Earlier this week, I called the office of Delegate Malone of Anne Arundel County. Mr. Malone is sponsoring a bill, HB 560, which would strip the rights of Eastern Shore counties to weigh in on the building of a second Bay Bridge. HB 560 would repeal the rights of Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester County to approve or veto by majority vote the construction of a toll bridge, toll road or toll highway that crosses the Chesapeake Bay.
To be clear, this Western Shore lawmaker’s bill is designed explicitly to silence the voice of Eastern Shore communities on a matter which would have great impact on their lives and livelihoods. Though Eastern Shore citizens may hold differences of opinion about the proposed new bridge, they deserve the right to communicate these opinions to their elected officials whose votes will decide whether the bridge is built. Mr. Malone wants to take these rights away. This is unacceptable to me as an Eastern Shore citizen—and I called to tell him so.
The staffer who answered the phone confirmed that the bill, in fact, is designed to remove the veto power of Eastern Shore communities in the matter of the proposed new bridge. The staffer also informed me that, as Delegate Malone understands it, Anne Arundel County does not have veto power regarding bridges and toll roads on its side of the bay. During Thursday’s House Environment and Transportation Committee hearing regarding HB 560, Delegate Malone communicated his concern about his community’s lack of voice in this matter and repeatedly explained that taking away veto power from Eastern Shore counties will “level the playing field.”
That our neighbors on the Western Shore find themselves voiceless in the discussion of building a bridge on their side of the bay is shameful, but taking away the voice of any Maryland citizens, especially concerning issues that will deeply impact their communities, is an outrage. It flies in the face of the democratic process and undermines the ability of citizens to affect change in their communities.
If Mr. Malone is truly concerned about his county’s ability to affect change on the Western side of the bay, he should be fighting to win back those rights; instead, he crafted legislation to take away ours. I like to think that we on the Eastern Shore would have stood by him as he fought to regain his constituents’ voices—because in a government of the people, by the people and for the people it is unacceptable for lawmakers to craft legislation that takes away the voice of the people. Apparently, Mr. Malone doesn’t understand the powerful role lawmakers like himself play in protecting and promoting the voice of Maryland citizens.
During the House Committee hearing, Mr. Malone indicated that the current law was written in 1978, shortly after the second span of the existing bridge was built. He speculated that the legislation was written so that the next time a bridge was in the works, Eastern Shore counties would have a say in the matter. Now that we have arrived at the moment this statute was written for, Mr. Malone wants to take away that right. Mr. Malone, I ask you directly—what is the point of crafting legislation to protect the citizens’ voices, only to rip them away at the moment they might exercise that right?
Instead of crafting legislation to silence an entire region of our state, Mr. Malone should join with other Maryland legislators to develop legislation that empowers the voice of local communities, legislation that is deferential to local governments in matters that will dramatically and inextricably impact the lives and livelihoods of their citizens, no matter which side of the bay they live on.
Delegate Malone’s campaign website boasts the slogan “Working to keep Anne Arundel County a great place to live.” If he thinks he’s going to accomplish this by taking away the rights of nine other Maryland counties, he needs to think again.
The video of the MD House Committee hearing about HB 560 can be found on the Maryland General Assembly’s website here.
The author, Raven Bishop, is a resident of Queen Anne’s County and writes on behalf of Kent and Queen Anne’s County Indivisible, a group of concerned citizens from Kent and Queen Anne’s County who have joined together as part of the larger Indivisible movement. More about KQA Indivisible can be found at www.KQAIndivisible.org.
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