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In November of last year, I had the great privilege and honor to volunteer to be a judge in what is called a “Project Soapbox” event organized by The Mikva Challenge (https://mikvachallenge.org/). Held in a 10th-grade classroom at the E.L. Haynes public charter school in NW DC, it was an intense and inspiring hour with around 25 African- & Hispanic-American students led by an engaged history/civics teacher at the school. The slogan of the Mikva Challenge is “Democracy is a verb.” In other words, democracy is an activity, not a static concept.
I became involved in the Mikva Challenge via a way back volunteer connection with then-Congressman Abner Mikva as an HS student in the suburbs of Chicago during the ‘70s, so I have come full circle. The MC’s mission is to create interpersonal connections between youth and adult leaders and allow them to make civic decisions together. The driving principle is that democracy is strongest when people of all ages come together to make their community better. The organization provides youth with the opportunities they need to participate in civics, and its “Action Civics” youth leadership curriculum provides materials and professional development to teachers. Action Civics is a unique student-focused, project-based, an experiential practice that can transform classrooms, schools, and whole communities. It aims to see more youth participating in civics, along with teachers and adults who are better trained to promote it in their institutions. This in turn leads to empowered, informed, and active youth who promote a just and equitable society. It also gives teachers the knowledge and confidence to implement a youth-centered pedagogy and civics curriculum, as well as adults who are more inclined to include youth in civic processes.
Project Soapbox is called “a public speaking competition that calls young people to speak out on issues that affect them and their communities.” The students identify an issue that they are passionate about and create a two-minute speech, which they stand up and deliver to their teacher and peers. The speeches ideally include researched evidence about the issue as well as a call to action for listeners, and the volunteer external judges must score each speech in real time based on how well the students meet these and other content/rhetorical benchmarks. I tried to do my best as a fresh mentor. Most of the subject matter was deeply troubling and indicative of these kids' tough personal lives. E.g. black-on-black gun violence. Online bullying. Over incarceration of people of color for drug convictions. Alienation due to phone dependency. The stigma of having ADHD. Being the single child of a single mother. Etc. In other words, it was a true mirror of the real world in which so many American children live, especially on the border of poverty. But it was also a very inspiring experience. The students are given a chance to express their deepest concerns and at the same time propose things that should happen in this world that they imagine will improve it. They’re literally given a soapbox to stand on and express their greatest fears and dreams for a better society. And they’re given immediate support to take their vision into the world with greater self-respect as more empowered, articulate citizens. It is said that “these powerful speeches have a lasting, transformative impact on classrooms, schools, and communities” -- having heard and judged them first hand, I can’t imagine that they don’t.
Every day, thanks to the Mikva Challenge, all over the country teachers are helping their students learn democracy by doing democracy. I encourage Maryland teachers living and working beyond the DC Metro area to get involved, as well as like-minded volunteer adults to become a youth mentor and/or attend one of the Mikva’s events. Visit https://mikvachallenge.org/get-involved/ for more info and to sign up. Remember, democracy is a verb!
Now I'll get off my own two-minute soapbox.
Frank X. White
Silver Spring, MD
Each bullet below is the tried and true talking point developed by PR firms for the healthcare industry to be used to sow FUD — Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt about Single Payer (SP) proposals such as National Improved Medicare for All. Following each bulleted line is the rest of the story so you won’t be deceived by the naked lie.
Industry myth about Medicare For All and the truth that disproves them:
1. Medicare For All is “Government-run health care.”
* SP would only control payments and be able to negotiate prices. Care would continue to be as today, delivered by private, public and non-profit entities.
2. Medicare For All is “Socialized medicine.”
* As proposed in Medicare For All, only the payment system will be made public. Care providers will continue to work for private groups as today. Providers would not be employed by the government.
3. We need to build on what’s working/ fix what’s broken
* What’s working? The ACA never achieved universal coverage. It implemented a private healthcare tax rewarding insurers that delay and deny care and create paperwork that creates costs, not value.
4. Single-Payer Systems cause massive wait times just look at Canada.
* Canadian wait times are a myth. We have waiting in the US and care is rationed by the ability to pay instead of the urgency of care.
5. Medicare For All would be a Middle-class tax hike
* Yes, there will be a tax to cover much lower costs. It would replace deductions for premiums. There would be no out-of-pocket copays or deductibles.
6. We need “Free market solutions.”
* Healthcare is not amenable to a free market. Their is no “shopping” for healthcare. Doctors are highly trained, but still don’t know all the answers. Everyone is different and patients prefer to trust a primary care doctor to make a referral to a specialist they trust, not hand you a list of doctors to “shop”
7. Medicare For All would “Abolish, ban, or take away your private insurance.”
* Few like their insurance or even know how inadequate it is until they need to use it. About 30% of employers change plans annually, so employees are at risk of losing providers because of changes in networks. Medicare for All would be comprehensive coverage, better than any employer plan today.
8. We need to start over from scratch
* There is no need to start from scratch to fix healthcare financing. Medicare has existed for over 50 years. The system can be expanded to cover everyone.
9 Medicare For All would be “Disruptive.”
* Another FUD word to scare people into maintaining the status quo instead of the healthier more cost effective option of Single Payer.
* Provisions cover cost of retraining and extended unemployment. 95% will be employed within two years.
10. Our healthcare system offers “Choice and competition.”
* our current system offers neither. Your employer chooses plans and the insurer chooses providers in plans. About 30% of employer plans change annually so employees risk having to switch doctors under the new plan. Single Payer would maximize choice by eliminating narrow networks of providers. There would be no instances where a hospital system would not accept coverage through an insurance company. Every provider would be part of the public payment plan.
* If you’ve ever tried to shop for a service, you know prices are difficult if not impossible to obtain. Who has time for that anyway?
11. We need to Strengthen, protect, or “build on” the ACA
* Life expectancy in the US has actually declined since the ACA was passed. Clearly, it did not help improve community health, it just boosted insurance company profits.
12. One-size-fits-all health plan
* Another FUD phrase. Insurance companies design coverages to eliminate services. After shopping for a private plan, you may find that something you need is not covered. Single Payer will cover all medically necessary care including dental, hearing and eye care.
(This article was originally published on DelmarvaNow.com)
Maryland’s Public Service Commission recently sought public comments on an issue that directly impacts Salisbury: offshore wind energy.
Salisbury is poised to be a central location for jobs serving the offshore wind projects under development off Maryland’s coast. The two projects, US Wind and Ørsted’s Skipjack Wind Farm, are expected to create 9,700 new jobs in Maryland in addition to creating enough clean energy for tens of thousands of homes.
Salisbury should welcome the opportunity to attract “green-collar” energy jobs - good-paying jobs that also contribute to a cleaner, greener energy future in Maryland.
Maryland has required that operations and maintenance jobs for those turbines be located on the Lower Shore. As a newly-elected City Councilwoman for District 4, I will take all appropriate steps to help our city attract these jobs.
I encourage the Maryland Public Service Commission and state policymakers to let offshore wind jobs move forward without delay. Advancing clean energy is more than just a statewide environmental priority – it’s also an economic priority for Salisbury.
Salisbury City Council District 4
The Lower Shore Progressive Caucus was proud to take the lead on a coalition of local leaders appealing to Rep. Andy Harris to change his position on offshore wind projects. Many thanks to Mayor Jacob Day of Salisbury, Josh Hastings, and Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes for signing on and supporting these initiatives which will benefit the Lower Shore economically and ecologically.
Read our letter to Rep. Harris below.
Dear Representative Harris:
As you are keenly aware, the Eastern Shore has long struggled to attract new industry and bring about greater economic growth. We want to see an Eastern Shore economy built from rural strengths that is not just strong, but one that is thriving and with an eye towards innovation, opportunity, and global awareness.
It’s no secret that the Eastern Shore’s economy has been affected by industries leaving, policies that restrict our H2-B/J-1 visa workers, a trade war that hurts our agricultural sector, the 2008 financial meltdown, and more. What’s left is a region dealing with higher rates of poverty, less opportunity, and residents that are struggling to get by.
For the greater part of a decade, our region has been working towards an opportunity to bring both jobs and economic growth through off-shore wind.
We know you have been opposed to this project in the past, but we are asking you to step back and support the bigger picture. This project allows the Eastern Shore an opportunity to become industry leaders in an industry that is clearly a strong part of the future clean energy mix. Today Europe has more than 80 offshore wind projects producing over 11,000 megawatts of clean energy. These projects prove that claims that the offshore wind project is a “defense risk” are wrong. The truth is that offshore wind developers and the U.S. military have worked in tandem with our NATO allies in the North Sea alongside offshore wind turbines for decades.
The construction of offshore wind and future green energy projects across the Eastern Shore would allow for the birth of a modern clean energy economy that will produce thousands of skilled, family-supporting jobs across our entire region. According to the Public Service Commission, this first offshore wind project alone would bring $1.8 billion of in-state spending as well as 9,700 direct and indirect jobs. Keeping in mind that the U.S. industry is just beginning to develop this tremendous untapped offshore wind resource, this presents an opportunity for the Eastern Shore and all of Maryland to put our businesses and our workers at the forefront of this imminent American industry.
With this in mind, this coalition of elected officials, organizations, and active constituents from across Maryland’s First Congressional District, is urging you to publicly take a stand for the Eastern Shore wind project. Please put the Eastern Shore before partisan politics and fully support prioritizing off-shore wind energy. We eagerly wait for your response and appreciate your service.
Chair, Lower Shore Progressive Caucus
Kent and Queen Anne's Indivisible
Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes
Speaker Pro Tem: Maryland House of Delegates
The Maryland Legislative Coalition
Mayor of Salisbury
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Wicomico County Council District 4
Pocomoke City Council District 4
Candidate, Salisbury City Council District 4
The Eastern Shore is Maryland’s breadbasket, producing much of the state’s top export commodities such as poultry, soybeans, wheat, corn, and vegetables. Because every dollar of exported goods produces another $1.30 in additional business activity, the Eastern Shore’s agriculture exports have a multiplier effect that stimulates jobs and increases income and local purchasing power.
That is why Trump’s trade war and its heavy use of tariffs must be understood as a direct threat to Eastern Shore. It is well known that tariffs hurt the well being of farmers, workers, and the local and state economy by reducing production, income, and jobs. Unfortunately, the $30 billion bailout program that Trump created to fix a trade war that he started is not an adequate substitute for greater economic certainty, hard work and the ability to freely access markets abroad.
But it’s not just Trump erratic policies. Rep. Andy Harris, the Eastern Shore’s only Congressional Representative in the U.S. Congress, voted against the Farm Bill which is the foundation of America’s ag policy and vital to Eastern Shore farmers.
Maryland Democrats understand and value the role of our state’s agricultural industries. That’s why U.S. Senators Cardin and Van Hollen and every Democratic member of the U.S House delegation voted for the Farm Bill. It’s why our newest Anne Arundel County Executive is a farmer.
It’s also why Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly are working hard to support farmers. From boosting the amount of locally grown food procured by Maryland institutions (HB 305/SB 608) and promoting agritourism (HB 693/SB 99) to boosting the consumption of healthy foods by matching purchases made by Marylanders using federal nutrition assistance programs (HB 84/SB483), these legislators know that Eastern Shore products are essential for the well being of the state and the world.
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings
Chair, Maryland Democratic Party
Wicomico NAACP stands with Pittsville
President, Wicomico NAACP
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been enraged to hear of the water crisis in Pittsville. Not only have residents had to deal with unclean water, but a lack of transparency and accountability within town government has also made matters worse.
The crisis began in mid-April when Pittsville’s water started to turn yellow. From the beginning, the town was slow to respond to the issue. The town council contacted the Maryland Department of the Environment but then didn’t follow up, leading MDE to falsely believe the issue was corrected. Town officials waited almost a month to begin handing out water to residents. In addition, the delay in circulating information left residents unsettled, which created rumors leading to more confusion and panic.
Since first releasing information, the Council and Town officials have all told different accounts, and the story continues to change. Some officials have blamed old pipes and chemicals that were past their expiration date. The Council blamed the former water manager and former staff. The Council President indicated that it was the fault of the last few water managers. These conflicting stories have once again confused residents and destroyed any remaining credibility with town officials.
After a long few months, the Pittsville Water Crisis appears to be finally coming to a close. However, the Wicomico NAACP wants to assure Pittsville residents that they have our full support in the fight for clean water and transparency in government and that we will continue to push for accountability in local government.
Senator Carozza likes to talk a big game, yet it seems as though her mouth is writing checks she can’t cash. Of the 18 bills Senator Carozza introduced, only 4 bills passed--less than 23%--and we must demand better from our Senator.
The bills she did manage to pass aren’t helping to advance the Shore. SB0338 allows the sale of alcohol closer to children, churches, and public libraries. Maryland Matters points out that one of her top bills–giving the Ocean City Convention Center extra financing to fund expansion and renovation--barely passed on the last day of the session. That’s the kind of bill that former state Senator James N. Mathias (D) would have passed with ease. She has failed to address the Shore’s biggest priorities; namely, the opioid crisis and young people fleeing the Shore in search of better prospects. The Senator also brags about her proposed amendment to the minimum wage bill that would ensure Shore workers were paid less than the rest of Maryland, yet exempted herself from lower pay if it had passed. What might be the worst of it all are her attempts to take credit for the successes of Paul Pinsky while pitting our farming community and local environmental advocates against each other for political gain instead of putting forth policies that help small farmers better adapt to greener practices.
Though the Senator likes to say she had a productive session, reality is often disappointing, and the reality is, Senator Carozza failed the Shore in 2019.
It has come to my attention that permits are being drafted for the installation of a 3-million gallon open storage tank for chicken by-products for the company Valley Proteins, Inc. As a resident of the Hebron area, this has raised enormous concerns for us and our neighbors for a number of reasons, and we strongly urge you to reconsider the location of this storage tank.
My husband and I purchased our home almost four years ago at the ages of 25 and 26. We were first-time homebuyers, found an adorable property that we loved, in an area that we were thrilled with, and we couldn’t wait to get settled and begin enjoying our small acreage that would eventually become our home. The installation of this tank will drastically change the way of life that we have created for ourselves, as well as for the entire Hebron/Mardela Springs area.
-The roads leading to the site are not suitable for the increase in heavy tractor-trailer truck traffic that this project will require. Porter Mill Rd has not been redone in a number of years and has multiple locations where repairs are necessary every year. Riggin Rd is even worse. We currently see very few cars on Porter Mill and Riggin Roads, making them safe areas for myself as well as my neighbors to walk our dogs, ride bikes, or jog. The increase in traffic to this area will make it significantly more dangerous for us to enjoy our small, quiet country roads, as well as deteriorating the already unstable road conditions.
-The installation of this tank will create a far-reaching stench that will permeate much of the air for the surrounding area. This tank will contain chicken by-products including chicken blood, chicken feathers, chicken entrails, etc. Dozens if not hundreds of your local residents will be negatively affected for an extended period of time, so long as this tank and any future additional tanks are utilized. A similar tank is located at the sod farm immediately off of Route 50 on Porter Mill Road, and residents in the town of Hebron, located 2.5-3 miles away are affected by the smells. My husband and I live less than one-quarter of a mile from the site of this proposed tank. We will never be able to spend evenings on our screened-in porch, play with our dogs in our dog run, or work out in our yard with the stench that will emanate from this tank. One of the primary reasons that we purchased our property was the land and outdoor spaces; this will be taken away from us should this plan be approved.
-This area is already prone to high insect and vermin traffic, especially mosquitos and flies. The installation of this tank will highly exacerbate this traffic, disturbing local wildlife and affecting local residents’ quality of life. I keep horses on my property and can say that we already have enough of a battle-keeping flies down. I utilize several fly traps around my paddocks and run-ins, feed-through supplements that prohibit the exoskeletons of fly larvae to form, thus limiting the number of new flys, daily applications of fly spray on my horses’ legs, sides, and belly, and a full ensemble of a fly mask, fly boots, and a fly sheet even on the warmest summer days in an effort to combat the flies that we already have in the area. The smells and contents of this tank will draw more insects, causing physical harm to my animals and a significant nuisance to those of us who live in the affected area.
-Every resident in the area affected uses well water. I cannot stress enough that an overflow of this tank may ruin our source of water and affect numerous dwellings. I am extremely worried about this due to Valley Protein, Inc’s history of waste management. In late 2018 and early 2019, there were numerous reports of their excessive, yet somehow legal, dumping of wastewater into the Transquaking River. We are worried the installation of this one tank will set chilling precedence and over time turn the property and surrounding areas at Porter Mill Rd and Riggin Rd into a barren, waste-filled cesspool of by-product tanks and mismanaged waste products.
-The installation of this tank will plummet our property values. Most of us own our homes here, and the installation of a 3 million gallon chicken by-product tank in our backyards will cost most of us much of our hard-earned equity. The installation of this tank will, in effect, rob us of much of our net worth. This tank should be installed either where the traffic and effect to surrounding areas are mitigated by a buffer of sheer distance from the installation or where this type of installation is expected, i.e. a commercial neighborhood. Wicomico County is a big place; a more suitable location for this installation can be found; a more suitable location for this installation should be found.
Please help us, Mr. Culver. Please do not approve this project. Please do not approve Valley Protein, Inc’s request to destroy this beautiful part of Wicomico County. I would love to have the opportunity to speak with you regarding this proposed abomination in our peaceful little corner of the Shore. Please consider the lives of the residents that you will be overturning should you approve this request.
Someone needs to do something. To borrow from a now-popular meme: Me. I am someone. I’ve always thought of myself to be a “good” citizen. What does that even mean? I voted in nearly every local, state, and national election since I was 18 years old, so I’ve always felt as if I’ve done my civic duty. What else is there? As it turns out, there is more!
I don’t particularly care for labels, but those labels may help others understand my journey so I’ll start with them. To start: I am a wife, a mother, and an educator. I am also the product of a privileged white middle-class background. I was a child of divorce at a time and place where this wasn’t the norm. I was the victim of a date rape before it was widely discussed. I was a single mother in a highly conservative rural area 30 years ago. I dated interracially which caused a greater reaction 35 years ago than it should have. I suffered from undiagnosed depression for a couple of decades before seeking help. I am the parent of a child with a pre-existing condition. I have been the victim of a violent mugging. All of this happened to me, but this is not all of who I am.
And now I add the labels “Progressive” and “activist” to the list. What does that mean? Hindsight tells me that it’s logical that I would come to believe in freedom with opportunity for all, responsibility to all, and cooperation among all. It’s rarely that simple and my political self developed as follows. My father was a staunch Republican. We had so much in common that I must surely be a Republican too so I registered as a Republican when I was 18 years old and never gave it a thought. I went dutifully to the polls where I often voted for the “lesser of two evils” rather than out of conviction. But conscience is a funny thing. It grows and evolves and has a life of its own.
At some relatively recent point, I started to pay attention to the news. I spoke with friends regarding pivotal social issues. My son--who is likely alive today because of ACA--patiently explained to me why it was necessary. Many times! He also explained why raising the minimum wage was essential for him and many other Americans. Again, many times. It’s embarrassing to admit my ignorance. You don’t know until you know, do you?
Fast forward to the unprecedented reporting of shooting deaths of African American males by police officers. The formation of Black Lives Matter. The understanding that I finally came to (thanks to patient conversations with a dear friend) is that when I am speeding past a police car I only have to worry about a fine. The understanding that I’ve never had “that” conversation with my children. You don’t know until you know, do you?
Then came the primaries preceding the 2016 presidential election. This challenged my thoughts on nearly everything. I began to listen with the intent to political chatter. I’ve had the privilege of being able to ignore it most of my adult life. I’ve come to realize that it is this sort of laissez-faire attitude that in part led us to our current political situation. This won’t be an anti-Trump rant, but I can assure you that I probably wouldn’t have changed very much in my life without his entry into national politics. Two days after he got the Republican nomination, I changed my political affiliation to Democrat.
It felt momentous, but truly it didn’t change much. I mean, what were the chances that he would become President? And then, of all things, he won. I was stunned. And even then I didn’t know. I assumed that things would continue much as they had because that’s pretty much how it had always been during my lifetime. Because you don’t know until you know. At this point, this is a sad lament.
Finally, everything changed -- if only for me. I read about this protest in DC, the Women’s March. I signed up, not knowing what it would be, what it would become for me. This was one of those rare moments in life when you can say, this changed my life forever. I was energized and excited afterward. I became even more likely to share my thoughts on political matters on social media, but that didn’t accomplish much. I didn’t want to be merely a keyboard warrior. There were a few semi-secretive resistance movements that formed locally, but I didn’t see that as an option.
And to come around full circle, someone has to do something. Because I wanted to recapture that excitement and momentum, I looked for another protest. I wasn’t able to attend two that I wanted to in DC so I was a bit frustrated. Again, social media made me aware of two things: a protest against a local jail that was housing ICE detainees and a semi-interesting Congressional race. I researched both, and ultimately ended up at the protest and on another occasion spoke to a candidate who encouraged me to volunteer, even if it wasn’t for him. These two events put me in touch with others who had some of the same concerns and fears that plague me daily. I attended a meeting of the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus where I found out that the person I was becoming was not so alone here on the Lower Shore. While my volunteering for that Congressional race was ultimately frustrating in many ways, it was enlightening as well. Both of these events helped me to conclude that if anything is going to change in my community, I cannot wait for others to make it happen.
This isn’t the end of my political becoming, simply a few of those happenstances which started me on my current path. Life, after all, is political. I felt and continue to feel a bit hopeless at times. There’s a lot to be angry about these days: social injustices, erosion of democratic principles that once seemed sacrosanct, healthcare, women’s rights, the environment, public land use, climate change, education, the national debt, and the list continues. My political education is continuing, and I am evolving. With Progressives, I have found many like-minded individuals who have encouraged me to act locally. Thus I found myself going to local meetings, talking with political figures who hoped to shape local and state policies and refining my political interests further. I’m still redefining my priorities as a politically cognizant individual who wants to keep democracy alive in our political system. While I still pay attention to national politics, I realize any true influence I may have will come about through local actions.
Because you don’t know until you know.
Letter to the Editor
April 11, 2019
The members of the undersigned organizations condemn the dispersal of white supremacist flyers on the Eastern Shore on March 31. In addition to being found in the Rio Vista neighborhood of St. Michaels, as reported in the Star Democrat, flyers with different text – though equally hateful and containing the same organizational name and contact information – were found on Tilghman Island.
Similar flyers have also been found over the last year in both Eastern Shore counties of Virginia; and in Maryland, in Ann Arundel, Charles, Queen Anne’s, Somerset and Worcester Counties; and the towns of Gaithersburg, Germantown, Eldersburg, Ellicott City, Glen Burnie, La Plata, Lothian, South Baltimore, Sykesville, Upper Marlboro and Waldorf.
Unanswered questions remain. Was this a coordinated action as it seems? Who dispersed this bigoted literature? Are they our neighbors? Have they succeeded in their recruitment campaign?
Just like nooses and swastikas, these acts are not pranks to be taken lightly, but symbols designed to spread fear of violence against African Americans and Latinos and Jewish people. We will not tolerate the spread of racial and religious terror with its potential to incite violence in our community. Though the President has fanned the flames of hate, we must fight this wildfire with all we’ve got. We cannot remain silent and allow bigotry to take root in our communities.
We raise our voices against hate and prejudice. We call on all people of moral conscience to speak out to provide a bulwark against bigotry. We also call on our elected officials – our Midshore Delegation to the Maryland legislature – and Congressman Andy Harris to publicly denounce these acts immediately.
Please participate in creating a public presence of love and tolerance and against all forms of hatred by printing a sign from this website and putting it in your window. https://hatehasnohomehere.org/
Bay Hundred Citizens for a Just Society (The Hedgehogs)
Indivisible Worcester Maryland
Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible
Lower Shore Progressive Caucus
Salisbury University College Democrats
Social Action Committee for Racial Justice – Kent County, MD