Letter to Editor: Speak Out Against Hate on the Eastern Shore

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The members of the undersigned organizations condemn the dispersal of white supremacist flyers on the Eastern Shore on March 31. In addition to being found in the Rio Vista neighborhood of St. Michaels, as reported in the Star Democrat, flyers with different text – though equally hateful and containing the same organizational name and contact information – were found on Tilghman Island.

Similar flyers have also been found over the last year in both Eastern Shore counties of Virginia; and in Maryland, in Anne Arundel, Charles, Queen Anne’s, Somerset and Worcester Counties; and the towns of Gaithersburg, Germantown, Eldersburg, Ellicott City, Glen Burnie, La Plata, Lothian, South Baltimore, Sykesville, Upper Marlboro and Waldorf.

Unanswered questions remain. Was this a coordinated action as it seems? Who dispersed this bigoted literature? Are they our neighbors? Have they succeeded in their recruitment campaign?

Just like nooses and swastikas, these acts are not pranks to be taken lightly, but symbols designed to spread fear of violence against African Americans and Latinos and Jewish people. We will not tolerate the spread of racial and religious terror with its potential to incite violence in our community. Though the President has fanned the flames of hate, we must fight this wildfire with all we’ve got. We cannot remain silent and allow bigotry to take root in our communities.

We raise our voices against hate and prejudice. We call on all people of moral conscience to speak out to provide a bulwark against bigotry. We also call on our elected officials – our Midshore Delegation to the Maryland legislature – and Congressman Andy Harris to publicly denounce these acts immediately.

Please participate in creating a public presence of love and tolerance and against all forms of hatred by printing a sign from this website and putting it in your window

Bay Hundred Citizens for a Just Society (The Hedgehogs)
Indivisible Worcester Maryland
Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible
Lower Shore Progressive Caucus
Salisbury University College Democrats
Social Action Committee for Racial Justice – Kent County, MD
Talbot Rising

Letter to Editor: We Deserve Better From UMM Shore Regional Health

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The self-dealing scandal involving 9 of 30 UMMS Board members continues to occupy headlines. Both the MD House of Delegates and the MD Senate have unanimously passed legislation to reform the Board, and are awaiting likely approval by Governor Hogan. Comptroller Franchot has asked the state prosecutor to investigate, and blasted the Board’s choice of consulting firm to investigate. To quote him: “The State Prosecutor, thank God, is involved. This independent consulting firm that’s been hired by the system from California, I mean, forgive me, take a look at that consulting companies client list and tell me that that is an independent look at anything.”

Meanwhile, there has been very little public discussion of this on the Eastern Shore, despite the fact that one of the self-dealers on the UMMS Board who resigned within a few days of Mayor Pugh, continues to serve on our local Easton hospital board. Indeed, despite the fact that Mr. John Dillon has received more than $150,000.00 per year from UMMS for “capital campaign and strategic planning” he continues to hold the position of Chairman of the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health (SRH) at Easton, a position he has held since 2013.

The merger of our local hospital in 2006 was done in hopes of gaining access to subspecialty care, and to financial resources that would aid us in building a new hospital. Of note, Mr. Dillon was one of the people instrumental in promoting that merger. In the last decade, UMMS has been acquiring hospitals at a rapid rate of speed. As a result, individual hospital visions get a little blurry, and their mission statements more generic. Decisions regarding care locally are no longer decided locally. Remote control of care structuring has often resulted in clinical situations that make it more difficult for healthcare providers to give what they consider optimal care.

The patients of the Eastern Shore deserve better.

The dedicated workers of Shore healthcare facilities deserve better.

We need to challenge the members of the our local Board to ask Mr. Dillon to step down, and, even more so, to focus on strengthening our regional health care delivery processes. We also need to let our legislators know that we expect a truly independent audit of the UMMS board, with any illegal activities reported to the State Attorney General’s office.

Eva M. Smorzaniuk, M.D.
Talbot County

 

Letter: Clean Chesapeake Coalition Intervenes in Exelon’s Petition to FERC

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Last week, the Clean Chesapeake Coalition (CCC), on behalf of its Maryland member counties, filed its Motion to Intervene in the Petition for Declaratory Order by Exelon Generation Company now pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The CCC has been at the forefront of this issue for years, long before the current surge of interest in the threat the Conowingo Factor poses to Bay health, back when certain special interest groups were still calling the impacts of the Conowingo Dam a “red herring” in the context of saving the Bay.

CCC member counties and their county official remain disappointed at the lengths Exelon is willing to take to shirk environmental responsibility associated with the operation of this lucrative power station. This private, for-profit corporation which, according to its own website recorded $35.9 billion in revenues in 2018, claims that the Maryland Department of the Environment’s qualifications for a Water Quality Certification are “impracticable.” Meanwhile, Maryland counties with annual budgets that are a tiny fraction of Exelon’s revenues, are spending enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars to develop and implement their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP) and help Maryland meet its Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals; and the local economies of Bayside counties are hurt by the Conowingo Factor impacts on the seafood industry.

Well-supported by science and enforceable under the law, the Hogan Administration has embraced the once-in-a-generation opportunity to impose licensing conditions requiring the owner of Conowingo Dam to properly manage the vast quantities of nutrients, sediment and other contaminants that are accumulated in the reservoir above the Dam and scoured into the Bay, not just during major storm events but now, with increasing frequency, because of the loss of trapping capacity in the reservoir.

Consider the following: in 2016, according to United States Geological Survey (USGS) monitoring data, the average daily discharge at the Dam reached or exceeded 100,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on a total of six (6) days throughout the year; in 2017, this happened 18 times; in 2018, this happened on 77 different days. In fact, in 2018, there was only one month, June, in which there were no days with an average daily discharge rate at 100,000 cfs or higher. Thus far in the first quarter of 2019 (January 1 – March 31), USGS provisional data has recorded 16 days with an average daily discharge at or above 100,000 cfs. We know that when the water is coming through the Dam at 100,000 cfs, scouring begins to occur, loading nutrient-laden sediment into the upper Chesapeake Bay in shocking proportions. At this rate, we are on track to reach our allowable nutrient levels for the entire watershed solely through the inability of the Conowingo Reservoir to keep upstream pollutants trapped behind the spill gates.

Exelon maintains that the Dam is not a source of pollution and while it may be true that the Dam does not itself create pollution, CCC and other intervenors contend that its operations have a severe negative impact on the health of the Bay and that the 14-mile reservoir behind the Dam, also the responsibility of Exelon, must be properly maintained so that the downstream cleanup progress made to date is not wiped out by the next major storm event. Given that there is an 80% chance of a 25-year storm occurring during the re-licensing period sought by Exelon, the billions that have already been spent downstream to improve the quality of our country’s largest estuary will be washed down the proverbial toilet if Exelon continues to dodge any meaningful role in Bay stewardship.

A copy of the Coalition’s recent Motion to Intervene in the FERC relicensing process may be found on its website: www.cleanchesapeakecoalition.org

Charles D. MacLeod
Clean Chesapeake Coalition

Letter to Editor: Tragedy Of The Soft Shell And Razor Clam

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I read Tragedy of the Commons many times in my undergraduate career. We are all familiar with the premise: overuse of a common resource for personal benefit ultimately eliminates that resource, spoiling it for everyone. To ensure that our common resources do not become depleted in Maryland or the Chesapeake Bay, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) works to “preserve, protect, restore, and enhance our environment for this and future generations.” Specifically, DNR strives to create balance between our economy and our environment, which we at ShoreRivers commend and support.

Consider the eastern oyster, for example, a filter feeder that improves water quality and habitat, and is an iconic menu item for locals and tourists alike. A DNR Fishery Management Plan is needed for this species to ensure that we continue to see both ecological and economic benefits for generations to come. This is an example of a state agency regulating a natural resource so that all can benefit.

Two lesser known bivalve species in the Bay provide similar ecological value. Soft shell clams and razor clams filter the same volume of gallons in one day as the oyster. Numerous studies have found that these species once played an integral role in the Chesapeake’s food web, as a primary food source for multiple predators. Unfortunately, also similar to the eastern oyster, these clam species are on the brink of extinction in the Chesapeake Bay.

The soft shell clam fishery has been “boom and bust” since the invention of the hydraulic dredge in the 1950’s. “Boom” times with high harvest rates and high numbers of clamming licenses are followed by “bust” times with significant drops in clam populations, which result in lower harvest rates and fewer licenses.

Considering the high ecological value these species provide and their current low populations, ShoreRivers believes they are in need of conservation. Without a DNR Fishery Management Plan, there is currently no balance between the economic and ecological value of these clams. To ensure this balance is established and that there are clams in our Maryland waterways in the future, ShoreRivers fought for a Fishery Management Plan for the clam fishery during the 2019 Maryland Legislative General Assembly. This bill would have initiated relatively low-cost studies of current clam populations and habitats, impacts to the population from climate change, and economic and ecological values of clams.

Unfortunately, the Department of Natural Resources was not supportive of this bill and was unwilling to compromise. DNR’s main argument was that these species are too transient and difficult to study. However, considering that there have been studies of these species in the past (although none that inform regulation), and the fact that these species continue to be harvested, we feel that this decision clearly states that DNR is supportive of the economic value of these species, more so than the ecological value. If we are unable to study a species, consider the ecological value, or make regulation recommendations that promote sustainability, then we should not have that commercial fishery.

Yes, we are all familiar with the Tragedy of the Commons, but it seems as though our current administration is choosing to ignore the warning signs of resource depletion. To be clear, I am in support of sustainable fisheries – fisheries that provide economic value, support our local watermen, and ensure that species continue to provide ecological benefits to our ecosystems.

However, if, according to DNR, it is not possible to find balance between economy and ecology, then which side should we choose? What repercussions might we see if we lose the soft shell and razor clams? As Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, I have the privilege of giving a voice to the river; I have no doubt the river would choose the side of ecological benefits.

Elle Bassett
Miles-Wye Riverkeeper
ShoreRivers

Letter to Editor: Sen. Hershey’s Chestertown Hospital Bill is just what the Doctor Ordered

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Whether you’re convinced that our community will win or lose the fight to Save Our Hospital, we have great news.

Sen. Steve Hershey, the state senator who represents our district, has introduced a bill designed to put the state in the driver’s seat of the Chestertown hospital.  

If the bill becomes law, UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown will become a Maryland Department of Health rural Pilot Program on October 1 of this year, with as many as 25 inpatient beds and lots of state attention, expertise and resources.    

The bill that could transform our hospital has an un-catchy name, clearly the handiwork of lawyers instead of poets:  The Chestertown Rural Health Care Delivery Innovations Pilot Program. The bill number is SB 1018.

UMMS’ Shore Regional Health System will, the bill makes it clear, likely continue to own and operate the hospital under state direction, so Shore would receive state funding and resources for physician recruitment and expanded services.  

It is, in many ways, exactly what Shore Health President and CEO Ken Kozel has said he would welcome.  

The bill says the purpose of the Department of Health Pilot Project is to find innovative solutions for sustaining inpatient hospital care in Maryland’s rural communities, and it appears against the backdrop of a national crisis.  Since 2010, 98 rural hospitals have closed in the U.S., and in Chestertown, where the community depends on the hospital for economic stability as well as medical care, Shore Regional Health has been cutting services since 2015.

If SB 1018 dies in Annapolis, Shore Health will almost certainly convert the hospital into a “Freestanding Medical Facility” after March of 2022.  It will have an Emergency Room, diagnostics (MRI, CT-Scan, X-Ray, Mammogram equipment, for instance), as well as outpatient surgery, lab, chemotherapy and rehab facilities.  Without inpatient beds, it will no longer be a hospital, and patients who need inpatient care will be transferred to Easton or hospitals that are an hour or more away.

If Sen. Hershey’s bill becomes law, however, the state Pilot Program will operate our hospital for two five-year periods; the Department of Health could open a Center of Excellence at the hospital during the second five-year period, perhaps for the study of rural health or gerontology, or some other medical concern that’s relevant in this area.  

And after 10 years, the bill decrees, the Maryland Department of Health will recommend whether the Pilot Program should become a “permanent program.”  

Permanent!  What a beautiful word.

You’re welcome to come to a Save the Hospital meeting tonight—7:30 on the second floor of Chestertown’s Town Hall–when we set out plans for our campaign to win passage of SB 1018.  If you can’t attend the meeting, watch for more media articles, and follow my posts on Facebook’s Chestertown Life page.

The General Assembly session is moving fast, so plan to get on board.  

Margie Elsburg
Communications Coordinator for “Save the Hospital”

Letter to the Editor: March 14 is National Ag Day

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As local, family-owned dairy farmers in Chestertown, our family is proud to be part of the population that feeds families in our community and beyond.

March 14 is National Ag Day, a time to recognize the important role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant,and affordable products. Our family farm is dedicated to producing wholesome, nutritious milk. To do so means taking excellent care of our cows –ensuring they have a healthy diet, plenty of fresh water, and clean,comfortable living conditions –no small feat during this challenging winter!

There are no snow days or delays for farmers, and harsh weather makes routine tasks harder and more time consuming –but farming isn’t just our job, it’s our passion and way of life. On our farm we milk and care daily for our dairy herd all while we are raising our children.

You may have heard dairy farmers are facing tough times right now. Want to support us? Think of us when you go to the supermarket. Choose real dairy products—milk, cheese, yogurt, or your family’s favorite dairy food. Warm up with hot chocolate made with real milk, creamy soups,or grilled cheese!

Learn more about dairy farms by visiting AmericanDairy.com.

Sherry Patterson
Patterson Farms
115 Patterson Dairy Lane
Chestertown, MD 21620

Letter to Editor: Equal Burden Needs to be Shared among Chestertown Property Owners

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Chestertown home owners are being arbitrarily and capriciously over-taxed.

I don’t object to paying taxes. They fund our schools and other key services.

But the story of the recent tax appeal by my wife and myself is instructive. It shows that residential property owners in town pay significantly more than those zoned for “agricultural land.” And I don’t mean just “farms,” some of which are small to medium size agri-businesses, with yearly turnovers in the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.

There must be equal burden sharing for all the community both in Chestertown and outside it.

The senior community in particular, and those on low fixed incomes, are under increasing cash-flow pressure.

We moved here in late May 2017, after 29 years in Washington, D.C. Chestertown is a wonderful place to live, offering multiple activities and the intimacy of a friendly small town.

But we are paying 50 percent more in property taxes than the previous owner of our home. To add insult to injury, within weeks of buying the house, with no alterations done inside or outside, the tax authorities added a mystifying one-third to what we paid for our property as “valuation.” We thought some kind of bureaucratic mistake had been made. How naive we were.

But the local property market is static or growing minimally, and has really not recovered from the major recession of the middle 2000s and a significant number of homes are still on the market, unsold.

And so began a frustrating round of three appeals.

First stop, in fall 2017, was the tax office on Lynchburg Street. We presented the “comparables” needed, i.e., prices of similar homes in the historic district, roughly the same size, with the same facilities, and which had sold in the past couple of years. We worked with our Realtor and a lawyer friend to gather this data.

To our surprise, our first effort failed, so we opted to appeal at the Kent County Commissioners offices, a number of weeks later. We revised our “comparables,” double checked for newer sales, and made our case once more. Importantly, we specifically asked what algorithm or method of calculation the assessor was using to justify adding one third to the price we paid, within just weeks of purchasing our house. We never received a clear answer. We lost again.

Now, it became a matter of principle. We appealed to tax court in Centreville and with the assessor present once more. But we lost yet again. To go to a final fourth stage at the courthouse in Chestertown, would mean paying for a transcript of the tax court hearing and other expenses. We decided it was just not worth it.

Before we began this whole process, we checked with others. One of the houses on our street, almost an exact copy of ours, was the subject of an appeal about three years ago and succeeded at the first stage in having their tax assessment reduced by a fair amount. But other householders who have appealed in just the last year or two have failed.

Is there a pattern here of tax appeals now more and more being turned down? It seems so.

It is time for residential property owners outside Chestertown who do not “farm” but live on “agricultural use” property to share the burden.

We have discussed this matter with our local council member. Perhaps there needs to be a public meeting about this where people can make their views known.

We keep reading about inequality in America.

We need to address inequality in Chestertown

Michael McDowell
Chestertown

Letter to Editor: Unfinished Business in Rock Hall

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On March 4 — and for the second time this year — Rock Hall Mayor Brian Jones refused to permit questions and comments from citizens during a Town Council meeting (violating both Charter and Code).

Here are some of the questions he suppressed:

  • Mr. Mayor: Given that the Town of Rock Hall is close to running a budget deficit — maybe already is — what items of non-essential spending do you plan to recommend to the Council to cut?
  • Mr. Mayor: The recent financial audit has 15 negative findings. Which three do you plan to address first? Also, because your own questionable actions are the subject of several of the findings, do you plan to recuse yourself from discussing and deciding on policies to address them?
  • Mr. Mayor: A utilities rate increase of 15% imposes a hardship for many in Rock Hall. Why didn’t you consider recommendations for modest increases in utility rates made by two Council members during previous budget discussions over the past four years?
  • Mr. Mayor: In January, you reported that you and Councilwoman Rosalie Kuechler were working with the Maryland Municipal League to identify several new sources of revenue for the Town. In the past two months, what new sources of revenue have you identified?
  • Mr. Mayor: When will the Town Manager produce for the Council a comprehensive list of major infrastructure maintenance and repair projects that need to be done, along with cost estimates?
  • Mr. Mayor: Given that the Town should provide a vehicle for the Town Manager to use on official business, and given that other Town employees should also have access to a Town vehicle as needed, why don’t you turn in that surplus police vehicle that’s parked in your driveway for your personal use so that the Town Manager and other employees can drive it? Or, why not sell it?

As we approach a municipal election in eight weeks, the Town of Rock Hall is in crisis—financial, administrative, legal, and ethical—yet Mayor Jones blithely ignores the chaos, and breaks the law to do so.

Of course, isn’t it futile to expect the very persons who caused the problems to solve the problems?

Yours truly,

Grenville B. Whitman

Rock Hall

Letter to the Editor: LGBTQ Community Shaken but Resilient

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I write in my capacity as President of PFLAG Mid-Shore MD, as a member of the LGBTQ community, and as a resident of Chestertown, to clarify a few issues that were brought up at the February 19 Chestertown Town Council Meeting surrounding our Mid-Shore Pride event on May 3rd-5th, 2019.

Members of the Mid-Shore LGBTQ community, especially in Chestertown, remain shaken following Council Members Tolliver and Stetson’s remarks. The remarks are particularly distressing, given that as Council Members, Stetson and Tolliver have sworn to represent the interests of the members of their community, not to state their own biases. The expectation exists that they would take seriously the job of representing all constituents with dignity and respect, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, socio-economic status, age, or other factors. Ironically, the harmful statements made by the Councilmen highlight exactly why this community so desperately needs a Pride event on the Eastern Shore. It is important that we teach tolerance and acceptance, not hatred, fear, and discrimination.

Our plans for Mid-Shore Pride are now stronger than ever after receiving the Council’s approval to go forward with the event. Thank you to the community members, educators, and business owners who have voiced their support of our event and the work that we are doing. Thank you to Council Members Kuiper and Foster and Mayor Cerino for voting in favor of letting the event go forward. Not only will Mid-Shore Pride economically benefit our area with the added visitors that it will bring, but it will help showcase our community as the supportive and inviting place that we believe it to be.

Our family-friendly series of activities during this event are intended to help often disconnected LGBTQ members of the public within the mid-shore region see that there are not only resources available to them, but that they have allies here as well. We are excited to have events in Easton, Chestertown, and Cambridge. Mid-Shore Pride will begin on Friday, May 3rd with First Friday celebrations in downtown Chestertown and a comedy night in Easton. Saturday morning, our members will be in Easton at the Multi-cultural festival before coming back into Chestertown for a music festival in Fountain Park from 1:00pm-4:00pm. Saturday night will feature a drag performance at Washington College with local celebrity Marti Cummings. Mid-Shore Pride festivities will conclude with a drag brunch in Cambridge. Contrary to what has been reported and circulating on social media, there will not be a parade – simply a series of celebrations around the mid shore for LGBTQ families and their allies to enjoy together.

PFLAG of the Mid-Shore believes that now more than ever a Pride festival is essential for our community to increase acceptance of those who are different. We look forward to celebrating the first-ever Mid-Shore Pride and invite you to join us. You can find more information on our website http://pflagchestertown.com/pride-planning/ or at our Facebook Page

Claire Hansen
PFLAG Mid-Shore MD
And the PRIDE Planning Committee

 

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