Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mr. Paul Goes to Washington -- April 28, 2010 -- Summary/Rambling

I joined in a lobbying day in DC organized by Americans for Financial Reform (, joining several folks from Delaware, along with folks from across the country (at least Nebraska, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Louisiana, and Massachusetts), most of whom flew in on Tuesday night.
I got up Wednesday morning at 4:40am, got to the Wilmington train station parking garage by 5:15, and we headed out in a minivan by 5:30. Most of our group represented local non-profits, and ‘the little guy.’ I was invited to not only share what I have seen at the Code Purple program that opens our church’s doors to the homeless on cold, winter nights, but also for my knowledge of Wall Street issues, through my work. Additionally, I was asked by the national fee-only™ financial planners organization to promote the amendment that requires brokers who provide investment advice to be held to the higher fiduciary standard, and regulated by the SEC, as a necessary investor protection. Our van got to the Treasury building in DC before 8am, well in advance of our 9am meeting.
Unfortunately, a snafu between the White House and the security at Treasury meant that about a dozen of us were unable to participate in the orientation meeting held by a Treasury staffer. We stood outside, however we were joined by the executive director of AFR, and a White House staffer. We also were able to participate in a 15 minute AFR strategy session, where we learned that the Republican stubborn blockade was close to crumbling, and that if the Republicans uniformly sided with Wall Street during the 12:30pm vote today, Senator Reid would call for an all-nighter, including a fourth cloture vote at 1am. This was a guarded secret for the time being.
When the Treasury meeting completed, we headed to a bus for the ride to Capitol Hill. We prepared to meet with DE Senator Edward (Ted) Kaufman. One of the DE team’s members, Ed Osborne had a story about abuse of a customer by Citizens Bank, and the local NBC affiliate was interested in filming Ed’s discussion with Kaufman. We met with the Senator, WHO WAS WONDERFUL. Our main frustration is that he was 100% on our side, and seemingly needed nothing from us. There was little that we could do to share information that he did not already have, and, as a lame duck, there was no need to provide him additional support at home to combat repercussions of his terrific, principled stand. We had about 20 minutes with him, and an additional 10-15 with his senior staff members.
We then had lunch in a Senate building, and headed to DE Congressman Michael Castle’s office. Castle’s office was wonderful in arranging a meeting with his legislative assistant at the last moment. We had a very constructive meeting, noting our reasons for requesting stronger reform than Castle is currently preferring.
Next we headed to DE Senator Thomas Carper’s office, for a meeting with two of his senior staff. We knew that Carper was largely supportive of the reform bill, but was on the fence on several issues. I pushed for stronger restrictions over the “too big to fail” banks, and when the legislative counsel suggested that the Fed was the best regulator for the banks I noted that the Fed governors are largely made up of bank presidents, and that this arrangement did not serve the American people as well as an independent agency. I also pushed for stronger derivatives regulation, knowing the senators had been lobbied recently from ‘end users’ of derivatives. The banks/brokerages which make large profits from under-regulated derivatives knew that they are currently being portrayed as the bad guys, so they have pushed their customers forward to plead for less regulation, even though better regulation will be quite beneficial to these customers. I pushed Carper’s people for the value of bringing the light of day (transparency) to all derivative trading.
We ended the day at a press conference, with Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and Robert Casey (D-PA). I was about 5 feet from Senator Sanders when the picture on the front page of today’s Wilmington News Journal was likely taken. The conference was held to announce the abandonment of the Republican’s obstructionist tactics which was preventing debate on the bill. The press conference is at, and I was about four feet back (and to the right) of the podium--off camera. Afterwards, I spoke briefly to Senator Casey, noting that I had seen him speak in Downingtown when he was campaigning in 2008 with Barack Obama, when I was canvassing for Obama with UD students. First impression—either Senator Casey is very tall or I am very short!
It was a VERY long day (18 hours or so), in a very busy month for me. Nonetheless, standing up to speak with our legislators (local, state, and national) is the duty of each citizen, and yesterday was my day.
When is your day?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mr. Paul Goes to Washington -- April 28, 2010

I am heading to Washington DC tomorrow (leaving Wilmington at 5:30am), to lobby in support of financial industry reform, as part of efforts of Americans for Financial Reform (

This is a multi-state effort to speak with decision-makers. Some time will be spent with a Deputy Director of the National Economic Council. We then travel to Capitol Hill, to meet with Castle, Carper, and Kaufman, and/or members of their staffs.

Top issues are:
End 'Too Big To Fail', and the related need for taxpayer bailouts (championed by Senator Kaufman)
Bring Derivatives Into The Open
Provide Real Consumer Protection (no exceptions--car leasers, payday lenders, etc)
Bring Comprehensive Regulation to Shadow Banking--Hedge Funds, Private Equity, and Venture Capital--bring them under the SEC, with NO EXCEPTIONS
Reform Credit Rating Agencies (which failed so many investors)--hold them accountable, end the incestuous relationships
Investor Protection and Corporate Governance Reform--here I would like to see an amendment to require that broker-dealers who deliver investment advice to abide by fiduciary standards, not just suitability standards

Monday, April 26, 2010

Newark City Council Meeting - 04/26/2010 - My revised planned comments on proposed UD bookstore

Here is the current draft (revised 6pm today) of my comments planned for tonight's meeting of Newark City Council, to consider the proposed UD bookstore in the central business district.

A classic Calvin and Hobbes cartoon has the father coming home to find his son with a sign that reads 'love the sinner, hate the sin.'

I love the University of Delaware. I earned my first degree at the UD. I have lived less than 2 miles from campus for the past twenty years, 13 of those years as an owner of a business on Main Street. And yet I oppose this bookstore proposal.

What is wrong with being a schoolyard bully? You get your victims to agree to do what you want (give you their lunch money, do your homework, etc), even if those actions are certainly not actions the victims would have done without your pressure.

I'm certain that the UD doesn't feel that it is being a bully, however that is how it feels when we are repeatedly told that the UD has the court-affirmed right to do as they please in expanding their campus wherever and however they please, but are willing, for the time being, to work within the city's zoning rules.

So let me offer a novel request, let's take the UD at its word tonight. They claim to be dedicated partners with the city, the residents, and the business community, and they claim to be committed to abiding by the city's zoning code, for the moment. Thus I beg you, make your decisions tonight based on the UD's word, and therefore, based on the rules and procedures of our city as applied to the written proposal before you. View this as just any large development proposal affecting the central business district, from just any developer. Please make your best decision, based on merits (or lack thereof) of this proposal, not based on conjectures (such as what the UD would do if you reject this proposal, or what could have or should have occurred). Conjectures are not on tonight's agenda; this proposal is.

Are you satisfied that you know what you are approving? Is it a Barnes and Noble bookstore and Starbucks (the second in three blocks) that serves the non-student community but fails to provide enough parking for its patrons, likely refusing to pay its fair share of taxes and fees, taxes and fees paid by the rest of Newark's business community? Or is it a University bookstore that expands the college campus into the central business district, squeezing out economic activity that serves the community? When constituents spoke with you, did you explain that the University has yet to make clear which model it is following? Won’t your constituents be upset when they find that rather than a consumer Barnes and Noble, what is being built is merely a University bookstore managed by Barnes and Noble, taking up prime space in the central business district without serving them, your constituents? It would be no better than if a high-rise college dorm was built there.
Are you satisfied with approving a proposal that the city's Planning Commission rejected? The minor changes made this month don't come close to addressing the shortcomings noted at their meeting last month. What are you telling future developers about the Planning Commission's function?
Are you satisfied with the shellgame, the structure of the temporary conveyance from UD to the city of parking area which can be requested back by the UD at a moment's notice and without any compensation? Would you let any other developer give you property in return for moneys owed the city, subject to the developer's right to receive that property right back from the city whenever they wish?
Are you satisfied with approving a proposal that fails to meet the design guidelines on (quantitative, not subjective) issues such as building materials, guidelines created to ensure that such a new property would fit in well with neighboring properties? Have you considered how much more difficult it would be in the future when the next developer proposes another project that thumbs its nose at the design guidelines, if council ignores this proposals' total disregard?
Are you satisfied with waiving over $1.1 million due to the city, due to the proposals' woefully inadequate parking, when the introduction of this 60,000 square foot building will undoubtedly create massive changes to pedestrian, bicycle, and car/truck traffic, and to downtown parking, changes which will require a large amount of the city's money to lessen the negative impact on Newark's central business district? Where is the money going to come from to make the changes that this project will require of the city's infrastructure? How will you reject the next proposal that comes up 200 parking spaces short?
Will your constituents be satisfied if tonight you vote to give up the city’s right to $1.1 million?

Please take the University at their word. They wish to follow the city's zoning rules, at least for tonight. Have they satisfied our city's zoning rules tonight, with the incredible parking insufficiency, with the ¼ acre shell-game, and with the industrial building materials? If this were any other developer, would you approve this proposal? No they haven't, and no you wouldn't.

Admit it, each of you has thought 'even if I vote against this proposal, the UD will build it anyway.' Thus you have already considered accepting the role of the victim by approving this deeply flawed plan, based solely on the presence of the University’s bullying pressure. If the University needs to be a bully to build this project, then let it be clear to all, including to our legislators in Dover, that the University is that bully. Refuse to play the victim, and cooperate with the bully. Cooperating with a bully solves NOTHING, and merely encourages and empowers them.

You should only vote for this proposal if it meets the city’s zoning rules and regulations. It is clear that it doesn’t.

Vote against this proposal tonight.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Proposed UD Bookstore Downtown Newark - April 22, 2010

mailed today to the mayor and city council members:

April 22, 2010

Dear _____,

I wrote to you last month on the issue of the proposed UD bookstore in downtown Newark. I have testified before city council a few times, as a resident (since 1990), as a business owner (Mallard Advisors was established on Main Street in 1996), and as a representative of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark (established over fifty years ago). I see that this item is on the agenda for this Monday’s city council meeting. I would like to discuss it further.

Playing Fair and Paying Fair Share—You cannot negotiate with a partner when that partner has a gun to your temple. The UD must decide whether the development of this section of historic downtown, the central business district of our city, is subject to the city’s rules and procedures, including its zoning rules. If it wishes to claim exemption, then they should claim it immediately, suffer the severely negative public relations ramifications, and subject themselves to a lawsuit. Otherwise, irrevocably accept that the development of this property is fully subject to the city’s rules.

It is patently unfair for the UD to claim that they are working with the city, but at any point to hold the ability to reject what the city’s process requires. The City of Newark should refuse to work with the UD on this project until the UD irrevocably states whether this project is subject to the city’s rules or not. If they choose to work outside the city’s rules, then they shouldn’t waste the city’s or the residents’ time with what is essentially a farce.

40,000 square feet of this property would be commercial space, pure and simple. Establishments within that space will be competing for the same consumer dollars that other downtown Newark businesses are competing. That competition playing field must be level, and fair. It is unacceptable that commercial entities within that property, which compete with other downtown Newark businesses, have any unfair advantages, such as being exempt from real estate taxes (or paying rent to an entity that is exempt, as that rent would be artificially and unfairly low), paying lower costs for utilities and other services than do the other downtown Newark businesses.

Until the issue of whether (or how much of) the proposed facility is subject to real estate taxes, the council lacks sufficient information to approve the request. The council should table any approving action on this proposal until it knows exactly the tax impact of the property. You must have all relevant information before making any permanent decision.

Parking and Traffic—Council would be grossly negligent if it approved the requested $1.1 million parking waiver. Use of two parking areas, totaling fewer than 60 spots is worth far less than $1.1 million. I cannot stress enough the irresponsibility of council members voting in favor of granting such a waiver.

The parking waiver request is accompanied with a supposition that the vast majority of employees and customers who use this very large property will arrive on foot. Most other proposed property on Main Street can make the same argument, and yet all other proposed property on Main Street is subject to the city’s off-street parking requirements. Granting this million-dollar giveaway to the University would deal another body blow to fairness to downtown area businesses.

As a past UD student (and graduate), a twenty-year city resident, and as the owner of a downtown business for more than a dozen years, I have seen how automobile use for UD students has changed over the years. For that matter, as the father of a twenty-year-old, I understand how prices for textbooks have risen over the years. It is foolish to believe that today’s UD students will all (or even mostly) arrive at the bookstore to purchase $400 of textbooks on foot.

The Off-street parking requirements were developed based on reasonable expectations of parking needs of employees and patrons. City Council would regret for years refusing the $1.1 million that the requirements note are necessary to provide the city with the resources to supplement the downtown parking which will be overwhelmed with the addition of 60,000 square feet of space downtown. City businesses will suffer irreparable harm from the frustration that their potential patrons will feel when they cannot find parking, and when they encounter more and more frequent gridlock, that would result if the City Council approved this (or any) proposal for a 60,000 square foot space with only 36 parking spaces.

Process, One-Sided Partnership—The UD has over the years claimed to work ‘in partnership’ with the City and the community. In this proposal, they have failed miserably. At the February 18th Board of Adjustments meeting, Mr. Bergstrom ‘noted his disappointment with the lack of community involvement.’ At that meeting the Board was asked to approve an incredible 80% variance (from 35’ to 63’) on building height. I share Mr. Bergstrom’s disappointment that such a critical issue was requested to be decided without an advance public meeting. Two weeks later the UD went to the DNP Design Committee, not to work together to come up with a nice plan, but to get their blessing on a completed design.

In the March 2nd report of the DNP Design Committee, they noted that the project does not even attempt to follow the design guidelines. They note that it failed to meet the height guidelines, the roof and cornice line guidelines, the composition guidelines, the rhythm guidelines, the proportion of openings guidelines, and the materials and color guidelines. They urged the project to ‘look toward less ‘industrial’ looking materials.’ These are not subjective complaints (‘eye of the beholder’ issues)—these are clear violations of clear design guidelines, which our ‘partner’ has simply disregarded. That is not the behavior of a partner.

I fully support an owner of property in the central business district to develop that property, subject to the city’s rules. However, I object to the University’s disregard for maintaining a level playing field for area merchants, the University’s disregard for paying its fair share to the city for the services that the city provides, the University’s disregard for the parking and traffic implications of introducing a 60,000 square foot building to the central business district, the University’s disregard for including its so-called partners (the City and its residents) in its plans for this downtown property, and the University’s disregard for the design guidelines that the City has thus far successfully used to maintain the wonderful appeal of our downtown area.

I urge City Council to refuse to approve this process 1) until the tax-exempt status is known, 2) unless the University pays its full share for its plan’s parking which dramatically fails to meet the City’s Off-Street parking requirements, and 3) until DELDOT has prepared a traffic study to provide an unbiased report on the project’s impact on downtown parking and gridlock.

Changes to our City’s central business district and its most historic block should not be rushed. To make the best decision on this matter, you require more information than you presently have. For the sake of the City, I urge you to table this proposal until you are able to make a better-informed decision.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cecil County Planning Commission Meeting - April 19, 2010

The meeting began at noon, and our item didn't come up until 2pm.

Quick background. The owner/developer has proposed a PUD, a Planned Unit Development. PUDs have been added to the Cecil County code to permit high density residential developments, with a set of requirements. This proposal loosely follows the PUD requirements, but fails in three or more ways. The most egregious violation is the commercial space. For the 116 proposed residences (dwelling units), 1,160 square feet of commercial space is permitted, enough for a Wawa or 7-11. The commercial space provision is designed to cut down on vehicular traffic, to provide enough space to have one or two businesses within the community, which are in walking distance, but not so much space that external traffic will enter the community. Instead of 1,160 square feet, this proposal includes 19,600 square feet of commercial space, a set of medical professional office buildings.

The procedure is that the developer submits the plans, which go to the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which is composed of Cecil County government staff, members of the Planning and Zoning Department, Public Works Department, Health Department, etc. They met and have minutes from their review, which was fatally flawed.

The TAC report noted one of the PUD rule violations, and then attempted to make excuses for it (I thought that the staff’s job is to enforce rules, not to give developers free passes. Their review was silent on the commercial space violation.

Normally, the Planning Commission can rely on a TAC report to cover the highlights and lowlights of a proposal. As the TAC report was so flawed, the PC was completely unprepared for yesterday’s public meeting.

First the developer’s engineer present his pitch. The commissioners had a few minor questions. Then the staff (those who authored the TAC report) did some reporting, largely regurgitating what their staff report said. The commissioners had some questions, but did not press anything hard. NOTE THAT AT THIS POINT THE 17 TIMES 'OVERAGE' OF THE COMMERCIAL SPACE HAD NOT BEEN RAISED.

Next about five folks from the public spoke (first off, New Castle County Councilperson and nearby resident Lisa Diller). Lisa Diller's exchange was illuminating. This was the first time that the commercial space issue was raised. The lead commissioner was stunned, and asked Tony (staffer from planning & zoning) if this was indeed true. It took Tony forever to find the section of the code, and he reluctantly agreed that what Lisa raised was 100% accurate. Potentially, it showed that the commissioners were (rightfully) disappointed, that the staff failed in properly vetting the proposal, putting the planning commission in an unnecessarily awkward position.

Several other residents spoke up in opposition to the proposal (an additional resident (of New Castle) spoke in favor of it, and a yet additional resident spoke of COMPLETELY UNRELATED concerns). The rest of us hammered the proposal’s failure to follow the PUD rules. Closing words attacking the developer’s engineer’s report “They conclude with the following sentence ‘With all the above discussion providing justification we believe this site makes for a viable choice for a PUD.’ I agree. Let me know when you have a PUD to present, one that follows the county’s rules for a PUD.”

We knew that this was coming (the testimony). What we didn’t know was the result. Unanimous vote by the commission to deny a recommendation to approve the PUD exemption. The next step, if this were to proceed, is for the county Board of Appeals to consider the PUD exemption, which I believe could occur in June. While the board of appeals can potentially approve a development against the Planning Commission’s recommendation (and with rule violations in it), it is a much higher bar to clear.

Yesterday the county staff and commissions were put on notice—the people are watching, and the people demand that Cecil County planning staff and commissions are expected to do their jobs, and enforce their own rules.

Government is ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address did not mention developers, for a good reason.

Yesterday each of us were also put on notice—fail to pay attention to such matters at your own peril. If we had not spoken up, this project would have been one step closer to putting a 20,000 commercial space into an area zoned residential. As Harry Potter’s Professor Moody would say, “Constant vigilance!”

Consider this a clear victory, but only in a (second) battle.

Paul Baumbach

PS I would like to thank several folks, Sue and Ron for raising the issue to my attention, Lisa and Paul for being willing to use their roles in (Delaware) government to stand up for proper development, and Chris and David for sharing their expertise to help me better understand zoning and development issues. I would also like to note that the Cecil County planning department (not Tony but others) were extremely helpful when I went there last week (and in prompt email responses) to obtain plans and drawing, necessary for a proper analysis of the proposal.

PPS The meeting minutes are not yet posted, but I expect that shortly they will appear, at

Friday, April 16, 2010

Barksdale Development--04/16/2010

There is a new development being proposed for the corner of Barksdale and Valley Roads. It is actually a thinly veiled attempt to put commercial property into land zoned residential. There is a meeting in Elkton this Monday at noon. I have some random information listed below on this project, and various reasons to oppose it.

Thursday the 15th:

rough draft #1 of testimony

The Barksdale Village proposal should not be approved as Planned Unit Development. It violates the guidelines in many respects.

In Save Our Land, Save Our Towns, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tom Hylton, presents Ten Rules for a Quality Community. Number 4 is 'every community should have places for people of all ages and income to live.... To make that possible, every neighborhood should provide a wide range of housing types.'

Barksdale Village includes units with a NARROW range of purchase prices, $180,000 to $250,000.

The PUD rules are violated in many significant areas, one minor, one major, and one gigantic.

The PUD rules call for no more than 12% of the parcel (40% of the 30% total space that is required to be open space) to be wetlands. The proposal contains 5.51 acres of wetlands, or 13%, and therefore violates the PUD rules by 8%.

The PUD rules call for no more than 20% units be Townhouses or Apartments. The proposal includes 44% Townhouses, more than twice the rules, and therefore violates the PUD rules by over 100%.

The PUD rules call for the gross floor area of business establishments not to exceed 10 square feet per dwelling unit. The proposal should therefore include commercial space not to exceed 1,160 square feet. The proposal instead calls for 19,600 square feet, and therefore violates the PUD rules by 1,690%. This is a GROSS violation.

The site report is silent on the wetland requirement violation.

The site report addresses the violation of the townhouse limit. It notes that if the recommended percentages were used, the density would be closer to 2 units per acre, and 'the intent of the PUD would then be contradicted.' This is patently false. If the goal was to meet the intent of the PUD, the proposal would utilize apartments (which would increase the diversity of housing types and affordability), and the proposal would utilize more duplexes (closer to the 30% maximum than the 19% proposed level).

The TAC failed to address the PUD wetland limitation violation, and the commercial space violation. In the TAC's comments on why it chose to not oppose the exclusion based on the townhouse percentage violation, they notes that 'the inclusion of a greater percentage of townhouses is a reasonable approach to maximizing the achievable density of the proposed PUD.' Again I point out that 1) there are other ways to reach the 'achievable density' within the PUD rules, and 2) it is not the TAC's responsibility to maximize the density of a proposal, especially by refusing to administer the PUD rules—that is the project planner's responsibility, a responsibility that was not met.

Further, the intent of a PUD is not to put a few houses around a 19,600 square foot commercial property. The intent is that for a PUD to support a 19,600 commercial property, it would require 1,960 units. Until this proposal includes an additional 1,848 units (and a few more acres), the proposed commercial property should be forbidden.

This proposal fails miserably in following the PUD rules. This proposal should definitely NOT be approved.

Friday the 16th:

The wetlands rules violation is minor. It could weaken our case if we raise it. While someone may wish to raise it, that issue should not a cornerstone of opposition.

The townhouse percentage is a clear violation. However, the most appropriate way to address it is to compel the planner to include a bunch of apartments, and I doubt that this is on the short list of priorities for nearby residents. I therefore suggest that we also NOT focus on this issue.

The 19,600 square foot size of the commercial space should be the cornerstone of opposition. It is more than 16 times larger than the PUD rules call for. PUD includes a provision for commercial space, to save residents the need to drive for some essentials. PUD specifically does NOT envision incorporating commercial space that will have 'outsiders' enter the community--this will increase traffic and PUDs are designed to lessen traffic.

The sixteen times overage is such an outrageous PUD violation that the plan should be stopped in its tracks. This land is zoned residential. The last time that such a large commercial space was proposed, the county rightly shut it down. They are now trying to use PUD to shoehorn the same commercial space into a residential zone. THERE IS NO DEFENSE FOR THIS.

Opposition should relentlessly hammer on the commercial space violation.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Questions for Chris Coons--04/10/10

I will be meeting with US Senate candidate Chris Coons tomorrow. I have prepared the following questions:

As Senator, what guiding principles will you utilize to address the difficult challenges facing our country, challenges that often come with several choices all of which are unappealing, challenges such as Medicare and Social Security reform, immigration reform, education reform, etc?

How do you expect to satisfy the wide range of supporters that you have today and will have in the future: centrists, liberals, independents, PACs, socially liberal fiscal conservatives, DLC/BlueDog colleagues, etc?

How will you help the country understand that Markets need to be overseen, that our country is better off with our Government, run well, and that a political party’s central theme should not be the promotion of Fear?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Progressive Update--04/06/2010

Tickets!—I have tickets to next Friday’s (April 16th) 23rd RD Spaghetti Dinner and Auction (from 5:30-9pm at Tickets are a steal at $10 each. Let me know how many tickets you would like. They’re going fast. The next US Senator from Delaware, Chris Coons, will be leading the auction. The food is good, the auction is fun, and you will get to meet a lot of wonderful Democrats, including many elected officials and candidates.

Delaware’s US Senate Race—New Castle County Executive Chris Coons is running for US Senate, against Republican Mike Castle (who has been Delaware’s lone Representative for ever). See the attached response to Mike Castle’s opposition to the Health Care Reform Bill that was recently passed. This response was created by DUSRS, Democrats United to Set the Record Straight. Rep. Castle has misled our state, claiming to be a moderate, while in the past two years doing the Republican Party’s bidding on vote after vote. His opposition to the Health Care Reform is inexcusable, as is his appearance for photo ops at programs created by the stimulus bill that he voted against (along with his fellow non-moderate Republicans).

Chris Coons’ campaign ( needs your time, talent, and treasure. My friend Carol Boncelet, who was running for the 3rd district of New Castle County Council, has backed out in order to be the volunteer coordinator for the Chris Coons for US Senate campaign. To find out how to help that campaign, send her an email at To donate money, go to

Progressive Democrats of Delaware—I am co-chair of the endorsement committee of the PDD ( I am very excited about the current committee, and our plans to build upon the strengths of our efforts in 2008. We meet tomorrow night at 7pm at DelDems HQ to discuss the endorsement process and to obtain input from our members of what issues are most important.

National Update—I have not been on top of these issues, but let’s recognize that President Obama has reversed the economic meltdown, stopped the growth of the jobless rate (162,000 new jobs created in March), and was able to get a health insurance reform bill to become a law. While the law is flawed, recognize that tens of millions of people are being covered who were not before the law’s passage. Also recognize that this was done despite the unified Party of No, despite the bill having tens if not hundreds of features that Republicans claimed they support. This was done while detailing the wind-down of our occupation of Iraq, and while conducting a much better considered strategy in Afghanistan. It was also done without burning bridges that will be necessary to institute meaningful energy policy, and education reform.

State Legislature—There is much going on in Dover in the coming months. The budget is the issue that the General Assembly is spending the most time on, however there are also other issues which really matter (such as the wonderful HB 357 handgun bill written by the NRA and not read by the Republican sponsors—sorry Adkins is a Republican in my book). I like the regular run-down of issues before the General Assembly that is posted at That is a great place to go to stay abreast of such issues.

I am working on two initiatives, Senate Bill (SB) 20 ( would end the insane district gerrymandering, by establishing a non-partisan commission to update our state legislative districts. This would TREMENDOUSLY improve our government, by making our representatives much more responsive to their constituents, by ending the ‘safe seats’ that many now occupy. The main stumbling block are, surprise, surprise, incumbent legislators who fear the loss of their seats (and livelihood). Following a good meeting with Senator Blevins and Representative Kowalko and others, Common Cause executive director James Browning has created a one-page talking point sheet on why Delaware needs this bill. Note that at this time, the best that we can likely hope for is that the 2011 meetings during which districts are redrawn will be open to the public (but still partisan), but that an independent bi-partisan commission is created for the 2021 process.

House Bill (HB) 10 ( would provide benefits to domestic partners the same way that benefits are provided to spouses. In Delaware (at this point), same gender partners are forbidden from being ‘married,’ which makes such benefits unavailable to them. This is simply unfair. Until we permit marriage equality, we need to provide this equality of benefits to state workers. HB 10 has hit a wall, as it has a cost (a fiscal note), and bills with fiscal notes are mostly DOA in Dover this season. I have met with a state-wide coalition of organizations pushing for true equality, including one meeting last week with Governor Markell. A compromise is being struck to make health care benefits available in a COBRA-fashion to state employee’s domestic partners, and in this manner have the fiscal note removed. Stay tuned, and prepare to ask your state legislator to support passage of the modified HB 10.

Equality for All, Relationship Equality—With Washington DC’s recent law to permit same-sex marriage, we are closer to bringing relationship equality (likely through civil unions, domestic partnerships, or same-sex marriage) to Delaware. The coalition mentioned earlier is very focused on this. Let me know if you’d like more information. Two groups that I really like, due to their work on this area is, and

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT)—It appears that this is close to moving forward (repeal of DADT). There is a petition at A bill is in the works in Congress. This awful policy is WAY overdue to be eliminated. I hear that the word could go out in the coming months (perhaps after the Defense Secretary Gates concludes his year-long review), at which time WE all need to speak up immediately and LOUDLY to help repeat DADT.

Uniting American Families Act (UAFA)—This bill will permit same-gender partners to sponsor their partner to become a US citizen, in the same way that an opposite gender partner can currently sponsor their partner (spouse) to become a US citizen. Visit Contact your Congress members and urge them to support the Uniting American Families Act in immigration reform. Make a donation to Out4Immigration or Immigration Equality so others can be informed of the issue and encouraged to work for fairness. Check with Tom ( if you are able to help bring equality to our immigration policy.

Newark—Univ of DE Bookstore—The University has proposed a new bookstore downtown. I have no problem with the concept, however the actual proposal is bad—really bad. I went to a planning commission meeting to testify against it, and the commission refused to approve the plan. The UD is revising the plan. I am skeptical that they will improve it enough to solve its serious flaws. If you live in Newark, and you care with how the downtown area looks, I urge you to learn more about the plans, and to let your city council people know how you feel.

Keeping Up with Paul—It is much easier to update Twitter than to send out these emails. You can find me at, and if you’d like, you can ‘follow’ me, and get my postings emailed or text’d to you. I have posted 13 tweets since I last blast-emailed, nine weeks ago. My tweets are predominantly interesting links, notice of an imminent event, etc. I do not tweet about stuff like my favorite flavor of Rita’s water ice.

I continue to post all of these blast emails to my blog,, and I also post there at times without sending emails, since sending blast emails is quite time consuming. There were six such posts since the last blast email (of January 26th).

I also am a regular reader of, and a frequent contributor. This website is dynamite for keeping readers informed on primarily state, but also national, issues, from a liberal perspective. The primary contributors are GREAT (the conservative trolls are mostly annoying but sometimes amusing/pathetic). I have begun VERY infrequent reading of, which is a national liberal site. My (thus far only) posting can be found at When life slows down for me (right), I’ll post a few more.

I therefore expect to stay in this current mode for now, posting regularly to DelawareLiberal (PBaumbach is my name there), Tweeting occasionally (once a week?), adding to the blog (weekly?), and sending a blast email (every other month)? Given that, consider how you would like to be kept in the loop, if at all.

See you on the 16th at the spaghetti dinner and auction!

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