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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Chickens roost in Berlin; OPA drops a GM; and elections fuel the year

BERLIN – It is time to buckle down and take a look at what got done this year. Since 2010 was an election year the best way to conceive of it is: lots of motion, little of it forward. 

In addition to the elections that played a part in nearly every issue this year there was an undercurrent of accomplishment despite the odds; locals ignoring the noise to get through their days and having fun doing it. 

What follows is a highly subjective account of 2010, according to the Bayside Gazette. What follows is my experience, so it may be a little loose with the facts or heavy on opinion but one thing it’s not is deadly serious.



The year started, as years tend to, with New Year’s Day and while I have a previous engagement that precludes my participation, the Bayside Gazette’s fearless editor Thomas Melville braved the biting cold to witness the annual Penguin Swim. The event raises funds for the Atlantic General Hospital Foundation and entails people in varying states of dress and undress running into the Atlantic Ocean for money.

AGH CEO Michael Franklin was the first to hit the surf which, if you think about it, means he was among the first couple Americans in the Atlantic Ocean this year – excluding ex-patriots closer to the International Date Line – which is kind of an honor.

Except as 2010 began the ocean missed him and hit a bunch of people behind him which meant for last year, he wasn’t even in the top ten people from Worcester County to hit the surf, even though he was the first to make for it.

The election had reared its ugly head before I sat down to write last year’s year in review and was in full swing by the time the calendar ticked over to 2010 with both Gee Williams and Marty Pusey assuring me as the year started they had no intention of running and no idea who might be. 

As it turns out Pusey was just playing things close into the vest while Williams apparently had no intention of running and no real reason to but the absolute claims of each had a shelf life of nearly six-months, which is pretty good for politicians. Generally the absolute facts according to a professional politician — including gravity and sunrise — have a shelf life of about an hour and a half. Maybe William and Pusey use fact preservatives or something like that.

If the Ocean Pines Association versus the Mid-Delmarva Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was a highlight real on ESPN it would feature a superstar basketball player bouncing a slam dunk off the back of the rim.

To the surprise of everyone in the OAP the judge ruled in favor of the YMCA – a group which, in other news and later in 2010 would formally change it’s name to the “Y” – in the matter of whether they Y had sufficiently planned to develop a piece of property the OPA was supposed to be granted if the Y didn’t sufficiently develop it.

Before the appeals and ill will are over both the Y and the OPA will likely spend enough in court fees fighting it out that each could buy a similar property 100 times over as spending absurd amounts of money is way better than admitting defeat.

One of the cool things about not looking at the papers until I sit to write this is many of the stories passed from my memory. I was just thinking how hard it was to sit down  to write a long involved story for the first time in my adult life without a cigarette burning and discovered that the first health story of 2010 was, indeed, on quitting smoking. As the year rolls on I’ll speak more on the subject but for now, a tiny story:

My preparation for writing this annual review usually involves me double checking to make sure I have enough cigarettes to get me through the night. Because it’s a little bit fun and because I have procrastination issues I generally write this story in one sitting. I spend an evening and the better part of an early morning smoking and writing and (occasionally) having the odd glass of whiskey. It’s a good way to put the year to bed and an excellent excuse to begin the weeklong Christmas celebration at the Russo household. But with any luck these celebrations and the process from which this story comes will no longer be nicotine-fueled. Every page or so I reach for the cigarette that hasn’t been there since the end of November but we’ll get through it. Or at least I will. I guess.

Worcester Prep beat up on the Mennonites. OK it was in basketball but that was such an awesome stand-alone sentence I couldn’t mess with it. Stephen Decatur was on the verge of what can politely be called a rebuilding period in boys’ basketball but was going to have an admirable enough early 2010.

I guess many if not most of you don’t personally know Jim Adcock, the Bayside Gazette’s editorial cartoonist. He’s a good guy. What’s particularly cool about reading his comics a year later is sometimes he’s a little prescient. 

In the Jan. 7 edition of the paper he’s got a six panel cartoon of predictions that includes people having to make sure they’re wearing underwear before going through airport security:

“Those flying out of Salisbury Airport are asked not to wear underwear – you will be checked!”

The drawing shows TSA official looking sown the back of a traveler’s pants.

Speaking of prescience:

Berlin resident Sue Beaman is a sometimes political blogger following the mostly-mundane ins and outs of behind-the-scenes Berlin politicking. We sometimes share things that neither of us have the courage and or permission to print. There’s a quasi-scandal a-brewing now regarding Mayor Gee Williams and his decision to direct town staff to not enforce the law. She sent me a not suggesting (ironically) that she might keep more chickens than the town code allows.

She’s referring to a landmark decision by Berlin last January to allow “people living in single family dwellings to keep and raise a limited number of chickens on their properties.”

What has become come to be known as the Great Berlin Chicken scandal among those to whom I brag about the rock star nature of by job covering the county, Town of Berlin and the Ocean Pines Association, town policy clashed with sustainable living and lost. Kind of.

The shenanigans started when poultry began running out of control in a Berlin neighborhood. Never one to use a hammer when a thermonuclear device will do, the council decided to ban chickens within the town limits.

Although many council members will claim lifelong residence in Berlin, it apparently escaped the notice of most council members that chickens were kind of important around these parts. Imagine their surprise, then, when droves of people showed up to fight for their right to bear and keep chickens within town limits.

The other piece of info that slipped past the council was that, in addition to those who feel the ought to be able to keep chickens on general principals there is a growing sustainability movement in Berlin wherein people keep a limited number of chickens for food, including and especially eggs.

Those subjected to the roosters and the geese and other aurally and olfactorilly objectionable animals running lose on the property in question also mounted a vocal and vigorous campaign to ban the offending and offensive fowl from the immediate area for certain and, if their totally justifiable anger was any indication, the region if possible.

The coolest thing was that the TV people showed up. In the five-ish years I’ve been attending each and every council meeting the television have deemed the town of Berlin newsworthy, like, twice. It’s funny because they obviously don’t know how the meeting goes and are a little bit confused that they mayor and council don’t get right to the good stuff.

There’s a certain confused look that comes over their faces when the “news” they’re coming to cover isn’t the lead story on the agenda. Watching them sit through the various other non-chicken scandal items the mayor and council covered was a pleasure because, to be honest, it’s tough to see everybody go all agog over the TV people, as if decisions matter more when there’s television involved.

I guess it’s a generational thing. People old enough to be elected still remember when the television was a magic machine.

Anyway, the refrain among the more reasonable voices in the Chicken Scandal Debate tended to be something along the lines of “you can’t legislate courtesy.” In the end, the offending property was handled under the rules that applied long before the issue of chicken-banning raised it’s ugly head and the residents of Berlin were allowed, if not quite encouraged, to keep and bear chickens for food, eggs and the companionship they’re so known for.

Although the town would now have plenty of denizens capable of pointing out when the sky was falling, there weren’t any on Main Street when the facade of the under-restoration former hardware store came almost a-tumblin’ down. It was shored up and no one was hurt the neighbors said they heard a little rumbling but nothing worth worrying about.

It’s not without an ounce of pride that I remind you that I broke the roundscale spearfish story, locally. The roundscale spearfish is a fish that looks like the white marlin. The two fish look enough alike that the former was considered extinct until it was found as part of a catch of the later.

Reasonable people, people who aren’t obsessed with trophy fish, thought it was cool when a fish thought to be extinct was discovered hiding in plain sight. Less-than-reasonable people used the fact as evidence that there is nothing wrong with the white marlin population. If you don’t understand that reasoning join the club. If you do, feel free to explain it to me at your leisure.

Point is, one fish not being extinct was a reason to ignore evidence that a similar fish’s population was declining. The numbers come out in January – which is why I reported them then – which is plenty of time to forget what the problem was in the first place.

At this point, I half hope the last roundscale spearfish and/or white marlin is caught off the coast of Ocean City during my lifetime. It’s astounding to me that, given the number and volume of other fish available for catching there are really still people out there who argue that the two nearly-identical fishes’ dwindling numbers aren’t a real problem. Eventually there won’t be any more of either and Ocean City might as well call itself “Home of the Dodo” for all the good it will do.

The front page of the final January paper has the following headline: “OPA may increase fees $45” and I can’t remember if this is the time that actually did it or if this was the time is was re-organized during the waning weeks of the budget sessions.

It’s also kind of amusing in it’s the first mention of the Yacht Club repair estimate, which was $1.2 million at the time. For those of you that don’t recall, the plan for the Yacht Club beginning in 2010 was to close it, renovate it and reopen it as something else or something better. Of course, the plan for 2010 was that Tom Olson would be the association’s general manager; best laid plans and all that.

I tell the following joke too much: reporters would prefer a totalitarian government to having to cover elections. The Worcester County commissioners took the courageous step – according to them – of not voting themselves raises for the next four years. If I was a person whose part-time job was well above what the bulk of my constituents made full time I wouldn’t brag about not giving myself a raise for four years.

In retrospect, given that it occurs during an election year it’s kind of a miracle the commissioners ever get raises. The fact they feel they deserve praise, on top of money, for a job that consists mostly of blaming state and federal representatives for not doing a good job would be offensive outside of politics.



Speaking of offensive, in late January we started getting the kind of debilitating all encompassing snow storms that made many here on Delmarva begin to consider finding a way to placate the weather gods, just so we could have a break. At first it was kind of nice to have a real snow storm for a change but then it froze and continued to snow in the manner to which those from Minnesota are accustomed but that was really more than many of us here could deal with.

The oddest thing was that there was a run on snow shovels that puzzles me to this day. I had a snow shovel and it broke but as it turns out only me and a few other people on the peninsula actually owned shovels as part of their garden shed paraphernalia. Friends of mine who were among the thousands – “thousands” isn’t hyperbole, it is a number that reflects reports from stores on the numbers of additional snow shovels they stocked and restocked – told me that generally either a shovel or patience took care of the snow problems people may have had in the past 10-or-so years. The continuing snow and the sustained, icy temperatures forced many people to do the snow removal chores they’d generally left to the sun in the past.

The first political news story of the second month of the election year had to do with OPA member Ray Unger announcing his intention to run for Worcester County Commissioner. His choice to challenge incumbent Judy Boggs for the Republican nomination was the first demonstration of a simmering anti-incumbent mood that’d boil over before summer. It actually boiled over before the end of the month, but that’s for later down the page.

It would be cool if, one year to the day after getting it approved, the Burley Oak Brewery opened in Berlin. I don’t know if it’s likely but it would totally be cool. Bryan Brushmiller had hoped to be open by now but the brewery is still scheduled to open before the spring. One of the things Brushmiller discovered during his marketing research was that the type of beer he’ll produce — Belgian style in the large bottles – is a high-demand product. So he went back to the drawing board to make sure once he was in production he was able to meet demand.

As the storms kept their foot on the area’s throat Diakonia, the private homeless shelter, ran out of beds and supplies. Fortunately, the Worcester County Commissioners recognizing the need, stepped in to help given that the existence of Diakonia relieves the county of the burden of having to deal with homelessness. Of course I’m kidding, they didn’t respond directly to that particular problem, deciding instead to focus on the scourge that is salvia. They also courageously proclaimed February Black History Month.

The first Tea Party ramblings and rumblings began as February came to a close and people showed up at meetings all over Delmarva to shout at Delegates Norm Conway and Jim Mathias. The Tea Party, to me, represents the worst aspect of democracy for one critical reason: they’re proud of not having leadership.

On the surface, it sounds very democratic each person gets to speak for themselves, but I was at these meetings and saw and heard too many things that made me embarrassed to be the same species as some of these people, let alone their neighbors.

The meeting I covered in the Berlin chamber went like this: angry people came in and started reading things they’d printed off the Internet and demanding the delegates address why they hadn’t done anything about it. The dominant answer was that it wasn’t really their job. State delegates can’t amend the constitution any more than they can make sure the mayor of Baltimore goes to jail.

But it wasn’t merely the near-total civic ignorance displayed at the meeting that made me really hate representative democracy. It was the baldfaced, faux-patriotism. Here’s the scene that sums up the gaggle of unapologetic hypocrites that made up my experience of the Tea Party:

Not long after the question and answer period started a particularly angry woman demanded, quite condescendingly, that the Pledge of Allegiance be said. Her sentiment was followed by riotous applause wherein it was made clear that the Tea Partiers present were irritated that they were the only real patriots with the presence of mind to recall that whenever Americans assemble the Pledge of Allegiance should be said. Mayor Gee Williams, who was playing host, agreed the meeting would be closed with the pledge.

Satisfied that they’d struck a blow for patriotism, the Tea Partiers promptly forgot their demand, yelled barely coherent questions for another couple minutes and left, leaving me, the other couple reporters, the politicians and a few people who came with actual questions to say the pledge in their absence. God Bless America.

The best part of the meeting was that it put February out of its misery but we lurched into March with eight more months of political hypocrisy and nonsense from both sides of the aisle to endure.



Once upon a time the town of Berlin had an ethics commission that had no real direction or rules for holding hearings, etc. The result was a finding against Councilman Troy Purnell for having violated ethics rules when he voted on changed to the way EDUs were distributed. They didn’t hold a hearing or take testimony or present charges they just found Purnell violated the ethics rules and pretty much kept the finding to themselves.

After the many inconsistencies in their procedures were pointed out the commission charged town attorney David Gaskill with establishing ruled for the commission. He did and they reconsidered Purnell’s case and revised their findings.

As Gaskill pointed out at the time, a person who works in an industry that benefits from legislation aimed at the wider community is not required or really even expected to recuse themselves.

Since the flareup Purnell has consulted Gaskill on most matters relating to planning, zoning and development votes the council has to take. He has recused himself several times at Gaskill’s advice and several times just as an additional measure of ethical security.

The budget process started with the school board presenting their budget to the Worcester County Commissioners. It’s difficult to discover which is more offensive, the board’s obsequiousness during these meetings or the ad nauseum pronouncements of support of education by the commissioners. Fortunately, since forthrightness isn’t something either side has to worry about, the only people who are made uncomfortable by the extreme and mutual faux-fawning are the people in the audience. 

It took nearly three months but there was finally some genuinely good news worth celebrating when the Stephen Decatur basketball team won the 3A East Region title for the first time in 18 years.

Director of Tourism Lisa Challenger was nearly successful at having the rest of the county treated as if it mattered when compared to Ocean City when she asked for $270,000 of the more than $4 million that was generated by a countywide hotel room tax increase.

Although the funds were ostensibly for increased advertising, Ocean City funneled much of the money into the Rolland E. Powell Convention Center general operating account. Challenger said that since the county needed to make a more aggressive attempt at drawing tourists to the county generally, it should at least consider increasing the budget a little more.

The commissioner agreed allocating most of the money Challenger requested and then removing it piecemeal as the county found other ways to spend it.

In Berlin, the folks at Baked Deserts were instrumental in helping get the peach dumpling named the town’s official dessert. The main difficulty people had with the decision was recalling that there is a difference between a dumpling and cobbler but the ladies from Baked Desserts showed up at a town hall meeting with a sample of the dessert that helped clear the matter up in people’s heads.

The best thing that happens each March is the Ocean City Hotel Motel Restaurant Association Trade Exposition wherein people come from all over the country to show off the newest developments is their disparate fields.

True, I tend to concern myself with developments in the beer, liquor and wine industries but there are lots of other really worthwhile displays I’m sure.

Interviewing people when something really good happens to them is one of the other job perks. One of those good things that happened to a good person was that former Seneca Valley High School principal and current OPA member Nathan Pearson had an award endowed in his honor. The school came to be known as The House that Nate Built because of all the programs and success the school had as a result of the foundation.

What was particular about the school is that, against all odds, it was successful even though the principal’s first name was used informally. Go figure.

Two years ago the Worcester County Commissioners elected to fire people in order to balance the budget. In the face of public outrage they reconsidered. This year they passed a law that would prevent them from having to vote publicly to fire people, which is way less labor intensive than actually governing.

The commissioner’s new administrative powers clarify state rules that allow the commissioners to act privately on the matters they’d rather not be taken to task for publicly. 

Andy Serrell is probably my favorite pilot. I was fortunate to be selected to write about what it’s like to take a flying lesson from him a couple of years ago and since then I’ve had occasion to talk to him about flying issues. Last year he took part in a special program that makes sure any WWII veteran who wants to can make it to Washington, D.C. to see the WWII Memorial.

Serrell flew in the Pacific theater during the war and, when they called to invite him to the WWII Memorial service that was concomitant with the HBO mini-series premiere of The Pacific, thought they were enlisting him to fly others to the event. In fact they’d just wanted to make sure he was there but he did volunteer to fly other vets in when need.



The month started as it always starts, with our Sloof Lirpa edition chronicling the made up news we believe is worth chronicling. The best part about doing the April Fool’s Day edition is that we always get at least one call complaining about an article, which is a really pleasant experience not only because a call means the prank succeeded but also because it’s nice to know that people care enough to object to what are usually objectionable articles.

Something else that’s pretty objectionable is the alcohol ban at Assateague State Park and indeed all of the state’s parks. Maryland didn’t enforce the Volstead Act and even had a state bootlegger and, apparently, once they got into hypocritical alcohol mode they were unable to extricate themselves.

Recognizing the scourge that is alcohol the state took the brave step of banning its possession in state parks. O.K. it’s not banned if you buy a $35 permit and sell truckloads of it at festivals but if you make the mistake of having a beer when a huge public event isn’t going on, you’ve gone too far.

I guess what makes it kind of hard to do my job – if there’s anything about my job that can be classified as difficult – it’s that I have to try and make sense of arbitrary policies and procedures. 

For example, the Worcester County Commissioners nearly raised the property tax rate in April. When they were considering it we in the press were instructed – they do things like that, tell us what we’re to write as if we are somehow responsible for their public relations – that it was in no way a tax increase.

In fact, it was a tax cut they were considering because – pay close attention – even though the tax rate would go up, since the assessments would go down the net affect was that people would be paying less, just not as much less as they expected.

Although there was no public outcry, in the end the commissioners elected not to raise the tax rate, particularly because they “found” more places to cut, thereby erasing the $5.8 million projected budget shortfall.

This is the primary reason people hate having to pay taxes: no one in charge is ever even a little bit honest about how much it costs to run the government. When you have to consider raising taxes in an election year and are forced to publicly concede that fact and then “find” more money elsewhere of course people believe there’s all sorts of government waste and that the government has been overcharging us for too long.

Seriously, who “finds” $6 million dollars? Most of us working people will never earn that much over the course of a lifetime but governments believe we’re happy to believe they can “overlook” that amount. It smacks of dishonesty and slush-fund creation but really has to do with will. Rather than lose their jobs by raising taxes they “find” money in election years that they can replace with either tax increases, incredible unpopular cuts in services or a combination of the two after election day.

Of course now that they’ve been reelected to four year terms very few of the commissioners are making the blanket pronouncements about never voting for a tax increase. The language had morphed into the “we’re going to have some tough decisions to make” kind of talk that usually precedes regular people getting the shaft. Even though they forewent their right to a raise, it must be nice for the commissioners to know they’ve got jobs for the next four years, no matter how bad the economy gets.

Speaking of rabid, I spent the better part of the spring doing rabies and rabies-related stories. It’s an odd problem to have but rabies in the region actually reached epidemic proportions. The combination of untreated cat colonies and the pervasive nature of the other rabies-carrying animals in the region made for an exciting summer among the animal control people and sheriff’s department members.

The best part of April is that people truly start shaking the winter off by attending events and, in response to all this attendance, there are several things to do every week. The down economy also made tourism-centric companies work all the harder coming up with ways to attract visitors and, by extension, customers.

Events were invented, it seemed, or improved at every turn during the whole of spring and summer. Berlin started things off with the Spring Celebration and after the horror that was the 2010 winter weather, people were out in droves taking advantage of the fact that they no longer needed to dig their cars out before driving anywhere.

Among the growing spring attractions was the Delmarva Birding Weekend. Berlin did an excellent job in creating a little bit of excitement around the town that drew birders in to shop, eat and even stay.

As part of the refocus on local tourism I spend a day in Chincoteague, Va. and wrote about the experience. Chincoteague dodged the huge condo bullet for the most part and as a result is kind of like Berlin with an ocean view. Lots of funky to charming shops, some good restaurants, and inexpensive ways to pass an afternoon, including their own section of the national park.

I got to see some ponies – as it turns out they’re pretty much indistinguishable from the Maryland side of Assateague Island ponies, go figure – but what was the most amazing part of the trip for me was the utter devastation the winter storms caused on their beaches.

Even though the tourist season was beginning, the beaches were nowhere near ready to handle the traffic. The town was considering running beach busses rather than having to worry about the ways people could contend with the temporary gravel parking lots.

On the political side of things, Bob Thompson announced his candidacy for the District 5 Worcester County Commissioner seat joining Judy Boggs and Ray Unger in the run for the Republican nomination. Unger would drop out before the summer was over citing the fact that Thompson was a good candidate and also that he wanted to return to the OPA board of directors.

Thompson looked for awhile as if he’d be able to unseat Boggs. He was popular, a Republican and full of the kind of enthusiasm for service people associate with political success. But there was a cloud on his horizon that would eventually be his 2010 political undoing.

For the summer, however, Thompson would be content to point out at each term that being a Worcester County Commissioner wasn’t a full time job. He hit that note as often as his would-be opponent, Boggs, hit the opposite one.



So as the different businesses and organizations began gearing up for the summer season and holding events or previews I was happy to let politics fade from my radar focusing instead on the things that matter – area residents who are doing something important or interesting.

After having met the guys from 16 Mile Brewery, which is in Georgetown, Del. at the HMRA trade show I arranged to swing by and do a story highlighting their processes and beers. It’s worth the trip once if for no other reason than these are the types of things we have to support and encourage.

Speaking of things worth encouraging, there was a minor if failed push to shame the state and local governments into allowing the sale of beer at the Berlin Jazz and Blues Bash that ought to be renewed, at least a bit, in time for the next one.

The Jazz and Blues Bash is pretty well attended and for some reason always ends up being on the first truly hot day of the year. If it ran into the evening and was beer-friendly it would be even more popular than it already is. 

On Holiday Arts Night the streets are closed and the authorities turn a blind eye to the odd glass of wine a reveler carries from place to place as they enjoy the various shops, the Jazz and Blues Bash, and the Fiddler’s Convention for that matter, would be well served by the addition of a little bit of grownup beverages.

The same weekend as the Berlin Jazz and Blues Bash the Lilley family held its inaugural Sheep Shearing Day joust outside of town. The Lilley’s have a place called The Upper Room Studio where they spin and dye yarn and make different herbal remedies, etc. The event was an opportunity for people who enjoy spinning and other more sustainable family practices to come together for a kind of party. 

In addition to people selling hand spun yarn and accessories there was a professional sheep shearer showing off her craft, rides and the like for the kids, food and arts and crafts. The event turned out to be well-enough attended that the Lilleys are considering doing it again this year.

Matriarch Lisa Lilley actually just stopped by the office the other day to bring me gifts of fruit, some of the balms and salves she and her kids produced and a nice loaf of freshly baked bread. Here in the Russo household we make our own bread every day and it’s real good. Hers is better because while we lazily (and kind of cheaply) use store bought flower and make mostly white bread, the Lilleys’ bread is made from grain they mill themselves in the kitchen. Where many families might have a sack of flower they have a sack of wheat and they’re not afraid to use it.

Another fun thing that happens every May is I usually can find an interesting graduation story associated with Wor-Wic Community College. These stories are usually about people who made some particular extra effort to return to school or people who’ve been taking a class or two at a time for years working toward their dream degree. 

This year I had the privilege of interviewing Ryan Wormer and his mom Debbie Haines who earned their paramedics degree together, commuting to class and studying together was a good experience for the pair as it helped them get through the course work a little more successfully.

The Stephen Decatur girls lacrosse team won the 3A East Region but were eliminated in the state tournament semifinals.

I’ve interviewed a number of WWII combat veterans over the years and their stories never cease to fascinate me. As one of the older Gen Xers the kind of life that many of these people lived is acutely foreign to me and it’s always a treat to hear stories about growing up in America during the first half of the 20th century.

This year I had the privilege of interviewing a WWII home front veteran, Helen DiLeonardi who was one of the Rosie the Riveter girls supplying the manpower in the factories that were cranking out the planes, tanks, and munitions vital to the European war effort.

The story is a little mind boggling. DiLeonardi grew up very poor in Pennsylvania coal mining country and as a very young woman made the trip to Baltimore to work in a factory. It was the first time she left home, going from a very small mining town to one of the nation’s industrial hubs in one leap. 

Throughout the interview she kept talking about how little she knew and how scared she was the entire time. Her story, like those of many of the combat veterans, is as much about how America was opened by the war as it is about native perseverance.

On the perpetual election front Madison “Jim” Buntng formally announced his intention to attempt unseating incumbent Worcester County Commissioner for District 6 Linda Busick.

Busick is a nice enough woman and I accidentally misattributed one of her votes — I said she voted against the board of education’s budget when she in fact voted to support it — when I was writing the story on Bunting. I made the error in such a way that it looked as if Bunting had accused her of being against the schools and was pleased to get hammered for the mistake from both sides.

Bunting wanted to make clear he hadn’t said anything negative about Busick’s education record, such as it was and Busick wanted it made clear that she voted for education at every opportunity.

First of all, to be clear, I screwed up and don’t want to give anyone the impression that it’s an immaterial error. I really try to get things right and feel awful when I don’t.

That said, it’s difficult to imagine swaying an entire election, destroying one person’s four years of hard political work, with one misplaced sentence that received a pretty high-profile correction. It’s the kind of thing that makes election year such a sad time as people who’ve been on autopilot for the last several years all of a sudden take the public’s perception of them very seriously.

Also the Ocean Downs slots failed to open to the surprise of, I think, absolutely no one.



Over the last part of 2009 and the first part of 2010 I had the honor of interviewing the men and women of the Berlin Fire Company in anticipation of the 100th Anniversary Issue we produced for them. I recorded hours of interviews and rearranged them into the oral history of the Berlin Fire Company. It was extensive and novel-long by the time I finished with it and I’m pretty proud of the finished product.

The men and women at the fire company had lots of great stories to tell,  some of which are unrepeatable, that illustrated why people become volunteer fire fighters and how an all volunteer company can make it 100 years still relying mainly on unpaid staff to run the multi-million dollar operation.

This year the folks at Assateague Island National Seashore to a firmer stand than every before on the whole “Don’t feed the ponies” issue and really ought to be commended for it.

I have occasionally joked about instituting the death penalty for molesting the horses or at least sti