Volume 16, Issue 39 - September 25 - October 1, 2008

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Where We Live
by Steve Carr

Rockfish Republicans vs.
the National Federation of
Independent Businesses

Two Shoreside interests square off over the Bay

Green Republicans on the Eastern Shore are rebelling. They say they’re backing a Democratic candidate for Congress because the Republican doesn’t have a strong enough environmental record.

This Shore phenomenon began in 2006, when the Talbot and Caroline County Republican Central Committees got together and christened themselves Rockfish Republicans. They believe the Bay needs protecting and worry that their party is often too pro-growth and pro-business.

I find this both interesting and encouraging. I have never understood why Republicans have turned their back on the environment, both at the state and national levels. Teddy Roosevelt, the Bull-Moose Republican, was the founding father of the American environmental movement. I never thought that preserving the health of the planet is a political issue.

Short Sighted on the Shore

The Eastern Shore makes up over half of the First Congressional District, which Republican Wayne Gilchrest represented tirelessly for many years, earning a reputation for honesty and his love for the Bay. Wayne and I are good friends, and it broke my heart when he got knocked off in the Republican Primary by a fellow from Baltimore County, who, according to the League of Conservation Voters, voted for the environment only nine percent of the time while in the Maryland legislature.

During that primary, I received almost 20 fancy mailings telling me that Wayne was anti-business. Each campaign piece came from a group called the Club for Growth, a national pro-business organization. The Club for Growth sank over a million dollars into defeating Wayne.

The general election is shaping up to be a replay — with a new twist.

Another group over on the Eastern Shore, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, recently endorsed the conservative Republican. The 1,200-member group represents small business owners, like chicken farmers and watermen. They believe that environmental legislation hurts their bottom line, and that Maryland’s environmental laws often make it hard for them to compete against comparable businesses in other states where environmental laws are less strict.

The Republican they are backing agrees. And he has promised not to support environmental legislation that hurts the local economy.

At the National Federation of Independent Businesses rally in Easton he proudly proclaimed, “We should not be placing Maryland industries at an economic disadvantage compared to other states.”

What he’s really saying is this: Maryland should not pass environmental regulations unless the surrounding states do the same.

Does this sound familiar?

The Republicans in Washington have been spouting this nonsense for years when it comes to global warming. We can’t initiate lower emission standards for power plants or automobiles until the developing nations like China and India do, too.

This classic dodge guarantees nothing substantive will happen to fix our environmental crisis until it’s too late.

If Not Now, When?

Here on the Chesapeake Bay, ironies abound. The watermen and farmers who are supporting the anti-environment candidate for Congress, and who are most dependent on a healthy environment, are the ones dumping fertilizer into the Bay with abandon and harvesting fish faster than can be replenished. But when the environmentalists or the state propose stricter regulations, these same rugged individualists who claim to love the great outdoors are the first to scream foul.

Blue crabs are an excellent example. Given the terrible state of that fishery, who in their right mind would argue in favor of catching female crabs? Yet the watermen of Maryland argue against a ban because Virginia has dragged its feet.

This greedy, I’ll-get-mine-no-matter mentality is going to doom this planet. Unless we wake up and realize that we all have a stake in clean air and water … that we all must do our part … that we all have an obligation as caring adults concerned about the planet our children will one day inherit, to get off our butts and do what’s right for the earth.

We can’t wait for everyone else to get with the program. We need to start at home. Right now.

In the words of Rockfish Republican Robert Welte, “No one I talk to will say the health of the Bay isn’t the most important thing for people who live near the Bay.”

Amen, Brother Welte. Amen.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.