Dock of the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 19
May 11-17, 2000
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Who’s Counting You?
Census 2000 Gets Neighborly

What do a home schooling mom, a diplomatic courier, a Red Cross disaster nurse, a former Army intelligence officer, a personal assistant to a TV actor and a part-time musician have in common? First, they’re your neighbors. Second, they are knocking on your door if you forgot to send in — or never received — the Census 2000 questionnaire mailed in March.

A brigade of workers temporarily hired by the Census Bureau and enigmatically called NRFEs — that’s non-response follow-up enumerators — has fanned out through every neighborhood, apartment building and rural route to pay a visit on households whose Census 2000 reply is missing.
I know. I’m one of the callers.

After recording their own Census data, why would anyone want to go door to door to fill out more forms? NRFEs I trained with came up with some surprising reasons. Answers ran the gamut: “to meet my neighbors” … “I had four hours a day to spare” … “it would be nice to get everyone counted.”

Then, too, there’s a “lot of money on the line” according to Dave Crain, an Annapolis Census Office field manager. Anne Arundel County lost $70 million in the ’90s because of some 7,000 people missed in the 1990 census, according to the estimates of Sandy Spear, Anne Arundel County demographer for 31 years. Of course, there’s another way of looking at it. “Taxpayers were saved $7 million dollars a year,” Spear says.

NRFEs are going door to door to make sure no one’s missed in 2000. They’ll make six “genuine” attempts to record census data about your household: Three visits in person; three by phone. This follow-up is the largest phase of Census 2000; the workers’ motto could be “we try harder.”

Enumerators are trained to count heads and more. They take an oath of office that sounds a lot like the oath administered to an incoming President of the United States: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Of course, the domestic part might turn out to be a territorial dog guarding household information. That’s covered in the training manual, too.

Trainer Gordon Wriggle of Severna Park coached my group on another oath enumerators must swear (or affirm): Confidentiality of all answers is protected under law. Data will be for statistical purposes, from determining representation in Congress to your state or county’s slice of the U.S. funding pie: schools, roads, hospitals.

For your answers, you get education programs and school buildings; services for veterans and the elderly, disabled and young people; health care facilities; libraries; highways and public transportation; police and fire departments.

Beyond that, NRFEs won’t raise an eyebrow when you tell them your age (long and short form), or last year’s income (long form). The short form takes about five minutes to complete, the long form about 30. One in six are asked the long form.

So, if Lisa Moorhouse of Snug Harbor, in Shady Side, knocks on your door, she won’t tell you she’s a home-schooling mom of three children who wanted to earn extra dollars to buy books. She’ll just ask you for the facts and assure you that all information is confidential.

If you see Harold Greene of Annapolis heading up your front steps in his “umojea” — the colorful cloth hat that means prosperity in Swahili — that a niece brought him from Ghana, remember, he won’t be there to pick a fight with you — even though the former NYPD officer and HUD property manager now trains professional boxers.

And don’t expect Scott Voorhees of Shady Side, a band member with the Music Room, to play you a tune. He’ll just sing the praises of doing your civic duty.

Listen to Kay Krause, a retired teacher, make bureaucratic lingo sound like The Learning Channel. She’ll use her dollars earned for new windows for her West River home.

When Dolores ‘Delly’ Scott of Churchton isn’t serving as personal assistant to her son Rodney Scott, who will star in the new TV series Young Americans (to be filmed in Baltimore at the old Homicide set), she’ll use her title search business skills to uncover nonresponses in her area.

A rainy day is no problem for Linda McCormick, a retired American Red Cross Disaster Nurse from Pasadena. She’s fought floods, tornadoes and hurricanes. She’ll travel by car and will be paid mileage, hoping the animals she encounters will all be domestic. But she remembers the time in Puerto Rico when pigs chased her and ate the tires off her car. McCormick won’t use a ham radio to report your statistic, but she could — and does often — for the Boy Scouts, an organization she has volunteered with for 30 years.

However the NRFEs knocking at your door earned their living in the past — technical writing, Army intelligence, paralegal research, broadcasting, small business — they’re your neighbors.

—M.L. Faunce

Update: Prosperous Pilgrimage

Superb weather on May 6 brought over 600 visitors to South County for the 2000 Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage Tour [“Stately South Arundel Homes Open Their Doors”: May 4-10].

“The tour was very successful,” explains a delighted Susanne Smith, co-chair of the tour committee and owner of Birkhead’s Parcell, one of the tour’s stops.

Successful indeed. Smith welcomed 501 pilgrims to her home, while such other stops as the 1804 home Lothian had nearly six hundred pilgrims.

“Having that many people in my house was a bit confusing at first, but it turned out to be lovely,” sighed Smith.

Money raised from ticket sales to this statewide annual tour helps preserve and restore historical sites in Maryland. Southern Anne Arundel’s 2000 tour raised roughly $12,000, and half will return to the county.

That makes the 18th century Steward’s Shipyard in West River about $6,000 richer.

“I’m going to ask our board to do more hands-on exhibits at our museum in Galesville, so people won’t just have to stand around and look at things,” said Dean Hall, whose backyard spans 25 acres of old shipyard. “I envision an erector-type set-up where kids could build a boat the way it was done in the old shipyard.”

Added Hall, whose house, Norman’s Retreat, was also on tour, “Susanne Smith and Pam Ticknor did a beaufiul job pulling this huge tour off so smoothly. I thank them for that as well as for the money the shipyard will receive.”

—Matthew Thomas Pugh

Where We Live:
The 21st Century South-County Style

A year ago, the 40 or so Anne Arundel citizens called to be Small Area Planners in South County and Deale-Shady Side thought they lived in paradise. Now they know they live in an earthly realm where good ideas bear fruit only when watered by human sweat.

Over 14 months and 60-some meetings, the 20-some-person committees of citizens and professional county planners listened, wrestled and wrangled.

“We’re Republicans, Democrats, property rights advocates, social and environmental activists, PhDs, high school grads, watermen and retired executives. None of us got everything we wanted. We had some sharp exchanges but a lot of respect and a lot of consensus,” Ron Wolfe, chair of the Deale-Shady Side Committee, told Bay Weekly.

And that was only the small of it.

Now, they’re in the large of it: Presenting, in Wolfe’s words, “targets people can shoot at — from the top, bottom and all sides.”

Last week the Deale-Shady Side Committee and this week the South County Committee have returned their plans to their communities. At least to the couple of hundred self-selected from the 12,000 citizens in each planing area. About 300 came to the Deale-Shady Side forum and about 165 to the South County forum.

Both committees called for containing growth to prevent sprawl. Deale-Shady Side also plans to revitalize its business districts in small-town style. South County, which tumbles from Davidsonville down to the Calvert County line, geared all its recommendations to its vision of keeping the area rural.

The committees “coordinated, but the focus of each was very different,” said Debra Osborne, chair of the South County Committee. “We want to protect a rural land base, while they have different densities and much more commercial development.”

In general, the Deale-Shady Side Committee worked in greater detail than the South County Committee, whose recommendations were more conceptual.

Still, both reached parallel conclusions about shared concerns:

Residential Development
Both committees recognized that too many homes would spoil their treasured rural character. Deale-Shady Side approaches this goal by “reducing potential buildout.”

“Based on meeting with hundreds of people for thousands of volunteer man-hours and on community survey, people in this community showed a very high level of concern that we not be overwhelmed with development. They fear expanded housing,” Wolfe said. In line with the county’s directive that areas without sewers remain low-density, his committee “suggested higher designated areas be downzoned.”

Osborne’s committee saw it much the same way: “Subdivision will continue in South County, but we heard from people that it should maintain a scale and character compatible with our agricultural and natural resource focus,” she said.

Commercial Development
Even worse for their rural characters, both committees agreed, would be large-scale commercial development.

The South County committee voted to “minimize development, especially at crossroads. If properties are not now developed commercial, our preference would be for lower density,” Osborne said. Their exception would be the already commercial Waysons Corner triangle.

Deale-Shady Side, on the other hand, envisions three commercial centers, one in Deale, one in Shady Side and one at Routes 256 and 468, where Churchton, West River and Shady Side converge.

Marking the bustling 256-468 convergence would be one of the three traffic circles the committee envisions. The biggest looming change there is the sale of Smith Building Supply, a prime development property that’s recommended to retain its C3 zoning.

The others, as well, are already seats of commerce — at least by South County standards. Shady Side’s area centers on Snug Harbor, well into the peninsula. Deale’s extends along Route 256 from the community pier at the south to the library property at the north.

Without changing existing zoning, the planners hope to revitalize and enhance small-scale local businesses in the strip Wolfe calls the traditional Deale downtown, adding a community center on the library verge and clustering new small-scale businesses along the spotty strip. In that vision, pathways will draw walkers and bikers into the community center.

The biggest change recommended for Deale is downzoning the property owned by Safeway Inc. “We’ve recommended downzoning the intersection of Routes 256 and 258, where we fear a nucleus of large-scale development that people in our area seem not to want,” said Wolfe.

Roads and Highway Safety
South County wants safe and efficient traffic flow on main roads while keeping historic narrow, windy roads the way they are.

Deale-Shady Side more specifically considered traffic flow and public safety. To ease the flow of traffic, they recommend three traffic circles at “gateways” to Galesville, Deale and Shady Side.
For safety, they want main arteries — Route 468, Deale-Churchton Road and Route 258 — brought up to national standards, including width, shoulders and turn-off lanes.

A section of Route 468 in Shady Side known as Dead Man’s Curve is addressed in the Deale-Shady Side Small Area Planning Committee.

Community Facilities
Both committees agreed that preserving their rural character doesn’t mean public services should be backward. In terms of schools, each reflected public sentiment that theirs got step-child treatment and should be raised to be “on par” with the best in the county. The Deale-Shady Side Committee also asked for Southern Middle School to be enlarged to make room for eighth graders.

For police and fire protection, the committees wanted the same boost. Again, Deale-Shady Side was more specific, calling for a fourth full-time firefighter on each shift so that both key pieces of equipment — fire truck and EMS ambulance — could go to work at one time.

Community centers were on the minds of both committees. The Deale-Shady Side committee also wants up to 20 percent or 100 acres of the recently purchased public land in Shady Side called Franklin Point to be developed as an active park, while the remainder remains in its natural state.

Environmental Quality
Part of South County’s rural character is its agricultural and woodland land base, so protecting those resources and limiting development potential ranks high among that committee’s goals. Again, how to do that is work for the future.

Deale-Shady Side agreed in principle, but at least one of their specific recommendations — a “greenway” cutting through much of Shady Side — was target for lots of heated discussion.

Meanwhile, earlier Small Area Planning Committees are standing in line to see their suggestions become law. One by one, they’re filed with the County Council, and a month later, they come up first for public hearing, possible amendments and finally the council’s vote. Forty-five days later, the fully vetted plan is added into the county’s General Development Plan.

Crownsville, at the head of line, might get into the plan about July 1 — about 30 months after the first calls for citizen planners went out in November 1997.

Meanwhile, the other plans move up in line.

What happens at line’s end? Automatically, nothing.

“The plan does not implement itself,” says county spokesman John Morris. “It provides guidance for development, but people — private property owners, developers or the county or state — have to make it happen.”

Which isn’t to say nothing is happening.

Wolfe has already seen changes. “I think it’s fair to say if you look at what South County has gone through in two years, a lot of people have gotten enthusiastic and energized about their communities and implementing positive change,” the Deale-Shady Side chair said.

“In Shady Side just last week, politicians sat down with citizens who said we can’t wait for the plan. We have to stop the deaths on Route 468. Now crews are out cutting down some of trees encroaching on the road and putting in rumble strips.”

You can read area plans in the libraries in their regions or on line: You have two more weeks to comment on the Deale-Shady Side and South County plans. Write to SAP, 2664 Riva Rd., Annapolis, 21401.

Way Downstream …

In Delaware, Gov. Thomas Carper has asked the National Marine Fisheries Service to halt all harvesting of horseshoe crabs within 30 miles of the mouth of Delaware Bay. He’s worried because harvesting of the prehistoric creatures for bait has quadrupled in recent years …

Connecticut officials last week sued 11 Wal-Mart stores, accusing them of polluting waterways with their contaminated stormwater. The state says that Walb-Mart disregards environmental laws and in so doing has polluted rivers and streams with chemicals

In California, Stanford University researcher Lorene Nelson reported last week that people who use pesticides in their homes and gardens have a risk of Parkinson’s disease that is twice as high as those who don’t. The researchers presented their findings to the American Academy of Neurology researchers after studying over 1,000 people …

In Belize, ocean temperature last year topped 86 degrees for several months, one of the readings that were part of the highest temperatures in oceans and seas ever recorded, a team of scientists reports. People may like it, but aquatic life and coral reefs don’t …

Our Creature Feature this week comes from Aiken, S.C., where, on the eve of last weekend’s Kentucky Derby, the town featured its 16th annual Lobster Race. These are, of course, “thoroughbred lobsters,” and the winner received something you know is dear to crustaceans if you’ve ever gone crabbing — freedom.

The losers? The Augusta Chronicle put it this way: They got boiled and “slapped with butter.”

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly