Letter to the Editor: Is a 3rd Bay Bridge a Good Idea?

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I want to add some thoughts to Howard Freedlander’s excellent column in the Spy of January 29, 2019 regarding a contentious 3rd Bay Bridge. I originally focused on a new bridge to Kent County since this seemed the most likely crossing option and Kent County residents are already alarmed.

From the economic standpoint in Kent County, there could be some reason for a 3rd bridge. Unfortunately, I see the unintended, but very foreseeable, consequences of a new bridge far outweighing the benefits.

Middletown, Delaware seems to be a huge concern to the Kent County people. I agree that Middletown is a poster child for destruction of a small town and its surrounding countryside. It makes me sick every time I ride through there. What forces allowed or caused this to happen I wonder.

To me, a better example of the threat to Kent County is what has happened to Kent Island; creeping sprawl, creeping haphazard commercial sprawl and inappropriate development.

I go back to the time of the 2nd ferry (Sandy Point to Mattapeake) before the first bridge. We lived in Catonsville after WW2 and went to Ocean City every summer. I remember waiting in the long line for the ferry; but then Kent Island was largely undeveloped rural countryside. The 1st bridge went in in 1952 and the 2nd in 1974 and you know the rest of the story of what has evolved over 66 years, not just to Kent Island but to other eastern shore counties as well. There is little doubt in my mind that a 3rd bridge will make history repeat itself. The rural character of Kent County will change for the worse forever. Maybe the rest of us too, depending on where the infrastructure (road) goes.

Kent County has a Comprehensive Plan I’m sure. While I haven’t seen it, like ours for Talbot County, I’ll bet it calls for preservation of the rural country side and quality of life. A bridge and associated infrastructure sure works against this.

An idea of a toll or limited access road to the bridge is an interesting one. I guess if you have to have a bridge, this might be the least worse option. I’ll bet there would be a huge battle over how many and where the exits would be. Over time many of the exits would assume the same characteristics that we see at exits all over the USA. Is this good?

My next comment concerns us in Talbot County. I have no idea where a road/roads serving a new Kent County bridge might go. If it goes inland and skirts Talbot County, traffic on Route 50 might actually go down for a while. I doubt this would be the case 60 years after the 3rd bridge opens. Heaven help us if a widened 213 connects in to the present Route 50. Perhaps 50 will be widened to 6 or 8 lanes. Or elevated going through Easton. Or a bypass around Easton like Salisbury (then 309 or 328 0r 331 can develop like Route 13 in Salisbury – a mess). Also, would it stimulate more development than would otherwise occur?

But wait, don’t options 8, 9, and 10 noted in Mr. Freedlander’s piece cross the Bay into Talbot County and connect to Route 50 in or near Easton. Unimaginable! Our County would be ruined.

Obviously, I am not in favor of a 3rd bridge but I do understand its importance to the “reach the beach” people, maybe economic recovery in Kent County, and probably real estate interests. But, the effects of a 3rd bridge are too high a price to pay.

Roger Bollman
Easton

Letter to Editor: Harris Votes 10 Times In First Month To Support Government Shutdown

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Keeping a tab on our 1st District Representative, I checked in on his voting record for the first month of his new term to see how well we were being represented. According to www.countable.us Of the ten (10) bills voted on to reopen the government, so that our fellow citizens could get paid, and we could get the services that we pay taxes for, he voted NAY. Harris did, however, vote YEA for easing sanctions on 3 Russian companies, owned by a sanctioned Russian oligarch, and voted NAY for a bill which would have strengthened NATO and the European Deterrence Initiative, which bolster Europe’s ability to deter and defend against Russian aggression. See www.countable.us for details.

House Bill H. Joint Res. 31
Funds Homeland Security
Vote was 231 Yea, 180 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H. Joint Res. 28
Temporarily funds: Agriculture; Energy & Water; Financial Services & General Government; Homeland Security; Interior & Environment; State & Foreign Operations; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.
Vote was 229 Yea, 184 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 268
This bill would provide emergency disaster relief funding for Americans affected by recent hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires, and other natural disasters.
Vote was 237 Yea, 187 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H. Joint Res. 27
This bill would fund agencies impacted by the partial government shutdown by funding them through February 1, 2019.
Vote was 237 Yea, 187 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 266
This bill would provide FY19 funding for the Dept. of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies.
Vote was 240 Yea, 179 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 265
This bill would provide a total funding to support the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, rural development, and conservation programs for fiscal year 2019 as well as additional funding for nutritional programs.
Vote was 244 Yea, 10 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 267
This bill would provide funding for the Depts. of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development in fiscal year 2019
Vote was 244 Yea, 10 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 264
This bill would provide funding for the U.S. Treasury, the Judiciary, the Small Business Administration, several financial regulators, and other independent agencies.
Vote was 240 Yea, 188 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H. Joint Res. 1
This bill would fund the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) at current levels through February 8, 2019 and restore lapsed funding, allowing the agency to fully re-open.
Vote was 239 Yea, 192 Nay. Harris voted NAY

House Bill H.R. 21
This bill would fund roughly one-fourth of the federal discretionary budget by providing covered agencies with a total of $271 billion in funding for fiscal year 2019 (which runs through September). Specifically, it’d fund agencies covered by these six appropriations titles: Agriculture; Commerce, Justice, Science; Financial Service and General Government; Interior & Environment; State & Foreign Operations; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.
Vote was 241 Yea, 190 Nay. Harris voted NAY

Christopher A. Koch
Easton

 

Letter to the Editor: Salvation Army Bell Ringing

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We had the privilege to coordinate the Salvation Army’s bell ringing campaign in Kent County this past holiday season. Every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, volunteer bell ringers were stationed by the Salvation Army’s familiar red kettles at Acme and Redner’s, and occasionally in downtown Chestertown.
We had an incredibly successful campaign, raising over $5,000 to provide for the less fortunate in Kent County. We thank Acme and Redner’s for providing space at their stores.

We also thank our dedicated bell ringers. The members of the Washington College men’s baseball and women’s softball teams deserve special recognition, as well as our other volunteers, for their selfless gifts of time and talent. Finally, we thank the hundreds of generous contributors who placed their donations in the kettles with a smile and an exchange of holiday greetings.

These donations are already helping to make a difference in Kent County for the better. All donations remain local and, among other services, help to fight hunger, give warmth, keep the lights on, clothe the needy, and provide for the homeless.

Andy Meehan
Chestertown Rotary Club

Bob Barrows
Chestertown Lions Club

Open Letter to Congressman Andy Harris

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On December 21, 2018, we received another periodic letter from Representative Andy Harris updating us on his current work in Congress. This full page letter included five paragraphs, four of which dealt with his “fight to defend the 2nd Amendment and advocate for our constitutional right to keep and bear arms.” This included discussions of bills he is cosponsoring: Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (which would allow someone from another State with concealed carry rights to carry those concealed weapons into Maryland) and Hearing Protection Act (which deals with issues relating to silencers); plus his fight against the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018.

While he again touted several ways to deal with gun violence, we have not actually seen any legislative efforts from him or other Republicans which actually take an aggressive stance on solving the on-going slaughter of our school children. According to a Washington Post article updated January 19, 2018, more than 220,000 children at 225 schools have been exposed to gun violence since 1999. This stunning number does not even take into account the massive number of students practicing active shooter drills throughout the US – including in our own congressional district. When will we read a letter from Representative Harris that includes any type of legislation which will actually tackle this horrifying problem?

While we recognize and support the right to keep and bear arms and the importance of owning weapons and the livelihood of hunting as an important aspect of the local way of life in this district – yes we love our venison steaks and goose breast chili-, we suggest Representative Harris spend more time listening to the students in our district who have walked out of their classrooms to bring increased attention to their right to attend classes without the fear of being shot by someone carrying an assault rifle into their schools.

Or, if Representative Harris actually visited our Congressional district and talk with some of his constituents, he might actually realize the importance of farm land and waterways which predominantly make of his district. Then, rather than voting against the “Farm Bill”, he would realize the importance of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 which provided funding for not only many programs that directly support our farmers but also provided millions of dollars for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

At the very least – we ask that Representative Harris get back to work and vote to reopen the government for your constituents who either work for the federal government and need those pay checks to pay for their own livelihoods or for your constituents who receive important services from those agencies that are closed. As retired, 30 year senior level federal employees, we never once came across a single issue for which the federal government needed to be closed.

John and Ellyn Vail
Worton

It Takes Chestertown to Make It Amazing

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Fleas flew. The streets were on fire and the Dickens Welcome Center hosted hundreds of visitors and a mind-reading dog. “Snow and Victorian vignettes magically appeared in town windows. A tree “grew” in Hebe’s fountain, sparkling with little points of light and providing a warm glow in the heart of Fountain Park.

Gallons of hot chocolate and 600 bags of cookies disappeared. For 2 days the clip-clop of horse carriages reigned over motorcars. Queen Victoria, Jacob Marley and Ebenezer were reincarnated for the weekend—they looked surprisingly hale. Church bells and a bell ringing Town Crier punctuated the air. Bobbies chased urchins through downtown streets and alleys, and images from a Victorian Magic Lantern filled the Garfield. Tents were erected, decorated and then poof! were off to another event leaving only traces of burlap and the faint echoes of kilt-clad American Rogues’ drums and bagpipes.

Holiday homes were on display; their holiday décor eliciting oohs and aahs from a record number of attendees. The High Tea offered tea, sweets and savories of course, but also the sweet sounds of holiday music in the gracious surroundings of the Hynson Ringgold House.  A tea-leaf reader offered prognostications about the future. Amazingly, everyone had a bright and happy year ahead!

Over 20 costumed vendors sold their wares in London Row, while food purveyors offered fish and chips, oysters, Scotch eggs, sausage rolls and hand pies (to name just a few), downed by quaffs of beer and mulled wine. Stilt walkers wandered grandly through the crowds teasing and delighting all ages from their lofty perches.

Mother Nature looked kindly on Chestertown; the weather was sunny, crisp and cold, encouraging high-spirited salutations from costumed passersby. And costumed they were: over 150 residents donned the vintage costumes that might normally appear on local stages, but for our weekend, took center stage outside. Organizers had gathered, sorted and labeled carloads of Victorian-style clothing from area theaters and rental services to loan out to volunteers and vendors.

There were street closures, broken restrooms, and some frozen musicians and vendors. But, despite the cold and the plumbing and parking glitches, most everyone was able to say “God bless us everyone!” And mean it.

Thank you to all who made this Dickens of a Christmas a success and who put smiles on so many faces. Many dedicated volunteers worked long hours to make it all look easy. We welcome new volunteers who want to help make the 2019 event a grand success. If you can help, email to Manager@MainStreetChestertown.org.

The Elections Are Over But The Misinformation Campaigns Continue

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Several writers of letters to the editor published recently in the Star Democrat have opined that the results of the voting process to elect the President and Vice President of the Talbot County Council was unprecedented. They are wrong. After reviewing a video tape of the County Council leadership election held in 2017; it is very clear the County Attorney handed out ballots for both positions at the same time (required by law to be secret ballots), collected both ballots from individual Council members at the same time, tabulated the results at the same time and announced the results for both positions at the same time. That is the exact same process used by the County Attorney again earlier this month. These same letter writers who suggest the final results indicate a 3-2 voting bloc are wrong … again.

The results may have been 3-2 but they may also have also been 4-1 on one or both positions. Either way, that is not bloc voting. It is simply majority rules. It is time to move on and allow the County Council to focus on addressing the challenges and the opportunities that really matter to Talbot County citizens.

David Reel
Easton

Letter to the Editor: Donating Your Required Minimum Distribution

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As 2018 comes to an end and we get ready for the start of 2019, the United Way of Kent County would like to remind you to be sure you have taken your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your IRA or 401K. If you are over 70.5 years of age, these withdrawals must be taken by the end of the year. And once January arrives, you can take your new withdrawal for calendar year 2019.

We would also like to remind you that there are significant tax advantages of donating part of your RMD directly from your custodian to the United Way of Kent County—or to any other qualified charity.

The RMD is taxed as regular income and may increase not only your income taxes, but may also your Part B and D Medicare premiums. Moreover, the extra income can result in higher taxes on your Social Security. By donating the RMD, or part of it, you reduce your income and subsequent income taxes, while helping to support your favorite charities in Kent County.

The Qualified Charitable Distribution provision for donating pre-tax money from the RMD is now a permanent provision of the tax code, and any IRA holder over the age of 70.5 can donate up to $100,000 of their RMD. And with the 2018 new tax law making itemizing a rarity, it makes even more sense to source your charitable donations from your RMD.

A few simple requirements: The money is limited to the RMD and is capped at $100,000. The money must come direct from the IRA custodian to the charity. It cannot go to the owner first. Plus, the money contributed reduces income, but cannot then be claimed as a charitable donation (if you itemize)—since that would result in a double deduction.

For more information on how to donate your IRA RMD to the United Way of Kent County and the benefits that brings to Kent County, please contact Executive Director Beth Everett at 410-778-3195 or email her at beth@unitedwayofkentcounty.org.

Glenn L. Wilson, President
United Way of Kent County

Letter to the Editor: A Note of Concern about Impact of Kent County Short Term Rentals

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With the proliferation of new Airbnb, VRBO, and other rental sites popping up around Kent County over the past couple of years, there are some points to consider:

A non-exhaustive review of the AirBnB and VRBO websites revealed over 50 sites in Kent County. At an average booking rate with an average rental fee, this means that over $ 1,200,000 in annual rental income is being collected by these properties. That means the county is losing over $60,000 in room taxes each year. Additionally, with the decrease in revenues experienced by some local, licensed, regulated B&Bs, which now contribute correspondingly lower tax payments, the above losses in  the county are exacerbated.

In addition, there could be further loss of county revenue, the net income county tax rate of 2.5%, if these “invisible, under-the-table” lodging businesses are under-reporting profits on tax returns. Raising the visibility of these businesses through county enforcement measures could make it more difficult to remain hidden from compliance agencies across the board.

Another point for consideration is the effect these unregulated property rentals are having on their neighbors. Folks who have their morning cups of coffee are wondering who is now next door, while other neighbors coming home late at night are wondering who that strange car belongs to! Enforcement of existing zoning regulations would help.

Occasionally, traffic flow is made more difficult by Airbnb guests who are simply unaware of local parking codes. Huge boats pulled by large SUVs, parked on curves, on a 2-way street, in a residential neighborhood, close to a school, should certainly be considered a problem.

There are needs in Kent County. Don’t you think $ 60,000 (or more) each year would help a little bit? Perhaps as a starting point these lodging problems could be addressed by sending a letter to these property owners outlining the codes and regulations the county has in place. That would be a start.

Other communities are starting to solve these problems. Isn’t it time for us to do the same?

 

David & Cheryl Hoopes
Chestertown

Letter to the Editor:Vote for Commissioner Based on the Record

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Calling all citizens! On Election Day, November 6, we have the future of Kent County in our hands. It is time to stand up and speak out to remind us all that we live in a county that is envied by other rural and urban counties for several major achievements:

Balanced budgets each year despite fluctuating funding from the State of Maryland.

Fully funding all county services each year within budget and maintaining a fund balance for emergencies.

Continued funding at or above the state mandates and now the highest funding ever of our public schools despite student enrollment. Kent is fourth in highest per pupil funding of our schools. Better than over twenty Maryland counties.

Covering capital expenses for the public schools to not impact the school’s budget.

Increased Building permits far beyond prior years reflecting county growth not decline and families moving to Kent County.

Not taxing small businesses although other jurisdictions have appealed to the state of Maryland to allow this in order to raise revenue.

Increasing paramedic staff to support health care needs of our citizens.

Provision of police services for the incorporated towns of Millington, Betterton, and Galena in addition to the County.

Establishing and maintaining property tax credit for our senior citizens.

Establishing the first youth employment program and prioritizing funding in budget planning – increasing funding each year.

Supporting the arts and cultural activities growing tourism revenue to the highest in the history of Kent County.

Fighting to maintain our hospital with full services.

Fighting the Opioid epidemic in cooperation with law enforcement and NGOs.

Fully transparent government operations and Commissioner meetings.

Largest internet service out of all rural counties in the State of Maryland.

These are just a few of the services that all of us enjoy in Kent County.

Now, there are candidates running that have big ideas, but no experience in implementing them at a local, state or national level. Commissioner William Pickrum hosted a series of six forums open to the public about the funding and operation of major county services. These forums provided an opportunity for individuals running for office to learn the intricacies of providing services at the County level. Unfortunately, none of the candidates took advantage of these learning opportunities so they missed the opportunity to validate if their ideas could possibly work.

We need to keep moving Kent County forward. Having lived in Kent County for decades, everyone knows we have come a long way and no one honestly can dispute that fact. Is there more to do – of course. Are there challenges facing the County – of course. But, these are circumstances that every jurisdiction in the land faces each year.

Cast your vote based on the record of each individual. It is still time to close out the noise of those selling untested theories and choose a candidate that has a record of proven results; a person that has encouraged women, young adults and minorities to run for office; a candidate that supports our youth and seniors; a candidate trusted by every County official in the state of Maryland to be the next president of the Maryland Association of Counties. I am voting for William W. Pickrum. We should encourage all to Pick Pickrum.

Dr. Vita Pickrum
Kent County

The author is the wife of County Commissioner William Pickrum

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