Volume 14, Issue 20 ~ May 18 - May 24, 2006


Blue Crab Candidates:
A Species Worth Looking At

Probably like you, we’ve long since grown weary of watching the Chesapeake’s dead zones, dying oysters and ailing fish.

Study after study reflects the Bay’s declining condition — even as more money is appropriated for more studies.

Meanwhile, membership organizations dutifully sound the alarm and politicians perennially pledge their commitment to clean things up.

Still things get worse.

That’s why new approaches appeal to us, like the flush tax that Gov. Robert Ehrlich championed.

It’s why we think that professor Howard Ernst’s newest idea, called Blue Crab Project, is worth a look.

Ernst is a political scienctist affiliated with the Naval Academy and the University of Virginia. He is the author of Chesapeake Bay Blues, a take-no-prisoners account of what has gone wrong with Bay restoration and why.

As Ernst sees it, virtually every candidate portrays him- or herself as a friend of the Chesapeake. But when push comes to shove, few are true champions.

So Ernst is building a repository of information that documents whether a challenger has a proven record, believes that the Bay “is worth the price of restoration and protection” and agrees to work across party lines and political boundaries to get results. High-scoring challengers earn his designation as Blue Crab candidates.

His first Blue Crab is Democrat Mike Shay, who is running for state delegate from District 33. Shay, of Churchton, is a first-time candidate, an activist and recognizable figure in Anne Arundel County from his many efforts on behalf of South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development.

Ernst also is considering Sheriff George Johnson, a candidate for county executive, and Scott Hymes, a state Senate aspirant.

Ernst describes the designation as an assessment rather than an endorsement, though the distinction may be lost on some people.

We’re a tad confused about his declaration that no incumbents will be considered for the Blue Crab designation. Ernst said the movement is aimed at new political leadership, remarking that “Blue crabs rarely live long enough to become incumbents.”

That thinking reminds us of what people say about term limits, which we always considered a dumb idea because in weeding people out arbitrarily, voters get deprived of effective leaders. We know of elected officials who are, indeed, Bay champions and could use recognition for their work. They certainly have a record to judge.

But all in all, we applaud Ernst’s effort as the sort of out-of-the-box thinking our beleaguered Bay needs.

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