Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – September 9, 2022

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – September 9, 2022

The People for Fiscal Responsibility – the group that spearheaded the petition effort on the planned sports complex west of the Stephen Decatur High School – is asking the county for clarity.

In a letter to county Attorney Roscoe Leslie with copies to all seven Worcester County Commissioners and Chief Administrative Officer Weston Young, Vince Gisriel, chair of the People For Fiscal Responsibility, laid out his concerns. He believes the process has been flawed and might not even be permissible by county code. He believes the county erred with how it advertising its public hearing for the sports complex in April when it wrote in a legal  notice, “The Worcester County Commissioners will host a public hearing on a proposal to purchase property to develop a sports complex using a portion of the proceeds from general obligation bond funds of $11,198,830 in FY23 to fund acquisition, design, and development costs…” The property acquisition was never intended to be part of the bond, according to the county, only the development of it.

In his letter, Gisriel wrote, “Pursuant to Section 3 of the Contract of Sale for the purchase of 95.521 acres next to Stephen Decatur High School for the purpose of a Sports Complex, the County Commissioners should choose ‘…not to proceed to settlement…’, and the Commissioners should ‘…notify Seller in writing before the expiration of the Study Period…,’ thus terminating the Contract. Once it was determined that Bond Bill 22-8, even if approved by the voters on 11/8/22, cannot be used for land acquisition, I believe that a separate legislative action was required to enable the purchase of land. I can find no specific enabling legislation, resolution or bill that has been introduced, adopted or voted upon by the County Commissioners to purchase the land, nor to even enter into a contract of sale. I submit that a simple voice vote by the majority of Commissioners on the evening of the public hearing on 4/19/22, without a signed document such as a resolution does not constitute a valid, official action. In retrospect, there should have been two separate motions and two separate votes, one of each for the land purchase and one of each for the Bond Bill.”

Gisriel has long pointed out the sports complex process has not followed typical capital improvement projects. Capital projects typically appear on five-year capital improvement plans (CIPs) approved by elected officials and submitted to the state as a matter of record. Gisriel pointed out the sports complex first appeared in the fiscal year 2023-2027 plan. Gisriel reviewed previous CIPs going back to 2010. He’s right on this point. Whether it matters is the question.

What is known is a decision is coming for the sports complex. A vote will need to be held this month on how the county will fund the acquisition of the 95-acre parcel soon. A settlement date is set for Sept. 29. The contract of sale was signed March 29 with a “180-Day Study Period” included in the document. The votes are most likely there at this time to by the property no matter where the $7.1 million comes from within the county. After the election, the majority vote may change. I expect something significant to happen on the sports complex front over the next few weeks. The signed contract says it must.

Maryland’s Republican Party is being fractured by right-wing extremists. This is the conclusion after the July primary saw robust Trump supporter Dan Cox cruise to the GOP gubernatorial nomination over incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan’s pick, former Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz.

The fallout from Cox’s victory continued this week with Hogan again stating he would not endorse him for governor against Democratic nominee Wes Moore. Additionally, Senate Minority Leader Bryan Simonaire said he would not endorse Cox or Republican Attorney General nominee Michael Peroutka, who like Cox is full of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and unapologetically backs Trump.

What’s all this mean? Cox is going to get pummeled by Moore in November. My guess is Moore will win 70% of the vote at least. Democrats hold a 2-to-1 voter majority over Republicans, and the only hope for the GOP to hold on to the governor’s mansion was to put forward a moderate candidate, like Hogan, who can grab votes from the left. Meanwhile, Trump continues to openly stump for Cox, dooming him further in the minds of most voters.

The revenue numbers from Maryland’s casinos continue to impress. Let’s take a look at August’s numbers released this week.

The state’s six casinos brought in a total of $169 million in gaming revenue, which is up .5 percent from last August. The state will receive $70 million of that revenue with contributions made to the counties. Additionally, the state’s Education Trust Fund gets $51 million.

On the local front, the Ocean Downs Casino, which currently features 846 slot machines and 19 table games, brought in $10.5 million in August, representing a 7% increase from last August. Of the six casinos, the Route 589 operation is the fourth highest earner behind MGH National Harbor with 2,099 sot machines and 210 tables ($71.8 million – up 6.5% from last August); Live! Casino & Hotel with 3,754 slot machines and 180 tables ($56.9 million, down 5% from last August); and Horseshoe Casino with 1,500 slots and 180 table games, ($17.2 million, down 4% from last August). The other two are the Hollywood Casino ($7.1 million – a 7% decline from last August) and Rocky Gap Casino ($5.7 million – a 2% decrease when compared to last August)

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.