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Moving Forward: Why Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore (Desperately) Needs Ben Jealous
There are more than a few misconceptions about Ben Jealous, especially since he won the Democratic Gubernatorial Nomination this past June. Beyond the ridiculous assertion that he is akin to a (left-wing) extremist, is that he doesn’t care equally about the entire state. Rather, the clear implication by his detractors is that he, like Democrats before him, only cares about the corridor between the DC suburbs and the Baltimore region. In the interest of full disclosure, I live within that major population corridor (Montgomery County, specifically). However, just as I (and many of my friends and neighbors) recognize the importance of addressing the many challenges in every part of Maryland, so does Ben Jealous.
Yet, don’t just take my word for it. Consider what he is actually saying about his vision for Maryland, specifically within the context of the challenges facing the Lower Shore: All of the Lower Shore counties have poverty rates above the statewide average. Somerset County, specifically, is one of the poorest counties in the Nation. As Governor, Ben Jealous won’t lay down a smokescreen of rhetorical misdirection. Instead, he will boldly advance sustainable economic policies that are applicable statewide, along with those specifically tailored specifically to rural communities like those on the Lower Shore. For example, he will provide the resources required to help farmers fully embrace technological innovations, foster a solid partnership with urban customers in Maryland and promote rural ecotourism. Farmers must have the ability to succeed without dependency on corporate entities like “Big Chicken.” Ben Jealous also appreciates the linkage between a healthy natural environment and the health of the Lower Shore’s economy. This includes cleaner air from the growth of green industries, such as solar and wind farms, on the Lower Shore and statewide. In addition, he’ll not compromise on protecting the Chesapeake Bay but instead stand firmly against threats to its health like new natural gas pipelines.
Ben Jealous will seriously address the infrastructure challenges facing Maryland, including the specific needs of the Lower Shore. For example, he will press for the expansion of rural broadband access, so businesses on the Lower Shore are not left behind in the 21st Century global economy. Unlike the incumbent, Ben Jealous will ensure that all localities have the support required for meaningful local transit systems, so everyone on the Lower Shore is able to get from “Point A” to Point B,” regardless of one’s access to a car. This includes exploring partnerships with transportation network services (i.e. Lyft/Uber), so those needing door-to-door mobility/paratransit services are not treated like second-class citizens. He will ensure that the state fully embraces “Complete Streets” policies and provides sufficient resources for local implementation efforts, so everyone, regardless of travel mode, is able to use the Lower Shore’s entire road network safety- from Cambridge to Salisbury to Ocean City and every point in between.
Ben Jealous will press for a sincere and sustainable investment in educational opportunities statewide, which is indispensable for economic opportunity throughout the Lower Shore. This includes the distribution of State resources to local schools that fully reflect the challenges each jurisdiction faces. Fairly compensating teachers, plus community schools that address the holistic needs of children on the Lower Shore is also critical, given the challenges that so many children on the Lower Shore face outside of the classroom. For example, any student with inadequate access to quality health care is inherently distracted from one’s studies at best and faces excessive time away from the classroom (due to avoidable and/or inadequate treatment of illness) at worse. Ben Jealous has a sustainable health care plan to effectively tackle this issue head-on. His bold and feasible plan will also facilitate equitable, quality health care for every segment of the Lower Shore population.
The Lower Shore deserves a Governor who truly understands the path forward for every community in our state. The policies advocated by Ben Jealous will directly improve the precarious economic conditions on the Lower Shore, from essential infrastructure to a holistic education system and full access to affordable, high-quality health care. He will not give lip service to rural areas. Governor Ben Jealous is advocating true leadership, instead of the “smoke-and-mirrors” that the incumbent has tried to sell the Lower Shore for almost 4 years.
The letter below was read at the healthcare rally outside of the Salisbury office of Representative Andy Harris. Michele Gregory is the Communication and Media Committee Chair for Lower Shore Progressive Caucus.Dear Mr. Harris,
I’m a constituent of yours. My name is Michele Gregory. I’ve lived in Wicomico County for most of my adult life and I would like to tell you the story of my stepson.
His father, Christopher, and I married just before his 3rd birthday. Nicholas, my stepson, had been born with global developmental delays, including apraxia and gross and fine motor delays. He didn’t walk until he was two and a half. He lived with his birth mother at the time and it was a bad situation for him. We filed for custody when he was 7, and after a series of traumatic events during the custody battle, child protective services intervened and placed him with us on his 9th birthday. We officially became his full-time custodial residence on Halloween of 2003. For the sake of brevity, I am leaving out a lot of horrible details.
Nicholas has been a recipient of Medicaid and Social Security for most of his life. He is now about to turn 23 and life has never gotten easier for him. At 18 he began having symptoms of another neurological problem and after six months without finding answers, he had a tonic-clonic (or grand mal) seizure that left him hospitalized for several days and incapacitated for many months. Dozens of daily seizures became our way of life. His favorite activity, eating, became a gauntlet, triggering the worst of them. We tried multiple medications and even surgery, only to bring them down to a dozen or so a day. In the past year, he’s been hospitalized 3 times for aspiration pneumonia, landing us in ICU or just a step below that each time. The doctors have made clear that without getting his seizures under control, there is a very real and present possibility that the next time might be the one that takes him from us.
Each of these hospital stays, not counting his outpatient surgeries, has run in the neighborhood of $50,000. His monthly medications without insurance would be approximately $3900 a month according to my pharmacy. My husband and I work very hard, my husband for a cable provider, and I am a small business owner here in Salisbury. Together we still would not be able to afford his medications. The next time he is hospitalized, and he absolutely would be within days of stopping his medications, we would have to choose between losing everything we have and letting our son die. Repealing the ACA and gutting Medicaid would be a death sentence to him. And to us.
My husband had a stroke during surgery at the age of 32. He takes multiple medications daily to keep him alive and well. I have severe arthritis from genetics and sports injuries that without medication is completely debilitating and would mean I could no longer work or run my business. My daughter has a life-threatening food allergy that requires an EpiPen. By repealing the ACA, you would bring back the pre-existing conditions clause that would mean none of us would be covered.
As a mother and a wife, I am begging you to not kill my family. Because what you are trying to do will in no uncertain terms do exactly that. You will kill my husband and the children I have raised and loved more than life itself. I am a walking testament to the ACA. Please don’t end that and kill my children.