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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Sussex County Council Silences Public

GEORGETOWN, DE – Have you EVER been to a City Council, County Council, Planning Commission, (or any other government board or commission) meeting where the public is denied the opportunity to get up and comment?  If you live in Sussex County you now have the opportunity.

The Sussex County Council has decided that there will be public comment … but only AFTER they have held their regular meeting AND their executive session.

Here’s how it works:

  • Council holds public session (public can’t speak).
  • Regular meeting adjourns and council enters executive session (public can’t be in the room).
  • After anywhere from 10 minutes to hours, the public (if anyone has actually stayed around, and of course the cameras are long gone) can come back in and have their say.

This sounds an awful lot like President Obama’s pledge to have the most transparent administration in history.  Democracy in action.  God Bless America!

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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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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.

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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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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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In Delaware It’s Only Tax Money!

WILMINGTON, DE – What happens when a local non-profit wants to invest $100,000 renovating a local museum?  The county government rejects the help of course!

That is what has occurred recently in New Castle County when a local group offered to spend $100,000 on the historic Rockwood Mansion.  Why?  The PRIVATE group was not going pay a “prevailing wage” on the work.  Delaware Rep. Danny Short and Delaware Rep. Deborah Hudson have penned an op-ed in response to Delaware’s system of kow-towing to unions at the taxpayers’ expense.

Yet one more method of the government queering the free market, prevailing wage laws are designed to encourage the hiring of union contractors.  If non-union contractors are forced to pay union-scale wages (the “prevailing wage”), governments are encouraged to hire union contractors.  There is no cost advantage to hiring a non-union contractor and non-union contractors don’t (as a rule) picket your job site.

In the case of the Rockwood Mansion, the project would be undertaken by a private group.  However, the government owns the property.  The New Castle County council and executive have decided that the prevailing wage must be paid even though Friends of Rockwood Mansion are a private, not-for-profit organization.  (The state law only requires “prevailing wage” on GOVERNMENT capital projects).

So, what’s the result?  An historic treasure won’t receive the renovation it desperately needs.  When it does, the cost will be far higher than it would be without the burden of the prevailing wage law.  And … Delaware taxpayers will have to pick up the tab rather than a group of private citizens who ponied up for the renovation to begin with.

God Bless the AFL-CIO and their lackeys in the Delaware Legislature.

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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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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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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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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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Maryland Group Enters Sussex Sheriff’s Fray Over Powers

GEORGETOWN, DE – Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher’s ongoing battle with the state of Delaware over the extent (limit) of his powers has found an out-of-state ally.  The Pasadena, MD based Institute on the Constitution hosted a forum yesterday at DelTech’s Georgetown campus.

“Our drive is to raise up a citizenry that understands these issues and can act on them from a basis of knowledge, not just petty personal interests,” said Michael Anthony Peroutka, a lawyer from Pasadena, Md., and founder of the institute.

Christopher argues that the state’s constitution provides his office with law enforcement powers.  Delaware governor Jack Markell, AG Beau Biden, and several state courts have disagreed.

photo courtesy of the Cape Gazette

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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:

[Read more…]

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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?

[Read more…]

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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.

[Read more…]

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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

[Read more…]

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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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Jim Ireton’s Work Schedule

Yesterday we highlighted Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton’s interview on Delmarva Public Radio.  In addition to being scarily anti-business in his rhetoric, Ireton also made the following comment:

I get up every day and barrel at 110%.

Really Jim?  What do you “barrel” at?

For the moment, let’s ignore the debate as to whether a “part-time” mayor can successfully operate a $51 million enterprise. (I believe the record indicates a big NO on that one.)  Let’s ask two other questions:

  1. Is Jim Ireton really a part-time mayor?
  2. Is Jim Ireton really devoting the time he supposedly spends as mayor to making Salisbury a better place to live and to work?

If your definition of being “part-time” is spending one second or more per week, month, etc. to the job of being mayor I’d have to give Ireton a free pass.  However, IF (like me) you define the term as spending 20 – 30 hours per week at a task then the answer is clearly no.  This ties directly in to question two.

For four years, and particularly during the last two, Jim Ireton has spent a fair piece of his “mayor time” engaged in political grandstanding, partisan politics, and pushing an agenda that is not even tangentially connected to making Salisbury a better place to live and to work.

In August, 2011 Ireton took time out of his supposedly busy day to picket the Salisbury office of Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD).  He has time to picket, but not to sit down with city council and engage in civil, honest discussion of issues facing our city?  Did this make Salisbury a better place to live and to work?

In June, 2011 Ireton called a press conference to attack the city council majority for not backing his planned luxury apartment project at “The Bricks”.  In his press conference Ireton implies that council members Debbie Campbell, Terry Cohen, and Tim Spies are racists (sound familiar?) and intimates that racial discord could follow (with councilwomen Laura Mitchell and Shanie Shields cheering him on).  Ireton’s rantings before the press are numerous, and (sadly) legendary.  Do any of these things make Salisbury a better place to live and to work?

Ireton has travelled to Annapolis to lobby for issues such as gay marriage.  Unless Ireton has some undisclosed plan to make Salisbury a mecca for gay marriage (with the tourism dollars that would follow) we have to ask – Do any of these things make Salisbury a better place to live and to work?

Ireton has lent his name and the prestige of his office to a campaign to strip gun rights from our citizens.  Do any of these things make Salisbury a better place to live and to work? (Criminals will still get guns.  C’mon … They’re CRIMINALS)

So … what’s your definition of “part-time”.

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Media Monday–March 4, 2013

WANTED:  Pabulum, Pandering, and NO QUESTIONS

Sunday’s Daily Times provided one of the most disturbing editorials I have read in a long time.  Tom Claybaugh, Susan Parker, et al, have the chutzpah to rip their shirts and lament low voter turnout in city elections and then turn right around and call on candidates to shovel sh## rather than talk about real issues:

We do not want to hear anything from any candidate about what someone else has done or failed to do, might do, has said, really meant instead of did say or, worst of all, is thinking or intending to do.

It’s little wonder voters are so disengaged.

Voters don’t vote because they feel that little or nothing will change.  Yes, there is a certain amount of civic disengagement; but ultimately people will turn out IF they feel that their vote means something.

Jim Ireton has had almost four years to accomplish something, yet the Daily Times won’t examine his record and doesn’t want candidates OR citizens questioning it.  When Ireton announced his run for re-election he claimed that he had kept his promises.  At the top of his list – not increasing taxes.  Where is the front page expose on the FACT that Ireton not only proposed a tax hike, he tried to veto the FY 2013 budget BECAUSE it didn’t include his tax hike?  and … The list goes on.

DT readers, and all other Salisbury citizens, deserve a newspaper that asks ALL CANDIDATES tough question.  Candidates need to ask tough questions about their respective opponents’ records and proposals.  Citizens should do the same.  Unfortunately, Claybaugh & Co. simply want to feed voters pabulum about their chosen candidates, pander to the lowest common denominator, and most importantly – avoid asking their favored few any TOUGH QUESTIONS.

Let’s hope the reporting side of the shop didn’t get the memo.

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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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Is Joe Albero a Racist?

In part one of a multi-part series on SBYNews I examined today’s Daily Times article about Joe Albero and race.  Rather than re-print the piece here, I am linking to it:

There are a few things I would like you to keep in mind –
  • Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton has a history of playing the “race card” whenever he feels politically threatened or believes that he may use it to his political advantage.  Before calling Albero a racist he literally stood on a street corner and called a majority of the city council racists because they would not rubber stamp one of his proposals.
  • Ireton has played fast and loose with the truth from the day he was sworn in as mayor (I can’t authoritatively comment on before he was mayor).  Since announcing for re-election he has really turned the “Truth-O-Meter” upside down.  Whether discussing race, his attempt to raise property tax rates, or falsely taking credit for the city’s relatively sound fical condition and lower crime rate, Ireton views ignored truth as something to be ignored or twisted if it serves his political purposes.
  • While Ireton attempted to spoon-feed DT reporter Jeremy Cox with a lot of out-of-context, or misrepresented garbage, Cox worked hard researching what Ireton submitted to him and performed numerous interviews with Albero, and other cocerned citizens, in order to present a much more accurate story than we would have read had it been written by either of his two predecessors (and quite a few other former city reporters).
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Salisbury Mayor Refuses to Comply with Law

The Daily Times reports after the Salisbury City Council voted unanimously to allow acting fire chief Rick Hoppes to continue in his position for another month, mayor Jim Ireton continues to refuse to comply with the city’s law regarding the appointment of acting department heads.  Ireton disputes the interpretation of the law provided by city attorney Mark Tilghman.  Ireton appealed Tilghman’s interpretation to the Office of the Maryland Attorney General.  The AG’s office informed Ireton in a January 3rd letter that they defer to Tilghman’s interpretation of the law.

Ireton insists that he can interpret the law as he chooses:

“The July resolutions, which also covered Hoppes’ second-in-command John Tull, “simply provide for the Acting Status of both of these employees to be extended past six months.”

The council disputes Iretons actions and have the opinions of the city attorney and AG’s office to back them up.  At Monday’s council meeting, president Terry Cohen asked if Ireton felt he was above the law.  It appears that Ireton has delivered his answer.
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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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Ireton Prefers to Fiddle While Salisbury Burns

One thing has been made crystal clear during this whole episode, in Jimmy Ireton’s world politics will always trump public safety … or good public policy.

SALISBURY, MD – There are some things you will not read in the Daily Times.  You will never read a factual article that criticizes Wicomico’s Board of Education.  You will never read that the world’s weather runs in short and long term cycles and the notion of “climate change” is a myth.  You also won’t read about Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton’s fits at Salisbury council meetings or the true actions of certain council members.

While Salisbury firefighters, and the town’s citizenry, may have been happy to see the Salisbury council accept a $1.4 million federal grant to hire additional firefighters, one person was VERY disappointed – Mayor Jim Ireton.  Repeated attempts to goad the council majority into voting no failed.  Ireton’s claims that the council was “holding this money hostage” fell on deaf ears.  A 4-0 vote for acceptance would have been a 5-0 vote if Ireton had CHOSEN to act his age rather than perform like a two year old.

One thing was crystal clear Monday night; Jim Ireton believes that scoring cheap political points FAR exceeds the safety of the citizens of Salisbury.

If the twelve additional firefighters were so desperately needed, why has Ireton failed to request the additional firefighters in any of his budgets?  Why were firefighters and police officers furloughed?  If this grant was so important, why did Ireton REFUSE to allow the fire department to apply for it until THREE DAYS before the application deadline?

None of these questions will be asked by the mainstream media.  Ireton will never have to answer them.  Why?  Because attacking council members like Debbie Campbell is far more important than solving the city’s problems.

WHY DID CAMPBELL VOTE NO?

[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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Salisbury Council to Tackle Enterprise Zones, Give Fire Grant Another Try

SALISBURY, MD – The Salisbury City Council will meet at 6 PM this evening and vote to renew their enterprise zone for another 10 years.  At the end of tonight’s agenda, the council will also decide whether or not to accept a $1.4 million federal grant for the Salisbury Fire Department.  In most jurisdictions neither measure would be controversial, but this is Salisbury.

Even Democrats aren’t opposed to enterprise zones anymore.  Enterprise zones provide tax credits for companies that place businesses in depressed areas.  Unfortunately, Salisbury has drawn its enterprise zone to include the choice US 13 and US 50 corridors.  Because of this, businesses such as Walgreens and the Residence Inn have been able to take tax credits for investing in areas that they would have invested in anyhow.

Two weeks ago the council refused to place the grant acceptance on the agenda.  Tonight they will vote on whether to accept $1.4 million to hire additional fire fighters.  Again, in most places this would be a no-brainer and on the consent agenda.  The fire department says it can use the additional fire fighters.  The federal government will pick up the cost for two years.  What’s the problem?

As always, the devil is in the details and Salisbury’s council majority always looks at the details.  This matter would probably have been settled, but Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton doesn’t like details and doesn’t like to answer questions.  Instead he prefers press conferences where he can attack said council majority without giving them a chance to respond.

Questions that need to answered include:

  • How does the mayor plan to pay for the new firefighters after the grant runs out?  Is he planning on laying them off or is he going to propose an increase in the property tax rate (of 3 – 4 cents)?
  • The Mayor, the fire department, the Daily Times, and the chattering classes have all claimed that Salisbury needs these additional fire fighters.  Why has the administration failed to request them?  Why has the fire department refused to ask for them in their annual departmental budget request?
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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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Berlin Fire Company Loses $600,000

BERLIN, MD – Allegations of harassment (regarding race, sex, and perceived sexual orientation) have just cost the Berlin Volunteer Fire Company $600,000 in funding from the Town of Berlin.  If true, the allegations could cost the fire company far more.  The potential liability, if one or more of the claimants successfully sues the fire company, could impact the town’s fire service for years to come.

The Daily Time’s Charlene Sharpe outline the charges which have led Berlin mayor Gee Williams and the town council to strip the Berlin Volunteer Fire Company of town funding.  In an op-ed, the DT chastises the fire company and its members.

Legal action is moving forward.  Time will tell to what extent the fire company, and the town, will be negatively impacted.

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