in the county. He said the commissioners had spent a lot of time and energy on the budget, that they didn’t always agree, but they still needed to make the hard decisions. Pickrum also spoke about the need for everyone to keep the discussion civil and to remember that we can disagree without being disagreeable.  He feared that the animosity and harsh language would prevent compromise and solutions from being found.  Several of the audience members who spoke also expressed the desire for those involved to sit down together and try to find mutually acceptable answers to the problems the county and the schools are facing.

Commissioners Ron Fithian and Billy Short also commented. Both referred to posts on social media attacking the commissioners, some of which they said were not only abusive but indecent. Short gave Sullivan a printout of some posts, which she agreed used language that was not acceptable. Short said he stands by the budget as written, and does not intend to make any changes.  Fithian emphasized again that the school system had the large fund balance that they could use for whatever purpose they chose.  He noted that in fall 2017, the schools, in order to save money, had chosen to contract a Baltimore-based company for bus service.  When that didn’t work out, he said, the schools suddenly found the money to buy brand new buses.  They worked with that year’s budget appropriation plus the fund balance to pay for the new buses.  Fithian stressed that the county does not tell the school system how to spend the allocated money or the fund balance.

Following the various speakers, a general discussion developed between the audience and the commissioners with quite a few people speaking passionately about the issue.  The discussion became rather heated points and four or five people made a point of shouting their disapproval and finally walking out in protest.

Kris Hemstetter, principal of Rock Hall Elementary School, gave an impassioned account of almost daily crisis in the schools.

At the very end of the meeting, Kris Hemstetter, principal of Rock Hall Elementary School, gave an impassioned account of the need for social workers in the schools. She told of a student who was “throwing chairs” while the social worker assigned to the school was working at another school, of a room without air conditioning, of having to drive students home to get medication. She urged the commissioners to come spend time in the schools to see “the struggles teachers and students are going through,” to see how hard teachers work and to let students and parents tell them what they need.  She emphasized that there is crisis in the schools on virtually a daily basis.

The commissioners will vote on the budget at their next meeting, June 12. Written comments on the budget will be accepted at the county office, 200 High St., until noon Friday, June 8.

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Chestertown Council Passes Budget With Tax Increase

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The Chestertown Council in session on Monday evening, June 4, 2018. (L-R ) Ward 4 representative Marty Stetson; Ward 3 representative Elsworth Tolliver; mostly concealed behind Tolliver is Town Clerk Jen Mulligan; Chris Cerino, mayor; Bill Ingersoll, town manager; Ward 2 representative Linda Kuiper, Ward 1 representative David Foster          Photo by Peter Heck

The Chestertown Council, meeting Monday, June 4, adopted the town’s budget for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019). The budget ordinance, which includes a property tax increase of $0.05 per $100 assessed value, passed by a 4-1 margin. Councilman Marty Stetson cast the dissenting vote. This increase brings the property tax rate to $0.42 per $100 assessed value from the previous $0.37 per $100 assessed value. The Fiscal Year 2019 runs from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019.

The vote was preceded by a public hearing on the Constant Yield Tax Rate, required by state law if the town intends to change the rate in any way that would increase the amount of revenue over the current level. Mayor Chris Cerino read the notice of the hearing into the public record. The town’s base of assessed property has decreased by .099 percent, from $562,768,097 to $557,215,401. At the current rate of $0.37 per $100, revenues would decrease by 2.74 percent, or $20,544.98. To offset this, the tax rate would need to be raised to $0.3737 for a constant yield. The town’s proposed increase to $0.42 per $100 would result in additional revenue amounting to $257.990.73, Cerino said.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the Constant Yield requirement was last triggered in 2006. when the town ended up reducing the rate by $0.01. The economy was better, and rising assessments were producing more revenue, he said. He said the town had operated on the principle that if the town’s revenues were the same as last year, “we’re in good shape and we’ll live with that.” But the drop in the assessed base, combined with generally higher prices, had made the adjustment necessary.

Ingersoll then gave “a thumbnail sketch” of the budget, referring to a handout that was available to the public. Real estate tax provides $2.578,608, and income tax another $650,000. Grants from the federal and state government provide just over $2 million, which are primarily designated for improvements to the town-owned marina. Kent County provides another $186,000, largely in the form of the hotel tax. The town’s total revenue comes to $6,053,131, including grants for the marina.

Projected expenses include $1,804,915 for public safety and $1,286,733 for public works. General government amounts to $535,318. The total, again including marina work, comes to $6,043,737 – leaving a surplus of $9,394 over anticipated revenue. An additional $37,400 is anticipated from this year’s revenue from the sale of the old police station and several town-owned lots on College Avenue.

“It wasn’t always this pretty,” Ingersoll said. It became clear in the three budget workshops held in April and May that the town would have trouble balancing the budget unless it made adjustments. He said the recession beginning in 2008 had effectively “flatlined” the town’s property tax base, and he had urged the council at several points in the intervening years to look at raising taxes to compensate. He also noted that the county discontinued its tax differential about four years ago, meaning that town residents since then have been taxed by the county for police protection and road work that the town was actually providing. He said the council has asked the county for relief, either in the form of a cash grant or a lower rate for town residents, but nothing concrete has emerged. “It’s very disappointing because we’re one of two counties in the state – maybe three – that don’t do this,” he said. “There are five towns in the county that need a bit of help,” he added.

Ingersoll said the town began with no capital projects other than the marina in its budget, and no raises for town staff. “We made budget cuts across the board,” including to nonprofits such as Horizons and the public library. Cuts in services were also considered, he said, and a few fees were increased. However, water and sewer hook-up fees were not increased, so as not to affect new development which could increase the tax base.

“We fiddled with one cent (tax increase), we fiddled with two cents,” Ingersoll said, but the figures didn’t work out. Finally, the council resolved – “not unanimously” – to impose the tax increase. “It’s painful and I’m sorry we had to do it,” he said. He said he hoped the town would be able to reduce the rate if growth permitted.

Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino and Town Manager Bill Ingersoll      Photo by Peter Heck

Cerino said the town’s biggest problem was attempting to retain a consistent level of services while revenues remained flat. Raises in staff salaries are necessary to retain good people, he said. He also noted that no town roads had been paved in his five years as mayor, a record that “really gnaws at me.” It will cost the town more if it just keeps balancing its budget without maintaining infrastructure, he said. But the new budget does include $150,000 to be applied to bringing some of the roads up to spec.

Compared to other towns on the Shore, the tax rate of $0.42 is “still pretty low, actually,” Cerino said. He cited rates from Denton ($0.75), Federalsburg ($0.83), Greensboro ($0.75) and Ridgely ($0.57) as examples. “Yes, we’ve raised taxes. It’s a bummer. But I still don’t feel like we’re way out of the realm of where we should be.” He praised the previous councils for running “a pretty tight ship” in keeping the rates low for so many years. He said the expected expansions of Dixon Valve and LaMottte would produce tax windfalls a few years from now.

Ingersoll noted that most of the towns Cerino mentioned also received tax differentials from the counties they are in.

Councilman David Foster said he supported the tax increase. “As we went through the numbers, I didn’t see any other way out,” he said. Foster said that in previous years, the budget had been balanced by deferring maintenance, which he said was a short-sighted policy. He said the flat tax base made it clear that everyone in town needed to do whatever they could to support local businesses and to encourage new ones to locate here.

Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver said he also supported the increase because it was the only way to support the level of services that the town provides. “I was not in favor of a small increase only to have to come back to the table next year and ask for more.” Compared to the rates in the other towns Cerino mentioned, “I think we’re still getting a bargain,” he said.

Former councilman Jim Gatto testifies during the budget public hearing.     Photo by Peter Heck

Responding to a call for comments from the public, former councilman Jim Gatto took to the podium. He said he thought the council did a great job enacting the increase. He said the town had made a good decision by enacting the Enterprise Zone in which the new Dixon Valve buildings are being constructed. While there is a tax deferment that will keep the buildings off the tax rolls for five years or more, the company could easily have built elsewhere and deprived the town and county of any of the revenue.

Councilman Marty Stetson said the employees in the new buildings will buy houses and pay income taxes, so the benefit to the town will come in sooner.

Gatto said he expected the economy to remain flat for another two years. He said it was a good time for the town to refinance loans it had taken for the marina and the new police station. He said he expects interest rates to be as much as 25 percent higher in three years’ time.

Gatto also said it was in the town’s vital interest to bring the marina into full operation as a destination marina, “an operating business the way it was proposed.” He said the marina is a potential magnet to bring boaters and other tourists into town. Part of the process should be to bring in a management company to market and operate the marina as a money-making business and make it profitable.

Ingersoll said work on the marina should be completed by the Fall and the facility ready for full operation by next season.

The council turned briefly to other business before conducting its vote on the budget. Cerino called for a roll call vote.

Stetson said he opposed the budget because 60 years’ experience in government had taught him that when governments get more money, they spend more. He said the council made some cuts he had been advocating for years, such as the July 4 fireworks display. He said that increasing the town’s revenues would mean that more entities would come to the town asking for handouts. He said the budget could have been balanced with a $0.02 cent raise. He said the town could have paved a lot of roads with the annual cost of running the marina. “Five cents is a lazy man’s way to solve the problem,” he said. He said what disappointed him most was that the town was unable to give raises to its employees.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper said she had gotten phone calls, including one person who said they were going to sell their house and move. She said the town’s providing police services to events like Tea Party, Legacy Day and Downrigging is a necessity. She said she hoped that once the marina is up and running, the town will become a tourist destination. Kuiper said she had to vote for the increase – “there’s no way we can get by without the tax increase.” She told constituents she would work to decrease taxes if it becomes possible. She also asked that the funds for road construction be put in a separate account to be disbursed with the oversight of the council.

Ingersoll said the funds would be accounted separately as a matter of policy.

The budget was passed without amendment by a 4-1 vote. Copies of the budget are available at town hall.

Other topics discussed at the council meeting, including the Utilities Commission report, will be covered in another report later this week.

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A Festive First Friday in Chestertown!

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Walnut and Wool owner Samantha Arrow cuts the ribbon for her new boutique inside She-She- on High. The store features furniture and clothing.   Photo by Peter Heck

Summer is here!  We know that the summer solstice on June 20 marking the day with the most hours of sunlight is the official beginning of summer, but Friday, June 1, was a perfect summer day.  Hot but not too hot.  Sunny but with just enough cloud cover to provide some shade.  It was a great evening for Chestertown’s first First Friday of the summer!

Twigs and Teacups on Cross St.       Photo by Jane Jewell

And there were lots of reasons to make this a special first Friday.  There were three ribbon-cuttings for new businesses in downtown Chestertown – The Listening Room on Cannon St., the Blackbird Boutique at the corner of Spring and Park Row across from the park, and Walnut & Wool in the back of She-She on High St.  A fourth business, Elbe Body with licensed massage therapist Linda Moyer, was celebrating it’s new location at 300 Cross St. inside the old train station, the previous location of The Tidewater Trader.

Author Gail Priest signs copies of her books at Twigs and Teacups
Photo by Jane Jewell

The RiverArts June exhibit opened to the public with a reception and an opportunity to vote for your favorite work.  The exhibit will remain through June. There is a wide variety of styles and subjects including paintings, pottery, and sculpture.  There are several lovely designs in fabric.  Especially interesting is a free-standing multi-piece sculpture in mixed media –mostly wood– titled Rite of Spring by Ron Akins. With its exquisite details of pixies and woodland creatures, it looks as if it came straight from a garden in fairyland.

Detail from “Rite of Spring” mixed media sculpture by Ron Akins at RiverArts   Photo by Jane Jewell

“Garden Paths” by Barbara Vann      Photo by Peter Heck

“Kooky Quartet” by Ken Sadler      Photo by Peter Heck

“My Turn to Reflect” 3-d sculpture by Larry Fransen of Annapolis winner of People’s Choice award      Photo by Peter Heck

The Listening Room on Cannon St. Town Councilman David Foster, Main Street President Paul Heckles, owner Michael Hoatson, Town Councilwoman Linda Kuiper. Photo by Peter Heck

Blackbird Boutique ribbon cutting- owners & sisters Lauryl Clark (red shirt) & Jordan Clark (with scissors) Photo by Peter Heck

The Dover English Country Dancers performed in Fountain Park as part of Washington College’s Alumni Weekend.  If you looked closely, you might recognize local Chestertownians Karen Smith and Steve Mumford in their colonial garb.

Dover English Country Dancers – Karen Smith of Kingstown front right in blue and white. Photo by Peter Heck

Old Kent Quilters’ Guild displays their wares. Win a quilt – Raffle ticket only $1 Photo by Peter Heck

Enjoying a cool drink in the early summer evening outside the Hotel Imperial   Photo by Jane Jewell

The D.A.R., Daughters of the American Revolution, had a table outside the Historical Society. Photo by Peter Heck

Mariam Satchell of Purple Lilly Studio displays her custom-made soaps and lotions.   Photo by Jane Jewell

Chris Jones, Bill Drasga, Frank Gerber, outside “Music Life” Photo by Peter Heck

All in the Family! States’ Attorney candidate Bryan DiGregory’s family was all decked out in matching t-Shirts supporting their candidate! (L-R)daughter Kate DiGregory, In-Laws and grandparents Judy and Rob McSparran, daughter Molly DiGregory.    Photo by Jane Jewell

Kent County Councilman William Pickrum, Vita Pickrum, Deputy States’ Attorney for Kent County and candidate for States’ Attorney candidate Bryan DiGregory.    Photo by Jane Jewell

Soroptimists Connie Jones, Louise Skinner, Connie Morris outside Gabirel’s Photo by Peter Heck

Eleanor Houghton, age 9 in 3rd grade in Centreville, wears a flag in her hair as she picks out her favorite art at Carla Massoni’s Art Gallery Photo by Jane Jewell

Virginia Kerr tastes an organic, biodynamic wine at Chestertown Natural Foods. Photo by Jane Jewell

S.O.S (Save Our Schools) volunteers Jodi Borst and Beth Proffitt.     Photo by Jane Jewell

Do You Wanna Dance?
DJ Tim Sullivan (on left) plays only original vinyl 45s from 1954-’63.  Auctioneer & musician Bill Blake on right.       Photo by Peter Heck

 

 

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Letter to the Editor: Important Questions for County Council Candidates

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In late 2012, a group of organizational leaders and concerned citizens met to begin a process of working together to benefit Chestertown and Kent County by advancing actions that would profit from a collaborative effort. Our goals were to serve as a clearinghouse for communications, identify collective issues, and advance policies that would benefit all. The Greater Chestertown Initiative was created to provide this forum.

Since our inception the Greater Chestertown Initiative (GCI) has served as a place of dialogue and information dissemination. Never have we been so keenly aware of how important elections are for our national and local communities. This year we will be electing three county commissioners. All three incumbents are running along with five additional candidates.

In mid-April, a small group of bi-partisan community leaders active in GCI met to begin the process of reaching consensus on the critical issues facing our county and the questions we might ask our candidates to help us better understand who will give us the best chance of reaching our goals.

A meeting of the full group was convened on May 15th to solicit input on the areas identified and request involvement in helping direct the conversation during the coming election. Discussions were thoughtful and respectful as we determined how to best put forward a vision for our county, to raise issues of concern, and to get the candidates on record as to their positions.

The results of our efforts will be made available to all. We encourage a continued dialogue. We hope news outlets, radio stations, commentators, editorial writers, groups sponsoring candidate forums, online bloggers, writers of letters to the editor, and the candidates themselves will find these questions thought provoking and worthy of attention.

Questions for County Commissioner Candidates

Economic Growth

The Kent County Economic Development Strategic Plan 2017 prioritizes business expansion, retention and attraction. What’s your unique vision for economic growth, and what would you expect as outcomes in 5 to 10 years?

· What proactive strategies will you implement to recruit businesses appropriate to the county?

· What is one economic initiative the commissioners should launch in their first 120 days in office that would encourage economic growth in the county?

· What is your plan for creating a business friendly, economic development program for small businesses moving to our county as they deal with county rules and regulations?

Transportation

The United Way of Kent County recently prioritized transportation as a top need in the county. What ideas do you have to increase accessible and affordable transportation throughout the county?

· How will you create public / private partnerships to address this issue?

· How will you reach out to other rural jurisdictions to study their plans?

Public Schools

What are you willing to do to make Kent County Public Schools the best in the State of Maryland?

· Are you committed to budgeting the resources our public schools need? Including:

o Competitive teacher salaries

o Pre-school education for all three year old children

o Social workers to support our young people dealing with crises

· What will you do to help reverse the perception that our public schools are not successful in the face of data that shows otherwise?

· How will you market our public schools to demonstrate their successes?

Hospital

The University of Maryland Medical System and its Shore Regional Health System are required by law to maintain inpatient services at the Chestertown hospital, until June 30 of 2020, and the clock is ticking. In spite of the workgroup’s recommendation, there was no legislation during this year’s General Assembly to ensure that our hospital will offer inpatient care long into the future, and in the meantime, Shore has been reducing services in Chestertown. The hospital is of critical importance to our community’s medical and economic health.

· How will you proactively and visibly act to save our hospital?

· What will you do, if elected, to make sure the state passes legislation to ensure our hospital will offer inpatient care long into the future?

Racially Inclusive County

In the May 17 edition of the Kent County News, an editorial described how racism endures in our county. What work needs to be done to build the inclusive community Kent County should be, and how would you implement that work?

· How would you show the African American and Latino communities they are essential to the success of our county?

Lani Seikaly & Carla Massoni
The Greater Chestertown Initiative

This Same Sky by Nancy Mugele

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Two of my three children moved in the past two weeks, and the third is literally moving as we speak – each signing a new lease (on life) and beginning her or his next chapter. Just when I had their recent addresses memorized they all changed on me – at once. Seems a bit unfair to Mom, but what it really means is soon I will see several address edits, and a lot of activity, on my Amazon account – which somehow they all have the password for – but that is another story.

Both Jenna and Kelsy hired professional movers to move short distances into new apartments in their current cities of Baltimore and Nashville, respectively. James, on the other hand, moving 668 miles from Denver, Colorado to Livingston, Montana, called Dad. Jim was happy to oblige for several reasons. First, James does not own any large furniture that would need to go up several flights of stairs! But, most importantly, it meant a weeklong trip out west which combined business with a personally guided fly fishing tour along a semi-direct route, starting with Henry’s Fork on the Snake River, as they traveled north to Big Sky country. Jim caught his first trout on a fly on the trip and I am pretty sure James was even more excited than his Dad.

The title of poet Naomi Nye’s curated collection of poems from around the world – This Same Sky – has been top of mind this week. With three children in three different parts of the country, I often gaze upwards and wonder what they are all doing. I know that my children are looking up at a slightly different slice of the sky from their own unique vantage points. Jenna’s new view from five stories up looks west so, like us on the Chester, she now sees the sunset, and a purple glow from Ravens Stadium. Kelsy’s new view is just the opposite, she will face east when she completes her move today, and tomorrow morning she will see her first sunrise. Well, maybe not tomorrow morning, but you get the picture. While Jenna sees the cityscape, Kelsy has a greener view with trees and a hill. James, now living in Montana’s Paradise Valley, has a breathtaking vista of snow-covered mountains literally at his doorstep.

Naomi also has a collection of original short stories titled There is No Long Distance Now which has been on my mind as well. Although my family is separated by geography, we can connect quickly via smartphone. While James and Jim were “moving” (or should I say “fly fishing”) I sent a text to our family group telling James that a mattress we ordered would be delivered on Friday. That prompted Kelsy to immediately type: How much is it? I would like a moving contribution. Remind me next time to text only the person receiving a gift – not the entire family!

Jenna stayed out of the mattress cost conversation as she was in Springfield, Missouri for a week of meetings with Bass Pro Shops but she caught up with us on the family chat on the night the Washington Capitals won the NHL’s Eastern Conference Championship and the Prince of Wales Trophy. We are all huge hockey fans. (And, in case you were wondering about the name of the trophy, the Eastern Conference used to be called the Wales Conference.) Jenna watched the game with her UnderArmour colleagues in a sports bar in Springfield, and she told us that they got a lot of stares from the locals as they cheered for the Caps! Thinking we will need a Rock the Red Day at Kent School as the Caps play for the Stanley Cup! First awarded in 1893, did you know the Stanley Cup is the oldest existing trophy in professional sports? Go Caps!

And, speaking of the Prince of Wales, yes, I did wake up very early two weeks ago to watch the Royal Wedding live and I am so glad that I did. The Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, once a rector at a West Baltimore church, truly inspired me with his passionate sermon about the power of love. “Imagine a world,” he said, “when love is the way.” Love is the way in our family, even across many miles, and I believe that we are each stronger for it. When love is the way, I believe the world is a better, and much smaller, place under this same sky.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.