Kevin Kamenetz: Lord of the Flies

As you undoubtedly know by now Kevin Kamenetz’s war of words with Larry Hogan has now expanded beyond the classrooms he’s left without air conditioning and now gone outside to deal with flies. Midges are running roughshod over eastern Baltimore County and Kamenetz seems disinterested in doing anything about it.

Much like when Kamenetz failed to ensure Baltimore County students had air conditioning, Governor Hogan leaped into action:

On Wednesday, the Republican governor called on Kamenetz, a Democrat, to come up with $650,000 for a spraying program to combat the persistent midge nuisance on the Back River in the eastern part of the county.

Hogan, speaking during a meeting of the Board of Public Works, said his administration offered last week to pay half the cost of spraying the gnat-like insects this year and next if the county matches that sum.

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He said the state has yet to receive a response from the county, and at one point urged state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, a Baltimore County Republican who attended the meeting, to push Kamenetz to act.

The money is there,” he said. “Let’s hope our county executive steps up.”

A spokeswoman for Kamenetz said a decision will come “as soon as possible.”

“We just received the letter a couple days ago, and we’re reviewing it,” spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said.

Last week Kamenetz said “thanks, but not thanks“:

Baltimore County will not kick in money for a midge-eradication plan proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan.

The Republican governor publicly asked Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat, on Oct. 5 to contribute $650,000 to spray pesticides to combat midges on Back River in eastern Baltimore County. The governor had previously sent the request to Kamenetz in writing and said the state would pay the same amount.

Two days later, the county’s director of environmental protection and sustainability, Vincent J. Gardina, wrote that the county would not help pay for the program.

The state’s proposal lacked a scientific justification for the plan and would treat only a fraction of the Back River, Gardina wrote. According to Gardina, spending $1.3 million as Hogan proposed would only be enough to treat between 48 and 96 acres.

“At best, such a proposal does not seem to offer a comprehensive solution, and does not constitute an effective investment of tax dollars,” Gardina wrote.

The justification for Baltimore County’s refusal to contribute to midge spraying said that “The state’s proposal lacked a scientific justification for the plan.” That’s an interesting turn of phrase. But first, some background.

Midges (large flies) have infested the Back River area of Baltimore County for the last several years. They are massive nuisance for boaters, marina owners, home owners and residents in the area.

The midge population has exploded over the last several years due to the nutrient pollution pouring in to the Back River from Baltimore City’s Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant, which handles city and county wastewater. Midge larvae thrive in the nutrient laden water.

The State Department of Natural Resources conducted a study in 2014 recommending treatment of hot spots using Bti larvacide

In late September the administration sent a letter to Kamenetz from State Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder and Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton asking to split the cost of spraying Bti in the Back River hot spots at a cost of $650,000 a piece. This was the money Governor Hogan referred to at the Board of Public Works meeting.

At the same meeting BPW approved $4.6 million for Baltimore City and $4.5 million for Baltimore County in loan funding to make needed repairs to the Back River plant to reduce nutrient pollution.

Kamenetz responded through Gardina, saying the Governor’s plan lacked a scientific justification and that they would not split the cost stating they wanted “a long term strategy for reducing the midge larva population and not defer to a short term ineffective solution as proposed by the Governor.” Red Maryland has obtained a copy of this letter:

Here’s the catch though; Baltimore County put out their own report of a pilot larvicide study in late 2015. In that study the county conducted that recommends a nearly identical plan as that proposed by the Hogan administration.

Red Maryland has obtained a copy of Baltimore County’s study. Take a look at it for yourself and note that Baltimore County’s proposed solution is the exact same solution as proposed by the State.

Key passage from the county report from bottom of page 3:

“Bti is an effective larvicide used world-wide for the control of nuisance midges. It is a naturally occurring bacterium that when ingested by the midge larvae it crystallizes in the digestive tract and causes death. Even though the outcome of this [the county’s] pilot study was not the significant decrease of midge numbers that was hoped for [County’s contractor did not use the correct application formula] it did show that Bti can be effective in suppressing midge populations in a tidal river habitat. If used properly at the recommended application rate and on targeted hot spot locations, Bti could be a useful tool in suppressing the midge nuisance on the Back River in Baltimore County.”

The report was written by Kevin Brittingham, Manager of Baltimore County’s Watershed Monitoring Program, who works for the aforementioned Vince Gardina.

Just so we are clear here: Kevin Kamenetz is ignoring relevant data about a serious health issue in his county specifically so he can publicly fight Governor Hogan and to ignore constituents in Eastern Baltimore County, an area where Governor Hogan is extremely popular. He would rather fight the Governor over an issue, regardless of its facts, than solve a problem for county residents that is easily fixable.

The people of Baltimore County certainly deserve better than what they are getting from Kevin Kamenetz. Instead of a leader focused on significant quality of life issue facing his county like school air conditioning and midge infestations, he’d rather try to score points with establishment Democrats in his bid to become the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2018. Kamenetz seems to fail to realize that one way to impress people and make them consider you as a gubernatorial candidate is to show them that you can be effective at the job that you already have; a test that Kamenetz has failed time and time again.

Kamenetz may never get to be Governor, but he’s well positioned to be the Lord of the Flies for his insistence on allowing the midge problem to continue unabated along the Back River.

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