Volume 12, Issue 15 ~ April 8-14, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

Bay Restoration Down the Tubes
Legislators urged not to flush tax

The flush tax is not down the tubes yet.

So says the Chesapeake Bay Foundation — though the governor and both houses of the General Assembly say it’s headed that way.

photo by Louis Llovio
Chesapeake Bay Foundation president William Baker announces the results of a poll on Marylanders’ support for the Flush Tax.
The bill, introduced by Gov. Robert Ehrlich, would impose a $2.50 monthly surcharge on Marylanders to raise money for the cleanup of the 66 worst sewage treatment plants that pollute Chesapeake Bay. Threatening to flush the tax are amendments in the House and Senate to extend the tax to septic users.

The Foundation says that in trying to save the tax, it speaks with the voice of Marylanders.

At least 72 percent, of them, that is.

According to a survey by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research of Washington, 87 percent of Marylanders support the bill overall, with a smaller 72 percent willing to pay the $2.50 monthly fee.

The survey’s finding of broad popular support was announced at Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis at the steps of the State House on April 7.

The polls comes on the heels of a report from the Department of Natural Resources showing that the Bay’s problems are mounting as politicians sit on the bill. “Dissolved oxygen conditions in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are at a worse point in 2004 than at this time in 2003,” DNR reported.

Last year, oxygen starvation lead to a 150-mile dead zone in the Bay.

“The Bay’s in trouble,” William Baker, president of the Foundation told the gathering of like-minded politicians and environmentalists. “But Marylanders’ overwhelming support for this legislation sends a clear signal to our elected leaders that citizens want them to take action to reduce pollution on the Bay.”

— Louis Llovio

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Ask the Plant & Pest Professor

Q All my rhododendron’s leaves curled up all of a sudden. It’s not because it’s cold. This is a big old happy rhodie. What’s going on?

A Rhododendrons have been succumbing lately to a fungal disease, phytophthora. This disease is always in the soil at low levels, but usually does not kill unless a plant is in a wet, poorly drained site. Unfortunately, after three years of drought weakened the root systems of many shallow-rooted plants, the abnormal rain of last year pushed some rhododendrons over the edge. There is no cure. You will need to remove the plant if it has phytophthora, but scratch the bark and be sure it’s dead first. Before replanting, improve the drainage in the area by working in organic soil amendments and consult our list of disease-resistant rhododendrons.

Ask the Plant and Pest Professor is compiled from questions sent to the website of the Home and Garden Information Center, part of Maryland Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. Ask a home gardening or pest control question and find other help: 800-342-2507 (Mon.-Fri. 8am-1pm) • www.hgic.umd.edu.

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Ballet Theatre Dances Literature
A beginner’s guide to watching ballet

Creating a ballet, says The Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s artistic director Dianna Cuatto, is like sculpture. “You mold the dancers, the music and the story together until it works. And sometimes,” she laughs, “you have to take a chisel to it.”

Those were words this novice ballet goer had to think about.

But surprising combinations are what followers of the 25-year-old company are learning to expect from Cuatto, who celebrates a year with the company in July. The company is the state’s only professional ballet.

The surprise ending of her first season was her adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel about Puritan America, The Scarlet Letter.

That’s another thing I’d never imagined.

The powerful story of love, betrayal and consequences translates into movement and expression that really do convey the solitude of Hester, the vileness of the cuckolded Chillingworth and the cowardice of Dimmesdale.

As I did, Cuatto read the 19th century novel in school. “I saw how Hawthorne lit the scenes and laid out the tableau,” says the American literature graduate. “It fit perfectly for a ballet.”

I missed that part.

More literature is in store for the 2004-’05 season, when Cuatto plans to stage Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

She also hopes to stage an original version of Mary Louise Alcott’s Little Women for the 2005-’06 season. Getting modern, she also considers adapting a science fiction story.

Clearly, Cuatto is making her mark on a company formed in the likeness of its founding artistic director, Ed Stewart, whose early death in July, 2002, left a void.

This December, she will debut her staging of the Nutcracker. Her translation, she says, harkens back to the original and makes the story clearer.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow opens the 2004-’05 season in October, near Halloween.

That’s not a coincidence. Cuatto says the way the story lends itself to special effects and its magical elements will draw a younger crowd.

Opening up the ballet to new audiences is one of her goals.

“Dancing is a great way to communicate,” she says. “I’ve traveled around the world and used dancing to talk to people I would never have been able to converse with otherwise.”

She believes a diverse repertoire, new interpretations of standards and inspiring students with a lifelong passion for dance as the keys to success.

“It takes three to five years to build an audience,” she says, but she believes the results will be worth the wait.

Says Cuatto: “I want to build a solid professional company of national prominence that lends a voice to Maryland’s culture.”

— Louis Llovio

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Bay Baseball Returns
With its carnival flavor, minor-league ball hurries the season

The scent of hot-dogs and beer. The sight of kids lined up against the railings gloves and programs extended for autographs. The restless chatter of the crowd. The sound of ball pounded into leather. All are welcome signs of spring and the return of baseball.

Off Route 301 in Bowie, the Baysox opened their 2004 Eastern League season Thursday April 8 in grand minor-league tradition: with hope for the future and off-the-wall fanfare.

Maryland finalist in the Ms. Latina USA Pageant escorted the players onto the field before the national anthem. Fans get to play with Sprock-It, an intelligent, interactive robot.

They also got a game versus the Harrisburg Senators, a Montreal Expos affiliate

The Baysox are the Double A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Double A is the second step in the ladder that young players climb to make it to the major league. It’s also where some major leaguers come to work on skills or to rehabilitate from injuries.

Pitcher Denny Bautista.
This year the Baysox are led by four prospects with high hopes to reach the majors, as Matt Riley — a starter on the Orioles roster who pitched in 14 games last year for the Baysox — did.

Pitcher John Maine, rated as the number-two prospect in the Orioles organization by Baseball America, is slated to start opening day.

Rated as the fifth highest prospect is pitcher Denny Bautista, cousin of future Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox. If pitching is hereditary, fans in Bowie are in a for quite a treat.

Also in the lineup for second-year manager Dave Trembley is first baseman Walter Young, rated as the best power hitter in the Orioles organization and the 2002 Player of the Year in the Pittsburgh Pirate’s farm system.

Shortstop Jose Morban, who spent most of last season riding the bench for the Orioles, is expected to hone his skills as an everyday starter for the Baysox before making his way back into the big leagues.

“He didn’t get a lot of playing time in Baltimore last year,” said Orioles farm director Darrell Rodgers. “His bat never got going. But we look forward to him having a full minor league season.”

These and 20 hopeful major leaguers will join team Mascot Louie and a very busy promotions department to warm Bowie Baysox fans even if opening day feels like winter.

— Louis Llovio

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Roedown’s 30th Run
Despite mud, races don’t bog down

“Charge!” commanded the woman wearing the cowboy hat as she directed traffic and pointed up the hill. Drivers responded to her orders by spinning their vehicles toward the apex. The first race at the 30th running of the Marlborough Hunt Races wasn’t horse-versus-horse, but horsepower-versus-muddy hill as cars full of spectators charged up the slippery grade and toward coveted tailgating sites, which allowed for panoramic views of Roedown Farm’s mile oval course, below.

After days of rain left pastures muddy, on the slopes of the farm, the aura was more one of the Rough Riders taking San Juan Hill than of the genteel sport of steeplechase watching, as the drivers were instructed to “step on it” or get stuck. Members of the local Civil Air Patrol put down layers of straw, and bystanders became boosters, rooting drivers on to a top of-the-hill finish with screams of “Keep going!”

photo by Louise Vest
Fifteen-year-old Chelsea Secor, center, rode April Showers in the Large Pony race to win the Raymond Ruppert Cup at this year’s Marlborough Hunt Races at Roedown Farm. With her are J.B. Secor and Casey Calver.
The next challenge of the day for tailgaters was fighting off gale-force winds, as they set up food, flowers and decorations. With a bit of ingenuity, tail-gate parties prevailed over wicked winds. Guests who dared the weather settled into wine sipping, shrimp munching and cheering on the horses, as layers of clouds barreled across the sky in a seemingly frantic effort to keep pace with the horses below, dashing toward the finish line.

Devotees had seen worse race-day weather and came dressed for anything.

“We’ve been here when it’s been snowing,” said Mary Chaney from her front-row site.

By race publicist Ginna Gould’s measure, “people had a good time even though it was so cold.” Gov. Robet Ehrlich came out, despite the chill, to watch the races and present the Trident Plate in the sixth race.

Another good sign, Gould noted, was a larger field of horses than last year’s for the day’s flat races.

Like horses and spectators, jockeys made good work of ignoring the weather, particularly the winners, whose number included Chelsea Secor, who won the Large Pony race riding April Showers. After winning, Chelsea, who trains every day, didn’t seem to be feeling the cold at all; she was smiling ear to ear. Upon receiving her prize, the 15-year-old jockey headed back toward the paddock, and though her boots were surrounded by that ubiquitous mud of 2004 race day, young Chelsea seemed to be walking on air.

— Louise Vest

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Way Downstream …

In Washington, new legislation is Bay-friendly indeed. The Clean Cruise Ships Act of 2004, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would prohibit discharges of sewage and bilge waste within 12 miles of any shore and require regular inspections of discharge systems…

In California, what do Robert Redford and Tom Hanks have in common? The two stars both leaped into pro-environment causes last week, Redford helping set up the new Americans for Wilderness organization and Hanks agreeing to emcee the Natural Resources Defense Council’s biannual fundraiser on May 6…

In Brazil, vampire bats driven from the Amazon by deforestation are on a deadly rampage. In the remote enclave of Para, at least 13 people died last month from attacks by the rabies-infested bats, and some 300 people were attacked…

Our Creature Feature comes from Berlin, where a new animal shelter visitor gives new meaning to the term Fat Cat. Mikesch, a black-and-white house cat, weighed in at 41 pounds after being removed from the home of his elderly owner last week. That is just a few ounces under the weight of a whopper feline from Minnesota named O.T., who held the record before the Guinness Book stopped keeping track.

The old man, who went to a nursing home himself, was feeding Mikesch more than four pounds of meat each day. The cat, now on a diet, had grown so chubby that he had trouble cleaning himself. “You can call it cruelty to animals,” vet Karin Bartell told Reuters.

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© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated April 8, 2004 @ 12:59am.