Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Doublespeak on the Chesapeake

This Letter to the Editor was sent to the Baltimore Sun on January 13, in response to an article in yesterday's paper titled "EPA's new rules to limit development, farm runoff into Bay."

The Chesapeake Bay at its deepest is about 174 feet. The rhetoric about cleaning up the bay runs to much more impressive depths. Every politician, of every partisan stripe, has spun the same campaign tale about saving the Chesapeake. For decades, decades, Maryland politicians have been saying all of the right things about cleaning up the Bay, yet still here we are, with nothing but speeches.

In an Executive Order from the spring of 2009, President Obama fell in at the back of an august line of chattering Chesapeake politicos. The Executive Order cites the many failures of various state policies to make much of a difference in the Bay’s health, as the impetus for the federal government taking a leadership role in restoring this “national treasure.”

Now the EPA has begun creating new rules and regulations for storm water management, a commendable goal to be sure. But out of the public eye, the administration is actively taking steps to undermine its own so-called commitment to the Chesapeake.

In one of Maryland’s few remaining rural counties, near the headwaters of Tuckahoe Creek on the Eastern Shore, the Obama administration has decided to convert 2000 acres of open space into a diplomatic security training facility. At a time when the Bay struggles with pollution and the impacts of development, this facility would add to the already immense burden.

This development undermines on the one hand what the Obama administration seeks to do on the other. The Chesapeake has always taken a back seat as nearly unfettered growth elbowed even the best intentioned protective measures right out of the way. As we’ve seen for years, words will not restore the Bay. If the Obama administration is sincere about cleaning up the Chesapeake, it might start by holding itself accountable, and pull the plug on the Ruthsburg-Centreville training facility.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Politics of Ruthsburg

In its infinite wisdom and omnipotence, the federal government has decided to site a tactical security training facility on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The secure campus would sprawl over more than two thousand acres of land that for a hundred prior summers grew a bounty of grain. At a public hearing on Tuesday, 1/5, it appeared that the overwhelming majority of this facility’s neighbors in the Ruthsburg-Centreville area are concerned over having Big Brother in their backyard, and rightfully so.

According to the federal bureaucrats on the podium Tuesday night, this is an economic no-brainer, a gift of the highest order from the vaunted stimulus bill. After all, what are a few bombs and high-powered rifles, when we come bearing jobs? Yet even the most peripheral review of their job claims finds them over-exaggerated at best, and downright fraudulent, at worst.

Somewhere in the government’s copious files there is a classified list of thirty potential sites for this facility. Our little hamlet of Ruthsburg, tough to find on a county map, somehow rose to the top. It is mere coincidence of course that out of thirty potential sites, only the one in the most vulnerable Democratically-held congressional district became the ‘preferred’ site.

With groundbreaking scheduled to begin right around election time this fall, it strikes some that this is more than just coincidence. A vulnerable member of Congress can boast about bringing federal dollars to his district, and the voters will be eternally thankful at the ballot box just as the golden shovel enters the Ruthsburg soil. This isn’t about keeping embassies safe; it’s about keeping Democrats safe. Where did political considerations fit in the site selection process? Maybe the better question is, was that the only consideration?

Behind closed doors, Frank Kratovil supported this project before it ever became public. He thought that the promise of some pork would help his chances for a second term, but what he failed to realize is that we aren’t willing to sell our community down the river for a few jobs.

The message is abundantly clear. This was never about jobs for the good folks of Queen Anne’s county. It has only ever been about one job: Frank Kratovil’s. Yet it might just prove to be his pink slip right out of Washington.