Will Wicomico EVER Get An Elected Board of Education?

Not Unless County Council Gets Off the Dime

As long as Wicomico County voters aren’t allowed to have a say in who runs their public schools they will continue to see a school system that grows in bureaucracy and borrows to build new schools rather than adequately maintain existing buildings.  All anecdotal evidence indicates that a majority of voters favor a school board elected in the same manner as the county council – five members by district and two members at large.  The only way to receive objective evidence is a vote at the polls; something that certain special interest groups want to deny Wicomico voters.

An elected school board will not be a silver bullet to correct the problems our public schools face; it certainly won’t yield worse results than we’ve seen to date.  However, the powers that be continue to stonewall the county’s voters.

How can we get an elected school board?  It all starts with the County Council.  They need to pass a resolution which would (hopefully) be signed by newly elected County Executive Bob Culver.  Members of the county’s legislative delegation would then be asked to sponsor a bill in Annapolis calling for a question to be placed on the 2016 ballot.  If the question received a majority vote of Wicomico voters, it would then fall on the legislature to approve a bill allowing for an elected school board.

The process could fall apart at any step of the process.  BUT … it needs to start with the County Council.  As the legislative session begins, and the deadline to introduce bills fast approaches, where is the County Council on this issue?  They have had two opportunities to introduce a resolution but council president John Cannon hasn’t placed anything on the agenda.  Could Culver introduce a resolution?  Sure.  But let’s face it; his hands are full while the council isn’t doing much more than approving appointments right now.

Cannon claims to support an elected school board, but he set’s the council’s agenda.  There is no reason not to place a resolution on the council’s agenda … IMMEDIATELY!  Waiting makes it less likely that Wicomico will have an opportunity to select the people who run our schools rather than Annapolis doing it for us.

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State, Wicomico County Must Manage Expectations for 2015

I’m not a pessimist.  No, really I’m not.  I sincerely hope that 2015 will be a GREAT year for Maryland and for Wicomico County.  While I HOPE that 2015 will be a great year, I’m a realist.  I expect this year to be a good year, IF we can agree on a definition of “good”.

We still have a few weeks until Larry Hogan is sworn in as governor.  Bob Culver, while starting off well, only has a few weeks under his belt as Wicomico’s County Executive.  Both the state and county face significant fiscal challenges.  Hogan and his team appear to be working around the clock to address severe revenue shortfalls for both the current and next fiscal years.

Starting with a mound of problems it is important that both Hogan and Culver be allowed the opportunity to address issues which they inherited.  Voters, particularly Republican voters, should allow both the opportunity to succeed before calling either out for failing to fulfill their respective campaign promises.  This is precisely why it is important that GOP activists and Republican-leaning bloggers need to manage expectations for 2015.

Monoblogue’s Michael Swartz believes that the County Council and Culver will be “working from the same political playbook”.  That remains to be seen.  Councilmen Ernie Davis (D-1), John Hall (R-4), John Cannon (R-At Large), and Matt Holloway (R-At Large) are all on record as wanting to fund a new West Salisbury Elementary School.  The only reason Hall, Cannon, and Matt Holloway voted in favor of a bond resolution without funding for West Salisbury was because Culver had pledged to not sign such a resolution.

Swartz also notes that the chief impediments to an elected school board are now gone with the departures of former County Executive Rick Pollitt, former Del. Norm Conway, and former Del. Rudy Cane.  That is true as far as it goes.  However, there is no more vocal opponent of an elected school board (and particularly a fully elected board) than Cane’s replacement – Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes (D-37A).  While all of Wicomico’s incoming delegation may be freshmen, Sample-Hughes is the only House member from the majority party in Annapolis.  Even more distressing is the County Council’s seeming lack of concern in asking Annapolis for a fully elected school board.

Most of the heavy lifting in Wicomico County will have to be done by Culver.  This is by design.  He controls the budget.  Because so much of the state budget is comprised of mandatory spending, Hogan will have less control than Bob Ehrlich.

Both Hogan and Culver need to continue making their respective cases for decreases in spending.  Maryland voters need to press their Senators and Delegates to cut spending.  Only then will Hogan have the opportunity call for reducing taxes.  Culver will need support to continue pressing for less spending.  Even then, lowering tax rates will prove difficult.

Those of us who want to see a better, more competitive state and county need to manage our expectations.  Neither Hogan nor Culver have magic wands to wave.  They can succeed.  We need to give them time to do just that.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  It took Martin O’Malley eight years to put Maryland in its present condition.

photo courtesy of SBYNews

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Does “Advocacy” Equal Spending?

We’ve heard it all a million times … The more we spend on education the better our society (town, city, county, state, nation) will be.  It sounds great!  It’s for the children!  It also happens to be false.

Does anyone believe that New York City’s public schools are among the nation’s best?  How about Washington, DC or Chicago?  They all spend substantially more per pupil than Wicomico County.

Last Sunday we were treated to an op-ed by Wicomico Board of Education (WCBOE) president Ron Willey.  Willey argues that it is the board’s responsibility to “advocate” for more money:

We would also be less than responsible if we did not speak out for the needs of all of our students when it comes to facilities that will provide 21st century education opportunities.

It is true that modern buildings support the instructional programs and enable teachers to provide creative and more effective instruction for students. Whether elected or appointed, the school board must be the voice for these issues when budget decisions are made.

No Mr. Willey!  Your responsibility is to direct Wicomico County’s public schools.  That MAY mean building new schools when needed.  It also means making sure that the employees of the WCBOE maintain the existing stock of facilities.  It also means directing the Superintendent and his underlings to put the maximum number of available dollars into the CLASSROOM, not the bureaucracy.

Currently the WCBOE is “advocating” to close an existing school (East Salisbury Elementary) to house bureaucrats while wailing to all who will listen that tax dollars must be expended to build a new West Salisbury Elementary.

We must admit that there are no simple solutions to the problems facing Wicomico County’s schools (or any other school district in the nation).  It is unjust to lay society’s problems at the feet of teachers.  It is equally unjust to demand hard working tax payers shell out an ever increasing amount to solve a problem that isn’t being solved.

Our schools should be adequately funded.  Our schools should be well managed … from the Board on down.  That means maintaining our existing schools and only building new ones when enrollment growth demands it!  That means providing us, the public, with real evidence that the WCBOE is cutting wasteful spending and bureaucracy.  I’m no Pollyanna, but I do believe that taxpayers would be more receptive to higher taxes IF they honestly believed that they were receiving more value for their tax dollars.  The largest share of those tax dollars go to the public schools.

Wicomico County faces a severe financial crisis in the coming years.  The state will have little choice but to reduce funding for a variety of services, including education.  Given that Wicomico County currently funds only about one quarter the cost of its schools, funding for primary and secondary education will probably have to decrease as well.  If Mr. Willey was the honest broker he claims, the WCBOE would be working WITH the county government to plan for these problems instead of attempting to gin up public support for more spending.  We assume that Mr. Willey can read the election returns.  Wicomico voters want less taxes, not more.

“Advocating” for more money will not solve the problems of Wicomico’s education system;  LEADERSHIP, from the WCBOE, the Superintendent, the County Executive, and the County Council will.  “Advocacy” (for more money) does not improve the quality of schools.  Advocacy for change can.

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Fredericksen Changes Horses in Mid-Stream (Again)!

Wicomico Public Schools superintendent John Fredericksen fancies himself a politician.  He uses tax dollars to implement a (usually unsuccessful) grass roots lobbying effort to obtain more money to spend.  He also doesn’t hesitate changing positions at a moment’s notice.  Today’s op-ed by Fredericksen (along with the typically courageous stance of the Daily Times) provide more evidence that our county and state elected officials need to exercise great caution when dealing with Fredericksen and the Wicomico County Board of Education (BOE).

Fredericksen implies that Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver lied to the public by claiming that a replacement for West Salisbury Elementary School was not in the capital improvement plan:

This is a project that has been in the works for many years. Additions to West Salisbury Elementary were recommended 16 years ago in the 1998 Seidel Commission Report. Plans for a West Salisbury Elementary project have been in the Capital Improvement Plan and "future plans" section of the Facilities Master Plan each year since the Fiscal Year 2001 report — some 14 years ago. These reports go to the Board of Education and County Council each year and are available to the public.

This is a typical “bait and switch” which Fredericksen loves to foist on a plain speaking public.  Culver was correct.  The county’s capital improvement plan (CIP) does not include replacing West Salisbury for most of those years.  It is not Culvers fault if the BOE did not submit a request or if the county council did not approve every capital request from the BOE.  Wicomico County would be bankrupt if it did.

Here is where Fredericksen switches horses:

[Read more…]

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Pile-up on Bob Culver (Part II)

UPDATE BELOW

Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton is the most partisan Democrat in Wicomico County.  A self-described “free government cheese eating liberal”, Ireton’s politics serve as a secular religion to his lapsed Catholicism.  Little wonder that Ireton chose to flip-flop on an important local issue and somehow blame new Wicomico County Executive (and Republican) Bob Culver.

On the record multiple times opposing the continued employment of firefighters hired through a federal SAFER grant.  It should be noted that when the council agreed to take the grant, Ireton attacked several members (most notably former councilwoman Debbie Campbell).  The council was reluctant because the predicted the precise problem which has now arisen.  But now an evil Republican has replaced Ireton’s fellow Democrat and political ally Rick Pollit.

The result?  Ireton has reluctantly agreed to rehire the firefighters but has made their long term employment contingent on more money from the county.  If I were a Salisbury taxpayer Ireton’s argument might be appealing.  If I lived in one of the rural fire districts I would be frightened by Ireton’s lack of concern for his fellow county residents.

Ireton maintains that Salisbury answers the lion’s share of calls.  True.  The Salisbury Fire District is the most populous, and most dense, fire district.  Common sense dictates that they will receive the highest number of calls for service.  Ireton believes that Salisbury is being treated unfairly in this matter.  As mayor of Salisbury he has a point.  As a citizen of Wicomico County he believes that his neighbors should burn rather than cut into his believed fair share of the county’s available money for fire departments.

Go down the road to Powellville.  To the best of my knowledge this is the least populous, and least dense, fire district.  Yet, to serve their area of the county still requires a fire house and equipment.  If you looked at each fire department on a cost per call basis you would see that Powellville’s costs are much higher than Salisbury’s.  Should the citizens of Wicomico allow the most rural portions of the county to burn in order to appease Mr. Ireton’s sense of financial fairness?

Should we be surprised that Ireton waited until after the election, and his political ally lost, before attempting to make political hay out of this predicted situation?  Of course not.  Ireton has used similar tactics from the day he was sworn in as mayor.  To date the voters of Salisbury have rewarded him.  As long as they do, he will continue to put politics above policy.

Fortunately for the citizens of Wicomico County, Bob Culver hasn’t provided any indication that he will be bullied by people like Ireton.  Let’s hope he continues to stand firm.

 

UPDATE:

In Sunday’s Daily Times some of Ireton’s behavior was confirmed.  Rick Hoppes, Ireton’s hand-picked fire chief, had promised council members that money would be found in the budget to keep the firefighters on staff when the SAFER grant money ran out.  DT reporter Jeremy Cox asked councilman Tim Spies, who was one of the members who voted for the SAFER grant, about Ireton’s “surprise” that council didn’t understand that the positions were temporary.

“I could swear that the (fire) chief said if we wanted to keep those people, he would find it in the budget somewhere,” the councilman said.

For those of us who attended that council meeting it is hard to forget.  Ireton was doing everything possible to goad the council into not accepting the grant monies.  At the same time he and Hoppes were telling them that the grant was essential to the public safety and that future funds would be found to keep the 11 new firefighters on the payroll after the grant expired.

Now the city election is over.  Ireton was re-elected.  Debbie Campbell was not.  Whose fault is it that the city can’t keep those individuals in the fire department?  Bob Culver, of course.  If he doesn’t pony up more cash for Salisbury then Ireton will blame his woes on the evil Republican county executive and county council.

 

Pile-up on Bob Culver (Part I)

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Pile-up on Bob Culver (Part I)

Bob Culver has been sworn in as County Executive and the sniping has begun.  It didn’t take very long for the usual suspects:  the Daily Times, the Wicomico County Board of Education, and local partisan Democrats to jump on the collective bandwagon attacking Culver for refusing to fund construction of a new West Salisbury Elementary School.

DT reporter Phil Davis seems to have adopted an old tactic – wrap a lie in quotes and don’t bother checking the facts:

Board member Kim Hudson approached the decision calm and collectively, congratulating Culver and the newly elected councilmen on their general election day wins, but criticized the resolution.

"Education has to be a top priority in our county," Hudson said, adding the bonds were "money that was already in the capital improvement plan."

As will be shown in a bit, funding for a new West Salisbury Elementary School may be on a long list of projects in the county’s capital improvement plan, but was a recent addition.  Furthermore, Davis totally neglects to explain what a CIP is – a combination planning document and wish list.  Also included in the CIP is a multi-million expenditure for renovating Wicomico Middle School; yet the the WCBOE (Ms. Hudson included) wishes to shut down that school in an attempt to make the county’s test scores look better.

[Read more…]

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Culver Starts Term with Change

SALISBURY, MD – Citizens voted for change on November 4th.  Bob Culver, Wicomico’s new County Executive, decided to kick-off his term with just that.

After his swearing in, Culver announced a few changes.  First, county employees will no longer receive a paid day off on their birthday.  Culver also announced that he would be cutting back on the number of county employees who receive take-home cars.

As I wrote the other day, Culver doesn’t need to swing for the fences.  A few solid base hits will work wonders.  He deserves credit for two solid singles on Tuesday (really, a single and a walk).  Culver can implement the take-home car policy on his own.  I believe he needs an amendment to the county’s personnel manual to implement the birthday measure.  That requires approval by the county council.  Regardless, it was a solid performance; letting voters know that he is serious about lowering the cost of county government.  Chipping away will certainly yield better long term results than attempting any grand schemes.

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Bob Culver Sworn in as Wicomico County Executive

SALISBURY, MD – Joined by Governor-elect Larry Hogan, Bob Culver was sworn in this morning as Wicomico County’s second County Executive.  According to the Daily Times’ Phil Davis:

During Culver’s speech, he said noticed while campaigning he "wasn’t the only one that wanted to see change" and that the "social fabric of our county has detriorated also."

"If you have a good idea to contribute to the social and financial well-being (of Wicomico County), I want to hear it," Culver said. "My door will always be open and my cell phone will always be on."

 

photo courtesy of the Daily Times

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A Brighter Future for Wicomico?

The future of Wicomico County begins tomorrow!  At 11:30 AM, Tuesday, Wicomico County will witness the swearing-in of its second County Executive – Bob Culver.  While Culver can seize upon several opportunities, he faces a great number of steep hurdles.  Is he up to the task?  We hope so.

Show Me the Money

More than most places, the relationship between Wicomico County government and its citizens focuses on money.  We have the revenue cap.  Voters seem to believe that taxes can be cut, perhaps ad infinitum, with little or no impact on services.  As with most localities, the bureaucracy at the local Board of Education (WCBOE) equates quantity of money spent with quality of education.  For the last several years Wicomico’s county council has refused to cut spending requested by the outgoing county executive while that same County Executive has refused to trim the county payroll despite cutting back on services.  Rather than maintain its existing physical plant, the local Board of Ed wants to build more schools and the county government (both executive and council) have acquiesced.  Wicomico County keeps borrowing while debt and pension obligations keep growing.  Despite the wishful thinking of some, there are no easy solutions.

We would suggest Mr. Culver attack low hanging fruit first; while planning for the more difficult tasks ahead:

  1. Cut the Budget NOW!
  2. Require Accountability from the Board of Education
  3. Implement Zero-Based Budgeting
  4. Make Voters a Part of the Solution
  5. Pension Reform
  6. Grow the Local Economy

[Read more…]

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Justice By The Numbers

I picked up my Sunday copy of the Daily Times and thought that I had fallen into a copy of Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers .  The white liberal guilt oozed from the paper’s lead editorial.  If truth in advertising applied to the media, Look Closer at Arrest Patterns would be more fairly titled Arrest By the Numbers

Are African-American’s arrested in higher numbers on the Delmarva Peninsula?  I have no doubt.  I’m not accusing reporters Vanessa Junkin and Rachel Pacella of lying.

However, the published numbers demand that additional questions be asked.  Are African-Americans being falsely arrested?  If so, shouldn’t the prosecutors responsible for these cases demand better, more just, work by their respective police forces?

Yet, we see no evidence from the paper’s reporting that this is the case.  Sure, some folks are unjustly arrested.  Some may be black; some white, some brown.  I have no doubt that this happens and hope that the police will clean up their act when it does occur.  I even believe that some innocent people are unjustly convicted.  I also believe that this is the exception rather than the rule.

[Read more…]

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Maciarello Wants Police Oversight Board

SALISBURY, MD – Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello proposed civilian oversight boards for both the Salisbury Police Department and the Wicomico County Sheriff’s office according to a report by Daily Times reporter Jeremy Cox.  Maciarello also proposed that both SPD officers and WCSO deputies wear body cameras.  Details of Maciarello’s proposal are not currently available.

As with all such proposals, the devil is in the details.  The Salisbury city council and mayor could easily pass legislation to institute a civilian oversight board and require officers to wear body cameras.  The wisdom of such proposals can be debated.  However, neither Maciarello nor the Wicomico County government have the authority to institute such proposals.  The county government funds the Sheriff’s office with local tax dollars.  It cannot dictate to Sheriff Mike Lewis how he chooses to operate his office.  Unless the state plans on passing such a law OR Wicomico County plans on creating a county police department, such proposals are nothing more than suggestions.

In the Daily Times’ account, the subheadline reads:

Maciarello’s push represents the most tangible action taken so far after a string of violent —sometimes fatal — interactions between police and citizens in Wicomico

This hardly represents “tangible” action as Maciarello lacks the authority to do anything but hold a press conference regarding this matter.

photo courtesy of the Daily Times

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What to Do About Wicomico’s Crumbling Schools

Last week I asked the question, “Should Wicomico County borrow more money?”.  This was primarily in reference to the swearing in of a new County Executive and County Council and council president Matt Holloway acted responsibly by pulling the item from the agenda. Yet, a greater underlying problem lurks beneath the surface for Wicomico taxpayers.  How does the county provide a decent education for the children of Wicomico County and still live within its means?

West Salisbury Elementary School has been slated for rebuilding.  There is also discussion by the Wicomico County Board of Education (WCBOE) to merge West Salisbury and Charles Chipman Elementary Schools.  Why do we need a new school?  Some may argue that we don’t, but the fact that West Salisbury has been denied any meaningful renovation since it opened in the early 1960’s means that a new school may have to be built.

West Salisbury is Bennett Middle all over again.  Don’t renovate.  Don’t maintain the physical plant more than absolutely necessary in hopes of building a new school.  Evidently, building (first) and renovating schools looks good on a superintendent’s resume.  In addition, the state pays for a hefty share of new school construction but doesn’t cover renovation costs.  As I have noted earlier, Wicomico County can expect a decline in state aid  (and possibly direct aid to the county’s schools).  Currently Wicomico County pays less than 25% of the cost of the county’s schools.  Compare this to 35% in Dorchester and over 75% in Worcester.  In addition, Wicomico will no longer have the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee to look to.  So what should Wicomico County, and its new County Executive, do?

[Read more…]

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Racist Cops?

Salisbury’s Daily Times feels the need to stir the pot of racial animus on Delmarva.  African-Americans are arrested in proportionally higher numbers.  What is new about that?  This is a sad fact.  We should all wish that the crime rate were lower.  However, I don’t believe that victims of crimes are particularly concerned about the race of the criminals.

Is anyone accusing law enforcement officers of NOT arresting white criminals?  Is anyone accusing prosecutors of NOT trying white criminals?  If so, I missed that part of Vanessa Junkin’s and Rachel Pacella’s article.

Instead, such reporting merely serves as an excuse for certain “community leaders” to spout off about non-existent ills within our community.  Mary Ashanti, president of the Wicomico branch of the NAACP, compared the criminal justice system to an ante-bellum plantation:

“The statistics of the over-representation of blacks arrested in Wicomico County, Maryland, represent an ongoing contradiction since the end of chattel slavery," part of her emailed statement reads. "That contradiction being that slavery never ended, it was just legally maneuvered to justify its existence by way of punishment through the courts and as a viable economic entity.

"The gross disparity in the incarceration rates between blacks and caucasians will only widen until every able-bodied young black male has been herded into the concentration camps of the American prison-industrial complex.”

At Tuesday’s Wicomico County Council meeting Ashanti spoke eloquently against racial profiling.  She served herself, and the constituency she claims to represent, well.  But to compare the arresting of criminals to slavery serves no one other than the tiny minority who make their livings from fomenting racial hatred – both black and white.

It is obvious that Gannett’s motivation behind such race baiting was to sell papers.  They admit that this series of articles is an attempt to tie local news in with the unrest in Ferguson, MO.  They would probably like nothing better than a nice, bloody riot to help boost their bottom line.

As for me, I hope that every law enforcement officer in the country is like Accomack Sheriff Tod Godwin:

"We don’t see race, we don’t see gender.  We see probable cause for an arrest."

It’s odd no one mentioned that Sheriff Godwin is African-American.

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Should Wicomico Borrow More Money?

It’s approaching noon.  The agenda and briefing book for tomorrow’s Wicomico County Council meeting hasn’t been posted online.  The public won’t be able to prepare to intelligently comment at the meeting.  Yet, the outgoing council expects to vote on borrowing $16 million.  Should they?

A majority of the incoming council will be new.  The incoming County Executive is new.  Some of the funds for the expected bond offering will be for new projects (such as replacing the Westside Primary School West Salisbury Elementary School).  Wicomico County faces a potential budget disaster.  Should this council approve putting Wicomico County even deeper in debt?

As with most things, the answer is complicated.  The county has little choice but to approve capital projects already started (such as the new Bennett Middle).  However, new projects should at least be put on hold until the new council and executive are sworn in.  They are the ones who will have to live with the consequences.

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What’s In Store for Wicomico County?

Judging by the results of the recent election, Wicomico County voters should be enthused about some changes coming down the pike.  However, those changes will required some thought and planning on the part of incoming County Executive Bob Culver, the incoming (and outgoing) County Council’s, and Wicomico’s legislative delegation.

Maryland Governor-elect Larry Hogan ran (and was elected) on three primary issues:

  1. Maryland is OVER-TAXED.
  2. Maryland is OVER-REGULATED.
  3. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown was incompetent.

Well …

If Maryland is over-taxed (and most of seem to agree), there are only two things that Hogan can do:

  1. Cut Spending while keeping the current tax rates as is.
  2. Cut Spending MORE and ask the General Assembly to cut tax rates.

Obviously, Wicomico voters (as well as voters from around the Once Free State) are looking for tax cuts. There are just a few problems; to cut taxes Hogan will have to drastically cut spending.  He already faces a projected $593 million shortfall courtesy of outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley.  As governor, Hogan has a great deal of influence over the spending side of the budget.  He needs the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to cut taxes.

Hogan has already met with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the mayor has stated that they must reconsider Baltimore’s “reliance on state aid”.  All localities need to do the same.  However, if you are like Wicomico County the hit could be hard.

For local officials, this will probably mean severe cuts to their respective budgets.  Wicomico County could be one of the worst hit by Hogan’s expected spending cuts.  Wicomico County pays just over 24% for its schools.  Compare that to over 35% in Dorchester and almost 76% in Worcester.  The state requires Wicomico to meet Maintenance of Effort (MOE) each year.

Incoming Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver needs to be prepared for a revenue shortfall.  How much is anyone’s guess.

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Wicomico GOP Latest Source of Dem $$

Wicomico councilwoman, and District 37-A House candidate, Sheree Sample-Hughes has stumbled upon a new source of campaign cash.  REPUBLICAN elected officials!

That’s right!  The most liberal member of the Wicomico County Council can count the likes of Wicomico council president Matt Holloway, appointed councilman John Hall, and Wicomico sheriff Mike Lewis among her most ardent supporters.  Even Lewis’ chief deputy has contributed to Sample-Hughes’ race.

140122_RepublicansForSample-Hughes_600x650

In a twisted sense of irony, voters should remember that Sample-Hughes has implied that Lewis and his department are a bunch of racists because of a drug raid and chase on Salisbury’s west side a few years ago.  Now Lewis and his number two are helping Sample-Hughes to climb the political ladder.

It will be interesting to see the response of the local Republican party.

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Wicomico Democrats Seek Allies

How are Wicomico County Democrats progressing towards next fall’s elections?  Better than you might think.  Since a Democrat majority is highly unlikely, local Democrat leaders want the next best thing – a liberal council that will rubber-stamp increased spending and higher taxes if Rick Pollitt is re-elected to the County Executive’s post.

Sources within the Wicomico Democrat Central Committee indicate that they are preparing to give appointee John Hall (R-4) and first term incumbent Matt Holloway (R-At Large) a free pass.  Why?  One need simply look at their voting records and Matt Holloway’s role of carrying water for County Executive Rick Pollitt (D) on council.

Hall was appointed to succeed the late Bob Caldwell.  Caldwell won his seat in 2010 by a landslide 2 votes.  District 4, at best marginally Republican after re-districting, is the Democrat’s best bet to pick up a seat.  Yet, the local Democrat machine appears to be punting.  In his short tenure on council, Hall has voted more like liberal Sheree Sample-Hughes (D-1) than the far more conservative majority of county voters.  If Pollitt can’t have a Democrat majority on council, he wants allies like Hall.  Hall’s votes regarding the Board of Education indicate that he will be ready to help Pollitt to bust the revenue cap if (when) Pollitt is prepared to do so.  Remember, thanks to Del. Norm Conway (D-38B) and Del. Rudy Cane (D-37A) the revenue cap is no longer relevant as long as increased spending goes the Board of Education.

While Matt Holloway claims to be the council’s “voice of agriculture”, he has already stated that he will vote for a tier map which strips county farmers of their property rights.  He has also shown willingness to rubber stamp Pollitt’s spending and tax proposals.  More telling is his attempt to discredit councilman Bob Culver (R-At Large) with an attempted censure – at Pollitt’s behest.  Why?  Culver is challenging Pollitt for the Executive’s job.  It’s little wonder that Matt needed the council’s sole Democrat to support his re-election as council president so that Pollitt’s control of the county’s legislative branch can continue.

While Democrats are actively recruiting a challenger for councilman Joe Holloway (R-5), it is unlikely that they could come close to beating him.  There is no question that Hall is vulnerable, both to primary and general election challenge.  Why would they seek to challenge Joe Holloway but not Hall?  Hmmm….

If Matt Holloway receives a free pass, the reason is far more obvious.  As long as he can garner enough votes to wield the gavel, Pollitt knows that he will have a compliant council.

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Media Monday – A Taste of 2014

Recent coverage of county and state politics in Salisbury’s Daily Times provides us a glimpse of what to expect in 2014 … Democrats and their allies can do little wrong while conservative candidates will receive short shrift at best, vilification at worst.

Can we expect better?  We can … but I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it.  Jennifer Shutt’s recent chronicling of the announcements of John Hall, Matt Holloway, and Norm Conway show just how low a decent reporter (or her editors) are willing to go to protect the Democrat / left-of-center power structure.

Del. Norm Conway’s (D-38B) recent announcement that he will seek another term was laughable in its bias.  Check out Shutt’s lead:

Hoping to put Maryland taxes on par with surrounding states and secure funding for Lower Shore transportation projects, Chairman of House Appropriation Committee Norman Conway has filed for re-election.

Really?  Can someone name one tax hike that Conway hasn’t voted for?  Maybe New York is considered a surrounding state.

Wicomico councilman John Hall (R-4) has voted more like a Democrat since being appointed to replace the late Bob Caldwell.  Does that make him a liberal?  Not according to Shutt.  In her eyes, carrying water for County Executive Rick Pollitt’s tax and spend policies qualifies Hall as a “moderate”.  We can only surmise that a membership card in the CPUSA is required to be categorized as left-of-center.

As for council president Matt Holloway’s (R) re-election announcement, Shutt portrayed the at-large councilman as “the voice of agriculture”.  Holloway has publicly admitted that he wants the county to adopt a “tier map which the governor will approve”.  If Holloway votes for such a map, he will have totally reversed his 2010 pledge not to allow downzoning of the county’s agricultural land without FULL and FAIR compensation to affected landowners.  Holloway also admitted that he has filed an application to put some of his own family’s land into the state’s MALPF program.  Currently Wicomico County is excluded from the program because it has refused to kowtow to Annapolis’ wholesale theft of property rights.  I guess it’s OK to steal from your neighbors as long as you get paid … and Ms. Shutt fails to report it.

We sincerely hope that the recent failings in Shutt’s reporting are due to the bias of Publisher Tom Claybaugh and Executive Editor Michael Killian.  Shutt has proven herself a fair and capable reporter in the past.  Claybaugh and Killian have not shown much interest in running a newspaper but instead prefer a tabloid catering to the whimsy of the area’s local power structure.  Perhaps they might sell more papers if they allow the likes of Shutt and Jeremy Cox to report more news.

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Salisbury Area Chamber of Cronyism

Crony Capitalismnoun; a term describing an economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, or other forms of dirigisme.

It’s a perfect storm.  After years of attacking elected officials who had the temerity to stand up for taxpayers, the Daily Times got its wish and Salisbury city government has returned to the days of the “Dream Team”.  Real estate developers bought themselves a city council seat.  Salisbury taxpayers now subsidize residential development by giving away EDU’s that were meant for commercial development.  The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce is now the number one shill for taxpayer-subsidized development … under the guise of “working together”, the Chamber is now the lead cheerleader for taking from the city’s residents and doling out rewards to a few select developers.

Small wonder, one of those developers is now president of the Chamber.

After a few TEMPORARY construction jobs are created, it will be interesting to see how many permanent jobs come to Salisbury.  It will be even more interesting to see what the next round of subsidies entail.  Joe Citizen can continue to pay while others cash in.

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Ireton Threatens City Board Members

SALISBURY, MD – Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton has resorted to threats in attempting to get his way from the city’s Housing Board of Adjustments and Appeals (HBAA).  According to the Daily Times’ Jeremy Cox, Ireton threatened the board members after his administration did not get their way regarding the rubble pile on the site of the old Salisbury Mall:

“I just wanted to let the three of you know your terms are up, and we would like to know whether you would like to be reappointed,” he said.

The HBAA, mockingly called the “Slumlords’ Board” by some, is charged with hearing appeals of city enforcement decisions against city property owners.  The members of the quasi-judicial board are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.   However, the board (like other quasi-judicial boards such as the Board of Zoning Appeals) is supposed to be independent.

Ireton’s actions threaten the independence of the board and make any rulings in favor of his administration suspect.  Why would Ireton do such a thing?  Simply, his arrogance knows no bounds.  Like his hero Barack Obama, the rule of law means nothing.  Results are what matter, and that means Ireton’s way or the highway.

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Boda to Announce for Wicomico Council

SALISBURY, MD – Former Salisbury City Council Candidate Muir Boda will be announcing his candidacy for Wicomico County Council at the end of the week.  Boda will seek the Republican nomination for one of two At Large seats.

You can follow Boda’s campaign HERE.

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Kilmer Files for County Council Seat

SALISBURY, MD – It didn’t take long for someone to file to replace Wicomico councilwoman Stevie Prettyman.  Scholar and local conservative activist Marc Kilmer has filed to seek the Republican nomination for the District 2 council seat currently held by the four term incumbent.

Kilmer, a Senior Fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, is a former U.S. Senate staffer, former president of the Wicomico County Republican Club and served as a member of the county’s charter review commission.  A graduate of Hillsdale College, Kilmer lives on Nanticoke Road with his wife Melissa and two young children.

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The Downzoning of Wicomico County

SALISBURY, MD – Five years ago Wicomico citizens fought a pitched battle to preserve their property rights.  On one side were farmers, large landowners, real estate developers, and a large group of ordinary citizens who actually believed in personal liberty and property rights.  On the other side was Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt, several members of the Wicomico County Council, the state of Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and every enviro-leftist in Wicomico County.  Dubbed the “Big Land Grab”, Pollitt and his political allies attempted to strip farmers and large land owners of their right to develop all or part of their property under current law.  It was by one vote that the attempt was thwarted.

Move forward to today.  What Pollitt and his enviro-left allies couldn’t achieve openly has come to pass under the cloak of inaction.  By refusing to adopt a tier map Pollitt and the Wicomico County Council have effectively downzoned all agricultural land in Wicomico.

Didn’t Wicomico voters elect a strong majority of pro-property rights council members in the last election?  So they said.  The problem is that the de facto Pollitt majority on council seems to believe that by NOT acting, they can provide themselves cover.

The county council could have taken action on their own.  They could have adopted a tier map that minimized the damage done to property rights by Pollitt’s pals in Annapolis.  Instead, the de facto Pollitt majority (ironically lead by a “Republican” farmer, Matt Holloway) has allowed the County Executive to lead them by the nose.  Pollitt wants an invitation-only meeting of “stakeholders” to “discuss” the issue.  Pollitt took his own sweet time in scheduling this sit-down and then postponed so it wouldn’t interfere with his recent junket to Asia.

Who are these “stakeholders”?  County administrator Wayne Strausburg has been slow in releasing the list as requested by stalwart conservative councilman Joe Holloway.  Our understanding is that Pollitt’s enviro-left pals dominate the panel.

In the meantime, Rick Pollitt has achieved by inaction what he couldn’t achieve through legislative action.

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The Dunn / Day Era in Salisbury?

SALISBURY, MD – Is Salisbury returning to the fiscal disaster experienced under the now infamous “Dream Team”?  Only time will tell, but it appears that the huge sums thrown at the Jacob Day campaign by national real estate interests may be starting to pay off certain special interests.

A letter to the editor in this morning’s Daily Times by Chamber of Commerce president (and real estate developer) Brad Gillis outline the benefits already starting to flow to real estate developers … and promises more to come:

Together, the Chamber and the city successfully collaborated and amended the city’s paving policy. This legislation, Resolution 1312, gave greater discretion to the Department of Public Works and its professional engineers, thus creating a quality process and end product for both the developers and the citizens of Salisbury.

We were also successful in amending the city’s policy that required the warranty and maintenance of new infrastructure to be bonded for five years; no other cities researched required a five-year bond.

Without further delay, it’s time to act on another community win: an equivalent dwelling unit incentive zone.

We support the city moving forward with this Incentive Zone, which would create a bank of credits to be used for the development of the downtown area and enterprise zones.

Having this tool will enhance the pro-business climate in our great city without costing the citizens a single dollar. Salisbury’s comprehensive plan calls for high-density growth in our downtown area; this is the time and the place to create such banks.

Approving this incentive zone will send a message to local, regional and national builders and developers: “Downtown Salisbury is primed for both commercial and mixed use developments.”

The “Incentive Zone” of which Gillis speaks is designed to subsidize residential developers, not attract employers.  While Gillis applauds these subsidies (not surprising since he directly benefits), there is no mention of the across the board pay hikes proposed by his ally Mr. Day.  These, and other spending hikes, will ultimately result in tax increases on the citizens and businesses of Salisbury.

Does Mr. Gillis believe that tax hikes will attract business?  Of course not.  These “incentives” are not pro-business; they are simply a little league version of crony capitalism.  As Salisbury goes back to “giving away the store”, who benefits?  The very people who spent tens of thousands of dollars to elect their champion – Jacob Day.

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Tragedy at SU

SALISBURY, MD – A murder / suicide at the 100 block of Onley Road has left two men dead and a young woman severely wounded.  The Daily Times reports that the crime was related to a domestic violence incident:

Police said they are still trying to piece together the details of what they believe to be an incident of domestic violence. At least one other person who was in the home was being questioned about what had occurred, police said.

Late Tuesday, Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis confirmed the man killed by the shooter was former Salisbury University student Charles Abbott of Hebron. Next of kin has been notified of the tragedy, he said.

The wounded woman, whose name has not been made public, was receiving medical treatment in the Shock Trauma unit of a Baltimore hospital, Lewis said earlier during an 8:30 p.m. news conference outside the crime scene.

The shootings occurred at about 6 p.m., authorities said.

One victim was a student at Salisbury University.  One victim was a former student. Our prayers go out to the families of the victims.

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Maryland Phosphorous Regulations on Temporary Hold

Pollitt and Allies Dodge Another Political Bullet

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Today’s scheduled hearing on “emergency” implementation of new phosphorous regulations has been canceled.  Maryland farmers will receive a temporary reprieve from rules which would have prohibited use of chicken manure on many fields.  In addition, many Maryland elected officials are breathing a sigh of relief while some will be taking credit for coming to the aid of Maryland farmers.

With agriculture such a big component of the Eastern Shore economy, you would think that elected officials would race to come to the aid of farmers and poultry processors.  Yet when Wicomico County councilman Joe Holloway (R-5) proposed that the council and County Executive Rick Pollitt take a stand and petition the state on this matter, only councilwoman Gail Bartkovich (R-3) and councilman Bob Culver (R-AtLarge) stepped up to the plate.  When Holloway (not to be confused with council president Matt Holloway (R-AtLarge)) publicized the fact that council and Pollitt did not support standing up for agriculture, a rush to the microphones started in earnest.  Matt Holloway announced that he would be testifying on behalf of farmers.  A few days later the Rick Pollitt / Matt Holloway alliance changed its stance to petition the state.  Plans were made to send County Administrator Wayne Strausburg to Annapolis with Council Administrator Matt Creamer in tow.

Now there has been a temporary reprieve.  Wicomico farmers and those whose livelihood depends on agriculture should continue to pay close attention.  They can’t continue to depend on officials like Joe Holloway, Bartkovich, and Culver being able to embarrass Pollitt and his council majority into standing up for what is right.

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Maryland Begins Common Core

Public schools begin classes in Maryland today.  The controversial “common core” federal education standards begin impacting student education with the beginning of this year.  Should parents be concerned?

In Maryland the answer is a surprising no.  Given that the Once Free State:

  • is already a poster child for nanny-statism
  • has an educational system run by the teachers’ union
  • has no viable school choice
  • believes that funding equates to quality in education
    the impacts of common core will be negligible (and possibly slightly positive) compared to what would have occurred otherwise.
    Repackaging Old Ideas

[Read more…]

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Should Salisbury Taxpayers Pay More for City Services?

SALISBURY, MD – It appears that Salisbury City Council president Jake Day and councilwoman Shanie Shields want taxpayers to pay more for city services.  According to the Daily Times’ Jeremy Cox, Day and Shields are pushing the Ireton administration to move forward with a plan to increase the city’s payroll by approximately $750,000 per year.  This 8.5% increase is based on a study performed by Evergreen Solutions, LLC.

Day wants to quickly move forward in raising the city’s payroll:

“Anything we consider implementing we should implement it quickly for sure,” Day said during a council work session. “We value our people like any organization, and want to compensate them fairly and bring the best here and keep the best here.”

Given that Day has repeatedly claimed that he is opposed to raising taxes beyond constant yield, voters should ask how he plans to pay for this raise.

Councilwoman Terry Cohen asked about the possibility of merit based raises.  According to Evergreen, city workers are opposed to pay raises based on merit.  This is not surprising given that government employees are not used to being paid based on performance.

Taxpayers may be interested to know that Wicomico County continues to suffer one of the highest unemployment rates in Maryland.  Given that there are numerous persons standing in line to fill any position left by a disaffected city employee, why should raises be given at this point in time?

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Gail Bartkovich to Retire

SALISBURY, MD – While Wicomico County councilwoman Gail Bartovich (R-3) has 15 1/2 months remaining in her current term, she has confirmed the worst kept secret in Wicomico County – she will not seek re-election.  Bartkovich is serving her third term on the council.

While many conservatives have had their disagreements with Bartkovich over the years, Bartkovich has been a reliably right-of-center voice for the county and her constituents in District 3.  More importantly, Bartkovich has consistently been the most well prepared council member during her tenure.  Voters may agree with her position, or disagree, but they can always be assured that she has taken a stand based on all of the relevant facts.

Since the beginning of this term it has been expected that Bartkovich would retire in 2014.  Bartkovich’s husband, surgeon John Bartkovich, is nearing retirement.  Bartkovich enjoys travel and spending time with her family, particularly her grandchildren.

Few voters truly understand the long hours a good council member spends on a job that pays little and is underappreciated.  Bartkovich has been a good council member.  If it takes Bartkovich longer than 24 hours to get back to a constituent, you can assume that she is ill or has a family emergency (our experience is that she usually returns your call in less than an hour).

District 1 councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes is retiring to unseat former ally Del. Rudy Cane (D-37A).  While she has not officially announced, it is also expected that councilwoman Stevie Prettyman (R-2) – the council’s longest serving member – will also retire in 2014.

At least one District 3 Republican plans on seeking Bartkovich’s seat.  They will have big shoes to fill if elected.

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Will New Council Rubber Stamp Ireton FY 2014 Budget Folly?

We’re Glad Jim Ireton Isn’t a Math Teacher

The newly elected Salisbury city council is on its way to adopting a budget for FY 2014.  Included is a tax rate hike of nearly 8% coupled with a DROP in water and sewer rates.  One thing that appears to be missing is mayor Jim Ireton’s promised “storm water authority”, now laughingly referred to across the country as the “Rain Tax”.

Newly minted council president Jake Day is backpedaling on his campaign commitment not to support a tax hike.  He now claims that he won’t support a tax hike above constant yield.  We’ll give him that one (on style) since the net affect of the rate increase should be revenue neutral.  We wonder if the people who stayed home at the last election will be as forgiving since a sizable number of them will see their taxes rise?

The section of Ireton’s proposed budget that disturbs us most is a cut in the water and sewer rates.  WHAT?  A self-identified conservative is against a cut in government fees (water and sewer fees are not really a tax)?  Sorry to disappoint, but … YES!

Here’s the problem.  Salisbury is showing a sizable surplus in its Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund.  HOWEVER, Salisbury is having to PAY TWICE for its failed waste water treatment plant (WWTP).  By cutting rates now, the city will have to raise them that much more in the future.  The problem is simple.  Ireton hopes to justify future general fund tax hikes because he’s decreased the water and sewer rates.  Given that Ireton makes Barack Obama look like a Reaganite, he just can’t sit idly by and watch tens of millions sit unspent, even if it is in Salisbury’s best interest.  That money needs to be SPENT!  Sadly for Ireton, he can’t spend water and sewer money for every fly by night leftist scheme that comes down the pike, even if he thinks that Jake Day will rubber stamp Ireton’s every whim. (The jury is still out on Day, we all know that Laura Mitchell and Shanie Shields will rubber stamp all sorts of craziness.)

[Read more…]

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Is Jake Day Breaking Promises Already?

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Another Questionable Land Deal on Today’s County Council Agenda

SALISBURY, MD – Another questionable real estate deal is catching the eyes of Wicomico County taxpayers.  Today the Wicomico County Council is scheduled to vote on the acquisition of 23 acres of land for a new transfer station near Allen.

The purchase price for the property is approximately $150,000.  However, the price was originally $250,000 $220,000.  The price came down only after the county government was offered nearby parcels at a much lower price.  This calls into question the legitimacy of the original appraisal.  In addition, there are questions regarding personal ties between the family of the landowners and County Executive Rick Pollitt.

This comes on the heels of the county’s approval of a lease / purchase agreement for new office space for the State’s Attorney’s office.  Questions were raised when county purchasing director Rick Konrad informed two bidders that their proposals must meet certain requirements or their proposals would be automatically rejected.  The winning bidder did not meet those same requirements.

As in the case of the State’s Attorney office deal, it is expected that the pro-Pollitt majority coalition of council members John Hall, Matt Holloway, Stevie Prettyman, and Sheree Sample-Hughes will approve the purchase.

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NASA Hosts Space Apps Challenge

SALISBURY, MD – This weekend NASA will host the second International Space Apps Challenge.  Scientists, software developers, hackers, and ordinary citizens from around the world will gather in over 75 cities, including Salisbury, to help solve various space exploration problems.  The program is part of the Open Government Partnership.

Individuals and teams will tackle one of 53 challenges.  The Salisbury site for the challenge will be at the HotDesks small business incubator at the Tri-County Council building across from Wor-Wic Community College.

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Jake Day Elected Council President

Ireton, Shields Sworn in for New Terms

SALISBURY, MD – Newcomer Jake Day, along with incumbent Shanie Shields, were sworn-in to the Salisbury city council Monday night.  In a surprise move, Day was also elected as council president.  Councilwoman Laura Mitchell was elected vice president.

Mayor Jim Ireton was also sworn in to a second term.  The terms of Ireton and all five council members will end in November 2015 as the city adopts a new election cycle.

At the end of the meeting Ireton delivered his FY 2014 budget to the council.  In his budget Ireton calls for a $0.065 rate increase.

photos courtesy of Jeremy Cox via Twitter

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Pollitt, Board of Ed Confuse Public Hearing with NPR

SALISBURY, MD – As Wicomico County homeowners again face an increase in their property tax rates, County Executive Rick Pollitt held a “public hearing” on his soon-to-be-released FY 2014 county budget.  It should be noted that no real budget detail was provided for citizens to comment on.

Rather than unveil his budget, Pollitt and the Wicomico County Board of Education used the event to call for more spending on Education.  While I came late to the event it appears that little was missed.  When I asked two individuals after the event if I missed anything of substance, the responses were nearly identical – “If you heard one teacher speak, then you pretty much heard the whole thing.”

I recognize that Pollitt again faces tough budget decisions.  However, repeated acts of political theater do not solve problems.  While the Daily Times is giving prominent coverage to Delmarva Public Radio’s current “begathon”, Pollitt needs to realize that public hearings are not supposed to be begathons.  They require information for open citizen input.  Given that this event was held without providing that information (like his proposed budget), there is no point other than to politicize an already volatile issue.

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Ireton to Unveil “Let’s Do Business Salisbury” Plan at Chamber

SALISBURY, MD – Today incumbent Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton is to unveil a new approach to business at the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce.  According to the Daily Times, “Let’s Do Business Salisbury”appears geared almost exclusively towards developers, not just those seeking to open a business in Salisbury.

For those members of the business community looking for a a “one-stop shop” for permitting, registration, and other bureaucratic entanglements, Ireton’s presentation will be viewed either with disappointment or as a baby step in the right direction.  Newly elected councilman Jake Day and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Joe Albero both focused heavily on the need to court new business and on the need to streamline things like the permitting process, often viewed as an impediment to doing business in Salisbury.

Ireton’s plan involves setting up a kiosk on the first floor of the Salisbury / Wicomico Government Office Building (GOB) with form packets useful to developers.  Ireton also hopes to install a similar kiosk at the Chamber’s office on East Main Street.

According to the Daily Times’ Jeremy Cox:

…Those changes will be accompanied by a new, business-friendly atmosphere in the city’s staff offices, Ireton said. Those adopting the customer-service approach are the Mayor’s Office; Public Works; Building, Permits and Inspections; and Planning and Zoning.

… (Asst. City Administrator Lore) Chambers, though, said city administrators have worked on the plan for more than a year. Ireton said he was loath to announce the effort during the election season out of concern it would be criticized as a self-serving campaign ploy.

It should be noted that Ireton’s plan for downtown redevelopment was released two years ago.  Some members of the business community are skeptical that this “customer-service” approach has been in the works for over a year.  One local business owner, who asked that his name be withheld, stated, “I can’t believe that the mayor expects us to believe that it took a year to put some forms together.  No one, certainly not the mayor, talked about treating businesses as customers until Joe Albero decided to run against him.”

Ireton will present his plan in the lobby of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce at 1:30 PM today.

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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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Could Salisbury Use an “Extreme Makeover” Downtown?

It’s been tried in San Antonio.  This weekend it will be tried in Norfolk.  Perhaps Salisbury could benefit from a quick and dirty “Extreme Makeover”?

This weekend a group of volunteers and the urban planning firm Team Better Block will unveil a temporary “makeover” of a neglected section of Granby Street (once Norfolk’s vibrant main thoroughfare).  The key word in this is “temporary”.

Why would a municipality spend thousands of dollars to temporarily fix-up a section of town?  It gives people a chance to not only visualize, but actually experience, a re-vitalization plan.  Rather than spend hundreds of thousands, or millions, of dollars on a plan that may be good … or bad, Team Better Block’s approach is simple:

  • Do Something
  • Do it CHEAPLY
  • Do it QUICKLY

People get to see the potential of an area.  Potential developers / investors can be attracted.  Bureaucracy is curtailed.  The advantages are almost endless.

[Read more…]

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Media Monday – April 8, 2013

WGMD HOST NOT READY FOR PRIME (OR ANY OTHER) TIME

When I’m cruising through Delaware (or northern Worcester or Wicomico counties) I often bump my dial over one tick from WICO-FM to hear what’s going on at WGMD-FM.  While I like talk radio, I prefer some local content and WICO is now 99.9% syndicated. (two public radio stations are now the only source of real local content on the Lower Shore)

Two Sundays ago I happened to tune in and heard some guy named Bill Rogers spouting the most ridiculous nonsense this side of MSNBC.  The problem?  Rogers claims to be a conservative.  Personally, I think we should trade this guy to the left for a future third round draft pick.

What was Rogers’ crime?  The guy’s entire show (I only listened for about 90 minutes while I was driving to Seaford and back) was an attack on Libertarians.  Sure, everyone has a right to their opinion.  I don’t disagree with Rogers’ premise that voting Libertarian is often equivalent to voting Democrat, but Rogers’ reasoning was based on a false premise that I found quite offensive.

Rogers claimed that Libertarians were foolish because of their stance on gay marriage.  He specifically claimed that same-sex marriage laws would require churches to marry same-sex couples.  He didn’t say this once either.  Rogers must of repeated this at least a dozen times in the period I was listening.

It’s bad enough that my party (the GOP) is systematically driving libertarian-minded voters away, now we have a supposedly conservative, local talk host trying to do the same with what are basically lies.

I will concede that the day may come that some court, even the US Supreme Court, may make such an outrageous ruling.  However, that day has not arrived … YET.  It’s bad enough that nominally Christian denominations such as the Episcopal Church perform what are de facto gay weddings.  We have enough battles to fight in the present.  People like Rogers don’t need to make up problems.  If he is a conservative, as he claims, he also doesn’t need to deliberately offend a portion of the electorate we need to win.

PARKER, CLAYBAUGH SHOW TRUE COLORS … AGAIN

[Read more…]

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Bad Economic Lessons – It Must Be Budget Time in Maryland

The state of Maryland has just passed a $37 billion budget, chock full of the expected tax hikes and wasteful spending.  Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt will unveil his proposed budget on Thursday during his annual dog and pony show at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.  We can expect a proposed $0.07 rate hike.  In a lead up to this, Wicomico School’s superintendent John Fredericksen provides an op-ed in today’s Daily Times which again proves that someone with so little understanding of basic economic principles should not be in charge of so much money.

Public schools are important to a community on multiple levels.  The perception of high quality schools impacts whether or not a county or city is a desirable place to call home.  That same perception can even impact whether or not businesses choose to locate in an area.  It is a widely held belief that quality public schools impact an area’s crime rate.  There is also the moral argument, which is probably the strongest of all, that we owe our next generation a decent education.

Yet, Fredericksen makes none of these arguments.  Instead he tells us that Wicomico County’s public schools are an “economic engine” which grows our local economy.  While I realize that none of Fredericksen’s degrees are in something as practical as finance or economics, that does not excuse ignorance about something so basic.  I would be happy to suggest several easy reads which might get him up to speed.

Fredericksen’s argument is equivalent to Nancy Pelosi’s laughable statement that unemployment benefits are an economic development tool.  Government spending, whether on education, unemployment benefit, or food stamps is a transfer of wealth – NOT a creator of wealth.  In the case of state or local spending, where the government cannot run a deficit, this is even more so.  Money taken from individuals and businesses for government spending could be put to better use by those individuals or businesses.  It could be invested in new plant or equipment.  It can create jobs through the CREATION of wealth rather than through its transfer.

Does this mean that public schools are bad?  No.  We, as a civilized society, have decided that funding public education is something we need to do.  Unfortunately, people like Fredericksen attempt to equate spending ON education with quality OF education.  Unfortunately people like Fredericksen want you to believe that the spending, in and of itself, is the net benefit to our community.

It’s little wonder that Wicomico taxpayers have such little respect for Fredericksen or the system he is charged with running.  That’s the real shame.

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Ireton, Shields, and Day Sweep Salisbury City Elections

Incuments Mayor Jim Ireton and Councilwoman Shanie Shields, along with challenger Jake Day swept today’s Salisbury city elections in a landslide.  The results were:

Mayor    
  Joe Albero

782

  Jim Ireton

1,694

     
District 1    
  April Jackson

77

  Cynthia Polk

80

  Shanie Shields

145

     
District 2    
  Debbie Campbell

612

  Jake Day

1,569

While these results are not official, the margin of victory for each candidate was large enough to negate any impact from the counting of absentee and provisional ballots.  There are approximately 300 absentee ballots outstanding.  As of today, approximately 250 ballots had been returned.

In addition to the margins of victory, probably the biggest surprise was voter turnout.  While Salisbury has a reputation of abysmal turnout in municipal elections, it has continued to grow each cycle.  This year’s turnout saw a dramatic drop – to 17.32% citywide compared to 21.10% four years ago.  While the addition of absentee and provisional ballots will increase the turnout percentage slightly, there will still be a large decrease.

The council will reorganize later this month.

*****************************

For additional analysis of the 2013 Salisbury election, tune in to WSDL (90.7 FM) at 9 AM Friday when DelMarVa Observer’s G. A. Harrison joins WSDL’s Don Rush and SU political science professor Michael O’Loughlin on Delmarva Today for an election post-mortem.  The show can also be seen on-demand at a later date.

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Jake Day Denying Special Interest Money

  1. Salisbury District 2 council candidate Jake Day isn’t happy that people are beginning to notice that tens of thousands of dollars in special interest money is being thrown at his campaign to unseat Debbie Campbell.  Who would blame him?
     
    You’ve got a national political action committee (PAC) out of Chicago throwing money at a council race in the little city of Salisbury.  Why?  It’s pretty obvious that their membership sees Day as the chance to hop back on the taxpayer-funded gravy train.  Ten years ago the "Dream Team" council of Mike Dunn, Gary Comegys, and Lynn Cathcart rode into power allying themselves with councilman Michael Day.  They proceeded to borrow millions and hand the money over to residential developers.
     
    Jake Day’s plan calls for much the same – subsidizing residential development by waiving capacity fees for residential development downtown (and that’s only what Day has admitted to).
     
    Since this became public, Day and his campaign treasurer Jordan Gilmore have been vigorously denying it (see the exchanges at the bottom of this post):

  2. There are over 14,000 registered voters in Salisbury.  The mail shop out of Virginia that did the mailing householded the list (this is so that only 1 piece of mail goes to the same address to people with the same last name).  This would have yielded approximately 9,000 pieces mailed PER MAILING.  Remember, there were TWO MAILINGS.  So … here’s the math:
     
    18,000 pieces
    $0.75 per piece (this is conservative given the size and type of mailing)
    $ 13,500 for two mailings
     
    But WAIT … There’s more:
     
    The same national PAC is also running radio ads in support of Jake Day.  We don’t have access to the details of the buy, but hearing from many people who listen to many radio stations, that probably cost the PAC a couple of thousand bucks.  That brings the total up to over $15,000. Greater than $10,000 is tens of thousands of dollars.  Mr. Day and his treasurer may not like it.  They can continue to deny it.  Unfortunately for them, math remains one of the few immutable truths
     
    Note – these are "independent expenditures".  There is nothing illegal.  We only have to ask the question -Is Salisbury for sale?  Perhaps this is why councilwoman Debbie Campbell is drawing attention to the fact with a video launched yesterday:

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Daily Times Gears Up for Sunday Attack

 

 

DAILY TIMES PREPARES “OCTOBER SURPRISE”
What Happened to “Stick to the Issues”?

Salisbury’s Daily Times is planning its own version of the “October Surprise” for this Sunday’s edition. According to Daily Times city reporter Jeremy Cox, the paper plans to run a front page “expose” outlining the past legal difficulties of incumbent mayor Jim Ireton and his opponent, businessman Joe Albero.

“I’m really disgusted with the entire approach taken by our local newspaper”, stated Albero. “It’s small wonder that they’ve had to put their building up for lease. People just don’t want to read a paper that is one step above the National Enquirer. Who cares that Jake Day has a heavy foot, or that our three District 1 candidates have met with personal financial misfortune, or that both my opponent and I have had some minor brushes with the legal system? Why does the Daily Times think that these things take precedence over my plan to bring jobs to Salisbury, Jim Ireton’s repeated attempts to raise our taxes, or Jake Day’s plan to use our tax dollars to subsidize residential development in the city?”

Albero also noted that early in the campaign the Daily Times stated that they wanted to ONLY report on issues. “Throughout this campaign I have focused on how to make Salisbury a better place to work and to live. It’s unfortunate that they have gone back on their word and chosen to take this path. What have we seen from our local paper during this campaign? Most of the articles we’ve seen this election season have been thinly disguised attack pieces. Any discussion of real issues has been little more than fluff. I don’t believe that reporter Jeremy Cox is either lazy or a bad reporter. I can only conclude that publisher Tom Claybaugh and editor Michael Kilian believe that they can gin up advertising sales from certain business segments or somehow increase readership by attempting to use Gannett’s assets to impact a local election with salacious stories that have no real impact on Salisbury’s residents and businesses.”

Albero’s publication, SBYNews will print a response (written by a named contributor) after the Daily Times runs its piece.

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Few Surprises at Chamber / PACE Forum

At Tuesday evening’s final candidate forum before next Tuesday’s Salisbury city elections, there were few surprises; but there were a few.  The biggest surprise was that the sponsors of the forum – the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce and SU’s Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE) – through their chosen moderator, Chamber ED Ernie Colburn, gave up all pretense of being honest brokers in this process.  For starters, it became abundantly clear that SOME of the candidates had been provided the questions in advance of yesterday’s forum.  Candidates were also permitted rebuttals on a SELECTIVE basis.

The first question posed by Colburn was to council candidates about creating a business-friendly environment for the city.  After District 1 incumbent Shanie Shields read her answer from a prepared script, a stammering Colburn interjected that “No candidate had been provided the questions in advance”.  District 2 challenger Jake Day also seemed to have his answers well prepared in advance.  However, he was not as obvious as Shields.

After the first embarrassment, Colburn followed up by attempting to sandbag mayoral candidate Joe Albero.  Colburn stated that Albero had called for the closing of the Salisbury Zoo.  Albero was at ease when he corrected Colburn, “I’ve never said or written such a thing.  My wife worked at the zoo and she would kill me if I ever said such a thing.”  Albero has been a critic of the zoo in the past and has called on the zoo to be more financially self-sufficient.  Our research was unable to find any instance where Albero called for the zoo to be closed.

TAG TEAMING CANDIDATES

One new approach in this debate was a “tag team” approach taken by Day and incumbent mayor Jim Ireton.  Ireton never referred to Albero.  In a weak attempt to tie Albero and Campbell together, he would say “my TWO opponent”, while pointing to both Albero and Campbell.  Day attacked Albero directly by claiming that NO ONE has called for 500 affordable housing units to be built on existing downtown parking lots.  Ireton’s downtown plan does call for 500 housing units.  Speaking on the matter over the past two years he has called for some or all of those units to be “affordable” housing.  Even while trying to call Albero out, Day equivocated; saying “I think” and “I’m pretty sure”.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH TRANSPARENCY?

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Rep. Andy Harris and Sheriff Mike Lewis Host Town Hall Meeting on Gun Rights

Monday evening a crowd of over 500 people showed up at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center to hear some of their elected officials discuss current federal and state initiatives to curtail Marylanders’ right to keep and bear arms.  The meeting, hosted by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis featured the two hosts, Del. Mike McDermott (R-38B), Wicomico State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello, Worcester Sheriff Reggie Mason as well as Sheriff’s (and their representatives) from around the state.

Each speaker emphasized the individual’s God-given right to bear arms, not just for hunting and sporting purposes, but for the protection of one’s person, family and community.  Another common theme was the fact that pending federal and state legislation do nothing to stop gun crime, but will make criminals out of law-abiding citizens.

Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis spoke and acted as the moderator for the evening’s event.  He emphasized the importance of our second amendment rights.  He was obviously torn over the potential consequences of pending state legislation.  Lewis noted that he swears an oath to protect and uphold the constitution of the United States, the state of Maryland and to enforce the laws of the state;  given that most county Sheriff’s believe that this legislation strips Marylanders of their rights to keep and bear arms.  Lewis provided an excellent analogy from the infamous Dred Scott decision – Slaves could not bear arms, because they are not citizens.

Congressman Harris made a moving argument regarding the consequences of attempts to strip citizens of their guns:

Many of you already know my story.  My parents escaped from communism in the Ukraine right after World War II.  In communist regimes, the first thing they do is disarm the citizens.

Harris also demonstrated the hypocrisy of claims that more gun control is about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals:

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Media Monday–March 25, 2013

SHOWING BIAS IN A BETTER WAY?

The Daily Times seems hell bent on queering this year’s Salisbury mayoral / council elections just like they’ve tried every other time in recent memory.  Will they be successful?  We’ll know next week.

After a series of scandals destroyed what little credibility remained at Salisbury’s Daily Times, new publisher Tom Claybaugh and managing editor Michael Kilian faced a tough choice:

  1. Report the news as fairly as possible (I don’t believe that anyone is 100% objective) and be honest on the op-ed pages (if you are going to claim to be the “voice of the community”, then print op-ed which reflect this).
  2. Continue the paper’s old bias, just try to be more like their big city rivals and commit more “sins of omission” rather than print easily verifiable lies; and certainly don’t encourage reporters to actively participate in their own stories.

All the News That We WANT to Print

    To most of us, choice number 1 is obviously the best path.  In an industry that appears to be dying, regaining credibility amongst readers is a good place to start if you want to rebuild.  The

Daily Times

    can claim some good young reporters.  They’ve shown that, when allowed, they can provide good, accurate coverage of local news.  Alas, Claybaugh and Kilian have decided on a darker path.  Rather than report all of the news, the DT seems determined to only run stories which aid their preferred candidates.
    How can I make such a claim?  Haven’t they run stories critical of Jim Ireton?  One!  Haven’t they run stories critical of Jake Day?  Less than one.  Who really cares that the Jakester has a heavy foot?
    I’m not claiming that the DT has savaged Joe Albero or Debbie Campbell.  They haven’t.  That’s the

Daily Times

    of old.  Besides, like Katherine Crowell four years ago, I don’t believe that Jeremy Cox would allow his name to be put on pieces that are riddled with lies and innuendo.  No, the DT is playing the stealth game.

Where is the story on Joe Albero’s economic development plan?  Where is a thoughtful analysis of Jake Day’s slick manifesto (which you can’t even download from his site anymore)?  Where is an analysis of Jim Ireton’s attempt to raise taxes (more than once) while he claims that he never raised your taxes (worth at least four Pinnochio’s over at the WaPo)?  Where is the story about Ireton and Day’s lack of basic math skills (how do to add 500 residential units downtown, plus commercial space when you have less than 100 available parking spots (after you have sold off all of the riverfront lots – which has merit – plus Lot 1 between the library and the plaza?).  WHERE is the story about national real estate interests doing a mailing  two mailings for Jake Day?

They’re no where to be found.  Why?  Mr. Kilian doesn’t want the public to learn too much about the candidates running for office.  If they did, the DT’s favored candidates wouldn’t stand much of a chance.  Unfortunately, things are worse on the op-ed side of the shop thanks to Mr. Claybaugh and op-ed editor Susan Parker.

WE Decide the News, WE Decide YOUR Opinion

Have you bothered to ask yourself why there haven’t been many letters to the editor in support of Joe Albero or Debbie Campbell?  The answer is simple … the Daily Times won’t print them.

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City for Sale

AVAILABLE After April 2nd
Small City, Population 30,000+
Waterfront Opportunities Available
City Government willing to SUBSIDIZE Real Estate Development
Contact Jake Day

That’s the REAL message that showed up in voters mailboxes yesterday in a mailer from the National Association of Realtors.

When was the last time that a NATIONAL Political Action Committee got involved in a LOCAL race in a city the size of Salisbury?

If you read Salisbury council candidate Jake Day’s “plan” the reason is clear – Day’s “solutions” for Salisbury’s local economy are focused almost exclusively on DOWNTOWN and on SUBSIDIZING RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT.

Is Jake Day channeling the political corpse of the previous Salisbury administration?

  • Developer Reimbursements
  • Failed TIF’s
  • FREE or SUBSIDIZED Capacity Fees

Are Day and his backers hoping that putting a NEW FACE on an OLD PROBLEM will make voters forget that they are still paying for past mistakes and that Jake Day wants the Salisbury taxpayer to DOUBLE DOWN?

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Tri-County Council – An Efficient Use of Your Tax Dollars?

Next week the Tri-County Council will hold its regular meeting.  Where?  The safe assumption would be that the meeting would be held at the organization’s new $10 MILLION facility at the corner of US 50 and Walston Switch Road.

You would be wrong.  The Tri-County Council is holding its meeting at … a brew pub.

130322_TCCMeeting_Evo_(600x380)

Why are YOUR tax dollars – and that’s what funds the Tri-County Council – being used to hold meetings at a brew pub when you have already paid for perfectly good meeting space?

Wicomico County councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes is the chairman of the Tri-County Council.  Maybe you should ask her.

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Balkanizing Salisbury

Imagine you lived in a city carved up into little wards or districts.  Then imagine that your city council members are given “discretionary” funds to dole out for “projects” or to fix potholes and street lights.  It sounds like Chicago, New York, or Washington, D.C.  Well if Jake Day is elected to the Salisbury City Council, this is what he has in store for you.

Rotten Boroughs

Across the sea in Great Britain, they used to have “rotten” or “pocket” boroughs.  These were parliamentary constituencies (districts to us Yanks) that were, in effect, controlled by one person (or a small group of people).  The British wisely changed their election practices in the 19th century.

At last month’s Democrat Club meeting Mr. Day announced that if he was elected he (along with councilwomen Laura Mitchell and Shanie Shields) would re-visit re-districting and change the council to a seven member body elected from individual districts.  He had previously announced at the Salisbury Chamber / PACE forum that he supported a seven member council.  (NOTE:  this would occur REGARDLESS of who is elected mayor as charter changes cannot be vetoed.)

What’s wrong with that?  If you divide Salisbury into seven districts which are roughly equal by population you will have created FOUR rotten boroughs.  Think about it.  Salisbury would be governed by AT LEAST four districts where the total votes cast to elect the majority of council would be less than half (probably less than a third) of the votes cast to elect the other seats.

The facts are simple.  The current District 1 simply doesn’t show up to vote in city elections.  Neighborhoods such as Church Street / Doverdale, the Presidents and Princeton Homes don’t show up to vote in city elections.  Residents of Camden, the Park area, the neighborhoods along North and South Schumaker Drives – they show up to vote.  Yet – they will be effectively disenfranchised when it comes to city council representation.  It is easily conceivable that you will have council members (from a majority of districts) elected with fewer than 100 votes.  Some could be elected with fewer than 50!

Bottom line – a group like SAPOA could literally buy a majority of the city council ON THE CHEAP!  Is this YOUR vision for a better Salisbury?

Slush Funds

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Balkanizing Salisbury

Imagine you lived in a city carved up into little wards or districts.  Then imagine that your city council members are given “discretionary” funds to dole out for “projects” or to fix potholes and street lights.  It sounds like Chicago, New York, or Washington, D.C.  Well if Jake Day is elected to the Salisbury City Council, this is what he has in store for you.

Rotten Boroughs

Across the sea in Great Britain, they used to have “rotten” or “pocket” boroughs.  These were parliamentary constituencies (districts to us Yanks) that were, in effect, controlled by one person (or a small group of people).  The British wisely changed their election practices in the 19th century.

At last month’s Democrat Club meeting Mr. Day announced that if he was elected he (along with councilwomen Laura Mitchell and Shanie Shields) would re-visit re-districting and change the council to a seven member body elected from individual districts.  He had previously announced at the Salisbury Chamber / PACE forum that he supported a seven member council.  (NOTE:  this would occur REGARDLESS of who is elected mayor as charter changes cannot be vetoed.)

What’s wrong with that?  If you divide Salisbury into seven districts which are roughly equal by population you will have created FOUR rotten boroughs.  Think about it.  Salisbury would be governed by AT LEAST four districts where the total votes cast to elect the majority of council would be less than half (probably less than a third) of the votes cast to elect the other seats.

The facts are simple.  The current District 1 simply doesn’t show up to vote in city elections.  Neighborhoods such as Church Street / Doverdale, the Presidents and Princeton Homes don’t show up to vote in city elections.  Residents of Camden, the Park area, the neighborhoods along North and South Schumaker Drives – they show up to vote.  Yet – they will be effectively disenfranchised when it comes to city council representation.  It is easily conceivable that you will have council members (from a majority of districts) elected with fewer than 100 votes.  Some could be elected with fewer than 50!

Bottom line – a group like SAPOA could literally buy a majority of the city council ON THE CHEAP!  Is this YOUR vision for a better Salisbury?

Slush Funds

[Read more…]

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