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Crime Featured Public affairs Scene About Town

Wilmington moves 2 steps closer on police body cameras

Axon body camel

Wilmington has made two major advances on equipping all of its uniformed police officers with body cameras.

City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a contract for equipment and installation, WDEL reported. The vote was on the same day the city announced a $630,000 federal grant for body cameras.

The issue goes back a while. Police officials had tested several camera models in recent years, Delaware Public Media reported in June 2019.

Councilman Trippi Congo in September 2019 introduced measure calling for a five-year, $1,954,836 with Axon Enterprise, an Arizona company.

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By June of this year, with protests escalating over the death of George Floyd and others at the hands of police officers nationwide, city leaders were pledging to “to support police and racial justice reforms.” Those reforms include police body cameras, review of use of force policies, establishing a police review board and release of additional police procedures

With the grant coming from the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, Police Chief Robert J. Tracy said the next steps include discussions on policies with the FOP Lodge No. 1, the police union.

The department’s authorized staffing will increase to 319 officers from 315 to supervise the program. Tracy said the policies have been developed on program operations, storage and sharing of video and other administrative requirements. These policies are being reviewed by the city’s law and human resources departments and will be made public later. 

The news generated praise by all three of Delaware’s Congressional delegation and by state Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “The next step is clear: funding and deploying body-worn cameras on every officer across our state,” she said.

Axon’s home page says its cameras “capture truth. Connected cameras that tell the full story.”

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Environment Featured Health

A day to safely dispose of old medications, vaping devices

Expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs and vaping devices can be safely disposed 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at six Delaware State Police offices. Take Back Day is free and anonymous.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, which is partnering with the police, says the event keeps languishing medicine from being diverted, misused or abused. It also keeps unwanted pills from damaging the environment when they’re put in the trash or flushed down the toilet.

Vaping devices and cartridges are accepted, but not devices containing lithium ion batteries. If batteries cannot be removed, the federal agency encourages consumers to consult with stores that recycle lithium ion batteries.

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The drop-offs

New Castle County: Delaware State Police Troop 2, 100 Corporal Stephen J. Ballard Way, Newark; and Delaware State Police Troop 9, 414 Main St., Odessa.

Kent County: Delaware State Police Troop 3, 3759 S. State Street, Camden.

Sussex County: Delaware State Police Troop 4, 23652 Shortly Road, Georgetown; Delaware State Police Troop 5, 9265 Public Safety Way, Bridgeville; and Delaware State Police Troop 7, 18006 Coastal Highway, Lewes.

In 2019, 445 tons of medications was dropped off nationwide at Take Back Day.

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Featured Government

Carney asks National Guard cybersecurity squad to help protect elections

Gov. John Carney has OK’d the National Guard helping protect Delaware’s elections online.

Gov. John Carney announced Friday night that he has asked the Delaware National Guard’s 166th Cyberspace Operations Squadron to help the state avoid cyber attacks in the 2020 election.

The squadron will help protect Delaware’s elections infrastructure, a 6:30 p.m. press release from the governor said. He authorized the aid in Executive Order #46. It was signed Thursday.

This is not the first time Carney has approved the help. He OK’d the squad’s  assistance for the 2018 primary and general election. An executive order was not used then because no National Guardsmen or women were activated to active duty.  

Carney previously has expressed great confidence in the security of Delaware’s election system, including the use of absentee and mail-in ballots. 

“This is about accessing the cyber security expertise of the Guard to be proactive about potential cyber threats,” said Carney spokesman Jon Starkey. “The governor is confident that we will have a secure election.”

The states of Washington and Connecticut also have asked their National Guard’s cybersecurity squads to help.

“Throughout our country’s history, Americans have sacrificed to secure voting rights for our fellow citizens,” Carney said in the press release. “We have an obligation to take additional steps to protect that right from any cyber threats. This Executive Order is a proactive measure to do just that.”

Delaware Republican Party Chair Jane Brady said that if Carney was concerned about election security, he should not have supported voting by mail.

“If the governor really cared about the integrity of the voting system in Delaware, he would not have signed a vote by mail bill that imposes a new and confusing system on an unprepared Department of Elections office and the public shortly before an important election,” Brady said. “He would have utilized the absentee ballot system, which has consistently proven to be a way for Delaware citizens to vote remotely. I am please that the governor acknowledges that the vote by mail system raises concerns significant enough to call in the National Guard.”

The release said the squadron will work with the Delaware Department of Elections, the Delaware Department of Technology and Information (DTI) and any other state agency that requests help to: 

  • Provide advice to DTI to prevent, protect and defend against cyber incidents
  • Monitor and analyze risks or threats
  • Offer technical and architectural review support for best practices
  • Respond to any incidents 
  • Train and support after the election 

The executive order expires at the end of December.

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Featured Government Health

Delaware’s COVID-19 cases continue to increase but not as rapidly

While the number of Delaware’s COVID-19 cases are continue to rise, they did not rise as sharply in the past week as they had in previous ones.

The state also said Friday that about 30 percent of long-term care facility residents who are diagnosed with COVID-19 die from it. That’s 388 residents out of 1,387 cases.

The Delaware Division of Public Health weekly report said that the seven-day average for the percentage of persons who tested positive for COVID-19 decreased from 6.6% as of Oct. 8, to 5.5% as of Thursday, Oct. 15. The state would like that to be under 3 percent.

It said the number of hospitalizations remains at 104, with 26 people critically ill, up five from last week.

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The state reported 11 additional deaths since last week’s update. Of those who have died, 347 were female and 315 were male; 330 people were from New Castle County, 119 from Kent County, and 213 from Sussex County.

The Division of Public Health also said that 22 students and 19 staff members in child care facilities have tested positive between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15. In the same time period, 43 students and 17 staff members in private K-12 schools and 17 students and 62 staff members in public schools also did.  The state reports the total number in aggregate and does not break the stats down into weekly slices.

Additional information on COVID-19 cases and deaths can be found on the state’s My Healthy Community data portal at de.gov/healthycommunity.

 

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Entertainment Featured Health

Aunt Mary Pat brings the humor to help raise money to fight breast cancer

Aunt Mary Pat will use laughter to help raise money for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition.

The popular character created by Wilmington’s Troy Hendrickson will appear on an indoor stage on Oct 29, the first time she has since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

The 90-minute show at Catherine Rooney’s in Trolley Square will only be opened to 40 ticket holders to ensure social distancing. Tickets are $100  and can be found here. The show will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. Nov 5 for $25. 

“My grandmother was a breast cancer survivor,” said Hendrickson. “It means a lot to me to be able to give back to the community.” 

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The live event includes a silent auction, food and drinks (two drink tickets are included in the purchase of a ticket) and a DBCC swag bag. 

Hendrickson said Aunt Mary Pat’s 90-minute live comedy show will include music performances, crowd work and all things Philadelphia. 

“I describe it as a variety show,” said Hendrickson. “Some of the stories come directly from my mom and others are just things that pop into my head.” 

The character Aunt Mary Pat came to life after she was created by Hendrickson for a video making fun of his mom after the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018. 

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He sees Aunt Mary Pat as an archetype of the average South Philly mom who works in the area — in her case, a grocery store — and gossips about area wives. 

Hendrickson grew up in Wilmington and went to Columbia College in Chicago for film and TV, but he has been performing in some way since he was in middle school. During the last decade, he’s focused on drag shows.

He set Aunt Mary Pat’s character as Philadelphian because there’s such strong personality types associated with that city.

“Wilmington doesn’t really have its own identity, so we all really cling to the Philadelphian area,” Hendrickson said. “I’ve also been working in the Philly area. You just pick up how people talk, and it becomes a part of your vernacular.” 

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Hendrickson partnered with Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition through a former coworker, Sue Murray, now operations Director of the DBCC. Murray has  been supportive of Hendrickson’s career since the beginning. 

He has been performing fulltime as Aunt Mary Pat since 2018 when the character became popular online. That’s meant producing 300 events per year between Aunt Mary Pat and drag shows, he said.

Stand-up comedy was a first for him when Aunt Mary Pat became a hit. 

“We were doing our first national tour this year. The last show I was able to do was in New York before COVID put everything on hold,” Hendrickson said. “It was the trickiest thing for the entertainment industry because everything happened so quickly, and we all had to cancel events.”

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Hendrickson has been able to do online shows as well as a number of in-person outdoor shows during the summer. The breast cancer event will be the first indoor event he has been a part of since coronavirus shutdowns were put in place. 

“We’re well under the room’s capacity,” Hendrickson said. “I feel pretty safe about it.” 

Patrons will be required to wear masks, but he doesn’t expect that to stop the laughter.

“There’s a great need for live entertainment right now, I think,” Hendrickson said, “especially where people get to be around other people.”

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Business Featured Scene About Town Top Headlines

Forward Delaware must move forward quickly on training

Forward Delawarea massive plan to train Delawareans who are unemployed or underemployed from the pandemic, has some training clearly defined and ready for job hunters. For other sectors, though, it’s not easy to find the promised training to enhance or gain skills on their landing pages.

Improving the landing pages is critical because the $10 million in federal CARES Act funds must be allocated by the end of the year and fully spent by the end of March, William Potter, executive director of the Delaware Workforce Development board, told Delaware Business Times.

Training is subsidized on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The initiative, announced on Oct. 7, focuses on five sectors that officials said have strong jobs potential: health care; computers and information technology; hospitality and food services; transportation and logistics; and construction and trades. 

Here’s the current situation on Forward Delaware for job-seekers.

Health care

Delaware Technical Community College is the main trainer for health care, with Polytech and Sussex Tech also participating. 

Delaware Tech’s landing page lists seven careers: certified clinical medical administrative assistant, certified nursing assistant, dental assistant, hemodialysis technician, patient care technician, pharmacy technician and phlebotomy technician. The college’s programs in these fields run 550 to 1,880 hours.

Information technology

Tech Impact is the main trainer for information technology. Its landing page says applicants will get “an initial screening interview. During the interview, we’ll determine which program is the best match for you based on your interests and skillset.”

Partner programs come from Delaware Tech, ITWorks, Tech Elevator, the University of Delaware, Wilmington University and Zip Code Wilmington.

The training is in database management and development (Oracle and SQL); networking and security (Cisco Certified Entry Level Technician I and II); general IT (CompTIA A+, CompTIA Net+, Microsoft); and programming (JAVA, C# and JAVAscript).

Hospitality and food services

The Delaware Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is the main trainer, with the Food Bank of Delaware and the University of Delaware participating. 

The foundation’s landing page at this point is just a listing of jobs.

“We are building out a large-scale training portal that will go live December 1st!,” said Carrie Leishman, CEO of the foundation and its parent association. “Our training will cut deep into Delaware – huge win for our citizens!!!”

Transportation and logistics

Polytech Adult Education Division is the main trainer, with Delaware Tech, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Sussex Tech and the Food Bank of Delaware also participating.

Its landing page connects those seeking training with “program advisors who will help them identify which program is the best fit for their specific needs,” said Jeremy McEntire, assistant director of adult education. “We are in the process of setting up a specific landing page for the Forward Delaware programs and anticipate we will have it available this coming Monday.”

Construction and trades

The Delaware Skills Center of New Castle County Vo-Tech is the main trainer, with Delaware Tech, Polytech and Sussex Tech participating.

Its landing page goes to the skills center’s home page, but job seekers really want to go to another page on the center’s cite for the programs. 

The enter offers welding, HVAC and electrical programs. Delaware Tech offers HVAC certification and construction technology programs. Polytech offers welding and MIG/TIG welding and three building construction core programs (electric, HVAC and plumbing).  Sussex Tech offers pre-apprenticeship programs in electrical core plus and plumbing core plus. 

Categories
Art Featured Health Music Scene About Town

What’s a choir to do? Sing in a Delaware parking garage

garage sing
The choir members were spread out over 40 feet and wore masks while performing, sometimes to piana music powered by a (really) long extension cords.

Accustomed to gathering regularly to make music, those of us who are choral singers have had six months without this (often weekly) source of comfort and joy.

You can sing along with recordings, embark on some sporadic ventures on YouTube, or even warble in the shower. But it’s not the same as joining with others to craft something that’s greater than yourself. 

Ensembles everywhere are looking for ways to stay connected, and throughout the pandemic, conductor David Schelat has been Zooming with members of his three ensembles – Mastersingers of Wilmington, Center City Chorale and the Chancel Choir of First & Central Presbyterian Church – to keep their collegial spirit alive.

But recently, he decided it was appropriate and timely to sing again. 

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In mid-September, David invited members of these groups to meet downtown. Strictly adhering to gathering requirements, he required masks and RSVPs and limited us to 30 of a potential 70 singers.

The response was – not surprisingly – enthusiastic.

And so, on an early October Saturday morning, with the generous assent of facilitys owner Buccini/Pollin Group, we trudged up steps to the top level of a downtown Orange Street parking garage. There we picked up prepared packets of music, arranged ourselves in four voice sections on our blue tape marks, pulled out the five chosen choral works, and began to sing. 

Choral singing is universally loved by its worldwide participants, who cite the sense of community it creates as they breathe together, listen to one another and seek a unified sound.  It embraces singers of all types – from enthusiastic volunteers to professionals – and our group was no exception.

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Several were highly trained, sought-after paid singers; others were (as one singer self-described) “a church choir soprano.” But we were all there for the same reason, and it was heartening and moving to gather once again.

David chose a variety of music, and we began with a work many of us knew – the motet “Rejoice in the Lord Always,” written by that famous composer Anonymous sometime in the 16th century.

Each singer was at least 6 feet from the next person (sometimes more), with the entire group spreading about 40 feet from side to side.

Garage sing
Members of three choirs arrive to spread out and try to blend their voices in a concrete parking garage.

Choir members normally like to be in proximity, so at first our attempt to achieve a blended sound across those distances was challenging – even humorous. But oddly, the garage’s vaulting open spaces and its drab concrete surfaces were surprisingly cathedral-like – one singer called it “the Garage Majal” – and slowly, we got a group sound going.

After we acquired some choral equilibrium, we sang David’s own 2006 composition “If Ye Love Me,” a touching anthem, especially in these times, and a favorite of his singers. Then we launched into the lively “Soon-Ah Will Be Done” in an arrangement by William Dawson, a Black composer who was one of the first to bring spirituals into the concert halls. 

Next, David led us in Louis Vierne’s powerful “Kyrie” from his “Solemn Mass.”. Vierne was the organist at Notre Dame from 1900 t0 1937, and the work was written to be sung in the vast spaces of that Parisian cathedral (alas, no music there now after the great fire). It sounded surprisingly resonant in our “garage acoustic.” 

And we finished with a rousing Zulu song, most probably murdering that liquid language but reveling in its triumphant music. 

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Some of these works were sung a cappella (without any accompaniment), while for others David played on an electronic keyboard powered by a really, really long extension cord. The hour-long gathering felt safe and welcoming.

Above all, even though we couldn’t greet one another with the usual hugs or handshakes, it was powerful to be once again in a musical embrace.

“People who love singing together have missed it a lot,” said David, “and I felt that this was a way to pull these singers together in a way what would be both safe and meaningful.” 

Our enterprising conductor is planning another garage gathering Saturday, and he’s expecting another enthusiastic response.

Gail Obenreder is a member of Mastersingers of Wilmington and writes about the arts for various publications.

 

Categories
Business Featured Food & Dining Health Scene About Town

Eat up: Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week returns

 

When Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week debuted in 2014, it gave independent restaurants a chance to showcase their cuisine.

With only a few exceptions, most of the eateries have been locally owned and managed. 

Today, that mission has an increased emphasis. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on most restaurants, said Dan Butler, owner of Piccolina Toscana in Trolley Square, who helped start the first restaurant week.

Running from Oct. 12 to Oct. 22 this year, the promotion is a way to increase business during this challenging time. 

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Eighteen restaurants are offering fixed-price (prix-fixe) meals. Lunch, if available, is $15; dinner is $35.

At Piccolina Toscana, for instance, you can have an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Selections include tuna tartare, all-day braised short rib over hand-rolled gnocchi in a gorgonzola cream sauce and tiramisu. 

Although restaurant week just started, Andrea Sikora has seen a boost in sales at the restaurants she owns with her husband, Bryan. 

The couple’s participating restaurants include Crow Bar in Trolley Square, La Fia in downtown Wilmington and Hearth Kitchen in Kennett Square.

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“So far, we’ve been busier this week than we have been normally at this time,” said Sikora. “It’s absolutely bringing people out.”

Some people don’t know about the promotion when they make reservations, but they decide to order the special when they see the menu, Butler said.

 It works both ways, however.

“From my experience doing restaurant week, most diners come for the prix-fixe menu but order off our regular menu,” said Dan Tagle, executive chef of Krazy Kat’s in Montchanin. “It opens new doors to customers that we haven’t had before.”

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The catch is that Delaware has limited restaurants to 60% capacity to curb the coronavirus’s spread. 

“We can’t accommodate as many people as we normally would during restaurant week,” Sikora noted.

This year, guests can also order the special meals to go. Sikora’s restaurants, for instance, have added them to their online ordering platform. 

The promotion is presented by the Greater Wilmington & Convention Visitors Bureau, the Delaware Tourism Office, the Wilmington mayor’s office, Mispillion River Brewing and Standard Distributing.

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“Connecting with friends and family over a meal remains a top activity for visitors and residents alike,” said Sarah Willoughby, executive director of the Greater Wilmington & Convention Visitors Bureau, in a press release. 

Butler, for one, is thrilled that the organizers brought the Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week back despite the pandemic. 

“You can still dine out safely. My goal with the promotion is to, in some way, call people back. ‘We get it. You need to feel safe.’ If you put your toe in and the water is fine, maybe you will go out to dinner again — safely.”

Paul Bouchard, managing partner of Tonic Seafood & Steak, didn’t hesitate to sign up for the promotion. “We felt it was important to join with the other restaurants and create some feeling of normalcy,” he said.

This year, the featured restaurants include Agave Mexican Cuisine, Bardea Food & Drink, BBC Tavern & Grill, Café Mezzanotte, Chelsea Tavern, Columbus Inn, Crow Bar. Cromwell’s American Tavern & Taqueria, Eclipse Bistro, Harry’s Savoy Grill, Hearth Kitchen, Krazy Kat’s, La Fia, Mikimitos, Piccolina Toscana, The Back Burner, Tonic Seafood and Steak, and Walter’s Steakhouse.

For more information, go to brandywinetaste.com.

Categories
Featured Weekly Review

Town Square Weekly Review – October 15, 2020

Open the Weekly Review PDF Here

 

Community

Turkey drive canceled; some seniors to get gift cards

It’s almost Columbus Day. So where’s his statue?

Delaware Salute to Service honors people, groups doing good

Stolen mail found near abandoned vehicle in Newark 

 

Government

Ruling: No more time to count mailed ballots

 

Health

Public Health: No more virus hotspots, but state is watching several places 

10 million pounds of food for the needy in Delaware 

Food & Dining

Newark extends Wednesday alfresco dining into December 

Bardea at 2: A new menu, plus an outdoor café on the way

Education

State agrees to spend millions more on special education to settle lawsuit 

McKean’s Kimberly Stock named Delaware Teacher of the Year 

Teacher’s mindfulness lessons help cut suspensions, disruptions

UD announces 5% pay cut for non-unionized employees

 

Arts & Events

Attention ghosts, goblins: Here’s where to go for fun

The Grand plans 4 more drive-in movies at Bellevue

 

Business

5 industries targeted in new jobs training program

 

Editorial 

Influence & integrity in American politics

 

Categories
Entertainment Featured

New book chronicles 100 must-do things in Delaware

A visit to the state's tall ship, the Kalmar Nyckel, is on this First State bucket list
A visit to the state’s tall ship, the Kalmar Nyckel, is on this First State bucket list. Photo by Kalmar Nyckel

 

For people who wonder why Delaware is called the “Diamond State,” Dan Shortridge and Rachel Kipp’s new book, “100 Things to Do in Delaware Before You Die” is here to help.

Although the original reference came from Thomas Jefferson describing what a jewel Delaware was for its strategic location on the coast, the book helps families discover many of the hidden facets in our First State gem.

The book was written to be a handbook for discovering Delaware by everyone from newcomers to those whose families have been here for centuries. With suggestions running from the warm ocean beaches to bucolic farm country, historic landmarks to quirky entertainment stops, the book is full of family-friendly listings and must-do itineraries. It even includes itineraries that detail where to go and what to eat, from the best beach popcorn to that unique regional creation, scrapple.

It was a lot of fun,” said Kipp. She and her husband/co-author – journalists who have lived in all three counties – checked out each site. “It was a nice excuse to do some things.”

The two had been meaning to check out the Wilmington and Western Railroad, a scenic railroad in New Castle County, for years, and finally got to it for the book. Listings in their book include many “inside scoop” details – like where to go to kayak around a primeval forest, or where to get the best vegan sandwiches on the Wilmington Riverfront.

It really highlighted homegrown businesses in Delaware,” said Kipp.

'100 Things to Do in Delaware Before You Die,' by Dan Shortridge and Rachel Kipp

They came up with the idea to write the book after one of Kipp’s friends wrote a similar book about Indianapolis, and they couldn’t find something like that for Delaware.

The most they could find was a few paragraphs in other books.

Delaware deserves more than a few pages,” Shortridge said.

They began making a database of Delaware delights and found selecting just 100 items was difficult.

For example, they were amazed at how many stops are available for maritime history all over the state. Making decisions in the food category was pretty painful, said Shortridge.

All their research and the first draft were completed before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Delaware. They were pleased to see that many of their entries still held up, even when sheltering in place.

The Delaware Children’s Museum, for instance, is open online, and Browseabout Books in Rehoboth was doing curbside pick-up.

There are at least seven long-distance bicycle rides mapped out in Delaware, said Shortridge. He and Kipp also used the book during lockdown to help them choose takeout food.

They added a tips tab on 100thingsinde to list the top five places for social distancing.

I like the way the book unfolds as a love letter to Delaware,” said Kipp.

“There’s no place quite like Delaware,” the book description says. “Where else can you drive the length of the state in three hours, bump into a US senator at the grocery store, and see the preserved hull of a 1798 shipwreck – all in the same day? It may be one of the smallest states in the Union, but Delaware has countless hidden gems to offer visitors and residents alike.”

The details: The $19.95 Reedy Press book is available on 100thingsinde, Amazon or at local bookstores.