Archive for December, 2010

Suggestions for resolutions

December 30, 2010

I’m sure Sussex County Council members make their own New Year’s resolutions, but perhaps they should consider the following:

Sam Wilson will sit closer to the microphone in 2011 so people can hear what he is saying. (This is a repeat resolution from last year.)

George Cole will finally write a book called “Quips and Quotes from the Council Chambers.”

Vance Phillips, and others, will resolve to vote on every issue, but if they don’t vote, they will give a clear-cut reason for their action.

Joan Deaver will push to get an adequate public facilities ordinance passed in 2011.

Mike Vincent, who has a fairly decent track record in this regard, will make sure he travels to coastal Sussex on a regular basis.

I’m sure there are many people out there who come up with a list of their own.

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Not made in the U.S.A.

December 29, 2010

I was watching a Modern Marvels segment on Christmas tech and it hit me square in the face how many of our products are now made outside the United States. Into the mid-20th century just about every holiday decoration and trapping was made right here in the good ole U.S.A. It’s not the case today. During a quick search of the depleted holiday shelves this week, I could only find one Christmas product made in the U.S. – candy canes.

Spangler Candy Co. has been making candy canes since 1906, but Bob’s, owned by Farley’s and Sathers Candy Co., claims to be the largest candy cane maker in the world.

At least we have corned the live-tree market. The Chinese have not figured out a way to grow live Christmas trees yet so almost all trees are still grown in the U.S. with the majority coming from Oregon and North Carolina.

If you have ever run across one of the massive Christmas tree farms in your travels, you understand how big a business it is. There are between 25 million and 30 million trees sold each year in the U.S., according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Eighty percent of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. It’s a safe bet that at least that percentage of holiday light strings are also made in China, a country that does not even celebrate the holiday.

In addition, most of the gifts we purchase – from toys to electronics – are not manufactured in the U.S.

You can find loads of American-made products on websites such as toysmadeinamerica.com and americansworking.com. But looking at the sites you soon discover that the vast majority of the hot items from major manufacturers are not made in the U.S. It’s sad that you have to search for U.S. products that way. Remember when Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer with revenue of $404 billion in 2009, placed signs boasting about selling U.S. products? Those signs at the entrance to stores all over the country slowly disappeared years ago.

It really is all about the bottom line.

Mattel, the largest toy maker by revenue, closed its last U.S. plant way back in 2002 and outsourced almost all of its manufacturing to China.

Do you think your Apple computer, iPhone or iPod is made in the U.S.? Apple products, at least according to information posted on the internet, are made from components produced all over the globe, but are usually assembled in China. Wii was invented in Japan but is made in China using some U.S. technology.

Finding a big-screen TV made in the USA is about as hard as finding the Holy Grail. But, at least one company, Snytax-Brillan, plans to start assembling its high-end Olevia sets in Ontario, Calif.

More than 90 percent of our clothing is made beyond our borders with a third coming from China.

That statement brings me to the reason for the blog in the first place (it took me a while to get here). I was interested in purchasing a nice sweatshirt in Peebles that had a large U.S. flag on the front – that was until I saw where it was made, and it wasn’t China.

“Made in Russia” was on the tag. Can you believe it? We really live in a mixed up world when clothing with U.S. flags on it is made in a Moscow factory.

Sussex is not the largest county east of Mississippi

December 22, 2010

Things you might not know about Sussex County (Part 1):

• The county makes up almost half of the total land statewide – nearly 940 square miles.

• It’s not the largest county east of the Mississippi River, as many claim. There are nine counties in Maine alone that are larger than Sussex County and eight of those are larger than the state of Delaware.

• Estimated population of Sussex in 2009 was 192,747 with a projected population of more than 215,000 by 2015. Just over 82,000 Sussex residents are employed.

• Even though it is a large county it has no county parks and recreation department or police department. Although, the county provides grants to support youth and adult sports activities and allocates funding for extra state police patrols exclusive to Sussex.

• More people are moving to Sussex than are being born here. According to the U.S. Census, the majority of new residents in 2005 – 94 percent – came from other places as the result of external migration. The other 6 percent came from natural increases from births and deaths. That compares to 80 percent of newcomers in Kent County and just 28 percent in New Castle County.

• Tourism is big in Sussex providing nearly 11,000 jobs and adding nearly $710 million to the economy.

• Poultry is also big. The county ranks first among all U.S. counties in broiler production, with more than 223 million chickens grown each year. Sussex County is the birthplace of the poultry industry. One of 10 jobs in the county is related to food processing with an annual payroll of more than $236 million.

• Sussex farmers sold nearly $850 million in products in 2007; 83 percent was poultry and eggs.

Sources: U.S. Census, Census of Agriculture, Delaware Department of Labor, Sussex County planning and zoning department.

Top Christmas movies (and others)

December 21, 2010

It really is a wonderful life.

‘Tis the season to sit down and watch the tube. My 10 favorite Christmas movies are:

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). This classic is at the top of most people’s lists. It’s hard not to shed a tear when the town turns out to support George Bailey in one of the best endings in the history of Hollywood.

2. A Christmas Story (1983). It may be one of the most over-played movies during the holidays (TBS has a 24-hour marathon), but it’s just not Christmas without watching Ralphie in his quest for an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. It also contains one of the best lines in film history: “You’ll shoot your eye out kid.” The unveiling of the major award – the infamous leg lamp – is another classic movie scene.

Ralphie eyes a Red Rider.

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). Every time I watch this movie I catch another one-liner missed from the year before from Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold) and his cousin Randy Quaid (Eddie).

4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947). What a movie. Not only does it star a young Natalie Wood, it features the only performer playing St. Nick who won an Oscar; Edmund Gwenn won the Best Actor Award.

5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). Who knew a bunch of animated characters could teach us about the real meaning of Christmas. Today, small, skimpy trees are known as Charlie Brown trees because of the tree in the school’s Christmas pageant directed by Chuck.

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). Boris Karloff, not Jim Carrey, is the real Grinch. The animated version is much better than the film.

7. A Christmas Carol. Take your pick because the film has been remade throughout the decades. The 1951 version starring Alastair Sim is among the best. George C. Scott of Patton fame is also a good Scrooge.

8. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). I was forced to watch this film within the past few years and really liked it. This may be the oddest of dozens of screen adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic. With Michael Caine as Scrooge, most of the magical Muppets turn up in the film.

The season of miracles.

9. White Christmas (1954). Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general in another Christmas classic. The music is great, but the title song was a hit in another holiday movie, Holiday Inn.

10. Home Alone (1990). Although Macauley Culkin (Kevin) has a way of getting on your nerves, the first Home Alone film has become a holiday favorite.

Did you notice only one of the top 10 was made during the past 20 years?

OTHERS:

Frosty the Snowman (1969) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) are among a series of stop-action animated Christmas films made in the 1960s and 1970s that are still shown today.

The Polar Express (2004) is a great story featuring the talents of Tom Hanks.

Holiday Inn (1942). I have a hard time keeping this one and White Christmas straight in my mind because the title of the other movie was a hit in this movie, the music of Irving Berlin was featured and Bing Crosby starred in both.

The Santa Clause (1994) is the first of three films starring Tim Allen as St. Nick. The other two are not worth mentioning.

Love Actually (2003). In the I haven’t seen it but others say it is good category.

Fred Claus (2007). This is definitely not a classic, but it has its moments. Vince Vaughn stars as Santa’s older brother who hates Christmas.

Elf (2003). People either love or hate this film. Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf is a little over the top for my taste.

Gremlins (1985). People forget this film takes place around Christmas. Although extremely violent, the movie scene where the Gremlins stop their rampage to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is great.

ON THE NAUGHTY LIST

Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Tim Burton needs to stick to Halloween.

Bad Santa (2003). Although there are some funny scenes in this film, it seems wrong to have a criminal dressed as St. Nick.

Jingle All The Way (1996). Arnold Schwarzenegger works hard to obtain the perfect toy for his son; too bad the film doesn’t work.

Jack Frost (1998). Michael Keaton dies and comes back as a snowman.

Christmas with the Kranks (2004). This film, starring Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Ackroyd, has its moments but overall is not memorable.

Some I found on internet lists include: Santa Claus The Movie (1985) and Surviving Christmas (2004), which went to DVD two months after its release.

Among all the lists I read, one film lands at the top as the worst of all time: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964). I guarantee I won’t be watching this one.

Sam did his homework

December 17, 2010

Sussex County Councilman Sam Wilson had done his homework as he quizzed staff during a recent tour of the NRG Indian River power plant.

He asked plant officials to take a serious look at giving excess sulfur to area farmers instead of placing it in a landfill. Wilson said Sussex soil has a low pH and farmers have to purchase sulfur each year to add to the soil. He claims environmentalists have done too good a job removing sulfur from the air.

Plant manager Jack Grant said the idea might turn out to be a good one if it can get by scrutiny of federal and state regulators. In any case, they will look into it.

Wilson also knew that it costs twice as much to produce a kilowatt-hour of energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar compared to more traditional production from coal. He even knew the numbers: 14 cents versus 7 cents.

Look out when Kramer gets on line

December 16, 2010

Dan Kramer of Greenwood, the most consistent county council meeting attendee in history, has done something he said he would never do. He has purchased a computer and plans to start his own blog on county matters in 2011.

If he is able to get the blog off the ground, it should make for some very interesting reading. Kramer used to address council members on a regular basis on a variety of topics, but he has been silent throughout most of 2010 because council instituted a new public participation policy. Under the policy, those who wish to speak to council must sign in and are restricted to three minutes more or less. In addition, those who speak are not permitted to address specific council members.

Kramer has a few choice words for the policy and as a protest has remained quiet. That could all change with Kramer’s musings on the world wide web.

When is a conflict not a conflict?

December 2, 2010

Conflict of interest is a funny thing. It appears to be in the mind of the beholder more than anything else. What is one person’s definition of conflict of interest is another person’s definition of business as usual.

When it was revealed that Sussex County Councilman Sam Wilson, who was sworn in two years ago, has part ownership in a small manufactured home park, questions began to migrate in like the snow geese that are landing in local fields this time of year.

Wilson, who has been around the block a few times, took it all in stride and said he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He said his votes on manufactured home issues would not be different if he didn’t have a connection to the business.

This is not the first time the dreaded conflict of interest debate has surfaced in the hallowed halls of Sussex County Council. Several years ago, Councilman George Cole, a real estate agent, was criticized when he sold properties in a development he voted to approve.

At the time, Cole said the real conflict of interest was the actions of his fellow councilmen who owned businesses that could profit from building projects: Dale Dukes selling lumber; Finley Jones providing metal products; or Lynn Rogers selling signs. All three of those council members retired two years ago.

Recently, the council has used a conflict of interest to shut down the nomination of a board of adjustment nominee from Councilwoman Joan Deaver. Council members decided John Walsh’s volunteer involvement as a lobbyist with the Delaware Manufactured Home Owners Association presented too much of a conflict of interest for him to make unbiased decisions.

Wilson was among those opposed to Walsh.