DelMarVa Dealings – Where the Libs Go to Get Their Dough

Much is being made about a possible 2014 match between incumbent Maryland senator Jim Mathias (D-38) and Del. Mike McDermott (R-38B).  While McDermott would have to overcome Mathias’ huge money advantage (Senate President Mike Miller will THROW hundreds of thousands of dollars Mathias’ way), a Mathias vs. McDermott race will show the unfathomable divide between “Annapolis Values” vs. “Eastern Shore Values”.

Listen to McDermott on the recently passed budget bill:

While I am a fan of Public Radio Delmarva (actually WSDL), I don’t support Maryland tax dollars going to support it.  While I actually believe that SU needs a new library, I can’t imagine where $135 million is going.  What about all of that money in the SU foundation?  Why can’t it go to help build and equip a new library?

If you attended the recent town hall on Gov. O’Malley’s gun bill you would have witnessed a stark contrast in approaches.  McDermott has FOUGHT this bill from the start.  Mathias just voted against it (I would suggest for political reasons).  You would have seen and heard the passion McDermott brings to this issue.  While Mathias wasn’t in attendance, he sent an envoy to read a letter.  The categorical difference was apparent to all – McDermott was fighting to protect one of our most sacred liberties while Mathias was tinkering around the edges to make a loathsome bill slightly less loathsome.

As a political junkie, I think a Mathias – McDermott race in 2014 will be exciting.  As a citizen of Maryland, I believe that a McDermott candidacy and victory will send a message to those here and in Annapolis who believe that giving up our God-given liberty in pursuit of a few cups from the public trough is a worthwhile pursuit.

DelMarVa Dealings appears each Monday and discusses local politics and its impact on the Delmarva peninsula.

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Free-For-All at Somerset Board of Ed

WESTOVER, MD – Daily Times reporter Deborah Gates describes a free-for-all at this month’s Somerset County Board of Education meeting as competing groups collided over recent criticism of Washington High School principal William Johnson.  Parents have accused Johnson of poor leadership and spoke of disciplinary issues at the last two BOE meetings.  At this month’s meeting supporters of Johnson came out and accused Johnson critics of being racially motivated.

At several points during the meeting BOE chair William Miles had to gavel the crowd to order.  Several Johnson supporters called for the resignation of BOE members Dan Kuebler and Robert Wells because of their public criticism of Johnson.

At several points in the evening a Johnson supporter attempted prevent Gates from taking pictures of Johnson.  After the meeting, Johnson supporter went so far as to steal Gates’ cell which she was taking pictures with.  A police officer had to retrieve Gate’s property.

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Coast Guard Rescues Capsized Sailor Off Crisfield

from the Baltimore Sun

CRISFIELD, MD –  The Coast Guard says one of its Baltimore-based crews rescued a 50-year-old man after his sailboat capsized in Tangier Sound near Crisfield.  The man’s wife contacted the Coast Guard around 8:20 p.m. Saturday and reported that the boat had capsized and that he was sitting atop it.  Coast Guard crew members responded and brought the man onboard their vessel. No one was reported injured.

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Former Somerset Deputy Wins Again

PRINCESS ANNE, MD – Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals has ruled that the firing of former Somerset deputy Troy Durham by Sheriff Bobby Jones was arbitrary and capricious.  This overturns a 2010 ruling by Circuit Court Judge W. Newton Jackson III.

Durham has already won $1.1 million federal civil judgment against Jones.  He is currently garnishing Jones’ salary.

Durham’s attorney states that the decision implies that Durham receive back pay and benefits.

READ MORE …

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Bad Day for Aircraft on Delmarva

Monday was a bad day to be flying on Delmarva.  A U.S. Navy drone, flying from Pautuxent Naval Air Station in St. Mary’s County crashed near Bloodsworth Island.  A single engine plane crashed after landing in Delmar at approximately 1PM.

On Saturday, a small helicopter crashed near Whitehaven Ferry.

photos courtesy of the Star Democrat and the Daily Times

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Somerset Sheriff Claims Judgment Will Bankrupt Him

PRINCESS ANNE, MD – Somerset County sheriff Bobby Jones claims that he faces financial ruin after losing a lawsuit filed by a former deputy which resulted in a $1.1 million judgment.  Because the suit alleged illegal behavior by Jones the county’s insurance policy does not cover the loss.  Attorney’s for the county had successfully argued to have Somerset County and the office of sheriff removed from the suit.  Jones is personally responsible for the judgment.

READ MORE …

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Somerset County To Keep Tax Rate Level

PRINCESS ANNE, MD – The Somerset County Commissioners will not raise property taxes this year, according to the county’s finance director.  The Daily TimesLiz Holland reports that the county will offer a FY 2013 budget of approximately $35.8 million.

By holding the current real property rate level at $0.8837, the county will have approximately $1.25 million less revenue in FY 2013 than in 2012.  The county will also have to budget for $480,124 in teacher pension costs.  To help offset those costs, Somerset County will receive $381,799 from the state.

The County Commissioners will hold a public hearing tonight at 7 PM at the county office complex in Princess Anne.

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Princess Anne Residents Want Cake

PRINCESS ANNE, MD – If the Princess Anne Town Commissioners adopt a new real property tax rate of $1.12 two things will have happened:

  1. Princess Anne will have the highest municipal tax rate in the state of Maryland. (as reported by Liz Holland in the Daily Times)
  2. The property tax bill of the average citizen will not rise 1 cent.

This is the problem facing county and municipal governments across the state.  Citizens want to have their cake and eat it too.

As someone who has attended countless budget work sessions and public hearings over the years, two issues always comes to the surface – citizens want their tax rates to fall as assessments rise, but don’t want their rates to rise if assessments fall; and very few citizens offer suggestions for specific cuts to permit towns and counties to operate on less.

All governments, large or small, waste money.  However, without specific suggestions to cut those costs, it’s simply not possible to provide the same level of services for less money.  Calls to “cut the waste” are meaningless.  If taxpayers want to oppose higher tax rates, they need to give specific examples of that waste … or pay a tax rate that provides their local government with at least the same amount of money as it received last year.

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Maryland’s Eastern Shore Continues to Suffer High Unemployment

WASHINGTON – Maryland’s Eastern Shore continues to suffer from high unemployment rates with three (3) counties having an unemployment rate of over 10% for the month of February (the last available month).

To see a table of the unemployment rates for each county, GO HERE.

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Is Jim Mathias Voting for Gay Marriage?

A VOTE FOR CLOTURE IS A VOTE FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Today the Maryland Senate takes up debate on SB 241 – the Civil Marriage Protection Act.  The bill, which would permit same-sex marriage in Maryland, has already passed the House and is a part of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s legislative package.

Some members of the Senate appear to be trying to have their cake and eat it too.  Knowing full well that their socially conservative constituents wouldn’t tolerate a vote for the bill, they will vote against it.  However, before the bill can come to a final vote on the Senate floor it must win a cloture vote.  Last year Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38) voted against the bill, but voted for cloture.  He is expected to do the same this session.

O’Malley and the Senate leadership know that they have enough votes to pass the Senate.  However, if the Democrat senators who voted against the bill last year vote against cloture then the bill cannot come to floor for a final vote.  When the rubber hits the road, a vote for cloture IS a vote for gay marriage in Maryland.

A call to Mathias’ office yielded the comment that, “Sen. Mathias is opposed to SB 241.”  When asked about the cloture vote we were told that, “The senator hasn’t made up his mind yet.”  A vote on cloture is expected today.

Mathias isn’t the only Maryland senator who seems to think that he can buffalo constituents into believing that he’s opposed to O’Malley’s gay marriage bill.  Others include:

Sen. John C. Astle (D-30) 410-841-3578
Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-24) 410-841-3148
Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-25) 410-841-3127
Sen. James E. DeGrange, Sr. (D-32) 410-841-3593
Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-29) 410-841-3673
Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-28) 410-841-3616

Mathias, who represents Worcester, Somerset, and the eastern half of Wicomico counties, can be reached at 410-841-3645.

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Daily Times Applies Different Standards to Different Boards of Education

SALISBURY, MD – If I didn’t live here I would find it amusing.  If the Wicomico County Council attempts to provide direction to the Wicomico County Board of Education through its control of the county purse strings the Daily Times would have us believe that “crimes against humanity” are being committed.  Slanted “news” articles and vociferous op-eds appear day after day.  Move the equivalent situation a few miles south, into Somerset County, and the situation (and the Daily Times’ response) change 180 degrees.

There is currently a running battle between the Somerset Board of County Commissioners and the Somerset BOE over whether or not to close Crisfield High School.  To be clear, the DelMarVa Observer has yet to take a stance on that issue.  What we find interesting is the way in which the Daily Times is approaching this situation.  They seem to find nothing wrong with the Somerset commissioners withholding funds that are required make the transition of consolidating Washington and Crisfield high schools.  We witness NONE of the drum beating nor chest thumping so typical when the Wicomico Council withholds so much as a nickel from the Wicomico BOE.  We don’t hear one argument about the Somerset BOE being the “experts” and knowing far more about everything than the Somerset commissioners.  If the Somerset commissioners argue that the county cannot afford a project, that is OK.  If the same argument is made in Wicomico, their county council displays “a lack of leadership”.

[Read more…]

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Teacher Pension Shift Could Impact Eastern Shore Counties

SALISBURY, MD – Maryland governor Martin O’Malley’s plan to shift 50% of the cost of teacher pensions to the counties could have a sizable impact on the budgets of Eastern Shore counties.  Among those that could be hit the hardest are Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, and Worcester counties.

The Daily Times’ Brian Shane reports that Worcester County could be saddled with a $1 million addition to its FY 2013 budget and no help from the state to offset the costs.  While Wicomico’s burden would actually be larger, a state “disparity grant” would drop the actual FY 2013 to less than $800,000.  Somerset, Dorchester, and Caroline counties also qualify for “disparity grants”.

Because the final determination of the pension shift bill may not be known until April, it is unknown whether county governments are taking this into account when preparing their budgets for next year.  Proposed budgets are typically submitted to county councils or commissioners during the month of April.

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Somerset Board of Ed to Meet Over High School Consolidations

WESTOVER, MD – The Somerset County Board of Education will meet this evening to discuss the possible consolidation of Washington High School and Crisfield High School.  The Somerset BOE is presenting this as a restructuring option after Crisfield High failed its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for four consecutive years.  Opponents argue that this is not even an option presented by the state in the re-structuring mandated by the state.

The Board will meet at 7PM this evening at the JM Tawes Vocational and Career Center on Route 413 in Westover.

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Harris Files for Re-Election

NO SERIOUS OPPOSITION IN SIGHT

COCKEYSVILLE, MD – First District Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) has filed for re-election to a second term in the U.S. House.  With the filing deadline for the two major party primaries looming, it appears that Harris will not face serious opposition in 2012.

MATHIAS DECLINES TO RUN

With former one term congressman Frank Kratovil opting to seek a judgeship in Queen Anne’s County rather than seek the seat he lost to Harris in 2010, First District Republicans placed their worries on Maryland senator Jim Mathias (D-38).  Mathias has shown that he can raise money and put together a strong grassroots campaign operation within the bounds of his Lower Shore senatorial district.  Would Mathias run and could he translate his strong local campaign skills to a congressional run?

That question was answered yesterday when Mathias announced that he would not be seeking federal office:

"I’m very pleased where I am," said Mathias, reached while traveling to Annapolis for the start of this year’s legislative session. "I’ve only been here a year, and I thank the people for giving me their confidence."

While not part of his statement, Maryland politicos note that Mathias needs to focus his efforts on 2014 where a challenge from Del. Mike McDermott (R-38B) is expected.  One source notes:

Jim Mathias is a great campaigner.  McDermott is better.  Mathias put together an admirable grassroots operation in 2010.  So did McDermott.  However, McDermott has become the darling of conservative activists on the Lower Shore.  While he mounted a fine campaign in 2010, it’s expected that he would mount an even stronger effort in 2014 if he challenges Mathias for the District 38 senate seat.  The only advantage Mathias would have is money.  If he ran for Congress this year and was forced to run alongside Barack Obama, that could be the difference between winning and losing.

That’s a big risk to take just to challenge Andy Harris, who Mathias probably couldn’t beat anyway.

It is expected that McDermott will be faced with either retirement, challenging Mathias, or running against a fellow Republican, Del. Charles Otto (R-38A), because of re-districting.

Barring any unexpected announcements, Harris will face either Dr. John LaFerla of Chestertown or Cockeysville businesswoman Wendy Rosen in the November general election.

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Fiery Crash … Fuel Tanker Explodes on US 13 in Princess Anne

PRINCESS ANNE, MD – A fuel tanker exploded into flames near the intersection of US 13 and Mt. Vernon Road.  No word yet on injuries.  The accident appears to be the result of a collision with at least one other vehicle.  Photos below courtesy of WBOC.

SBYNews also has video footage of the fire.

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USDA Rural Development Office Closes

SNOW HILL, MD – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that its Rural Development office in Snow Hill has closed.  Residents of the three Lower Shore counties seeking home repair or home ownership assistance will need to contact the Denton office.

The Denton office is located at 9194 Legion Road, Suite 1.  Call 410-479-1202, Ext. 4. For additional information, contact the Rural Development State Office at 302-857-3580.

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MD Re-Districting Plan Unveiled

SALISBURY, MD – Monoblogue’s Michael Swartz has provided the first round of analysis regarding the newly unveiled Maryland legislative re-districting plan.  The current maps provided by the Maryland Department of Planning don’t provide street level detail.

It appears that Del. Mike Smigiel (R-36) was not gerrymandered out of District 36, but that a smaller portion of Cecil County now lies within the district.  District 37-B, currently represented by Del. Addie Eckardt (R-37B) and Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R-37B) will include a larger portion of Wicomico County.

Of the Eastern Shore districts, it appears that District 38 has seen the biggest change.  The three (3) House seats are now single member districts with Del. Charles Otto (R-38A) and Del. Mike McDermott (R-38B) being placed in the same district, which covers all of Somerset County and southern Worcester County (McDermott lives in Pocomoke).  The newly re-drawn District 38-B, which is primarily comprised of the Salisbury “metro core”, appears designed to keep Norm Conway in a relatively safe district.  A new District 38-C encompasses northern Worcester County and eastern Wicomico County will almost certainly go to the GOP, provided a quality candidate comes forward.

DelMarVa Observer’s analysis of the plan, and possible alternatives, will appear Monday.

View the House Plan HERE.

View the Senate Plan HERE.

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Maryland Receives Federal Crop Disaster Designation for 15 Counties

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Martin O’Malley received approval from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack for Maryland’s request for a disaster designation for widespread crop losses due to extreme weather conditions this year, which included excessive heat, drought, and damage resulting from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

“Because farmers throughout most of Maryland experienced significant crop losses, we requested a disaster designation and thank Secretary Vilsack for granting it,” said Governor O’Malley.  “It is our hope that the designation will provide relief to the farmers who need it and help them prepare for the next growing season.”

“From April through October, Maryland farmers experienced widespread crop losses due to a variety of extreme weather conditions ranging from excessive heat, drought and flooding,” said Buddy Hance, secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture.  “Farmers in the disaster designation areas experienced market value losses exceeding 30 percent.”

This designation makes farm operators in the 15 primary counties – Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico and Worcester – as well as the counties of Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Harford, Prince George’s, and the independent city of Baltimore – eligible to be considered for assistance from the USDA Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.  Farmers must have purchased crop insurance on eligible crops to quality for USDA disaster assistance programs.

This assistance includes USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance. FSA will consider each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses, security available, and repayment ability. SURE Program applications for 2011 crop losses will be accepted in 2012, when the 2011 farm revenue data required by statute becomes available.

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Fire at UMES Damages Commercial Orchid Operation

PRINCESS ANNE, MD – A fire caused extensive damage to a commercial orchid growing operation on the campus of UMES Sunday.  The greenhouse complex, leased to Beijing based Jet Green Group was engulfed in thick black smoke.

While the cause of the fire or the extent of the damage are unknown at this time, a large amount of cardboard, for packing orchids for shipment, was in the greenhouses at the time of the fire.  The polymer used to cover the greenhouses is believed to be the source of the thick, black smoke.

Photo courtesy of the Daily Times

READ MORE …

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Somerset Corrections Officer Charged with Sexual Misconduct

WESTOVER, MD – The Daily Times reports that a Somerset County Corrections Officer has been charged with sexual misconduct with a female inmate.  Roland Vernon Bozman, 24, was served with a criminal summons according to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.

Bozman, of Princess Anne, has left the employment of the Detention Center according to Somerset County Administrator Doug Taylor.

READ MORE …

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Looking For A Job?

Looking for a job

PRINCESS ANNE, MD – A new website was launched this week to help job seekers reduce the amount of time spent searching the web for job listings.

The new site, www.EasternShoreJobFinder.com pulls listings from many popular websites including Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Craigslist.org, and more to create one daily listing of jobs available. And instead of covering one small region, this website covers the whole Delmarva Peninsula with jobs for all three states and even work from home listings.

The site’s creator, Gretchen Parks, works from home and knows how discouraging the job search can be. “As a freelancer, I am always trolling the job boards and looking for my next client or opportunity. The competition is fierce and every edge that you can have can make all the difference.” Parks said.

Parks had the idea to create this blog site to fill a need. “I saw people online looking for work and asking others if they knew of any openings. Online groups have formed to help each other, but the job listings are not plentiful in these groups because only the person looking knows the extent of their experience and qualifications for any given job,” she said.

[Read more…]

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Delmarva Schools Delayed by Fog

SALISBURY – Schools throughout Delmarva will be delayed 1 – 2 hours due to fog.

Accomack County Schools 2 Hours
Cape Henlopen School District 2 Hours
Caroline County Schools 2 Hours
Delmar School District 2 Hours
Dorchester County Schools 2 Hours
Indian River School District 2 Hours
Laurel School District 2 Hours
Milford School District 1 Hour
Queen Anne’s County Schools 90 Minutes
Seaford School District 2 Hours
Somerset County Schools 2 Hours
Sussex Tech School District 2 Hours
Talbot County Schools 90 Minutes
Wicomico County Schools 2 Hours
Woodbridge School District 2 Hours
Worcester County Schools 2 Hours

For a complete listing of all closings / delays, visit WBOC.com

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Fog Delays Eastern Shore Schools

SALISBURY, MD – Here is a list of schools delayed due to fog on Maryland’s Eastern Shore:

Wicomico County Schools 1 Hour
Worcester County Schools 1 Hour
Dorchester County Schools 2 Hours
Talbot County Schools 90 Minutes
Somerset County Schools 1 Hour
Queen Anne’s County Schools 90 Minutes
Caroline County Schools 2 Hours
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Princess Anne on the Rebound?

PRINCESS ANNE, MD – Today’s Daily Times includes one news article and an op-ed singing the praises of a downtown Princess Anne that appears to be on the rebound.  I hope that their analysis is correct.

If, as expected, the Princess Anne Town Commissioners approve a ban on first floor apartments in commercial space, a major step will be taken towards making downtown Princess Anne more business friendly AND more attractive.  If Princess Anne’s Main Street Partnership is successful in receiving $375,000 in grant funding, downtown Somerset Avenue will become more attractive.

However, there is one question that should be answered.  Will the economic activity from these actions be cost efficient?  Over $6 million in sales will be needed to collect enough sales tax to cover the state’s outlay.  Since such projects are designed to attract retail businesses, such as shops and restaurants, no one can honestly argue that high wage jobs will be created.  I expect that participants will fall back on the tried, true, and unverifiable “Quality of Life” argument.

One thing that should be noted about this plan, the Princess Anne Main Street Partnership has built a coalition of the right stakeholders – UMES, the local chamber, and the Somerset County Historical Trust.  Perhaps whatever organization succeeds “Urban Salisibury” can learn a few lessons.

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Sorry, No News Yet from Somerset County

We’re sorry, but we haven’t posted any news from Somerset County yet.  We’ve got plenty of news from the rest of DelMarVa.  Keep checking back.

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