Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- January 29-February 11, 2006

This page includes posts from January 29-February 11, 2006 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

February 11, 2006
Birthday greetings

Happy birthday to Miz Janis Gore, who's celebrating a near-milestone today!

February 11, 2006
Golf stuff

This weekend's predicted blizzard for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states was perfectly timed, at least in one respect.

My afternoon plans for today and tomorrow were to remain horizontal for most of those two periods, watching one of my favorite golf tournaments, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

A nice fire, the snow blowing outside, a beautiful golf course on the tube, an occasional adult beverage, and a comfortable couch--I can do that.

And if you're interested in the new golf equipment for the 2006 season, you can read about it here.

February 10, 2006
A cure for tailgaters

This morning I drove north to Claymont.

Fifteen drivers had appealed their red light camera citations, and my job includes presenting my client's evidence and arguments why these charges should stick instead of being tossed out.

One of the common claims is that the driver couldn't see the traffic light because they were riding behind a tractor trailer. These folks usually don't react all that well to the suggestion that perhaps they were riding too close to the back of the 18-wheeler.

Nobody raised that issue in today's hearings, but on the way to the court I saw a tractor-trailer whose owners may have come up with the perfect cure for tailgaters.

It's just a warning, but from what I observed for several miles it's a very effective one:

By the way, none of the appeals were successful.

February 7, 2006
Recommended Reading

Jeff Goldstein is a former Ocean City, Maryland resident and current denizen of Denver, Colorado.

He's also a gifted blogger.

If you haven't already, I recommend checking out one of his recent serious pieces, which you can read by clicking here.

So go, already.

I'll just wait right here.

February 7, 2006
Watch out for those Grandmas

A few years ago, my wife and I went shopping for a new car for her, and ended up at the local Ford/Lincoln/Mercury dealership.

She quickly decided on a Focus, and as we dealt with the paperwork we asked the salesman which vehicles were their top sellers.

Without a second's delay, he said simply, "Grandmas."

Our puzzled faces told him to translate, so he then said "The Grand Marquis. That's what we call 'em. There are a lot of retirees around here, and it's by far our best seller. After that are the Rangers. The old guys like to putter around."

We both laughed, and it was his turn to be puzzled. Then we told him that my father drove his Ranger and my mother drove their Grand Marquis.

Both of my parents are pretty careful drivers, but recent events show that it's probably a good idea to watch out for all those Grandmas out there:

An 88-year-old man was cited for careless driving today after his 2002 Mercury Grand Marquis smashed into the doors of the Nassau branch post office at the Five Points Shopping Center near Lewes, state police said.

According to the News-Journal, the driver mistakenly put his foot on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal, as he pulled into the handicapped parking space in front of the building.

This post office also happens to be where I keep the P.O. Box for this site and For once, I'm very glad I was at work up in Dover, and hadn't decided to take the day off and run errands.

February 4, 2006
A beneficial opportunity

I bought a copy of a fine new CD this week that I can highly recommend for more reasons than just the music.

Our New Orleans brings together a great assortment of musicians, including Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Beausoliel, Randy Newman, and several others, who provide some wonderful performances. The net proceeds are dedicated to Habitat for Humanity, to help the folks affected by Hurricane Katrina.

For more information about the album, check out this NPR story.

February 4, 2006
Thanks for noticing

It sometimes rankles when the major daily newspaper in Delaware exhibits its upstate bias, especially on cultural matters. 

For example, Harry Themal, a long-time News-Journal critic and op-ed writer, recently went off on a screed about going to the movies in Delaware, especially about what he perceived as a lack of independent film viewing opportunities: 

Unlike many people I know, I'm not interested in fighting Philadelphia traffic and parking to see the better foreign, independent and off-beat films that never seem to come to Delaware. I can always wait until they're available on DVD or tape, and rental stores and Netflix fill that need.


The president of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society wrote a respectful letter to Themal, pointing out that the RBFS has not only run its Independent Film Festival for many years, but that it was now successfully underway with its new Arthouse Theater project at the Movies at Midway, between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach in Sussex County.

Themal eventually acknowledged his error, but in a tone that seemed somewhat less than graceful:

I might have left the impression that good first-run foreign and independent films are only being shown in Philadelphia theaters. That's not quite true. Theatre N regularly shows some of the best films, not too long after their initial release, in a comfortable setting in the Nemours Building in downtown Wilmington. And the Rehoboth Beach Film Society does the same at the Midway Theater on Route 1.

With all due respect, I donít think there was much ďmightĒ to that impression he left.

In any event, the paper now seems to be catching up on the downstate cultural scene. Features reporter Ryan Cormier, who stayed in Dewey Beach last summer and blogged about it at DelawareOnline, wrote a nice piece yesterday about the Arthouse Theater and the other downstate independent film options.

Itís nice that they noticed. Perhaps some of the News-Journalís upstate readership who come down here this weekend for the Polar Bear Plunge will now stop by the Arthouse Theater. It will give them a rare chance to see Capote, one of the Best Picture Oscar nominees.

Some of these folks might be pleasantly surprised at what's available down here besides the beach.

February 1, 2006
Playing catch-up with a tax policy suggestion

Last November I noted a proposal by the Commissioners of the City of Rehoboth Beach to increase the amount of long-term debt the little town could incur without going to a referendum, from $2 million to $6 million.

The old debt limit had been in place for a long time, and several major capital improvements now in the works inspired the city fathers to seek an update.

I suggested that as long as they were asking the General Assembly to approve a new debt level, Rehoboth should also seek to increase its current $1 million limit on total property taxes, a provision in the City Charter dating back to 1976:

[I]tís past due. The Cityís current property tax system, based on a general re-assessment last adopted in 1968, now brings in just below the million-dollar limit.

City officials often use this limit to justify their failure to reassess all properties, since there are other statutory limits on how much taxes can be raised to pay for the reassessment. They also trot out this revenue limitation to explain away the fact that a truly startling percentage of the cityís revenue base is dependent upon parking meter revenues and other taxes and fees paid by folks from out of town.

How convenient, especially for city residents whoíve lived in Rehoboth since at least, oh, I donít know, 1968.

If the City simply updated the total tax limit to match inflationís effects since 1976, the new limit would be just over $3.4 million.

We could just round that number to $3.5 million, and start re-thinking how the City divides up its tax burden.

According to The Cape Gazette, it appears that the City is now catching up to this suggested change in tax policy.

Reporter Kevin Spence noted that the city manager is proposing that Rehoboth adopt an 11 per cent property tax increase, which would bring the total amount collected from that source up to the current $1 million ceiling.

Commissioner Ron Paterson is also receptive to updating the charter to eliminate this ceiling, according to Spenceís article. In addition, Mayor Sam Cooper has been warning the Commissioners and anyone else who will listen that the cityís realty transfer tax, which now brings in twice the revenue as the property tax, is not so stable that the City should continue to rely on it for much of its operations budget. 

Samís right. The transfer tax is heavily dependent on a continuing cycle of property sales, and there are no guarantees that the money made in one year will be repeated in the next. In fact, the local real estate market is showing signs of slowing down after several boom years.

The beach towns such as Rehoboth, Lewes, and Milton should begin to wean themselves from using transfer taxes for routine operating expenses, and devote most if not all of these funds to one-time capital expenditures instead. 

Itís not like there arenít any long-term needs out there. For example, all three towns require some significant sewer system upgrades, and those costs donít improve with age. 

Iím glad to see that Mayor Cooper and at least some of the cityís Commissioners are thinking along these lines.

January 30, 2006
All Fogged Up

I left Rehoboth Beach early this morning for an arbitration hearing in Wilmington. During the entire 90-mile trip north we were enveloped in dense fog, most likely due to the unseasonably warm air.

The low-lying clouds soon burned off throughout most of the state, but when we returned home this afternoon the beach area remained locked in, especially at the ocean's edge.

Dolles in late afternoon fog, January 30, 2006

This view looks north along the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, with the Dolles candy store in the foreground.


Contact Information:

Fritz Schranck
P.O. Box 88
Nassau, DE  19969


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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2005