Posts Tagged ‘Delaware’

Let it snow while I reflect

December 18, 2009

A classic winter snowstorm, tracking up the coast from the south like the big ones that usually nail us, is on its way at this writing. At Best’s store today, snow shovels were flying out the door like Ryan Howard’s homeruns out of Citizen’s Bank Park. “What do they do with them from year to year?” one cashier asked.  “Who cares? I said.  “It’s job security for you guys.”

Meanwhile DelDOT’s been brining the roads to anticipate the ice.  Pretty work!

It’s 4:30 and it’s almost dark.  Just one more week and we’ll pass the winter solstice and the days will begin lengthening again. Merry Christmas!

I’m still thinking about a recent trip to Seattle where a granddaughter, Maisy Peach, was born.  Her papa, Ross, read her a story, “Don’t Lick The Dog” a couple of days ago.  She listened to each word and asked lots of questions.  Only a week old?  Can you believe it?  We’re sure she’s a genius.  Maybe she   was just thinking the questions. But she must be smart.  Megan was reading lots of baby books during her pregnancy. 

Here’s a quick picture story about the days leading up to the birth.

First, we ate fish tacos at the Coastal Kitchen up on Broadway and drank wine and beer and wondered whether Megan would give birth before we had to fly back to Delaware.  Fish tacos are a fine art in the Pacific Northwest.  The restaurant had a Cuban flavor and we liked it. C’mon baby.

A few days later we were looking in windows on First Street in Belltown, wondering how we would look in these creative togs made out of candy – red licorice and peppermints. We were also still wondering whether Megan would deliver – whether the stork would land – before we had to leave.

We took a side trip to San Juan Island, north of Seattle in Puget Sound, thinking we would fool the baby into thinking we had left.  “Maybe that will get her moving, since she’s already past her due date by 10 days for God’s sake.”  We enjoyed looking at alpacas at a farm on San Juan Island.  Wool clothing was beautiful and expensive.

Then we walked through a small state park with a beautiful lighthouse.  

There’s a great sculpture garden on the island with about a hundred different pieces spread over 20 or 30 acres.

A nice walk on a sunny day.

It was there that Becky filled out a prayer message and dropped it into a prayer spinner to be broadcast through the atmosphere of deep consciousness.

She prayed for a safe and speedy baby delivery and a healthy granddaughter.

Then we took the ferry back to Seattle, still waiting for the baby’s arrival, but getting close to our  departure date just one day away.

The prayer worked.  Maisy Peach decided to send Megan into labor the night before we left.  At 1:30 in the morning she and Ross were rocking and moaning in the living room, listening to mellow music, and just a day past the full moon.  Megan and her sister, Meredith, were both full moon babies.  Maisy Peach wanted to follow suit.  She came into this world at 10 a.m. Here she is with mom and pop three minutes after delivery.  Ain’t it cool?  And this is why we have to work so hard to make this world a better place.

Furloughs mean more beach days

July 1, 2009

They say it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow any man some good.  Most winds do blow some good and such is the case with the furloughs announced this week as part of Delaware’s plan to balance its budget.  State employees are seeing their wages cut by 2.5 percent, but with the cut comes an extra five paid days off.  Other states are doing furloughing as well and the impact is already being felt in Rehoboth Beach.  According to a reliable source, the coming July Fourth weekend is swelling beyond its usual boundaries because furloughed employees from Maryland and elsewhere are using some of their extra days to lengthen their summer break.  That can only be seen as a good thing for Sussex County which relies so heavily on the tourist industry for economic boost.

The world continues to adjust to a new economy where there is more emphasis on time than money.  It will give everyone a chance to get to know their friends and family more, spend time outdoors where the pleasures are free, and walk and relax in their own communities rather than traveling great distances and spending lots of money.

Attitude, posture and Delaware’s moment

June 12, 2009

“Attitude and posture must be cultivated your whole life.” – John Steinbeck

Like the ring of fine crystal, wisdom carries a permanance and unassailability that make it akin to God.  As Delaware winds down toward the final hour of dealing with its $900 million budget shortfall, the uncertainty and weight of the final remedies are affecting attitude and posture of people near and far.  Pessimism makes our attitudes and our bodies slouch.

Two encouraging aspects of this dark scenario are deadline and law.  June 30 – the end of Delaware’s fiscal year – will be here in less than two and a half weeks.  Unless the sun ceases to rise and fall and the earth ceases to spin on its axis, that day will inevitably arrive.  By law, when that day finally ends, Delaware’s lawmakers must approve a balanced budget.  They must  make the overall cost of state government balance with 98 percent of the state ‘s projected revenues for  fiscal year 2010.  The other two percent of projected revenues – again by law – must go into a rainy day fund which helps insure Delaware against natural and other emergency-grade catastrophes.

Delaware’s lawmakers seek their positions and are paid well to represent their constituents.  Now it’s decision time and we’re all waiting to see how the other shoe will drop.  In fact, one of the reasons why our attitudes are sagging  along with our postures is the uncertainty about just how many more shoes will drop before this major economic correction levels off.  In the mean time, it’s like we’re on a roller coaster’s longest downhill run, hurtling at speeds our churning guts tell us can only end in crash, disaster and pain.  On the roller coaster, we see the end of the run and know that relief is ahead, so long as the structure doesn’t collapse.  June 30 for Delaware is like the end of the run ahead of us.  Let’s hope and pray that when this ride ends, the collective wisdom of our representatives will put us back on steadier ground so we can return to cultivating our attitudes and posture.

Making our communities nicer

June 9, 2009

dennis20090609As a community, we continue to tolerate too many problems that bring our neighborhoods down. This burned out house in West Rehoboth has marred the streetscape of the area for far too long. In fact, in the past couple of years, the house has burned twice. At this point, the best use of the structure would be for a controlled burn to help train the dedicated volunteers of Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company. West Rehoboth is a community of real people with a variety of widely divergent neighborhoods whose residents deserve better than walking and riding by a burned-out shell every day. The days of Hebron Road being a dead-end haven for drug dealing and other outlaw activities ended when the road was connected to Holland Glade Road and Church Street. Structures such as this one are not only hard on the eyes, but also create danger zones for children. If the property owners wont remove the eyesore themselves, Sussex County should bulldoze the structure and put a lien on the property to cover those costs. The property where the structure sits is a valuable corner lot. Its sale would more than cover the cost of removing the burned out building.

Have Delaware’s parties flipped?

May 22, 2009

Democrats often get labeled as the tax and spend party. This week, Delaware’s Republicans, responding to the state’s increasingly large budget deficit, looked more like the Democrats than the Democrats themselves. Rather than cutting the wages of the state’s workers by 8 percent as Gov. Markell has proposed, the Republicans instead proposed an increase in state income taxes and corporate franchise taxes.

The move is politically understandable. State workers, at 30,000 plus, represent the largest voting block in Delaware. They’ve been upping their public displays of disapproval and the phone lines of legislators have been lighting up.

No big surprise. Who wants to see their pay cut? But from the party of less government, the Republicans, where’s the recognition that with a budget reduced by $800 million, there’s less work to do and the government needs to shrink? In the private sector, companies – to survive – have already made hard choices through layoffs and wage reductions. Now, on top of that, the Republicans propose raising their taxes as well.

Last November, Republican Sussex County lawmaker Gerald Hocker said there was no way to tax ourselves out of this problem. And a few weeks ago, fellow Sussex County Republican lawmaker Joe Booth wrote in a column in the Cape Gazette that he would oppose any increases in taxes until he saw the size of Delaware’s government decreased. Now, with the ticking of the June 30 budget deadline growing louder and louder, Republicans appear to be abandoning the hard choices and are settling instead on the old tried and true tax increase. Obviously, compromise is in the air.

Best bet at this point is that the proposed wage cut will be reduced and to offset that we will see some increase in our personal income taxes.

If Markell was using the eight percent wage decrease as a way to smoke the Republicans away from their resistance to any kind of tax increases, the strategy is working. But, Markell says the long-term solution to our problem is neither taxes nor cuts, but growing our economy. Most of the time, increasing taxes is seen as increasing economic drag, not a boost.

Even if the compromise strategy works to balance this year’s budget, the fact remains that Delaware’s government is too large for its level of revenues and will remain a drag on efforts to grow our economy until it is brought into line.

Going to war, balancing a budget: similarities

May 14, 2009

In the winter of 1991, Joe Biden celebrated his swearing in for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate at a reception in one of Washington’s Senate buildings. A few weeks later, federal employees cleared the same 20-foot-ceilinged room of its celebratory trappings to make room for a Senate hearing chaired by Sen. Biden. President George H.W. Bush had recently declared war on Iraq, following its invasion of Kuwait, and an age-old debate resumed over whether the President can take such action without Congress’s prior approval.

A professor of history from a university in North Carolina appeared before the senators. He told them that while Congress could argue constitutionally that a President can’t declare war without its approval, history has shown that Congress is a timid lot when it comes to making such decisions. He said Congress has typically ceded that opening authority to Presidents, choosing to weigh in afterwards rather than taking on the political liability from the start. In other words, when it comes to tough decisions, Congress would rather the President stick his or her nose out into the storm first.

An analogous situation is underway in Delaware. With the state facing an unprecedented budget shortfall in the $780 million neighborhood, the General Assembly appears just as happy to lay low while Gov. Markell spends the opening months of his first term making the tough decisions necessary to balance the state’s budget.

The General Assembly must eventually approve the budget, but as long as it hangs back, its members can keep options open to point the finger of blame at the chief executive if the voters get up on their hind legs when the salary cuts and tax and fee increases go into effect July 1.

Markell: no layoffs to trim budget

May 13, 2009

Jack Markell

Jack Markell

Cape Gazette reporter Kevin Spence and I interviewed Gov. Jack Markell for about half an hour Monday morning at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover. The impromptu interview, wedged by the governor and communications director Joe Rogalsky into a busy schedule, reinforces campaign commitments to accessibility and open government.

Facing an unprecedented budget deficit of an estimated $780 million, Markell nonetheless appeared rested and confident. He said he is making no plans to use layoffs of state employees to trim Delaware’s expenses and reiterated his budget package of cuts, and tax and fee increases, to address the shortfall dilemma.

Markell said he doesn’t see any of the budget votes ahead as fights: “We have to balance the budget. We have no choice. If we don’t pass a balanced budget then the government will be forced to shut down. We can’t write checks on July 1 if we don’t have a balanced budget by the end of June. If the General Assembly restores any of the cuts that I have proposed, or rejects any of the tax or fee increases I have proposed, they have to come up with cuts or increases in other areas.”

Markell said his administration also reviewed the possibility of an early retirement option to trim the state’s payroll. “It just would have cost too much money,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

The governor said he doesn’t expect much good news when Delaware’s Economic and Financial Advisory Committee (DEFAC) meets soon for its final prediction of revenues available for state operations in fiscal year 2010. “The forecast could very easily worsen,” he said. “We could be looking at the shortfall growing beyond the $780 million figure we’re using now.” He said while he appreciates $155 million in federal stimulus money to help close this year’s gap, that’s only good for one year.

What’s worse: gambling or credit cards?

April 21, 2009

“There goes Delaware again, leading the way to the bottom.”

A number of years ago an employee of Delaware’s state department told me about a convention of employees from state departments around the nation. We were discussing Delaware’s status as a most-favored place for businesses to incorporate. The employee told me that Delaware is known for its liberal and deep body of corporate law and its hands-off approach when it comes to corporations. The employee also said other states regard Delaware’s political philosophy as more protective of corporations than of individuals. The employee then quoted another state’s employee – see quote above – to illustrate an attitude toward Delaware’s permissive corporate ways.

In the current debate over expansion of gambling venues in Delaware, one comment has stuck out like a sore thumb. I can’t remember the exact source, but the general sentiment expressed was that if a venture like the Del Pointe proposal with its thousands of promised jobs for Sussex County were proposed for New Castle County, the state would be shifting funds around and writing all kinds of special legislation to make it happen. New Castle County legislators, of course, would be rallying around the proposal because of its benefits to constituents.

Bull hockey, some might say? That’s crazy. Gambling’s different.

Not so. It happened a few decades ago when Delaware rewrote its laws to attract out-of-state banks here and enabled them to export Delaware’s unlimited usury rates to the rest of the nation. As a result, major credit card operations set up in Delaware. Companies were able to use Delaware’s laws to make major credit card marketing, with steep interest rates and increases hidden in fine type, a fact of life for our nation. Many people then, and now, saw that move as another example of Delaware “leading the way to the bottom.”

Economic times weren’t so different than what we face now. Delaware’s Farmers Bank, where most of the state’s funds were held, was on the brink of bankruptcy and Pete duPont had just been elected governor. He jumped into the state’s budget and cut, cut, cut and seized the banking law opening that ultimately resulted in thousands of jobs for Delawareans. It could easily be argued that had times been rosier, opposition to harboring credit card operations with virtually no interest rate caps would have been stiffer.

Is sanctioning more gambling venues, with appropriate regulations, worse than allowing an unlimited number of credit card operators into our state? There’s no doubt in my mind that far more people are in financial trouble due to credit card problems than due to gambling problems. This double standard is, at best, unbecoming for our state, and at worst, crippling an economy when it most needs help.

Billboard proliferation detracts from Sussex as a destination

April 18, 2009

Billboard proliferation continues unabated in Sussex County.  It seems like the first thing people do when they buy a piece of commercial property is to erect a billboard.  I understand the economics.  The more income you can get off a piece of property the better.  It helps pay the mortgage.  The problem is that Sussex County’s permissive billboard policies allow us to stack commercial upon commercial.  Not only can you build a commercial enterprise on your commercial land and erect the related signage, you can also put up billboards on the property to advertise other people’s businesses, so long as you have proper spacing between billboards.  In a concentrated commercial area like Route 1 between Nassau Overpass and Rehoboth Beach, the large number of billboards not only distracts from the many businesses trying to attract customers along the highway, they also detract from the natural beauty of our area – the fields and trees and waterways.  It’s one thing to have commercial signage for businesses, but when the clutter of ever-increasing billboards begins to tangle the messages into one large indistinguishable and eye-numbing blur, the commercial advantage begins to decline and with that the attractiveness to our area for tourism.  A computer-modeled build-out scenario showing how many billboards could be constructed in Sussex County under current regulations might open our eyes and allow us to develop new billboard guidelines that will be beneficial to all in Sussex County over the long haul.