Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – April 28, 2017

It’s been almost nine months since Gov. Larry Hogan announced on the Boardwalk in Ocean City an intention to mandate all school systems start after Labor Day. In hindsight, I wish he had picked another location because critics continue to harangue about this mandate being only for Ocean City. That’s simply not the case and foolish to assert over and over again.

The same predictable comments were heard this week in the form of a scathing editorial from The Baltimore Sun about the loss of spring break being a result of the post-Labor Day start as well as Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is a likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee for next year’s election.

In its editorial this week, “Let spring break be spring break,” The Sun raises some good points about the likely shortening of spring breaks for many school systems due to the start date change and the issues that causes them. However, any merit behind the argument is lost when drama and falsehoods surface.

“The notion that a governor ought to tell school districts when to open their doors each year without even a scintilla of understanding of the full consequences to school calendars has been one of the head-scratchers of the Hogan term, particularly given that the primary justification for that action has been to boost tourism in Ocean City this summer, which it might not even accomplish. Isn’t micromanaging local governments from afar something only liberal Democrats are supposed to be doing?,” the editorial read.

Kamentz said, among other things, Hogan, “mandated that schools start after Labor Day, not to promote the academic outcomes of children, but to sell more funnel cakes in Ocean City.”

Kamenetz and the paper forget this will benefit all areas of Maryland from an economic standpoint and is supported by most Marylanders. Sure, school systems will have to make some changes to their calendar that could stress their comfort zones, but they need to look no further than the highly acclaimed Worcester County Public School system to see it can be done in a fashion when students excel and teachers thrive. It’s just not that big of a deal, but the opponents, like petulant children refusing to accept what they don’t want, just can’t seem to understand that.

Hogan put it another way in a Facebook post, responding specifically to the editorial. He wrote, “Not only is starting school after Labor Day what is clearly best for our students, families, teachers, and schools, but it is widely supported by nearly all Marylanders. On top of that, a legislatively mandated non-partisan commission of parents, teachers, and education professionals overwhelmingly voted in favor of starting school after Labor Day. It is supported by elected officials in both parties, including former Governor O’Malley and Comptroller Franchot and Senate President Miller.”

A seemingly banal and inexpensive plan to illuminate the beach ball water tower in Ocean City took an unusual turn toward the nasty this week. This was really not about the expense as much as it was where the money should originate from to pay for the lighting and the one-time expense to a private property owner for the use of a light pole.

While I still think this tower was a lost opportunity to do something unique from a visual perspective, rather than simply copy what other Florida towns did, shining a light on it so it’s seen at night is logical. The less than $600 annual cost for the power to do so is worth the expense.

The issue some council members had was the cost should derive from the tourism budget, rather than the water department, and subsequently be funded through room tax. The discussion over the issue did become silly after a while, considering the dollar amount involved. That fact was not lost on Councilman Dennis Dare, who said, “I don’t even know where to start. It’s so ridiculous. Did the tourism budget pay for the painting? We’re going to split hairs over $500 a year?”

Councilman Wayne Hartman, the most vocal questioner of the matter, responded, “I know a lot of the things I suggest you think are ridiculous or irresponsible, but I guess we have a different philosophy.”

Councilman John Gehrig added, “It’s not ridiculous to have this conversation even though it probably went 15 minutes too long. What’s proper is what’s proper.”

The subject line of the email read, “[Chris] Van Hollen Announces Bill To Raise Minimum Wage to $15.” The bill would raise the wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $15/hour by 2024. It’s remarkable to me how out of touch some legislators are in our state.

“If you work full time in America, you should be able to support yourself and your family without worrying about putting a roof over your head or food on your table,” said Van Hollen. “But for too many Marylanders, the minimum wage is not a living wage. Wages have not kept up with inflation or worker productivity, but the Raise the Wage Act would finally give working families a much needed boost.”

That’s all well and good and warms the heart, but what happens when these same individuals’ employers can no longer afford to pay them because their expenses have exceeded their revenues. It’s not a responsible wage.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.