Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Annexation Accomodation

At Monday's City Council Meeting, the last with the sitting Council, members approved the annexation of two pieces of property on Forest Drive. The two pieces of property are the 6-acre Rodgers Property off Edgewood Road and the Katherine Property, a 179-acre horse farm. Given the Mayor's desire not to see an annexation moratorium and her friendly voting block on the council, the annexation moratorium was unlikely. To my mind, it wasn't the primary consideration anyway. What matters is not whether the land is in the City or the County, but how it's developed (or not).

So, the Council's adoption of a development moratorium on the two properties strikes me as precisely the right solution. The development moratorium requires that an adequacy of public facilities ordinance be in place before the properties can be developed.

The ordinance will surely include items such as water and sewer availability, roads, as well as school capacity. Council members must also be sure to include provisions covering emergency response times and the most contemporary methods for dealing with stormwater on-site.

Ultimately, it appears that the owners of the Rodgers property want to put townhouses on their site, and the owner of the Katherine property wants to set half the land aside as undeveloped, and turn the rest into a shopping center, senior community, and several estate homes. Let's hope the City can use these two recent annexations as proof that it can do development right.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Giving With One Hand, Taking With the Other

As the General Assembly prepares to override Governor Ehrlich's veto of the Fair Share Healthcare bill, which will require businesses in the state with over 10,000 employees to contribute a fixed portion of their profits to healthcare costs, state "regulators" have adopted a plan which could cause up to 450,000 Marylanders to lose prescription drug coverage.

While Delegates and Senators try to ward off the unseemly advances of Wal-Mart's hired State House streetwalkers, the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) is gutting the pharmaceutical coverage of individuals working in small business. The new plan, PharmFlex, "eliminates required coverage for brand name medications and increases the deductible employees must pay for generic drugs from $250 to $2,500 for an individual. Employees must also pay 75 percent of the generic drug price."

The move is intended to reduce insurance costs by somewhere around 10 percent. Of course, with healthcare costs climbing around 10 percent a year this hack-and-slash tactic by the MHCC is unlikely to produce any positive long term results. Instead, they'll keep cutting employee benefits while our antiquated health insurance system hangs like an albatross around our collective necks.

How about the MHCC set up a pharmaceutical buyers network to help Maryland businesses import drugs from Canada? How about they lobby for universal healthcare to give Maryland businesses a competitive advantage? No, it's easier just to trim the fat from the starving.

In the meantime, try not to get sick.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Cleaning Up Our Arteries

This weekend's Washington Post Magazine had a great piece on the efforts of locals citizens to clean up metro area streams. It begins with the account of a golf course whose herbicides poisoned Donaldson Run in Arlington, VA and explains the growth of stream protection efforts over the course of the past decade.

It also discusses, at some length, the increasing problem of impervious surface ("The Chesapeake Bay watershed has enough pavement to park 116 million cars.") and the need to effectively treat stormwater runoff.

One paved acre of land throws off 16 times more water than a one-acre meadow does. Once the impervious rating in a watershed climbs much over 10 to 15 percent, the stream that drains it begins to wash away. When the impervious rating is 55 percent, the variety of stream creatures drops by 90 percent, and sensitive species disappear entirely.

Locally, we've been lucky to have several such restoration projects in the last few years, including one in front of Edgewater Elementary, Howard's Branch in Severna Park, and Wilelinor in Annapolis. The Wilelinor project, the most recently completed of the three, transformed several failing stormwater ponds that had been seeping silt into Church Creek, into one of the most extraordinary feats of engineering I've had the pleasure to witness.

From Route 2 to Church Creek now flows a sinuous, vegetated stream, flanked by several infiltration ponds. Thanks to the efforts of local volunteers, its banks have been planted with native vegetation and shrubs, and Atlantic White Cedars climbing skyward toward the holes in the canopy.

Wilelinor's beautiful new stream

The National River Restoration Science Synthesis Project is working to develop a tool to measure the ultimate effectiveness of such projects.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Filling Up on Soy Sauce

Earlier in the week, the Post reported on the growing interest among Maryland farmers in biodiesel. The renewable resource is derived from soy beans and is cleaner burning that petroleum-based fuels.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Giving Thanks

Let's all give thanks that we're lucky enough to live in such a beautiful place, a place worth fighting for, and also give thanks to those who labored tirelessly to provide us with the food that we will enjoy today. Let us also remember those less fortunate, and provide for them as we are able. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Capital Clueless on Clean Air

The Capital editorial board predictably punted on the impacts of Governor Ehrlich's Clean Air Rule and the Healthy Air Act, instead ultimately declaring, hands in the air that, "air pollution is a national problem, and won't be solved by anything but federal laws and regulations." This was almost identical to the tactic they pulled last year regarding a bill to improve emissions standards on cars sold in Maryland.

Of course, with the current administration in Washington, we're about as likely to get federal laws and regulations cleaning up the air as we are to see the power companies clean up their act out of a dedication to public health. While, of course, some of the pollution comes from outside Maryland, state and regional accords are what we'll have to settle for until we can get responsible federal governance once again.

Rather than argue for a lowest common denominator style of government, wouldn't it be nice if we could get the Capital editorial board to demand more of those who are asleep at the wheel in DC?


Fire Fighting

If you've visited the website recently, you may have noticed the Anne Arundel County map below the masthead. Its primary purpose is to orient readers to the different towns in the county, and its general geography. However, I will also begin using it to identify areas in the county that are threatened by developers and/or government with inappropriate development.

A small flame, like the one seen below will appear on the map to indicate trouble spots. For the most part, I'll be relying upon local news accounts and my personal experience to pick these locations, but if you have any submissions of your own, I will gladly consider them. I am going to start with Crofton, the subject of today's entry.


Cleaving Crofton

The saga in Crofton continues as the Crofton Civic Association (CCA) has decided to leave the Greater Crofton Council (GCC), contending that the GCC is working against the interests of the community. Torrey Jacobson, head of the GCC, and seemingly drunk with power responded, "If they weren't only really worried about themselves, if they were really worried about the community, they would have stayed in the GCC ... We make things happen."

Unfortunately, for Crofton, among the things the GCC is trying to make happen are the creation of a landfill and a gravel pit expansion. Is this Crofton, MD or Butte, Montana? Does James Watt hold an honorary seat on the GCC?

Truly, this is ridiculous. Two massively inappropriate proposals supported by Jacobson and the GCC in two years. Looks like the next Council election is at the first meeting of the next calendar year. Why don't the folks in Crofton get a common-sense slate together, who won't sell Crofton to the highest bidder, and clean house?


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Annapolis Inn-Sanity

Annapolis, MD - 11/22/05 - In a surprise announcement, coming on the heels of a proposal to turn the King of France Tavern into a Starbucks, the centuries old Maryland Inn has recently announced its sale to the Intercontinental Hotel Group, the parent company of Holiday Inn, Inc.

The new hotel, which will retain much of the distinctive charm of the original building, will include the new owner's trademark green awnings, and an historically accurate, hand-carved, green and yellow wooden sign reading "Maryland Holiday Inn Experience at Ye Olde Annapolis Towne" facing Church Circle.

According to Annapolis' Economic Development Director, Matt Mocha, "It makes sense for the concept they have. We believe that they can bring a breath of fresh air to Annapolis, particularly if they come bearing handfuls of those pre-bedtime mints. Get it?"

"What could be more fitting for a building constructed during the revolutionary war, than to serve as yet another receptacle for corporate America's King George-like desire to insert itself into every aspect of our lives?"

This is, unfortunately, only partially satire. Any resemblance contained herein to individuals living or deceased is purely coincidental.

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An Abuse of Authority?

The Maryland Stadium Authority (MDSTAD) is the State Agency that was created in 1986 "with the mission of returning a professional National Football League (NFL) team to Baltimore and ensuring that our Major League Baseball team, the Orioles, remained in Maryland." Sounds like a somewhat dubious aim for an arm of government. After all, billionaires employing millionaires probably aren't in a position that most of us would feel merits government handouts.

So what has the MDSTAD done, and what is it up to these days? The first act of MDSTAD (and Governor Schaefer) was to build the $200 million Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The main beneficiary of this public subsidy? Eli Jacobs, who bought the team in 1989 for $70 million, and sold it in 1993, the year after Camden Yards opened, for $173 million. The return to Baltimore in terms of new jobs and incremental tax revenue, $3 million a year. Not a very good return on a $200 million investment.

The MDSTAD then undertook renovations to the Baltimore and Ocean City Convention Centers. The next big project was a $2 million retrofit of Memorial Stadium, in response to the Ravens move from Cleveland, and the eventual construction of the $220 million Raven Stadium alongside Camden Yards. The MDSTAD continues to construct projects at universities around the state, and has even constructed a minor league baseball stadium in Aberdeen. Of course, they're also now looking for some place to sink $100 million for a horse stadium.

Given that "state and local expenditures for stadiums and arenas escalated from $700 million in the mid-1970s to more than $2 billion in the early 1990s," it may be time to seriously re-think the way that we allow the wealthy individuals who are the beneficiaries of these government expenditures to continually feed at the public trough.

Is it time to dissolve MDSTAD?

A good book on the topic of public funding of sports' stadiums is Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums. Click the link to read it on-line.


Monday, November 21, 2005

McMansions, Sprawl, and the American Dream?

Sunday's Post discussed the phenomenon of the proliferation of metro-area mansions affordable to "common people," and went into some depth about this ridiculously excessive trend. We are given a tour into the brobdingnagian abodes of the beltway bourgeoisie. It's a land of unused formal dining rooms and solaria, of agoraphobic shut-ins, afraid to have their children in the company of the public. A place where 6,000 square foot homes on 10 acres allow overworked yuppies to escape into the far flung corners of their homes and ignore each other. "What I love about this is it's so big that we can go into different areas of the house and have private time, if you will," offered one.

The article closes with the ruminations of two self-indulgent Shakespeares: "Bigger bigger, better better...It's just a part of life," and "[It's] an all-about-me home. We figured we'd make this home in keeping with where our country's going."

The piece actually dovetails nicely with Tom Hortons's Sun recent commentary on population growth in the region, where he lamented the continual influx of residents to the Bay watershed and the numerous projects around the state ignoring smart growth principles, with the complicity of government officials.

The root of the problem is less population than it is the resource consumption patterns of that population. For instance, the average American's ecological footprint, the amount of resources we consume, is four times greater than the global average (23.5 acres v. 5.4 acres).

Take the ecological footprint quiz here.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Horse Stadium Update

As you may recall, last month, proponents of putting a horse stadium on top of the organic farm in Gambrills were telling us that a stadium just like it in Kentucky was bringing in around $17 million per year in tax revenues. Turns out the may have been a little off.

A recent trip to Kentucky by three county officials uncovered some interesting information. First, the Kentucky stadium is among countless other horse farms, in the middle of the countryside. Not in the middle of the suburbs. Second, about 20 percent of the 1,200-acre site is paved. And third, not only did it cost $200 million to built, it has to be subsidized to the tune of $1 million a year because it generates $7 million/year while costing $8 million/year to run.

Let's keep the Naval Academy Farm a farm and utilize it as a community asset.

[UPDATE: A helpful reader has pointed me to a grassroots effort to save the farm. Follow this link. Gambrills neighbors organize to fight horse park [The Capital]]


Governor Bobby's Pre-Emptive Strike

It's funny the way an upcoming election can change a man's entire outlook. Last session, Governor Ehrlich was mewling and whining about environmentalists' efforts to clean up Maryland's air by getting coal-fired power plants to stop polluting. Now, armed with an even more powerful coalition, a stronger bill, and an election looming, the advocates of the Healthy Air Act have apparently frightened the Guv into green-washing his image. According to Thursday's Capital, Ehrlich is proposing a watered-down version of the Healthy Air Act on his own.

The Healthy Air Act, which is supported by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland Nurses Association, and several others, proposes to regulate the output of four pollutants: nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and carbon dioxide, at seven Maryland coal-fired power plants. Ehrlich's "Maryland Clean Power Rule" excludes carbon dioxide and exempts the R. Paul Smith plant in Williamsport owned by Allegheny Energy. Below is a more detailed comparison:

Healthy Air Act:
Nitrogen oxide: 80 percent reduction by 2015.
Sulfur dioxide: 90 percent reduction by 2011.
Mercury: 90 percent reduction by 2011.
Carbon Dioxide: 10 percent reduction by 2011.

Clean Power Rule:
Nitrogen oxide: 45,000 tons per year, or 69 percent reduction.
Sulfur dioxide: 205,000 tons per year, or 85 percent reduction.
Mercury: 1,400 pounds per year, or 70 percent reduction.

We can rest fairly certain that Ehrlich's "Rule" was cobbled together by power industry consultants and shills in the administration, but at first glance, it looks like the supporters of clean air may have scared some sense into them. And hey, as an added bonus, they even got the Governor to make some baby steps towards regulating big business in the state. I'll keep you posted on how this one plays out over the next couple of months.

1998 Data on mercury output from Maryland coal plants is available here [pdf].


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Superintendent Search Forums

Last night's Superintendent Search Forums were apparently pathetically attended. Six attendees showed up at Glen Burnie and 20 showed up at Annapolis. Let's try for a better turnout tonight. Forums will be held at Arundel High School and Southern High School, beginning at 7:15pm. Whether you're a parent or not, go and give your input about what you would like to see in the next Superintendent.


Better to Bend Like the Reed Than Break Like the Stone

As the field of shoreline protection matures, a fortunate confluence is occurring. It's beginning to look like solutions that are better for the Bay and its wildlife are also better at keeping land from washing into the drink. This month's edition of the Bay Journal discusses the growing popularity of "living shorelines," an approach that "uses strategically placed plants, stone and sand to deflect wave action, conserve soil and simultaneously provide critical shoreline habitat."

Anne Arundel Soil Conservation District Manager Jeff Opel relayed a tale of how different shoreline types weathered Isabel:

"“We flew most of the county shoreline by helicopter shortly before the hurricane hit, and we flew it again about 90 days later. There was really significant damage along walls and bulkheads, and along riprap,"” Opel said. "“But when we looked at where we'’d done nonstructural work, and at wetlands along the main front of the Bay, we saw very little damage to the shoreline itself. We were very surprised. It told us we were on to something."”

Since Isabel, we've seen even more dramatically how the absence of vegetated buffers between water and land can magnify hurricane impacts.

Along with helping to prevent land from sloughing off into the water, living shorelines are a far more accommodating habitat for terrapins, crabs, and fish than either wooden bulkheads, which shear away at any vegetation that may be in front of them, or stone rip-rap, which can cause serious injury to wildlife attempting to climb over it.

Of course, there are also those who argue that erosion is a natural/inevitable process, and that those purchasing waterfront property should go into that decision with their eyes open.

If you're considering a living shoreline for your property, there are several very knowledgeable assets in the community, including Environmental Concern and local river associations like the Severn River Association, South River Federation, and Magothy River Association.

From L to R: Wooden Bulkhead, Stone Rip Rap, Headland Breakwater with Living Shoreline


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

CAC Smackdown

You've got to love the Critical Area Commission (CAC). Here you've got one State body that actually seems to have no qualms standing up for the environment and protecting our shared resources. They, as one of the final lines of defense, didn't hesitate to tell Janet Owens and Jack Keene to take their unwanted and inappropriate schemes for Franklin Point Park back to the drawing board, and now they're standing up to Stephen "Rubber Stamp" LeGendre, in the case of the home/lighthouse/pool on Little Dobbins Island.

LeGendre is the County Hearing Officer who racked up an 86 percent approval rate for variance requests in 2003, and who determined that developer Daryl Wagner's illegally built home on the Magothy could remain (but that the pool, gazebo, and lighthouse had to go). The Critical Area Commission believes that the variance standards weren't met, and is appealing the County's decision to let the house stand.

So, not only did Wagner not get the permits to build his house, he violated State Critical Area laws as well. And, he's a builder who should know better. Mr. Wagner's lawyer, Robert Fuoco, presumably beginning to feel the heat of several State agencies breathing down his neck, is apparently searching for a settlement, "It appears as if this case will take several years, and with a lot of resources involved, unless everyone is willing to sit down and figure out a reasonable accommodation."

Ideal response from the powers-that-be: "Not unless that "accomodation" involves razing your client's home and accompanying kitsch paradise, reforesting the island, and going back to the proper agencies, hat in hand to plead that Mr. Wagner doesn't deserve the maximum penalties allowed by the law."

As West/Rhode Riverkeeper Bob Gallagher said, "Failure of government to enforce the law doesn't give anyone the incentive to follow it," particularly those without a well defined sense of right and wrong.

Crimes Against the Magothy: Exhibit A

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Barely Passing English

Say what you will about the No Child Left Behind Act, any way you look at it, the fact that only 61 percent of Anne Arundel County 10th graders passed the new Maryland high school English test is distressing. Five of the twelve County high schools are on a watch list and labeled as needing improvement.

Here's how other location jurisdictions compared:

Howard County - 77%
Montgomery County - 70%
Calvert County - 69%
Frederick County - 67%
St. Mary's County - 60%


Monday, November 14, 2005

Abramoff's Oily Trail

This blog focuses almost exclusively on local issues, so I've kept my distance from many of the scandals going on at the federal level of late. However, there have been several recent pieces in the Post detailing an uncomfortable closeness between Jack Abramoff and Governor Bobby.

Long story short: Abramoff was a lobbyist and influence peddler, good friend of Tom DeLay, and swindler of Native American gaming interests. He's now under arrest for fraud.

Curious to see just how deeply Abramoff's tendrils plunged into Maryland politics, I turned to the trusty Maryland Board of Elections campaign finance database. I was not let down. A summary of my findings is below:

1) Bob Ehrlich - Jack Abramoff, Pam Abramoff (his wife?), Franklin Abramoff, Jane Abramoff (his parents?) of Rancho Mirage, CA all gave the future Guv the maximum $4k during the 2001/2002 cycle. In 2003, Jack and Pam again gave $4k each. For being DC and CA residents, respectively, they sure love our Guv, to the tune of $24k.

2) Montgomery County Republicans - Jack - $2,500 in 2004.

3) Alex Mooney (R) - One of the most regressive members of the Maryland Senate received $1k from Jack in 2002.

4) Republican Legislators Committee PAC, Maryland - $1,250 from Jack in 1999/2000.

5) Republican State Central Committee Of Maryland - $4k from Jack in 2001.

6) The Victory Team Slate - Received $2k from both Jack and Pamela in 2002.

Jack's contributions during the 2002 Cycle (1/1/1999-12/31/2002):

1) $4k, Bob Ehrlich (10/29/2001)
2) $1k, Alex Mooney (05/20/2002)
3) $250, Republican Legislators Committee PAC, Maryland (11/12/1999)
4) $1k, Republican Legislators Committee PAC, Maryland (12/15/2000)
5) $4k, Republican State Central Committee Of Maryland (10/09/2001)
6) $2k, The Victory Team Slate (04/12/2002)

According to Election Law § 13-226: A person can contribute no more than $4,000 to one campaign finance entity, and a total of $10,000 to all campaign finance entities, during the four-year cycle.

Looks to me like Jack contributed over $12,000 during that period. Has anyone notified the proper authorities?

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State of D Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation just released its State of the Bay report [pdf]. The Bay gets a 27 out of 100, a "D". Sounds more like an F- to me.


Bringing Back Back Creek

Regardless of what can be said about Mayor Moyer on issues like the Market House and her, at times, less than sunny demeanor, one of the areas in which she has tremendous credibility is in her support for the environment and city beautification. I suspect it's one of the many reasons she was re-elected.

Her support for Greenscape as both an Alderwoman and Mayor has helped one of the most innovative and successful, local public-private partnerships flourish for going on 14 years now. The city spends around $15,000 buying plants and residents around the City of Annapolis spend a day a year beautifying their neighborhoods and various community landmarks.

One of Moyer's ongoing initiatives has been to clean up Back Creek Nature Park. As a result of the Mayor's persistence, and the hard work of volunteers like Mel Wilkins, the stormwater running off Back Creek Nature Park is being filtered in rain gardens, the shoreline has been secured with biologs and restored, and native plants have been dispersed throughout.

Hats off to the tireless volunteers who are helping the bring back Back Creek, and the rest of the waterways and natural areas in our community.

Volunteers restoring the shoreline at Back Creek Nature Park. Photo courtesy Mel Wilkins.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Annapolis Film Festival

This weekend marks the third annual Annapolis Film Festival. The festival features the work of local filmmakers, showcases our magnificent capital city, and partners with community institutions like Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. The founders of the festival hope to turn Annapolis into a destination for independent film-screenings. Sounds like a pretty good time. The festival begins tonight at 7:30pm at Maryland Hall.

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Clearing the Critical Area

On Tuesday, the Capital reported that local waterkeepers are working with the University of Maryland's Environmental Law Center to commission a study assessing how effectively the State and County have been enforcing the Critical Area Act.

I suspect many of us who spend time around the water, particularly the waterkeepers, have a pretty good idea of the likely answer to this question. Good thing it's being done pro bono.

When informed of the prospective study, County Spokesperson Pam Jordan offered, "For those who knowingly or unknowingly violate the Critical Area laws, enforcement penalties in Anne Arundel County have never been stronger." Given that a 2003 University of Virginia Environmental Law Journal study found that 86 percent of the critical area variances applied for in Anne Arundel County were granted, it's hard to decide whether to laugh or shed a tear at such earnestness.

My guess on the findings: 1) The fines for violations are still too low; 2) There aren't enough inspectors to do the job properly (and so it isn't getting done properly); and, 3) when the county does accidentally stumble upon the occassional violation, the political will to prosecute the case fully is lacking. Therefore, if you're wealthy enough, and most waterfront homeowners are, you clearcut down to the water, pay a couple grand, and tell the County to go stuff it.

The critical area is "all land and water areas within 1,000 feet beyond the landward boundaries of tidal wetlands, the Bay and its tributaries." Within this area, which almost every waterfront home in the county surely is (as well as many homes that may not even be waterview), it is illegal to clear or cut trees, or build or grade without a permit. That means, if you live within 1,000 feet of the water, you need to contact the Critical Area Commission and get permission in advance to do these things.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

And the Beat Goes On

Banging the drumbeat against uncontrolled development can get rather monotonous after awhile, but someone has to do it. There's some solace in the fact that Dan Nataf's most recent survey out of the Center for the Study of Local Issues confirms what most of us already know: We're sick and tired of having more development and its attendant traffic foisted upon us. Thirty-six percent of county residents surveyed identified growth and transportation as the biggest issues facing the county (up 8 percentage points from the spring).

Good news from the poll is that 70 percent of respondents back increasing bus and light rail service, even if it results in higher taxes. And, 56 percent support paying an annual $60 watershed restoration fee, to help repair the impacts of stormwater damage to the environment.

Bad news on the horizon: The projected growth in west county as a result of the expansion of Fort Meade is going to cost the County billions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades that will, according to County Executive candidate Dennis Callahan (D), leave little spending available for "luxury items."

Why can't we get some politicians in office who will actually do something about these issues, rather than just give lip service to them? Only 362 days or so until we can do something about it.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Spin Doctors Prescribed a Faulty Rx

Seeing the results of yesterday's Annapolis election, I was reminded of a recent Capital article on local campaign consultants helping out Annapolis campaigns. I thought it would be interesting to go back and see how each of the coached candidates fared on election day.

SpinRx Management Systems/C.B. & Melissa Currier :
George Kelley - Lost

Scott Strategies/Lawrence Scott:
Michael Christman - Won
Doug Burkhardt - Lost
Laura Townsend - Lost
Gilbert Renault - Lost

Vickey Wilcher, Washington, DC Advisor:
Wayne Taylor - Won

So, of those mentioned in the article who had paid advisors, only 1/3 won. At least one, Republican George Kelley, fared considerably worse (18 percent) than even late polling numbers suggested he would (~25 percent). Though, it was no secret that Republican support for Kelley was weak at best.

Nevertheless, the article does offer a couple of important takeaway points. The first is that, if you're out of touch with your constituents, it really doesn't matter how much you pay someone to polish your image. The second is former Mayor Al Hopkins' sage (and free) advice that if you really want to win, you'll get out and knock on doors. "You don't need a campaign .... You need your feet and your fists. This is City Council, not a federal office or state office."

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Annapolis Winners

Mayor: Ellen Moyer (D)
Ward 1: Richard Israel (D)
Ward 2: Michael Christman (R)
Ward 3: Classie Gillis Hoyle (D)
Ward 4: Wayne Taylor (D)
Ward 5: David Cordle (R)
Ward 6: Julie Stankivic (I)
Ward 7: Sam Shropshire (D)
Ward 8: Josh Cohen (D)

Looks like a near total repudiation of the creeping conservatism that just months ago threatened the City.


Get Out and Vote!

If you live in the City of Annapolis, today is the general election day. Get out there and do your part for democracy.

I would like to thank each of the candidates for running, and for dedicating a significant portion of their time in an effort to serve the public.

Don't know the candidates? Capital profiles of each of the races. More profiles.

Don't know your polling place? Click here [pdf].

If you don't live in the City of Annapolis, you'll have to wait another year.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Extreme Weather Woes

On a beautiful day like those we had this past weekend, it's difficult (not to mention unpleasant) to conjure up images of category 5 destruction like that left in the wake of Katrina other other hurricanes that have hit the US in the past several years. But, according to several recent reports, including one in last week's Post, experts are issuing dire warnings about the likelihood of more extreme storms hitting the Atlantic basin in the next 15 to 20 years.

Extreme weather cycles combined with overdevelopment in waterfront areas during the more sedate periods and destruction of valuable wetland buffer have left many coastal areas in the Atlantic and Gulf coast exceedingly vulnerable to destruction.

Certainly many Anne Arundel County residents, particularly those in waterfront Annapolis and south county, suffered massive damage from Isabel in 2003. Unfortunately, according to another report, this time from the Maryland Department of the Environment, the county is vulnerable to upwards of $1 billion in damage from future flooding because of its proximity to the Bay and abundance of waterfront housing.

Keeping homes in Anne Arundel County out of the 100-year flood plain, and those in hurricane alley out of the waterfront regions most likely to flood or be destroyed by storm surge might, as well as restoring wetland buffer, might not be the most popular decisions, but they are ones that will help save lives and billions of dollars when we weather the next inevitable storm.

NOTE: If you're in Annapolis (or Virginia), don't forget that tomorrow is election day!

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Snowden Job

Once a man who ascended to local office on the vision of a classless society, now, increasingly just a man without class, Carl Snowden used his opportunity as moderator at Tuesday night's NAACP/RESPECT candidate forum to ambush Ward 6 Independent candidate Julie Stankivic.

Probing the candidate's personal life, he stated, "(Del. Leopold) said you sent him a letter describing yourself as a reincarnated Egyptian princess," and asked her to respond. Predictably, and wisely, Stankivic offered no comment. The attempt by Snowden to tar Stankivic hints at concerns that this year's rematch with Alderwoman Cynthia Carter may be running considerably closer than the 2001 race.

For some time, Snowden, who serves as an aide to the County Executive, has gotten a free pass on his bad behavior, though, Tuesday night a candidate from Ward 1, Doug Burkhardt wasn't afraid to tell him, "I just wanted to say, that's a very inappropriate question." I couldn't agree more, and I hope that the NAACP and RESPECT will seriously consider barring Mr. Snowden from moderating future events of this sort.

And, Carl, regarding tumultous personal lives, always remember what they say about people who live in glass houses.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Boschert Jumps Into the Mix

In a move that's been anticipated for some time, Delegate David Boschert (R) of Crownsville has officially entered the race for County Executive. With Boschert's entry, the Republican field becomes just a bit more crowded. The other Republicans running for the seat include: Del. John R. Leopold, Phillip D. Bissett, the 2002 party nominee for county executive, Tom Angelis, a Baltimore schoolteacher, and Gregory V. Nourse, an assistant superintendent for Anne Arundel County public schools.

Boschert wants to encourage the private sector to build a 13th county high school (presumably in his current district), which is interesting news given that the Capital just reported that "Schools are bursting at the seams in west county". Perhaps Boschert supports the rubble landfill for school extortion currently transpiring in Crofton. Neither article is clear on that point. What is clear though, is that the legislators "serving" the Crofton area have been asleep at the wheel for the past decade on this issue. Neither the County Council representation, Bill Burlison (7 years), nor the state legislature representation, Boschert (over 15 years), has brought this high school to Crofton. Despite the fact that that area has had a population boom in the past 20 years, and has needed a high school badly for the last 10.

This question goes to Burlison (who is running for US House), Boschert (who is running for Executive), and could easily be asked of Martin O'Malley as well: Why should we give politicians who haven't been able to take care of their constituents at the local level, the chance to fumble their way up the political ladder. Have we become guilty of promoting the Peter Principle among our pols?


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Consistently Cramming the Crabpot

Another report on the Bay, another indication that we're overharvesting its bounty. According to a recent report released by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science there are approximately 300 million crabs in the Bay, as opposed to two or three times that many as recently as 10 years ago.

Turns out that several times in the past 10 years, many more crabs were taken than should have been in order to sustain the population. The authors contend that, in order for the population to remain steady, no more than 50 percent of the legal-size crabs should be caught in a given year. In some of the years between 1998 and 2002, over 75 percent of the legal-sized crabs were taken by commercial watermen and recreational crabbers. The report also indicated that the levels of female crabs ready to breed have dropped precipitously, by perhaps as much as 80 percent.

We are, generally, a pretty smart group of people, or at least we like to think of ourselves as such. Certainly, no population in human history has had the unprecedented access to education and information that we currently have. Yet, with all this information, the reams of evidence in universities all across the watershed, and the obvious deterioration of the Bay and its resources before our eyes, we pretend like we're paralyzed to do anything about it.

Remember, we have not inherited the earth, we are merely borrowing it from future generations.

Callinectes sapides