Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Beating a Dead Horse Stadium

The Post reports that hundreds of local residents have signed a petition opposing the proposed Gambrills horse center.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Catfish as Canary, II

Well, the results are in, and they aren't good. Of the 30 brown bullhead catfish pulled from the South River for study earlier in the year, 13 had skin cancer, 3 had liver cancer, and 3 had both. As was covered here in March, the exact cause of the tumors isn't known, but one strong possibility is polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), carcinogens that are often the product of unburned petroleum fuel.

The Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who performed the research on the catfish, Dr. Fred Pinkney, said the 50 percent skin cancer rate was the highest he had found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in the last 10 years. The liver tumor rate was second only to the Anacostia River, which has served essentially as a public sewer for much of the past 50 years (but is now attempting a renaissance of sorts). According to Dr. Pinkney, "I use this as an indicator of habitat quality, and it tells me the habitat quality is not good," in case there was any doubt.

Next steps? The South River Federation and Dr. Pinkney are seeking additional funding so that they can study catfish and sediment samples from some of the surrounding estuaries, such as the Severn River and Rhode River.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Composting Tips

A good piece on the art of composting in the Post.


Re-Capping the Capital

Yesterday's Capital was chock full of all sorts of local interest pieces.

Judging from "Horse park could generate $100 million yearly, 1,600 jobs" the Capital is now reprinting, in full, press releases from the Maryland Stadium Authority. I was a bit surprised to see that Alison Asti wasn't given a by-line. The article enumerates, in some detail, all of the glorious benefits that we might see if Gambrills were to get a horse stadium.

"Annapolis Neck Road residents demand annexation" tells the story of an Annapolis community that has, somehow, seen the surrounding prosperity pass it by. Now, its residents want annexation, and the development dollars they have been assured will come with it. The city seems more than willing to oblige. I thought the general theme of the 2005 Annapolis election was "Let's put the breaks on annexation and development," but I could be mistaken.

A precious piece on Executive Owens' frustration with the head of the Greater
Crofton Council, Torrey Jacobsen, "Owens chides Crofton's dealmaking with developers", informs us that Owens may be a bit nervous someone is cutting in on her territory, negotiating away the county for trinkets and baubles.

Finally, "Gondolas the solution to city's traffic congestion?" tells the story of a couple so desperate to negotiate an Annapolis without traffic, they're behind the idea of bringing ski lifts to the city. When was the last time anyone used Annapolis transit? I will concede though, fur-bedecked yuppies riding through the sky, looking down at the people who make the city go, huddled in our ClearChannel-funded bus stops does offer a frighteningly authentic picture of Annapolis in the 21st century.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ehrlich Donkey Kicks Proposed Horse Park

Who would have thought I'd have the opportunity to thank the Governor and the County Executive simultaneously? Governor Ehrlich has said he's going to withhold the state money to finance a horse park at the organic farm in Gambrills because the park lacks the support of the County Executive. This, in light of the fact that both the Governor and the Speaker of the House, Mike Busch, apparently like the poorly conceived idea.

The County's share of the potential boondoogle could be $30 million, and Executive Owens has declared, "I'm utterly not ready to make such a commitment." Annapolis Mayor, Ellen Moyer, who has been a key supporter of the project, offered inadvertantly encouraging news upon hearing the Governor's decision, "I think it basically means it's dead."

The horse industry, however, is holding out hope that financing could be secured in the 2007 legislative session. Translation, those truly concerned about the proposed horse stadium should make it a "litmus" test for candidates running for County Executive, and perhaps even Gubernatorial candidates.

Economic and traffic impact studies on the project are due out in the next month or so.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 23, 2006

Greening Maryland One Roof at a Time

Monday's Post has a profile on Maryland Green Roof legend
Ed Snodgrass.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Don't Fear the Turtle

Today's Post has a good piece on Marguerite Whilden's valiant efforts to keep the Maryland state reptile out of overseas soup pots.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Owens Fails to Get the Message

Despite just barely getting re-elected County Executive against a fairly weak candidate in 2002, Janet Owens thinks she's got the stuff to represent the County in DC. Given her work to satisfy the defense/intelligence industry developers who have big plans to turn west county into a sprawling metropolis, she very likely has some high-level federal connections with deep pockets.

Problem, for her, is, the race for the District 3 House of Representatives seat already has 7 other Democrats trying to replace Ben Cardin. Several of them have far fewer negatives than the Queen.

How's this for prognostication? Janet decides to run as a Republican for the seat (no Republicans have entered the race), and throws the lion's share of her $200,000+ warchest (which can't be spent on a federal race) to her loyal waterboy, Dennis Callahan, who has his eyes, it is said, on the County Executive race in 2006.

Callahan could reliably be counted on to continue Owens' mission of selling the county to the highest bidder. Just imagine the pipeline that could be uncorked from K Street to Calvert Street if this unfortunate set of bids somehow got traction.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Leviticus-Based Constitutional Amendments I Would Consider

The whole gay marriage brouhaha has gotten me to thinking, "if we're going to use the Bible to start writing Maryland's laws, how can we best put it to use?" Consider for example:

Leviticus 11:9-12:

9 These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. 10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: 11 They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. 12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

A constitutional amendment banning the eating of shellfish? Hardly a step could be taken that would do more to preserve our ailing oyster, crab, and clam populations. So the watermen don't like it. I guess the wages of sin aren't that lucrative.

Leviticus 11:13-19:

13 These are the birds you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, 16 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, 18 the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, 19 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.

I'm not aware that eating herons or ospreys is a particular problem, but let's go ahead and codify it anyway.

Leviticus 19: 9 When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

Sounds like precisely what the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is working on right now. Farmers, leave that land around the edges undeveloped, particularly land that borders waterways. As for offering excess harvest to the poor. Who could disagree with that?

Leviticus 19: 13 Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.

Astonishingly, most people have to wait two weeks for a paycheck. Good luck getting the Maryland Chamber of Commerce on board with this one. Can you imagine the shrill bellyaching about "higher administrative costs" we'd hear if this got before the Gov?

Leviticus 19: 18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

My guess is this one is really going to cheese off those death penalty junkies.

Other suggestions are welcome.

Labels: ,

Mauling Marylanders with Matrimony

Delegate Don Dwyer (R - Glen Burnie) seems to have gay marriage on-the-brain more frequently than even Elton John these days. The disgruntled delegate, who has spent most of his time in the legislature railing against some minority group, whether it be immigrants or homosexuals, is now stomping his feet, trying hard to get a constitutional amendment preventing gay marriage introduced in the State House.

Of course, while some true believers, like Dwyer feel this is a matter of foremost state concern, other Republicans are content to simply use it as an election year bludgeon against Democrats who would be put between a rock-and-a-hard-place. Not wanting to be accused of being "anti-family" by Republicans, many of our more cowardly Democratic Delegates and Senators, would see no choice but to support the amendment, even if it meant joining in league with the homophobic bigots, and betraying a traditional constituency, people who support civil rights. Not surprisingly, Democrats in the House are looking to make it difficult to introduce such an amendment.

Are things so grand in Glen Burnie that its delegates have time to piddle away on depriving Marylanders of their rights, rather than focusing on improving the quality of life for their constituents? Mr. Dwyer, why not put down your club and help with one of these issues?

  • Eastern District Needs New Police Station

  • Local High School Needs Walls

    "Ain't no gays gittin' married here on mah watch. No suh."

    [UPDATE: The ACLU just won its case, with a Baltimore Judge ruling that same-sex couples should be given the right to marry in Maryland. The opponents of civil rights are sure to appeal this one to Maryland's highest court.]

    Labels: ,

  • Thursday, January 19, 2006

    County Executive Warchest Update

    John Leopold - $450,000 (almost half is loaned from himself)
    Phil Bissett - $68,000
    David Boschert - $14,000
    Tom Angelis - $327
    Greg Nourse - $500

    George Johnson - $612,000
    Barbara D. Samorajczyk - $39,800
    Dennis Callahan - $0


    Later Start Times Delayed Indefinitely

    A 4-4 vote by the County School Board defeated the proposal to delay start times at county high schools. Student Board member, Pallas Snider, has vowed, however, to keep up the fight, hoping to get the $3-4 million required for the change inserted into the School Board's budget.


    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    Ehrlich Pledges Green for Green

    There's no question, election years do funny things to people. Yesterday's Sun reported that Governor Ehrlich is planning to put $440 million back into the Program Open Space budget that he raided earlier in his term. The Governor took hundreds of millions of dollars from the fund, which consists of money raised through a real estate transfer tax, during the tight budget years. Now he would like to place $258 million into Program Open Space this year, and $115 million into the Rural Legacy Program.

    Ehrlich is also discussing the possibility of additional funding for "Chesapeake Bay restoration programs, renewable energy development and agricultural programs designed to limit runoff into the state's waterways." Lest we be overwhelmed by Ehrlich's "generosity", it's important to take Dru-Schmidt Perkins' words to heart, "The issue is that this is dedicated funding that we're celebrating him for not stealing money from."

    Nevertheless, this signals increasingly bad news for the state Democrats. Ehrlich led the way on the groundbreaking "flush fee" legislation to clean-up waste treatment plants (and, reluctantly, septic systems), a charge Democrats with absolute control of the State House and Governor's mansion couldn't do during the 30+ years of their dominance. Perhaps Republicans are beginning to realize they need solid environmental credentials to get re-elected in Maryland. Democrats should wake up and set the bar higher. Some sort of protection against raiding Program Open Space funding in the future would be a nice start.

    Labels: ,

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    More Good News from the Legislature

    The Legislature has secured another veto override, this time raising Maryland's minimum wage from $5.15 and hour to $6.15. There's no question that this is not nearly enough, but it's a step in the right direction.


    Monday, January 16, 2006

    Auctioning Off the Future

    The Sunday Capital had a three article set on the shenanigans going on in west county these days. Much of it has been discussed here before, some of it hasn't. All of it should have Croftonians who are paying attention up in arms. Anyone figure out when that Greater Crofton Council Election is? [UPDATE: The GCC election took place last week, and the current slate ran unopposed]

    Developers buying community support in west county - Even Janet Owens is "concerned about very few individuals [read: Torrey Jacobson] representing their services as the voice of the entire community, privately negotiating with developers." Of course, her objection may just be that the community is extracting any concession at all from developers.

    Deals with community part of cost of doing business - The laundry list.

    Why west county is fertile ground for deal-making - Because developers can make money off it, obviously.

    All in all, nice reporting by the Capital though.


    Friday, January 13, 2006

    Methane Mandates Meade Mobilization

    The Sun reports that 12 families were evacuated from homes built adjacent to a former landfill at Fort Meade because of concerns about a methane leak. Despite having found the buried World War II-era landfill three years ago, the private developer, Picerne Military Housing, built the homes before the area could be fully assessed.

    Perhaps Ft. Meade officials should be put in touch with someone at the EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP).


    Anne Arundel Assembly Members on Fair Share Healthcare

    By the numbers:

    Voted to Override

    John A. Giannetti Jr., D-Prince George's (District includes parts of Anne Arundel)
    Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel
    Virginia P. Clagett, D-Anne Arundel
    Barbara Frush, D-Prince George's
    Mary Ann Love, D-Anne Arundel
    Pauline H. Menes, D-Prince George's
    Brian R. Moe, D-Prince George's

    Voted to Sustain Veto

    John C. Astle, D-Anne Arundel
    James E. DeGrange Sr., D-Anne Arundel
    Janet Greenip, R-Anne Arundel
    Philip C. Jimeno, D-Anne Arundel
    Joan Cadden, D-Anne Arundel
    Robert A. Costa, R-Anne Arundel
    Donald H. Dwyer Jr., R-Anne Arundel
    Terry R. Gilleland Jr., R-Anne Arundel
    John R. Leopold, R-Anne Arundel
    Tony McConkey, R-Anne Arundel
    Herbert H. McMillan, R-Anne Arundel
    Theodore J. Sophocleus, D-Anne Arundel


    The House Comes Through as Well

    The Maryland State House managed 88 votes to override the Governor's veto of the Fair Share Healthcare bill (85 were needed). A hearty "thank you" to the legislators in both the House and Senate who put their duty to their constituents above the desire of big business to be subsidized by the public. To those who voted to sustain the veto, you won't be forgotten.


    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Senate Abides the Will of Maryland Voters

    Today, the Maryland Senate voted 30-17 to override the Governor's veto of the Fair Share Healthcare bill. Anne Arundel Senators John Astle, Phil Jimeno, and James DeGrange were the only Democrats to join the Republican opposition to the bill.

    Tomorrow, the House.


    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    The Session Begins!

    Today the 90-day Maryland Legislative session begins. First on the docket, veto overrides. Then, we can get into the additional series of bills aimed to work the electorate into a frenzy, such as those aimed at child abductors/abusers, immigrant rights, and tax cuts.

    Buckle your seatbelt and get ready for a wild ride, and be sure your Delegates and Senators hear from you at least a few times over the course of the next three months.


    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    More Research on School and Sleep

    Today's Post reports additional research of the value of starting school later so students can get more sleep.


    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Studying the Swing Votes

    Last Thursday, the Post offered a pre-General Assembly preview of the Delegate and Senate races in Anne Arundel County in 2006. The piece parrots the oft-repeated, superficial claim that Anne Arundel is "conservative-leaning." But, is it really? Let's compare some facts and figures:

    • In 2004, Anne Arundel went 56%-44% for Bush/Cheney (R) against Kerry/Edwards (D).
    • In 2002, Anne Arundel went 65%-35% for Ehrlich/Steele (R) against Townsend/Larson (D).
    • In 2000, Anne Arundel went 52%-45% for Bush/Cheney (R) against Gore/Lieberman (D).
    • Current voter registration (July, 2005 [pdf]): 137,134 Democrats (44%); 121,700 Republicans (39%); 53,000 Unaffiliated (17%).
    • In 2004, Anne Arundel went 56%-44% for Barbara Mikulski (D) against E.J. Pipkin (R).
    • In 2000, Anne Arundel went 52%-48% for Paul Sarbanes (D) against Paul Rappaport (R).
    Additional Information
    • Regarding a county surplus, a majority of residents support having the county spend or keep the money (47 percent) to having the money returned to taxpayers (45 percent).
    • An overwhelming majority (58 percent) support state funding for embryonic stem cell research (only 34 percent oppose).
    • Similar numbers (56 percent) support levying a $60/year stormwater fee for erosion remediation (only 38 percent oppose).
    • Massive numbers support tax incentives for solar or wind power (78 percent) and hybrid vehicles (74 percent) (only 16 percent and 23 percent oppose, respectively).
    • A huge majority (70 percent) support increasing light rail and bus service, even if it requires government subsidies (26 percent oppose).
    • Of those who responded, a majority oppose making it easier to develop nuclear power plants (47 percent to 43 percent).
    • In Legislative District 30, which includes Annapolis and the Broadneck Peninsula, 63 percent of voters support the Fair Share Healthcare Bill to make large employers pay a share of employee health coverage (26 percent oppose).
    Based on these numbers, I think it's absolutely false to say Anne Arundel "leans conservative." It's accurate to say that the County has a tendency of voting for Republicans in presidential elections (even Bob Dole won the County in 1996) and gubernatorial elections (Ellen Sauerbrey beat Glendening in 1998). But, that's where the trend ends. Anne Arundel has gone to Democrats during the last two US Senate races (and more heavily in the most recent), and still has a substantial registration edge for Democrats.

    On the issues, the results look even less impressive for traditional "conservative" values. The County as a whole is fiscally moderate, though large percentages of its residents support using government to subsidize alternative fuels and public transit, and are willing to absorb some costs directly to help improve the environment. On science and research, a large percentage reject the current conservative push to limit stem cell research and increase the use of nuclear energy. Finally, rather than a laissez faire approach to business, residents overwhelmingly believe that government should be used to make corporations function in a socially responsible manner in the state.

    Simply based on the issues, rather than past partisan voting patterns, Anne Arundel looks much more like a fiscally-moderate/liberal and socially liberal County, than a County "leaning conservative." I'll leave it to the social scientists to explain the divergence at the presidential polling booth.


    Friday, January 06, 2006

    Filling in the Bay

    If there's a common theme among recent critical area violators, it's that they have no respect for the government agencies which are supposed to protect our natural resources, and an unhealthy desire to adorn their houses with kitschy faux-lighthouse additions. Daryl Wagner's Little Dobbins Island story has been told here a number of times. Now, the Capital reports on William Costello's ridiculous Bay-front saga in St. Margaret's, north of Annapolis.

    In 2003, Mr. Costello's property was severely eroded as a result of tropical storm Isabel. He applied for, and was granted, an expedited permit to restore the damaged area. He did that ... and more. By the time the 300 + dump trucks had done their work, more than 10,600 sq/ft of the Bay (beyond the original property line) had been filled in. The punishment so far for illegally filling in a 1/4 acre of the Bay? A $10,000 fine. That's probably 1/40th or 1/50th of the value of the land added to the Costello's property. A fine deal for anyone courageous enough to try it.

    Surely, this was Mr. Costello's first offense, right? No. The Costello's had said the full-size Thomas Point Lighthouse replica on their property was going to be used as a garage in 1991. Instead, they turned it into a 5-room bed-and-breakfast, much to the dismay of their neighbors, and eventually, the Court of Special Appeals, who ordered that the lighthouse-cum-hotel return to its role as sentry of the sedans. According to neighbors, it continued to operate as a bed-and-breakfast until some time in 2005.

    Check out the photos on the Capital site, they're priceless.


    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Bissett for Executive Redux

    Ending months of suspense and speculation (not really), former Republican candidate for County Executive, and now current Republican candidate for County Executive, Phil Bissett filed his paperwork to run earlier this week. "It's a new year ... and we wanted to renew our effort to get our job done, to finish the job that we started four years ago," offered Bissett, inadvertently referring to the "job" of losing a tight race to Janet Owens in 2002.

    Bissett was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1991-1999.

    The race for Executive promises a crowded field, particularly on the Republican side, with Delegates John Leopold and David Boschert in the mix, as well as teacher Tom Angelis (another repeat entrant), and Gregory Nourse, a county school official.

    Labels: ,

    Steamrolling Lobbyists to Override Vetoes

    With the beginning of the 2006 Legislative Session looming, and several overrides of Governor Ehrlich's vetoes on the plate, the anti-worker, anti-Marylander lobbyists are shmoozing themselves into a frenzy. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce is trying to challenge the legality of the Fair Share Healthcare Bill, which will make Wal-Mart and other large employers in the state start covering a reasonable share of their employees' health care costs 1.

    Curious that the Chamber would rather sit by and see large employers (e.g., Giant, Safeway, Johns Hopkins) that pay for their employees' healthcare, as responsible businesses should, be penalized by employers like Wal-Mart who instead direct their employees to Medicaid.

    The National Federation of Independent Businesses is imploring its members to oppose the override of the Fair Share Bill as well as the meager increase in the minimum wage to $6.15/hr.

    If you're a business owner or citizen who is incensed by the defense of corporate irresponsibility on the part of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce or the National Federation of Independent Businesses, please drop them a line and make your opinion known. And, regardless, contact your State Senators and Delegates and ask them to help override these worker unfriendly vetoes.

    [UPDATE: Turns out that 63 percent of District 30 voters support the Fair Share bill]

    1 Few in Maryland's capital were surprised when hordes of Wal-Mart lobbyists descended upon Annapolis this fall, but few could have predicted the bizarre series of events that has ensued. During the 2005 legislative session, the Maryland Assembly passed a bill that would require the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company to spend at least 8 percent of its payroll on employee health benefits or contribute it to the State's health insurance program for the poor. After passing both the Senate and House by wide margins, Governor Ehrlich vetoed the bill. Now, the legislature is considering a veto override, which would require the support of 60 percent in each chamber, and Wal-Mart is looking to grease a few palms.

    Despite over $10 billion dollars in annual profits, Wal-Mart has thousands of employees whose wages are so low that they qualify for Medicaid, a public health insurance program for the poor. A Marshall University study found that for each Wal-Mart worker, the average state spends approximately $898 per year in Medicaid expenses. Wal-Mart has around 15,000 employees in Maryland.

    Labels: ,

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Anne Arundel School Superlatives

    Tuesday's Post provided an in-depth profile of the student member of the Anne Arundel County School Board, Pallas Snider. Turns out that Anne Arundel County Schools hold two distinctions, one pretty progressive, the other a bit more dubious. According to the article, "Anne Arundel is the only county in the nation with a school board that extends full voting rights to a student." Our high schools also begin at 7:17 am, the earliest starting times of any county in the state.

    Ms. Snider, an 18-year old senior from Severna Park High School, who sits on a Board that her Father, Jim Snider, was prevented from serving on by Parris Glendening, has taken up a number of priorities. She would like to see the 12 county high schools open their doors about 45 minutes later, at 8 am, and have the county replace valedictorian and salutatorian titles with a more general cum laude category.

    In spite of the some of the other problems that have plagued the School Board and the Superintendent over the past several years, it's nice to see that the board gives some voice to the individuals who will be most impacted by its decisions.

    To check out a on-line discussion of school start times that Ms. Snider initiated, click here.


    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Shrinking the Steeplechase

    Apparently, the community opposition to the proposed Gambrills horse stadium is making headway. The plan, submitted by the Maryland Stadium Authority has been downsized from 5,000 seats to 2,500. Unfortunately, even the downsized plan retains the original plan's fatal flaws: It's almost 9 acres of impervious "under-roof area", not to mention acres and acres of parking lots; It fundamentally shifts the use of the site from agricultural to tourism, and; It, most likely, is a net income loser (presumably even more so with the reduced size).

    The $75,000 study the County Council approved in December, examining the economic and traffic impacts of the stadium, is due out this month.


    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    Resolving to Save Energy

    Uncle Sam is making it a little easier to cut energy costs in 2006 by offering federal tax credits for the addition of energy efficiency measures to your home or vehicle. The incentives, which took effect January 1, include:
    • A credit for the lease or purchase of a hybrid vehicle from between $250 -
      $3,400 [here's the formula]. Act fast though, the tax credit will begin to be phased out for individual manufacturers (e.g., Toyota, Honda, Ford) once 60,000 of their hybrid vehicles have been sold.

    • Home energy efficiency tax credits, with an overall cap of $500. Ten percent of the cost, up to $200, for energy efficient windows or skylights. Ten percent of the cost, up to $500, for new insulation, interior doors, or a pigmented metal roof. Up to $300 of the total cost for a new central air or heat pump system or water heater. Up to $150 for an energy efficient furnace or boiler.

    Most of these incentive require that appliances meet Energy Star or equivalent standards, though, even without the incentives it's almost always wiser to go with the energy star label when it is available. Over the life of the product, you'll generally recoup any additional purchase cost (and more) in energy savings. These incentives are set to expire at the end of 2007.