While the need for drug treatment programs is high, the need is not currently being met. Presently, there are 7,500 taxpayer-funded treatment programs in Baltimore City, and an estimated 55,000 people requiring treatment.

When it comes to the environment, there are challenges waiting for us, too. Despite millions of dollars invested in environmental clean up, the health of the Chesapeake Bay is precarious. A 2002 study by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation found that the Bay’s health, which scored 27 out of 100 in 1998, achieved the same low score in 2002.

You’ve heard me recite a number of statistics. Statistics are serious business. Sometimes, they can be downright scary. But let me ask you to set them aside for a moment, and consider the people behind the numbers. Many of the issues facing us seem so difficult, so intractable, that we lose sight of the human face associated with their challenges. Sometimes we need to see, to touch, to feel the real impact of these issues on the lives of citizens in order to better understand them.

Sitting in front of you today are five individuals who help us put a “Maryland face” on these issues. Listen to their stories; they encompass so many lessons that can help us achieve a better place to live, grow, work, and prosper.

First, I’d like you to meet Captain Bob Newberry. Captain Bob is 45 years old and lives in Crumpton, Maryland. He has been a Marylander since 1966, when his family moved to Queen Anne’s County from Philadelphia. Captain Bob has been a waterman since he was 15 years old. For him, being a waterman means “having something in your blood, and never hating to go to work.”

Today, he fishes, crabs, harvests oysters, farms, and operates one of the few aquaculture farms on the Eastern Shore. Three years ago, he took on extra work as a part-time charter boat captain because it was becoming more difficult to earn his livelihood through fishing. New regulations have harmed his ability to do his job. A significant drop in the Bay’s oyster and crab populations are also threatening his industry.

Several years ago, the value of his average daily oyster catch was up to $2,000. Today, a typical catch falls within the $400 to $500 range. He fears that next year’s oyster harvest will be the worst ever.

The blue crab is not faring much better. Crabs have become increasingly difficult to catch since the 1980s. The female crab population has declined an estimated 80 percent since then, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation reports that the risk to the remaining population is “high and increasing.”

Captain Bob is not the only person whose livelihood has suffered as a result. There are 7,000 licensed fishermen who earn their livelihood from the sea in Maryland. They are responsible for an estimated 1 million pounds of harvest annually, representing $86 million in annual income and 3,168 jobs.

Many feel that they have been unfairly blamed for the plight of the bay. They note that the poor water quality has killed off underwater sea grasses, leaving crabs vulnerable to predatory fish. They report that the oyster population is suffering because shells are not being replenished.

These hardy individuals are the stewards of our environment. Many live their entire lives on its banks. They have an intimate appreciation of its beauty, its species, its problems, and its vitality. It is time to stop blaming them, and to start listening to them.

One day, in the not too distant future, there may be no fish, oysters, or crabs unless we achieved measurable progress in cleaning up the Bay. That means upgrading the 66 major municipal sewage treatment plants that cleanse its waters. My capital budget makes a $95 million down payment in this area. That’s a good start, but we will clearly need additional resources to get the job done. We will need to secure more dollars from the federal government in order to complete this critical task. That must be a joint effort between the Assembly and this administration.

The Chesapeake Bay is central to our identity. It permeates every aspect of our economic, ecological, recreational life. Its health affects the livelihood and well being of every Maryland family. We’ve heard the phrase “politics ends at the water’s edge” a lot since 9/11. I believe that sentiment applies to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay as well. I believe that we can protect it without unduly penalizing the good people who earn their livelihood from it.

Now, I’d like you to meet Adela Acosta, principal of Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Prince George’s County. We’ve heard the phrase “no child left behind” in recent years. Adela was the student who simply would not allow herself to be left behind. Adela was born in Puerto Rico, and later immigrated to New York’s Spanish Harlem. When she enrolled in kindergarten at the age of five, she found it a very scary experience.

“A foreign language enveloped me,” she would later write. “English sounded like rocks dropping in a river. My teachers seemed to think that if they spoke to me in a very loud voice I would understand what they were saying.” Eventually, her teachers labeled her as learning impaired, and she was placed in a special education class in first grade.

Fortunately, a social worker discovered her, and she was sent to St. Paul’s parochial school. There she learned the joy and power of reading as a means of comfort and escape. Her fortunes improved, but she faced other obstacles.

Her father -- a heroin addict -- became blind as the result of a beating by neighborhood bullies. Adela became his surrogate eyes, reading to him, tending to his needs. In effect, she became his teacher. One day, she informed her eighth grade teacher that she wanted to teach one day. The teacher advised her to go into show business because -- and I quote -- “you people are so good at it.”

Fortunately, Adela decided to follow her heart instead. She went on to earn an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education from the University of Kansas, and a Master of Science in Education Degree from the University of Kansas. She has begun doctoral studies in Education Leadership at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Today, the girl once dismissed as learning-impaired is a nationally recognized educator. President Bush appointed her to the Commission on Excellence in Special Education. And First Lady Laura Bush -- a former teacher herself -- named her a National Role Model for Education Reform. In 1999, she helped open Cesar Chavez Elementary School. As principal, she presides over a diverse student body: 47 percent Hispanic, 49 percent African American, and 4 percent white. Ninety-nine percent of her students receive Title I funding.

The girl whose potential was once overlooked by her teachers is now looking out for new generations of disadvantaged students. Because of Adela, no child is left behind at Cesar Chavez. Adela’s experiences as a student and an educator have taught her some important lessons. She knows that social promotion policy only hurts kids and sends the wrong message to taxpayers. She knows that every student should compete on a level playing field, and that fully funding the Thornton Commission’s recommendations is critical to her mission.