By Sandra Zunino
A new band of concerned citizens has rallied together and they are leaving little to chance when it comes to issues on the Eastern Shore.
Officially organized in January of this year, The Eastern Shore Leadership Council, Inc. is a non-profit, non-partisan group organized to promote sustainable local economies and job growth on the Eastern Shore. The founding directors represent local business and community interests and are concerned about eroding job opportunities, commercial activity, and an expanded reliance of residential property taxes to fund local government operations.
“We are private citizens, mostly business owners, who have been discussing these issues for years,” says Council Secretary and Treasurer Stephen Meehan..”
While the group is concerned about the entire Eastern Shore, they are currently focusing on the upper shore, specifically Queen Anne’s County according to Meehan. “In QAC we have a particularly serious situation because of the change of the demographics of the county,” he says. “We basically, in the last eight years, have driven the commercial tax base from about 12 percent to six percent and the burden has fallen right now to pay for government on residents.”
Meehan says with an aging population, the county is a ticking time bomb waiting to happen. To help combat this dilemma, the Council wants to focus on agriculture, education, transportation and sustainable homegrown economic opportunity to expand the county’s non-residential tax base, create jobs and improve housing affordability.
When controversy surrounded the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) proposed for Ruthsburg, the Council sprung into action, funding and undertaking research and a public outreach campaign to study public support and promote the benefits of building the center, which Meehan says would have created 500 jobs for the area and opportunities for local businesses.
With the defeat of FASTC, the group is turning its attention to the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) project. At their quarterly luncheon, the group brought in speakers to provide information and pitch pros and cons of the project.
If completed, MAPP will be a high-voltage transmission line designed to provide reliable, cost-effective electricity to the Mid-Atlantic region. As the first major power line to connect Southern Maryland with the Delmarva Peninsula, it will provide and improve access to electricity generation sources west of the Chesapeake Bay.
“We heard from an engineer who encouraged it and conservationists who had issues with it,” says Meehan. “This wasn’t just a one-sided presentation.”
Meehan says the group has not decided on whether they will take a formal stance on MAPP, but is definitely concerned about power for future employers. Additionally, while Meehan says the Council is not a political group, they do want to hear from politicians on how issues will be addressed.
“We have to work harder and work smarter to crack this job nut,” insists Meehan. “It may not happen tomorrow, but if it’s on our minds, maybe we’ll make some accomplishments.”
Currently the Council is a small group of only 16 members with a five-member board including Matthew Hogans of Hogans Agency as president and Roland Karbaum of Roland’s Auto and Merrick Sand & Gravel, Inc. as vice president. Members are far from newcomers to the Eastern Shore, having lived in or conducted business here for several decades. In an effort to increase membership and awareness, the Council invites interested citizens to attend luncheons and learn more about issues.
For more information on the Eastern Shore Leadership Council or to join, contact Stephen Meehan at 410-778-7941 or write to Eastern Shore Leadership Council, Inc., 332 Cannon Street, Chestertown, Md. 21620.