Letters to the editor

The Dorchester Banner welcomes readers’ views on topics of public interest.

A Call for Mutual Respect
In response to recent reports of social violence and civil unrest throught our nation, we of the Pine Street Committee, managers of the Octavene H. Saunders Empowerment Center in Cambridge, make this statement. We strongly stand against destructive social disorder, mindless injustice and unwise racism of any kind. Such actions are economically unproductive and socially disturbing.

Our mission is one of collective empowerment, helping people in the community to improve their lives. We urge an attitude of more social tolerance, mutual respect and mindful self-improvement.
In this way, we as a nation exemplify true leadership. No doubt, mutual respect and careful trust amongst citizens foster a more peaceful society.
Indeed, Black lives matter, as do all lives.
The Pine Street Committee
Cambridge

Informed voters, good voters
Membership on the Committee for Cambridge for the past year turned out to be a valuable experience.
A couple of the committee members and I have accomplished the following:
• Learned of the vision for our city that is shared by outstanding potential candidates for the Cambridge City Council
• Intensive study of the 2016 City Election
• Training and certifications as registrars of voter registration
• Relationship building with the Dorchester County Board of Elections
• Participation at a Board of Elections Meeting
• Gaining knowledge about national, state and local voting laws
• Acquisition of valuable resources from Planning and Zoning
• Membership and attendance at leadership meetings of the League of Women Voters Maryland
• Attendance, both in person as well as virtually, at many City Council Meetings
• Relationship building with Cambridge city employees, council members and the Mayor
• Volunteering with Election Protection, a voter watch group, for the National Primary Election in June
• The writing of eight voter education articles

I look forward to sharing what I have learned, in eight educational articles, with your readers as we all prepare for the Oct. 17 Cambridge City Election at Chesapeake College.
Donna Towers
Cambridge Ward 5

Save Hambrooks Light
Rep. Harris,
We are in our seventies and have boated the Choptank River for most of our lives. In addition, for 34 years we have lived right on the bend of the Choptank River and have admired our beautiful old marker “The Hambrooks Bar Light” that announces the entrance into the harbor area of Cambridge. It is old and badly in need of a coat of paint. It has a door hanging by its hinge and it has been a bird sanctuary for osprey.

It boggles the mind to reason why we must dismantle this historic marker. Surely there is a way to use a small portion of the vast funds for demolition to simply give this old relic a beautiful coat of paint, re-hang the door and welcome the osprey once again to the place they have called home for one hundred twenty years.
Why must we constantly destroy landmarks and rivermarks that remind of so many beautiful years on this most beautiful river? Please help in any way you can.
Cookie Brohawn
Cambridge

In favor of Mill St. renovation
My spouse and I live on Mill St. We recently attended a presentation for Mill Street residents, by the owner/developer himself, of a draft design proposal for the abandoned school property on Mill St. We are strongly in favor of the proposal. The developer is also an architect, is enthusiastic about Cambridge and what it has to offer, and is excited about living here, which he said is what he intends.
He had previously met with and solicited comments from residents and listened to their concerns. The proposal addresses most of those concerns to the extent possible, given the historical and economic constraints.
Soon after acquiring the property, which I understand was within the past year, he immediately fixed the chimneys, one of the most visible signs of deterioration, as a sign of his commitment.
The design sketch he presented reflects his architect’s appreciation for our historic buildings and neighborhood, as well as his architectural expertise. It is clearly a traditional and attractive style consistent with the neighborhood, where the multiple units will look like large single buildings similar to the surrounding homes.
The school building itself will be saved and renovated, as some have insisted, even though I had learned at a Planning and Zoning meeting that this will be roughly twice as expensive as tearing down the building and starting from scratch. The interior design is also attractive, well-thought out, and shows attention to important details regarding multiple units sharing walls.

There will be sufficient parking off-street for most occupants most of the time, which is more than can be said for many of the single-family homes in West End. The fear of more cars parking on the street seems overblown to me, since most streets throughout the West End, including Mill Street, have numerous cars parked along the street at any one time anyway.
Unlike most developers, he has also listened to the desire for more green space (hopefully to include river-friendly trees and shrubs, not just lawn). The plan allocates significantly more green space than the required 30%, and includes a pocket park, an innovative and welcome feature.

The fact that the most of the buildings are intended as nicely appointed rentals is a plus, not a minus. They represent a long-term investment in the community, rather than a developer immediately selling at high prices to a few wealthy absentee owners to pay off the cost of the development. Economically, rentals may be the only way any developer would be willing to do a really nice job, looking for steady longer-term returns.

His research identifies potential occupants as retirees looking to downsize or empty-nesters looking for a vacation home. The proposed development would be ideal for someone who keeps a boat in the marina and doesn’t want the responsibility of a yard and house. How many of those people want to buy an old age-unfriendly house needing constant maintenance? Not many apparently, given all the large homes on Mill Street and environs that have been for sale for years!

The abandoned schoolhouse is a drag on property values. If it is developed, in an attractive way that fits within its historical setting, as this design indicates, it will be a plus.
In fact, my spouse and I are finding that maintaining an old house and large yard is getting to be too much for us. We were already thinking about renting somewhere for a while to avoid the cost and hassle of buying another home at this point in our lives. It turns out that such rentals are few and far between in our area.

I would love to see an influx of new people and new perspectives, to eat in our great restaurants, to enjoy our history and waters, to be customers for service jobs, and to show and tell their friends and families about Cambridge and Dorchester. There are many different constituents who have a stake in this property and its successful development, not the just people who live right nearby.
This is a time of fear and anxiety. I understand people wanting to cling to the past, the familiar, the comfortable. But if we actually want Cambridge to prosper, we need to look forward and outward.

There will be increasing population pressure toward the Eastern Shore, most immediately from the explosion of aging baby boomers in the larger region, but also from people everywhere who want to escape from urban stresses. The Chamber of Commerce, Dorchester Tourism, and others seeking economic renewal for Cambridge understand and embrace this as an opportunity. We should embrace it too — or we can continue watch sadly at the school’s demolition by neglect.

Catherine Beise
Cambridge

Talbot sheriff responds vote
Please note that since this email went out, Councilmen Divilio, Callahan and Lesher have called me and apologized for their support of the letter. I truly believe that they did not fully comprehend what they were supporting!
This is an email I sent to my team after Tuesday nights [June 23] Talbot County Council meeting. Our citizens should know where their Council stands on supporting police across this nation.

Sheriff’s Deputies,
I watched in disbelief as our County Council voted 4-1 to send a letter of support to our congressional delegation in support of H.R. 7120, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. Council Woman Laura Price was the lone “NO” vote. I commend her for her courage.
As elected officials the council had no duty to seek my thoughts or advice. None of them probably knows that I have been accepted as an expert in Maryland Courts in the area of Police Policy, and not one probably knows that I have been accepted in Maryland Courts as an expert in the area of Use of Force and investigations of same.

Not one probably knows that I am one of a handful of chiefs and sheriff’s handpicked to sit on the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission. To be clear, not one asked me to weigh in, or give any advice on this bill that they voted to support. It appears that they could care less what their elected Sheriff has to say about any of it.

It appears that they care more about their political agendas, or maybe they are just scared to face the mob. I know that each of you stand ready to face the mob and would even protect these nervous souls if the need would arise.
Maybe they have some expertise that I am unaware of?

Maybe none of them know that the last person shot by the police in Talbot County was shot by a Natural Resources Police Officer after he was shot at by a white man who fired at them first. Maybe they don’t know that no one from this office has had a brutality complaint lodged against them since I have been here.
Maybe they don’t know that there hasn’t been an African-American person shot or killed by the police in Talbot County in the 30 years that I have lived here.

Maybe they just don’t care, at this point I really don’t know what the hell they are thinking.
While there are things in this bill that deserve support, as is the same with other bills proposed. Here is a list of things unique to this bill that will destroy policing.

No drug no-knock warrants at the federal level and funding conditions basically banning them at the state and local level. I am guessing that none have any idea of the planning and scrutiny that goes into obtaining and serving such a warrant. Obviously their political agenda is more important than our safety. We have been there, we know what it takes, but I guess they don’t care about our opinion!

Changes in the deadly force laws (set by the Supreme Court not by a county council) from what is “reasonable” to what is “necessary.” The council has no idea what that means but each of you do.
As you know I have investigated over 150 use of force cases, the question is and should always be was it “reasonable” to a trained police officer. The “necessary” standard is a Monday morning quarterbacking thing…once the investigation is done and it is realized that the bad guys gun was actually unloaded then the use of deadly force could be deemed “unnecessary”.

Changes to make it easier to prosecute you will be amended from “willfulness” to “recklessness”. They have no idea what that means but you do. Did the officer willfully break the law should always be the standard. I have arrested a number of police officers and had no problem meeting the willfulness standard. Again, this erodes any protections on police officers acting in good faith.

Enables individuals to recover damages in civil court when a law enforcement officer violates their constitutional rights by eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement. Your council has no idea that under current law if you violated someone’s rights that you can already be sued personally. But this new proposal will strip all protections even if you act appropriately. You will have to hire your own attorney and pay for that attorney. I wonder if the council will strip themselves of their qualified immunity. Maybe they also want to strip EMS, corrections and our firemen of this doctrine.

In the United States, the doctrine of qualified immunity grants government officials performing discretionary functions immunity from civil suits unless the plaintiff shows that the official violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” It is a form of sovereign immunity less strict than absolute immunity that is intended to protect officials who “make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions,” extending to “all [officials] but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”

Qualified immunity applies only to government officials in civil litigation, and does not protect the government itself from suits arising from officials’ actions.
I have no idea who they think will police this county going forward. For almost six years I have been able to say to each of you that our county council supports law enforcement and support you. Today, I can’t say that.
Each of you and this whole county need to know who our council supports and who they don’t. Rest assured each council person will be receiving this email today. I stand united with you to fight this ridiculous politically correct garbage.

Let me be perfectly clear, there are reforms that should be supported! But this bill is horrendous!
Rest assured that the remainder of my term here will be spent fighting for our citizens and you.
You have my respect and admiration for getting up today and pinning that badge on your chest and risking your life at night while many timid and cowardly souls sleep.

Sheriff Joe Gamble
Talbot County