Saturday, November 19, 2011

Apolitical Juice Blender: Harriet Tubman on the Eastern Shore, Bethesda Homelessness, Gaithersburg vs. Arlington & More

Here's a random blend of apolitical tidbits from recent news, starting with a Maryland Juice reader's suggestion that we check out the news about a new Harriet Tubman National Park in Maryland:
Taney's perch in Annapolis
Apolitical Juice #1: Did you hear about congressional committee approval this week for Harriet Tubman National Park?  Very cool. This was years in the making. The Maryland Park will be on the Eastern Shore, essentially in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge -- which is beyond stunning, in case you haven't been there.  This is a good thing given the following: Maryland's slave legacy, our past need for the National Guard to come in and suppress the white mob lynchings of blacks, the race riots when the Eastern Shore rejected integration, and the fact that we feel a statue Chief Justice Roger Taney (of Dred Scott v. Sandford fame) in front of the State House is okay because it's "balanced" with Thurgood Marshall in Lawyer's Mall.

Maryland's U.S. Senators made the following recent announcement:
U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both- D-MD) today praised Senate committee passage of legislation to create two national historical parks to honor the life of Harriet Ross Tubman, the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad....

Senator Cardin introduced the bill earlier this year along with Senators Mikulski and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand (both D-NY).  The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park Act, S. 247, will establish two National Historic Parks, one in Maryland and one in New York. The National Historical Park in Maryland will trace Tubman’s early life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she was born and later escaped from slavery to become one of the leaders on the Underground Railroad....

Apolitical Juice #2: Rosalind Kipping, Vice President of the area's Compassion & Choices chapter and resident of Leisure World has sent Maryland Juice a follow-up to her campaign to persuade Maryland to fund the "Advance Directive Registry" program. She highlights the following coverage in The Gazette:
Rosalind Kipping wants her wishes followed when she is near death and cannot speak for herself.

When she lived in Idaho, the Silver Spring woman carried a state-issued plastic card that listed her personal identity code. It meant in an emergency, medical personnel would know who had the authority to speak for her and what her personal wishes were regarding health care decisions.

Maryland has a similar law to create an advance directive registry, which has been on the books since Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signed off on it in 2006. The problem is the state has never created the registry.

Apolitical Juice #3: The Bethesda Patch reports on a new survey of the homeless population in wealthy Bethesda, Maryland. Not surprisingly, the results show that half of homeless residents suffer from mental illness. Folks should bear that in mind before jumping to blame people for their circumstances. According to the article, out of 40 residents surveyed:
  • 19 reported having a mental health diagnosis
  • 14 reported having participated in substance abuse treatment programs
  • 20 reported sleeping most frequently on the street
  • Two reported sleeping most frequently in a shelter
  • Four reported having diabetes
  • Seven reported having limited mobility
  • Six reported having asthma
  • Eight reported having a heart condition
  • Six reported having had frostbite
  • 14 reported having been a victim of an attack

Apolitical Juice #4The Washington Post's Victor Zapana recently reported on another way of measuring area governments:
The nation’s debt in dollars consists of 14 digits. The District’s, 10. But Gaithersburg has only one: zero.

Yes, $0. Zilch. Just a 45-minute drive from Capitol Hill, the community is debt-free and has been, more or less, for about four decades....

“Debt is a huge issue,” said David B. Humpton, a former city administrator who had a hand in keeping Gaithersburg on track. “Look at places like Harrisburg.”

Last month, Harrisburg, Pa., filed for federal bankruptcy after failing to pay off its debt. And last week, Jefferson County, Ala., became the largest municipal government to file, because it could not handle its debt of more than $3 billion.

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Edgewood, Fla., a city of 2,500 that became debt-free last month. To celebrate, its mayor and council president held a public ceremony during which the city’s last mortgage was set on fire and residents were served “debt-free cake....”

Plenty of cities have debt to pay off. Takoma Park has $6.1 million, Greenbelt has $3.8 million, Bowie has $14 million and Herndon has $21 million.

Then there’s the District, which has many of the responsibilities of a state, with more than 600,000 residents and a debt of $8 billion.

Amusingly, this article prompted the following "MD vs. VA" thread on an area message board: If only Arlington could be debt free like Gaithersburg.

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