The Symposium of Septic Systems and Future Growth in Maryland confirmed concerns farmers and local government officials have with Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to limit septic systems in Maryland.Could he be right? Is it a power grab, or a desire to force more people into urban areas, or at least discourage more flight to the suburbs? Why would that interest a politician like O'Malley?
Many panelists and participants in the symposium at Chesapeake College on Tuesday said the governor's proposal is not about improving the Chesapeake Bay's health, but about giving the state more control over local land use practices. They also said the consequences of the proposed bill would devalue land in rural communities.
In a passionate, well-received speech, Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-36-Upper Shore, said many of the state's recent actions represent a war on rural Maryland. He pleaded with attendees to work with state legislators to reject the septic bill in any form.
Pipkin's basic argument was that, according to the state's own statistics, pollution from septic systems represents at most 1.6 percent of the total source of nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. He said the bill was not about nitrogen pollution but about the O'Malley administration's desire to move residents from rural to urban areas.
"In the 10 years I have been in the legislature, I have not seen a more dangerous piece of legislation to your economic health and your family's economic health than the septic bill," said Pipkin. "This is the neutron bomb of legislation because your farms will still be standing, but the economic value will be blown away."
As I've pointed out several times, the central divide in American politics is not left and right, it is urban versus rural dwellers. Urban dwellers depend heavily on governmental services, such as mass transportation, water, and sewer to name just a few. Rural dwellers are generally less dependent on such services (exceptions exist, no doubt, but it is easier to live without governmental services in "wilds"). Currently, the democrats generally represent the party of urban living, and the republicans the party of rural and suburban living. By encouraging the urban development at the expense of rural living, O'Malley conveniently encourages the conditions that lead to the dominance of his own party.
Does he, in fact, think of it that way? I can't read minds, and I've never met him, but it possible that this does, in fact, cross his mind as he promulgates this plan. I'm sure he thinks this is good for the environment, but it would certainly be bonus if it helps his political party, too.