Cumberland Times-News

November 18, 2013

Secession group to hold first town hall meeting

Organization advocates the five westernmost counties to exit state

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A town hall style meeting to discuss a proposal that the five westernmost counties in Maryland exit the state is planned for Friday evening at Allegany College of Maryland.

The meeting is sponsored by the Western Maryland: A New State Initiative, which advocates secession. “The goal is to form a new state comprised of Maryland’s five western counties,” according to the organization’s website.

It will be the first official town hall meeting the organization has held, said Rich Biancone, a volunteer with the organization. “It’s for supporters, detractors, or those just plain curious,” Biancone said. “If you’re looking for self-determination and self-government” you might be interested in hearing what the organization’s members have to say.

While local officials have not offered support to the secession movement, Biancone said they serve at the will of the people and can be replaced. He said he knows local elected officials and has high regard for them as individuals, but he disagrees with their loyalty to the state of Maryland. “If the electorate wants to secede, we may end up with new elected officials,” Biancone said.

The group is led by Scott Strzelczyk of Carroll County. Strzelczyk plans to be at the meeting, Biancone said. The organization’s website and Facebook page are also good sources of information, said Biancone. The website went live last week, he said.

People are feeling “the pinch” of Maryland’s overbearing government regulations, said Biancone. The website points to gun control regulations and high taxes as some of the grievances cited by the organization.

The five counties — Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick and Carroll — represent just 11 percent of Maryland’s population, but the majority of their registered voters are Republicans in a heavily Democratic state, according to The AP.

The movement is in its infancy and “no one expects it to happen overnight,” Biancone said. Secession isn’t always an idea tied to conservative ideology, but it is tied to the idea of self-government, said Biancone. Biancone cited a Vermont secession movement which is left-leaning and actually seeks to secede from the United States.

“I think the idea of looking at a smaller government is not exclusive to conservatives or tea party supporters,” said Biancone.

The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Allegany College of Maryland Theatre on Willowbrook Road, said Biancone.

The website of the organization is at: http://freewesternmd.org/. The organization also has a Facebook page with regular updates.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.