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Cecil County Chatter: Hold the Phone; Bailey Dials 911, Broomell’s 411, Whig Gets Ringtones

October 8, 2012
By Nancy Schwerzler

Commentary

Bailey Dials 911, McCarthy Urges “Repeal” of Controversial Animal Law

We’re not sure on what frequency Pamela Bailey, the Democratic candidate for County Council for District 1, operates, but it clearly wasn’t the same as others in the room for a candidates’ discussion before a small audience at an Earleville church breakfast on Saturday. Also attending was her Republican rival in the election, Dr. Alan McCarthy.

Bailey reiterated her key campaign slogan, “I have known a lot of people for a long time,” and said she wouldn’t want to go swimming in the Stemmers Run stream. She responded to a question about how to “resolve” the controversy over the lack of animal control services under a new animal ordinance by saying everyone should just call 911 and “we’ll get you someone out there to help you.”

And when asked about the proposal to build a new vocational-technical school on the Basell property on Appleton Road, Bailey—who works as a secretary at the current limited vo-tech school in North East—went on at length about how great the current principal, her boss, is. She declared that any money spent on a new vo-tech school should be given to the principal to handle, “not the administration” of the county schools or the school board.

(Bill Manlove, a current school board member and the former County Commissioner from District 1, happened to be in the room. His breakfast must have ended in indigestion at her declarations, which seemed to be on another frequency from the law of how public education finances are managed.)

Dr. McCarthy, a veterinarian and businessman from Chesapeake City, said a new vo-tech school would be “a great addition to the public school system” and that the potential $6.5 million purchase price of the 91-acre site, with a building housing fully equipped science labs, was “a drop in the bucket” compared to its long term value to the county.

McCarthy said he would “get straight to the point” about how to resolve the animal control issue, calling for “immediate repeal” of the new ordinance, which a majority of the current commissioners are now considering re-writing just days after it went into effect. “This is a ridiculous piece of legislation,” he said, that “made it so burdensome” that the Cecil County SPCA walked away from continuing to do animal control.

A broad-based task force spent two years re-writing the animal law and a public hearing was held in early 2011 on the plan. But after the task force disbanded, a Perryville veterinarian, Mindy Carletti, re-wrote the proposal, which was adopted in July on a 3-2 commissioners’ vote.
McCarthy said the county should go back to the previous ordinance and rework it to “make a sensible piece of legislation.”

McCarthy also spoke knowledgably about a hot Earleville issue—the proposed renewed dumping of dredge spoil material from the C&O canal on an Army Corps of Engineers site. Local residents say their wells have been contaminated by past dumping and the results of a new study of environmental impacts is being withheld.

McCarthy said it was “unconscionable” that the federal Corps was “trying to stonewall” local residents on the study findings. He said there should be a continued “moratorium” on new dredge spoil dumping until impacts of past dumping are evaluated and corrected.

Bailey said she was “not afraid to pick up the phone” and call state environmental officials about the issue. She also said she “wouldn’t attempt to swim in Stemmers Run.”

Three Amigos Down to One? Broomell Turns to Facebook 411

In several County Commissioners worksession votes recently, the usual Three Amigos majority voting bloc—consisting of Diana Broomell (R-4), James Mullin (R-2) and Michael Dunn (R-5)—is showing signs of political strain. There have been several 4-1 votes leaving Broomell standing all alone.

That would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, when Mullin—president of the board—often went through verbal and calendar gyrations to avoid a formal vote if he thought its outcome would upset or disagree with Broomell.

To some extent, the recent slaps have been her own doing, as when she insisted on an immediate vote on her plan to create a $100,000 county council auditor position—when the discussion clearly indicated the other commissioners didn’t agree with her plan to tap the county ‘fund balance’ to pay for it.

But there are political signs that Campaign 2014 may be partially in play here. Mullin will be out of a job after the November election, since he lost the GOP primary to retain his seat. But Dunn, who has been verbally and often physically invisible for most of his nearly two years in office, is suddenly finding a voice and seems to be reading from some new scripts. Dunn’s seat is up for re-election in 2014.

There may be a quick sidetrip to the woodshed for Dunn, who published under his name a screed against the Basell property vo-tech school site, which Broomell also opposes. But Dunn’s former employer, Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36), has voiced some support for the concept and may pull Dunn along with him in a counter-offer on the proposal. The vo-tech school has drawn much public support from local business groups, always an important sector in a political campaign.

Broomell has become a very controversial figure in local politics and was overwhelmingly defeated in the GOP primary for County Executive by Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2). There have been some rumblings in local political circles that Broomell might seek a newly-drawn state legislative seat covering Cecil and Harford counties rather than seek re-election to her post in Elkton.

Meanwhile, in the past few days Broomell has taken to Facebook to attack Moore on the new animal control ordinance, which Broomell voted for after admittedly not reading the text before the vote. Broomell is now seeking to re-write the ordinance and is drumming up her campaign on the wall of a group tied to backers of a dog rescue group now bidding on an animal control contract with the county.

So when the going gets 4-1 tough, there’s always a Facebook 411 to call…

Whig Adds “O Canada” to its Ringtones

First there was “Waltzing Matilda” on The Cecil Whig’s ownership ringtones and now there’s “O Canada,” according to the three-day-a-week print newspaper’s latest published statement of ownership.

The Whig and several other Eastern Shore and Delaware newspapers were sold several years ago in a highly-leveraged buyout deal to an Australian-based media company. But the deal went sour before too long and a cadre of banks, lenders and other mega-bucks entities called in the debts and took over.

So right at the top of the ownership list is General Electric Capital Corp., followed by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, and the Royal Bank of Canada. Add in a few more Aussie banks and it’s quite an array of distant moneymen interests who, of course, couldn’t find their way to Earleville with a GPS.

The sad state of newspaper ownership these days, played out in much larger media markets than Cecil County, is that the moneymen slash and trash the assets and the costs—that is, the editors and reporters who create the product and the people who sell and create the ads—to squeeze out every penny from the operation. Then if they can put some fancy lipstick on the pig, they will try to unload it to someone else to get back as much of their original investment as they can.

Along the way, the poor readers get a lot of formula lists—like weekly fill-in-the-blanks templates—of “features” that take just a few minutes for an intern to fill in.

Perhaps we can look forward to lists of “fun facts” about Canada, too.

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