Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Annapolis Gospel Fest

(Caution this is a parody - it may offend - I'm hoping you'll laugh like I did.)

Annapolis- Welcome to the First AME Church in Christ Holy Name of the Redeemer in the Mosque and Synagogue of Annapolis. We have asked clergy members to move to the front, and please no crowding. Our invocations will be lead by a pair of renowned pastors from our state Reverends C.A.Museum, and His Eminence Fireinpants. Pastors please note our time is short (one week to be exact) so refrain from any shout-outs.

Reverend Museum –“In the name of the most holy Gorgeous Prince George’s County I want to welcome you to this preordained service. My name, I mean his name, shall be exalted above all others. If god had not created a more perfect region in the state of Maryland it would be my home county. Heavenly father please bless my county known for corruption, malfeasance, bribery, and our close proximity to Washington. We pray for our bounty as the most affluent Black jurisdiction in the state which we never fail to let people know. In god’s name we pray that my exploratory committee to run for higher office attracts people other than my Prince Georgians (Baltimore are you with me). Amen.”

Reverend Fireinpants- in his deepest southern drawl – “Father have mercy on our state for we often don’t understand what we do…like the last session when we took blasphemy to a new level by considering Same Sex Marriage. Heavenly, father that dreaded bill will not come up during this session if you will have your will. God we ask you to remember all those Prince Georgians who voted to kill this measure and grant them sizable tax free donations from your churches. In heavens name we pray, Amen."

Our Announcer is Brother Charles “I use to work in White Country/Black Gospel Radio Back in the Day” Robinson. Brother Robinson you have the mike.

I want to lay down the rules for this Gospel Fest.

1. All participants must sing from the same Hymnal.
2. Groups must prescribe to the call and response of Gospel Music.
3. Soloist cannot extend their songs by resorting to jazz scatting.
4. Straying from the provided text may cause primary political challengers. No political parties are exempt.
5. Winners and losers will be selected in the same manner imposed by such shows as American Idol, The Voice, and the X-factor.

Lastly, I want to let you know this event is being sponsored by the Pit- “You know we can smell it before we see it.”

First up is a trio known as “Sue Who” – It features an Irish singer, a Notre Dame fan, and a red/blonde Singer who favors a personal friend who went to the University of Maryland but doesn’t live anywhere near the school.

“Excuse me Brother Robinson?”


“We have a featured vocalist.”

And who is that.

“Freda Getalong. She’ll be leading us in a song we just love. “Don’t Stray from the Hymnal or We’ll Hurt You.”

Let’s take a listen.

Our next performer is Evangelist Don’t Mess With Me Congresswoman. Evangelist Congresswoman, what song are you going sing?

“They Never Knew My Pain and Want to Marginalize Me”.

Let’s hear it.

I see we have a group resembling the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

“Brother Robinson, how many people can we have on stage?”

It’s up to you.

“We would like to start with several soloist who have variations on our theme ‘God Knows, What Were You Thinking When You Drew This Map’ followed by our chorus who will chime in with “They Are Here to Raise Your Taxes Jesus.”

You’re going to get this all in during the prescribed timeframe?

“Hallelujah we will.”

Get ready for soul stirring Gospel, folks.

This next group comes from the Church of the Evangelista of Montgomery County. Carmelita Pho Seoul Patel is its leader. What song are you planning to sing?

“Brother Robinson ours is a classic; ‘You Can’t See Me But I’m Here and the Census Proves It.’”

Ah, sookie –sookie now ya’ll gonna get a lot of praise for that one.

Are there any other performers? I’ll leave the sign-up sheet on the table in case of any last minute entries.

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any person real or fictional is purely coincidental. This is parody.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Special Session Day One

Annapolis - Want to let folks see the process on the Opening Day of the Maryland Special Session to deal with redistricting. The focus was on maps with dueling press conferences. There was a lot of passion, take a look.

Special Session Day Two

Annapolis - The debate on the floor of the Senate was cordial but not persuasive. The body passed the governor's plan in tack. Take a listen to those who took to the floor.

The measure now goes to the house for second reader. Several attempts were in the House committee hearing the bill to make changes. Much of the changes came from Republicans which went not where.


Annapolis, MD – “I’m a little bit outside of the box. I didn’t come through the Democratic party establishment…the hymn book I do follow is one that’s about the concerns of average ordinary working people” a frustrated Representative Donna Edwards (D) Maryland extorted following her nearly hour long questioning at a Joint Hearing of the Annapolis Legislature. The legislative body is trying to tackle the thorny issue of congressional redistricting. Republican and Democrats tried to sort through the myriad of maps. Congresswoman Edwards joined a chorus of optimist who wanted no parts of a map conceived to reconfigure the state’s congressional districts.

The implausible map arrived in my twitter account on Saturday evening which kind of surprised me. It came close to a map drawn by a Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting. Under the leadership of Jeanne Hitchcock, the group held 12 public hearings around the state. I’ve seen nearly 5 different maps of the newly drawn congressional maps of the state. It’s clear with a Democratic majority of the state one of two Republican congress people were going to be shutout in the process. The early idea was to redraw a district involving the 1st Congressional District but that prove untenable. It fell to the 6th Congressional District (Western Maryland) for change.

The 6th District under the new proposal will include all of western Maryland and portions of Montgomery County. The map looks to dilute the strength of pro-Republican voters, known as “cracking.”

The 4th District, which was originally drawn to carve out a minority majority district, will now include not only Prince Georges, and Montgomery Counties will now include parts of Anne Arundel County which it gave up to 6th District.

According to Governor Martin O’Malley, the state’s most recent data shows the growth of population occurred around the Washington suburbs. A sizable chunk occurred in Montgomery County and Prince George’s (with some spill over in Charles and Saint Mary’s Counties).

Future growth shows Frederick County will become a bed room community of Washington (which it kind of already has) is the area that was annexed to the 6th District.
There were a lot of people weighing in on the process. There were those with political ambition and those who used new software to generate models. In the past models resembled erector sets, dominoes, or Lego’s. Pick your favorite childhood metaphors.

Plausible Alternatives

It started with a number of emails from various constituents. Hassan Giordano began flooding my email box with questions about the dilution of African-American voters. Chiming in was Doni Glover of who also questioned the sincerity of African-American political leadership.

The issue that seems to consume these and others was a dilution of African-American representation in congress. The state has had its issues with providing its minority population with representation. Currently the state is served by two African-Americans, Rep. Edwards (Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties) and the Rep. Elijah Cummings (Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard Counties). The recent census showed there are new growing minorities in Washington suburbs (Latino and Asian populations).

The suggestion these were not factored into the map consider was dismissed by the states chief executive. Any suggestion it would not pass the Voting Rights Act was summarily dismissed “it’s balanced.”

Members of the Republican Party and the newly formed Fannie Lou Hammer PAC under the direction of Carletta Fellows were not impressed by the final map and stage their own press conference.

Also mounting a challenge was Nancy Soeng, President of the League of Women Voters of Maryland Inc. She called “the process troubling.” In her testimony she challenged the politics at play.

Others challenging the legislation include Common Cause.

Here are some of the raw numbers which are in play; the state’s minority population makes up 40% of the state. 29% of the minority population is African-American. Opponents of the governor’s plan suggest there are enough minorities in the state to create another minority majority district.

This idea runs into reality and unfortunate the planners turn to computers to assist. Let me provide that old adage “garbage in garbage out.” Computers can count but they cannot discern.

In anticipation of a challenge, the state has consulted with Attorney General’s office. They have retained an expert through Assistant Attorney General Dan Friedman who will lead its litigation if it doesn't pass section two of the Voting Rights Act.


In a power move Del. Kumar Barve requested a meeting with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake. “Hey we need to talk I’m thinking about running for Comptroller, let’s talk.” Mayor Blake nodded with her traditional wry smile. The mayor is coming off a decisive primary win. She was just one of two of the state’s power brokers (Ike Leggett and Rushern Baker) who were in Annapolis. Some attribute the most recent acquisition of Indy Race Car series in Baltimore as a success. The mayor called the recent death of an Indy driver in Las Vegas “tragic.”

I also wanted to know more about her decision to privatize the city’s recreation centers. “We must get away from the status quo.” The mayor sent out an RFP for community groups and non-profits to consider taking over the nearly all the cities recreation centers. Only 7 groups applied. Hmmm?

Missing from the legislative session is a pair of legislators Sen. Jeanne Forehand and Sen. Ulysses Currie. There is no word of Forehands absence, Currie has been locked in a federal trial. At the trial the defense is starting to weigh-in. Two witnesses suggest the Senator isn’t very bright. Ugh…Currie was the chair Budget and Taxation Committee.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tolls Go Through the Roof

(Baltimore) - Kind of knew this was coming, the Board Estimates has agreed to raise the toll fees around the state. If you've been driving for any period of time on the 95 corridor crossing the state line was a relief. The price for tolls from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York could drain your wallet like a "SUV at a gas pump."

Was the rate hike justified? The legislature was unable to get a rise in the gas tax, which pretty much would have fixed this problem (transportation trust fund has been raided to many times to balance the budget - be prepared to see legislature once again try to pass a gas in the special session. Hmmmmm?)

So you can imagine my surprise when I get a press release from Sen. E.J Pipken on the issue.



JUNE 2, 2011

“The process by which the MdTA is making outrageous toll increases is tantamount to taxation without representation,” said Senator E.J. Pipkin (R. Upper Shore 36), a vocal opponent of the MdTA proposed toll increases. “It doesn’t matter if it is called a toll or a fee; whatever takes money out of the people’s pockets is a tax.”

Senator Pipkin said that today, as was anticipated, “the MdTA rubber-stamped the huge toll increases proposed by its Staff.”

The MdTA board members are not elected, but are appointed by the Governor and answer to the Governor. It’s an independent authority that has the power to operate with very little oversight from the General Assembly. The MdTA can raise tolls at will and without a vote of the Maryland Senate or House of Delegates.

Pipkin said he will re-introduce legislation in the 2012 session to require that the General Assembly approve any toll increases, in the same way the state’s legislative body approves tax increases. “The people’s representatives should stand and be counted on the question of toll increases in the same way it does on tax increases,” said Pipkin. “There needs to be checks and balances in this process.”

There will be nine public hearings later this month where the MdTA will pretend to listen to Maryland citizen’s concerns. “However,” said Pipkin, “When all is said and done, whatever the MdTA wants, the MdTA will get.

Pipkin said that although the current system is flawed, the best chance of fighting the increase is through public participation at the hearings and he urges the public to attend to stop the rate hike. He also suggests calling the Governor’s office at 410-974-3901 to oppose the rate increases from occurring.

The increases are expected to generate $210 million, which would be used not just to offset maintenance costs but to pay off the debts for building the ICC in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Pipkin says the citizens of the rural areas of the state are paying a disproportionate portion of the toll increase. For example, the Bay Bridge proposed increase equates to an over 300 percent increase, while the Baltimore harbor crossings would see a doubling in tolls.

“This is just a continuation of Governor O’Malley’s War of Rural Maryland.”

So let me make sure I get this right. The rise in tolls is going to improve Maryland roads, really?

"I'm Shocked"

The email came as no surprise, here is the headline, "Join Senator Catherine Pugh for an important announcement about Baltimore’s future!"

I'm guessing the Senator from Baltimore can stop dodging questions about whether she is planning to run for Mayor of Baltimore. I kind of knew something was up, when Anthony McCarthy announced he was going to stop doing his talk show to run a Mayoral campaign.

I naturally assumed he was going to head up Councilman Carl Stokes run for Mayor (FYI, he hasn't announced), but no he was throwing his hat in with Senator Pugh.

By way of disclaimer I am a friend of Anthony McCarthy. We have talked politics for a longtime (I also urged him not to run for office after his last bid).
The field to become the next mayor of Baltimore will get a bit crowded on Monday.

I was one of the questioners at the last debate of the Baltimore Mayoral Debate at MPT. We had eight candidates on stage. I'm sorry this has become a joke. I'm all for people who want to seek office but there has to be process where there are fewer folks. The city has a budget of nearly $1.6 million. Sorry this is an adults job. The options for narrowing the field could include raising the fee to run ($7,000 to $10,000 sounds like a nice round number), force candidates to present signatures of 2000 registered voters along with the fee, and/or put in place an early runoff system where we get on the top to vote getter's on the ballot for party nominations.

I'm also reminded funding a campaign will get a lot of outside money. So who's in the race for now; Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Otis Rolley, Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III and Frank M. Conaway Sr. (remember Stokes has yet to announce his intentions).

On the Republican side there is Vicki Ann Harding.

Oh, this is going to be a race to watch.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spotlight on PG Politics

The trial of former County Executive Jack Johnson came to end today with him pleading guilty to bribery charges. The guilty plea brings to the end a saga which made national news for its absurdity. In a federal probe agents confronted the former executive at this office after he was given cash. Johnson suggested the money was for his going away party.

He would call his wife Leslie and tell her to tear up a another check and hide nearly 80k in her bra. Authorities knew all this because they had wire tapped the chief executive's phones. Ms. Johnson had just been elected to the Prince Georges County Board. Following her arrested she was stripped of most her powers. Ms. Johnson's case has been postponed.

LT. OFF THE Market

Lieutenant Governor Antony Brown will not be getting a call from the reality TV Show the "Bachelor." Brown who has divorced his wife is engaged to Karman B. Walker. Ms. Walker is the widow of former Cpl. Anthony Walker, who died in a 2003 car accident (FOP President).

I find it very courious, of those who are consider a possible run for Governor of Maryland, his name keeps coming up. Shhh!!! don't remind him no LT. Governor has ever become the state's chief executive. There is a reason why. Check out the duties of the LT. Governor.

Maryland Constitution:

Section 1A. Office of Lieutenant Governor created; duties; qualifications.

There shall be a Lieutenant Governor, who shall have only the duties delegated to him by the Governor and shall have such compensation as the General Assembly shall provide by law, except that beginning in the year 1978 the salary of the Lieutenant Governor shall be as provided under Section 21A of this Article. No person who is ineligible under this Constitution to be elected Governor shall be eligible to hold the office of Lieutenant Governor.

[1970, ch. 532, ratified Nov. 3, 1970; 1976, ch. 543, ratified Nov. 2, 1976.]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Travis Mitchell Interview

Baltimore - I've talked about Travis Mitchell in the previous article because of what I saw during a protest movement at Morgan State University. The University wasn't exactly happy over his efforts, but gave the school an argument it needed for more funding. His descriptions of his interactions with William Donald Schaefer are unique. While the Governor was surrounded by professional politicians his was out of the ordinary. I caught up with him in his home in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Charles: When you began the protest at MSU was it your intention to get the governors attention.

Yes. We realized that the ultimate goal of the protest was to negotiate with the key decision maker in the state. Early on it was decided that the protest was not a referendum on -- or a reflection of -- the leadership of Dr. Richardson, rather it was about historic underfunding for Morgan and what could be done to immediately redress past injustices and inequities.

Charles: Did you realize at the time what the reaction would be from the Governor.

We did not realize that we would directly engage with Governor Schaeffer so early on in the process, but we were hoping to do so. His reaction was mixed. Initially, he was digging in his heels to take a hard-line approach toward removing us from the building (our peaceful sit-in at Truth Hall) through the use of the National Guard. Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Congressman Kweisi Mfume, and other notable leaders within the African American community advised him to abandon that course of action. Over time, he began to engage in direct dialog with student leaders which was what we wanted.

Charles:Were you surprise when he did the walking tour of the campus to see for himself, and did you have any interaction with him.

I was not surprised that he came as this is what he agreed to do. However, as student leaders it placed us in somewhat of an uncomfortable situation because we wanted to protect the image of the university, but we realized that the public had to see our living conditions in order to understand our plight. One of the most effective outcomes of the movement was for the public to see (TV), hear (radio) and read (print) his reaction on the record.

I had direct interaction with Governor Schaefer as the spokesperson for the protest. He held several meetings with the student leadership and on occasion met with me privately during negotiations.

Charles: Looking back on what happen to school after the protest was their any question in your mind he (Gov. Schaefer) was the catalyst for improvement at the University.

One of the main points that often gets lost is that our protest was mostly about Morgan being able to maintain its independence without being turned into Maryland State or being governed by the Board of Regents for the University of Maryland System. We wanted Morgan to maintain its identity and its own autonomy. At the time Governor Schaefer hinted publicly that Morgan would fair better under the governance of the University of Maryland System. Another idea that was floated at the time was that perhaps it would benefit both Morgan and Coppin State to merge. This is why one of the primary aims of the protest was to dismiss both notions.

A few weeks after we vacated the building, five of us in fact marched from the steps of Truth Hall to the Governor's mansion in Annapolis as a reminder to the Governor that though the legislative session had ended, we wanted him to push through his pledges to expedite our renovation schedule during his Board of Public Works sessions in the summer. He followed through on his promise.Once Governor Schaefer changed his positions on those critical issues, the path was cleared for Morgan's renaissance to begin.

From that point on Governor Schaefer remained a catalyst for the capital improvements on Morgan's campus. He honored his word and his commitment and followed it up with action. His legacy in that regard can be seen on campus today as evidenced by the total renovation, expansion and beautification of the university.

Because my interaction with Governor Schaefer was limited to the Morgan Protest, I have no opinion regarding his political legacy. However, as it relates to Morgan, I am a fan and am grateful for his leadership. Unlike any other professional experience in my life, the weeks, months and years that I spent as a student leader in the movement was by far the most challenging, risky and rewarding. I have to thank Governor Schaefer for giving us the opportunity to excercise or rights as students and for agreeing to fully engage in public dialog and debate with us.

In fact, when I graduated, to my surprise He awarded me with the William Donald Schaefer Award for Outstanding Student Leadership. I was honored. To this day that award seems to represent the paradox that was the man.


Morgan Students take over administration building (mid-March 1990)

Morgan Students lead a 2-mile caravan to Annapolis for a day of protests (Day 4 of protest)

Morgan Students crash Maryland General Assembly closing party (End of Session 1990)

Morgan Students march to Annapolis (May)

Board of Public Works approves expedited renovation plan for Morgan (July 1990)

Renovations begin on dormitories (Fall 1990)

The Paradox of William Donald Schaefer

Part II: Playing on a Bigger Stage

Baltimore – In 1985, I returned to Baltimore only to realize the Mayor was still William Donald Schaefer. I’d given up on journalism and turned my hand to business. There was a buzz in the air that downtown interests wanted Mayor Schaefer to become governor. The governor who was as popular as ever said publicly he had no intention of seeking this higher office.

Schaefer had received a substantial amount of state funds for infrastructure (Baltimore Convention, World Trade Center etc..). The mayor was able to write the rules for federal block grants. Because Baltimore was an early adopter of these federal funds they came in as “demonstration projects.” This allowed the Mayor to leverage federal funds against state funding. With the help of Governors Marvin Mandel and Harry Hughes, Baltimore received record amounts of funding. Around the state jurisdictions were wary and became jealous. In 1986, there were questions if there would be a friendly Governor to continue the Baltimore Renaissance.

In Maryland Public Television’s, Citizen Schaefer, we learned the governor was told by his supporters he’d have to go to Annapolis to ask for help from presumed gubernatorial nominee Stephen Sachs. Sachs, the Attorney General of the state, was the odds on favorite to win the Democrat nomination to be governor. The Attorney General was the exact opposite of the Mayor. Sachs was the smooth talker, while Mayor Schaefer was rough and gruff.

While the Mayors popularity had peaked a couple years prior to this, his negatives were at an all time high. According to Columnist Wiley Hall who appeared regularly on talk shows, he had worn out his welcome with blacks it was time to “let the Brothers takeover.”

Schaefer likely told his minions he needed convincing. It began with a unique Schaefer idea; let’s tour the state to see if there is any ground swell. Using a bus call “Schaefer Express” he hit the highways of Maryland. This was an unofficial tour. It allow him to skirt election rules. It also made the Mayor a target for media types. Everywhere he went the question was, “Are you running for Governor?”

The tour took the wind out the Sachs for Governor campaign which was official. To change the conversation Sachs named Congressman Parren J. Mitchell as his running mate. Congressman Mitchell like most of his family wasn’t a fan of Schaefer. Knowing this Black discontent with the Mayor, Sachs hoped to tap into the rage of Baltimoreans.

The Lieutenant Governor’s job in Maryland was a new phenomenon. It was put in place with no duties. The idea grew out of the Governor Marvin Mandel scandals. There was no logical successor in the state if and when the governor died or had to step down. The legislature in its wisdom created this second post, but decided not to give it any power.

Hall continues to observe “the second guy on the ticket never wins and elections.”

Schaefer the candidate was even shrewder. He didn’t put out position papers and he refused to debate. His poll numbers showed a commanding lead over Sachs. Things almost came undone however during a typical question and answer session with the press. He was asked his thoughts on the Eastern Shore. He flippantly called it the states outhouse. This comment would haunt him despite apologies.

When he won the election he came in with same gusto he had done in Baltimore. Baltimore is very much a strong mayoral system. The tables were turned in Maryland legislature. He tried to strong the legislature and had to pullback. When he finally learned the ropes he began to put forth bold ideas again.

He introduced the new lottery game Keno, he gets the legislature to build a new Bay Bridge, he finances construction of a new sport facilities (Camden Yard) through a lottery game, and creates the “Maryland is Beautiful Campaign for tourism.” John Wesley, who was city employee, also reminds me Schaefer was also able to leverage state funds to build two of the state’s most important roads, Route 100 and 97. The later cut the trip from Annapolis to Baltimore in half. The Governor’s popularity couldn’t have been much higher.

A Storm at an HBCU

The Schaefer administration began to streamline government. One idea which seemed good at the time was to put all of the state’s colleges under one agency. The idea was to have one entity to lobby for funding instead each of school separately asking for funding.

The idea was moving swimmingly until a group of students at Morgan State University in 1990 began protesting conditions at the school. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been an issue, accept after a month long strike the leader of the protest, Travis Mitchell upped the ante and went on a hunger strike.

Mitchell was an unlikely leader. He had been the student Editor of the Spokesman, the student newspaper. He was able to rally students whose activism had been questioned. The Morgan administration was initially ambivalent to the protest. According to Mitchell, “We realized that the ultimate goal of the protest was to negotiate with the key decision maker in the state… the protest was not a referendum on -- or a reflection of -- the leadership of Dr. [Earl] Richardson (Morgan President), rather it was about historic underfunding for Morgan and what could be done to immediately redress past injustices and inequities.”

A number of leaders of the city began to feel empathy for the students. The heavy hitters in Black political circles tried to mediate the crisis, Baltimore Mayor Schmoke and Congressman Kwiesi Mfume met with the protesters in hopes of ending the crisis.

“We did not realize that we would directly engage with Governor [William Donald] Schaefer so early on in the process, but we were hoping to do so. His reaction was mixed. Initially, he was digging in his heels to take a hard-line approach toward removing us from the building (our peaceful sit-in at Truth Hall) through the use of the National Guard.” Advisers to the governor told him not to take this action. “Overtime, he (Schaefer) began to engage in direct dialog with student leaders which … we wanted.”

Those negotiations were tough. Remind yourself, this is a 19 year old college student going “toe to toe” with states chief executive. Mitchell and his cohorts were able to get the governor to agree to additional capital improvements on the campus. The governor would make a visit to the campus and see for himself the problems.

Morgan still exists outside of the University of Maryland system and its improvements include refurbishing of many of the dorms, construction of new buildings including Engineering, a new student center, new football stadium, a dorm, and the construction continues to this day(the second wing of the engineering building will be name for Schaefer).

In circumspect, Mitchell can reflect on those times, “Governor Schaefer remained a catalyst for the capital improvements on Morgan's campus. He honored his word and his commitment and followed it up with action. His legacy in that regard can be seen on campus today as evidenced by the total renovation, expansion and beautification of the university…Unlike any other professional experience in my life, the weeks, months and years that I spent as a student leader in the movement was by far the most challenging, risky and rewarding.”

Mitchell would eventually graduate from Morgan. On commencement day he would receive a rare honor, the William Donald Schaefer Award for Outstanding Student Leadership. Mitchell confided in me he wasn’t a fan of the Governor initially, but he understood what he brought to bear on making Morgan the university it is today. As he continued to wax about this period in his life, “that award seems to represent the paradox that was the man.”
(I’ve posted a Q and A and timeline for Travis Mitchell)

Payback is a B

The late Governor has always had his moments sometimes with a flair others with a thud. If there was ever a time when it seemed Baltimore and the state were going to hit a home run it was during the wooing of the NFL.

When the Baltimore Colts left town, Schaefer made it point to get them or another team back. He had used the state’s lottery system to keep Major League Baseball and used the same idea to create an authority which would oversee the construction of a stadium to get a professional football team back to the city.

There were a lot of questions from the NFL about Baltimore, and even several NFL franchises toyed with city (The Cardinals). The fan base was here despite being in close proximity to Washington, DC. The thing which seemed to be key was a new idea, seat licensing. A seat license was a novel approach to raising revenue. In order to purchase tickets to a game you just couldn’t be a season ticket holder you had to purchase a license in order to buy a ticket. The license was $1000. This money would essentially be in escrow and for the taking. Essentially, Baltimore was waving dollar signs at the NFL.

The NFL had policy of not adding teams to the league, but cities began clamoring for teams. The NFL owners decided in 1994 to expand the league by two teams with play to begin in 1995. As many as four cities were vying for those spots. Included were two cities which lost NFL franchises, St. Louis (Cardinals move to Phoenix), and Baltimore. There were also two new cities Jacksonville, and Charlotte. Each city made their case. Joining Schaefer in the presentation was Baltimore’s first elected Black Mayor Kurt Schmoke. Schmoke and Schaefer were the equivalent of the odd couple. The mayor had beaten the governors handpicked successor Clarence “Du” Burns. As the Schmoke tells it, “we were cordial, but never really clicked.”

When the NFL picked Jacksonville it seemed all of the wind was once again sucked from Baltimore. In later years The NFL Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, was asked by a Baltimore reporter if the city should continue its efforts to get a franchise; the commissioner in an offhand way said, “maybe the city needs to build an opera house instead.”

Schaefer would end his two terms as governor with enormous amount of goodwill in the state, but he couldn’t claim the prize as bring football back to Baltimore.

Out of Office, Out of Mind

During his second term the Governor was incensed in winning his re-election by 77 percent. The governor thought the margin of victory should have been higher. Cartoonist KAL of the Baltimore Sun and Dan Rodericks began poking fun at the Governor in the states most read newspaper. Hall also had his share diatribes, but he says it really became hilarious when the Governor went to the Washington Post Newspaper and berated the Editor about this columnist named Wiley Hall. Hall found out about the rant when he received a call from a Post editor. The columnist was working at his desk at the Baltimore Sun. As Hall tells the story the editor told him he just received a tongue lashing from the Governor. When writer inquired as to why. The editor said, "because of one of your articles." The Washington Post executive says, “I told him you don’t work here, but the Governor would have none of it.”

The Governor didn’t help himself when in 1991 at a State House ceremony, Schaefer asks two Eastern Shore delegates: "How's that s— — house of an Eastern Shore?" Schaefer was pounded for a week about whether he had made the statement. Finally he relented, suggesting it was "a joke."

This misstep was followed by a no-no in Democratic circles. In 1992, during the presidential election year the Governor endorses incumbent Republican President George Bush over Democratic challenger Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.

Schaefer was often asked by the president to join him at Camp David, Maryland. Their friendship was apparently something the Governor could not turn his back on. Democrats in the state were furious. The tide of Republican office holders was changing, but here was a Maryland governor endorsing a Republican. Some people didn’t take kindly to this event. Clinton would become President and Schaefer who was termed limited went back to being an ex-governor and ex-mayor.

He retired to a townhouse in Anne Arundel County, only to appear for endorsements of candidates. This time in the wilderness Schaefer had an itching to get back into politics. The opportunity came with the death of his good friend the Comptroller of the State of Maryland, Louis Goldstein. Goldstein, a white southern Marylander was a throwback to an earlier democratic era. His popularity rivaled Schaefer in some quarters. By all accounts he was a good steward of the Maryland's fiscal health.

Because his death came in the middle of his term Governor Paris Glendenning would make an appointment to the position. Schaefer made no secret about his desire to fill the seat. Some Democrats were opposed to the former governor taking the seat because of the Republican endorsement. In the end, Glendenning did not select Schaefer. For all intents and purpose this was a feud.

The feud almost got ugly when Art Modell announced he was moving the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1995. Invited to attend was a who’s who of Maryland and Baltimore. Missing from the invited guest list was William Donald Schaefer. The former governor had made it possible for an NFL team to come to Baltimore. In his “Do it now” style the former Governor showed up, upstaging the governor. When reporters asked the governor’s staff why Schaefer didn’t get an invite, it was suggested; “it was lost in the mail.”

This slight wasn’t lost on the 85 year old Schaefer; he decides to make a run at Comptroller. He wins with the “Schaefer Machine” drawing in 62 percent of the vote in 1998. What made his election odd; he would now have to sit next to the man who never gave him deference? The Board of Public Works where the Governor, the Treasurer and the Comptroller preside became a legislative side show. Schaefer would make opening remarks criticizing the governor. To make matters the two would never make eye contact.

Divided Government

The run of Democrat Governors came to a screeching halt in 2003 with election of Republican Robert Erhlich. The former congressman caught a political perfect storm. The storm included a week candidate, an electorate tiring of democratic dominance in the state and a message which resonated with voters.

Despite having a Democratic legislature, the Republican governor found a friend and willing listener in Schaefer. In keeping with tradition Schaefer continued to make pronouncements on issues unrelated to his office. On one occasion, Schaefer went on a verbal barrage for not being able to understand the attendants at a McDonald’s Restaurant for not speaking clear English (they appear to be a speaking in Spanish). The state was changing and Schaefer insisted it go back to another time.

If there was an issue which really made people uncomfortable was his usage of the term “little girl” when addressing female staff members. Schaefer suggest this was “much to do about nothing.” Woman of a certain age found the term offensive. Others suggested he came from a certain era and it shouldn’t be read as a belittling offense.

All that changed in February 2006, during a Board of Public Works meeting Schaefer stops a female aide who had just given him a mug of tea and walked away, commanding her to return and "walk again" as he watches. A room full of officials and department heads gasp at this blatant show of chauvinism.

Aides try and dismiss the incident knowing their boss is up for re-election. Reporters corner him outside a Senate hearing room. Susan Collins, a reporter for WJZ-TV Channel questioned what he done. Schaefer responded, “What I don’t have to do is take the press giving me going over all the time." While it may have worked earlier it made him look old and out of touch. Will Hall surmised, “in later years (Schaefer) lost it in the clinical sense.”

Schaefer would lose to Peter Franchot in the Democratic primary and would become the state’s comptroller. In retirement we would see little of Schaefer. My good friend Lou Davis who’s logged close to 500 interviews with the former governor and comptroller knew the end was near visiting him at his retirement apartment. Aides continued to keep close tabs on their boss.

Schaefer reappeared at the dedication of a statue to him in November of 2009. While dignitaries sang his praises, he couldn’t resist being in the spotlight at the unveiling of his statue at the Inner Harbor (a place he envisioned). He seemed to still have “fire in this belly” suggesting, “I won’t take long.” Following the event his friends would move him to Charlestown Retirement home.

Post Script

The paradox that was William Donald Schaefer is that of the consummate politician. He knew he had enemies; however, he often found ways to turn them into allies. Some of those not in his camp/circle have every right to be pissed. His grudges were legends unto themselves. He never felt in life he was wrong. His letters/surprise visits to constituents are infamous. He treated journalist like children and never wanted anything bad said about him.

Sorry, if you want to be the limelight, criticism comes with the territory. In the end I’m reminded of all things he accomplished, but I’m also reminded of the things he left unfinished. If some of this made you mad, if some of this made you think, if some this made you reminisce, then I as writer have accomplished all I set I do.

Schaefer’s work is unfinished and he’s waiting on you. “Do it now.”

Charles Robinson
Maryland Public Television

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Paradox of William Donald Schaefer

Part One of a Two Part Series

(Baltimore) The death of William Donald Schaefer ends a legacy of big city mayors whose larger than life personae’s became the story of legend and myth. I was fortunate enough to cover some of his life, but was also an observer and marveled at this politician who could see the vision long before anyone else could.

The Councilman, the Council President, the Mayor, the Governor, and Comptroller held sway over an electorate which loved him in ways that bordered on a cult like following. His supporters would chastise you if you spoke negatively about him. His legions of fans talked of little gestures which endeared them to him. As with any politician he knew how to turn on the charm, but could be caustic in his ridicule.

As a reporter, Schaefer could belittle a question with the best of them. “He shot from the hip.” This isn’t just about the man, but about contradictions. A fiercely loyal man who got caught in a changing society and ushered in an era

When William Donald Schaefer became mayor in 1971 he had just lived through the 1968 riots. The city of Baltimore became 50 percent Black and did not deliver on the promise to elect a Black mayor. Some in the Black community suggested, the “Schaefer Machine” was instrumental in pitting two popular African-Americans against each other in the primary (Clarence Mitchell Jr. and George Russell) ensuring the election of a white mayor.

With Schaefer winning, he consolidated a power structure he hoped to exploit. It was evident in his inaugural speech. “Around every city there is a ring of affordable suburbs – with people who profess to dislike the city, to fear the city. They scorn the city. They ignore the city they refuse to acknowledge the city’s problems are their problems. Yet without a city those suburbs would not exist.”

A bold statement at the time; and caused consternation from those who listened. “It is the cities which gives those suburbs their jobs, their culture, their entertainment - in fact their whole comfortable way life. “ He goes on to address the burgeoning Black electorate. Suggesting racial pride was not the politics of the city, but neighborhoods. He had to assure white business owners to stay in the city. Public relations ruled the day.

His famous line “Do it now” played out in a story related by Michael Johnson of West Baltimore. In a Facebook post Johnson says, “I disagreed with him many times, but I will remember when he was mayor and we could not play a game of baseball at a Towanda baseball field…the grass was too long. Mayor Schaefer drove by, and we told him. Thirty minutes later, trucks came cut the grass and lined the field; and left 4 new baseball bats, 4 new bases and a box of balls.”

These little acts of kindest gave him hero status in some communities. Complaining became an art form, but somehow he would reach out and touch even his ardent critics.

Wiley Hall, a reporter and columnist, had his run-ins with Mayor Schaefer. “The Schaefer paradox was good for Baltimore.” It surfaced in his neighborhood of West Baltimore. A once melting pot of diverse families was giving way to the urban transformation. On either side of his home were Blacks who appreciated his way of governing. This was almost patriarchal with an attitude, “I know best.” This idea rubbed a number of people the wrong way, but it was visionary.

The Big Idea

Suburbia was safe, the city was not. Mayor Schaefer challenged the idea. He looked to create new development in places where people had abandoned the idea. The term gentrification had not been created, but some would suggest he would single handedly cause it to happen.

The “dollar row house” was a strange idea to some. In the mid 70’s, the abandonment of core neighborhoods in downtown's was commonplace. The idea of selling an abandon piece of property for dollar, making you live in that home which you had to fix up was an investors dream. The catch was you had to stay in the home 5-10 years. To enhance the idea there had to be other attractions other than cheap housing. The city would clean up the neighborhood and create amenities. For older families this was a joke, but to those starting out it was dream come true.

The neighborhoods from Federal Hill, Cross Street, and Ridgley’s Delight became carved out neighborhoods for the “new urban renaissance.” Meanwhile, in neighborhoods transitioning from all white to all Black the change was dramatic. Overnight people look to sell their homes escaping to the suburbs. At first it was just white families but some Blacks moved as well. There was a sense of hopelessness. Through the mid-seventies up through the eighties drugs laid waste to some of Baltimore’s traditional Black neighborhoods. While being neglected, downtown was booming.

Harborplace was and is Schaefer’s crown jewel. He beat back critics in a voter referendum to transform a haven for long shore men to a tourist destination. He took advantage of federal Block grants to finance a dilapidated waterfront. The Baltimore City Fair seemed to showcase all the possibilities of a multicultural community Baltimore could be and become.

As the ultimate showman Mayor Schaefer made good on a bet to swim with seals if the Aquarium wasn’t completed on time. It was an image seen around the world.

African-Americans joined in the celebration of the new tourist attraction. There was also a seamy underside of the city. Black enclaves just outside of this core area (Flag House Courts and Murphy Homes) saw little help. Feeding this hopelessness was a drug epidemic fueled in the eighties with the introduction of crack cocaine. It was catalytic. The good feeling of downtown booming and neighborhoods cracking seemed out of touch.

Challenges and Challengers

In the late 70’s it seem everything the Mayor touched to turn to gold. His successes dwarfed his failures. Rolling the dice on another big idea the Schaefer Machine looked to link the western suburbs with the city. The idea was simple take out some of Baltimore’s notorious neighborhoods and put in an expressway to connect downtown. It seemed to be a great idea, but in the end it had the wrong implementation strategy. The Westside Expressway was by far a signal the Mayor had overreached. Displacing some historic black neighborhoods, laying waste to an urban park, the popularity and charm of Eastside Councilwoman Barbara Mikulski who wouldn't let the city same highway system devour her neighborhood, and the growing environmental movement was his so call Waterloo (a reference to Napoleonic battle that ended his reign).

There was also this growing questioning from reporters and columnist in Baltimore. While the quirky public relations campaign from “trash ball,” to “think pink” were cute this was a battle. The mayor was going to displace little old ladies. In the end his personality could not win the day. In losing he had the last laugh. He left the half finished expressway as a monument to not getting his way. Currently, they are tearing down the ramp which would link the expressway.

The challenger to a Schaefer came in the way of politics. African-Americans had displaced a white congressman on the westside of Baltimore and elected Parren J. Mitchell to represent them in the halls of congress. Congressman Mitchell of the famed Mitchell family understood Black political power better than most. He started the Congressional Black Caucus. A group of ministers and political insiders who called themselves the “Gang of Six” went looking for a suitable challenger to Schaefer.

They found him in a young Black lawyer who seems to have all the right pedigree, William “Billy” Murphy. In 1980, Murphy successfully ran for judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, only to resign three years later to run for mayor of Baltimore against Schaefer.
(Judge Billy Murphy is in the middle)

This was a brutal campaign. Households were divided, and Black Baltimore was divided (again). The patronage system proved to be a winning formula with Schaefer. He backed the Eastside Democrat Club which had a political machine run by Councilman Clarence “Du” Burns. According to John Wesley an employee of Schaefer, "Du Burns was the perfect partner." Well known and well liked by Black Democrats on the eastside of the city. He knew where to pick-up votes on election day. Schaefer would counter the intellectuals in the Murphy camp. Murphy would lose.

At a time when major cities in America were electing Black mayors Baltimore was a throwback. The eighties had thrown so many challenges at cities. Democrats were literally in retreat with the election of Republican President Ronald Regan. There was Schaefer standing tall as bulwark to GOP successes. Despite his love of the city he was urged to take on a bigger challenge.

Sports and Schaefer

The last challenge in his Baltimore career came with the late night departure of the Baltimore Colts franchise. Sports has a way of healing any political difference. The owner of the Colts, Robert Irsay, had assured the Mayor he had no intention of leaving, but “in the still of the night” they did it.

A tear eyed Schaefer summed up his feelings in a press briefing endearing him to a generation (including myself). He really never got over loosing the football team. “You can’t be a major city without pro-football,” he told the assembled media.

His attention would turn quickly to Orioles, the baseball franchise. Edward Bennett Williams, baseball owner wasn’t satisfied with Memorial Stadium. The city wanted a long term deal, but the owner wanted a better deal. In another paradox that laid bare the Mayors showmanship occurred in 1988. The team was in the midst of major league baseball’s longest losing streak, 1-24. They returning home from a road trip to a sellout crowd. It was unthinkable. The marketing for the event was called “Fantastic Fans Night.” The Mayor would acknowledge the crowd and announced a long term deal with the Orioles and the building of a new stadium in the old railroad area called Camden Yards. This was just pure theater, once again enduring him to an electorate.

Part II - A Bigger Stage to Play On

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Roundtable with Liam Farrell

Annapolis - Over the years of covering the Maryland State Legislature the number of reporters who come and go is starting to add up. In my early days the press office in the state house would take pictures of the various reporters. The practice has stopped and to everyone's detriment. There is no recording of those who chronicled the government operations of the state. The Press Corp in Annapolis has resorted to taking a class picture which has served as our marker of who was here.

When one of us leaves it is both sad and joyous. Today's installment features one of my favorite print reporters, Liam Farrell of the Capital Newspaper. When he arrived he got it instantly. He delved into what was happening and chronicled it in the Annapolis official newspaper. Here's our take on the next to last week of the session.

To my friend good luck...or should I say, "I hope Irish eyes will smile upon you."

To See our conversation click here.

Last Minute Update

The governors press secretary confirms former Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer has been hospitalized for pneumonia. The former governors health has not been good for almost a year.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grasmick Out as Superindent

(Annapolis) - As word spread of Dr. Nancy Grasmick's departure as Maryland's School Superintendent questions swirled as to why? What was even more evident was her impact on schools in the state. When she arrived as a part of the Governor William Donald Schaffer's administration machine, education was not a priority. There were pockets of excellence, but there was very little coordination. According to Dr. Grasmick, "school systems knew the superintendent would come in one day and we could go back to what we were doing." It would change. As she boasted during her retirement announcement, "I can't stop getting up at 4:15 am, and drive 300 mi lies a day."
The superintendent has many first; she ushered in Maryland's own test for high school seniors to get a diploma; she help settle a legal dispute between the state and the city of Baltimore; she developed leadership academies in the various counties; her work with undeserved communities predates the introduction of "no child left behind;" and for the last two years Maryland has been named the top public school system in the nation.
For all her accolades she also laid bare her disappointments. Under her administration the number of drop outs has increased. She wishes she could have gotten more money for teachers. Lastly, she worries about technology and how its created cyber-bullies and the ability to talk via texting has removed human interaction. In the end she will have a legacy and there won't be a shortage of potential suitors who could use her expertise and saleswomanship.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Death Penalty, Death Nail

(Annapolis)- For the last 18 years Kirk Bloodsworth has been testifying against the death penalty. He has a personal reason to do so. While he was sitting on "death row" his conviction was overturned despite his insistence he was innocent.

"Naw, this never gets old," according to Bloodsworth. He is passionate and humbled at the same time. He makes the argument clear and succinct, but has been able to the Maryland Legislature to change its mind.

A number of prosecutors including Scott Shellenberger of Baltimore County count on the death penalty to be a deterrent. Statistics show in Baltimore County you're more like to face a death penalty case in other jurisdiction (maybe also in Harford County)rather than Baltimore City (the city has a new states attorney, let's see if he'll change the trend).

The anger Bloodsworth seems replaced as he introduces his "life partner." My colleague Lou Davis was the second reporter to interview the former marine after he was let go, so there is an easy in what he says.

"So where you been," says Lou. "I'm living in Boise, Idaho, coaching track (discus) at Boise State University, says Bloodsworth. I chime in, "You mean the national ranked football team with blue field." "Yep, we're season ticket holders...nobody knows us there."

As we're talking a former professor who made the case for Bloodsworth shows up and joins the banter. "Don't you miss crabbing?" "Nah, I can always comeback and get a crab cake."

This is a side of the former death row inmate I think few have seen. In pass years he's been angry, frustrated, and challenged. "The Illinois thing gives me hope," he says with a slight twinkle in his eye.

All around us others are giving testimony-I mean interviews as to why the ban needs to be a repeal.

Jokingly, I ask him, "You've had a difficult time in convincing the Judiciary Chairman Vallario." "Yea, but he's gonna hear it again, 'it's time to remove the death penalty." We laugh but this is serious business. I forgot to add this, Governor Martin O'Malley was noticeably absent on this bill.

Gaming and Horses

Packed hearing on this issue in the House Ways and Means Committee. I run into Delegate Frank Turner who suggests his walk around the Capitol Building is part of his attempt to take off a few pounds as required by his doctor. Maybe, but its more likily he wasn't going to see the light of day in the hearing room.

Talked with J. Michael Hopkins,Executive Director of the Maryland Horse Racing Commission. He's a little coy about his testimony on the tracks, purses and the various competing interest. When I ask Mr. Hopkins about horse racing next year he says as a matter of fact, "we will have racing...that's if the various parties can solve their issues in court."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Three Hours of Debate Same Sex Marriage

Annapolis - There was expected to be an electric debate in the Maryland House of Delegates with both sides geared up for arguements for and against on same sex marriage. I've laid out several potential traps for the bill in earlier postings. All the them were on display today. The House took up the Senate Bill rather than take up its own bill.

Many passionate debaters. Delegate Emmett Burns, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, gave an impassioned and historical arguments against the bill."Show me your Birmingham, Al; show me the homes evaded by KKK, show me where you suffered under billy clubs and the mobs." Delegate Burns would go on to argue Dr. Martin Luther King nor Marylander Clarence Mitchell did not have same sex marriage in mind where they were arguing for civil rights.

Del. Keiffer Mitchell, says Clarence Mitchell, his grandfather, would have been in favor of the measure.

For a number of Prince George's County delegates this was a very tough vote. Delegate Jay Walker saying he loves everyone announced he would vote against the bill.

Delegate Aisha Braveboy, did try to amend the bill to make it a referendum. She was twarted as was Delegate Cheryl Glenn who also wanted to change the bill.

Nearly three hours into the debate the final speaker was Judiciary Committee Chairman, Delegate Joseph Vallario. Delegate Vallario who is not a fan of this measure in one fell swoop sent the bill back to committee.
As Bryan Sears of noted as I did on twitter, "this pretty much kills the bill this session." The bill was also called dead for this session by one of the bill sponsors.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lt. Governor Gets Pulled Into Instate Tuition Debate

Annapolis - The Senate has sent the instate tuition bill to the house. It came with some rancorous debate. A twist on the final outcome may weigh on who was and could be affected. My good friend Len Lazarick conducted a question and answer before United Seniors on Wednesday where Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown was the guest. During the session he was asked about instate tuition for undocumented workers children. "It's personal." The Lieutenant Governor explains his grandmothers move to the United State. Take a look in the Annapolitics Blog.

The Lt. Governor responded on his facebook page. I'll have this part of the story in my Maryland Public Television piece. Here's his quote.

"I appreciate taking an interest in my family’s story, but their headline doesn’t capture the point. My grandmother's journey shows that our country has a great deal to gain by embracing new Americans. Because her son, my father, received an education, he was able to give back and contribute to his adopted country and instill the same sense of service in his children. That is why the MD DREAM Act matters and why it will lead to a brighter future for all Marylanders."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fire Storm with Floor Debates

Annapolis – There were two spirited debates today. In the house the issue of same sex marriage was up for floor debate. The opposition was spirited, but despite amendments none were taken and it came through clean. I thought Delegate Kumar Barve’s observation regarding this issue being sent to the voters in a referendum in 2012 maybe on point. But those who wanted this bill got their way. Maryland looks to become the six state in the union to approve of same sex marriages. A couple of issues of note Delegate Aisha Braveboy offer an amendment which was like a poison pill. It would have sent the bill back to the Judiciary Committee which has its own version same sex marriage. Delegate got a lot of bi-partisan votes on having it go to the voters. In the end it failed but did have a lot of unusual support. Also, kind of surprise at the efforts by several large churches in Prince George's going after Delegates from this area asking them to fight the move. Several outside groups will apparently take up the petitions drive to get on the ballot. The final vote will occur on Friday.

Instate Tuition for Immigrants

The other issue today was the so call “Dream Act.” The title has changed to Higher Education - Tuition Charges - Maryland High School Students. The initial idea was to provide instate tuition for dependents of undocumented works at all state colleges and universities. It’s been watered down to take affect at community colleges initially. Listen to the debate in the Senate.

Lastly, Senator Lisa Gladden brought forth emergency legislation dealing with protesters at military funerals. This legislation came from a Supreme Court ruling in the Westboro Baptist case. The controversial church has been showing up at the funerals Iraq and Afghanistan War dead. They believe god is punishing these individuals for recognizing gays. The court ruled last week their protest are part of free speech and can go ahead. In the wake of this ruling several measures are in the works to keep them away (in Maryland you must stay 100 ft. from funerals). This new law would ban them from coming within 500 ft. Sen. Joe Getty talks about the issue.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hic-up on Same Sex Marriage

(Annapolis) A funny thing happen to gay marriage in the House of Delegates. It was suppose to pass Judiciary Committee without a problem. Del. Jill Carter and Tiffany Alston of Prince George's County were MIA on the committee vote. There weren't enough votes to get it out of committee. According to some reports Del. Carter held up the bill to get more money for Baltimore City Schools. Del. Alston says she needed more time to think about the vote. As you can imagine it wasn't taken likely by Delegate Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County.

In a change of heart Delegates Carter and Alston now say they are ready to vote for the bill. Can you say leadership arm twisting.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Same Sex Marriage

Annapolis - The hurdle for same sex marriage was in the Senate of Maryland. The bill had failed several times and the Senate President, Thomas V. "Mike" Miller has made no bones he doesn't like. Time takes it's toil on a lot of legislation. Conservative Democrats had been the bulwark. With a number of new Senators the tide changed and so did several Democratic senators.

The first to come around to the idea of allowing was Sen. James Brochin. Sen.Brochin was swayed by what he called vitriol from those against the measure. Coming from a swing district he made what some see is a calculation this vote would not hurt him.

The Sen. James Rosapepe from Prince George's and Anne Arundel Counties also changed his vote.

The debate was predictable with conservatives trying to add amendments which went no where. There was one change, the title of the bill. The term "Religious Freedom" was removed in an amendment. Here's the final tally of votes.

City vs. Poly Football Game

High School Football isn't what it use to be. One of the highlights for a number of teenagers is the annual City College versus Polytechnic Institute Football Game. I didn't attend either school but have friends who swear by the gridiron match up.

So it was slightly amusing when Delegate Jill Carter says she has bill which is causing fireworks because she wants the game played on Thanksgiving Day. House Bill 699 would revive the Turkey Day game. The school system changed the date so these two schools would be eligible for the statewide championships.

You not going to believe this but some in the Baltimore delegation believe it should stay where it is. Apparently, former University of Maryland and famed Dunbar coach Bob Wade spoke out against the bill. Is this a lot about nothing? Love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

MIA Pat Jessamy

Baltimore- When last we saw Mrs. Patricia Jessamy, she was giving a concession speech to her supporters. Guest what, she may be dodging the spotlight but she's not really retired. I'll let her speak for herself.

I Missed Chuck Brown

Annapolis- There are just some things you don't want to miss and I did. Famed Go-Go creator Chuck Brown was honored by the House of Delegates. There are some things that don't often happen in Annapolis. He didn't bring his guitar or the band but no one will ever forget his appearance. Thanks to the folks from Maryland Reporter who made me feel like _ _it for missing it.

But here's my sweet revenge...Chuck Brown doing my personal theme song. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Negro Mountain et al...

(Annapolis, MD) - The ability to frame a debate can often be curious. Such as the case involving a natural wonder in western Maryland, called Negro Mountain. To the uninitiated holding on to a name like this seems to relate to a different time. Some would even suggest a time which has come and gone. It's not like people didn't know this existed, in fact some people have posed in pictures with signage.

The story behind the name apparently relates to former slave who saved a group of White Frontiersmen. In honor of his heroic efforts they honored him by calling this scenic mountain, Negro Mountain.

Many of the attempts to change the name have often come from people outside of Western Maryland where it sits. The feds tried but were thwarted. State Senator Lisa Gladden from Baltimore has tried to unsuccessfully for a number of years to change the name.

This year however, she has also included another mountain name that some suggest is politically incorrect, Polish Mountain. Senate Joint Resolution 3 has nine sponsors. FYI, when this was brought to the floor of the house and the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus had not taken a position on the name change.

For Western Maryland delegates some suggest this is a bit much. Listen to the arguement Del. Kevin Kelly made to me in the Maryland State House.

The irony about his position, he's apparently been willing to battle any and all comers on this subject.

"What was I thinking"

There have always been people who want to stir the pot in Annapolis, enter Delegate Curt Anderson. Delegate Anderson (I don't know if he was joking or trying to balance a new caucus) announced he was joining the Tea Party Caucus in the the Maryland Legislature.

When news of his joining the caucus was discovered, there were gasps. There was even a suggestion he could be stripped of his seniority in the Judiciary Committee.

This only lasted a few days because according to sources who went to an open delegation caucus he received a tongue lashing from several high powered Democrats including Delegates Maggie McIntosh, and Melvin Stukes. Len Lazarick of Maryland says, all Del. Stukes could do is shake his head, "I'm disappointed."

Friday, February 4, 2011

End of Week Politics in Annapolis

Annapolis - There are couple of items that caught my attention this week one involves the Department of Natural Resources haul of 20,000 pounds of "rock fish" from illegal gill nets that were anchored below the surface. The nets were found near Bloody Point Light, south of Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay. In the Round table I said there was a $10,000 reward but its only $7000 reward. In lieu of this activity the gill net season has been closed.

For those wondering the fish was sold to the Maryland Wholesale Fish Market in Jessup, Maryland at market price(shouldn't it go at a lower price). The proceeds are put back into the DNR Police. Last year they able to purchase a radar.

Next week hearings on PEPCO, a Washington suburban utility will get a grilling and the contentious issue of Gay Marriage comes up.

Alan Brody of the Gazette has a excellent piece on taking slots out of the Maryland constitution. Several people suggested when it was originally proposed it should not be a part of a constitution because it would be difficult to change. Dahhhhh!!!!

The Herb and Lisa Show

When MPT decided to put Senator Lisa Gladden and Delegate Herb McMillan on the face off it became classic. The pair return and they are in rare form.You can catch their act on Maryland Public Television.

Also this week I have a story about higher education budget cuts which features Morgan State University President Dr. David Wilson.

Well it's what you've been waiting for the Roundtable. This week my guest is Nicholas Sohr of the Maryland Daily Record. He writes a blog called Eye on Annapolis.

Lastly, you can check out my appearance on Annapolis Week with Len Lazarick of Maryland

Till next week or when things break.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Few Memories from the State of State

Owings Mill, MD- With more than a third of the Maryland Legislative session done, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley appeared before a joint session and delivered the State of the State. In attendance were the cabinet and congressional leaders. (I’ll have to check my sources, but I believe this was the first time Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett has every attended the event.)

The new democratic mantra seems to be “we must adapt to win.” The governor invoked President Obama’s message, “we must win the future.”

While it’s always difficult to measure a speech you know it’s not exactly going your way when you have to encourage people to clap especially when talking about Bowie State University. Parents And Colleges dot com ranked the school #1 for affordability.

There is always a laundry list of programs, activities, accomplishments and challenges. If there was any enthusiasm in the speech it came during the portion where he championed an idea to hold utilities accountable for falling to repair damaged power lines after snow storms. A bill is moving through the legislative process which would invoke fines and penalties for failing to restore power. The measure seems to be targeted at PEPCO who failed miserably during the most recent snow storm (According to some reports there are homes in the Washington Metro area that still don’t have power.) The blame was put on regulation.

Several positive points include O’Malley taking about how the state is poised to take advantage of its most promising industries, bio-medical, health, and cyber-security (being close to NSA and Washington helps).

The visionary stuff seemed centered on the Wind Turbines…especially those off Ocean City. I think we’re a little behind because Delaware is moving forward. I anticipate there will be litigation from the Sierra Club and Tourist groups.

Here are some of the more notable quotes from the guv – (with many apologies to Robert Erhlich).

“We must adapt to win.”

“87 cents of every general fund dollar we now spend allocated to public education, public health and public safety, there are no easy answers.”

(On the reliability of electric power)
“How long do you want to wait?”

“Everything has a cost…inaction had a huge cost.”

Republican Response

The Republicans were served well by Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. I’ve been a fan of Delegate for a while. Her election as Minority Whip to me was a no brainier. Her public relations background should serve the caucus well. Unlike some of her predecessors who didn’t understand television she came off as sincere. FYI, delegate Haddaway-Riccio the hand gestures did seem to sell you sincerity.

Now let’s get to the message. If the Democrats mantra is to “win the future,” the GOP’s message is to “slow the growth of government.” It works well on a national level but remind yourself this is the state that elected a Democrat over a Republican for Governor. It was the only state to do so in a Republican landslide.

The other issue the Republicans want to hang their hat is the repeal of the Healthcare Law – and no I’m not going to call it Obamacare because that’s not what the law is called.

The big push is limiting the growth of government. I found it curious there was not mention of the combining of Department of Environment and the Department of Natural Resources. No credit for this…hmmm?

Here are some of the more quotable quotes.

“The message from the election, put the politics aside get the job done, reduce spending.”

“If we must be first in the Health Exchange process let it be private.”

“We must have an eye to limited government.”

You can click Republican Response to see the full speech.


I’m often underwhelmed by these events and this one lived up to the billing on both sides. These are now no more than political theater. For the state’s utilities I’m guessing your lobbyist will be working overtime to beat back the proposal to impose penalties. Once again utilities will be seen as bogeymen. Be happy there’s not a Southwest Airline ad being run that shows an executive who doesn't have a care in the world attitude.