Dock of the Bay

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Vol. 8, No. 37
Sept. 14-20, 2000
     
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A to F in Chesapeake Country:
How Your Reps Score on Our Environment

Based on their environmental ratings, Anthony O'Donnell won't be welcome in Mary Rosso's backyard.

Maryland legislators recently picked up their first report card of the school year from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, who graded lawmakers' environmental sensitivities with the annual General Assembly Scorecard. In the end, many Democrats have something for the fridge door while Republicans seem in danger of getting grounded by Mother Nature.

Scores are tallied by totaling each representative's votes on what the League deems important environmental legislation and working out a percentage of cause-friendly decisions. All votes are weighted the same; a vote on open Bay dumping is equal to one on red tape for development.

Delegate Mary Rosso, a Democrat from District 31 in northeast Anne Arundel, sits at the head of this year's class of local legislators with the only perfect score among them. Statewide, her Democratic classmates in the House scored an average of 75, while peers in the Senate earned 70. Republican Anthony O'Donnell, the Solomons area's District 29C delegate, lies at the lower end of the grading curve with 17. His Republican friends in the House scored a composite 28 and in the Senate 25.

Other local scores include: President of the Senate Thomas V. Mike Miller, D, 63; Sen. Roy Dyson, D, 33; Sen. John Astle, D, 67; Sen. Robert Neall, D, 56; Del. George Owings, D, 58; Del. Virginia Clagett, D, 86; and Del. Dick D'Amato, D, 83. Delegate Michael Busch, D stands out as the most improved, with a grade of 83 over last year's failing mark of 33.

There were many who earned gold stars; three senators and 23 delegates managed perfect scores. Only four legislators bottomed out at zero: Sen. Larry Haines, R, Sen. Alex Mooney, R, Del. Diane DeCarlo, D and Del. Donald Murphy, R - all from Central Maryland.

Regionally, Prince George's County legislators scored highest with an average score of 81, followed by Baltimore City with 74. Montgomery and Baltimore counties each barely earned a D with 63. All other regions flunked the League's test; Anne Arundel earned 57 while Southern Maryland scored 47.

You can read all legislation at the heart of this year's scorecard and find each legislator's stats on-line at www.mdlcv.org.

-Mark Burns


Stuck at School: How Southern Calvert Kids Waited Out Dragnet

It started out as a lovely pre-autumn Wednesday in the community of Lusby. Children were on their way to school, parents to work.

Over in St. Mary's County, the day started differently. Schools were closed and traffic re-routed. An early morning armed robbery at a 7-Eleven store in Leonardtown had led the Maryland State Police into a manhunt that would eventually cross over the Thomas Johnson bridge into southern Calvert County.

The two suspects, both 17-year-olds from Lusby, had shot at a Maryland State police officer from the Leonardtown barracks, and, after some made-for-televsion car calamities, fled in a stolen car. One escaped and was believed to be heading home.

Following the police, the media streamed with cameras and helicopters into Southern Maryland. Not since the 1999 fatal car crash that killed three Patuxent High students on their way home from school had so much news been focused in this quiet area between the Chesapeake Bay and Patuxent River. As the day unfolded, the search narrowed to Chesapeake Ranch Estates, a six thousand acre section of Lusby.

Not only was the lawbreaker still on the run carrying a loaded gun, the law enforcers also had high-powered rifles as they surrounded a neighborhood not too far from one of the main roads into the community.

With the ink on emergency plans for the new school year barely dry, elementary schools - along with Patuxent High and Southern and Mill Creek Middle schools - put them to use.

Nearby Patuxent, Appeal and Dowell Elementary schools went on a complete lock-down, with all doors locked and entry and exit by front doors only. Students were kept indoors for their recesses.

At about 2:10pm, Kenneth Horsmon of the Calvert County Board of Education determined that all students who ride buses into the Chesapeake Ranch Estates would remain at school until an all-clear was issued by the state police.

Robert Dredger, principal of Patuxent High School, first broke the news to his students, due to be dismissed at 2:20pm. More than 800 assembled throughout the school to wait things out, many worrying that they would be late for after-school jobs. Movies rolled, and vending machines and pay phones did a brisk business.

Students who came to school by car could not leave until a parent or guardian was advised of the danger they could be driving into. Since one of the 17-year-old suspects was listed as a student at Patuxent High School, driver's licenses and registrations were checked before any student could leave the parking lot, even with their parents' permission.

At Southern and Mill Creek middle schools, phones began to ring just before the 2:55pm dismissal of Southern, which shares its building with Mill Creek students until completion of their new school less than two miles up the road.

Appeal, Dowell and Patuxent Elementary schools, with a normal dismissal at 3:45pm, gained a bit more time.

Parents, the PTA and even school board members pitched in. "The phone hasn't stopped ringing," said Appeal parent Patty Milliken "As soon as one is hung up, the next one rings."

"Many of the parents were here before we had to make the calls," said Appeal school secretary Connie Metcalf. "Parents were hearing about it on the radio or a neighbor let them know."

Appeal principal Carma Latvala spoke with parents as they waited in a line that was often 40 deep. Secretaries and staff called names over the PA system, while teachers searched for an open phone to alert still more parents.

Many of the elementary students thought they were delayed by problems with the busses. Gathered together in the cafeteria, they enjoyed a showing of The Borrowers and shared lunch-box snacks.

Many parents who work at a distance called in to say they would be leaving work early, but still would not reach the school for an hour or more. "Your child is safe, yes ma'am," parent volunteer Cindy Adams assured one worried mother. "She is in the cafeteria watching a movie."

Calls were also coming in from the school board, seeking a head count of the children still waiting. At Southern Middle, calls were being made to the cafeteria staff to alert them they might be needed to prepare dinner for the waiting children.

As the dinner hour set stomachs rumbling, Appeal's last 14 students snacked on graham crackers. Not until 6:40 was the last one safely out of school.

The second suspect was brought in shortly before 7pm, but the last students had to wait for a ride until after 8pm.

It had been a long day, but an efficient one. "We think that things went pretty well, considering that school has just begun," said Horsmon, of the school board. "It just goes to show you how important it is to turn those emergency forms back in. Had this been the first day, we could have had a real disaster."

-Lori L. Sikorski


A Black Duck?

You might not find out if present trends continue. The black duck, Anas rubripes, is not prospering. They were once very abundant and a popular, if challenging species, in the autumn waterfowl hunt. But in recent decades, as human activities have increasingly clustered around the Chesapeake waterfront, this relatively shy bird's habitat has decreased.

Not so the ubiquitous mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, which has taken to the vicinity of humans like, sorry for this, a duck to water. They are quite at home on lawns and around marinas, and are sometimes a hazard marching unconcerned across the streets of waterfront communities. They are on the increase, but the poor black duck is in trouble.

Black ducks were mentioned by some of the earliest European explorers of the Chesapeake. They were part of the astounding panoply of waterfowl that seasonally thronged the Bay. Looking back at abundance and ahead to dwindling numbers stimulated the Wildfowl Trust of North America to bring together some of the most knowledgeable scientists and managers in the waterfowl business.

They're getting together Wednesday, October 4, at Chesapeake College, from 8am to 4pm, then moving to Horsehead Wetlands Center for a reception.

If you love waterbirds, or even if you just love the ol' Chesapeake, sign up and spend the day learning. Involved in the modest registration fee are these excellent speakers, a continental breakfast, snacks and drinks, a hot buffet and, after all, a reception where you can buttonhole and get to know each of the experts.

Register ($50 w/student and pre-Sept. 18 discounts) with Horsehead Wetlands Center: 410/827-6694 ·horsehead@wildfowltrust.org

-Kent Mountford


At AA County Fair, Lose a Pound or Two - of Trash

If you're a typical Anne Arundelian, you cast off about three pounds of trash a day, two of which is probably recyclable. This week, the county's waste management team takes its act to the Anne Arundel County Fair, where, through Aug. 17, they'll show you how to peel those pounds.

The way to sleeker trash has two roads: composting or clever reuse. At the Fair composting clinic, you can learn how to turn your watermelon rinds and wilted lettuce into garden mulch, and you can get a free composting bin as reward for your fine intentions. You can also get a set of gadgets (made of recycled plastic) that turn a pair of two-liter plastic jugs into a hanging bird feeder. Meanwhile, consider this advice from Beryl Eismeier: "Before you put that thing in your trash, remember there may be a better place it can go."

-Christy Grimes


Way Downstream ...

In Virginia, development is taking its toll. "Increasingly, something is missing across Virginia. Native animals and plants are dying out as their wild homes are destroyed," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported this week. The story quoted Professor Bryan Watts of the College of William and Mary as saying, "The problem is so large and so overshadowing that it may as well be the only problem" ...

In Florida, the state's top wildlife officials are busy with a different kind of wild life. The general counsel for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission became the second official of the agency suspended for using his state computer to view hard-core porn. Charles Shelfer, who calls his car "the Babemobile," had a penchant for viewing a site called "Sexhound." He got tripped up when hundreds of Florida environmental officials somehow received e-mails with his name and 126 nude photos ...

In Madison, Wisc., the satirical magazine Onion reports that The Coalition to Find Ralph Nader a Special Someone is uniting Americans of diverse backgrounds. Nader, the Green Party presidential nominee, is a lifelong bachelor ...

Our Creature Feature, which comes to us from Las Vegas, reminds us of a Mae West line that we won't repeat. A man named Don Astorga was convicted last week of smuggling a dozen lizards into the United States from the Philippines - in his pants.

He was questioned by customs officials, who noticed what were described as "unusual bulges in his groin area." The lizards, among them Nile monitor lizards and geckos, all died after their bizarre imprisonment.


Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly