Archive for September, 2009

Mushrooms and persimmons

September 24, 2009

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My column in the Cape Gazette this week focuses on the amazing variety of mushrooms and colorful persimmons showing up these days along the Junction and Breakwater Trail between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.  These last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October have always been my favorite four weeks of the year because the weather is so nice, the ocean so warm, and the bounty of nature so plentiful.

Here are two photographs taken last Tuesday along the trail.  One is a ripe persimmon in the grass along the trail beneath a tall and thin persimmon tree filled with fruit.  The other is a spiny mushroom – my term, not scientific – that is beautiful in its architecture.  I wish I knew whether I could eat it but I’m not taking any chances.

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A visit from our left coasters

September 22, 2009

My daughter Megan is in town this week with her husband Ross and her Jiffy Pop belly.  She’s due in mid-November so Becky and I are planning a Thanksgiving trip to Seattle when we hope to have plenty to give thanks for.  Megan and Ross are confirmed left coasters – Megan as a transplant and Ross as a California native and long-time Washington resident.  They root for the Huskies (big upset of USC), the Seahawks and the Mariners and listen to lots of indy music.  Ross plays bass in an indy band: Spanish for 100.  Google them and you’ll get a sense of what they’re about – hard-charging rock and roll.

Since Washington has a very active initiative and referendum process in its elections, Megan isn’t quite sure what state legislators do.  “They get the voters to decide all their important questions.  What do we pay the legislators for?”  This week I’ve also learned that Washington has no income tax but does have a 10.5 percent sales tax and lots of other taxes that catch them here and there.  Seattle is a great city but so far away!  Between ESP, universal love, cell phones and all the other communication opportunities, we all stay pretty close.  Here’s a picture that Ross sent me of Megan and Seahawk quarterback Matt Hasselbeck at a fundraiser several months back.

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Public hearings better than reality TV

September 11, 2009

The much bally-hooed hearing on Lingo Townsend Associates’ Village Centre proposal started at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10 and finished about 12:15 a.m. Friday morning.  Sussex Planning and Zoning Director Lawrence Lank said it may be the longest continuous public hearing on record.  Here are some observations:

• Chairman Bob Wheatley, with one exception, ran a good meeting.  When people were out of line with applause or snickering, he nipped them in the bud.  The result was a civil evening with moments of laughter to relieve the thickness of the testimony. Wheatley kept people on the subject at hand but gave everyone plenty of latitude to say their piece.  The only time he slipped was when he allowed P&Z member Marty Ross to tee off on Sen. Gary Simpson, making him a scapegoat for what Ross considers DelDOT’s failed improvement policies in Sussex.  Simpson told P&Z members that he knows of no plans to dualize Kings Highway and knows of no funds available in the next few years for improvement projects in the area.  He came in a week or so after Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf appeared before the commissioners and told them people in eastern Sussex were losing confidence in the county government.  Ross and Wheatley appeared to take vindictive pleasure in railing at Simpson as if he were representative of all that’s wrong with state government.  Wheatley should have reined Ross in long before P&Z Attorney Vince Roberston saw Ross on thin ice with one foot already in cold water.  Ross said DelDOT’s highway improvement policy in Sussex amounts to allowing developers to fix our roads as part of development proposals.  “That’s why we have to recommend approval for projects like this one,” said Ross about the Village Center proposal which includes $3.5 million worth of highway construction improvements and $5 million in rights-of-way for improvements.  Robertson listened while Wheatley sat back in his chair and Ross railed on. On that note, however, Robertson leaned forward and cautioned Ross against making satements indicating he has already made his mind up before hearing all testimony.  That brought sanity back. Afterwards, standing by the front door of the county administration building with its glass splattered by heavy rain in the night’s quiet hours, Wheatley said he hoped the planners could make the right decision.

• Watching hearings like this one is far better than reality TV.  They’re real, with plenty of emotion, including anger and humor.  There’s also instant voting by those in attendance.  At the Village Centre hearing, Wheatley took a count of those in attendance for and against the proposed rezoning.  The county showed 17 for and 114 against.

• Opposition attorney John Sergovic told planning members that the comprehensive land use plan, as mentioned by the proponents,  provides for the possibility of large commercial complexes along major arterial roads.  He noted that the proponents said one of those major arterials runs along their site. Business Route 9 from Route 1 to the southwestern boundary of Lewes is a designated major arterial.  But, said Sergovic, Busines Route 9 is Savannah Road, not Kings Highway which is simply designated Route 9.  The photo below proves Sergovic right about what is Route 9 and what is Business Route 9 .  Now, what exactly the comp plan means is subject to question.0909sign

Embrace the dissonance

September 9, 2009

Cape Gazette Sports Editor Dave Frederick has been using the phrase above a lot lately. In a way, it captures the tenor of the times. There are examples everywhere: Overt wars across our globe. Contentious health care debate in town halls across the land. And locally.

The special election for the 37th District state representative seat – only a month-long campaign – went quickly into hardball gear with both candidates mailing slick pieces saying the other is being manipulated by special interests.

In and around Lewes – and even spreading to Rehoboth Beach now – a highly visible and spirited campaign is under way revolving around the Village Centre rezoning proposal on Kings Highway inside Route 1. Jack Lingo Realtor’s familiar yellow and green signs have been hijacked by the coalition group fighting the rezoning – adopting the same colors to denounce the proposal – and letters and conversations about the topic are flying everywhere.

Political decision making and elections of course bring out this type of activity and people use one of their basic constitutional freedoms – the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, expression and peaceable assembly – to create and foster the dissonance. It’s all part of transparency.

In Dewey Beach, the annual election is into its final weeks. The decades-old struggle to tame the beach bar town into some semblance of responsible community interaction – discouraging, for example, public urination and public intoxication of all things (how dare them!) – is, as usual, part of the dissonance. The great dissonance manifested by the stealing and hijacking of election signs is also tilting the decibel meter. What follows is a recent letter sent to Mayor Dell Tush, forwarded to the Cape Gazette, vetting the problem and apparently responding to concerns voiced about improper sign etiquette.

As Fredman says: “Embrace the dissonance.”

Dear Mayor Dell Tush:
Taking campaign signs is a crime and counterproductive to getting people to vote in a campaign. We have no reason to want that, we want the maximum number of people to vote, and we would not tamper with or disturb another candidate’s signs. We also have experienced a number of locations where Hanson/Hanewinckel signs have been placed but are now missing, and we are in the process of compiling that list.

We assume that voters who have your signs out are supportive of you. It is absurd to attack other candidates who simply acknowledge that. Our citizens have three votes they can cast and asking them to cast the other two votes for the Hanson/Hanewinckel team does not imply in any way that you are running as a team with them.

It may be the first time in political history that a candidate complained when their opponent generously did not argue to overturn their support. We wish you were doing the same rather than complaining to your neighbors when they posted Hanson/Hanewinckel signs. Please refrain from asking these voters to remove our signs that they approved.

Another attack memo from you in less than two weeks before the election is disappointing to say the least. Dewey Beach voters deserve a fair election based on the merits of the candidates, not political ploys.

Rick Judge, Marcia Schieck, Joy Howell and Joan Claybrook

Citizens to Preserve Dewey-PAC

God Is Love and Hip Hop Too!

September 7, 2009

sasha-tattooSasha Westray of SW Studio in Lewes hip-hopped with a bunch of Lewes people recently at the Canalfront Park in Lewes.  The silver ball bouncing around inside a pinball machine has nothing on Sasha.  She has the power of love surging through every fiber and it gives her energy that, if harnessed properly, could easily light all the neon in New York City.

She put us through sweat-surging paces, with pulsing music and moves that mimic life – like wiping counters, putting on shirts, riding wormy roller coasters and a lot of other motions that we all tried to imitate in various forms.  Everyone ended up smiling almost as much as Sasha.  Hip-hop does that to you. Moving and grooving to the music releases serious endorphins.  Endorphins make us happy.   Do hip-hop with Sasha an hour a day and, after about two weeks, you could skip to the top of Mt. Everest  singing The Hills Come Alive With the Sound of Music.

Sashas sent some emails after the Lewes Steps Out event.  Here’s a piece of one of them, a proposed press release:

“Sasha Westray of SW Studio, LLC represented some VIBE AND BEATS  for Lewes and made it hip!! Men did it too! Mayor and all! At least 25 people ROCKED OUT!  Keep me in mind for any other events to MC, rock it out and get peeps up and moving and grooving and involved and feeling great bout themselves!! I am all about inspiring others to FEEL great about who they are, any age, any background and we all come together to be ONE!! hurray!!!”

Sasha has colorful tattoos on her left arm.  At the top is an Asian character for God.  Near the bottom is the simple saying:  God Is Love.  The first time I saw that saying was about 25 years ago in white letters on a red banner hanging inside the rafters of an outdoors tabernacle alongside a country church in south-central Sussex County.  I stood and stared at it, knowing it was the truth. It was summertime, a hot time, and the sticky smell of resiny green pines surrounding the church rolled in waves across the dusty gravel parking lot. The dust and the smell and the image of the white church were no more honest and real than the saying on the banner.

“That would be a good bumper sticker,” I thought.  Sasha one-upped me.

She sent another email too, chocked with more energy:

“I thought it was extra great to see ALL AGES there . . . toddlers, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, even one of my ladies that comes to class is 80!! All our towns need more of all of us getting together and spending time together and doing things for us all so we all get BLESSED FROM IT and learn from each other and GROW!! Especially when it is free and something FUN healthy and positive for us all!

I am all about being bold and starting up new things here and there and getting EVERYONE involved! I may look a little rock and roll but I am super Disney and old fashioned and believe in HARD WORK and being driven and all walks of life HELPING AND LOVING EACH OTHER!!

I grew up here, school etc and then LEFT to work in many cities and learn a lot and never thought I would be back!! GOD HAD OTHER PLANS!! Now I am all about spreading the love and MAKING DELAWARE AWESOME!”

I’m voting for Sasha!