This week: Changes coming for downstate politics and more

This week: Changes coming for downstate politics and more
With census numbers coming in and a major property review underway, southern Delaware is getting a recount. 

Counting and measuring are how we order our lives, and the local numbers are getting some big revisions. First off there's the statewide property reassessment. That's a bit complicated, as tax-related topics often are, but we went to one of the county's information sessions and tried to untangle it. (Our motto: Attending meetings so you don't have to.) Here's the story.

How a major property tax update will affect you
The downside of a story about property taxes is that it’s usually only interesting to people who own property, and possibly not even them. But Delaware is in for a much bigger shakeup of property taxes than usual. It will affect every property owner in the state along with

We appreciated this enthusiastic review of the article from a dedicated reader who is definitely using his real name on Twitter and does not have a tendency to exaggerate.  

Another reordering of our lives based on numbers comes from the new census results: More on that later.

First, if you missed it, experienced local reporter Maddy Lauria wrote her first story for The Delaware Independent (teaser: but not the last). She covered allegations by environmental groups over a permit for a new biogas facility south of Georgetown.

Environmental groups challenge Sussex decision on biogas permit
Environmental advocates are challenging Sussex County officials over a new business they say has not done enough work on its project to meet permit requirements. In 2018, Sussex County officials approved CleanBay Renewables’ plan to build a biogas facility in Georgetown, where the company plans to c…

And before we jump into other news and events, thanks to all our loyal newsletter subscribers. If you're reading this online and are interested in getting our newsletters, you can sign up here:

In other news:

If you're looking for a family outing or love Lake Forest School District (or, perhaps, could be persuaded to love Lake Forest), the annual “I Love Lake Forest Day” is coming up Saturday, Oct. 16 at the high school stadium on Killens Pond Road in Felton. Admission is free and the event includes inflatables, a petting zoo, arts, crafts, face painting, games, vendors, band and chorus performances, sports displays and more. It runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a rain date of Saturday, Oct. 23.

Breaking news: Lots of people moved to Sussex County in the last 10 years. Everyone had noticed this, of course, but new census data gives a better idea of just how much growth there was and how that might affect Delaware politics via redistricting. Lawmakers held a public hearing Tuesday evening on the process. According to the census, Sussex was the fastest growing county in the state in the past decade, adding 40,233 residents, for a growth rate of just over 20 percent. Several of the beach districts are well over the population guidelines for districts, so there will have to be some reshuffling in the county. In the Senate, District 6 (Lewes, Rehoboth, represented by Republican Ernie Lopez) is 9,300 residents over the recommended district size. District 20 (Bethany Beach, Dagsboro, represented by Republican Gerald Hocker) has 7,776 residents too many. House districts are much the same. A pocket of beach area districts (37, 14, 20) all will need to be downsized. Those districts are represented by Ruth Briggs King (Republican), Pete Schwartzkopf (Democrat) and Stephen Smyk (Republican), respectively. In southwest Kent County, Republican Shannon Morris' District 30 is actually 2,630 residents short of the population guideline. Districts will have to be amended or reinvented until they are within 5 percent of the ideal number. A couple of public commenters on the Zoom call for the hearing also suggested redoing the district numbering system, which currently looks like numbers were assigned in a drunken game of darts, bearing little obvious connection to their location in the state.

Read more: Tension over growth in Sussex spills into protest

With what promises to be a landmark abortion case coming before the Supreme Court this year, Delaware organizations are joining a nationwide “Rally for Roe” in support of legal abortion. The downstate rally is slated for Saturday, Oct. 2, at 1:30 p.m. at the intersection of Bridgeville Highway and Federal Street in Seaford. A car caravan with decorated cars will gather in Georgetown at 12:30 p.m. and travel to the Seaford site. That spot is near the new Planned Parenthood location in Seaford, where opponents of abortion began holding regular demonstrations months ago. The high court will soon hear a case on Mississippi’s new abortion law banning almost all abortions after 15 weeks. That’s before the point of viability, which is around 24 weeks. Proponents of legal abortion are concerned because it could upend longstanding precedent established after the famous Roe v. Wade case in 1973 and essentially overturn it. That outcome has long been a goal of many abortion opponents. Groups supporting the rally include Women’s March Sussex, Women’s March Wilmington, Delaware National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood of Delaware, Pro Choice with Heart, and the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice. There's another rally scheduled for Wilmington the same day.  

Walk of Change 302 will hold a unity rally on Sunday, Oct. 3, at Jays Nest Park in Seaford from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Walk of Change began holding peaceful rallies in Sussex for racial justice beginning soon after the murder of George Floyd. Organizer Jalyn Powell said the idea of this event is to celebrate achievements in the movement and show people how they can get engaged. “A lot of people don’t know that there is progress being made,” she said. Partners in the event include Bridgeville’s Cornerstone Community Center, previously featured in one of our articles, and the Eastern Shore AFRAM Festival. Powell’s organization, Outloud LLC, focuses on youth in Sussex County, and helps organize the community and give training in engagement on racial issues.

COVID news in Delaware is a mixed bag. At a press conference on Tuesday, Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, noted that while the new delta variant is dominant in Delaware COVID-19 cases appear to be leveling off. The state's coronavirus data show the average for new daily cases staying relatively flat over the past week. On the other hand, as children get back to school and testing of students ramps up, the 5-17 age range now has the highest case rate statewide, Rattay said. Usually, the 18-34 age range is highest, although it was still a close second. As of Tuesday 42 children were hospitalized with COVID in Delaware. That’s up from 28 last month, but similar to the number in January (52). Lower Delaware continues to concern state officials, with western Sussex having some of the largest rates of unvaccinated people and the county as a whole seeing some of the highest rates of cases. If you do want to get a vaccine, you can find more information here.

While we’re on the topic, there’s a free vaccination event for both flu and COVID on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Simmons Foods, 7494 Federalsburg Road in Bridgeville. Walk-ins are welcome. You need to bring ID and to have parental consent if you’re under 18. The Pfizer vaccine for ages 12 and up will be available.

The remains of World War II bomber pilot Lt. George Johnson arrived in a flag-draped casket at BWI airport this week, per the Facebook page Seaford Delaware, a look back in time. If you recall, Johnson had been missing since his plane crashed in World War II, and his remains were recently discovered buried under the wrong name in New York. On Saturday, there will be visitation at the Cranston Funeral Home in Seaford from 12:30 to 1:30, and then a burial with full military honors in Odd Fellows Cemetery.

If you want to close your eyes and feel like you’re at a Guns N’ Roses concert, or just see how close it is to the real thing, tribute band Nightrain will play at the Milton Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 30, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at or by calling 302-684-3038. Nightrain plays all the songs from the “Appetite for Destruction” album, as well as other hits. The band says its “vibrant stage presence and accuracy to everything about Guns N' Roses leaves the entire crowd pleased.” We’ll let you be the judge of that.

Guns N' Roses tribute band Nightrain in concert. Photo courtesy of Milton Theatre

Seaford School District is holding an informal public meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4, at the Seaford High School auditorium. The board will offer a district update on COVID measures and also an update on the secondary school initiative, with a Q&A afterward. The questions are limited to the presentation topics.

Reminders from last week:

Delmarva Folk Festival is Friday and Saturday, Oct. 1-2. For more information, go to  

Wings and Wheels is Saturday, Oct. 2 in Georgetown, featuring military aircraft and classic cars. Go to for more information.

More stories:

This week: Protest, conflict and some good news too
Sussex County has had an astonishing influx of new residents, new housing projects and new businesses over the past few decades, and that has, predictably, caused some tension. On Tuesday, some locals took to the Circle in Georgetown to express their displeasure. We talked to the group that organize…
Delmar police dispute: A saga too big for one state
Before Cpl. Keith Heacook was beaten to death and died alone on a housing development floor, few people cared about whether or not the Delmar police should be able to unionize. It was a question the town had toyed with on and off for more than two decades, mostly finding
Better internet is on the way for southern Delaware: What to know
High-speed internet changed the world, allowing millions of people to fritter away their time on social media every single day. (Oh, and some other benefits, like online shopping, streaming music and video, working from home, and connecting businesses with customers.) It was all great, unless you w…