By SHER HOROSKO
Cape Charles Wave
June 19, 2013
After days of rain, the sun is bright and sure in a baby blue sky dotted with white sheep. I am itchy to jump in the car and explore.
My map is a scant line-drawing. I aim to travel up the thin gray line that runs parallel to the thick red one. That’s the extent of the plan. I head out, down the long dirt road, through the khaki-colored sea of wheat, turn into Cheriton and end back on the red line. This is the second time I’ve done this: it’s a bit like driving in a corn maze.
I try again, taking a random right off of Route 13. “This is it” I say out loud as I spot a road sign reading “Seaside.” The names we give to things usually make sense. Blackbirds are black. Bluebirds are blue. Pine Street has a row of pines (or at least it did once). Seaside is on the side of the sea.
I drive north with just the right amount of confidence.
It’s a different world back here. Navigating the twists in the road, I drive slowly, spotting boats at-the-ready on pull behinds and stacks of wire boxes six feet high. Even if I’d been taken here blindfolded and set free, I would know the sea was near. The evidence of love for the watery world is all around.
The road curves and opens up to a field of tomatoes, staked-up straight as soldiers, and teeming with green balls. Soon, the fruit will flash like cardinals and the land will be filled with the melodic sounds of Spanish. This language is music to me and it’s sung by a people who have always treated me kindly. Always.
On one side of the road, the draping fronds of corn are knee high. On another, the land is waiting for the farmer-man’s intent. Meanwhile, the copper-colored ibis plunge their beaks into the furrows of dark earth. I stop to watch. [Read more...]
By SHER HOROSKO
June 12, 2013
Outside my window, a fleece of gray wool covers the sky. A white ibis with her pinky-orange beak prowls the ground while a blue bird stands atop his new cedar house. The wheat field has gone golden. I came here a couple of weeks ago to fall into the arms of wonder. I haven’t been disappointed.
The stories of the “born-here’s” captivate me. Your language is filled with color and sound. You may not even know this is so, because you’re steeped in a lifetime of conversation that draws from the storm and bounty of the land and water, that is tuned to the rhythms of harvest and migration.
But I know a living language when I hear it. I came to Cape Charles with ears used to listening to the thin, plain, read “dull” language of people who live as far away from the natural world as they can be. They don’t know when the flounder is running or the sweet corn will be picked. They buy food from six grocery stores, not one. [Read more...]
By DEBORAH BENDER
May 18, 2013
It has come to my attention that the Town of Cape Charles is having budget problems. There is not enough money and too many expenses.
In order to help, I did a little homework. And after speaking with the Town of Onancock’s administrative assistant, I have some advice: Trim the fat, Cape Charles.
According to the 2010 census, Cape Charles has 1,009 full-time residents. The town of Onancock has 1,263 full-time residents.
The Town of Cape Charles has 10 employees in the administrative offices at a salary cost of $509,875.
The town of Onancock has 3 employees in the town office for a total of $195,000 in salaries. That is $314,875 less spent on employees in Onancock than in Cape Charles.
How does Onancock manage with such a small staff? For starters, their town manager is also their town attorney, thus avoiding the price tag for a town lawyer.
The two people who work in the office do all the billing, accounting, customer service, and take turns taking minutes at the town meetings.
They run the entire town office with just three employees! Onancock does not have a town planner, a treasurer, an accountant, a building code enforcer, a community recreation activities director, or an assistant clerk. [Read more...]
By TIMOTHY J. KRAWCZEL
April 29, 2013
Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government is not the solution, government is the problem.”
A Cape Charles town employee told me last summer, “We don’t need anything except money.”
The thinking seemed to be: Money is supreme, run government like a business, we know more about it than you, don’t argue with us, we’re technocrats.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I bought a new fax/printer. It cost $125 and is better than the one we paid $400 for four years ago. Why? Because when there is competition, prices go down and quality goes up. That is the free market.
If the cost of a product is too high or the quality is too low, a consumer is free to buy somewhere else. Business responds by cutting costs and improving quality.
Not so with our Town government. It has a monopoly on service, and the Town Council year after year has allowed monopoly power on setting prices, i.e. tax revenues.
The taxpayer has no choice — pay the tax or face a penalty and a property lien.
This year the money numbers are indisputable. Real estate assessed values are down 20-38 percent, depending on the source of the estimate. Undeniably, the sale value of real estate in Cape Charles has declined from the last assessment five years earlier.
In real terms, many taxpayers have seen the market value of their investments evaporate, and some have lost their life savings.
But what is happening with the cost of local government? Has the Town reduced the burden of taxes in response to lower property values? No. All the Town taxpayers have gotten is a flaccid discussion of whether taxes will go up or stay the same. There has been no discussion of actually cutting tax rates, — of making choices that every homeowner and investor has to make, namely, how to do more with less. [Read more...]
By DONALD RILEY
April 10, 2013
Do the people of Cape Charles want a bathroom in the park that mirrors a 1980s sewer pump station?
Do we want a bathroom that is closed in the winter? Does no one live in Cape Charles in the winter?
Do we want bathrooms with two stalls on each side? Are there safety concerns about that?
Those are some questions Citizens for Central Park might have considered when they decided to construct a bathroom in Central Park. They might have polled the residents of Cape Charles to learn their thoughts.
The location also could have been the subject of community input. Do we want the bathroom at the east end of the park, far from the children’s playground in what becomes a lake when it rains? The floor of the bathroom house will be three feet above the ground in order to avoid flooding. Do we want that kind of towering bathroom? [Read more...]
By TED WARNER
February 13, 2013
Recently a survey was circulated though email by an unnamed “local community group” in an attempt to explore “perceptions of the local school options” and “local Eastern Shore schools.” It was reported by the Cape Charles Wave. The survey was not appreciated and accomplished nothing. Its organizers should be ashamed.
And who are the organizers? They are anonymous; anonymity has no place in the public discourse.
At a basic level, we must exchange ideas in order to make any progress. That’s why testimony has value in a democracy. That’s how minds are changed. And, because we sign our names to our ideas, democracy is done in the light of day and personal accountability.
It matters that I sign my name to this letter; it means that tomorrow, someone can approach me on Mason Avenue and speak to me about it. My boss will see it. I can’t hide from what I’m saying here, but I’m going to say it anyway. Because it matters.
But this anonymous group has deliberately chosen to excuse themselves from that system of accountability. They are hiding. They are cowards.
There is also something psychologically violent about this anonymous survey. It is not, as it claims, an exploration. Its suspicious and shoddy methodology reveals its own bias. [Read more...]
By DORIE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave
December 31, 2012
I arrived in Cape Charles almost three years ago after giving up trying to save the program that had been my job at the U.S. Department of State. It was a sad time for me because I learned that corruption at high levels was untouchable at the State Department.
The Office of Special Counsel, which is supposed to protect whistleblowers, was toothless in my case, and the Merit Systems Protection Board was worse.
I was just doing my job — to provide supplies to residences of ambassadors and other high-level government officials for their official entertaining overseas.
But when it came time to solicit bids for custom glassware, I discovered that my supervisor planned to award a no-bid contract to a small “disadvantaged” company that had no experience with glassware.
I tried to persuade my superiors that a no-bid contract with that company, which had just emerged from bankruptcy, was not a good idea. They were unresponsive.
I went up the chain of command, without success, and finally “blew the whistle” to the Inspector General. Then I made the mistake of letting a State Department official know what I had done.
I was relieved of all my job responsibilities.
It is little consolation to me that the contractor later went to prison for defrauding the government, because that was for a contract at a different government agency, where she lacked friends in high places. At the State Department, where I worked, she had been untouchable.
The New York Post published a few stories about the scandal, and then lost interest.
I reported the matter to the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, but there was no oversight, let alone any reform.
I took early retirement, and we moved far, far away from Washington corruption — all the way to Cape Charles.
We met the mayor, who was very personable, and Town Council members, also personable, who appeared happily engaged for the welfare of the town.
We were regulars at the beach and the pier, but did not attend any Town Council meetings. After our experience in Washington, we were happy to stay away from politics. [Read more...]
By WAYNE CREED
December 25, 2012
Each morning after being harassed by his father and mother (“Joey, there’s no way you combed that hair! Did you brush your teeth?”), my son straps on his backpack and heads off to school. The combination of the weather and his mood will determine his mode of transportation for the day: skateboard, scooter, bike, feet.
Joey doesn’t have to catch a bus or be driven several miles up the road to Northampton High School or Broadwater. Instead, he commutes a block over to the Cape Charles Christian School where he is now in his fourth year. He began in the lower school and now is considered one of the upperclassmen.
It all began with a brief conversation, a whim, an idea: Could we? Is it possible?
Four years later, Cape Charles Christian School has entered its fourth Christmas holiday break. There have been many success stories in this town over the last four years, but this one is different. The spark was not ignited around some new, novel commercial endeavor, but around the idea of serving our children — students in Pre-K through 8th grade — creating an environment where our most dedicated, talented teachers could thrive, renovate and bring life to abandoned facilities, and create a connection to the Town through an active, stewardship-based participation in the community. [Read more...]