Burton on the Bay
Vol. 9, No. 27
July 5-11, 2001
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John Adams’ Legacy
A Standard to Judge Good Government

The happiness of the people was the purpose of government, and therefore that form of government was best which produced the greatest amount of happiness for the largest number.

- John Adams: Thoughts on Government, 1776

Seeing this is the week of the Fourth of July … and that our second president might well have been the key player in events that give us cause to celebrate our most important national holiday … and that he, like Thomas Jefferson, gave up the ghost on that anniversary in 1826, is it not appropriate to quote him?
So much, so, let’s quote him again. A year earlier, John Adams wrote:

Politics are a labyrinth without a clue.

For July 4th Reading: John Adams
Might I also suggest that one of the best reads in ages is David McCullough’s John Adams, all 752 pages of it. In this new volume, McCullough has done for Adams what he did for Harry Truman in Truman.

He has made Adams a human being, reincarnating him and taking his readers alongside in Adams’ many journeys as well as while he penned his thoughts, lived with and loved his family and devoted his life to his country.

Once this book is read, no longer is John Adams just another president from way back when. John Adams becomes a patriotic human being whose passion for a righteous and caring government overwhelms the reader, who’s also learning a lot no one ever taught us in schools about many of the goings-on at the birth of our nation.

This is no dull, just-another-history book. It goes beyond being interesting and informative, it’s fascinating, take my word for it. You won’t find a more deserving volume on bookstore shelves this summer. Only David McCullough - with his thoroughness for accuracy and detail while keeping the words captivating - could do it.

Noah’s Ark Lands Safely

That said, let’s look at the government/bureaucracy of today in light of those two quotes by Adams, one dealing with the happiness of the people, the other with politics being a labyrinth without a clue.

Let’s not go into politics in Washington, national and international affairs and all the weighty stuff. Let’s just look at a few examples of good government on a much smaller scale and how it can make people happy - as well as how governmental politics can be a labyrinth without a clue.

First, the good government good news, which really is an update of the column in this space a couple of weeks ago.

You might remember that Noah’s Ark Wildlife Center in North County lost its lease, had to vacate promptly to make room for a relative of the owner - making soon-to-be homeless more than 150 animals, from snakes and birds to raccoons and rabbits, some of which were not ready to be returned to the wild and faced euthanization.

There is a happy ending. The county government of Janet Owens stepped in, and the Pasadena center was saved - just in the nick of time. The county not only found it owned a suitable location for the ark, the old Smith Farm on the Broadneck Peninsula, but rented it to Ted and Velvet Kitzmiller for a bit less than what they were paying for the Pasadena facility.

That’s government making people happy: the citizenry, the Kitzmillers and more than an ark-full of wildlife badly in need of care and attention.

The Kitzmillers are working people - he’s a one-man plumbing operation - and while they have operated in the past on their own and volunteer contributions, they could use a bit more help. There’s no big land ark with wheels to relocate all the wildlife and fit out the new facility. You can help by sending a donation to Noah’s Ark Wildlife Center, P.O. Box 1041, Pasadena, MD, 21123.

MeyerStation Saved

About the same time Noah’s Ark was being refitted and kept afloat, unfolding was another government story with a happy ending: that of the private MeyerStation Wildlife Station on the Patuxent where Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties meet. This time it took a public outcry to get the Owens regime to lend a hand, but as they say all is well that ends well.

To link a hiker/biker trail with Prince George’s County, the county wanted a stretch of abandoned railroad bed on the property. But making the link would have fragmented the 135-acre nature center Buz Meyer and his family have made available to church, youth and nature groups for many years.

In addition, the county plan would have meant closing a shooting range that Buz’s father set up in the ’30s, which has been open for charitable events and firearms safety training. In today’s world, relocating a shooting range is virtually impossible.

The county wouldn’t budge when Buz outlined a less expensive and compatible alternative route for the hiker/biker trail. Until there came an avalanche of complaints. Then the county withdrew condemnation proceedings and is considering other options. People are happy; government worked again.

When Politics Are a Labyrinth

Now for the flip side, when politics are a labyrinth without a clue. We’ve seen that aspect in how two governments - one in Western Maryland, the other in north-central Pennsylvania - are handling elk and bear.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Ridge has kept his nose out of proceedings of that state’s Game Commission to cope with an increasing elk herd that’s causing problems, ranging from conflicts with landowners to auto collisions to crop decimation to potential habitat destruction.

An estimated 700 elk roam an 835-square-mile area, and the commission is proceeding with a lottery for licenses to cull 30 from the herd, which it is feared could number 1,300 by 2005. The first season in 70 years will open Nov. 12. That’s good government: the Game Commission is allowed to handle its own affairs as it should.

Meanwhile, out in Western Maryland - Garrett County and the western sector of Allegany County - we have a bear nuisance problem not too much unlike that with elk in Pennsylvania.

The crops of farmers are eaten or destroyed by marauding bruins, beekeepers lose their hives, stock farmers fear for sheep and calves, homeowners can’t put out bird feed in warmer months, many a resident or visitor has been frightened by bears that are becoming less fearful of humans — and people pay extra for anti-bear devices on bear-proof rubbish containers.

Estimates are between 250 and 450 bears in Maryland, most in Garrett County, where people want a highly regulated season to reduce numbers and instill a fear of man - a short shoot that could cull about 10 bruins. Our Wildlife Advisory Commission has recommended it, a study group did likewise, and game managers said it is biologically feasible without an adverse impact on the overall bear population.

But we have an anti-hunter governor who meddles in wildlife affairs. Things like Sunday hunting or a bear season can’t be brought to the table, yet bear numbers increase - while farmers are paid only 70 cents on the dollar for their losses in hardscrabble mountain operations.

So what’s our solution? Another 10-year study of much-already-studied-bears. By then, there could be well more than 500 bears in Garrett County; maybe double that. The only possible relief that can be hoped for is a bill requested by Speaker of the House Casper Taylor to allow a limited hunt. But always there looms a veto.

The Tale of Two States, one with government running as it should, another as it shouldn’t. Too bad John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson couldn’t close all the loopholes. Enough said.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly