Sunday, September 13, 2009

Laurel Dog Show 2009

We had a great time.  Dogs everywhere.  People were smiling.  Sunny and about 300 people and over 150 dogs participated.  

Gayle, Fred, Mike, Carreen, Kim, Pat, Jody, Bill the Dog, Rick the DJ, Jimmy, Donna, Rob, Maryann, Joanne, Jack, Eric, Mr. Nixon, Molly, Eddie, Kay, Doug and a team of volunteers, 4 and 2 legged, worked hard on another great family event.  The first annual Laurel Dog Show. 

A few more pictures for your enjoyment.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Night Supper

"My Goodness, we’ve become locavores!  She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed wants me to live just long enough for her to collect my pension."
Joanne's supper tonight was fantastic. Warm Butternut squash soup, accompanied with a spicy swiss chard, a nice dry Chardonnay and crusty Pasta Plus bread . 

This year we became localvores.  We joined the Gorman Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group.  We have been getting fresh, organically grown vegetables every Thursday from Dave and Lydia Liker, the farm's proprietors. 

We split a full share with our neighbors Juanita and Michael Malone.  A split share works out nicely.  There is plenty to feed two families.  Splitting a full share also gives you a chance to trade those fruits and vegetables to satisfy family tastes.

Joanne's voice almost beams every Thursday when she calls me at work to describe the week's produce.  We have loved everything but the beets.  I'm happy to give away beets, call me. 

I'm far from a tree hugger.  My kids have even accused me of wanting to "Pave The Bay".  So I did not think that 18 weeks worth of fresh vegetables that are grown a couple of miles from my home would be either worth it or fun.  But I gotta admit it has been.  It is fun to see what Dave has grown for us.  Each week has become an adventure in eating and community building.

The Liker's CSA shares sell out quickly.  Contact the Liker's to get on the CSA list for next year.

A full week's CSA share from Dave Liker's farm in August 2009.
Fresh basil pesto with tomato and mozzarella crostini.  Prosciutto wrapped around fresh melon slices.  Box-o-Chianti to make it all worthwhile.
Rick's Basil Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1T of balsamic vinegar

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Referendum Turnout by Wards

The Laurel City Clerk's Office has done a manual count of the voters at yesterday's referendum.  These numbers may change after the official count comes back from the county election board.  But as of today, the count unofficially is:

Ward 1 - 467
Ward 2 - 354

What do you think?  What does this mean to you?  Comment here.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Referendum Results Analysis

The plebiscite at the Phelps Center today was a big let down for me. After all the arguing, rallying, litigating, and preparation, only 800 souls showed up to vote. If this was an angry electorate, ready to throw the bums out, then I must be hallucinating again.

Nope, this was voting as usual for Laurel. Steadfast, thoughtful and less than 10% of the registered voters. Laurel voters are predictable and that is who voted in the referendum today.

Voters very strongly opposed council members serving four year terms, by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. The voters also rejected any pay raises by good margins. Voters strongly favor changing the municipal voting date and also extending the current council to allow this change.

The voting by ward issue seems to be the only tossup issue and could flip if all of the outstanding absentee votes are returned by next Tuesday and if they all oppose ward voting.

So what does this all really mean? Not much at all by my reckoning.

The goal of this effort was to find ways to increase votor turnout. Approximately 800 people cast votes so far. Considering all of the hype, hand wringing and litigation surrounding this referendum, this turnout is shamefully low.

If people are supposedly this riled up but only 800 of us could drag ourselves to the polls, then I don't think this foreshadows any new grassroots voter movement in Laurel.  

For a complete history of Laurel City voting patterns from 1972 to 2006 click here.

Here are brief election results from 2006-1992 for comparison with today:

VOTERS: 1091
VOTERS: 1062
VOTERS: 1153
VOTERS: 1763
Registered: 8014

Referendum Results

Q1. Early Voting       - 480 For     320 Against
Q2. Change Date      - 489 For     310 Against
Q3. Extending Term  - 424 For     373 Against
Q4. Term to 4 yrs     - 254 For     541 Against
Q5.  Vote by Ward   - 405 For     391 Against
Q6. Raise Mayor $   - 334 For     464 Against
Q7. Raise Council $  - 295 For     503 Against

Turnout 753 machine,
56 Absentee (15 oustanding)
3 provisionals

Doggone it.  The Laurel Leader beat me with their results tonight.  Kudos to Reporter Glenn and Editor Dzwonchyk.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Questions

Jim McCeney is bugging me to comment on the referendum questions themselves. I guess he thinks that I'm dodging the issue with my previous post. However, in the interest of full disclosure, here are my votes on the referendum questions:

1. Early Voting - Support - Of course we should have early voting. If we could ever figure out how to vote from home on these internets securely, I'd be in favor of that as well.

2. Changing the election date - Opposed - I don't want the election changed to November because I want to keep the city elections separate and distinct. Keep the date where it is now. We just changed it recently and I don't want to go chasing after the date like it's some sort of bad television show looking for an audience.

3. Extend the current terms - Opposed - See my answer above.

4. City Council term to 4 years. - Opposed - I'm sorry but this idea is just wrong. I would never have run for the council if the commitment was four years. I loved my time on the council, but 2 years is long enough to learn the job and decide if you want to continue serving. Besides, I agree with Karen, you need the opportunity to throw us bums out every two years.

5. Voting by Ward Only - OPPOSED - This one I feel quite strongly about. While I can see how voting for your own native son or daughter will encourage more turnout, we will rue the day when we encourage this level of parochialism in our city.

Laurel is a small town. We don't need to Balkanize it and pit ward against ward. Council members that collegially work for the good of the whole city are called great, and we have had many. A council member that is only working to serve their local ward constituents at the expense of the whole is called a Congressman. We already have one Congress, we don't need to turn Laurel into another.

6. Mayor's Salary - Opposed - Now is not the time to increase any salary.

7. Council's Salary - Opposed - Now is not the time to increase any salary.

A Very Special Referendum Indeed

So what’s going on? I’ve been away.

I heard that there’s a plebiscite scheduled for our fair city tomorrow, September 8th, 2009 at the Phelps Center. I’ve included directions to the Phelps Center because I understand that there are some folks who live in Laurel who don’t know where it is. Just kidding, please don’t sue me!

The Honorable Ed Ricks, former councilman, awesome short order cook and all around good guy was asked by the city to investigate painfully depressed voter participation in Laurel. The last city election in 2008 had only a few hardy souls willing to participate in an uncontested election and the city council thought it was time to see what could be done to improve participation.

Ed’s committee got to work, solicited public input and then wrote a report. The council decided that some of the committee’s recommendations had merit, so a referendum was scheduled to see what the voters thought about seven simple questions related to voter turnout.

But things are rarely as simple as they first appear in Laurel. This referendum tomorrow is not really about increasing voter turnout anymore is it? That simple turnout issue may have been hijacked.

Former city councilman Mike Sarich and the leadership of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club have once again joined forces. They are trying to turn this from a referendum on increasing voter participation into a vote of confidence on the city’s elected leadership itself.

Mike Sarich has long had strong feelings about the need for a second polling place in Ward 2. While a councilman last year, Mike wrote a letter to his colleagues cautioning them that the lack of a second polling place may become a legal issue. Much censuring and arguing ensued. The city’s lawyer, Robert Manzi, wrote an opinion saying that Laurel was compliant with existing laws. After this upcoming referendum was announced on June 8th, Mike filed suit to stop it, and while the injunction was denied, his lawsuit and another are continuing in the courts.

It also appears that that the LBGC sees this referendum as a path towards influencing the council to increase the city’s financial support of their club. The club hosted a rally organized by the Prince George's County political watchdog group People for Change who are demanding a second polling place in Laurel.

So we have possibly riled a few new folks into voting in a city election. That’s a good thing. However, please remember that this referendum tomorrow is not asking any voters to decide on a second polling place or if the LBGC should be given more city money, or if the mayor or the city council should be removed, or even if pit bulls make good pets.

Regardless of how we vote tomorrow, those questions are for another day.

(cartoon courtesy of