Volume XI, Issue 26 ~ June 26-July 2, 2003

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Dock of the Bay

African Americans Jump-Start the ’06 Campaign
Candidates, voters needed

If you can’t get a white person to open the door for you, how do you get that same person to vote you into public office? Jacqueline Allsup sought the answer to that question while campaigning door-to-door in 1998 to represent District 31 in the House of Delegates. When Allsup knocked, a little white girl called for her father. “He looked at me and never answered the door,” Allsup said.

History reveals that Allsup is not alone; African Americans have always faced obstacles in politics.

Aris T. Allen represented both Anne Arundel and Calvert counties in the Maryland Senate.
Anne Arundel County has elected only one African American, Sara Carter, to its county council, and only one, Aris T. Allen, to the General Assembly. Both are now deceased.

Carter served from 1974 to 1982. Allen served as a state delegate from 1967 to 1974 and 1990 to 1991. From 1978 to 1981 he served in the Senate, filling the seat of District 30’s Sen. Edward Hall, who died from a heart attack five weeks before commencing his second senate term. Sen. Allen became, by appointment, the first African American to represent Calvert County in Maryland’s General Assembly.

“We’re here to discuss strategies to change that,” declared Carl Snowden, at the county’s African American Leadership Summit this month. A former Annapolis alderman who now works for Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens, Snowden wants to change the color of politics in Anne Arundel County.
The summit, described as the first African American political summit in Anne Arundel in 30 years, focused on electing more African American senators, delegates and council people from Anne Arundel County.

“We need to look at where we are and be proactive; we need to come together and figure out how to move our people along,” said the Reverend Walter Middlebrooks, hoping to motivate both African American candidates and voters.
It takes candidates to win elections, and throughout Maryland few African Americans hold offices at either state or county level. At the state level, African Americans in the 2000 General Assembly were — with one exception — elected from only Baltimore City and County or Prince George’s County. The exception, Del. Rudolph Cane, represented the Eastern Shore counties Dorchester and Wicomico.

The 2002 assembly added two African American delegates from Montgomery County and one from Howard. In addition, redistricting gave a small piece of Calvert County to PG Del. James Proctor, making him Calvert’s first African American in the House of Delegates.

Middlebrooks advised Anne Arundel’s African Americans to reverse history’s trend starting at the county level. “We need to organize and rally around a candidate for county council,” he said.

Terry Wilson is the most recent African American candidate among the small handful from the county who have tried for a seat, either at the county or state level. Wilson lost to the incumbent, Bill Burlison, in the 2002 Democratic primary for the fourth district county council seat.

“African American candidates who have gotten elected have come from predominately African American districts, and currently that would be Districts 4 and 6,” said Snowden, referring to the two out of the seven Anne Arundel County Council districts that share the highest proportion of African American residents.

District 4 occupies the midwestern portion of the county and is bordered by district 6 to the east, which includes Annapolis.

photo by Sandra Martin
Calvert County’s third ever African American county commissioner, Wilson Parran.
In 2006, both districts will be open as the two-term limits of county councilmembers Bill Burlison and Barbara Samorajczyk will run out.

To win, African American candidates will need multiracial votes. “White voters need to look at the [African American] candidates themselves and see that they are qualified,” said Allsup.

Isiah Leggett, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and keynote speaker at the summit, fully understood that notion when, in 1986, he became the first African American to serve on the Montgomery County County Council. He won his at-large seat at a time when African Americans made up only eight percent of the county’s population. He remains the only African American to have ever been elected to the county’s governing board.

Leggett realized that voters would view him as a qualified candidate, concentrating less on his race, only after he took the first steps to cross the racial divide. “We must be connected with each other and others; we need to be connected with the broader community. Black politicians spend 90 percent of the time chasing 10 percent of the vote,” Leggett said. His advice: spend 90 percent of the time chasing the 90 percent of the vote that’s not African American.

That’s a principal on which Wilson Parran, Calvert County’s third-ever African American county commissioner, would agree. Running for county commissioner in 2002, Parran said his strategy was “becoming known within the community.” Parran, with 12,656 votes, was the second-highest vote-getter out of 10 candidates in the general election for the Board of County Commissioners. “I focused on getting votes, period,” he said.

How has Calvert County’s black population of 14 percent managed to elect an African American county commissioner where Anne Arundel’s black community of comparable proportion fails?

Leggett said that part of the answer lies in the political habits of Anne Arundel’s African Americans. “We don’t participate in the political process the way we should,” he said.

He urged the black community to be prepared to spend more capital, in both money and time. “To do anything political, you need passion to go out and work for the issues and causes and the things we believe are right,” he said.

The African American community’s efforts to have Charlestine Fairley appointed to the Anne Arundel County School Board reflect the work Leggett describes.

To the chagrin of Fairley’s supporters, though, that work didn’t persuade Gov. Ehrlich to choose Fairley over Republican Tricia Johnson for the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. Fairley received 100 of 193 votes from delegates at the School Board Nominating Convention in May; Johnson, with 45 votes, came in second.

“Generally, when you get on the school board, it’s not for partisan reasons,” said Snowden referring to Gov. Ehrlich’s choice of fellow Republican Johnson over the top vote-getter. “It’s already difficult to get people to participate in these conventions; if people feel they’re not impacting, they won’t participate anymore.”

Snowden would like to see candidates and the African American community set the wheels in motion now for the 2006 round of elections in Anne Arundel County. “Three years from election, someone interested in running ought to be starting to organize the campaign now, raising money,” he said.

The organization RESPECT plans its own summit on July 3 to identify candidates for the Annapolis mayoral election of 2005 and for the Anne Arundel County Council and the General Assembly elections of 2006. Rumor has it that Terry Wilson may take another shot at the District 4 seat of Anne Arundel’s County Council, and George Kelley, currently an Annapolis alderman, may run for the House of Delegates.

“Now that we have a road map to where we need to go, the real work begins,” said Snowden.

— Lauren Silver

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Don’t Swim where Enterococci Play
AA County Department of Health provides 24/7 water quality phone line

After inches and inches of rain, it’s no surprise that the Bay area is a bit out of whack this spring. The grass is blinding green, the sun is in hiding and we’ve all got the nudgies to get outside to sail, swim or crab.

On the next unusually sunny day, however, don’t just run outside and jump right into the nearest body of water. You can’t tell by looking that the water you’re about to plunge into is clean enough to play in, no matter how clean it may appear.

by Katie McLaughlin
Kinley Partello spent last summer at the beach helping monitor against water-borne bacteria.
That’s why the Anne Arundel County Department of Health has been operating water quality tests up and down the Bay for the past 12 years. Reporting samples from nearly a dozen spots — Bodkin Beach, Chesapeake Bay, Magothy River, Patapsco River, Rhodes River, Rock Creek, Severn River, South River, Stoney Creek, Weems Creek and West River — the water quality phone line and supporting web page provide information 24 hours a day through September 1 this year.

The bacteria that the Department of Health uses as an indicator for water quality is called enterococci. Enterococci comes from all warm-blooded animals, but it is particularly harmful coming from leaks or spills of human feces. It can ruin any great day at the beach, causing gastro-intestinal distress if ingested.

When levels of enterococci rise to a specified number in any tested area, the creek, river or stretch of the Bay may be closed based on risk so that the water may have time to naturally return to a healthy level. For example, the West River reading for the Galesville County Pier on Tuesday, June 24 was 12mpn (mpn stands for most probable number). That’s a very low amount, but if this number were to begin to quickly elevate and rise above 104mpn, the waters would be closed until the level dropped.

No new water problems have been identified yet for this swimming season in Anne Arundel County, but a few creeks will remain closed to recreational use is their quasi-permanent situation. Marley Creek, Furnace Branch and Rock Creek (between the headwaters to Valley Rd., Wall Cove and White’s Cove) have been closed for several years.

Calvert County does not yet have a system set up for residents to learn about the water quality from the county’s dozen public beaches. “We just haven’t had any problem with beaches,”says director of Environmental Health Jimmy Herriman, while coworkers run samples on an overflow of diluted sewage water in North Beach. The area continues to be in advisory but has not been shut down. Herriman says that if problems persists the department will notify local newspapers of problem areas. That will have to do for now, but Calvert is considering a future hotline

In the meantime, wherever you swim, be safe. Call the water quality phone line, serviced by the Anne Arundel Department of Health to get information on any bacteria festering in your part of Bay Country and look towards the papers as your link to the Chesapeake: 410/222-7999 • www.aahealth.org.

— Stephanie Chizik

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Update: from Vol. XI, No 22
Demolition Derby Found Drivers
Smashing up your car was half the fun

photos by Mike Carico
On May 31, some two dozen of the bravest, craziest and most passionate people will compete, head-on — literally. All will drive and smash their way to hoped-for victory. It will be easy to tell who’s won, because he’ll be the only one left moving.

Thirty seven competitors raced in this year’s demolition derby at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds admist “huge thunderstorms and torrential rain,” according to James Maxey, who drove the number-one car, a 1985 Dodge Aries painted in tiger stripes.

“NASCAR people want to see the wrecks, because drivers are on the edge. Demolition derbies cater to that,” said Maxey, who is a retired Baltimore police driving instructor preparing for his second derby, where he hopes to drive the last car moving, rolling or crawling — whichever can make him the victor.

Maxey finished in fourth place in last year’s race as a first time driver. He won his heat to advance to the final, where he ultimately lost.

“This year I got through three quarters of my heat when a fluke electrical problem caused my car to die,” said Maxey, who was eliminated once his car stopped moving.

“It’s the worst seat in the house, when you’re stopped,” said James Maxey.

“It’s still the worst seat in the house. I was soaked and muddy [all glass is removed for safety]. It was very frustrating. A total fluke eliminated me this year,” said Maxey, who added with little enthusiasm and joy, “At least I gave more hits than I received.”

If he fails, then Catlett’s Towing is on hand to haul his car away.

Catlett’s Towing hauled away James Maxey’s car away for the second straight year.

The rain made driving more adventuresome, but it didn’t deter families, friends and fans from attending. Despite the rain and mud over 1,600 people came out to see the demolition derby. Three thousand turned out in better weather last year.

— James Clemenko

Way Downstream …

In Annapolis, Gov. Robert Ehrlich this week announced a Poultry Issues Action Team that he said would deal with poultry and the environment. As members he appointed representatives from the poultry industry, several politicians and a banker — but no one at the moment from the conservation or science community …

Elsewhere in Annapolis, there’s a gold medal — but it’s not for swimming or gymnastics. The EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program awarded the city a gold medal for Olympian successes in stormwater management in the ’03 Chesapeake Bay Partners competition …

In Pennsylvania, a pair of peregrine falcons who have settled near Montgomery in the eastern part of the state made the first such nest in nearly a half-century, the Associated Press reported. And there’s more to the story: The nest has a chick in it …

Our Creature Feature comes from New Zealand where, if you’re an arachniphobe, you’d better stay out of the deep water. That’s because giant sea spiders the size of a dinner plates were among the strange creatures observed in an expedition into deep water northwest of New Zealand.

We’re talking very deep and very strange. More than a mile down, researchers sponsored jointly by New Zealand and Australia photographed more than 100 new species that included blobfish, prickly dogfish, viperfish, fangtooths, slickheads, goblin shrimp and jewel squids. They also found a fossilised tooth of an extinct megalodon — a shark twice the size of the great white.

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Last updated June 26, 2003 @ 1:19am