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Volume 16, Issue 44 - October 30 - November 5, 2008
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From Gilchrest to Harris?

For Bay’s sake, we can’t do it

You owe your readers not your industry only but your judgment, and you betray instead of serve them if you sacrifice it to what may or may not be their opinion.

–Variation on Edmund Burke as put forth by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal: Oct. 18, 2008.

Readers of Bay Weekly have probably noticed since this newspaper first published in 1993 as the New Bay Times, the policy has been to withhold endorsement of candidates in primaries and elections. However, I would be remiss if I did not speak out now.

This publication was founded as a booster of our Chesapeake, dedicated to the premise that our Bay must be restored as a healthy, vibrant and thriving body of water. Bay Weekly strives to inform you of good and bad on the Chesapeake.

What’s more, I have personally vowed to do everything possible to make you aware of the latest in the probable coming of big-time global warming and its consequences to people, other living creatures and the environment.

As the 2008 election nears, the very welfare of our Chesapeake is at stake. I am referring to the candidacy of Republican Andy Harris in District 1 for the U.S. House of Representatives.

As I see it, this is not a question of red or blue, Republican or Democrat. It is an issue of what is best for our troubled Chesapeake Bay at a most critical time, when the nation is beset by economic woes not experienced since the Great Depression. If we failed to revive the Bay during the long stretch of good years, how can we even think of holding the line in the lean years ahead?

‘I am not unlike Wayne Gilchrest on most issues — and would like to continue in much of his legacy.’

–Frank Kratovil

From Gilchrest to Harris?

In the primary election early this year, Bay and environmental booster and nine-term Republican congressman Wayne Gilchrest was upset by Andy Harris for the party’s nomination in a three-way race.

More was lost than the job of a long-time and influential conservationist congressman. His anticipated replacement, Harris, is a popular state senator from Baltimore County — whose views on the Chesapeake and the environment itself, to put it mildly, leave much to be desired.

At first it appeared Harris was a shoo in.

But since the primaries, observers and voters have begun some soul searching. If Harris is to be the congressman from Chesapeake Country, what has he done — more importantly what will he do — for the Bay?

Much of the environmental community has since entered the fray, respected groups such as Clean Water Action, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Environment Maryland and Maryland Sierra Club, all insisting it is essential to have a congressman who will stand up and speak out to save the Bay.

Maryland League of Conservation Voters executive director Cindy Schwartz said “Andy Harris has earned an abysmal nine percent lifetime score” from her group. Her other gripes: Harris voted for development alongside Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and voted against the Healthy Air and Clean Cars Acts. He voted to allow seven tons of phosphorous to pollute the Chesapeake when he sided with Proctor & Gamble in a vote to delay a ban on phosphorous in detergents.

Harris voted against the Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program and the Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Fund; also the bill to increase the share of Maryland’s usage from renewable energy sources to 20 percent by 2022. His record indicates he has little concern about global warming and greenhouse gases, and he voted against construction of wind-energy generation stations, solar energy programs and much more.

In short, you must dig deep and hard to find a hint of a Harris commitment to Chesapeake Bay and our environment in his decade as a state senator.

In September, Gilchrest, a moderate, announced he would support Kratovil. He was bolting his own party — and not as a sour grapes loser. He couldn’t bear to witness so much he had worked for and accomplished for the Bay and the environment to go down the drain.

Why has Harris remained so silent and even negative on environmental issues? Conservatives can be conservationists — and those we elect to represent Chesapeake Country must keep that in mind.

He bases his appeal on his ultra-conservative Baltimore County thinking and policies, and it was that approach that defeated the moderate Gilchrest.

My Alternative: Frank Kratovil

We and the Chesapeake simply cannot afford to have ultra-conservative State Sen. Andy Harris as point man in the U.S. House of Representatives during deliberations, policy making and funding at this time. Over the past 18 years we have been spoiled by a conservative congressman who shed that classification in fiscal issues when it came to both Bay and environmental policies. Wayne Gilchrest will be a tough act to follow.

There is but one alternative. He is Democrat Frank Kratovil, Queen Anne’s County state’s attorney, who would be the first Democrat to represent the district in nearly two decades.

I have followed the campaign closely, and I have listened to and questioned Frank Kratovil in Annapolis. I am convinced he is no free-spending liberal; just the opposite. He is basically a conservative: His record is hard hitting on crime, and he is convincing on his advocacy for Bay and environment. In a late summer interview he told me, “I am not unlike Wayne Gilchrest on most issues — and would like to continue in much of his legacy.”

He told me he believes reduction of the causes of global warming would help the Bay, and he also promised, if elected, to be an advocate of the Bay. To me, nothing is more important in a congressman representing Chesapeake Country than to be an advocate for the wide scope of the environment, Bay and earth restoration in these unsettling times.

That’s why I have departed from Bay Weekly’s long-time policy of silence and neutrality at voting time to speak up for the welfare of our earth and Chesapeake Bay. As Edmund Burke would have told me, It is your responsibility. I have heeded him. Enough said.


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