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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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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Maryland’s Wake-Up Call

The Baltimore Sun’s John Fritze lays out the facts pretty well – federal spending in Maryland is down and Maryland’s congressional delegation just lost a lot of its clout.   Maryland Democrats spend every waking hour pointing fingers and trying to figure out why voters rejected their tax and spend message on November 4th.  Maryland Republicans like Governor-elect Larry Hogan, new Howard County Exec Allan Kittleman, and new Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver are trying to clean up the messes left by years of wasteful, misguided spending and a belief that taxpayers can be plucked like chickens.

Well, in the Once Free State government IS the family business.  Turn to your left.  Turn to your right.  Somebody is working for the federal, state, or local government.  With federal spending down $1.2 billion in Maryland (over $3 billion when you take out entitlement spending and adjust for inflation), times aren’t looking so good.

Economist Anirban Basu has it right:

"No one is suggesting that Maryland should not continue to focus attention on federal contracting and related industries, but these industries will no longer be the economic engines of growth that they have been.”

Maryland can be a great state.  It simply needs to get out of the way of business and allow its job creators to grow and prosper.  This will, in turn, attract new job creators.  Larry Hogan seems committed to doing just that.  Let’s hope.

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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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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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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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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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O’Malley Budget Without Tax Hikes

We’ve heard it all before.  Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is claiming that his last budget will forego tax hikes and reduce the overall size of state government.  Does anyone, including the sycophantic media carrying O’Malley’s water, really believe it?

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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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Read My Lips … Repeal ObamaCare

Red State’s Erick Erickson is one of the few conservative commentators to actually understand what is happening in the Republican Party vis a vis Repealing / Defunding / ??? ObamaCare.  The party’s leadership has never cared about ObamaCare.  They wouldn’t support it, not because it is bad public policy, but because they knew it would cost them votes.  Remember, these same people had no problem supporting another massive entitlement – Medicare Part D.

A moderate, by definition, is one who believes in nothing.  Unfortunately the Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, et al are moderates.  The believe in nothing other than increasing their own political power.  We have symbolic votes to repeal ObamaCare because these people know that nothing will come of it.  They threaten to not increase the debt ceiling because they know it will have to be raised.  When they back down they tell us that the real fight will come at budget time.  Budget time has come.  There will be no budget and they now tell us that they have to pass a continuing resolution … without a defunding of ObamaCare.  The upcoming debt ceiling increase is where we need to tackle ObamaCare.  The GOP leadership not only doesn’t mind lying to us, they also believe that we are too stupid to remember what they told us less than a year before.

Erickson has hit the nail on the head.  The current intra-party fight over defunding ObamaCare is the “Read My Lips” moment for GOP moderates.  Perhaps the Boehner / Cantor / McConnell posse should make a pilgrimage to Houston and ask George H. W. Bush how it all worked out for him.  It made Bill Clinton president.

All of this doesn’t mean that conservatives should think that the battle is over and that we will regain control of the GOP.  It doesn’t.  Staying home will only give the Democrats a win.  We must work to ELECT conservatives.  Sadly, too many of us have become such ideologues that we will not support candidates unless we are in 100% agreement.  While moderates and conservatives all try to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan, they refuse to follow the wisdom which he left us.

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Why You Can’t Trust the GOP Leadership

Red State’s Erick Erickson has a great synopsis of the ridiculous contortions the GOP’s congressional leadership has gone through over ObamaCare.  Before you call your Representative or Senator in response to some #dontfundobamacare tweet, you need to read it.

In our view the bottom line is pretty simple.  Using the debt ceiling as a political tool is irresponsible.  It was irresponsible last year and will always be so.  HOWEVER, using the appropriations process and / or continuing resolutions to block funding for ObamaCare (and a myriad of other wasteful spending programs) is responsible … and NECESSARY.

Any Republican who refuses to support a continuing resolution that excludes funding for ObamaCare isn’t deserving of your vote next year.  If GOP members of Congress can’t take a stand on this, then when will they take a stand on anything substantive?

If the government has to shut down, so be it.  The media tells us that Republicans lost big in 1996 over a shut down.  Of course, the facts say otherwise.  The GOP lost a handful of House seats, but picked up two Senate seats.  As for the presidency, the GOP lost by running a moderate against a perceived moderate Democrat that was universally loved by the media.  Sound familiar?

We can make a difference.  Demand that your members of Congress be responsible.  Demand that they use their constitutionally given appropriations power to stop ObamaCare.  Demand that they TAKE A STAND!  Don’t allow them to wiggle out of doing their duty.  Ignore the John Boehners, Eric Cantors, and Mitch McConnells of this world.  Follow the advice of Nancy Reagan and JUST SAY NO!

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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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When Subsidies Go Bad

PORTLAND, OR – What happens when the taxpayers loan a company $10 million and provide another $20 million in other incentives in return for a PROMISED 450 jobs?  If you are an Oregon taxpayer and the company is SoloPower, the answer appears … NOT MUCH.

Like the better known case of Solyndra, Oregon taxpayers are waiting to find out if they will ever recover any of their hard earned money after the San Jose, CA based firm has announced that it is closing shop.

READ MORE …

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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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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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Why Do YOU Pay Rent to Joe Biden?

GREENVILLE, DE – Last year YOU paid $26,400 in rent to Vice President Joe Biden.  Why?

It seems that the U.S. Secret Service uses a cottage on the grounds of Biden’s estate outside Wilmington.  This property is used as part of Biden’s protection detail but Biden charges the taxpayers $2,200 per month!

Typical of most high-profile liberals, Biden and his wife donated less than two percent of their adjusted gross income to charity in 2012.

READ MORE …

photo courtesy of the Washington Times

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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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The Sequester March

WASHINGTON, DC – While the Obama Administration continues to insist that children are starving and old people are dying because of the cuts required under sequestration, ESSENTIAL federal spending continues for … BAGPIPES.

H/T – the Drudge Report

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Can Marylanders Afford Martin O’Malley’s National Ambitions?

Billions in spending increases.  Billions in tax hikes.  Same-sex marriage.  Repeal of the death penalty.  “Green energy” subsidized by taxpayers.  A state with already limited gun rights transformed into one of the most restrictive states in the nation.  These are just a few examples of Martin O’Malley’s political “accomplishments”.

When O’Malley first ran for governor he was hailed as a “moderate” and “pragmatist”.  Kennedyesque – more John than Teddy.  O’Malley wouldn’t touch issues such a gay marriage or more restrictive gun control with a ten foot pole.

While he never hid his disdain for the death penalty, he attributed this to his Roman Catholic faith.  I sympathize.  I too am opposed to the death penalty – because of my pro-life beliefs.  Sadly, O’Malley doesn’t allow the Church’s teachings to interfere with Democrat orthodoxy.

What happened?  Barack Hussein Obama.  In 2008 the Democrat party abandoned the center-left compromise which delivered two terms to Bill Clinton.  National Democrats became more radical than in 1972.  O’Malley, who has never hid his personal ambition and has always demonstrated fluid political and moral compasses, moved farther to the left.

[Read more…]

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Sequester Soul Show at White House

We thought that children were starving and old people were dying because of the sequester?  Yet … we would dare deprive the Obama’s of a little in-house entertainment (or multi-million dollar vacations).

See video at RealClearPolitics.com

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Is “Lockbox” Amendment a Fraud?

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Next year voters will have a chance to amend Maryland’s constitution to place gas tax funds in a “lockbox”.  The stated purpose of the amendment is to prevent a future raid on highway user funds like those that occurred with regularity during Maryland governor Martin O’Malley’s two terms in office.

While the amendment’s stated purpose may seem noble, and sound policy for Maryland taxpayers, some legislators are questioning whether or not the proposal is real, or little more than political theater.  The amendment would require a 60% vote of both houses to raid the highway user fund.  However, each time in recent years this has occurred it was accomplished by a vote of greater than 60%:

House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell objected, “Every time we raid the Transportation Trust Fund, it meets the three-fifths vote” in both houses.

Even here on the Eastern Shore we’re not exempt.  While legislators like Del. Norm Conway (D-38B) and Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38) don’t mind coming home to tell constituents that they voted against bills like the recent gas tax hike, they also haven’t hesitated to vote in favor of raiding the highway user fund.

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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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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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The Observer – The Truth About Austerity … Everywhere But the U. S.

It seems that simple, basic economic truth is coming home to roost in the European socialist utopia.  It’s already occurred in Canada.  Why can’t our own politicians grasp the obvious?

In a study released Friday at the annual conference of the Royal Economics Society, economists Luca Agnello and  Vitor Castro of Italy and Ricardo Sousa of Portugal tracked austerity programs from 1978 – 2009.  They found that the best programs shoot for the greatest deficit reductions in the 2nd and 3rd years of a program.  They also show empirical data that opposition mounts to austerity programs lasting more than nine years.

Yet, here in the United States, our politicians are unwilling to make real cuts to government spending or to reform entitlement spending.  Don’t expect too much media coverage of this study; it violates the current political narrative too much to receive serious consideration.  Among the common sense findings:

  • Reducing public spending lowered deficits more than raising taxes
  • Trading nations are usually more successful at restoring their public finances
  • Low interest rates and “sound macro-economic” conditions improve the odds of financial consolidations
  • Spending cuts are typically deepest in the second and third years of austerity programs before rising again in the final years

IMAGINE – Reducing Spending is MORE EFFECTIVE than Raising Taxes!  I wonder what Barack Obama’s reaction would be if he was actually made aware of this study?

Lord Keynes gets a bad rap these days.  If he had lived to see the mess that was made from his General Theory he would be ashamed to see what the term “Keynesian economics” has come to mean.  Rationalism reigns.  Liberal politicians and economists tell us that if you spend X the economy will improve.  After spending X, we don’t see the desired result.  What is the left’s answer?  We didn’t spend enough! (don’t worry, Paul Krugman didn’t receive his Nobel Prize for spouting this macroeconomic drivel)

Common sense has fallen to men and women who fancy themselves gods.  While this statement may seem extreme, it is fact.  Omniscience and omnipresence are required to “manage” a national economy.  That’s either Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” or a god.  Since most of these folks don’t believe in either Smith or God …

H/T – D. J. McGuire @ Bearing Drift

The Observer appears on weekends in the DelMarVa Observer and provides commentary on a variety of issues.

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Jim Ireton’s Respect for the Salisbury Taxpayer – Part 2

Giving YOUR Money Away to a Select Few

Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton LOVES to spend other people’s money.  OK, he’s a liberal.  Actually, Jim’s politics are somewhere to the left of Karl Marx.  Ireton has seldom seen a government program he didn’t love.  If Ireton is re-elected, AND if Jake Day is elected to the city council, Jim has a plan to spend some MORE of YOUR hard earned money. It involves re-developing downtown.

Ireton wants to sell the downtown parking lots for a song, subsidize them by waiving the capacity fees for water and sewer, and HOPE that Salisbury will somehow be re-born.

Does anyone believe that adding 500 “affordable housing units” downtown is going to re-vitalize Salisbury’s local economy?  Evidently Ireton, along with Jake Day, councilwoman Laura Mitchell, and councilwoman Shanie Shields do.

The “logic” goes something like this:

  1. You build X “affordable housing units” downtown.
  2. Businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers will RUSH to build stores.
  3. Downtown will be MAGICALLY re-vitalized.
  4. The world will be a better place.

Does that make sense to you?

500 Affordable Housing Units

OK, we sell off the parking lots, take EDU’s (water and sewer capacity) away from industrial development that could actually create jobs that pay a living wage, and 500 more housing units appear.  Do you think that businesses will then flock to downtown?  Ireton and his pals do.

Grocery Stores, Pharmacies, and Boutiques … OH MY!

Before a retail business decides to invest in a site they look at certain things, including traffic count and parking.  Would you build a grocery store based on a target population of less than 2,000?  Of course you wouldn’t!

But wait, wouldn’t people from outside the immediate area come?  Would they?  I live to the southeast of downtown.  There are at least  three grocery stores and at least seven pharmacies closer to my home than the downtown plaza.  Well, maybe the people who live over on the west side will come?  I can think of at least two grocery stores and two pharmacies that are closer.  Well maybe the folks from Newtown?  Maybe.  Where are they going to park?  Remember – Jimmy, Jake, Laura, and Shanie have sold all of the parking except for the parking garage.  Do you really believe that those folks from Newtown are going to walk across US 50 and then schlep their groceries back on foot?

OK, I’ll agree that one convenience store might succeed under the Ireton plan.

It’s MAGIC!

The notion that this will re-vitalize downtown, much less Salisbury’s local economy is too ridiculous for real comment.  Downtown CAN be salvaged.  It CAN be re-vitalized.  It just won’t happen by throwing subsidies at a few developers.

You need a solution that drives traffic.  Business people will then be willing to invest their own capital.  Look at Joe Albero’s plan.  It not only makes sense, it offers a REAL, free-market driven solution for downtown as well as a plan for the city’s entire economy.

Subsidizing residential development was a failure during the real estate boom!  Salisbury borrowed millions of dollars that were handed over to a select group of residential developers.  What did that yield?  Temporary construction jobs.  Subsidizing retail doesn’t yield jobs that pay a living wage.

The key is to allow development without unnecessary government interference.  The key is show potential employers – not just downtown, but throughout Salisbury – that the city will treat businesses, and residents, like valued customers.

Why can’t Jimmy Ireton learn from past mistakes; both his own and his predecessor’s?

Part 1 – Thrift Travel Inn

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Jimmy’s Respect for the Taxpayer–Part 1

Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton LOVES to spend money – OTHER PEOPLE’s MONEY.  Being a lifelong government employee, Ireton sees nothing wrong with doling our cash because, in his mind, there is ALWAYS MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM.

Today’s example – Salisbury’s Thrift Travel Inn

This infamous haven for hookers and drug dealers, Salisbury’s poster child for rent-by-the-hour, no-tell lodging luxury was finally demolished last November.

That’s a good thing, right?  In the end it was; but not if the city had done it “Jimmy’s Way”.

Ireton brought a proposal to the city council calling for the hardworking people of Salisbury to pay for the demolition.  Why not?  It’s other people’s money.  The evil, obstructionist council, led by Debbie Campbell, said NO!

Why would they do that?  Those mean, nasty people on city council thought that it was more appropriate for the property’s owners to pay for it.  Shame on you Debbie Campbell!  You took away another opportunity for Jimmy to call a press conference!

Of course, this hasn’t prevented Ireton from taking all of the credit during his campaign for re-election.  I wonder if this is another of Jake Day’s examples that the “mayor needs a partner”.

If Salisbury has any hope of revitalizing its economy, it deserves a Mayor AND a Council that respects the hardworking people and businesses of Salisbury.  These are the folks who pay the bills.

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Politics, Not Leadership, Reigns in SBY

SALISBURY, MD – Last week we outlined Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton’s actions regarding the $1.4 million FEMA grant for the fire department.  In Jimmy Ireton’s world, scoring cheap political points far outweighed public safety.  One week has passed.  We are one week closer to next spring’s city elections.  Ireton is pulling another cheap political stunt.

This week we are told that Ireton is seeking to raise the annual salaries of Salisbury police officers by approximately $4,000.  Is he really?  Sadly, NO.  Instead, the brave, hard working men and women of the Salisbury PD are being used as so many political footballs.

While Ireton and councilwoman Laura Mitchell bask in the Obamaesque glow of the Democrat National Convention and help to cement their places as Salisbury’s liberals-in-chief, Ireton is attempting to play games with the lives of Salisbury’s police officers and the safety of its citizens.  By refusing to provide the RESPONSIBLE members of the city council with basic information such as the city’s year end cash position and how much money was returned to surplus at the end of FY 2012, Ireton is again attempting to goad the council members into voting against this latest proposal.  WHY?  To score political points on Jimmy’s ROAD TO RE-ELECTION!

Citizens should ask a couple of questions questions:

[Read more…]

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Salisbury Council Votes for Fire Grant

SALISBURY, MD – At Monday’s city council meeting citizens were treated to all of the drama which has made Salisbury famous (or infamous?).  The meeting began with councilwoman Laura Mitchell’s expected grandstanding; it moved through a normal course of legislative business; and culminated with not one, but three trademark Jimmy Ireton hissy fits.  In the end, the city council accepted a federal grant of $1.4 million to allow the city hire 12 additional firefighters.

Read the details later today in the DelMarVa Observer.  For a fictional account, we suggest this morning’s online edition of the Daily Times.  It appears that new city report Jeremy Cox is a budding short story writer.

photo courtesy of WMDT

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Can the Post Office Be Fixed?

WILMINGTON, DE – If Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) is to be believed, he knows how to save the U.S. Postal Service about $500 million each year.  $500 million is nothing to sneeze at, but according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe states that $22.5 BILLION must be cut from the postal budget each year by 2016.  The USPS has already defaulted on a $5.2 billion payment to the federal government (for retiree health care benefits) and is expected to default on another payment later this year.

Can the post office be fixed?  Of course … in theory.  Unfortunately, we live in the real world.  Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican (but primarily Democrat) will simply not allow that to happen.  No legislator wants to see a post office, much less something like a processing facility, close in their district or state.  Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) are prime examples.  If you buy-in to their rhetoric, closing the Easton processing facility is akin to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Truth be told, Mikulski and Cardin would prefer a nuclear Iran over seeing a postal processing facility close in their own state.  To them, and many of their Congressional colleagues, the USPS is one more way to use YOUR tax dollars to buy other people’s votes.

USPS revenue remains a huge problem.  There is no doubt that the internet has put a huge dent into the USPS’s revenue stream.  Almost every bill you receive in the mail includes some encouragement or incentive to pay your bill online and sign up for “paperless billing”.  Why buy and mail a birthday card when you can send an “e-card” in less than two minutes, and often for free?  Businesses, and individuals, don’t bat an eye at paying a sizable premium to FedEx or UPS to send parcels or time sensitive documents because they know that they will be delivered on time.  The USPS can’t seem to deliver an overnight document on time.

Allowing the USPS to exit onerous union contracts, become more efficient, and pay wages and benefits comparable to their competitors will help; so will shutting down facilities.  Unfortunately, the men and women we send to Washington simply won’t allow this to happen.

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Cape Henlopen Residents Face Higher Taxes or Spending Cuts in Next Budget

LEWES, DE – Cape Henlopen School District’s FY 2013 budget was balanced with a tax hike.  Next year district residents could face more of the same, or reduction in school budgets, if federal money declines.

In a preliminary budget presentation by CHSC business director Oliver Gumbs, board members were warned of possible cuts in federal funding due to sequestration.  Unless Congress acts in the next few months, discretionary federal spending is expected to be cut 7.8% – 9%.  This would include funding for items such as Title I.

READ MORE …

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Should Taxpayers Pay to Send Police on Baltimore Mayor’s Vacation?

BALTIMORE, MD – The Baltimore Sun reports that taxpayers are picking up the tab to send police protection with Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on her recent vacation to San Diego?  Should they?  If Rawlings-Blake wants to government to cover the costs of her entourage on vacation, perhaps she should pick a spot closer to home.

The most amusing part of the her justification:

Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi acknowledged the mayor could decline to use executive protection, but said the police department’s intelligence section determines how much security is needed for public officials.

"We have a very high-profile mayor," he said. "Baltimore has issues of violence. We all saw what happened with Congresswoman [Gabrielle] Giffords."

Please.  Horrible things will always occur.  Does this mean that the taxpayer should pony up for every possibility, no matter how remote?  We certainly do not wish the Mayor any harm.  We also do not believe that holding elective office equates to entitlement.  Unfortunately, the age of Obama is fast proving us wrong.

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Sudlersville Commissioners Close Checkbook to Engineering Firm

SUDLERSVILLE, MD – After a request from engineering firm RETTEW for additional cost overruns, the Sudlersville Town Commissioners have decided to close the town’s checkbook to the firm.

“Enough is enough. Every time we turn around it’s more money, more money … it’s almost August 2012, and we haven’t got a shovel in the ground,” said Commissioner Bill Faust. “If we agree on this, the checkbook is closed to RETTEW.”

“As far as I’m concerned, the checkbook should have been closed a long time ago,” Ford said.

One complaint from the commissioners which epitomized the problems faced by the town was whether to use a vacuum system or a grinder system.  RETTEW told commissioners that a grinder system was more cost effective for a system of their size.  RETTEW then delivered plans which called for a vacuum system.

READ MORE …

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O’Malley Expected to Issue “Climate Change” Executive Order

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is expected to issue an executive order that will impact the state’s acquisition of land and its infrastructure.

DNR is “shifting away” from conserving land that is less than 2 feet above sea level, because of predictions that such land likely will be under water in 50 years, Griffin told the committee.

“There have been small land holdings that we have not pursued [that otherwise] might have been purchased to complete a larger complex of land,” Griffin said in an interview Thursday, explaining what the policy has meant in practice.

DNR Secretary John Griffin used Dorchester County’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge as an example of land lost:

During the past eight decades, the refuge has lost about 5,000 acres, roughly a third of its original area.

The biggest factors affecting the refuge now are relative sea-level rise, land subsidence, or sinking, and wind and wave action. The latter have become stronger as the loss of marsh land creates larger sections of open water where wave and wind energy build, wildlife refuge manager Suzanne Beard said Thursday.

Of course, the overwhelming share of that loss was due to sinking and erosion, not sea level rise caused by climate change.  The expected cost of Maryland’s taxpayers of implementing these new rules is unknown.

READ MORE …

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O’Malley’s New Wicomico BOE Appointment Just More of Same

SALISBURY, MD – Yesterday it was announced that Maryland governor Martin O’Malley had appointed Kim Hudson to replace Michele Wright on the Wicomico school board.  Some local Republicans are seething because, once again, a Democrat governor has ignored the recommendation the local GOP central committee.  Fiscally responsible voters are concerned that this is another voice for wasteful spending.  Our response?  Who cares? Hudson can’t be worse than Wright.

Let’s face it, the Wicomico County Board of Education hasn’t had a vocal champion for fiscal responsibility since the departures of Robin Holloway and Sue Hitch.  GOP central committee chair Dave Parker decries O’Malley’s appointment:

"We did our part. We interviewed six people, cut the list in half and sent the three best forward, but that wasn’t what (O’Malley) wanted," Parker said. "I want the best people for the education of our children in Wicomico County and I don’t think that is a political issue. It is now and that’s too bad."

Really Dave?  When wasn’t this political?  The Democrat central committee always gets its “suggestions” appointed.  The GOP central committee sees its recommendations appointed when it puts forward individuals who will agree to waste taxpayer dollars or keep their mouths shut.  Case in point – the Wicomico Republican Central Committee recommended the appointment and reappointment of Wright and the appointment of Carolyn Elmore.  When Wright was appointed to her first term she had the strong backing of both the central committee and many local elected Republicans.  Ditto for Elmore’s appointment.  Result?  A supposedly “bi-partisan” BOE that never saw a dollar they weren’t willing to flush down the bureaucratic toilet.

Expect Hudson to support any boondoggle suggested by Supt. John Fredericksen, EXACTLY like her predecessor.  Hudson wants the BOE to have access to unlimited funds.  In Kim Hudson’s world, any dollar spent in the name of “education” can’t be misspent.  Yet, the Wicomico County schools spend millions upon millions of dollars while Johnny still can’t read.  The same mindset also allows schools to crumble without maintenance while people like Hudson call for building new schools, which will also crumble because building schools look good on a superintendent’s resume and keeping schools in good repair doesn’t.

Hudson’s impact on the school board will be ZERO.  She is merely one more profligate among profligates.  Some speculate that Hudson might be a bad enough BOE member that this could motivate voters to demand an elected school board.  Unfortunately, County Executive Rick Pollitt and Delegates Norm Conway (D-38B) and Rudy Cane (D-37A) are keeping Wicomico voters from voting on an elected school board.  Nothing Hudson does will impact this.

The net result – NOTHING.  The BOE will demand more money.  Wicomico taxpayers will continue to see their tax bill rise each year (thanks to Conway and Cane).  A majority of a supposedly conservative county council will continue to fight over the scrap handed to them by Pollitt while refusing cut wasteful spending.  Kim Hudson will simply smile and tell us, “It’s for the children”.

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Virginia Finishes FY 2012 with Surplus

RICHMOND, VA – Gov. Bob McDonnell has announced that Virginia will finish fiscal year 2012 with a $129.2 million surplus.  This is the third year in a row that the Commonwealth has finished in the black.  FY 2011 ended with a $544.8 million surplus.  FY 2010 had $403 million of revenues in excess of expenses.

Source – Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Can You Imagine This in Salisbury?

SALISBURY, MD – We are constantly told that Salisbury city government is unique because of its ineptitude.  Really?

Let’s go a few hours south to the city of Chesapeake, VA.  In this sprawling city almost ten times larger than Salisbury, the Virginian-Pilot has been examining the cost overruns at a newly constructed jail.  City Council was never notified until AFTER the money had been expended.

The reasoning being this abuse of the taxpayer?  The city manager and his staff didn’t have a “mechanism” to adequately inform council.  Ever heard of email?

No, the problem doesn’t lie with Salisbury.  The problem lies with a seemingly lazy press in the Once Free State.  I may not like the editorial policies of papers like the Virginian-Pilot, the Daily Press, or the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but they report the news.  In Salisbury the press stayed silent while their pals in city government handed out millions in developer reimbursements and approved every cost overrun on the WWTP.  Yet, Mayor Barrie Tilghman and council members like Mike Dunn, Gary Comegys, and Lynn Cathcart were held up by the press as paragons of virtue.

Who are the bad guys?  People like Joe Albero for reporting this information; and elected officials like Debbie Campbell because they dared to ask questions.

Shame on them.  I guess the people of Salisbury would prefer a system like Chesapeake’s.

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DelMarVa Municipalities Need to Act on Pension Reform

While Scranton, PA has been forced to reduce city worker salaries to minimum wage and San Bernadino, CA is the latest city to file for bankruptcy, cities and counties on the Delmarva peninsula continue to behave as if economic reality will never cross the Chesapeake Bay or jump the C&D canal.  As the population ages and more Delmarva taxpayers rely on fixed incomes, no municipality seems willing to acknowledge that future pension and medical costs simply cannot be funded forever.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in Wicomico County.

In 2011 the Wicomico County Council passed County Executive Rick Pollitt’s “early retirement” plan.  Under this boondoggle certain county employees have received larger pensions than they would have otherwise received.  In addition, others (such as the county’s former Public Information Officer) will receive lifetime medical benefits after only 5 years of service.  When this plan was adopted the council promised that they would look into reforming the county’s pension system.  While councilman Bob Culver has asked multiple times that the council fulfill their commitment to the voters, a majority has refused.

This year, the Wicomico Council used the Jim Mathias / Norm Conway / Rudy Cane mandated property tax hike to dole out raises to all county employees.  These raises increase the county’s future pension liabilities.  Maryland county governments are now on the hook for teacher pensions as well.

Pension and retiree medical benefits are the stealth costs which are bankrupting municipalities and crippling local economies across the country.  Our local governments don’t wish to address these issues because it’s too easy to ignore the problem and leave it for future generations (and future councils / commissioners) to address.  When local governments acknowledge that a problem exists, it can only be fixed by HUGE tax hikes, HEAVY benefit cuts, and often BANKRUPTCY.

These problems are easy to fix NOW.  Our local governments should do the responsible thing and ACT NOW.  Obviously, the states of Delaware, Maryland, and (and to a less extent) Virginia should act to reform their pension systems as well.  Unfortunately, we have no hope that these governments will act responsibly in the near future.

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Public Hearing on Bennett Middle

SALISBURY, MD – The Wicomico County Council will hold a public hearing at 6PM tonight to hear public comment on borrowing more $12.6 million to move construction of a new James M. Bennett Middle School forward.  The hearing will be in Room 301 of the Salisbury / Wicomico Government Office Building.  The county’s cost of the total project is expected to be approximately $43 million, all of which will be borrowed.

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Markell “Gun Shy” About Medicaid Expansion Under ObamaCare

DOVER, DE – Relying on the US Supreme Court’s recent ruling that the Federal government may not cut state Medicaid funding if states refuse to expand the program under ObamaCare, Delaware governor Jack Markell is refusing to commit to the expansion.

Currently, over 200,000 Delawareans qualify for free health care under Medicaid.  If Markell agrees to expand the program to 133% of the poverty level (as ObamaCare expects), the number of participants could increase by approximately 10%.

READ MORE …

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O’Malley – Prince of the Sound Bite

Maryland governor Martin O’Malley can’t run a state.  He never saw a tax hike that he didn’t love.  If it wasn’t for the largesse of China (for their willingness to buy US sovereign debt) and the federal taxpayer, O’Malley would be governing one of the poorer states in the Union rather than one of the wealthiest.  Martin O’Malley would be a pauper, rather than a prince.  Martin O’Malley does have one trait that has served him well … he is a prince of the sound bite.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week, O’Malley (following the Obama party line) accused presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney of “betting against America”:

“I’ve never known a Swiss bank account to build an American bridge, a Swiss bank account to create American jobs or Swiss bank accounts to build the levies to protect the people of New Orleans,” O’Malley said on ABC News’s “This Week.”

Granted, Romney should be shot for having the poor political acumen to have a Swiss bank account.  At least Romney doesn’t lack the requisite economic and financial skills to lead a country out of the Great Recession.

Even O’Malley should know that we live in a global financial market.  Swiss bank accounts do, in fact, create jobs.  They even build bridges.  As for the levies in New Orleans, money was available to build adequate levies but O’Malley’s corrupt Democrat pals used those funds to finance projects like marinas and sundry other projects where a better rake-off could be had.

photo courtesy of the Associated Press via the Washington Post

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Ollinger Has Solution to Save Taxpayers $11 Million

SALISBURY, MD – 2010 Wicomico County Executive candidate Joe Ollinger has proposed saving Wicomico, and Maryland, taxpayers approximately $11 million in the construction of a new James M. Bennett Middle School.  In a letter to the editor in today’s Daily Times, Ollinger argues that the county council should demand that the state allow the school to be built under a “competitive wage” rule rather than the normal “prevailing union wage” rule.

Will the state allow this?  Of course not!  However, Ollinger’s suggestion is feasible and the county council should demand that the state support it AND that incumbent County Executive Rick Pollitt endorse it.  Taxpayers have a right to know that that their tax dollars are being used to line the pockets of BIG LABOR.

Here is the text of Ollinger’s letter:

If the state of Virginia built a similarly designed school as Wicomico County’s proposed new Bennett Middle School, it would cost $11 million less than what we will pay in Maryland. Why? Virginia pays a "competitive wage" rate for such projects, while our state government mandates a much higher rate, called "union prevailing wage."

Therefore, we Wicomico County taxpayers have the privilege of forking over $73 million for the new BMS rather than $62 million.

The Wicomico County Council, for the benefit of its citizens, should courageously lead an effort to waive this "union prevailing wage" rate requirement for the BMS project. In pursuit of this waiver, it should rally support from our county executive and our Eastern Shore state delegation.

Governors, such as Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, have caught the attention of the entire nation with their successful battles with unions in lowering their states’ costs. Maybe our County Council, by fighting for this waiver, might ignite a statewide movement to stand against the unreasonable costly demands of unions.

Even if our council fails in this effort, it will expose to voters those elected state representatives who are more interested in wastefully pandering to unions rather than lowering the cost of government for their constituents.

Joe Ollinger
Salisbury

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Michelle Obama Headed to London

WASHINGTON – After EXPENSIVE, taxpayer funded excursions to Spain and Africa, First Lady Michelle Obama will now be travelling to London.  Ostensibly she will be part of the US delegation for the Olympics.

READ MORE …

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MD Spending Growth Highest in Region

ANNAPOLIS, MD – A report issued yesterday underscores again dramatic spending growth in Maryland, where the budget has increased more than any other state on the eastern seaboard and the mid-Atlantic region. Nationally, the rate of growth is higher than all but five other states, according to the non-partisan National Governor’s Association which compares state general fund budgets from fiscal years 2011 to 2013.

"What happens when you increase spending by more than most other states and you pass 24 tax and fee hikes? You end up having the biggest job loss in the nation," said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan, referring to the latest U.S. Department of Labor report which showed Maryland leading the nation in lost jobs.

The report, issued twice a year by the National Governor’s Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers, details budget levels among the fifty states.  Taking into account the last two years and the next fiscal year’s budget, Maryland’s 15.5% growth contradicts numbers the O’Malley Administration pointed to just six months ago.  At that time the spending increase was 11.4% between fiscal years 2011and 2012, which the Administration tried to dismiss due to expiring federal stimulus dollars.

An O’Malley Administration spokesperson said in November that, "Maryland has increased general fund spending more slowly over the last two years than most of our neighbors."

"Once again, the Administration is making it up as they go," said Hogan. This is just like the fictional $8 billion in ‘cuts’ the Administration claims to have made. Fortunately, a non-partisan organization, of which the Governor is a member, provides some much-needed facts."

The total operating budget has grown from $28.8 billion in 2007 to $35.5 billion today. The general fund accounts for discretionary spending funded by state tax dollars.

The report adjusts budget numbers with each issue based on estimated versus actual spending.  The average budget growth among all states from 2011 to 2013 is 5.5%.

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Wicomico County’s Budget

Yesterday the Wicomico County Council passed County Executive Rick Pollitt’s FY 2013 operating budget.  While Wicomico continues to endure one of the highest unemployment rates in Maryland, citizens and businesses alike will face higher taxes; placing even greater difficulty on those struggling to keep their homes and adding one more impediment to to a business sitting on the bubble as to whether or not to hire new employees.

For the first time since adopting a county executive form of government, the Wicomico council passed a budget without cutting one red cent from the Executive’s proposed budget.  Several council members (we choose not to embarrass them by giving their names) have actually argued that not one dollar of Pollitt’s $117 million budget is being wasted.  While I’m not aware of anyone claiming that Pollitt’s budget is a cesspool of profligacy and corruption, failing to acknowledge that some spending is wasteful or unnecessary forever surrenders any claim to fiscal conservatism on the part of these council members.  To add insult to the injury of a tax hike, six of the council’s members when on a frenetic spending spree last Wednesday, adding an additional $600,000 to the county’s budget.

THE GOOD

Unless you happen to be a county employee, there’s not much good to be said.  Prior to submitting his budget, Pollitt had already agreed to a 2% pay increase for the county’s deputies.  He also eliminated furloughs for all county employees.  Not to be outdone in the area of spending other people’s money, a majority of council members tacked on a 2% increase in pay for all other county employees.  “FAIRNESS” seems to have replaced “It’s for the children” as the excuse du jour for spending taxpayer dollars.

Yes, the Board of Education got a little more money than they received last year.  Contrary to popular opinion, I am not one of those who seems to believe that ten cents spent on public education is ten cents too much.  However, I do believe that the Board of Education continues to spend money on items that are questionable at best.  That should not be confused with a belief that the BOE throws millions of dollars into the fiscal dust bin.

I am also confident that State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello is pleased with this budget.  He requested some additional funds and received them during the council’s “feeding frenzy”.  Not all of the funds disbursed last Wednesday were bad calls.  It was the mouth foaming zeal in which council members spent other people’s money that was most disturbing.

THE BAD

[Read more…]

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Easton Council Passes Budget

EASTON, MD – The Easton Town Council passed a $17 million budget for FY 2013 Tuesday without any change in tax rates.

In a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Pete Lesher absent, the council passed the about $17 million budget that is about 8 percent less than last fiscal year’s budget. That decrease is mostly from a change in the method of accounting depreciation, Easton Mayor Robert C. Willey explained at a public hearing last month on the proposal.

That $17 million includes about a $2.6 million capital fund with at least two carryover projects at about $1.7 million transferring from the general fund. The town still faces sizable expenses in the next few years, such as $1.5 million for a new fire truck, about $500,000 for radio upgrades and about $1.2 million for road repairs at two places in town.

For the last fiscal year, however, the town finished several capital projects, including the Tanyard Branch stormwater project and handicap projects at several intersections. The upcoming fiscal year budget includes money for sidewalk extensions along Dutchmans Lane, with crosswalks planned at U.S. Route 50.

READ MORE …

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Wicomico Council Approves Budget

SALISBURY, MD – By a 5-2 vote, the Wicomico County Council approved the FY 2013 operating budget.  Council president Joe Holloway and councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes were the two dissenting votes.

As part of adopting the FY 2013 budget, council also increased the county’s real property tax rate 9.28% to $0.8404.  The personal property tax rate, which businesses pay on equipment, fixtures and inventory was increased to $2.101.  The tax hikes passed by a 6-1 vote, with Joe Holloway being the only dissenting vote.  Councilwoman Gail Bartkovich blamed recent action by the state legislature for forcing the council to adopt a property tax rate hike of this size.  Sample-Hughes argued that Annapolis’ action was necessitated by council’s previous refusal to raise taxes to pay for needed education and infrastructure expenditures.

While Holloway and Sample-Hughes seldom agree, both cited the revenue estimates provided by County Executive Rick Pollitt as their primary reason for voting against the budget.  Both questioned the accuracy of Pollitt’s revenue projections given the “finding” of additional income tax revenue to pay for the county’s share of the teacher pension shift and the approximately $600,000 in new spending the council adopted last Wednesday.  Sources within Pollitt’s administration indicate that council was not given an accurate revenue projection for FY 2013 and that other revenues were available but the amounts hidden from council and the public.  During public comment Pollitt argued that one reason the county had successfully weathered the recent economic downturn was by conservatively projecting revenues.

The council members supporting the budget cited restoring county furloughs and further increasing the wages of county employees as a motivating factor in their support.  Councilman Bob Culver noted that the county’s employee’s had “given up a lot” during the last three years.

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