Discussion:
P I S S ON Drew and Joshua Ehrlich
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d***@yahoo.com
2005-01-01 20:57:48 UTC
Permalink
Ill feelings at the top hobble Md. governing

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published January 1, 2005


With a two-day special session of the General Assembly ending in
acrimony, the prospects of amicable relations between Maryland's first
Republican governor in more than 30 years and a Democrat-controlled
legislature are at an all-time low.

Ehrlich promised this week to veto the medical malpractice reform
legislation produced by weary and perturbed lawmakers who had canceled
vacations and caught planes to return to Annapolis for the
extraordinary session he convened.

The bill doesn't contain strict enough caps on malpractice jury awards,
the governor said. The plan to raise money to subsidize insurance
premiums of doctors - removing a 2 percent tax exemption for HMO
policies - is unacceptable, he said.

Some lawmakers, for their part, have vowed to attempt to override a
veto.

The state's constitution was designed to give broad powers to the
governor, House speaker and Senate president; agreement among the three
is needed for progress. But the relations of Ehrlich, House Speaker
Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller are
critically fractured.

The timing of the current nadir, just two weeks before the start of the
regular 90-day session, spells trouble for whatever legislative agenda
Ehrlich decides to pursue during his third year in office.

"Never in the past three decades have I seen this kind of rancor in the
two branches of government," said John N. Bambacus, a former Republican
state senator and mayor of Frostburg who teaches political science at
Frostburg State University.

"I really believe the citizens of the state, while they may in one way
admire the governor's resolve, on the other hand are saying, 'Look,
folks, we expect you to act on this issue.'"

There is little time for Ehrlich to repair his relations with the
Assembly before members return for three months of work.

"He seems to be almost genetically incapable of compromise, which is
astounding," said Del. Kumar P. Barve of Montgomery County, the House
Democratic leader.

"He called us into town at a very inconvenient time, to solve a genuine
problem, and he is not willing to give an inch," Barve said. "He has
his eyes focused on his constituency base, instead of on the problem."

To Ehrlich, the condition was created by voters when they sent a
governor of one party and a legislature controlled by another to the
capital. Voters wanted change, he said, but the old guard is resisting.

"One person's dysfunctionality is another person's healthy
philosophical debate," Ehrlich said. "There's a different philosophy.
There is a different view of the world here. It's a view of the world
that is asking people downstairs [in the Assembly] to do things they
don't want to do."

Those divides rarely get traversed between the Ehrlich administration
and the legislature.

Since Ehrlich's election in 2002, the governor has repeatedly failed to
broker agreements that could lead to legislative approval of his
priorities. His slot-machine gambling plan has failed in the House of
Delegates for two years. Administration bills for tougher gun-crime
prosecution, faith-based initiatives, witness intimidation sanctions
and juvenile justice reforms all failed after what critics called
half-hearted lobbying efforts.

Ehrlich has had a few legislative victories, including passage of a tax
on sewer bills and septic bills to help pay for treatment plan
upgrades, and higher vehicle registration fees to finance road
construction.

The malpractice debate seemed an area particularly ripe for compromise.
Doctors and hospitals wanted lower insurance bills and limits on
lawsuits. Lawyers and victims wanted to make sure they received just
compensation for legitimate medical errors. The Assembly thought it was
passing a bill that balanced those needs.

"When you look at what the final product is, from a public policy
thing, I think the compromise is meaningful tort reform that doesn't go
overboard to gouge the consumer," said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, a
moderate Democrat from Southern Maryland and chairman of the Finance
Committee.

But Ehrlich's insistence that a 2 percent tax on HMO premiums could not
be part of the solution to subsidize rising insurance bills means "he
backs himself in the corner politically, and it becomes a contest of
who is going to win, and it becomes very disillusioning to me,"
Middleton said.

Republican Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the House minority whip from
Southern Maryland, said an entrenched legislative leadership continues
to buck Ehrlich because it feels no pressure to change. Media criticism
is unfairly focused on the governor, he said, when it is Busch, Miller
and their lieutenants who should be faulted.

"I believe the legislative leadership has demonstrated a continued
pattern of behavior of obstructionism," O'Donnell said, acknowledging
that the governor will face difficulties in enacting an agenda during
the remainder of his term.

"For the next two years, we [Republicans] are going to keep our nose to
the grindstone, we're going to keep working hard and leave these guys
to continue to expose themselves as the obstructionists that they are,"
he said. "That will lead to change at the ballot box in 2006."

Miller, the Senate president, said he will be able to work with Ehrlich
as long as the issue does not involve what he called "major
philosophical differences."

The current stalemate, Miller said, is caused by a Washington culture
that Ehrlich, a former four-term congressman, has brought to Annapolis.

"The governor trained for eight years under Newt Gingrich. It was a
confrontational style. They were battling with the Clinton
administration continuously. The theory was government was an evil,"
Miller said. "There is a totally different philosophy here in
Maryland."

Miller said the strong constitutional powers endowed upon Maryland's
governor might have diminished Ehrlich's appetite for compromise. The
governor can reward friends and punish enemies with the most
far-reaching budget authority of any state chief executive.

"When you have a conservative philosophy and you have that much power,
you wield a big stick," Miller said.

Increasingly, Democrats are frustrated that Ehrlich appears more
focused on scoring political points through media appearances than on
reaching solutions to important problems.

The special session, said Middleton, "was just a wonderful press
opportunity for the governor. Lots of press conferences, and a very,
very heightened media attention."

It was during a televised news conference Wednesday night that the
governor announced he would veto the malpractice bill. At the time, the
final version had not yet been printed, and even lawmakers were not
sure yet what a negotiating committee had agreed to.

"He wants to look like the hero that is not taxing the people, even
though he passed the property tax, he passed the car tax - talk about
regressive - he passed the flush tax, he passed 10,000 fees that are
taxes," said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat who
helped negotiate the final bill.

"If you look at the finished product, it is as good as you are going to
get if you are going to get 188 people to agree," she said. "This isn't
gridlock. This is pure, unadulterated politics."

It will be for voters to decide where the blame truly lies for the
failed initiative.

But Bambacus, the former GOP senator, said he knows who will get the
most attention:

"The governor, because he is the most visible elected leader in the
state, if he is seen as ineffective, it is going to be hard for him in
a one-party Democratic state for him to say it's the legislature's
fault."
d***@yahoo.com
2005-01-01 21:07:40 UTC
Permalink
Again, governor seems poised to put blame on someone else

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

Originally published Dec 31, 2004


ROBERT L. EHRLICH Jr. will now put into motion the First Law of
Failure, which is: Find someone to blame. The governor of Maryland is
practiced at this. Last year, he demonized House Speaker Michael E.
Busch when slot machine legislation failed. As this year ends, he'll
blame all Democratic legislators for the failure of medical malpractice
relief - and never mind that they offered him a reasonable compromise.

This is why, in Annapolis this week, you heard a recurring phrase about
Ehrlich: He's snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

He called a special legislative session to get financial help for
doctors being crushed by insurance costs. Some of the talk was pretty
scary. Legislators from rural counties, in particular, lamented the
plight of sickly constituents looking for doctors. But too many
doctors, they said, have given up their practices and vanished from the
map rather than face rising malpractice costs.

Then there was Busch, pausing for a few moments in his speaker's office
as Wednesday's long day of debate and compromise drifted exhaustingly
into Thursday's pre-dawn hours. Busch talked about a University of
Maryland Medical School where concerns over insurance costs are so deep
that not a single 2003 graduate specialized in obstetrics and
gynecology. (In 2004, university officials said yesterday, they had
"one or two" ob-gyn grads in a class of about 130.)

Thus, in yesterday's dark morning hours, the House and Senate passed a
bill to keep malpractice costs in check, and Ehrlich prepared to turn
his back on it. We go by the governor's words on this, though he has
not stamped his official veto as this is written.

Never mind that the General Assembly measure would limit doctors'
insurance premium increases to 5 percent in the coming year, instead of
the 33 percent increase they face beginning tomorrow. Never mind that
medical authorities (including the Maryland Hospital Association) say
that proposed legislative reforms would make patients safer, change the
way courts award damages for injuries and improper care, and discipline
negligent doctors.

What appears to burn Ehrlich, and has prompted him to repeatedly
declare that he will veto the legislation, is the 2 percent tax to be
levied on health maintenance organization premiums. This, in turn, sent
Busch into a third-degree burn.

"Health care people have to be astonished," Busch said, striding into
his speaker's office and ripping off his coat in exasperation. "Here's
a perfect opportunity for this governor to step up and come to a
compromise. Instead, he lets an HMO tax stand in the way.

"Gosh," Busch said, the sarcasm filling each syllable he uttered, "what
a unique concept - HMOs helping to cover health care costs."

Ehrlich appears to believe any tax is a bad tax (unless, of course, he
can call it a fee) - even if it helps the state alleviate what he
describes as a crisis.

Thus, the governor will have to find someone to blame other than
himself. He'll go where he usually goes, to AM radio, where the
talk-show guys generally live in his back pocket. He'll stand in front
of TV cameras, which act with all the insight of unquestioning
stenographers.

And, rather than accept the General Assembly bill as an act of
compromise, and as a life raft for health professionals whom he
describes as desperately vulnerable, he likely will make the case for
his hard-core political supporters and hope that they picture him as
the victim of a conspiratorial legislature that is out to get him.

"It's like slots all over again," Baltimore Del. Brian K. McHale was
saying Wednesday, as the frustrations began to mount. "The governor
picked up a handful of muck and tried to sell it as a crab cake." On
malpractice, McHale said, "we did the sensible thing and fine-tuned it,
and reached for compromise, and he turns his back. It's all posturing;
that's all it is."

"But he has a base that will agree with him no matter what happens,"
said Baltimore Del. Curtis S. Anderson, standing next to McHale in the
House cloakroom. "It doesn't matter what he does or says, they'll buy
it. But it doesn't make sense. He calls us here and asks us to come up
with a solution. We work hard. We reach a solution. And he vetoes it."

On the House floor, Baltimore County Del. Bobby A. Zirkin recalled last
summer when Ehrlich visited health facilities around the state and
heard doctors tell him their troubles. Zirkin said he went along on all
of those visits.

"Doctors need this reform," Zirkin said, "and our bill is even stronger
than the governor's bill. This is a lot of what the doctors have asked
for, and it's as much as most states have. It's a huge step in the
right direction."

That's not how this governor will portray it, of course. He'll say he's
holding the line on taxes (and raise them somewhere else and call it by
some other name). He'll blame the legislature. He'll go on talk radio
and hope nobody's paying attention to the details. He'll stand in front
of TV cameras and know that cameras ask no questions. Where he ought to
stand is directly in front of a mirror.
Just call it Balti-PHUCKED
2005-01-02 00:19:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@yahoo.com
Again, governor seems poised to put blame on someone else
by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)
Gee, can't handle living in the city? MOVE YOU COWARD!
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-06 16:14:45 UTC
Permalink
Physicians urge governor not to veto malpractice bill

by M. William Salganik and Andrew A. Green (Sun Staff)

January 5, 2005


After fighting alongside Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for malpractice
reform, leaders of the state's doctors and hospitals stepped away from
the governor yesterday, urging him not to veto the malpractice bill
passed by the General Assembly last week.

MedChi, the state medical society, and the Maryland Hospital
Association said the immediate relief that the bill provides doctors on
skyrocketing insurance premiums was essential and warned they would
support an override if Ehrlich carries out his announced intention to
veto the bill.

"Maryland's health care system is in a crisis," Dr. Willarda Edwards, a
Dundalk internist who is president of MedChi, said at a joint news
conference. The bill, which cuts premium increases this year from 33
percent to 5 percent, "will enable physicians to continue to care for
their patients."

Later in Annapolis, Ehrlich reiterated his veto vow, saying the legal
reforms in the bill were "light as air" and its 2 percent premium tax
on health maintenance organizations to subsidize malpractice insurance
amounted to a tax on the poor.

He said that if the veto were sustained he could offer "short-term cash
and hope" by including funds in his budget for some relief in premium
rates, although not as much as provided in the legislation.

Vetoing the bill after physicians groups urged him to allow it to
become law could be politically difficult for the governor, who did
much to bring the malpractice issue to the forefront by touring
hospitals, meeting with doctors and urging them to lobby legislators on
the issue.

Democrats quickly seized on the situation to depict Ehrlich as isolated
in his opposition.

"The physicians support the bill. The hospital association supports the
bill. Med Mutual, the insurance company that insures 85 percent of the
physicians in the state, supports the bill. The trial lawyers, they're
not crazy about the bill ... but they realize it could have been much
worse, so they're standing solid," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike
Miller.

"Basically, there's no naysayers, with the exception of the one on the
second floor," Miller said, referring to the location of Ehrlich's
State House office.

Ehrlich has until Monday to veto or sign the bill or allow it to become
law without his signature. If he follows through on his veto pledge,
the legislature will have the opportunity to attempt to override the
veto as its first order of business when the regular General Assembly
session convenes Wednesday.

Both houses passed the bill with veto-proof majorities, and Sen. Brian
E. Frosh, the Montgomery County Democrat who chaired the Senate's
medical malpractice task force, said he expects the legislature would
vote to override.

"There are some Democrats that are so upset at how [Ehrlich] handled
this special session that they think if he vetoes this we should just
let him stew in it, but I think that would be a mistake," Frosh said.

At yesterday's news conference, the medical and hospital associations
made their break with Ehrlich a gentle one, praising him for his
efforts that led to the bill's passage and agreeing that further
reforms are needed.

But they said they didn't have a difficult time deciding what stance to
take.

"It was not a close call, in that we need to move forward," said Calvin
Pierson, president of the Maryland Hospital Association. "The bill
gives relief to physicians by stabilizing their insurance premiums and
raising Medicaid physician fees. While the bill falls short of tort
reform, it does contain some important steps."

If the legislature sustains his veto, Ehrlich said, he would budget $30
million a year for the next three years to limit malpractice increases
- an amount equal to that in an Ehrlich bill killed by both houses in
last week's special session. That would limit the rate increase this
year to about 12 percent.

Ehrlich has said in the past that he would support a subsidy on
doctors' premiums only if it were accompanied by limits on lawsuits,
known as "tort reform."

Ehrlich also said he would include $18.5 million in the budget to
increase Medicaid reimbursements for doctors in certain specialties -
up from $12 million in the bill the governor presented to the special
session.

That's about as much as in the first full year of the legislature's
bill, but the legislature would increase the amount going to rates (and
decrease the amount going to subsidize premiums) in the three years to
follow.

The governor said his analysts have completed a preliminary evaluation
of the legal reforms in the legislature's bill and found that, beyond
the rate subsidy, the reforms would reduce the premium for a typical
malpractice policy by just 2.9 percent this year.

He acknowledged that any tort reforms would take several years to have
their full effect. Ehrlich said he did not know how large an effect the
legislature's reforms would have in the long run but said he suspected
it would not be sufficient.

The bill lowers by half the cap on non-economic damages in death cases,
requires mediation before malpractice cases are tried, sets more
stringent standards for expert witnesses, sets up more reporting of
medical errors, makes it easier to discipline doctors, and changes the
way insurance regulators review premium increase requests.

MedChi and MHA said they would be seeking more reforms when the
legislature convenes next week. Pierson said major goals would be
allowing large malpractice settlements or judgments to be paid over a
period of years, changing the way economic damages are calculated, and
affording more protection to emergency room doctors.

Ehrlich said the doctors and hospitals would find it hard to get more
reform if the bill passed last week becomes law.

"The appetite for tort reform comes around every five to 10 years," he
said. "If this lighter-than-air package of tort reform passes, it would
be the last tort reform package you'll see in many years."

Miller and Frosh said the Senate would be unlikely to take up new tort
reform measures immediately, opting instead to see whether the reforms
the legislature just passed are effective.

But Del. John Adams Hurson, the Montgomery County Democrat who chairs
the House Health and Government Operations Committee, said he thinks
additional reforms would be possible in this year's legislative
session. Democrats in the House generally supported more tort reform
measures than their Senate colleagues did.

"The one amazing thing about a regular session is there are a lot of
things in play," he said. "The one thing I've learned over the years is
you should never say never in the legislature."

The state's HMO operators have not opposed - or supported - the premium
tax or the malpractice bill in general.

However, if the tax becomes law, "it would be inevitable that some of
all of the tax would be passed along to our customers in higher
premiums," Jeffery W. Valentine, a spokesman for CareFirst BlueCross
BlueShield, said yesterday. He said CareFirst has about 300,000
Maryland members in its BlueChoice HMO and the tax would be about $17
million in this calendar year.

Elizabeth Sammis, a spokeswoman for Mid Atlantic Medical Services Inc.,
which operates the Optimum Choice and M.D. IPA HMOs, also said the tax
would be passed on to customers. Membership and dollar projections for
MAMSI's share of the tax were not available.

During legislative debate, both sides estimated the tax, if passed
through, would increase HMO premiums for a family by about $200 a year
- an amount that would be paid either by the members or by employers.

Small businesses, in particular, have argued that the tax would be a
burden on them.

Alfred W. Redmer Jr., the state's insurance commissioner, said it was
unclear whether HMOs would be able to pass the tax on immediately or
would have to wait until contracts with employers or individual members
come up for renewal.

He said it was also unclear whether doctors - who have already paid the
33 percent premium increase for the year or for the first quarter -
would get refund checks or credits toward future payments.

Although his office would administer the rate stabilization fund under
the legislation, Redmer, an Ehrlich appointee, said, "a lot of it is
unclear, and a large part of it is unworkable."
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-10 20:35:30 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich vetoes legislation on malpractice reform

by Tom Stuckey, The Associated Press

Originally published January 10, 2005, 12:30 PM EST


ANNAPOLIS -- As promised, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoed a medical
malpractice insurance reform bill today, saying he did not want to take
an easy way out toward reform.

"I hoped this day would not come," Ehrlich said. "Nothing would have
compared with having a signing ceremony here today."

The governor said the bill, passed by the legislature during a special
session last month, did not include sufficient tort reform measures or
guarantees against long-term insurance rate increases.

His veto sets the stage for Tuesday, when lawmakers meet to override
that and other vetoes from last year's session.

The malpractice reform bill freezes the cap for noneconomic damages at
its current level of $650,000; reduces the cap in wrongful death cases
from $1.6 million to $812,500; and allows the court to appoint a
neutral expert to determine payments for future medical bills and lost
wages. It sets stricter standards for doctors who testify against other
doctors in malpractice cases and says that apologies or expressions of
regret made by doctors to patients would no longer be admissible in
court.

Perhaps the most controversial provision is the bill's 2 percent tax on
HMO premiums, which would provide a funding source to underwrite
malpractice insurance premiums.

Ehrlich objected to what he described as a tax increase that would be
passed on to consumers and he complained that the bill's tort reform
measures did not go far enough.

Some doctors and medical associations support the measure as an
important step toward reform.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-13 15:45:52 UTC
Permalink
Subject: Maryland Lawmakers RIP Governor Ehrlich a NEW ASSHOLE...

Followup-To: md.annapolis,md.politics,dc.politics,va.politics



Lawmakers override veto on reform bill

by David Nitkin and Andrew A. Green (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published January 12, 2005


The Maryland General Assembly voted yesterday to override Gov. Robert
L. Ehrlich Jr.'s veto of a medical malpractice reform bill, rebuffing
an intense lobbying effort by the governor and setting a tense partisan
tone for the 90-day session that begins today.

Democrats praised themselves for bridging divides between the House and
Senate to craft a solution to the malpractice crisis. The legislation,
which now becomes law, limits increases in doctors' malpractice
insurance premiums and, to subsidize rates, subjects HMOs to a tax now
paid by other health insurers.

"In my heart of hearts, I know the governor is upstairs thanking
someone above that we overrode the veto, because we solved a major
problem for him," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said.

Ehrlich said he was "disappointed" in yesterday's outcome and called
the decision a "lost opportunity" to develop a more lasting health care
solution.

"A superfund for trial lawyers has been created, and I suspect that was
the goal," the governor said, in an apparent reference to the bill's
subsidy of insurance costs without some tort reform provisions he
sought. "If the goal here is to send a signal to the rest of the
country that Maryland is serious about protecting its medical
providers, I think we failed."

Ehrlich said Assembly leaders promised him they would use the
legislation as a starting point for more comprehensive legal reforms,
which he said he would introduce in the coming weeks. "I suspect it's
going to be real difficult, but we'll see how serious they are," he
said.

Recessing after they adopted a compromise bill a few days after
Christmas, lawmakers returned to the special session yesterday to
consider overrides of the malpractice veto and 18 other bills from the
2004 session rejected by the governor.

As expected, the legislators allowed the governor's vetoes of two other
high-profile bills to stand - legislation that would have limited
university tuition increases to 5 percent a year for three years and
that would have established a $10.50 per hour "living wage" for
employees working for state contractors.

The tuition bill contained a temporary 10 percent increase in the
corporate income tax, which Ehrlich and business groups opposed. Miller
had indicated the bill would not survive in the Senate, so the measure
failed without a vote by delegates, allowing conservative Democrats in
swing districts to avoid casting a risky but useless vote in favor of
higher taxes.

Last week, Ehrlich promised a 5.7 percent increase in university system
funding, which won him votes to sustain the veto.

Still, the House and the Senate turned aside six of his vetoes in all,
drawing protests from Republicans who accused Democrats of calculating
to embarrass the state's first GOP governor in more than 30 years.

"We had not seen one single bill overridden in the previous
administration" of Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said House
minority whip Anthony J. O'Donnell. "It's a bad way to do business."

The outcome of the malpractice vote was uncertain into the afternoon,
and the House of Delegates delayed voting so Democrats could corral the
votes they needed.

Finally, Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, arrived at his
desk. He had been shuttled to Annapolis from the Newark, N.J., airport
after cutting short a visit to Israel so he could vote for the
override.

The legislation passed in the House on an 85-50 vote, the exact number
of votes needed to reinstate the legislation.

"I'm a nice Democratic boy," Rosenberg said, describing his daylong
return from the Middle East, where he was on the same tour as Baltimore
Mayor Martin O'Malley. "All I did today was sit and press one button."

The Senate overrode the malpractice bill on a 33-13 tally, four votes
above the required three-fifths supermajority. Two moderate Democratic
senators changed their votes from two weeks ago and opposed the bill
yesterday: Roy P. Dyson of Southern Maryland and John C. Astle of
Annapolis. Astle was one of three Anne Arundel senators targeted in GOP
advertisements that asked voters to contact their lawmakers and urge
them to reject new taxes.

Several Democratic delegates also abandoned their support of the bill
yesterday, including Clarence Davis, Marshall T. Goodwin and Jill P.
Carter, all of Baltimore, and Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick of Baltimore
County.

Carter, an attorney, called the legislation "a terrible bill" that did
not contain enough restrictions and changes to insurance companies.
Minnick said he changed his vote because "my e-mails were running 10-1
in favor of no HMO tax."

Ehrlich canceled appointments in the afternoon in a last-minute attempt
to cajole House Democrats into voting to sustain his malpractice veto.
When the final tally showed 85 votes in the House chamber, Ehrlich's
chief of staff, Steven L. Kreseski, standing on tiptoe to peer through
the windows of the second-floor gallery, cursed softly to himself and
walked away.

Ehrlich had rejected the legislation because he said it did not contain
sufficient limits on jury awards in lawsuits. He also opposed a repeal
of the HMO tax exemption, saying it would burden working families.
"It's the status-quo Annapolis solution," Ehrlich said. "You got a
problem, throw money at it."

Democratic lawmakers said it was not certain HMOs would pass the tax on
to consumers. "The vast bulk of people who have HMOs are not low-income
people," said Del. John Adams Hurson, a Montgomery County Democrat.
Even if the tax were passed on, it would cost families less than 40
cents a month to solve the malpractice problem, Hurson said.

While generally favoring the legislation, doctors and hospitals are
waiting to see how relief will arrive. Doctors have already made their
first-quarter insurance bill payments, which were 33 percent higher
than a year ago, and don't know whether they will receive rebates.

MedChi Executive Director T. Michael Preston said it is imperative that
the Maryland Insurance Administration work quickly to develop a
mechanism that provides them relief. "That conversation needs to begin
tomorrow," Preston said.

The Assembly also voted to override Ehrlich vetoes of these bills,
which now become law:


Open meetings: The bill guarantees that any person may file a complaint
in Circuit Court alleging that a public body violated the open meetings
act. It is a response to a Howard County court ruling that only a
person adversely affected by a public body's failure to follow that law
may sue.


Elder care: The bill places limits on a program that allows HMO-like
"community care organizations" to use state funds to care for the
elderly and disabled in settings other than nursing homes. The bill's
lead sponsor, Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, said seniors prefer community
care but the state should try the idea as a pilot program before
implementing it statewide.


Equal pay commission: The bill establishes a commission to study
disparities between the pay of men and women and of whites and
minorities. In his veto message, Ehrlich said the state is already
governed by "equal pay for equal work" laws and has received no
complaints of violations in a decade.

Ehrlich and the Assembly now look ahead to the regular session,
although neither the governor nor legislative leaders have said what
they hope to accomplish. With partisanship at an all-time high, battles
over the budget, slot machines, stem cell research and other hot-button
issues are likely to rage until the 2006 election.

Ehrlich insists he will stick to principles and change the culture of
Annapolis. Democratic lawmakers say they are emboldened by their
cooperation on medical malpractice.

"Through all of this trauma of split government, the legislature has
stood up and made sure K-12 education is fully funded, that tuition
rates don't keep going up the way they have, that doctors remain in the
state and that quality health care is available for all Marylanders,"
Busch said.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-13 15:49:17 UTC
Permalink
In Ehrlich era, politics have plummeted into the personal

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

Originally published Jan 11, 2005


THE EHRLICH administration once again takes its attack to the radio
airwaves. This time, the talk-show sycophants aren't enough. This time,
the Republicans have paid money for their advertising. In $25,000 worth
of radio commercials, they point accusing fingers at Democrats
considered particularly vulnerable. In The Campaign That Never Dies,
this is what passes for civility in the years of Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The General Assembly returns to business today in a testy mood. They
were ticked off two weeks ago when this governor insisted on a
grandstanding session for medical malpractice insurance, and infuriated
when they handed him a compromise bill, embraced by beleaguered doctors
and hospitals, that Ehrlich vetoed anyway.

Now legislators head into Annapolis with their car radios blaring shots
at three Anne Arundel County Democratic senators: Philip C. Jimeno,
John C. Astle, and James E. DeGrange Sr. Why these three, in
particular? Because they're considered beatable. They represent
districts that voted for Ehrlich two years ago. So, nearly two years
before the next election, let's squeeze 'em a little. Let's embarrass
'em on the radio.

The commercials call on constituents to contact the three legislators
and pressure them not to vote today to override two Ehrlich vetoes:
malpractice insurance and higher-education tuition limits. (It doesn't
even seem to matter that DeGrange says he's not voting to override the
second one. He's vulnerable; thus, let's tar him with the others and
hope voters don't figure it out - by 2006.)

"I don't know why they're doing this," DeGrange said yesterday. "They
[the governor's office] never even talked to me about my vote. Without
discussions, how do you know? It's just part of their endless campaign
mode. Everything they do is about campaigning. That does not create a
healthy atmosphere. In the six years I've been here, I've never seen an
atmosphere like this."

In their special session on malpractice insurance two weeks ago, the
Democrats handed Ehrlich a compromise bill that health professionals
urged the governor to sign. Ehrlich said no, formally vetoing it
yesterday, mainly because of the proposed 2 percent tax on HMOs that
would finance the measure. No tax hikes, says this governor.

Last winter, he said the same thing during debate over the 11 colleges
in the University of Maryland system. Legislators wanted a limit on
tuitions, which have risen alarmingly after staggering state spending
cuts. Ehrlich said no cap, no matter the tuition hikes, and no matter
the cuts he's made in university spending.

Last week, he tried to soften things a little. Facing a possible
override of his higher-education veto today, he offered the university
system a 5.7 percent increase in funding.

That's not bad, 5.7 percent. Except for what preceded it. Two years in
which the public universities absorbed at least 25 percent of the state
budget cuts. Two years in which this state ranked 41st in the nation in
tax appropriations to public universities. Two years in which tuition
rose about 30 percent.

So legislators put together a bill to cap tuition hikes at 5 percent a
year. That's when the governor issued his veto. Why? Because it called
for a corporate tax to help pay for it. Who likes taxes? Not
corporations. Not HMOs, either. Not you, not me, not anybody.

But some people consider a 30 percent increase in tuition a tax by some
other name. Like the higher "fees" initiated by this administration on
water bills and vehicle registrations. What's the difference between a
fee and a tax? Nomenclature - and the assumption that voters are too
dim to figure this out.

So now, as legislators return to Annapolis to consider the Ehrlich
vetoes, we have these radio commercials accusing the three Anne Arundel
County Democrats of "raising taxes on Maryland's small businesses - a
tax hike that could cost thousands of jobs." The Democrats' response?
They call the ads nonsense, they call them an intimidation tactic, and
they say the ads violate state lobbying laws.

All this hints at a larger point. Larger than lobbying laws, the ads
continue a chipping away at political civility.

This is the governor who demonized House Speaker Michael Busch two
years ago, accusing him of "playing the race card" in the midst of
their slot machine disagreement. This is the governor who went on talk
radio, which he visits like a second home, to declare multiculturalism
"crap" and "bunk." It's the governor who called Democratic appeals to
black voters "racist."

It's not enough to have reasoned debate over honest disagreements.
Politics has to become personal: Look for somebody to blame. The level
of antagonism has to be raised, the way it was when Ehrlich was in
Washington, learning from the likes of Newt Gingrich.

So now legislators gather with a $300 million budget shortfall staring
them in the face - not as bad as the crisis predicted a year ago, but
bad enough that this governor has asked state agencies to submit
spending plans with proposed cuts of 12 percent.

Democrats worry that more cuts will hurt the neediest people. The
Ehrlich administration says: Give us slots, so we don't have to cut so
heavily. The Democrats, at least some of them, say slots create bigger
social problems than they alleviate.

So what happens when the inevitable disagreements start? New levels of
bitterness? More attack ads on the radio? Name-calling in place of
reasonable debate? In the Ehrlich years, we're learning a lesson:
Behind the good ol' boy demeanor, this is what passes for civility.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-14 15:44:52 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich's tax dodge

by Thomas F. Schaller

Originally published January 14, 2005


AS PROMISED, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoed the medical malpractice
bill passed by the General Assembly during the December special
session. Democratic majorities in the legislature overrode his veto.
What's shocking is that the governor opposes the legislature's attempt
to resolve the issue with a dedicated fee because he favors solving the
problem by paying for it with taxes.

Whoa. Didn't Mr. Ehrlich state very clearly that he opposed the
legislature's solution because it would be paid for with taxes? Yes, he
did. And isn't the 2 percent levy to be paid by the state's health
maintenance organizations, as proposed by the legislature, a tax?

Not the way Mr. Ehrlich defines taxes, it isn't.

It's a "fee."

To deconstruct the political semantics of the Ehrlich administration,
let's use the generic term "levy" to refer to any form of
government-imposed revenue. During his first two years as governor, Mr.
Ehrlich agreed to three new or increased levies -- on property, on car
registrations and on sewage disposal -- that are expected to generate
more than a third of $1 billion in state receipts.

But the governor and his deputies claim the latter two levies are
"fees," not taxes, because the revenues are dedicated to specific
public policy goals. If the public objective is connected in some way
to the behavior, service or asset upon which the fee is placed, well,
even better. Hence, because the car registration tax is dedicated to
transportation projects and the "flush tax" is dedicated to Chesapeake
Bay conservation, the governor refuses to call them fees.

The fee-or-tax distinction, however, is both a semantic and fiscal
dodge.

For years, conservative critics have lambasted Democrats for
disingenuously calling taxes "fees," when both are forms of taxation,
regardless of the label. Curiously, conservatives seem to have
forgotten this argument, and most state residents are not so easily
fooled.

According to a Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies poll taken in
February, 68 percent of Marylanders view the automobile registration
levy as a "tax." Pollster Patrick Gonzales told me that he suspects the
results would be similar had the same question been asked about the
flush "fee."
From a budgetary standpoint, the notion that fees are not taxes is
equally absurd. Because state monies are, to a certain degree,
fungible, whenever policy objectives are financed by "fees," the
fee-generated receipts merely offset what otherwise would need to be
raised through "taxes," or saved through spending cuts. The form and
rate of a tax, and the people required to pay it, may change, but any
impost on the state's citizenry is a tax -- period.

But, to be fair, let's apply the governor's distinction between fees
and taxes to the medical malpractice controversy.

The legislature's bill wouldn't add a new levy but merely eliminate a 2
percent exemption that currently only HMOs enjoy. The Washington Times
explained Tuesday that the receipts would "generate about $64 million
in revenue over three years to subsidize doctors' malpractice insurance
premiums." In other words, the revenues are dedicated specifically to
solving the problem of skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance
rates.

Mr. Ehrlich further objected to the HMO "tax" because the HMOs will
merely pass along the added costs to insured patients. Fair enough. But
that only means that the very patients in desperate need of services
from physicians who might otherwise fold their practices or abandon the
state will pick up the tab for the reforms.

By Mr. Ehrlich's own definition, the HMO levy cannot be the "harmful
tax" he called it Monday, after his veto. Thus it must be a "fee."
Meanwhile, the governor proposes that the medical malpractice solution
be financed by tapping into the state's general fund. That's a puzzling
choice, given that more than 80 percent of general fund revenues come
from income taxes and sales taxes -- neither of which meet even the
most liberal interpretation, so to speak, of what Mr. Ehrlich might
call a "fee."

Thus the 2005 legislative session began Wednesday with the governor
refusing to sign a hard-fought compromise medical malpractice bill
that, though imperfect, would go a long way to solving a serious
statewide problem. And one of the major justifications for his
opposition is that the legislature's solution would impose what, by his
own definition, is a fee to solve a problem he would rather solve by
spending state taxes.

Apparently, the old maxim about ducks no longer applies to how
conservatives raise government revenues. If it walks like a "tax" and
quacks like a "tax," it somehow must be a "fee." The governor will have
to pardon me -- and, apparently, 68 percent of Marylanders -- if we
find his shifting political definition of what constitutes a fee, well,
a bit taxing.


Thomas F. Schaller is associate professor of political science at the
University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-18 14:24:31 UTC
Permalink
Journalism groups back Sun's fight against ban

by Stephanie Desmon (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published January 14, 2005


Some of the most prominent journalists' organizations in America filed
a joint brief this week supporting The Sun in a case they see as
important in buttressing First Amendment rights of reporters and the
public.

The Sun filed a federal lawsuit last month after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich
Jr.'s press office issued an order banning state employees from
speaking with State House bureau chief David Nitkin or columnist
Michael Olesker. The attorney general's office, representing Ehrlich,
filed a motion to dismiss the suit late last month, and The Sun in turn
has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to have the ban lifted.
A hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 28 in U.S. District Court in
Baltimore.

"This official boycott is offensive to the most basic principles of the
First Amendment," states the brief filed by attorney Kevin T. Baine of
the Washington firm Williams & Connolly. "It punishes two journalists
based on the content of their coverage. It compromises, if not
destroys, their ability to perform their constitutionally assigned and
protected function. ... This kind of official control of the press is
characteristic of repressive regimes, but it is alien to nations
founded on principles of free speech and free press."

The friend-of-the-court brief was signed by the
Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association, the
Radio-Television News Directors Association, the American Society of
Newspaper Editors, the Association of Capitol Editors and Reporters,
the Society of Professional Journalists and the Reporters Committee for
the Freedom of the Press.

"We're really heartened to have the support of the biggest and most
important journalism organizations both in the nation and the region -
and in both print and broadcast," Sun editor Timothy A. Franklin said
yesterday.

"Our legal case against the governor is not some frivolous, sandbox
matter, as he has been trying to portray it. The fact that many of the
nation's and region's major journalism organizations -print and
broadcast - have joined forces on this case is a powerful illustration
of the profound constitutional issues raised by the governor's
retaliatory act to cut off access to taxpayer-paid state employees."

Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Ehrlich, said the governor would have no
comment on the brief, "seeing as though the issue remains in
litigation." Jervis S. Finney, Ehrlich's chief legal counsel, said he
had read the brief but had no comment on it.

Ehrlich has said publicly as recently as this week that The Sun has
fabricated articles on its front page that call his integrity into
question. The Sun has clarified a Page One headline but has found no
evidence of fabrication in Sun news articles involving the governor.

Ehrlich's press office issued the order Nov. 18, saying the two writers
were "failing to objectively report" on state issues. Nitkin had
written a series of articles reporting on the state's proposed sale of
836 acres of preserved forest land in St. Mary's County to Willard J.
Hackerman, a politically connected construction company owner, for the
same price the state paid for it in 2003.

A front-page map that accompanied another article written by Nitkin
about the potential sale of 3,000 acres of state land incorrectly
highlighted all 450,000 acres of state preservation land. The artist's
error was corrected the next day.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press, said her organization wanted to show its disdain
for what Ehrlich has tried to do to Nitkin and Olesker and that she
hopes the court rules that the man holding the highest political office
in the state cannot restrict public access to information in that way.

"I would hate to think politicians around the country would get the
idea they can ... retaliate against content they disagree with by
ostracizing individual reporters," Dalglish said. "They're trying to
dictate how a constitutionally protected news organization is run. That
is not the role of a public official."

Andrew Alexander, Washington bureau chief for Cox Newspapers and
chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee for the American
Society of Newspaper Editors, said he hopes progress is made soon in
the dispute between the newspaper and the governor.

"In its most basic form, there are public officials who are paid by the
taxpayers to impart information about their government, and they're not
doing their jobs, and they're not doing them at the direction of the
governor," he said.

George White, executive director of the MDDC Press Association,
released a statement yesterday explaining his group's participation in
the challenge to Ehrlich's ban. "The news industry believes this case
is much more than a dispute between the governor and The Sun," he said.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-18 14:29:48 UTC
Permalink
Temptation surrounded veto voting

by David Nitkin and Andrew A. Green

Originally published Jan 18, 2005


LAWMAKERS say the governor offered all kinds of goodies in a
last-minute (and nearly successful) lobbying effort to persuade members
of the House of Delegates to sustain his veto of a medical malpractice
bill last week.

Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, chronicled the effort
in a diary he keeps and distributes electronically.

"Lots of gossip, hearsay, and even statements by the people involved
about how the Governor will reward his friends and do otherwise unto
his enemies in the wake of the medical malpractice override," Rosenberg
wrote.

"The coin of the realm for members who voted with him is construction
money for public schools in their district. There's ample precedent for
this. Quite a few road construction projects became worthier in
Governor Glendening's estimation after certain members voted for Ravens
Stadium.

"Speaking of travel, at least one member was offered a free ride - no
Republican opponent, in November 2006. The offer was spurned."
Rosenberg would not say who the member was.

Rosenberg wound up being the decisive 85th vote to overturn the veto,
returning from Israel and rushing from the Newark airport to get to
Annapolis.

But if he had been delayed, there would have been a few other choices.
Baltimore Del. Jill P. Carter was lobbied heavily by both sides. She
decided not to vote yes or no, which is technically not allowed because
House rules say lawmakers are supposed to vote on all bills when they
are present.

Then there was Del. Hattie N. Harrison, who missed the special session
and has not yet attended the regular session. Harrison, 76, is
recovering after surgery for a pinched nerve. The operation was Dec.
28, the first day of the special session, said Bruce Bereano, a
lobbyist who is close to the delegate.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said there was talk last week
that Harrison would be summoned from her rehabilitation bed to cast a
vote on the malpractice override. But House Speaker Michael E. Busch
said he never seriously considered asking Harrison to come to
Annapolis. "I would have had an 85th vote," he said.


Ehrlich loses outlet for talks on radio

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is losing another radio outlet for his
casual banter.

First he gave up his regular slot on WBAL's Ron Smith Show when the
station decided it should switch hosts because the Ehrlich
administration hired Smith's wife for a public relations job. Ehrlich
refused to do the show with another host, so his segment was canceled.
(He still calls in regularly.)

The governor then became a fixture on The Sports Junkies show on WHFS,
making football picks and trading quips. But WHFS changed its rock
format last week and became El Zol, a Spanish-language station.


Lawmakers are rated on attendance record

A new group called the Maryland Accountability Project has compiled a
scorecard of lawmakers with the best and worst attendance records, as
measured by floor votes during last year's legislative session.

The group gave "Lighthouse Awards" to 12 lawmakers with perfect
attendance: Republican Dels. John W.E. Cluster Jr. of Baltimore County,
Donald H. Dwyer Jr. of Anne Arundel County, J.B. Jennings of Baltimore
and Harford counties, and Michael D. Smigiel Sr. of Cecil County;
Democratic Dels. Anne R. Kaiser of Montgomery County, Carolyn J.
Krysiak of Baltimore, and Susan C. Lee of Montgomery County; Republican
Sen. E.J. Pipkin of the Eastern Shore; and Democratic Sens. Gwendolyn
T. Britt of Prince George's, James Brochin of Baltimore County; Sharon
M. Grosfeld of Montgomery County and Philip C. Jimeno of Anne Arundel
County.

"Crabbie Awards" went to those with the worst attendance records. Del.
Nathaniel T. Oaks, a Baltimore Democrat, led the pack with 207 missed
votes. Del. Justin D. Ross, a Prince George's Democrat, missed 145
votes, and Sen. Nathaniel Exum, also a Prince George's Democrat, missed
107. Baltimore Democratic Del. Tony E. Fulton did not vote 89 times; he
has been ill. Republican Del. Patrick L. McDonough of Baltimore County
missed 86 votes.


Lobbyists get reprieve on giving up privilege

Despite a rainy opening week, no shiny loafers were ruined by the
Department of General Services' decision not to give lobbyists new
state IDs for the General Assembly session, a plan that eventually will
force them to stand in line outside state buildings and go through
security like the hoi polloi.

Anne Hubbard of DGS said lobbyists may keep using their current IDs,
for which they each paid $7.50, until they expire.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-19 13:21:03 UTC
Permalink
Flush tax ahoy

Originally published January 19, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)


THE U.S. NAVY'S decision not to pay Maryland's flush tax because it's a
tax and not a fee is too ironic to let pass without comment.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who supports fees but abhors taxes, has
been repudiated by the Navy, an organization even less flexible than he
is. One can only imagine how the Ehrlich administration will react.
Perhaps the admirals will be labeled as agenda-driven liberals. Maybe
the governor will refuse to talk to those biased officials at the
Pentagon.

But beyond savoring the governor's comeuppance at the hands of fellow
semanticists, there's a serious issue here. Whatever one wants to call
it, Maryland's sewer bill surcharge is supposed to be used to clean up
what is ultimately discharged into the Chesapeake Bay. The Navy has a
significant number of facilities in Maryland. As far as we can tell,
they all have indoor plumbing. Why shouldn't the Navy pay? Worse, the
Navy's action sets a precedent for the rest of the military and perhaps
all federal agencies not to pay their bills, either.

Of course, we might not be debating this if the federal government did
a better job of controlling sewage pollution. Tighter EPA regulations -
and federal grants to pay for corresponding plant upgrades - would make
the flush tax unnecessary. And it would mean sewage plants elsewhere in
the watershed would run cleaner, too.

Mr. Ehrlich would be wise to lobby President Bush on this matter.
There's precedent for White House intervention over local fee disputes.
But the governor might also want to rethink his rigid views on fees and
taxes. The difference between them can be slight - and too often
depends on the eye, and checkbook, of the beholder.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-31 18:08:51 UTC
Permalink
Judge seeks more information on Ehrlich's ban of 2 journalists

by Stephen Kiehl (Baltimore Sun Staff)

January 29, 2005


A federal judge called it "significant" and "troubling" yesterday that
The Sun's State House bureau chief and a columnist are being denied the
information they need to do their jobs, but the judge also suggested
the governor has a right to direct his staff whom they can and cannot
talk to.

The Baltimore Sun Co. has sued Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., alleging
that his administration's order banning state employees from speaking
with two Sun writers is a violation of their First Amendment rights.
The case was heard in court for the first time yesterday, with The Sun
asking that the ban be lifted while the case proceeds. The state asked
for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. did not rule on either
request. Instead, he asked for more information from the state about
which employees are subject to the order. The judge's request also
gives both sides at least another week to reach a settlement.

Lawyers for The Sun and the governor have been negotiating for more
than a month, and both sides said yesterday that they will continue to
talk in search of a resolution outside of court. The ban, issued Nov.
18, applies to Sun State House bureau chief David Nitkin and columnist
Michael Olesker.

Ehrlich, who did not appear in court yesterday, has said he intended
the order to have a "chilling effect" on "two writers who have no
credibility." The e-mail issuing the ban, sent to 19 state agencies by
the governor's press office, said the two writers are "failing to
objectively report" on the administration. The Sun argues that the ban
was made in retribution for coverage.

During a one-hour hearing at the federal courthouse in Baltimore,
Quarles aggressively questioned both sides. At least five times, he
asked Margaret Ann Nolan, chief of litigation for the state attorney
general, whether the governor could ban any citizen from getting
information.

"The troubling point is, could the governor select a citizen at random
- or a citizen who had expressed an unpopular opinion - and bar that
citizen from access to the executive branch of government?" Quarles
said.

The judge said journalists have the same rights to information as the
public, but he also said the governor can draw a line in deciding whom
he talks to: "If the governor had to talk to anyone who wanted to talk
to him and return every phone call, he couldn't run the government."

Quarles seemed wary of the idea of a federal judge dictating whom state
government employees could talk to, and when, and said he didn't want
to spend his career deciding such issues as how many questions
reporters can ask at news conferences. "The last thing I want to get
into is being a mediator between the governor and the Sunpapers," he
said.

Charles Tobin, a lawyer representing The Sun, said the paper wasn't
asking that state employees be required to speak with Nitkin and
Olesker, only that they be given the choice of doing so. Brandishing a
copy of the state employee phone directory, he said the two writers
could not speak to anyone in the book, as public citizens can.

"We simply want the edict lifted," Tobin said, "and we're entitled to
it because no other citizen in the state of Maryland is subject to this
limitation, and it's only because of content."

This latest standoff between The Sun and the governor began after
Nitkin wrote a series of articles about the state's plan to sell 836
acres of preserved forestland in St. Mary's County to Willard
Hackerman, a politically connected construction company owner, in a
transaction that could have netted him millions in tax breaks.

Nolan, representing the state, said The Sun is seeking special access
beyond that which is given to the public - what she called "perks."

But the judge said that was not The Sun's argument: "Mr. Tobin argues
that Mr. Nitkin and Mr. Olesker do not have access through the ordinary
channels that their competitors do, and that is significant and that is
troubling."

Nolan said the First Amendment protects the right of people to
disseminate information and offers only limited protection for news
gathering. She added, "The governor has himself First Amendment rights
to speech, and the government has a right to control the information it
disseminates."

Nolan also said there was no evidence the ban had been enforced, though
the judge pointed to an affidavit signed by Nitkin saying sources who
used to talk to him no longer do so.

"Are you saying it's just a coincidence that people stopped talking to
him after the ban?" Quarles asked Nolan. She replied that people are
busy and don't always have time to return all their phone calls.

The judge also said the fact that Nitkin had been barred from entering
a news conference last month was evidence the ban was being enforced.
The governor's office has said the event was a briefing for invited
members of the press. The judge scoffed at that distinction.

"So a press conference is anything to which Mr. Nitkin is invited, and
anything to which he is not invited is an invitation-only press
briefing?" Quarles asked.

He also asked the state to provide clarification by Friday about who in
state government is subject to the ban.

Sun Editor Timothy A. Franklin, who attended the hearing, said
afterward, "This order is an egregious constitutional violation. It has
a chilling effect not only on the two Sun journalists but on all
journalists and potentially all citizens. The question is, who's going
to be next? Who's next on the blacklist?"

Neither David Hamilton, Ehrlich's former law partner who now advises
the governor on legal matters, nor Jervis S. Finney, legal counsel to
the governor, would comment after yesterday's hearing because the
lawsuit is pending.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-03 13:12:10 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich ponders end to race-based contracts

by Ivan Penn and David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published February 3, 2005


Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday said the Maryland program that
earmarks state work for minority-owned businesses "needs to end,"
echoing sharp criticism of the program by state Comptroller William
Donald Schaefer.

"When does MBE end -- E.N.D?" Schaefer asked during a pointed dialogue
about the state's Minority Business Enterprise program at yesterday's
Board of Public Works meeting. "The law says it is not supposed to be a
permanent program."

"Do you want the legal answer, or the political answer?" Ehrlich
replied, adding that discussing the end of such programs would be
politically dangerous.

"Race politics is ugly," he said.

"It needs to end, we know that," he said of the set-aside program. "But
for many years it was a joke, and it exacerbated racial tension."

Their statements angered some Annapolis lawmakers and minority business
leaders.

"We don't need comments like that," said Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a
Northeast Baltimore Democrat, who said that -- until yesterday -- she
believed the administration was "heading in the right direction." She
said minority set-asides would not be necessary if the state "were fair
in the allocations of the contracts."

In the past, the governor "has expressed to the black caucus his
interest in helping the MBE program ... Evidently it was just lip
service," said Del. Rudolph C. Cane, an Eastern Shore Democrat and
chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Henry Fawell, an Ehrlich spokesman, said the governor's comments
referred to his long-term goal of creating a race-neutral process. For
now, Fawell said, the governor supports the state's minority business
program.

"No one should doubt his commitment to a strong MBE program in the
short term," Fawell said. "I'm definitely not aware of any plans,
discussions or proposals to end it now."

Ehrlich's and Schaefer's discussion yesterday came after the board
awarded a $671,865 contract to a minority firm, Colossal Contractors
Inc. The company's bid tied with that of another firm, but Colossal won
because, under a state rule, ties favor minority firms.

Schaefer then questioned the rule.

"When does discrimination like this end?" Schaefer asked.

The comptroller said he knew his remarks would make him a target of
criticism.

"They'll bust my bottom -- 'How dare you say something like this,'"
Schaefer said. "Everybody is scared to death of the race situation."

But Ehrlich continued pressing the issue.

"This is a good discussion to have," Ehrlich said, adding that his
administration's minority business initiatives have moved the state
toward what he called "our collective goal, which is to end this
program at a certain point in time."

In general, Maryland's minority set-aside program requires that 25
percent of state procurement contracts go to minority-owned firms.

But a legislative audit in 2001 found that many state agencies
overstated their minority participation numbers.

The state later reported that in 2002 just 16.2 percent of the
procurement work was going to minority firms. The Maryland Office of
Minority Affairs estimated that the minority share probably was closer
to 10 percent.

A year ago, the Ehrlich administration successfully pushed for
legislation that expanded efforts to help minority firms with a measure
that was race-neutral.

Since then, such agencies as the Maryland Aviation Administration have
reported substantial increases in minority participation.

During the first quarter of fiscal year 2005, which began July 1, the
aviation administration awarded 54 percent of its work, or $51 million
in contracts, to "disadvantaged business enterprises," said Jonathan
Dean, a spokesman for Baltimore-Washington International Airport. By
comparison, 25 percent of contracts were awarded to disadvantaged
businesses in the previous fiscal year.

But Conway said yesterday's comments about Colossal Contractors
highlight the need for a minority business program. She said she
believes Colossal never would have received the contract, if it had not
been for the rule about ties favoring minority firms.

The discussion that followed the awarding of the contract was an
indication that Schaefer and Ehrlich wanted to give the contract to
another firm, Conway said.

Arnold Jolivet, president of the American Minority Contractors and
Businesses Association Inc., a Washington, D.C., firm that claims 800
Maryland members, said Maryland's procurement process continues to
exclude minorities.

Yesterday's board agenda, for example, listed an "emergency" item -- a
designation that allows officials to seek bids without a general
request for proposals or minority consideration. The $1 million
contract to provide security for the Maryland Port Authority should
have been openly bid, Jolivet said.

"Even if it was an emergency, it really wouldn't preclude them from
reaching out to the minority contractors," Jolivet said. "If they still
discriminate as blatantly as they are here, how can anyone say there is
no need for an MBE program?"

Garland O. Williamson, an Ehrlich campaign supporter and head of the
Presidents' Roundtable, a group of black business leaders, said he
believes Ehrlich is committed to the MBE program. He said he hopes that
commitment continues, unless there truly is a race-neutral process that
distributes contracts equitably.

"I don't know what the governor said because I wasn't there,"
Williamson said. "In conversations with me, he has said he is committed
to minority businesses. The governor made it a campaign promise."

Yesterday's comments came at a bimonthly board meeting that Schaefer
frequently uses to explore topics on his mind -- and where his
impolitic remarks frequently gain attention.

A notable example occurred in May, when Schaefer began a board meeting
with a denunciation of an employee at an Anne Arundel County McDonald's
restaurant whose limited English skills delayed his breakfast order.

Ehrlich was not at that meeting, but responded to Schaefer's comments
the next day on a radio show, calling the concept of multiculturalism
"bunk" and "crap."

Last October, Schaefer told a state health official that the department
should develop a registry of patients with HIV and AIDS because they
posed a danger to themselves and others. Several lawmakers called for
his resignation, but in that case, Ehrlich stayed out of the fray.

His remarks sometimes have drawn cries for the comptroller's
resignation, but supporters have rallied to his defense, printing
bumper stickers that read: "He says what you think."
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-04 14:54:32 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich scrambles to quell ire over remarks

by Ivan Penn (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published February 4, 2005


Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. scrambled to calm growing anger yesterday
over his comments earlier this week about one day ending Maryland's
program to increase minority participation in state contracts.

In one closed-door meeting after another, Ehrlich tried to assure
lawmakers - many of whom plan to voice their concerns at a noon news
conference today - that he is committed to the state's Minority
Business Enterprise program and has worked to expand it.

"The comments arose out of [Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's]
consistent and persistent questioning about when the MBE program should
end," Ehrlich told reporters, referring to statements at Wednesday's
Board of Public Works meeting. "I pointed out to the comptroller that
the logical goal of the program is to end at some point, but we're
simply not there yet.

"There continues to be an uneven playing field," he said of minority
access to state contracts. "As a result, our administration has put a
lot of time, energy and political capital into making the program
better."

Schaefer raised concerns about the state initiatives to increase
minority participation in state work by asking during a discussion
Wednesday: "When does MBE end - E.N.D? ... When does discrimination
like this end?"

Ehrlich said during the dialogue that the goal "is to end this program
at a certain point in time." But the governor did not give any time
frame.

After reading a newspaper account of Ehrlich's and Schaefer's
discussion, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told members of the
Legislative Black Caucus at a meeting yesterday that he thought the
comments were "unbelievable."

"Not only do we need to keep MBE in place, we have to foster it and
grow it," Miller told the caucus. "The Democratic Party is going to
stand with you."

Members of the caucus said they will continue the fight for the MBE
program until everyone has a fair shot at state work.

"When will there be an end to this? When the intended purposes are
being met," said Del. Jill P. Carter, a Northwest Baltimore Democrat.

While the state has made some progress in its efforts to include
minorities and women in state work, lawmakers and business leaders said
most contracts continue to go to firms owned by white men. They said
there should be no discussion about ending the MBE program at this
time.

The Ehrlich administration said the governor's comments were taken out
of context and that he has no intention of retreating from his
commitment to minority businesses.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who has been the governor's point man on
minority and small businesses, declined repeated requests for an
interview. But he issued a statement yesterday defending the
administration's position.

"This administration's commitment to Minority Business Enterprise is
absolute and at no time and under no circumstances has anyone from our
administration considered, pondered or discussed the elimination of the
MBE program," Steele wrote. "Our actions speak to our support for and
efforts on behalf of all minority businesses in Maryland."

Sharon R. Pinder, special secretary of the governor's Office of
Minority Affairs, said Ehrlich's support for minority businesses can be
seen in the fiscal year 2006 budget. She said her office is slated to
receive $1.1 million - a more-than $800,000 increase over two years
ago, when Ehrlich took office.

Pinder said there are "a whole trainload of efforts geared toward
minority businesses."

But with Ehrlich's and Schaefer's discussion, business leaders who had
been strong supporters of the governor still questioned his commitment
to minority business.

"The conservative wing of the Republican Party believes that black
business is doing well," said Wayne Frazier, president of the
Baltimore-based Maryland-Washington Minority Contractors' Association
Inc., and the former head of Democrats for Ehrlich.

"We've had some recent success stories where minority contractors,
minority-owned businesses have been winning multi-million dollar
procurements," Frazier said. "However, those who are winning those
multi-million dollar contracts probably represent less than 1 percent
of all minority businesses."

Robert Clay, an African-American contractor and former member of a
commission set up by Ehrlich to review issues related to minority
businesses, said black businesses in particular continue to lag behind
other firms in obtaining state work.

Clay said African-Americans first pushed for the changes in Maryland
law to establish the MBE program when it was created in 1978.

At that time, the state set a goal of 10 percent minority participation
in state contracts, state officials said. By 2001, that percentage had
been increased to 25 percent through the efforts of then-Gov. Parris N.
Glendening.

Last year, Ehrlich established several initiatives that emerged from
the commission of which Clay was a part, including a program that
targeted all small businesses. All state agencies now are required to
reserve two small procurement contracts for small businesses,
regardless of the race or gender of the firms' owners.

Clay praised those efforts but called the discussion of ending MBE
program "a sad day for black businesses in this state."
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-07 21:46:11 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich makes 2005 the Year of the Free Lunch

by C. Fraser Smith (Ba;timore Sun contributer)

February 6, 2005


GOV. ROBERT L. Ehrlich Jr. is calling 2005 "the Year of the Child." Who
could object?

But others will have different labels.

Maybe it's the Year of Bait-and-Switch. A few days before releasing his
budget, the governor announced a grand new program to attack lead
poisoning in children. The budget document revealed a cut of up to
$375,000 in lead-poisoning funds for Baltimore.

It's definitely the Year of Having It Both Ways. You have a news
conference announcing your support of lead-paint eradication around the
state. You hail two of the state's lead eradication advocates during
your State of the State address. Then you cut the budget.

What's going on? The administration says it's not about the money, it's
about the results.

Again, there's another view of the strategy.

"You hope people remember your press conference on the new initiative
and forget your budget cut," says Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, one of the
lead-paint leaders mentioned in the governor's speech.

Or maybe it's the Year of Cannibalization, a year in which this or that
program survives at the expense of this or that other program.
Shortfalls in Medicaid may be cured at the expense of cancer research
programs at the Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland hospitals.

Or maybe it's just another Year of Smoke and Mirrors. The governor and
his team are taking credit for the largest infusion of education money
in history. It's a big-ticket item approved by the Democrat-controlled
General Assembly the year before Mr. Ehrlich's election. He promised to
support it, and he is. But it's a mammoth program that needs a mammoth
revenue stream. The Democrats didn't provide one, and neither has
Governor Ehrlich.

But no one thought Maryland would sacrifice important programs such as
cancer research. Massive new school aid demands more money from
taxpayers - if they still believe in public education. And that is a
recurrent theme: Without new revenue from taxes, which Mr. Ehrlich
rejects, spending will have to be reduced. Services, too.

How about those state employees, for example? On the one hand, they get
a 2 percent increase in pay. At the same time, they're asked to pay
more for health insurance. We're all paying more for health insurance,
but don't call standing still an increase.

Or maybe it's the Year of the Credit-taking Contortion: After Mr.
Ehrlich vetoed the General Assembly's medical malpractice bill, he's
taking credit for providing funds to increase payments to doctors in
the Medicaid program. The increase was part of the malpractice bill he
vetoed and the General Assembly pushed into law over his opposition.

And don't be surprised when more labels are needed. One budget analyst
says the document is replete with bewildering "takes and puts" yet to
be digested. People whose programs have been helped or hurt may still
not know their fate. Even those programs that were helped won't have
been helped enough, in some cases, to stay even with cost-of-living
increases or increases in eligibility. Higher education in Maryland,
hit with big cuts over the last two years, got a $42 million infusion
this year. As a result, tuition only had to go up 5 percent or so.

You have to say this, though. The money's being spread around in ways
that could pit various interests against each other - and against
themselves. Social service agencies may wish to form coalitions of
protest, assembling angry throngs in front of the State House. But
who'll join? How much complaining should you do if you've gotten an
increase, even if it's not enough to do the job?

Maybe what we're seeing is the first year of real government downsizing
under this Republican administration. Some have rushed about trying to
find a rationale for cutting things such as cancer research. If it's
about making government smaller, they can save their energy. Downsizing
is its own rationale.

Meanwhile, we're told cancer research can go forward on half the money.
So maybe it's the Year of the Free Lunch.


C. Fraser Smith is news director for WYPR-FM. His column appears
Sundays.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-31 18:09:51 UTC
Permalink
Judge seeks more information on Ehrlich's ban of 2 journalists

by Stephen Kiehl (Baltimore Sun Staff)

January 29, 2005


A federal judge called it "significant" and "troubling" yesterday that
The Sun's State House bureau chief and a columnist are being denied the
information they need to do their jobs, but the judge also suggested
the governor has a right to direct his staff whom they can and cannot
talk to.

The Baltimore Sun Co. has sued Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., alleging
that his administration's order banning state employees from speaking
with two Sun writers is a violation of their First Amendment rights.
The case was heard in court for the first time yesterday, with The Sun
asking that the ban be lifted while the case proceeds. The state asked
for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. did not rule on either
request. Instead, he asked for more information from the state about
which employees are subject to the order. The judge's request also
gives both sides at least another week to reach a settlement.

Lawyers for The Sun and the governor have been negotiating for more
than a month, and both sides said yesterday that they will continue to
talk in search of a resolution outside of court. The ban, issued Nov.
18, applies to Sun State House bureau chief David Nitkin and columnist
Michael Olesker.

Ehrlich, who did not appear in court yesterday, has said he intended
the order to have a "chilling effect" on "two writers who have no
credibility." The e-mail issuing the ban, sent to 19 state agencies by
the governor's press office, said the two writers are "failing to
objectively report" on the administration. The Sun argues that the ban
was made in retribution for coverage.

During a one-hour hearing at the federal courthouse in Baltimore,
Quarles aggressively questioned both sides. At least five times, he
asked Margaret Ann Nolan, chief of litigation for the state attorney
general, whether the governor could ban any citizen from getting
information.

"The troubling point is, could the governor select a citizen at random
- or a citizen who had expressed an unpopular opinion - and bar that
citizen from access to the executive branch of government?" Quarles
said.

The judge said journalists have the same rights to information as the
public, but he also said the governor can draw a line in deciding whom
he talks to: "If the governor had to talk to anyone who wanted to talk
to him and return every phone call, he couldn't run the government."

Quarles seemed wary of the idea of a federal judge dictating whom state
government employees could talk to, and when, and said he didn't want
to spend his career deciding such issues as how many questions
reporters can ask at news conferences. "The last thing I want to get
into is being a mediator between the governor and the Sunpapers," he
said.

Charles Tobin, a lawyer representing The Sun, said the paper wasn't
asking that state employees be required to speak with Nitkin and
Olesker, only that they be given the choice of doing so. Brandishing a
copy of the state employee phone directory, he said the two writers
could not speak to anyone in the book, as public citizens can.

"We simply want the edict lifted," Tobin said, "and we're entitled to
it because no other citizen in the state of Maryland is subject to this
limitation, and it's only because of content."

This latest standoff between The Sun and the governor began after
Nitkin wrote a series of articles about the state's plan to sell 836
acres of preserved forestland in St. Mary's County to Willard
Hackerman, a politically connected construction company owner, in a
transaction that could have netted him millions in tax breaks.

Nolan, representing the state, said The Sun is seeking special access
beyond that which is given to the public - what she called "perks."

But the judge said that was not The Sun's argument: "Mr. Tobin argues
that Mr. Nitkin and Mr. Olesker do not have access through the ordinary
channels that their competitors do, and that is significant and that is
troubling."

Nolan said the First Amendment protects the right of people to
disseminate information and offers only limited protection for news
gathering. She added, "The governor has himself First Amendment rights
to speech, and the government has a right to control the information it
disseminates."

Nolan also said there was no evidence the ban had been enforced, though
the judge pointed to an affidavit signed by Nitkin saying sources who
used to talk to him no longer do so.

"Are you saying it's just a coincidence that people stopped talking to
him after the ban?" Quarles asked Nolan. She replied that people are
busy and don't always have time to return all their phone calls.

The judge also said the fact that Nitkin had been barred from entering
a news conference last month was evidence the ban was being enforced.
The governor's office has said the event was a briefing for invited
members of the press. The judge scoffed at that distinction.

"So a press conference is anything to which Mr. Nitkin is invited, and
anything to which he is not invited is an invitation-only press
briefing?" Quarles asked.

He also asked the state to provide clarification by Friday about who in
state government is subject to the ban.

Sun Editor Timothy A. Franklin, who attended the hearing, said
afterward, "This order is an egregious constitutional violation. It has
a chilling effect not only on the two Sun journalists but on all
journalists and potentially all citizens. The question is, who's going
to be next? Who's next on the blacklist?"

Neither David Hamilton, Ehrlich's former law partner who now advises
the governor on legal matters, nor Jervis S. Finney, legal counsel to
the governor, would comment after yesterday's hearing because the
lawsuit is pending.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-10 01:06:39 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich associate targeted O'Malley

by David Nitkin and Andrew A. Green (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published February 9, 2005


A longtime campaign operative of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. resigned
his state job yesterday after admitting he had been spreading rumors on
the Internet about the personal life of Baltimore Mayor Martin
O'Malley.

Joseph Steffen, 45, said he gave the governor his resignation after
questions about his postings on www.FreeRepublic.com, a well-known
conservative Web site. The postings discussed O'Malley's marriage.

"The governor had no idea," Steffen said. "I don't even think he knows
where the Web site is. If anyone is guilty, it is me. There was no
outside influence. It was all me."

The postings about O'Malley from a longtime Ehrlich aide carry
particular significance because the mayor is expected to seek the
Democratic nomination for governor next year and likely would challenge
the incumbent.

The race is expected to be close, and the opposing camps are already
jockeying for advantage.

Steffen is a longtime ally of the governor who had worked on several of
Ehrlich's congressional campaigns. Democrats say he has earned a
reputation in several state agencies as a sharply partisan appointee
who was feared as he sought personal information about state workers
and demanded that they be fired.

Ehrlich Communications Director Paul E. Schurick said the governor
learned about Steffen's postings on the Web site late yesterday
afternoon and was "extremely troubled by it."

"The governor made that clear publicly and privately. The governor
never will support or condone such behavior and never has. It is
unacceptable."

Steffen said he went to his boss, Insurance Commissioner Alfred W.
Redmer Jr., and told him that he would have to resign.

"He winced," Steffen said of Redmer's reaction. Redmer is an Ehrlich
appointee, former state delegate and House minority leader.

Next, Steffen said, he called Ehrlich administration officials to
inform them of his pending resignation.

"They were basically like, 'If you think that's what you need to do,'"
Steffen said.

He resigned shortly thereafter, Schurick said.

Schurick said he did not know whether Steffen had ever engaged in any
other similar behavior.

"It doesn't matter," Schurick said. "It, in and of itself, is
intolerable to the governor."

O'Malley could not be reached for comment last night.

"It is despicable and no family should ever have to endure these kinds
of lies and this type of smear campaign just because their father holds
a public office," said Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for O'Malley. "The
mayor's marriage is strong."

O'Malley's father-in-law, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran
Jr., decried the rumors and lamented their impact on his daughter's
family. Curran's daughter, Catherine, a city District Court judge, is
married to O'Malley.

"It is an outrage that people practice the politics of destruction
rather than the politics of good government. I'm outraged that these
things go on," Curran said.

"We always knew it [the rumor] was false, because Martin and Katie have
such a strong and loving relationship. Everyone knew they were false.
It is hurtful when you see your own daughter hurt. I'm upset when
people in politics do such terrible things," Curran said.

"We didn't know where it was coming from, to be honest with you,"
Curran said. "I heard rumors about who it might have been. I just
wanted it to stop. I had some idea who it might be coming from."

O'Malley and his staff have been reluctant to discuss the marital
rumors, which have been swirling for months.

But the mayor alluded to the speculation shortly after his re-election
in November, in a discussion about former Police Commissioner Kevin P.
Clark.

"There have been, in the course of this new sort of character-smear
style of politics, numerous allegations pushed about me," O'Malley
said. "Does that say something about me or about the person making the
allegations?"

Until yesterday, Steffen had been director of communications at the
Maryland Insurance Administration. He had worked previously in the
state Department of Human Resources and the Department of Juvenile
Services, all since Ehrlich took office in January 2003.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said last night that he had never met
Steffen but knew him by reputation, referring to him as "The Turk" - a
National Football League term for a team official dreaded during
training camp because he delivers the news that players have been cut.

"It's a new low in government," Busch said, referring to how Steffen
operated in various agencies. "It's a Gestapo-like mentality that
becomes instilled in government. ... It sends a chilling message to
people who have dedicated their life to public service."

Told that Ehrlich had accepted Steffen's resignation, the speaker said:
"Clearly his sin was not crossing the line.

"Clearly his sin was getting caught."

Steffen, a Rosedale resident, denied last night that he acted as some
kind of covert operative for the governor.

Asked whether he was told to ferret out Democrats in state agencies and
departments, Steffen said: "Absolutely not." He said, for example, that
he did not know that Democratic Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J.
Gardina had been paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from his
firing from a state job until he read about it in The Sun.

"I had no idea until today that he was even let go," Steffen said. "I
had no idea that he was even hired."

He said he moved to various agencies to work on "different tasks" that
the governor asked of him.

Steffen said his resignation was prompted by a visit yesterday from a
Washington Post reporter armed with the Web site postings. He used the
handle "ncpac" while writing on the Web site.

"I could see where the reporter was trying to go with the story, and I
was not going to allow that to happen," he said. "I have regrets for
doing something that I obviously shouldn't have done. And I have
regrets that the governor may take a hit because of it."

The Internet name "ncpac" is a reference to the National Conservative
Political Action Committee, which was active in the early 1980s and,
according to the Associated Press, spent "hundreds of thousands of
dollars on tough 'negative advertising' in a bid to make a supposedly
liberal Democratic politician more vulnerable at the polls."

Steffen was a spokesman for the committee in the 1980s, and by 1984 he
was working on a Republican congressional campaign in Virginia.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said he learned of the resignation last
night, and he condemned the rumor-spreading.

"It's unfortunate. It's ignorant. It's not something this
administration condones," Steele said.

Gerry Brewster, a Towson Democrat who ran against Ehrlich in the
governor's first congressional election in 1994, said Steffen was well
known as "the dirty tricks operative" of Ehrlich's campaign.

Steffen said he would be returning to his office at the Maryland
Insurance Administration today to clean out his desk and write his
resignation letter.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-10 01:20:28 UTC
Permalink
Generous to a fault

February 8, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)


BALTIMORE County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina and his attorney are
$100,000 richer today. No doubt there's a shiny new car in somebody's
future. It's a less fortuitous event for Maryland taxpayers. They're
the ones getting stuck for the bill. And whom do we have to thank?
Nobody's rushed forward to take credit, but this much is clear: The
Ehrlich administration has some explaining to do.

Mr. Gardina was fired in 2003 from a $56,000 post within the Maryland
Environmental Service. Trouble is, his bosses say he was doing a great
job. Politics had nothing to do with his hiring: He got the job after
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took office. But at some point, the Ehrlich
inner circle found out that a prominent Democrat was on the state
payroll. And even though the MES is an independent agency and Mr.
Gardina was not in a patronage job, he got the ax. And guess what?
That's against the law.

At least that's what Mr. Gardina's lawsuit alleged. And Mr. Ehrlich's
aides aren't contradicting this account. In fact, they're not talking
much about it at all - even though Mr. Gardina has waived his privacy
rights. Daniel M. Clements, Mr. Gardina's attorney, notes that the
state's settlement offer came on the eve of depositions - when he was
going to find out exactly who ordered Mr. Gardina's firing.

We recognize that Mr. Ehrlich has a right to appoint whom he wants in
policy jobs. His staff even has the right to make mistakes (like
ignoring a midlevel bureaucrat's constitutional rights). They even had
the right to fire Mr. Gardina without giving cause - just not because
of his political affiliation. But paying out $100,000 to Mr. Gardina in
order to avoid political embarrassment? That's an even bigger political
embarrassment.

The episode fits a pattern of bumbled personnel actions from the Public
Service Commission to the Maryland State Board of Elections. In all
these illegal firings, somebody needs to be held accountable. Taxpayers
deserve a little respect, too.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-10 13:07:09 UTC
Permalink
Today, apology drains regret of responsibility

by Andrew A. Green (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published February 10, 2005


Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. insists he knew nothing about a staff
member's spreading allegations online about Mayor Martin O'Malley's
personal life. He immediately demanded the man's resignation and has
publicly repudiated his actions.

But when usually Ehrlich-friendly local talk radio took up the issue of
longtime aide Joseph Steffen's actions yesterday morning, the buzz was
that the governor needed to do one more thing: Say he's sorry.

"He should apologize for what [Steffen] did," WBAL morning host Chip
Franklin said on his show yesterday.

Ehrlich said yesterday that he told Steffen to apologize immediately to
the mayor, and Ehrlich said he would not issue a personal apology to
O'Malley.

"I don't think that's appropriate because I didn't have any knowledge
of it," Ehrlich said.

A Washington Post article yesterday said that O'Malley had called on
Ehrlich to apologize but O'Malley has not publicly repeated the
request.

At times, political apologies have been crucial in salvaging careers,
but experts and political observers were divided about whether this is
one of those times.

Democrats, many of whom said they did not believe Steffen acted without
the knowledge of higher-ups, said yesterday that Ehrlich needs to
publicly apologize to the mayor.

"He needs to take responsibility for what his people do, for what his
political appointees do," said House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve, a
Montgomery County Democrat.

But former Gov. Marvin Mandel - no stranger to political scandal
himself - said it's unreasonable to expect the governor to apologize
for something a member of his staff did.

"No governor knows what 80,000 state employees are doing. You can't be
responsible for the mistakes of every state employee," he said. "Why
should you be required to apologize for something you didn't do?"

Stephen E. Lucas, a professor of communication at the University of
Wisconsin, said a classical political apology is a refutation of
charges and does not necessarily involve the politician saying he is
sorry.

In this case, Ehrlich has offered his defense against Democrats'
charges by saying he did not know of Steffen's activities and
repudiated him.

The model political apology is then-vice presidential candidate Richard
Nixon's "Checkers" speech in 1952, Lucas said.

Nixon denied accusations that he had taken $18,000 from supporters for
his personal use but admitted keeping the gift of a black-and-white
cocker spaniel his daughter named Checkers.

Subsequent political apologies, such as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's
explanation of a car accident in which a young woman drowned and
several of President Bill Clinton's efforts to deflect the Monica
Lewinsky scandal, were less effective, not because of their lack of
contrition but because they did not include a persuasive refutation of
charges, Lucas said:

"If you have to say 'I'm sorry,' it's an admission of guilt."

P.M. Forni, a co-founder of the Johns Hopkins University Civility
Project, said a looser definition of "apology" has crept into European
and American life in recent years, in which people say they are sorry
for things they didn't do. Catholic leaders of today can apologize for
misdeeds of the church's past, and President Clinton can apologize for
American slavery, he said.

"Using the notion of apology in the looser way ... you can say, 'I'm
apologizing on behalf of my employee.' This would be a step in the
right direction from the point of view of those who claim the governor
should apologize. I'm not sure that would satisfy them completely,"
Forni said.

Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr., who was Steffen's
supervisor, did make that sort of expression of regret. He said he
called O'Malley and the mayor's father-in-law, Maryland Attorney
General J. Joseph Curran Jr., to apologize yesterday.

"I just wanted to express personally my regrets that what happened
happened," Redmer said. "I would have called with the same regret
whether he [Steffen] worked here or didn't work here. ... I don't have
a lot of patience for that kind of activity. I've got a wife and I've
got kids and nobody's more protective of their family than I am, so I
feel for him."

Steffen, however, continued posting messages on the Internet in the
hours after he was dismissed, suggesting he was not entirely contrite.

"It wasn't even THAT big of a deal, as concerns what I actually said in
the post," Steffen wrote on the Web site www.FreeRepublic.com just
before 1 a.m. yesterday. "I didn't start any rumor, I was commenting on
rumors that were out there. What IS a big deal is the perception - and
the fact O'Malley would have hammered the Governor over the head with
me for the next 20 months."

Later, he wrote of the incident, "This might even burnish my
reputation."

It was also unclear how much regret Ehrlich administration officials
felt. After the governor spoke to reporters yesterday morning, his
press secretary, Greg Massoni, asked what had happened at the news
conference O'Malley had just held.

A reporter recounted a story, told at the O'Malley event by the mayor's
wife, in which the couple's son asked that both parents sign his report
card to prove to his classmates that his parents were still married.

Massoni, grinning, cocked his head to the side and wiped away an
imaginary tear.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-10 13:18:44 UTC
Permalink
Dirty tricks redux

Originally published February 10, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)


GOV. ROBERT L. Ehrlich Jr., who has apologized for using the word
"crap" in public, yesterday declined to apologize for the horse manure
a top hatchet man has been spreading about Baltimore Mayor Martin
O'Malley. And while it's all very good that the governor "is open" to
investigating whether others on the state payroll are spreading vicious
rumors for political gain, the task may fall to the underfunded and
generally toothless state prosecutor's office. Mr. Ehrlich may find
rumor-mongering "intolerable," but his behavior is reminiscent of
Captain Renault, who is "shocked, shocked" to discover gambling in
Casablanca.

This much is certain: Mr. Ehrlich knows when it's time to distance
himself from a blown campaign operative. He disavowed the actions of
longtime aide Joseph "NCPAC" Steffen as soon as the press got wind of
them. Mr. Steffen repeatedly posted messages on a popular political Web
site detailing some salacious (and untrue, but why would that stop a
zealot?) rumors about the mayor. When confronted by a reporter, Mr.
Steffen promptly resigned. Mr. Ehrlich now says he was fired.

But does anyone believe that the smear campaign against the popular Mr.
O'Malley, a potential candidate for governor in 2006, isn't politically
motivated? Here's what Mr. Steffen told The Washington Post when asked
if his postings were part of an organized effort to keep anti-O'Malley
rumors afloat: "No comment." What does this mean? Probably this: Mr.
Steffen is willing to admit to his libelous postings; he's not ready to
rat out others.

Doesn't that sound like Donald Segretti, who once faked a letter
claiming Henry "Scoop" Jackson fathered an illegitimate child? In fact,
doesn't Mr. Ehrlich's press-bashing and blacklisting, dirty tricks and
ferreting out disloyal employees sound like Richard M. Nixon?

Granted, there's at least one profound difference between the two men
-- Mr. Nixon got more done.

Last month, Mr. Ehrlich lectured the General Assembly about the need
for greater civility and an end to "assassin" politics. Mr. Steffen's
actions suggest Mr. Ehrlich was talking to the wrong group of people.
He needs to lecture his own staff first. Maybe then he'll be more
credible.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-17 14:52:24 UTC
Permalink
Firings decried as partisan politics

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

February 9, 2005


Democratic lawmakers said yesterday that the $100,000 settlement paid
to a well-known elected official who claimed he was fired from a state
job because of party affiliation is part of a broader strategy by the
Ehrlich administration that they hope to illuminate.

Several members of the House Appropriations Committee said they are
examining the replacement of perhaps hundreds of state employees with
other workers whose qualifications appear to rest mainly on their loyal
support of the state's first Republican governor in 36 years.

"You see a level of political operative being brought on board that you
didn't see with Glendening or Schaefer," said Del. Richard S. Madaleno
Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat and member of the House
Appropriations Committee.

Said Del. Galen R. Clagett of Frederick County: "It reminds me of the
cell system in the Communist Party."

Republicans and some top Democrats deny that Ehrlich is handling
personnel decisions differently from other governors. Changes are
expected after such a long period of dominance by one party, they say,
and because the previous Republican governor, Spiro T. Agnew, was in
office for just two years.

"This sounds like more sour grapes from a majority party who lost the
election in 2002," said Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the House minority
whip from Southern Maryland. "You have to remember, the Democrats have
controlled the levers of power for the best part of the last century."

Shareese N. DeLeaver, an Ehrlich spokeswoman, said the allegations were
off-base.

"Appointments are made on the basis of qualifications and not race,
gender or political affiliation, and to suggest otherwise is an insult
and unfounded," she said.

Last week, the state treasury wrote a $100,000 check to Baltimore
County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina to settle a wrongful firing
lawsuit. Gardina, a Democrat, was hired during the Ehrlich
administration to a contractual position with Maryland Environmental
Service, a quasi-independent agency, and contends he was fired at the
governor's behest after Ehrlich learned he was on the payroll.

Gardina argued that the only reason he was fired was that he was a
Democrat - a violation of his constitutional rights.

Many of the administration's personnel decisions are being made through
the Governor's Appointments Office and vetted by the governor's office,
instead of by the personnel offices of individual agencies, according
to a memorandum obtained by The Sun yesterday on the topic of "hiring
and dismissals."

"Provide a list of your intended hires to the Appointments Office by
e-mail or fax. Please include the position and the suggested salary
level. The Appointments Office will vet these names with the governor's
staff," reads the memo from Lawrence Hogan Jr., appointments secretary,
to all department secretaries.

The memo is dated Feb. 3, 2003, about three weeks after Ehrlich took
office, and does not distinguish between high-level and low-level
positions.

"If that is the process, it is certainly very questionable, and we
should be looking at it," said Del. Frank S. Turner, a Columbia
Democrat and chairman of an appropriations oversight committee on
personnel.

While the appointments office - an arm of the governor's office - is an
appropriate venue for choosing high-ranking managers who make policy
decisions, "there are other positions that are more professional
positions, and we need to be protecting those people through the state
personnel policies," Turner said.

Clagett, a former high school principal who helped rewrite Frederick
county government personnel regulations, plans to introduce legislation
this week that would significantly reduce the number of state employees
classified as "special appointments," meaning they can be fired by the
governor without reason.

He wants only workers who serve in policy-making roles to have that
classification, reducing the number of special appointments to 850 from
about 4,700.

Madaleno said many lawmakers have received anecdotal complaints about
firings in state agencies that seem excessively driven by politics and
that are depriving state government of expertise.

Del. Peter Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat, said Ehrlich is
bypassing the competitive job-posting requirements for lower-grade
employees in many agencies. He plans to question officials in the state
transportation department about the situation during a budget hearing
today.

"Dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of people have been brought into
state government whose only criteria is loyalty is Bob," he said. "They
advertise that in the workplace, and they create an atmosphere of fear
and intimidation among career employees."

But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said lawmakers probably have
little power to remedy the situation.

"The Democrats invented the spoils system, under Andrew Jackson,"
Miller said. "These guys are perfecting it."
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-17 14:58:17 UTC
Permalink
'Dirty tricks' allegations dot Ehrlich's past

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

February 11, 2005


ON THE DAY Official State Dirtball Joseph Steffen admitted spreading
stories to humiliate Mayor Martin O'Malley and his family, Gov. Robert
L. Ehrlich Jr. appeared on WBAL-TV news, where he was asked by reporter
Dave Collins, "Have you known about this rumor?"

"No, absolutely not," said Ehrlich with a straight face.

Imagine the effort that must have taken. Imagine the faith in people's
sheer childlike naivete to stand in front of a TV camera and say such
words in an effort to distance yourself from this disgrace.

If the governor of Maryland did not hear the rumors about the mayor of
Baltimore's alleged extramarital sex life, and the alleged breakup of
his marriage, then Ehrlich might be the last living adult in the entire
state not to have heard them.

In Annapolis taverns, they talk about it. In schools attended by
O'Malley's children, they whisper about it. In Towson shopping malls
and Ellicott City restaurants and Bel Air grocery stores and the beach
at Ocean City people talk about it. My 80-year old mother has said,
"The ladies at the senior citizen center keep asking about it." Outside
City Hall this week, Councilman Robert Curran said, "I've had people
approach me in the food store, the barbershop, on the street. I even
had family members ask me if I know anything about it."

And Curran is related to the O'Malleys.

Who hasn't heard the rumors? Only the governor of Maryland, who says he
never heard a word of it, and never imagined one of his longtime
political operatives might have been behind such a thing -- not even
this Steffen, who is proud to call himself the Prince of Darkness for
all the damage he has inflicted over the years.

Is this the point where Ehrlich delivers another of his self-righteous
speeches about bringing "respect" back to politics? Is this where he
lectures us again about not bringing "Capitol Hill assassin politics"
to Annapolis? By his own assertion, it's not the point where he's
showing "respect" and issuing an apology to the O'Malleys.

For months, O'Malley has made it a point to have his wife with him in
public. They looked affectionate and held each other's hands. It was a
nice, Norman Rockwell-look of marital happiness. But it was painful,
too.

Everybody knew why they had to do it -- and they knew that everybody
knew.

And so, in spite of any genuine feeling the two O'Malleys have for each
other, it became a kind of self-conscious charade in which everyone who
had heard the rumor understood the public dance that was being
performed.

One of the rumors had the O'Malleys' marriage over and the four kids
living with her father, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

"You know where that came from?" Councilman Robert Curran said, moments
before Wednesday's O'Malley news conference. "It came from weekends
when the kids were staying with their grandparents. Can you imagine
that? Kids stay with their grandparents, and they make it into a story
about the parents getting divorced."

So we know now a source of many of these rumors. But the question
remains: Who else took part? And who else had knowledge?

In e-mails given to The Washington Post, Steffen had written: "A lot of
the reason that everyone knows [O'Malley's] history is because of what
has gone on beneath the surface. ... A few folks put in a lot of effort
to ensure the story got some real float."

A few folks?

Asked by the Post whether he was part of an organized effort to
disseminate the rumors, Steffen said: "No comment."

Well, there is a history here. From his first political campaign,
nearly two decades ago, when he ran for a seat in the House of
Delegates, Ehrlich said he wanted to "make a new beginning for the
Maryland Republican Party." Some beginning. For openers, he went after
a vulnerable Republican incumbent, Del. Thomas W. Chamberlain, so
harshly that Chamberlain accused Ehrlich of being "deliberately
divisive" and using "dirty tricks."

"How long could you keep your job if you didn't show up for work 28
times?" an Ehrlich campaign brochure asked about Chamberlain.
Supposedly, Chamberlain had missed that many days at work. Actually, he
had missed that many votes, not days of work, and the 28 missed votes
were accumulated over 12 years.

But that was just a warm-up act. By the time he ran for Congress,
Ehrlich had Dirtball Steffen working for him. That's when salacious
rumors were floated about Democratic opponent Gerry L. Brewster. Dirty
tricks, Brewster called them. Two years later, when Ehrlich ran against
former state Del. Connie DeJuliis, there were ugly rumors spread about
her. Dirty tricks, DeJuliis said.

Two days ago, when Mayor O'Malley and his wife held their news
conference outside City Hall, there was an odd juxtaposition. If you
looked directly past the O'Malleys, a short block away were the lights
of the Sweden Book Store and the Hustler Club and the rest of
Baltimore's Block.

In a time of political pornography, the positioning seemed appropriate.
Except that, compared with the likes of Steffen, regulars on The Block
seem like church deacons. At least they don't go after a man's family.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-18 16:42:20 UTC
Permalink
The big chill

February 16, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)


THESE ARE sad days for those of us who cherish the First Amendment. It
was bad enough when, in a moment of unrestrained hubris, Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr. decided last fall he could pick and choose who is worthy of
access to state government information and who is not. On Monday, U.S.
District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. gave this foolish and
undemocratic notion a legitimacy it never deserved. By dismissing this
newspaper's lawsuit against Mr. Ehrlich, Judge Quarles has unleashed
the potential for all manner of petty despotism upon the electorate.

Let us make one thing clear from the outset - The Sun never sought any
special privilege. This newspaper has pursued the same rights afforded
any citizen. In a sense, The Sun serves as a proxy for its hundreds of
thousands of readers, most of whom have a direct stake in state
government. Mr. Ehrlich and his staff have the right to decline to be
interviewed. They can even restrict their media appearances to friendly
electronic venues with their fawning interviewers and powder-puff
questions. It's not a particularly responsible or courageous policy,
but it's a governor's prerogative.

But neither this nor any other governor has the authority to
unilaterally ban state employees from speaking to two individuals. Mr.
Ehrlich himself has characterized his Nov. 18 order turning reporter
David Nitkin and columnist Michael Olesker into official personae non
gratae as an effort to cast a chill on media coverage of his
administration. No matter what Judge Quarles' intent, his decision can
only serve to lower the temperature further.

Make no mistake, Mr. Ehrlich's choice to blacklist these two
journalists was based on the content of their writings. In particular,
the governor didn't like details of his secret land sale in St. Mary's
County appearing in print. It's hard to blame him. But facts are facts,
and Mr. Ehrlich's sweetheart deal died on the vine. He can't be allowed
to achieve retribution by abusing his executive authority. What's to
stop him or his successors from similarly cutting off all newspaper
reporters from access to state government at the slightest provocation?
At the moment, it appears nothing.

This isn't a matter of Democratic or Republican politics, liberal or
conservative viewpoints. Simple common sense tells us that government
officials should not be allowed to decide who covers them. If they can,
the consequences will be disastrous. Reporters and columnists can't be
effective if they operate under the constant threat: Write what we like
or lose your right to information from the government.

Could The Sun continue responsibly reporting on the machinations of
state government under the current circumstances? Probably. But a
bigger issue is at stake. It's no less than the fundamental right to a
free press - and to equal protection of all citizens under the law. The
Sun has no choice but to appeal Judge Quarles' ruling. We owe that much
to our profession and to our readers.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-24 17:11:03 UTC
Permalink
Talk-show host also works for state

by Andrew A. Green (Baltimore Sun Staff)

February 22, 2005


WBAL-AM talk-radio host Chip Franklin, who frequently comments on state
government - and whose show often provides a friendly forum for Gov.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. - has been paid more than $30,000 in the past
three years to appear in commercials for the Maryland Lottery.

Franklin, who hosts a morning show with about 130,000 listeners a week,
receives a $1,500 payment each time he tapes a television commercial
for scratch-off lottery tickets in an arrangement that predates
Ehrlich's election. He is paid by Eisner Communications, a Baltimore
advertising agency hired by the lottery.

Station management and Franklin defend the arrangement, saying it is
common for talk-radio hosts, unlike news reporters, to engage in
outside advertising because they primarily are considered entertainers.

Media watchers say many politicians - Ehrlich included - increasingly
turn to talk radio as a means to speak without a filter to voters in a
setting that has the appearance of journalism but lacks the same
professional standards of independence and objectivity.

When the host is being paid for work done for a state agency, "I'm
afraid he's crossed the line," said Edward Wasserman, a professor of
journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University. The lottery's
director and board are appointed by the governor and Ehrlich's picture
appears at the top of its Web page.

WBAL station manager Jeff Beauchamp said the arrangement presents no
conflict of interest for Franklin. Members of the station's news staff
are forbidden from appearing in advertisements, but the station's
talk-radio hosts, like most in the industry, frequently do ads.

"Chip is not a journalist in our news department. He is [an opinion]
columnist on the air," Beauchamp said. "The other thing is ... how can
this possibly be a conflict of interest in the way Chip treats our
governor when he originally accepted the offer to be their spokesman
for the agency under the administration of [former governor] Parris
Glendening?"

Franklin said his arrangement with the lottery has not made him more
reluctant to criticize any state officials.

He said he frequently was critical of Glendening's approach to
government and recently has taken positions at odds with Ehrlich, such
as saying the governor should apologize to Baltimore Mayor Martin
O'Malley over the actions of an aide who spread rumors about the
mayor's private life.

"I'll say anything that I think is necessary to say," Franklin said.

Role of journalist

Wasserman said that by presenting interviews with the governor,
Franklin takes on the role of a journalist, and in that context he
cannot ethically do work for the state government. The fact that his
show is presented as a forum of opinions, not as objective news
reporting, makes no difference, Wasserman said.

"If the politician is being interviewed by, effectively, an employee,
the public needs to know that. There is no way you can present that
interview as an arm's-length interaction. ... It's one thing to agree
with someone out of conviction. It's another thing to be on someone's
payroll."

According to WBAL's Web site, Franklin has received several awards for
his work. Most of them recognize his ability as a talk-show host, but
some are journalism awards, including an Edward R. Murrow award for
writing and, with members of the station's news staff, a National
Headliner Award for coverage of a breaking news event, a school
shooting in Red Lion, Pa.

Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a talk-radio trade magazine,
said a talk-show host appearing in commercials for the lottery is "no
big deal" by industry standards. News reporters rarely appear in
advertisements for anything, much less state government, but television
and radio personalities have long appeared in ads because they are
primarily considered entertainers.

Public awareness

The key question, he said, is whether the public is aware that the host
is paid by the state, and since the commercials in this case are
broadcast on television, Franklin's outside employment is no secret,
Harrison said.

Last summer, Beauchamp decided that another WBAL personality, Ron
Smith, should no longer host the station's Stateline with the Governor,
a twice-a-month, hourlong program.

He acted after Smith's wife, June, was hired as a $79,771-a-year public
relations officer in the Department of Juvenile Services.

"After learning that Ron's wife had accepted this position, Ron gave us
assurances that there was no quid pro quo," Beauchamp said at the time.
"But we believe that even the appearance of a quid pro quo - even
though we don't believe there is any - is something we should avoid."

While Smith did not receive a paycheck from the state, Franklin is
compensated by the state for his services through Eisner
Communications. He has earned $31,099.64 so far, according to the
Maryland Lottery.

Beauchamp said he did not believe Franklin's relationship with the
state government is anything like the Smith case. The governor has
never had a regular slot on Franklin's show but has called in when he
wants to participate in a discussion. Furthermore, Beauchamp said,
Franklin appears in the lottery ads as an entertainer, whereas Smith's
wife is paid to articulate the policies of the Ehrlich administration.

Beauchamp said he offered Ehrlich a choice at the time of continuing
the Stateline show with a member of the news department or another
talk-show host as a moderator when Smith was replaced, but the governor
declined.

On Feb. 12, the Stateline program resumed as a regular show on WBAL,
this time with host Bruce Elliott on Saturday mornings. Elliott, like
Smith and Franklin, is not a member of the news staff. Beauchamp said
Elliott has no connection to the Ehrlich administration.

"Believe me, I checked and double-checked," Beauchamp said.

Jimmy White, a lottery spokesman, said Franklin was hired by an
advertising agency that handles lottery promotions because of his skill
as a stand-up comedian. Franklin said he initially auditioned for the
job and competed with several other people to get it. He provided
voice-over services for a half-dozen television ads in 2001 and
switched to the current format, in which he appears on camera, in the
summer of 2002, White said.

The current television ads are unscripted and show Franklin interacting
with Marylanders as they scratch off lottery tickets. White said the
ads have been effective.

Franklin does not have a standing contract with the lottery but is paid
a daily rate - slightly more than union scale wages for commercial work
owing to the unscripted nature of the television ads - plus residual
payments based on how often the ads run, White said.

The way WBAL has handled its relationship with Ehrlich and its
standards for its talk-show hosts are the norm in the industry, but
they still raise some thorny issues, said Alex S. Jones, director of
the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

It is standard, he said, for radio talk-show hosts to consider
themselves entertainers, not journalists. National radio talk-show host
Rush Limbaugh, for example, repeatedly has insisted that he is not a
journalist, Jones said.

But because the hosts address public policy issues and frequently speak
with politicians, listeners often consider what they hear to be
journalism, Jones said.

'People ought to know'

"They have no journalistic obligation of fairness. They have much more
elastic standards of conflict of interest and things like that. Yet, at
the same time, they are perceived often to have credibility based on
being journalists. That's something people ought to know," Jones said.

This distinction has been in the news in recent weeks with the
revelation that conservative commentator Armstrong Williams was paid
nearly $250,000 to promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

Media watchers said, however, that they do not believe Franklin's
arrangement is comparable because he is not paid to espouse opinions on
the administration or the lottery in his radio show or the written
commentaries he posts on WBAL's Web site.

Williams did not publicly disclose his financial relationship with the
Department of Education, though it was spelled out in a contract, which
was public record.

Harrison, the talk-radio magazine publisher, said the divide in modern
political discourse between journalism and entertainment is growing
increasingly murky.

Radio personalities benefit in ratings and stature from having popular
and powerful politicians on their shows, so they are unlikely to
challenge their guests with difficult questions, Harrison said.

"If you're friendly with politicians as a talk-show host, you get
better access than if you're not, and a lot of people thrive on
access," Harrison said. "How many talk-show hosts in California are
making hay out of their connections with Arnold Schwarzenegger? They're
not going to knock him. If you're a broadcaster, you want to look like
you're a heavy."
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-25 18:07:23 UTC
Permalink
Writer speaks in anger for Beth Steel workers when others go silent

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

February 22, 2005


MARK Reutter's one of our great angry voices. He's moving around town
these days talking about his book, Making Steel: Sparrows Point and the
Rise and Ruin of American Industrial Might. It's about capitalism when
its cruelties go unchecked, about management greed and the collapse of
labor unions, and thousands of workers who were wounded while
politicians went silent. Too bad they didn't seem to share Reutter's
anger while there was still time.

The book's an update on a continuing disgrace. Originally written in
1988, when American steelworker jobs had dropped in a decade from
560,000 to 280,000, and the jobs at Sparrows Point were vanishing, the
book was updated after the disastrous events of January 2004.

That's when Bethlehem Steel Corp. was formally dissolved, its 131
million shares of stock canceled at zero value. The 95,000 retired
employees whose steel-making efforts had helped build the country and
provide the firepower through World War II - often paying a harsh
physical price for their labors - were stripped of the health-care
benefits they had been promised.

"Armed robbery in broad daylight," Reutter was saying the other day.
"It's a case study of capitalism gone awry."

The book's part cautionary tale, part cry of anger, and part sympathy
letter to workers who turned Sparrows Point into one of the proud icons
of American industry. Bethlehem Steel's mill, Reutter writes, "had the
greatest metal-making capacity on earth. Out of its furnace fires came
the steel for the tail fins of Chevy Bel Airs and Thunderbird
convertibles, the tin plate for Campbell's Soup cans, the hulls of
ocean tankers and Navy destroyers, the wire and girder plate of
suspension bridges, and a thousand and one other products that made our
culture of bigness and abundance possible."

But, contrast that with the scene two years ago, at the same Dundalk
Avenue union hall where Reutter's scheduled to speak at 1 p.m.
tomorrow. All that week of March 2003, thousands of men and women
streamed into the hall, beginning to realize the full extent of the raw
retirement deal they were being handed.

There were men with oxygen tubes for the asbestosis they'd gotten on
the job. Others were in wheelchairs. Some walked with canes from
accidents on the job. Others remembered wearing protective clothing
every day to shield them from searing-hot ingots. All of them wondered
how they would now pay their medical costs.

These were people, Reutter writes, who had spent their work days at
Sparrows Point getting "dirt on their faces, burn marks on their legs,
grease on their hands; people who chewed Brown's Mule Plug tobacco to
keep the dust out of their throats and nailed sections of old tires to
their shoes to keep their feet from getting burned on the brick
floors."

By 1988, a Bethlehem Steel that had employed about 30,000 people was
down to 7,900 and still falling. And a U.S. steel industry that had
accounted for two-thirds of global steel production at the end of World
War II had now dropped to 15 percent of world production.

Some of it was due to better overseas competition. Some of it was
replacement materials that cut into the steel market. All of it meant
workers losing ground to wage concessions, consolidations, plant
closings. And a $3 billion erasure of medical benefits that workers had
imagined were the payoff for long, rugged years on the job.

Though the bankrupt company's assets were sold to the International
Steel Group, Reutter writes, "If a company goes out of business and
sells its assets to another company, neither is required to pick up the
tab for the benefits owed to retired employees."

So there they were, thousands of these retired workers, with nowhere to
turn. Their union was sympathetic but powerless. That's part of a
trend. This month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the
percentage of Americans belonging to labor unions fell last year to the
lowest level in more than six decades, and the percentage in unionized
private sector jobs fell to the lowest level since the early 1900s.

Where were the politicians while so many Sparrows Point workers were
getting hurt? Reutter, a former Sun investigative reporter who is now
business and law editor at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, bitingly calls it "a bipartisan show of silence,"
citing U.S. Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski for allowing
workers to be hurt so badly and saving harsher words for Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr.

"The passivity of Ehrlich was especially glaring," Reutter writes.
"Before becoming governor ... Ehrlich had represented Sparrows Point
and eastern Baltimore County for eight years in the House of
Representatives," where - according to Ehrlich's Web site - he "was an
active member of the Congressional Steel Caucus, consistently voicing
the concerns of workers in Maryland's steel communities."

That self-definition aside, Reutter writes, Ehrlich "lost his voice"
and "did not protest the bankruptcy sale or participate in
behind-the-scenes negotiations that led to the withdrawal of
health-care benefits, even though his ability as a Princeton-educated
lawyer might have been useful in aiding the veterans and senior
steelworkers he had promised to support and serve."

You can hear the anger in Reutter's voice. What a pity so many others
were silent when it counted.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-25 19:03:14 UTC
Permalink
Shipper decries leaders of port

by Andrew A. Green and Michael Dresser (Baltimore Sun Staff)

February 24, 2005


One of the largest shipping lines at the port of Baltimore is
considering curtailing its business there because of what a company
official called the "political incompetence" of Ehrlich administration
officials running the port.

Capt. E. Lorenzo Di Casagrande, vice president of Mediterranean
Shipping Company Inc., wrote that Transportation Secretary Robert L.
Flanagan is jeopardizing long-term business relationships by stripping
port Director James White of his authority and replacing seasoned
workers with people who don't have "the slightest idea of the shipping
industry".

Mediterranean -- which brought in 140,000 containers last year and is
the largest containership customer at the port -- had been planning to
bring 30,000 additional containers to Baltimore this year and was
considering using the port for its cruise ships, Di Casagrande wrote.
Those plans are on hold, he added.

"Under the present circumstances ... we may be in the condition to look
to other alternative ports and forget Baltimore," Di Casagrande wrote
in a letter to Baltimore lawyer Peter G. Angelos, who Di Casagrande
said is an old friend who he thought could help him get through to Gov.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Angelos did not return a phone message yesterday, and Ehrlich, through
a spokesman, declined to comment on the letter.

Flanagan defended the management of the port yesterday. He said he and
the governor spoke with Di Casagrande at an event last month, and the
official expressed none of the concerns in his letter.

"It's all part of a rumor that I think Captain Di Casagrande has fallen
victim to," Flanagan said. He is set to meet with Di Casagrande on
March 16.

The letter comes at a time when port management is under increasing
criticism from lawmakers and some in the industry.

Two weeks ago, an official with John Deere & Co., a major port
customer, wrote an e-mail saying the state's decision to close
Midwestern sales offices and fire veteran marketing officers could
damage relations with the company.

Harry Hussein, general manager in Baltimore for Haul North America, a
large shipping line with about 90 port calls in Baltimore a year, said
he worries that White will be fired or will leave because of
administration interference at the port.

"It's a shame that he's had to endure interference from the governor's
administration, and from people who have no clue as to the maritime
industry and what the port means to the local economy," Hussein said.

And Comptroller William Donald Schaefer -- who as governor brought
Mediterranean to the port -- complained to Ehrlich at last week's Board
of Public Works meeting about how the port is being run.

Yesterday, Schaefer said he believes White is one of the best port
managers in the country but that the administration is removing the
support staff he needs to succeed.

"I'm not sure Secretary Flanagan really is seasoned enough to
understand the importance of good people at the port," said Schaefer, a
close ally of Ehrlich's. "You can't just have someone who sold bananas
and have him represent the port."

White said he has not been asked to leave and is trying to win
Flanagan's respect. He said many excellent staff members remain, but
the administration has put people without maritime experience in high
positions, which has been difficult for customers and other employees.

"They asked me to embrace them and give them training. I've been trying
to do that. Unfortunately, they've been brought in at such a high
level, that they have very experienced maritime people answering to
them. That makes the situation difficult," he said.

In an interview, Di Casagrande said the new employees at the port "have
never seen a ship in their lives" and have made Baltimore a
laughingstock in the industry.

He described a recent industry event in New York -- which he says he
was told about by a customer -- where one of his shipping customers
asked a newly appointed port marketing representative what the Port of
Baltimore could do for the customer's company.

Di Casagrande said that instead of providing business reasons to choose
Baltimore, the representative -- whom he would not name -- told the
customer the port could provide crab feasts, golfing outings and
tickets to sporting events, Di Casagrande said.

"That night became a joke" in the shipping industry, he said.

"What was achieved during the last 18 years was due to hard work in
creating the proper respect among all the parties involved," Di
Casagrande wrote of the port's progress. "It is sad to see it destroyed
by political incompetence."

Flanagan, however, said White is in complete operational control.

"We have an excellent team over there, and the proof is in the growing
business of the port," he said.

Flanagan, an attorney and former member of the House of Delegates, said
container traffic increased by about 15 percent from 2003 to 2004. The
latest figures available for 2004 had it on pace to top 7.5 million
tons for the year, up from 7.18 million tons in 2003.

The port brought in $216.2 million in state and local taxes and $1.47
billion in business revenue in 2002, according to the latest economic
impact report prepared for the port by Martin Associates of Lancaster,
Pa. The report also said the port directly employs 15,740 and that
potentially thousands of other jobs rely on it.

Flanagan said the port continues to make major investments in new
equipment and facilities.

Legislators who represent the port and oversee its operations said they
have grown increasingly troubled by the management of the port under
the Ehrlich administration.

Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., who leads a subcommittee that oversees the
port, said White and his professional staff are crucial to the success
of the port.

He said he was concerned to learn that a professional figure skater
with no maritime experience, Gregory J. Maddalone, had been hired as a
legislative affairs officer for the port. Maddalone's resume from early
in the Ehrlich administration, before he served a stint with the
Maryland Transit Administration, shows that the 29-year-old has no
college degree or experience in any field other than figure skating.



Del. Brian K. McHale, a Baltimore Democrat who works at the port, said
he has heard complaints from shippers about port management since
Flanagan took over as transportation secretary.

"People's families are going to suffer because of this," McHale said,
referring to the problems outlined in the letter. "It's really just
because of their incompetence."

Del. Peter Franchot, who leads the House subcommittee that oversees the
port's budget, agreed that the port has done well but predicted the
"house of cards" will fall if White leaves.

"It is a relationship-driven industry, and to bring in people who know
nothing about the maritime industry is going to be lethal to the port's
future," the Montgomery County Democrat said.

Schaefer said the governor had no response to his questions about the
port at last week's Board of Public Works meeting. But the comptroller
said he warned Ehrlich that he needs to take the complaints about the
port seriously.

"I did tell the governor, 'You're No. 1, but if you monkey around by
losing your top people, you won't be No. 1 for much longer,'" Schaefer
said.
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-02-28 21:47:58 UTC
Permalink
Port's director steps down

by Meredith Cohn, Michael Dresser and Andrew A. Green
Sun Staff

February 25, 2005


The director of the port of Baltimore resigned yesterday, realizing the
fears of Maryland shipping interests and lawmakers who had in recent
days angrily decried what they described as political interference with
port management.

"It's just not working, so the best thing to do is just get out of the
way and allow them to put somebody in here they're more comfortable
with," James J. White said after he informed his staff. "I feel very
sad, but like a large weight has been lifted off my back."

White's decision stunned people familiar with the business of the port,
from the state capital to the city's industrial waterfront. After the
port had struggled through a revolving door of directors during the
late 1980s and 1990s - seven in eight years - White, 55, had
represented stability. He helped stanch the loss of trade to other East
Coast ports by bringing in customers and signing them to long-term
contracts.

The recent turn of events at the port is part of a larger story that
has enveloped Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration over the
replacement of top-ranking political appointees and professional staff.
Since Ehrlich took office more than two years ago, midlevel officials
at agencies including the Public Service Commission, the Department of
Business and Economic Development, and the Maryland Transit
Administration have been replaced by the state's first Republican
governor in more than three decades.

But the pressure at the port had elicited especially sharp concerns
from shipping interests, lawmakers and state Comptroller William Donald
Schaefer, usually an Ehrlich supporter. They feared the loss of a
skilled port executive just as Baltimore's port has improved against
stiff competition from Norfolk, Va.; New York; and elsewhere.

'Some ... friction'

White called a meeting at 11:30 a.m. yesterday to inform his directors
and others that he had resigned, a port spokeswoman said. He also said
he had been approached by others in the maritime industry and planned
to pursue the opportunities.

White was a Maryland Port Administration executive since 1993 and was
named executive director in 1999 by former Democratic Gov. Parris N.
Glendening. He declined the job initially, saying he feared the
potential politics involved.

In an unusually frank assessment Wednesday, the night before he
announced his decision, White didn't let on thoughts about leaving, but
he described his relationship with Transportation Secretary Robert L.
Flanagan as strained. He said then that he hoped to keep his job but
acknowledged that he had failed to earn the secretary's respect.

Flanagan, however, said he tried to dissuade White from leaving during
a face-to-face conversation yesterday morning. He also said Ehrlich was
disappointed at the resignation.

"I asked Jim if there were any circumstances under which he would be
willing to stay, and he indicated there were not," said Flanagan,
although he acknowledged "some amount of friction" with White during
his tenure.

"He has agreed to work with us to ensure a smooth transition, and we're
basically negotiating what that would be at this time."

Flanagan said he's tapped former Maryland representative and port
consultant Helen Delich Bentley to lead a nationwide search committee
to replace White.

Bentley is expected to report a short list to Flanagan by April 15. In
a statement released by Flanagan's office, Bentley called White "the
best executive director the port of Baltimore has ever had. In his six
years here, he has accomplished more than any other East Coast port
director. He has put Baltimore on the international maritime map."

White earned $174,000 and still is negotiating a "separation"
agreement. He said he had 40 voice messages from well-wishers and had
been approached by other employers, which he declined to identify. The
Bel Air resident said he hopes to remain in Maryland.

Peter M. Tirschwell, editorial director for The Journal of Commerce, a
business publication, said that White would be qualified for a number
of openings and that the port of Baltimore would have to find a
seasoned maritime professional to take his place.

"The port community has its own particular needs, and they tend to like
continuity," Tirschwell said. "It's not surprising that there would
have been complaints from big shippers about interfering in port
operations. It's a business not generally understood by a person on the
street."

Schaefer, who had sought assurances from Ehrlich that he would keep the
director, said the port is going to lose.

"White will go somewhere else, and the next thing you know, he'll be
taking business away from the port of Baltimore because of his high
qualifications," the former governor and Baltimore mayor said.

Schaefer said he suspected White was pushed out. He said the governor
should not accept the resignation and should give White the authority
to run the port and hire deputies as he sees fit.

Appointees

White supporters, who had written fervent appeals to the governor and
others recently to protect his job, contended that White was being
forced to accept political appointees with no maritime experience. One
appointee mentioned was Gregory J. Maddalone, a former figure skater
without a college degree who was given a job as the port's legislative
liaison officer.

White said that of about 10 political appointees in his office of 298,
one had maritime experience. He said he had no input on their
positions.

However, Flanagan, the transportation secretary, denied that. He also
said the issue of appointees, which he put at 16, was overblown.

"Certainly there was, I think, a very reasonable number of changes
during the transition with the new governor. Sixteen of 300 is very
reasonable," he said.

One change that stirred dissatisfaction among port customers - a
decision to close the port's sales offices in Chicago and Detroit - is
being reconsidered, he said. The agency is leaning in favor of
consolidating them into one office.

Director's backers

White's supporters included customers - such as executives of
Mediterranean Shipping Co. and John Deere & Co., who'd written strong
letters on his behalf - and longshoremen, who are concerned that a drop
in business would curtail jobs.

"I think it's a grave error," said Roland Day, an official with the
1,100-member International Longshoremen's Association Local 333. "Mr.
White has been instrumental in maintaining and growing the volume of
work that comes through here. It'll be devastating if he leaves,
because he's been so robust and aggressive in selling the port."

Once the major port in the Mid-Atlantic, Baltimore's industrial
waterfront struggled during the mid-1990s, as many businesses chose the
port at Hamp-

ton Roads, Va., rather than ship goods 10 more hours up the Chesapeake
Bay. About the time he became director, White bemoaned advertisements
the Virginia ports placed in the trade journals pointing out
Baltimore's lack of consistent leadership as a key reason customers
should choose them instead.

But after taking over, White was able to persuade container carrier
Mediterranean and several auto manufacturers to sign long-term
contracts in Baltimore. Shipping volume at the Baltimore facility rose
to more than 7.4 million tons last year, up from 5.2 million tons in
1993, when White arrived.

'Significant impact'

"I think it's going to have a significant impact," Sen. James E.
DeGrange Sr., an Anne Arundel County Democrat who chairs a subcommittee
that oversees the port, said of White's departure. "I'm sad to say
we're going to start to see these contracts that were maybe going to
come to the port will not because of the loss of a true professional."

"I can't imagine a port professional who can be recruited for this job
under the current circumstances," said Del. Peter Franchot, who leads
the subcommittee on the House side that oversees the port's budget. The
Montgomery County Democrat referred to the hiring of Maddalone, the
former figure skater, as he contemplated White's resignation.

"It wouldn't surprise me," he said, "if they were recruiting Tonya
Harding to replace him."
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-02-28 21:49:33 UTC
Permalink
Port in a storm

February 27, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)


ASK ANYONE in the shipping industry: James J. White is top drawer.
Labor, management, government, it doesn't matter. He's the best thing
to happen to the Port of Baltimore in the modern era. Don't take our
word for it. That's what the port's longtime guardian, Helen Delich
Bentley, thinks, too. "We've never had a better port executive," the
Republican former congresswoman said recently. Mr. White's resignation
as head of the Maryland Port Administration is a huge blow to
Baltimore, to the state's business community and to Maryland's economy.


And here's the worst of it: There's no good reason why Mr. White had to
resign. To put it bluntly, he couldn't stand all the interference he
received from Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan. He
was particularly aghast at some of the people he's been forced to hire,
most of whom had no experience in his industry. No offense to Gregory
J. Maddalone, the ice dancer engaged by Mr. Flanagan as the port's
legislative liaison, but what's the deal with that? Mr. White probably
can't perform a triple lutz, but he knows a heck of a lot more about
running a port than Mr. Flanagan.

Mr. Flanagan counters that the administration has introduced only 16
new employees to the MPA since Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. became governor.
The agency has a payroll of more than 300. No matter. The only employee
who really counts here is Mr. White. His departure has already raised
doubts about future expansion plans for one of the port's biggest
shippers. E. Lorenzo Di Casagrande of Mediterranean Shipping Co.
complained earlier this month of a "complete deterioration in service
and professionalism" at the port. That should have set off alarm bells.


The port remains a critical employer in this state. Not just because it
accounts for 18,000 jobs but because these are well-paid blue-collar
jobs, the kind that are in short supply in Maryland and elsewhere. Mr.
Ehrlich should be particularly sensitive to this. He knows GM's
Broening Highway plant closes in a matter of weeks. Bethlehem Steel is
long gone. The maritime industry is highly competitive. Mr. White's
value was in his three decades of experience and personal relationships
in an industry that is cool to outsiders. In rival ports from Norfolk
to New York, they must be delighted with all the tumult in Baltimore.

The MPA needs a qualified replacement, and it needs one fast. Mr.
Flanagan was wise to appoint the redoubtable Mrs. Bentley to head the
search. He's promised to reconsider some planned layoffs in the port's
marketing department and the closing of at least one of the port's
Midwestern offices. He also says the next director will have full
responsibility for hiring and firing. But this may be a classic case of
closing the barn door a day too late.

Baltimore won't know the full effect of Mr. White's departure for a
year or two. But even Mr. Flanagan must recognize that one of the
state's most vital economic engines has needlessly been placed in
jeopardy. Maryland shouldn't have to pay such a price for the sake of
mere cronyism.
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-01 15:44:33 UTC
Permalink
To a beleaguered governor, unpalatable slots bill is a win

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

Originally published Mar 1, 2005


GO FIGURE. After two years of frustration over his failed slot machine
hustle, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich gets handed a gambling package he cannot
stomach and yet wishes to declare a great victory. He practically did
cartwheels for the TV cameras last week, and went outside in the cold
and threw snowballs like a schoolboy. Somebody explain to this poor guy
that it's only halftime, and he's up by a single point.

"Excuse me," somebody said to Michael Busch in the aftermath of the
House of Delegates' squeaky and tentative approval of slots, "but does
the governor not understand the corner he's in?"

"He's pretty amazing," said the House speaker.

"But doesn't he get what's happened?"

"I think he does get it," Busch said. "That's what makes it amazing."

If the history of the Ehrlich administration were written today, it
would read like a coroner's report. Put aside, for the moment, the last
two years, in which its most glorious achievement is the flush tax. And
just consider some recent days.

In the midst of bitter debate, the House approved a slots measure by
the thinnest possible margin Friday. But the devil's still in the
details. The House wants one type of slots bill; the Senate wants
another. Busch says he will not change one line of the House version
("not a comma," he says), while Ehrlich and Senate President Thomas V.
Mike Miller insist on heavy changes. But some delegates, who held their
noses and supported the House measure, say they'll change their votes
if any alterations are made.

Which could leave Ehrlich, the famously uncompromising governor, in a
position not unlike a couple of months ago, when he called a special
session on medical malpractice insurance, got almost - "almost," that's
the key - everything he said he wanted, and still vetoed the thing.

"I've never seen anything like that," Busch was saying now. "Every
doctor, every hospital, every nursing home saying he stopped the
problem, he's got a great victory - and then he drops the ball."

But last week's slots vote - and the image of this governor happily
throwing snowballs after what he seems to perceive as a triumphant
moment - gives us some notion of what this beleaguered administration
considers victory these days. It is getting pummeled everywhere
(except, of course, on talk radio, where the only thing thrown at
Ehrlich softer than snowballs are the questions).

The state has been sued at least six times since Ehrlich took office by
workers who alleged they were fired for their political affiliation.
That is against the law. One case cost the state $100,000 in an
out-of-court settlement. Democrats, pushing for an investigation of
hiring and firing practices, now say hundreds have lost their jobs
without cause.

"I've seen so many people thrown out of their jobs like an old bag of
wheat, it makes me sick to my stomach," Busch said. "Good, decent human
beings who get two hours to clear out their desks. And that's comical
to the Ehrlich people."

The "comical" reference is declared bitterly. Annapolis is still
dissecting information about Ehrlich harboring the self-described
Prince of Darkness, Joseph Steffen, who apparently acted as one of the
governor's hatchet men when he wasn't spreading rumors about Mayor
Martin O'Malley's marriage.

With that story still in the air came news last week that the port of
Baltimore had lost its director, James J. White, who finally had enough
with continuing ham-handed political interference from the Ehrlich
people.

White was immediately saluted as "the best executive director the port
of Baltimore has ever had" by Helen Bentley, the former U.S.
congresswoman and port consultant. Bentley, it should be noted, is a
Republican. She has been tapped to find a replacement for White. She
understands an important fact here: Jobs like White's aren't supposed
to be about politics. They're about competence, a word that seems to be
foreign to this administration.

"The port," a concerned Bentley said yesterday, "is our last major
center of blue-collar jobs." About 18,000 of them, actually, and pretty
decent-paying jobs at that. And White's exit follows hard on the heels
of angry comments from both lawmakers and Maryland shipping interests
over what they describe as continuing political interference with port
management.

"This guy [White] was given kudos by everyone who worked in the
shipping industry, bay pilots, the longshoremen's union, the shipping
lines," says Busch. "He was extremely fair and knowledgeable. The
port's never been in better shape. And all that's built on
personalities."

"It's another example," said South Baltimore Del. Brian McHale, "where
they don't fire you, they just make your life miserable. White's the
Hank Aaron of the industry, and they put utility players in to replace
him. Like this ice skater they've brought in."

He means Gregory J. Maddalone, a former professional ice dancer brought
in by the Ehrlich people to be the port's legislative liaison.

"You expect political appointments," McHale said, "but this is blatant.
... I have never seen this level of incompetence, in politics or at the
port. And White was the most apolitical guy around. He stayed away from
politics. So he gets weeded out for political expedience."

In such an atmosphere, last week's razor-thin, tentative House vote on
slots looks like a fabulous political triumph. At least to Ehrlich. In
the current political Ice Age, he's the one out there throwing
snowballs.
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-11 21:43:56 UTC
Permalink
Steffen had ties to Ehrlich inner circle, e-mails suggest

by Ivan Penn (Baltimore Sun Staff)

March 5, 2005


Annapolis lawmakers renewed calls yesterday for an independent
investigation of the Ehrlich administration's management practices
after e-mail messages released this week suggested that a state worker
fired for spreading rumors about Mayor Martin O'Malley had ties to Gov.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s inner circle.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh and Del. Peter Franchot, Montgomery County
Democrats, said several e-mails sent and received by fired worker
Joseph F. Steffen indicate that he was more than what the Ehrlich
administration termed a "rogue operation."

In e-mails given to The Sun and other news organizations -- and
unrelated to the O'Malley rumors -- Steffen describes himself as "a
special assistant to the governor" and as someone "specifically
directed by the governor" to speak to management and personnel issues.

Several of Steffen's e-mails to a Department of Human Resources
official were copied to such senior Ehrlich administration officials as
appointments secretary Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.; Mary Beth Carozza, deputy
chief of staff; and chief counsel Jervis S. Finney, who is heading the
probe of Steffen's activities.

Ehrlich fired Steffen last month after it came to light that he
contributed to spreading rumors on a conservative Web site about
O'Malley's marriage. Steffen has been criticized for fostering fear
among workers and generating a list of who would be fired.

Steffen could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"I think it's time for an independent investigation of the integrity of
the governor's office," Franchot said yesterday. "Mr. Finney is
involved with these e-mails, and there are probably hundreds of other
e-mails."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said legislative leaders would have a
statement Tuesday in response to the e-mails.

The Ehrlich administration said yesterday that Steffen wrongly
described in his e-mails the authority that he wielded within the human
resources department, where he was working. Administration officials
also said Steffen never held a position as "special assistant to the
governor."

Moreover, the administration insisted that Finney is the appropriate
person to conduct the inquiry into Steffen's activities.

"The administration is confident in the progress of the investigation
and asks that it be allowed to continue before any rash decisions are
made," said Shareese DeLeaver, an Ehrlich spokeswoman.

In his response to questions about his contact with Steffen, Finney
said he was ensuring the agency ran smoothly as personnel issues were
being considered. "My effort was to ask the people in the Department of
Human Services to be sure to cooperate with each other in the
governor's mission," Finney said.

Steffen mostly worked for the human resources and juvenile services
departments, and the Maryland Insurance Administration.

The e-mails released this week included exchanges within the human
resources department between September and December 2003. Most were
exchanges between Steffen and Byron Harris, chief of staff to human
resources Secretary Christopher J. McCabe, about personnel, meetings
and management issues.

"Though it really doesn't need to be said, I have full authority,
indeed I am at times directed/mandated, to contact individuals directly
regarding meeting and other requests on behalf of the governor,"
Steffen wrote in a Dec. 12, 2003, e-mail to Harris.

But a spokesman for human resources said Steffen acted without the
authority of the department.
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-11 21:46:29 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich's business record debated

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

March 6, 2005


As Maryland's first Republican chief executive in more than a
generation, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. promised to bring a fresh ethos
to a state with a reputation for high taxes and burdensome regulations.


"The message has been that Maryland is not open for business," Ehrlich
told his opponent, then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, during a
Chamber of Commerce candidates forum in 2002. In two of his three State
of the State addresses, the governor has declared that his victory
means Maryland is now "open for business."

But recent disclosures about how the Ehrlich administration is handling
one of the state's most potent economic engines - the port of Baltimore
- could weaken Ehrlich's pro-industry credentials, business leaders and
politicians say.

Respected, longtime port chief James J. White resigned last month after
what his defenders said was meddling by recent Ehrlich political
appointees with virtually no experience in the maritime industry.

"We're all concerned about it," said Diane Kraus, president of the
Baltimore Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association. "It's our
livelihoods."

In other agencies, accusations have surfaced that the governor's aides
are digging deep into the bureaucracy to replace skilled workers with
less-experienced newcomers whose chief qualifications are Republican
loyalty.

A Democrat, Kraus voted for Ehrlich largely because she liked his
pro-business message. She said she's not giving up on the governor. But
at the port, she said, "the politicking doesn't help matters."

All told, critics say, Ehrlich's desire to portray himself as a smart
manager who can run a government with efficiency that would make the
private sector proud is under assault.

"The line that they use is that they are pro-business, and Maryland is
not a business-friendly state," said Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., an
Anne Arundel County Democrat who chairs a subcommittee that oversees
the port.

But forcing out knowledgeable leaders at the port and other agencies is
hardly smart management, he said.

"It certainly goes totally against what the Republican administration
has tried to stand for," DeGrange said. "If you have an airport that is
run well, and a port that is running well, leave them alone and let
them operate well."

Supporters of the governor say that he continues to make wise
decisions, and that his administration is a boon to commerce in
Maryland.

"This guy is a shining beacon for business. And I can't overstate it,"
said Edward F. Hale Sr., a banker and developer who made a personal
fortune running barge lines and a trucking company at the port.

No fan of White's, Hale called the furor over the port director's
ouster "much ado about nothing."

"The port is much bigger than any single person," he said. "I think
[Ehrlich] will be able to get somebody in here equal to the task."

Politicians and business leaders have debated for decades whether
Maryland is a healthy climate for private-sector jobs. The state has a
high personal income tax when the county or local "piggyback" portion
is added in, but sales taxes are below those in many states.

Some critics point to Maryland's strict environmental and anti-sprawl
laws, and mandates for medical coverage, as excessive governmental
rules.

But the state consistently has enjoyed below-average unemployment, in
large part because of the proximity of the heart of federal government
and its job and contracting opportunities. Personal income is high;
workers are well-educated.

"Ehrlich's assertion that Maryland is an unfriendly business climate is
not supported by any facts," said Richard C. Mike Lewin, former head of
the Department of Business and Economic Development under Ehrlich's
predecessor, Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"And subsequently, what he has done with the port, and what he has done
by cutting into the sinew of state government, with the people who
actually do the work, is creating a much worse business climate, not a
better one," Lewin said.

Ehrlich has received the backing of the National Federation of
Independent Business and apparently is so comfortable around business
interests that he feels he can chastise them.

The governor hushed a ballroom packed with 300 business leaders in
April when he told them they were ineffective in Annapolis because
lawmakers didn't feel enough pressure to vote against taxes. "We need
you to get dangerous," he told them.

Still, the notion that Republicans are the preferred candidates of
business interests does not hold up to scrutiny, said James G. Gimpel,
a University of Maryland government professor. Business groups spread
their money to politicians of every stripe because they are more
concerned with having their voices heard than with ideology, he said.

"Business casts its contributions quite widely, because they want to
work with whoever is in office," Gimpel said. "Businesses are very
opportunistic. What they most want is access."

Under that theory, as an incumbent with broad financial and policy
powers at his disposal, Ehrlich runs only minimal risk of a large
defection of business interests.

For now, Gimpel said, Ehrlich is using his prerogatives as chief
executive, and White's forced departure is an example.

"The governor needs to bring all agencies of state government under his
control," Gimpel said. "It surprises me it has taken him this long to
replace that guy."

While maintaining a no-new-taxes pledge that is welcomed by the
business community, the governor has pushed other initiatives that are
less palatable to them. He has proposed a variety of fee increases,
including a vehicle-registration boost last year. This year, retailers
are opposing the proposed elimination of credit they get for collecting
sales tax.

But, for many, the good far outweighs the bad.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll County Republican who consistently
scores high marks on business-vote rankings, said he was impressed when
Ehrlich agency heads in charge of economic development, transportation
and the environment spoke against legislation that would bring
California-style vehicle emissions standards to Maryland.

"It's the first time in my history here that Cabinet secretaries have
testified against this kind of bill," Haines said. "That reflects the
fact that we have a very pro-business administration."
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-11 22:01:24 UTC
Permalink
Sun filing appeal on Ehrlich ban

by David Dishneau (The Associated Press)

Originally published March 11, 2005, 4:27 PM EST


Maryland's biggest newspaper said today it will take its First
Amendment fight with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to the 4th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. next week unless the two sides can
reach a settlement.

The Sun has until Wednesday to appeal a Feb. 14 U.S. District Court
ruling dismissing the paper's lawsuit challenging an Ehrlich order that
barred state employees from talking to two Sun writers.

Neither side seemed conciliatory at a newspaper industry meeting today
in Pikesville, where Paul E. Schurick, chief spokesman for the
first-term Republican governor, all but accused The Sun of printing
biased news stories.

"This is a newspaper that didn't want Bob Ehrlich to win this election
and I am convinced will go to extraordinary lengths to try to ensure
that he doesn't win re-election if he runs next year," Schurick said.

Sun Editor Timothy A. Franklin countered that his paper has "really
been the subject of an unprecedented smear campaign by the
administration." He cited several recent examples of Ehrlich and other
state officials publicly disparaging the accuracy of Sun stories that
Franklin said were correct.

"We don't take it lightly when falsehoods are being spread about our
newspaper," Franklin said.

Yet both men, sitting on a panel sponsored by The Associated Press at
the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association meeting, said they hoped
the dispute would be settled without further litigation.

Schurick also had praise for one of the writers, David Nitkin, whose
promotion from Sun statehouse bureau chief to state political editor
was announced today. "I have great respect for him. I think he's a very
good journalist and he's a good guy," Schurick said.

Schurick revealed that it was his idea to "pull the plug" on Nitkin and
columnist Michael Olesker Nov. 18 because Ehrlich felt they weren't
reporting objectively on his administration.

"It was my recommendation," Schurick said. "It was something that I
wasn't particularly comfortable with but I wouldn't hesitate to do
again if I find myself in the same situation."

The Sun filed a federal lawsuit in December claiming the order violated
the writers' First Amendment rights by denying them the same
opportunities to seek information as anyone else. Judge William D.
Quarles Jr. dismissed the complaint, ruling the paper hadn't shown it
had suffered irreparable harm.

Franklin called it a "terrible, terrible, awful ruling."

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press, a national advocacy group based in Arlington,
Va., agreed when asked about the dispute later in the meeting.

"When journalists can't do their jobs, the voting public doesn't have
the information it needs to make decisions in this democracy," she
said.

Dalglish also said it was "insane" for Ehrlich to retaliate instead of
discussing his differences with the Sun "like a grown-up."

"You would think that if you rise to that level in public office, that
you've developed some sort of thick skin," she said.
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-14 15:52:34 UTC
Permalink
E-mails show Steffen not 'irrelevant,' 'mid-level'

by Michael Olesker

Originally published Mar 14, 2005


IN THE continuing saga of Official State Dirtball Joseph Steffen, a new
name enters the mix: Kendel S. Ehrlich. It turns out, the day before
Steffen was to be outed for spreading filth about Mayor Martin
O'Malley, he turned to the first lady of Maryland for a shoulder to cry
on. Relax, Kendel Ehrlich told Steffen, we need you. The next day,
Steffen was shoved offstage. As Shakespeare didn't quite say: Out, out,
damned Dirtball.

The Kendel Ehrlich e-mail was the most fascinating item uncovered by
two dozen reporters scrounging through 14,500 pages of e-mails and
other documents the Ehrlich administration reluctantly released Friday.
They did it because The Sun and nine other news organizations filed
Freedom of Information Act requests. But the governor's advisers held
back thousands more pages, citing legal reasons.

The records were requested because everybody wants to know just how
close this Steffen was to the inner circle of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich
Jr. "Irrelevant to our world," Ehrlich press secretary Paul E. Schurick
said this month.

Right.

We already know Steffen goes back to Ehrlich's early political days,
when his campaigns were regularly accused of playing dirty tricks. We
already knew that Steffen, under scrutiny for his alleged role in
politically motivated dismissals of scores of state workers, is known
as the Prince of Darkness. But we now learn, according to a Steffen
e-mail, that it was Ehrlich himself who bestowed the nickname on
Steffen.

"Having been dubbed the Prince of Darkness by the governor during his
1994 run for Congress does have its burdens," Steffen wrote to an
inner-circle group that included the governor's speech writer, his
deputy appointments secretary, two deputy press secretaries and two
others. He went on to describe "two separate occasions" when Ehrlich
and Secretary of Appointments Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. walked into
receptions, saw Steffen and, "shout[ed] out, 'Prince of Darkness.'"

Such hilarity! Such fun! And never mind any hatchet-man reasons behind
such a swell nickname.

We also know, of course, that Steffen was throwing around rumors about
the mayor of Baltimore's sex life, and we've already been told, in
previously outed Steffen e-mails, that "a lot of the reason everybody
knows [O'Malley's] history is because of what has gone on beneath the
surface. ... A few folks put in a lot of effort to ensure the story got
some real float."

A few folks? Which folks? Nobody around here, the Ehrlich folks insist.
In their mad scramble to distance themselves from Steffen, they've not
only called him "irrelevant to our world," but a mere "mid-level" state
functionary who had no meaningful access to the Ehrlich inner circle.

So here's a question:

Who among us, seen by the company's big shots as "irrelevant to our
world" and "mid-level," instinctively turns to the boss's wife when we
get ourselves into trouble?

There are roughly 50,000 state employees (not including the state
higher-education system). If Steffen was merely a "mid-level" guy, what
does that mean? That 25,000 other state employees feel comfortable
reaching out to Kendel Ehrlich when things get sticky?

In his e-mail to the first lady of Maryland, Steffen says he will "not
hesitate to throw myself on the grenade if that is what I think is
needed - or is desired from above."

This is fine macho John Wayne-type language, but it raises another
question:

Why did Steffen sense any conceivable need to throw himself on a
grenade? In wartime, such selfless gestures are made to protect others.
In this case - protection from what? If Steffen is merely this rogue
operative going his own way, as Ehrlich's people insist, then why would
anyone in the governor's inner circle need protection?

Last Friday, at the same time Ehrlich's staff was releasing the 14,500
pages of e-mails, they were simultaneously issuing a statement from
Schurick. The intent was to offer further distance from Steffen. The
statement says the governor is "deeply troubled and disappointed that
any member of his administration would act in mean-spirited ways," and
that Ehrlich is "appalled that Steffen also trafficked in insensitive
and mean-spirited words."

This, from the guy whose previous campaigns roused cries of "dirty
tricks" by fellow Republican Thomas W. Chamberlain, and by Democrats
Gerry L. Brewster, Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis and Kathleen Kennedy
Townsend. This, from the guy who accused House Speaker Michael E. Busch
of "playing the race card" because he disagreed with him over slots.
This, from the guy who went on the radio to call multiculturalism
"crap" when he thought it might score a few political points.

With much of the talk about Dirtball Steffen revolving around his
alleged role in politically motivated dismissals of state workers, last
week's Schurick statement goes on to deny Steffen had any such role
because "the record of his tenure makes the lack of any managerial or
personnel authority plainly apparent."

The governor's folks seem to have no concept of the word "authority."

This is the administration that brought in a fellow named Gregory J.
Maddalone, whose previous work experience was professional ice dancing,
and made him the port of Baltimore's legislative liaison. This, while
making conditions so unlivable for the highly esteemed (and apolitical)
James J. White that he left his job as port director.

Thus adding White to a whole list of state employees who were pushed
from their jobs, or simply jumped in exasperation.
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-18 18:38:37 UTC
Permalink
Miller seeks leverage by blocking Ehrlich nominees

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

March 16, 2005


Escalating a political feud over the Ehrlich administration's hiring
and firing of key government staffers, Senate President Thomas V. Mike
Miller this week held up appointment of dozens of nominees who need
approval from lawmakers to stay in their jobs.

Miller, a Democrat, wants a stronger say for his party in the
appointment of two Democrats to the five-member state Board of
Elections. Party leaders also say he wants to strengthen his hand for
final negotiations with Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on key
bills as the General Assembly session enters its final month.

"This is the only leverage we have," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, an
Anne Arundel County Democrat and chairman of the Executive Nominations
Committee, which votes on appointments. "It's all part of the
legislative process of maneuvering."

Among the 82 nominees caught in the crossfire are former Baltimore
County Sen. Francis X. Kelly Jr., named by Ehrlich to the university
system's Board of Regents, and Robert A. Rohrbaugh, appointed last year
as state prosecutor.

Kelly, who switched parties and now is a Republican, said yesterday
that he spoke to Miller and urged him to move forward with the
appointments. "This is very unusual. It never happened before," said
Kelly. "I'm not taking it personally, but it is disrespectful to the 90
private citizens brought into the middle of an Annapolis food fight."

Administration officials say Miller's action and a variety of budget
cuts taking place this week amount to political retribution by
Democrats concerned about what they say is Ehrlich's political
housecleaning in a variety of agencies.

Lawmakers on a budget committee in recent days have eliminated dozens
of positions filled by the governor, and have abolished an entire
sub-Cabinet agency - the Governor's Office of Children, Youth and
Families - whose leaders have close ties to first lady Kendel S.
Ehrlich.

"They are, in fact, doing everything they've accused us of doing," said
Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., the governor's appointments secretary. "Every
day, they are systematically targeting more and more Ehrlich people."

Sen. Andrew P. Harris, the GOP whip from Baltimore County, questioned
the value of Miller's strategy, noting that Ehrlich could reappoint his
chosen nominees after the General Assembly adjourned next month. They
could then serve a year as interim appointments.

Miller appeared undaunted yesterday. "It could be a permanent hold on
all these nominees, quite frankly," he said. "I wouldn't be averse to
doing that."

Miller insisted he had substantive reasons for his actions. He
questioned the objectivity of Rohrbaugh, head of a Republican club in
Montgomery County and a former committee lawyer for Republican Indiana
Rep. Dan Burton, who investigated questionable fund-raising activities
by Al Gore.

The Senate president also challenged the qualifications of the
governor's nominees to boards that regulate utility companies and
oversee workers' compensation claims.

"I think what we are looking for is objectivity on the part of these
nominees," Miller said.

Miller also accuses Ehrlich of ignoring the wishes of leading Democrats
regarding the two Democratic appointees to the state Board of
Elections.

Remaking agencies

The delay on nominations comes against a backdrop of legislators'
concerns over how the Ehrlich administration has sought to remake
various state agencies under its control.

Lawmakers say that several former Ehrlich congressional staffers,
including former aide Joseph F. Steffen Jr., were dispatched to several
agencies, compiling lists of workers to be replaced. Steffen was forced
to resign after acknowledging he helped spread Internet rumors about
Mayor Martin O'Malley.

Democratic lawmakers say that Ehrlich is using staffers such as Steffen
to reach deeper than ever into agencies, and either firing or forcing
the resignation of relatively low-level employees to make way for those
loyal to the governor. They have vowed hearings on the issue after the
legislative session is over.

Aides to the governor deny the allegations and say that the
administration is acting properly in replacing workers who serve at the
pleasure of the governor.

Hogan yesterday accused Democrats of engaging in the same sort of
partisan witch-hunt of which they accuse Republicans. He said budget
committees are targeting Ehrlich appointees and priorities as they make
cuts to governor's proposed spending plan.

There is some evidence to support the claim. Yesterday, the House
Appropriations Committee slashed the salary of Michael T. Richard, head
of the Maryland Energy Administration, by $20,000. Richard is a former
assistant appointments secretary and nuclear industry lobbyist who has
overseen a large turnover in the energy agency, with at least one
former Capitol Hill staffer coming in.

The committee also cut the salary of James F. Ports Jr., the deputy
transportation secretary who is former House minority whip, by $6,000.
At least two dozen other positions, many of which are filled by Ehrlich
appointees, also were cut.

The committee's decision to dismantle the Office of Children, Youth and
Families also has political overtones.

The agency, long criticized as dysfunctional, was set to dissolve this
year until Ehrlich proposed legislation to make it a permanent Cabinet
agency.

Yesterday's committee action eliminated 21 of 40 jobs in the agency,
including those of M. Teresa Garland, special secretary, and Denise C.
Sulzbach, director of interagency policy, development and
implementation. The remaining positions are to be disbursed among
various agencies. Garland and Sulzbach worked with Kendel Ehrlich as
prosecutors in the Harford County state's attorney's office.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch defended the decision as a wise fiscal
move. "This was not some kind of concocted effort to retaliate for any
issue," he said.

'Have to draw the line'

Lawmakers have raised questions about some Ehrlich nominees since the
governor took office. But only one has been rejected. The Senate
refused to allow Lynn Y. Buhl, a former automobile industry attorney,
to serve as secretary of the Department of the Environment in 2003; she
now has another position in the administration.

Since then, however, Busch and other lawmakers have criticized firings
and staff changes in several independent agencies, such as the Public
Service Commission and the Maryland Insurance Administration.

The concerns grew a week ago, when the Senate delayed the approval
Karen A. Smith, an attorney who is the governor's intergovernmental
affairs chief, as a Public Service commissioner. Some lawmakers say
that Smith has been too overtly political. E-mails released last week
showed she knew Steffen, the ousted aide, and had personal
conversations with him.

"At some point, you have to draw the line," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a
Montgomery County Democrat. "She does not bowl you over with her
qualifications."
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-03-29 21:46:48 UTC
Permalink
The good steward

March 27, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)


IT'S BAD form to mock the newly converted, no matter how self-serving
their motivations. So we are just happy to hear that Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr. and his fellow Republicans in Annapolis have seen the
light. They now support a constitutional amendment to limit the Board
of Public Works' power to sell state-owned parkland. Well, hallelujah.
Anything that can prevent another debacle like the Ehrlich
administration's attempt to sell 836 acres of environmentally sensitive
land in St. Mary's County to developer Willard Hackerman is good news.

But our joy is not unbounded. The Republicans simply recognized their
political plight in 2006. Whether they liked it or not, the issue is
headed to next year's ballot and plenty of Maryland voters are
displeased by the administration's real estate liquidation mentality.
They want a governor who is a good steward of the land, not a real
estate broker trying to earn his blazer. Mr. Ehrlich can read polls,
too. He knows he's going to get pounded on the issue by Democrats.

Voters are apt to remain suspicious, too. If they show up motivated to
vote for land conservation, are they likely to tap the screen for Mr.
Ehrlich, too? Maybe not. The governor's conservation credentials could
be improved further. And there's a relatively simple way he can do it.

Over the last four years, nearly $400 million has been taken out of
Program Open Space, Maryland's fund for the government purchase of
parks and conservation areas. Open Space has become the state's
Christmas Club account, with Mr. Ehrlich dipping in annually with no
promise of a future payback. Granted, a year or two of this may be
reasonable when the economy is in recession and tax revenue is down.
But four straight years is not a short-term fix, it's verging on
long-term public policy.

This year, the governor has proposed diverting another $163 million
from the Program Open Space account. That's simply too much.
Fortunately, the House and Senate are moving to restore $60 million to
$83 million of that cut. But there's no guarantee that Mr. Ehrlich
won't be back next year doing the same thing.

Here's the solution. The governor must promise to leave Program Open
Space whole in the future. And he needs to go one step further: Repay
the past diversions. A bill that would require just that (and cap
future diversions) is pending in the legislature, and he should endorse
it. The measure calls for the governor to set aside $50 million each
year for repayments.

That's a sensible idea. The goals of Program Open Space are supported
by 88 percent of Maryland voters, according to a recent poll. Restoring
its funding would go a long way to preserving farmland, protecting
drinking water, creating parks and restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-04-04 15:04:35 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich's legislative priorities sputter as session winds down

by Andrew A. Green (Baltimore Sun Staff)

April 4, 2005


With a week to go in the legislative session, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich
Jr. has yet to see a single vote cast against any of his proposals on
the floor of the House of Delegates this year.

But that's because only his least-contentious ideas have made it
through the legislative process, while others have stalled, giving him
a mixed record at this point in the last session before attention
shifts to next year's election.

Ehrlich proclaimed 2005 the "year of the child" when unveiling his
agenda, and he has won successes on a package of bills to extend the
time teenage drivers have provisional licenses and increase penalties
for underage drunken driving.

But his bill to step up lead paint enforcement has yet to make it to
the floor of the Senate. And his effort to elevate the Office of
Children, Youth and Families to Cabinet-level status was so badly
gutted by a House committee that Republican delegates last week amended
the bill to remove Ehrlich from the list of sponsors.

Other priority bills, including tax credits for veterans, additional
medical malpractice lawsuit reforms, and measures to stop witness
intimidation and to legalize slot machines, have stalled in one chamber
or the other.

"There have been a lot of games played with some of his initiatives,
most notably [the children's office proposal], but they're simply that,
games," said Ehrlich communications director Paul E. Schurick. "Cool
heads will prevail."

It's common for a governor's bills to get stuck until the very end of
the session, as legislative leaders hold up passage for leverage on
other issues. Many bills could be approved in the final hours before
the session's April 11 close.

Still, Ehrlich's record for brokering last-minute legislative
compromises is not strong -- and his store of good will among
Democratic leaders was diminished by a rancorous special session over
medical malpractice in December.

Democrats likely will try in the next election to paint the governor as
more interested in blaming the legislature for his failures than in
doing the work needed to pass his initiatives.

But Ehrlich probably will argue that he has won key victories in spite
of a legislature stacked 2-to-1 with members of the other party. Among
those successes are last year's vote on the so-called flush tax to help
clean the Chesapeake Bay, and an increase in car tag fees that has
funded transportation projects around the state.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, a Washington County Republican, said
Ehrlich's portrayal of the legislature as obstructionist is getting
through, and he predicts that voters will consider that in evaluating
his accomplishments.

"The governor on all these issues has shown a willingness to
compromise, and in return he gets slapped around by the legislature,"
Shank said. As a result, the governor will be "even more popular" in
districts like Shank's, the delegate said.

It looks unlikely at this point that the governor will be able to say
he delivered on his pledge to legalize slots. But if enough of his
financing plan for the Intercounty Connector is approved this year to
allow a groundbreaking on the proposed Washington-area highway, he can
point to a major promise kept when he campaigns next year in Montgomery
and Prince George's counties.

Montgomery is home to many liberal voters who will find fault with
whatever the governor does, but starting the ICC could change enough
minds in that Democratic stronghold to make a statewide victory
difficult for his opponent, said Tom J. Reinheimer, chairman of the
Montgomery County Republican Party.

"He can demonstrate he's actually doing something to work in improving
the transportation mess that's been developing," which is a major
headache for suburban Washington voters, Reinheimer said.

But Democrats say they see Ehrlich as more interested in raising issues
than in solving them.

He has worked for the last three years to bring slot machine gambling
to the forefront. But it landed in his 2005 legislative agenda as an
afterthought, and he has relied on Senate President Thomas V. Mike
Miller, a Democrat, to push a bill through the legislature.

Through intense lobbying, Ehrlich got an impressive 35 out of 43
Republican delegates to support a House slots bill, but he didn't
succeed in getting Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch to
negotiate a final compromise.

Ehrlich's medical malpractice reform bill, which he said was necessary
to make up for deficiencies in the compromise approved by the House and
Senate in December's special session, hasn't made it out of committee
in either chamber. Meanwhile, delegates crafted their own package of
limits on malpractice lawsuits without the governor's help.

"The one constant thing I don't see, and I haven't seen it in three
years, is reaching out to moderate and conservative Democrats and
building alliances with them," said Sen. James Brochin, a Towson
Democrat. "Reaching out to me and discussing the issues and showing me
why his issue is important could have easily convinced me."

Matthew Crenson, a political science professor at the Johns Hopkins
University, said the scope of Ehrlich's agenda this year suggests that
he has decided not to risk failure in the aftermath of the political
defeat he suffered when the special session he called ended in a bill
that he vetoed and that the legislature then overrode.

The governor is now saddled with disputes, Crenson said, such as the
aborted plan by members of his administration to sell preservation land
to a construction company owner, and the revelation that a longtime
aide was spreading rumors about Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's
private life. Ehrlich might easily have concluded that it's best to
stick to unobjectionable themes, such as "the year of the child,"
Crenson said.

"I think it's 'the year of the puppy' next year," he said.

Much of Ehrlich's 2002 campaign strategy was to run against what he
called the "culture of corruption" in Annapolis. He still can do that
by attacking the legislature, but it's a less powerful tactic for an
incumbent governor, said Thomas F. Schaller, a public policy professor
at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Schaller said Ehrlich also has to emphasize his accomplishments to be
re-elected. Many of his biggest victories, such as the flush tax and
improvements to the state's minority business program, appeal to
moderate and left-leaning voters, Schaller said.

"Ehrlich has been very adept at becoming this chameleon-like person,"
Schaller said. "The question is whether his sometimes
moderate-to-liberal policies will do damage to him among his base."

Schurick said the governor is proud of his record.

"In the difficult and highly charged environment Annapolis is today,
the governor is once again poised for a successful legislative
session," Schurick said. "The governor looks forward to presenting a
list of substantive accomplishments to the voters. He's anxious to do
that. He's very pleased with what has been achieved."
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-04-11 12:25:32 UTC
Permalink
It's the kids

Originally published April 11, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)


MARYLANDERS didn't need a whistleblower to point out critical fissures
in the state's child welfare system. For the Ehrlich administration to
spend all its energy protesting the actions of an erstwhile ally, whose
recently released e-mail exchanges with top department staff point out
glaring safety issues in Baltimore and elsewhere, while not denying the
substance of her messages, misses the point.
Better to spend the time attacking the problem - that way, things might
improve.

For example, the city's Department of Social Services and the
plaintiffs in a consent decree have disagreed for more than 16 years on
the actual number of caseworkers serving the city's 7,000 children in
foster care each year. The plaintiffs have claimed that the department
was artificially reducing the average caseload count by doing such
things as counting more people as caseworkers than were actually
working cases. That would help explain why the reported caseload count
average is closer to the consent-decree goal while state and federal
statistics show that 31 percent of children aren't seeing a caseworker
even once a month. Department secretaries through the years have denied
any such number-fudging, but have been unable to explain the wide
disparities in counts.

Now it turns out that children's cases have been assigned to empty
caseworker slots rather than actual workers, among other unusual
accounting practices, according to internal e-mail. With scores of
positions empty for years, such an error is grave. Children in crisis
get precious little assistance from ghost guardians.

Other children had trouble even getting into the system, especially if
their crises happened at night or on weekends, when the DSS intake
center was seriously understaffed. One e-mail cites an average of 200
calls coming into the center during shifts when just two people were
working. Some of the calls were reports of abuse that later ended in
children's deaths, suggesting that a fully staffed force might have
been able to save them.

The city's DSS has expanded the intake center, is hiring at a rate that
at least keeps up with turnover and now reports an intake caseload
ratio that, while 50 percent more than the consent-decree minimum, does
ring truer. While tardy and crisis-driven, these are improvements.

But its continued failure to ensure that foster parents pass background
checks, that a DSS worker sees each child at home once a month, that
all its school-age children are actually going to school - all mock the
promises the state made to the courts and children in the class-action
lawsuit.

Rather than meet its obligations to legislators, the public and the
children and families it promises to serve, this administration sees
conspiracy in the shadows. But there's no secret cabal making sure
caseworkers don't see the children in their care. That's just poor
management.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-04-12 11:46:48 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich has little to show at session end

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)


BY NOW, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. should be pacing his mansion and spraying
his throat. The governor of Maryland needs his vocal cords ready for
all those friendly talk-show appearances he'll be making now as he
attempts to rewrite the pitiful history of the last 90 days. Somebody
send this guy a lozenge. While you're at it, send him an introduction
to his own General Assembly.

Maybe if he'd been talking to legislators more instead of posing for
the TV cameras and buddying up to the radio boys, he'd have
accomplished something swell this year. It's an old American tradition:
The governor quietly invites grown-ups into his office, and each side
gives a little and takes a little, and in this manner we all get
something besides empty posturing.

Yesterday, the 2005 legislative session ended with Ehrlich newly
returned from his TV trip to Chesapeake Beach bingo machines to hustle
slots, and his TV appearance with adorable schoolchildren, and his TV
appearance with military veterans, and his regular trips to radio
stations where the talk-show hosts have leased space in the governor's
back pocket.

But as the session stumbled to its midnight close yesterday, the
governor had rolled snake eyes for the third straight winter on slots,
his legislative centerpiece, and would have been hard-pressed to point
out any other signs of major success. Every governor wants to declare
victory and go home after the long winter session. But how will this
guy do it?

"I don't know," House Speaker Michael Busch said yesterday. "He makes
up his own set of facts all the time."

"He's banking on people not caring," said Jann K. Jackson, executive
director of Advocates for Children and Youth, as she looked around the
State House. "He'll go on the radio and blame everybody else. And if
you're not paying attention, you don't know any differently."

Jackson remembers a couple of years ago, when Ehrlich ran for office
promising to reform juvenile justice. Promises, promises. Then she
heard Ehrlich call this the year of the child. Jackson sneers at the
phrase. For all the empty promises, she has seen the recent reports of
big juvenile-services money troubles and continuing accounts of child
abuse at detention centers. And she's seen the investigation, by this
newspaper, detailing troubles in foster homes -- often because there's
an absence of strong state oversight.

"Juvenile services," said Baltimore County Del. Bobby Zirkin, "is in
absolute free-fall. They're broke and already in the hole for next
year. Group homes are a complete disaster. And this administration
hasn't come up with a single creative idea. Not one."

Year of the child, indeed.

"Instead of working with the people he needs to work with -- his own
legislators -- the governor goes on the radio and blasts these people,"
said Howard County Del. Shane Pendergrass. "It's about good faith. He
says, 'The problem's with the legislature, I'm the good guy, they're
the bad guys.' If your agenda is blasting the other party, then he
accomplished something. If it's doing the state's work, then he's been
an abysmal failure."

This was the governor who opened the session calling for mutual
"respect" and bad-mouthed his opponents on the radio. He's the governor
who scrambled to avoid connection to the scurrilous rumors spread by
one of his aides about Martin O'Malley. He's the governor now facing
hearings about hirings and firings based on political leanings. He's
the governor who made slots the centerpiece of everything, and tried to
run the table.

"He's like somebody in need of intervention," said Montgomery County
Del. Peter Franchot. "He's all by himself. He has nothing to show in
this session, nothing but lint in his pockets. He needs competent
outside people to come in and tell him what to do.

"Did you see him down there?" Franchot said. He meant Ehrlich's
Chesapeake Beach bingo appearance, and he made a gesture like a man
pulling a handle on a slot machine. "He's there like it's 4 in the
morning, and he's trying desperately to get his money back. But you
reap what you sow. This is a governor who's refused to put in the hard
work for a compromise. He'd rather go on radio and TV. But he's
hijacked the legislature by linking 98 percent of everything he's
proposed to slot machines."

Republicans don't buy this, though they're not exactly singing hosannas
over the session. Eastern Shore Del. Michael Smigiel said his
constituents blame House Speaker Busch for the failure of slots. "They
say, 'Tell me who's running against him, and we'll back him,'" said
Smigiel.

On the House floor yesterday, Republican whip Anthony J. O'Donnell,
from Southern Maryland, said Democrats are telling one another, "We
can't let [Ehrlich] look good. If he looks good, he'll get re-elected
next year."

But, as the final hours ticked away yesterday, Baltimore Del. Curtis
Anderson wearily declared, "It's the same old story. Ehrlich will call
up the radio stations and blame the Democrats. He won't mention his own
part. Like medical malpractice. How do you call that a priority and not
even testify for it? We had an empty seat there. If that had been
William Donald Schaefer and he wanted something, you can bet he'd be in
the room, looking you in the eye. This guy just doesn't show up that
much. But he's on the radio, isn't he?"

So send your governor a throat lozenge. Or an introduction to his own
General Assembly.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-04-22 17:14:15 UTC
Permalink
For Ehrlich, bill-signing ceremony isn't much to write home about

By Andrew Green and Ivan Penn (Baltimore Sun Staff)

April 13, 2005


In a strained gathering yesterday on the day after the 2005 General
Assembly session closed, the governor, House speaker and Senate
president said little to each other in their traditional
post-legislative session bill-signing ceremony and highlighted no major
issues.

Governors usually focus on an important accomplishment of the session
in the day-after ceremony - last year it was funding for road projects,
the year before a health insurance program for Bethlehem Steel
retirees.

"I have nothing particularly insightful to say," Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich
Jr. said yesterday before grabbing a pen to sign 91 bills, including
funds for the Baltimore Zoo tram, a requirement for hepatitis C testing
for kickboxers and authorization for wine festivals in Montgomery
County.

He signed the bills with the usual parade of sponsors and political
interests, who were there to have their pictures taken as the governor
signed their bills, but he did it without any grand declarations about
the session or the bills.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch had just two words to say about the 2005
legislative session: "Long year."

After the ceremony, the governor said that he plans to veto a bill that
requires large employers - effectively, just Wal-Mart - to spend a
certain percentage of their payroll on worker health insurance or pay a
tax to make up the difference. He said he hasn't decided whether to
reject other bills, including a $1-an-hour increase in the minimum wage
and a measure to allow unmarried couples to make medical decisions for
each other.

Lawmakers overrode two of the governor's vetoes on bills to change
appointments to the board of elections and to restrict his ability to
strike international trade agreements. And Senate President Thomas V.
Mike Miller Jr. said the Assembly has the votes to override other
vetoes when the legislature reconvenes next winter.

Miller said he believes the legislature will have the votes to override
Ehrlich's veto of the Wal-Mart bill. "Come next January, I'm sure the
votes are going to be there," Miller said.

But Ehrlich said an override of the Wal-Mart bill would send the wrong
message to the business community and would put at risk the Arkansas
retailer's plans to build a new distribution center in Somerset County.

"It tells us that the business community has no push in this town,"
Ehrlich said. "It tells us the Maryland General Assembly is more
interested in punishing one business than economic development in the
state of Maryland. It tells us they are willing to put at risk 1,000
jobs in Somerset County."

The governor said he is also concerned about the effect a minimum-wage
increase could have on business but has not settled on a veto.

Ehrlich said he also has reservations about the bill on medical
decisions, which was a high priority for the state's gay community but
was criticized by social conservatives as a first step toward same-sex
marriage.

"We obviously have a very strong policy orientation toward protecting
traditional marriage," Ehrlich said. "On the other hand, ... I was
approached by a man and a woman, they were a couple, weren't married,
and their situation would have fallen in the reach of the bill."

Yesterday's bill-signing ceremony was the first of several that will
take place over the coming months.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-04-29 13:45:20 UTC
Permalink
Weighing the merits of Ehrlich complaints

by Paul Moore (Public Editor)

April 21, 2005


The following column by Sun Public Editor Paul Moore is being published
in an effort to provide readers with a timely report on a list of
complaints about Sun coverage compiled by the press office of Gov.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration. The list was given to Sun
executives at an off-the-record meeting in December. Mr. Moore, who
reports directly to the publisher and works independently of The Sun's
news and editorial page operations, has carefully investigated the
complaints on the list. The Ehrlich administration is expected to
release the list today, along with other materials related to the
governor's dispute with The Sun that led to the banning of two Sun
journalists.

LAST NOV. 18, all Maryland executive branch employees were banned from
speaking with two Sun journalists, columnist Michael Olesker and State
Bureau chief David Nitkin.

"Do not return calls or comply with any requests. The ban is in effect
until further notice," said the memo from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s
press office. The reason: Mr. Olesker and Mr. Nitkin were "failing to
objectively report" on state issues.

The ban is still in effect today.

Concerned about the ban and public assertions of unfair treatment of
the governor by The Sun, the newspaper's publisher and top editors
sought and ultimately gained an offthe- record meeting with Governor
Ehrlich and members of his staff Dec. 19.

At that private meeting, the governor's staff distributed a document
titled "Partial List of Inaccuracies, Omissions, Errors, and
Distortions by The (Baltimore) Sun's Reporters, Headline Writers and
Editorial Writers Regarding the Ehrlich-Steele Administration."

As The Sun's public editor, it is my responsibility to independently
review such material to determine whether errors have been made and how
they occurred and to suggest corrections to be published in the
newspaper.

To fulfill that responsibility, I received a copy of the list -- 23
items relating to news stories, editorials, headlines, columns and
graphics published in The Sun between 2001 and 2004. I reviewed the
items and interviewed people involved. The Sun has corrected or
clarified four items.

In the weeks after the Dec. 19 meeting, Governor Ehrlich alluded to
this list when he publicly accused The Sun of "serial inaccuracies" in
stories. On the radio and in interviews, he also claimed that some
stories had been made up.

A close analysis does not support such conclusions.

While there is no doubt that some mistakes have been made in The Sun's
coverage of the Ehrlich administration, there is no evidence of the
grievous, purposeful mistakes publicly referred to by the governor. As
I see it, those claims are grossly exaggerated.

Because the list was offered at an off-therecord meeting, I felt bound
not to speak or write publicly about it. There have not been specific
references to it in The Sun's news pages for the same reason.

Now, an April 7 letter from Jervis S. Finney, chief counsel for the
Ehrlich administration, asking for a "prompt public response" on the
list has removed that constraint, and the anticipated release of the
list by the administration in response to a state Public Information
Act request makes this assessment timely.

The complaints focus either on questions of factual accuracy or claims
of bias in articles and headlines that the Ehrlich administration
contends were not fairly balanced.

Making the list public is helpful, in my view, because it sheds
significant light on larger issues that have shadowed the governor's
dispute with The Sun.

Governor Ehrlich was clearly upset by Mr. Nitkin's coverage of a
proposal to sell preserved state land in St. Mary's County in a deal
that would have provided significant tax benefits to the purchaser,
developer Willard Hackerman.

A number of the listed complaints focused on stories about that
proposal, which sparked a political controversy.

For instance, one concerned an Oct. 20, 2004, front-page article
written by Mr. Nitkin that was accompanied by this headline: "Ehrlich
OK'd deal for land."

The list's grievance stated that "Governor Ehrlich never 'OK'd' any
deal for land. In addition, there was no deal at the time -- only
discussions."

The article was accurate, and Governor Ehrlich did act to move
consideration of the deal forward. But the headline word "OK'd" might
have suggested final approval. Therefore, the newspaper published this
"Clarification" on Dec. 28, 2004:

"A headline accompanying a front-page article in Oct. 20 editions of
The Sun, 'Ehrlich OK'd deal for land,' may have left readers with the
impression that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had given final approval to
a plan for sale of public lands. The article reported on testimony by
Maryland Department of General Services Secretary Boyd K. Rutherford,
in which Rutherford said Ehrlich was briefed in 2003 and 'said it was
worth pursuing.' Only the Board of Public Works, on which the governor
serves, can authorize final approval of any public land sale."

Other than the imprecise headline and an inaccurate map of preserved
state lands that ran on the front page Nov. 18, which was corrected and
apologized for the next day, The Sun's reporting of the land deal was,
in my view, fair, accurate and in the public interest.

Events that followed support that judgment.

The land proposal was aborted in early November. Subsequently, a
constitutional amendment to prevent the state Board of Public Works
from selling state-owned preservation land without legislative approval
was approved by the General Assembly with support from Governor
Ehrlich. Marylanders will vote on this proposed constitutional
amendment in the 2006 election.

The reporting on this matter stimulated a robust debate and may lead to
resolution of a potential problem. It illustrates how an unfettered
press does its job in helping protect citizens' right to information.

Another notable item on the list is a 2002 Sun editorial endorsing
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for governor. In it was this sentence: "Mr.
Ehrlich's running mate, state GOP chairman Michael S. Steele, brings
little to the team but the color of his skin." The administration's
list called it "remarkably insulting to the State's first
African-American statewide official," and has asked for an official
apology.

Editorial Page Editor Dianne Donovan has said publicly she regrets the
choice of words used in that part of the editorial but stands by the
point the editorial was trying to make, which is that Mr. Steele had
little experience relevant to serving as lieutenant governor,
particularly compared with his opponent, retired Adm. Charles R.
Larson, who had twice served as superintendent of the Naval Academy.

There is a clear division between the editorial pages and the news
pages at The Sun and other newspapers. Editorials are opinions,
supported by facts, reason and interpretation. The news operation is
completely separate. By including both news articles and editorials and
letters to the editor in the same list of grievances, the
administration has clouded that distinction.

The list claims that three columns by Mr. Olesker included quotes from
individuals that they denied making. In one case, Del. John S. Arnick
said he spoke with Mr. Olesker but claimed he was misquoted in a
January 2003 column. In another case, Paul E. Schurick, director of
communications for the administration, denied making the comments
attributed to him in a February 2003 column.

Mr. Olesker says he quoted Mr. Arnick and Mr. Schurick accurately. Mr.
Olesker has a clear and detailed recollection of the conversation with
Mr. Arnick and has his notes from the conversation with Mr. Schurick.

The list cites a May 14, 2004, column in which Mr. Olesker quotes
Lieutenant Governor Steele from a conversation they had at Pimlico Race
Course. The grievance says that two administration aides who also were
present at Pimlico that day deny the exchange occurred. The grievance
also states that "Mr. Olesker effectively puts 65 words in Lt. Governor
Steele's mouth."

After first stating he never met Mr. Olesker, the governor's press
office later acknowledged that Lieutenant Governor Steele did speak
with Mr. Olesker that day at the track. The 65 words were not a quote
but rather Mr. Olesker's description of the lieutenant governor's
reaction to the question.

Mr. Olesker did apologize in a Nov. 24, 2004, column for confusion
caused by his statement in a Nov. 16, 2004, column that Mr. Schurick
was "struggling mightily to keep a straight face." The grievance noted
that the columnist had no way of knowing what Mr. Schurick's expression
was because he did not attend the hearing. Mr. Olesker said he was
trying to make a sarcastic point and said he did not intend to deceive
readers.

Some other articles noted in the list could have been better organized
and edited. In a few stories, sentences were poorly worded. But taken
together, the Ehrlich administration's complaints do not support a
conclusion that The Sun or any of its journalists were engaged in a
deliberate campaign to smear the governor.

What is The Sun's public editor to do when he arrives at conclusions
about facts and fairness that appear so much at odds with the publicly
stated perceptions of Maryland's chief executive?

My principal obligation is to honestly state those views while at the
same time urging my colleagues at The Sun to remain vigilant in their
efforts to report fairly and accurately and to quickly correct the
unintended errors that are inevitable in any complex news gathering and
editing environment.

It is dangerous for either party in an extended dispute to stop
listening or fail to seek a fair-minded understanding of the other's
view.

That said, it appears even more dangerous to me for The Sun to stop
seeking the truth, regardless of whom it may anger.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-05-02 21:26:51 UTC
Permalink
Governor is dissatisfied with Sun investigation

by Liz Halloran and Stephen Kiehl (Baltimore Sun Staff)

April 22, 2005


The Ehrlich administration said yesterday that it was unsatisfied with
the results of a four-month investigation by The Sun's public editor
that found all but a handful of its complaints about the newspaper's
coverage of the governor to be unfounded.

"We find it lackluster and inadequate," said Shareese N. DeLeaver, a
spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. "We gave specific instances
of various inaccuracies and mistakes, and the administration does not
feel they were adequately addressed with this editor's column."

The Sun published yesterday the results of public editor Paul Moore's
investigation into a list of 23 grievances provided by the
administration. Moore called Ehrlich's claims of grievous, purposeful
mistakes "grossly exaggerated."

The complaints were given privately to Sun executives in December,
after the administration had banned state executive branch employees
from speaking with Sun columnist Michael Olesker and State House bureau
chief David Nitkin. The ban remains in effect.

Ehrlich said yesterday afternoon that he had not read Moore's report.
He said, "I look forward to the day when we can just get over it."

Sun editor Timothy A. Franklin said the newspaper's investigation
demonstrated its commitment to accuracy. The newspaper has corrected or
clarified four items on the list.

"Hopefully it shows our readers that we've taken the governor's
complaints very seriously," Franklin said. "We've invested a lot of
time and effort in looking into his complaints, and to the best of our
ability have tried to correct or clarify mistakes that we made."

Franklin took issue with statements from the administration questioning
Moore's independence. DeLeaver described Moore's work as "the
equivalent of the fox guarding the henhouse."

As public editor, Moore reports directly to publisher Denise A. Palmer,
not to Franklin or any newsroom editor. Franklin said Moore's
investigation was "thorough and credible" and did not pull punches.

But DeLeaver, the Ehrlich spokeswoman, said the investigation was
lacking. She pointed to two instances in which the administration
accused Olesker of misquoting state Del. John S. Arnick and Ehrlich
communications director Paul E. Schurick.

Moore found no trouble with the columns. Moore wrote that Olesker had
notes from the Schurick interview and a "clear and detailed
recollection" of the Arnick interview.

"It's the equivalent of, 'He said, she said,'" DeLeaver said. "It's not
the response we were looking for."

The list of grievances, along with more than 130 pages of
administration documents regarding the ban, was released yesterday in
response to public information requests filed by the Maryland Gazette
and The Sun.

The documents included internal administration e-mails about articles
that appeared in The Sun and copies of letters between Jervis S.
Finney, the governor's chief counsel, and Stephanie S. Abrutyn, a
lawyer with the Tribune Co., which owns The Sun. The letters dealt
largely with procedure, including the timing and terms of the December
meeting between Ehrlich and Sun officials.

The administration imposed the ban on Nitkin and Olesker in November.
It came after Nitkin had written articles detailing the state's plan to
sell 836 acres of preserved forestland in St. Mary's County to Willard
Hackerman, a politically connected construction company owner, in a
transaction that could have netted him millions in tax breaks.

The Sun filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, arguing that the
ban violated the First Amendment rights of the two journalists by
denying them the same opportunities to seek information as other news
organizations and citizens. The paper also said the writers were being
punished for their speech.

A federal judge dismissed The Sun's lawsuit in February, and the
newspaper has appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Richmond, Va.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-05-06 18:14:19 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich says he supports wife's speech

By Gretchen Parker, The Associated Press

April 25, 2005, 6:16 PM EDT


ANNAPOLIS -- First lady Kendel Ehrlich, in a fiery speech to Republican
supporters on the lower Eastern Shore, joined her husband's public
fight against newspapers, saying they "lie" and "need to be punished."

As the guest speaker at the lower Shore's Lincoln Day Dinner in Ocean
City on Sunday, Kendel Ehrlich declared herself ready for the campaign
trail and also lashed out at elected Democratic officials, saying their
behavior during the legislative session was "rude" and "despicable",
the Worcester County Times reported.

As broadcast news stations picked up on the comments today, Gov. Robert
L. Ehrlich Jr. moved quickly to support his wife and to clarify her
remarks. Speaking alone to reporters, he said Kendel Ehrlich's beef is
specifically with The Sun and The Washington Post -- papers that the
Ehrlichs say are biased against them and don't give them fair coverage.

The governor said he and the first lady were the target of personal
attacks after news broke last year that a longtime aide of the
administration had spread rumors about Democratic rival Martin O'Malley
on the Internet. E-mails released from aide Joseph Steffen's private
account included one from Kendel Ehrlich, in which she said "We need
you."

"Kendel appears to have been a target, and she takes that personally,
too," the governor said, referring to Democratic calls for
investigations and the media's coverage of it.

The first lady's remarks also were sparked by her outrage over the
legislature's dismantling of the Governor's Office for Children, Youth
and Families.

"She is quite upset about it, and as you know, she is direct," the
governor said, adding that neither of them strive to be politically
correct.

Kendel Ehrlich, speaking to the Republican central committees
Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties, gave a stump-style speech
and called on supporters for help re-electing the governor.

"We need your help, and I mean now. Get your bumper stickers out," she
said, adding, "It is going to be ugly. Most major newspapers are going
to be after him. It's not fun."

She railed on legislative Democrats, saying their behavior "was
despicable, and I am not kidding."

"If our 5-year-old acted like that, he'd be punished," she said during
a speech that raised loud cheers and applause, said those who attended.

"They lie," she said of newspapers, without naming a specific paper. "I
would punish my son if I caught him in a lie, and they need to be
punished."

Today, Kendel Ehrlich's spokeswoman Meghann Siwinski said: "I think
she's urging people to not buy the papers, to not read the papers, to
not trust what they read about her husband's administration in the
papers."

The remarks were made as the first lady pointed out the party's
accomplishments, said John Bartkovich, chairman of the Wicomico County
Republican Party, who attended the fundraiser.

"Most of the speech was -- this is what we've accomplished, and realize
you're not going to read much about it in the paper but we have done a
lot," he said. "A small part of the speech was -- she wanted to deal
with the issue of the press. I think we all knew what she was talking
about, this issue of press fairness."

The governor's battle with The Sun is ongoing, and the administration
logs daily its complaints the paper's coverage, pointing out what he
feels are errors and omissions in articles, editorials and cartoons.

The newspaper sued Ehrlich last year after the Republican governor
prohibited employees of the executive branch from talking to a Sun
reporter and columnist. The newspaper claimed the ban violated the
writers' First Amendment rights by denying them the same opportunities
to seek information as anyone else. The suit was dismissed, and the
paper has filed an appeal.

"I don't think we would have been in business for 168 years by telling
lies in the newspaper," Sun editor Tim Franklin said.

The executive editor of The Washington Post declined to comment today.

Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said
the first couple's comments are misguided.

"We think the Ehrlich administration should address the Steffen issue
before they start handing out blame for personal attacks," White said.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-05-06 18:17:34 UTC
Permalink
CAN WE JUST CALL HER KENDEL BITCH?


Kendel Ehrlich joins husband in fight against newspapers

Associated Press

April 26, 2005


First lady Kendel Ehrlich, in a fiery speech to Republican supporters
on the lower Eastern Shore, joined her husband's public fight against
newspapers, saying they "lie" and "need to be punished."

As the guest speaker at the Lower Shore's Lincoln Day Dinner in Ocean
City on Sunday, Kendel Ehrlich also lashed out at elected Democratic
officials, saying their behavior during the legislative session was
"rude" and "despicable," the Worcester County Times reported.

As broadcast news stations picked up on the comments yesterday, Gov.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. moved quickly to support his wife and to clarify
her remarks. Speaking alone to reporters, he said her complaint is
specifically with The Sun and The Washington Post - papers that the
Ehrlichs say are biased against them and don't provide fair coverage.

The governor said he and the first lady were the target of personal
attacks after news broke this year that a longtime administration aide
had spread rumors about Democratic rival Martin O'Malley on the
Internet. E-mail released from aide Joseph F. Steffen Jr.'s private
account included one from Kendel Ehrlich in which she said, "We need
you."

"Kendel appears to have been a target, and she takes that personally,
too," the governor said, referring to Democratic calls for
investigations and the news media's coverage of it.

The first lady's remarks also were sparked by her outrage over the
legislature's dismantling of the Governor's Office for Children, Youth
and Families. "She is quite upset about it, and as you know, she is
direct," the governor said.

Kendel Ehrlich, speaking to the Republican central committees of
Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties, called on supporters for
help in re-electing the governor.

"We need your help, and I mean now. Get your bumper stickers out," she
said, adding, "It is going to be ugly. Most major newspapers are going
to be after him. It's not fun."

She railed against legislative Democrats, saying their behavior "was
despicable."

"If our 5-year-old acted like that, he'd be punished," she said during
a speech that was met with loud cheers and applause, according to some
who attended.

"They lie," the first lady said of newspapers, not naming any. "I would
punish my son if I caught him in a lie, and they need to be punished."

Yesterday, her spokeswoman, Meghann Siwinski, said: "I think she's
urging people to not buy the papers, to not read the papers, to not
trust what they read about her husband's administration in the papers."

The remarks were made as the first lady pointed out the party's
accomplishments, said John Bartkovich, chairman of the Wicomico County
Republican Central Committee.

"Most of the speech was, 'This is what we've accomplished, and realize
you're not going to read much about it in the paper but we have done a
lot,'" he said. "A small part of the speech was, she wanted to deal
with the issue of the press. I think we all knew what she was talking
about, this issue of press fairness."

In the governor's battle with The Sun, the administration logs daily
its complaints on coverage, pointing out what he feels are errors and
omissions in articles, editorials and cartoons.

The newspaper sued Ehrlich last year after the governor prohibited
executive branch employees from talking to a Sun reporter and
columnist. The newspaper contended that the ban violated the writers'
First Amendment rights by denying them the same opportunities to seek
information as anyone else. The suit was dismissed, and the paper has
appealed.

"I don't think we would have been in business for 168 years by telling
lies in the newspaper," Sun editor Timothy A. Franklin said.

The executive editor of the Post declined to comment.

Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said
the Ehrlichs' comments are misguided. "We think the ... administration
should address the Steffen issue before they start handing out blame
for personal attacks," White said.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-05-10 13:21:33 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich 'talking points' yet another sign of the bitter times in
Annapolis

by Michael Olesker

May 3, 2005


IN THEIR LATEST bid to mask thumb-in-your-eye contentiousness as
political civility, those nice people in the Ehrlich administration
have now offered us a swell new explanation: Every other governor did
it, so why shouldn't we?

There are two problems with this: It is no excuse for a grownup; and it
happens not to be true.

Ask state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, the former governor who
happens to be Robert L. Ehrlich's buddy most of the time. Or ask
Michael Morrill, who worked for the governor who preceded Ehrlich. Or
Lou Panos, who worked for the governor who preceded Schaefer.

But first, a little background for those arriving late to the story. We
learned the other day that the Ehrlich press office has distributed
sets of "talking points" to public information officers across state
government, which were then issued to rank-and-file, nonpolitical
employees in at least one state agency and intended to be spread across
the land as gospel. These "talking points" exalt the governor and bash
his opponents.

The immediate question is: Why ask state employees to do such a thing?
Isn't this kind of toadyism already handled by the radio talk-show
hosts?

The governor's office bills this as an effort to "get the facts out to
the public and those who communicate with the public."

What kinds of "facts" are they talking about? Well, they assert that
the General Assembly "passed ridiculous legislation," and that it
wouldn't "honor veterans," wouldn't "help doctors and patients,"
wouldn't "protect vulnerable children and families," and was "entirely
irresponsible" to have passed a bill that would require Wal-Mart to
spend more on its employees' health care.

Ehrlich did not accuse these legislators of burning down any
orphanages, but this might have been an oversight on his part.

Or he might have been busy overseeing his office's defense: Other
governors did the same thing.

In answer to this, we turn to cooler heads than his. Schaefer, for
example. And Panos, who handled press relations for Gov. Harry Hughes,
and Morrill, who handled them for Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"What we did," Morrill said yesterday, "was put out summaries at the
end of sessions, listing what we got accomplished. We didn't say,
'Here's where the press got it wrong,' or 'Here's what the speaker [of
the House] did wrong,' or why anybody opposing us got it wrong.

"The difference is that this administration has taken on this hostile
attitude, and tried to sway perceptions of the media. That's the
Orwellian part. ... If they're asking nonpolitical state employees to
act in certain ways, that's unethical. If you're putting a list of
talking points on [state] Web sites, you're creating a climate of
expectation [among employees] that you must abide by standard political
orthodoxy. I don't recall that ever being done."

Schaefer, recalling his own days as governor, said yesterday, "I never
did anything like that. I didn't have to."

Schaefer, who has crossed party lines to bond with Ehrlich, indicated
that this governor might be overcompensating for what Ehrlich perceives
as unfair news media treatment. This would not include much of talk
radio, which has become a kind of collective safe house where Ehrlich
can vent and answer softball questions - and never fear he will be
challenged.

For a governor who opened this year's legislative session by lecturing
sanctimoniously about the need for civility and respect, we will add
the "talking points" to a growing list: Ehrlich railing against an
alleged "culture of corruption in Annapolis" when it suited his
election needs; his party's slash-and-burn radio ads against
legislators who disagreed with him on medical malpractice; his labeling
of House Speaker Michael E. Busch as "playing the race card" when he
disagreed with him on slot machines.

And now these "talking points," about which Democrats quickly invoked
the ghost of George Orwell: This notion of having nonpolitical state
employees turned into partisan puppets whose jobs might be threatened
if they don't go along with the program.

That's not a charge to be taken lightly for a governor already
criticized for highly controversial and highly publicized political
hirings and firings.

Panos, who now writes a political column for the Patuxent Publishing
newspaper chain (owned by The Baltimore Sun Co.), said of the Ehrlich
"talking points," "They're typical of the bitter, take-no-prisoners
atmosphere that has sifted down from Washington to Annapolis and
throughout the country.

"I don't remember anything like this happening," where department heads
were told to puff up the governor and tear down the opposition, he
said. "In fact, when I first came in, I had to call [Kalman R.] 'Buzzy'
Hettleman, who was running Human Resources, to suggest that he at least
include the name of the governor somewhere in their department reports.
He said it hadn't occurred to him or anyone else."

It was a different time in Annapolis. It was a time when governors
didn't seek exaggerated credit for every routine achievement, real or
imagined, and didn't feel the need to tear down opponents with
accusations of wrongdoing - also, real or imagined.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-05-19 14:00:17 UTC
Permalink
Brief assails Ehrlich ban on pair of Sun journalists

by A Baltimore Sun Staff Writer

May 17, 2005


A comprehensive brief from Sun lawyers challenging Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr.'s ban on two Sun journalists has been filed with the 4th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

"The Governor has boldly punished two journalists and their newspaper
based solely upon the Governor's subjective displeasure with what they
had to say," Sun lawyers concluded in the argument filed Friday.

"Such conduct not only is hostile to the First Amendment, but it also
renders constitutional safeguards completely illusory," they said.

In making their case, the lawyers contended that a U.S. District Court
judge erred when he concluded that the paper was seeking special access
to Maryland government officials.

"The Sun and its journalists seek - not preferred access - but the
right not to have the highest official in the state deny them the same
privileges afforded to any citizen," they said.

The 50-page brief was filed in support of an appeal of a February
decision by U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. dismissing a Sun
lawsuit challenging the ban. The Sun appealed the ruling two months
ago.

The ban, now six months old, targets David Nitkin, now Maryland
political editor, and columnist Michael Olesker. It was imposed after
Nitkin disclosed a state proposal to sell 836 acres of preserved
forestland in St. Mary's County to Willard Hackerman, a politically
connected construction company owner, in a deal that could have netted
him millions in tax breaks.

The Sun filed suit in December to have the ban lifted. Quarles rejected
that request and granted Ehrlich's motion to dismiss the case. The
paper is appealing both decisions.

A spokeswoman for Ehrlich said yesterday that the governor's office had
no comment on the appeal.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-06-08 19:10:26 UTC
Permalink
Md. politics: 'Abuse of power' meets 'whining'

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

May 19, 2005


There they were, on stage yesterday at that gentle springtime ritual
called the Flower Mart, gritting their teeth for the assembled crowd
and pretending they feel a rose petal's ounce of civility for each
other: the mayor of Baltimore, Martin O'Malley, and the first lady of
Maryland, Kendel Ehrlich, separated only by that thin layer of human
diplomacy and tact named William Donald Schaefer. Schaefer, wearing a
battered railroad engineer's cap and sticking his tongue out for the
cameras, is now the calm one out there. Oh, Lord.

"Hello, Mrs. Ehrlich," the mayor said he had declared formally as the
state comptroller got out of the way. O'Malley did not precisely look
Mrs. Ehrlich in the eye. She nodded back, equally avoiding eye contact
and not betraying any hostile impulses. Then they went back to their
neutral corners, and Schaefer stepped between them again. And this,
friends, is what passes for political peace in our time.

At least, for the moment.

But it was brief. For, in the morning, there was O'Malley at a City
Hall news conference, letting go but good. And, in the afternoon,
moments after he and Mrs. Ehrlich left the Flower Mart platform,
O'Malley vented some more. And somewhere in between, not to let the
moment slip past, there was Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. himself,
bringing to the day that special brand of "respect" that he stressed so
earnestly in his state of the state speech this year and apparently
forgot five minutes later.

"Whining," the governor called the mayor's remarks yesterday.

"Cowardly abuse of power," said O'Malley, seething over rumors spread
about his marriage, and the latest spin on the story.
"Taxpayer-financed dirty tricks," he said. "And I'm calling on the
governor to stop right now the politics of character smear and
character assassination."

"Whining is not a leadership style," the governor responded. "I don't
like whiners. I've never associated with whiners."

This, from the governor who seems to spend half his time on the radio,
bemoaning all the bad people keeping his administration from getting
anything accomplished for the past three years.

And so, just when you thought it was safe not to think any more about
Joseph F. Steffen Jr., the man Ehrlich once cheerfully crowned the
Prince of Darkness, Steffen and the rumors he helped spread about the
O'Malley marriage are back with us.

At his news conference yesterday, the mayor said Ehrlich operatives had
fed WBAL radio information on a five-year-old e-mail from Max Curran
III, the brother of the mayor's wife, Judge Katie Curran O'Malley. In
the e-mail, Curran called his sister a "loose cannon."

This, after she was quoted in a March 2000 Washington Post article
saying the mayor's public praise of her beauty "helps offset the rumors
... that he's running around on me. That he's been running around on me
for years."

In the article, the mayor's wife said her husband's opponents had been
spreading the rumors.

As the governor's people see it, this recycling of a five-year-old
remark practically takes Steffen off the hook. Never mind that Steffen
admitted spreading the rumors and took the fall for them - at least
this shows he didn't start them, say the governor's people.

Question: If Steffen's not such a bad guy, why did Ehrlich fire him
when Steffen's e-mails were made public?

Question: Why did Ehrlich say he would take the mayor aside and make
amends for any bad feelings over the Steffen incident?

O'Malley says he's still waiting for such a gesture.

"This is not an honorable man," O'Malley said yesterday, standing alone
at the edge of the Flower Mart. "He made this public statement when he
[fired Steffen] about how he was going to apologize to me. I've seen
him at event after event. He slinks away from me every time. He always
carefully diverts his entourage elsewhere."

O'Malley had left the Flower Mart reviewing stand by now. He paused
with his wife and two of his children outside the Walters Art Museum.
He repeated his remarks from the morning news conference: about
character assassination, about "a premeditated, orchestrated and
relentless campaign run by dirty tricks operatives close to the
governor, funded on state taxpayer dollars."

And he called on Ehrlich "to release the thousands of e-mails
pertaining to Joe Steffen that he has refused to release" and "end this
cowardly abuse of power."

By this time, Ehrlich offered his own broadside. He'd spoken to the
Maryland Business Council, at Towson University, and taken questions
afterward from half a dozen reporters about the latest flap.

That's when Ehrlich cited O'Malley's "whining." He used the word five
different times, so he must have meant it.

So let's get this straight: A man has rumors spread about his marriage
by one of the governor's long-time aides - an aide who claimed that "a
few folks put in a lot of effort to ensure the story got some real
float." The rumors have been spread across the state for months and
months.

And, when he tries to defend himself and his family, the governor of
Maryland calls this whining?
BaltimoreSux
2005-06-08 19:41:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
Md. politics: 'Abuse of power' meets 'whining'
by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)
May 19, 2005
There they were, on stage yesterday at that gentle springtime ritual
called the Flower Mart, gritting their teeth for the assembled crowd
and pretending they feel a rose petal's ounce of civility for each
other: the mayor of Baltimore, Martin O'Malley, and the first lady of
Maryland, Kendel Ehrlich, separated only by that thin layer of human
diplomacy and tact named William Donald Schaefer. Schaefer, wearing a
battered railroad engineer's cap and sticking his tongue out for the
cameras, is now the calm one out there. Oh, Lord.
"Hello, Mrs. Ehrlich," the mayor said he had declared formally as the
state comptroller got out of the way. O'Malley did not precisely look
Mrs. Ehrlich in the eye. She nodded back, equally avoiding eye contact
and not betraying any hostile impulses. Then they went back to their
neutral corners, and Schaefer stepped between them again. And this,
friends, is what passes for political peace in our time.
At least, for the moment.
But it was brief. For, in the morning, there was O'Malley at a City
Hall news conference, letting go but good. And, in the afternoon,
moments after he and Mrs. Ehrlich left the Flower Mart platform,
O'Malley vented some more. And somewhere in between, not to let the
moment slip past, there was Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. himself,
bringing to the day that special brand of "respect" that he stressed so
earnestly in his state of the state speech this year and apparently
forgot five minutes later.
"Whining," the governor called the mayor's remarks yesterday.
"Cowardly abuse of power," said O'Malley, seething over rumors spread
about his marriage, and the latest spin on the story.
"Taxpayer-financed dirty tricks," he said. "And I'm calling on the
governor to stop right now the politics of character smear and
character assassination."
"Whining is not a leadership style," the governor responded. "I don't
like whiners. I've never associated with whiners."
This, from the governor who seems to spend half his time on the radio,
bemoaning all the bad people keeping his administration from getting
anything accomplished for the past three years.
And so, just when you thought it was safe not to think any more about
Joseph F. Steffen Jr., the man Ehrlich once cheerfully crowned the
Prince of Darkness, Steffen and the rumors he helped spread about the
O'Malley marriage are back with us.
At his news conference yesterday, the mayor said Ehrlich operatives had
fed WBAL radio information on a five-year-old e-mail from Max Curran
III, the brother of the mayor's wife, Judge Katie Curran O'Malley. In
the e-mail, Curran called his sister a "loose cannon."
This, after she was quoted in a March 2000 Washington Post article
saying the mayor's public praise of her beauty "helps offset the rumors
... that he's running around on me. That he's been running around on me
for years."
In the article, the mayor's wife said her husband's opponents had been
spreading the rumors.
As the governor's people see it, this recycling of a five-year-old
remark practically takes Steffen off the hook. Never mind that Steffen
admitted spreading the rumors and took the fall for them - at least
this shows he didn't start them, say the governor's people.
Question: If Steffen's not such a bad guy, why did Ehrlich fire him
when Steffen's e-mails were made public?
Question: Why did Ehrlich say he would take the mayor aside and make
amends for any bad feelings over the Steffen incident?
O'Malley says he's still waiting for such a gesture.
"This is not an honorable man," O'Malley said yesterday, standing alone
at the edge of the Flower Mart. "He made this public statement when he
[fired Steffen] about how he was going to apologize to me. I've seen
him at event after event. He slinks away from me every time. He always
carefully diverts his entourage elsewhere."
O'Malley had left the Flower Mart reviewing stand by now. He paused
with his wife and two of his children outside the Walters Art Museum.
He repeated his remarks from the morning news conference: about
character assassination, about "a premeditated, orchestrated and
relentless campaign run by dirty tricks operatives close to the
governor, funded on state taxpayer dollars."
And he called on Ehrlich "to release the thousands of e-mails
pertaining to Joe Steffen that he has refused to release" and "end this
cowardly abuse of power."
By this time, Ehrlich offered his own broadside. He'd spoken to the
Maryland Business Council, at Towson University, and taken questions
afterward from half a dozen reporters about the latest flap.
That's when Ehrlich cited O'Malley's "whining." He used the word five
different times, so he must have meant it.
So let's get this straight: A man has rumors spread about his marriage
by one of the governor's long-time aides - an aide who claimed that "a
few folks put in a lot of effort to ensure the story got some real
float." The rumors have been spread across the state for months and
months.
And, when he tries to defend himself and his family, the governor of
Maryland calls this whining?
Did Marty give Bobby a "reach around" at the event?
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-06-09 14:51:13 UTC
Permalink
Sun backed in lawsuit challenging Ehrlich ban

by Stephen Kiehl (Baltimore Sun Staff)

May 24, 2005


A coalition of the nation's leading news organizations filed a legal
brief yesterday supporting The Sun in its lawsuit against Gov. Robert
L. Ehrlich Jr., contending that the governor's ban on two Sun
journalists was an act "characteristic of repressive regimes."

The 27-page amicus brief was filed in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Richmond, Va., by lawyers representing the New York Times
Co., The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Time Inc., CNN, the
E.W. Scripps Co. and Advance Publications Inc.

An array of news professional associations also joined the brief.

"The First Amendment is designed to protect the press and the public
against governmental attempts to restrict speech disapproved of by
those in power," the brief said. "Yet the Governor's order, by his own
admission, seeks to do precisely that: he seeks to coerce journalists
into providing coverage that is pleasing to him on pain of being
subject to an official boycott if they do not."

The brief argues that Ehrlich cannot exclude journalists from the
normal channels of news- gathering - such as interviewing state
officials - based on the content of their reporting. The Sun is not
asking for special treatment or to have every phone call returned, the
brief said, but merely to have access to the ordinary channels
available to all other reporters.

Ehrlich's ban harms not only The Sun - in its ability to assign
reporters of its choosing to the State House - but also other news
organizations, the brief said. "In short, the retaliation against The
Sun's reporter and columnist has an undeniable chilling effect on all
those who report on the affairs of Maryland state government," the
brief said.

"This official boycott is offensive to the most basic principles of the
First Amendment," the brief argued, noting that it compromises, if not
destroys, the journalists' ability to perform the constitutionally
protected function of reporting on and writing about government.

"This kind of official control of the press is characteristic of
repressive regimes, but it is alien to nations founded on principles of
free speech and free press," the lawyers wrote. "It is abhorrent to our
Constitution and should be repudiated by this Court."

A spokeswoman for Ehrlich declined to comment on the brief filed
yesterday. Kevin Enright, spokesman for the state attorney general's
office, which represents the governor in the suit, also declined
comment.

Numerous press associations also signed the brief, including the
American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Society of Professional
Journalists. Other professional organizations, including the state
press associations of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South
Carolina, signed as well.

Ehrlich's ban, now six months old, forbids state executive branch
employees from speaking with Sun columnist Michael Olesker and Maryland
political editor David Nitkin. The ban was imposed after Nitkin
disclosed a state proposal to sell 836 acres of preserved forestland in
St. Mary's County to Willard Hackerman, a politically connected
construction company owner, in a deal that could have netted him
millions of dollars in tax breaks.

The ban "essentially allows the governor to create an enemies list,"
said Andy Alexander, Washington bureau chief for Cox Newspapers and
chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee of ASNE.

"Governor Ehrlich has instructed public officials who are paid by
taxpayers to refrain from imparting information to the public. ... If
it can be done to two journalists for the Baltimore Sun, others can be
singled out."

The Sun filed suit in December to have the ban lifted. In February,
U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. rejected that request and
granted Ehrlich's motion to dismiss the case. The paper is appealing
both decisions.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-06-10 20:54:27 UTC
Permalink
Mr. Ehrlich's vetoes

May 25, 2005 (Baltimore SUN Editorial)


WHEN A MARYLAND governor vetoes 25 bills under the cover of Preakness
Friday, it's clear he doesn't want the public to hear about it. And
when he's waffling on a key veto the very next day, the matter deserves
some extra scrutiny.

So here's the big news: Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. thinks unmarried
couples (including those of the same sex) shouldn't be able to make
medical decisions for each other. Or maybe he does but he just doesn't
like having them registered as "life partners." As it happens, he
vetoed the medical decision legislation but was on the air Saturday
telling AM talk-radio listeners that he wants to accomplish much the
same thing with his own bill next year.

Mr. Ehrlich also demonstrated an aversion to tax cuts for unmarried
couples sharing title to a property. We know this because he deep-sixed
legislation to allow property owners the right to add the name of a
significant other to a deed without paying transfer taxes, just as
married couples can. (Unmarried couples would have to sign a legal
document attesting to their relationship.) He called the proposal a
"tax avoidance technique." If only he cast the same scrutiny toward
limited liability corporations that buy and sell shopping malls without
paying a dime of transfer taxes. Instead of life partners, proponents
should have called themselves "Delaware holding companies."

Once again, Mr. Ehrlich is kowtowing to the Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell
wing of the Republican Party. He's fearful that both bills are going to
be petitioned to ballot next year (by members of his own party) and
hurt his support among religious conservatives. That seems unlikely.
The politics of an election year should prevent a veto override. But
we'll give him this -- at least the governor has his limits. He chose
not to veto legislation adding sexual orientation to Maryland's hate
crime law and another that will require schools to monitor bullying.

It was disappointing that Mr. Ehrlich felt obliged to veto the $6.15
minimum wage. His official explanation uses the same tired old excuse
that a higher minimum wage kills jobs. While we'd prefer to see the
federal minimum wage keep up with inflation (and keep employers on a
level playing field), a growing number of states are joining the cause
to offset Washington's recalcitrance. Mr. Ehrlich's veto just
exacerbates the real problem -- the hardship placed on families by
below-subsistence-level wages. Fortunately, it seems likely the General
Assembly will overturn this sop to corporate interests when it
reconvenes next January.

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not praise the governor's
decision to veto legislation that would have required Wal-Mart to
devote at least 8 percent of its payroll costs to health insurance.
Maryland has no business micromanaging a private employer. But it was a
shame that Mr. Ehrlich didn't use the occasion to more seriously
address the bill's underlying purpose -- to protect businesses that pay
their fair share of health care costs. Too many Marylanders lack health
insurance now. And Mr. Ehrlich's veto pen offers no strategy for
protecting the state's more-responsible employers or its beleaguered
taxpayers from that growing burden.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-07-01 16:51:50 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich is asked to review procedures for handling public protests

by Andrew A. Green, Baltimore Sun Staff

June 10, 2005


A Baltimore legislator called on the governor yesterday to review his
procedures for handling protesters at public events, after what he said
appeared to be a violation of free-speech rights by state and local
police at a veto ceremony last month.

Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, released an advice
letter he solicited from the attorney general after reading news
reports that state and local police prevented protesters from holding
signs or verbally expressing their disapproval during a ceremony Gov.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. held in Princess Anne to veto a bill that would
require Wal-Mart to pay more for employee health care.

Kathryn M. Rowe, the assistant attorney general who responded to
Rosenberg's request, wrote that she could not determine from the facts
she had whether protesters' free-speech rights were violated.

But Rosenberg said that in light of case law, police action "raises
serious concerns about the limitations imposed on free expression at
the event." He asked Ehrlich to investigate.

"The citizens of Maryland must have confidence that the government will
protect and uphold their freedom of expression," Rosenberg said in a
statement. "The Governor must remove any suspicion that state officials
authorized law enforcement personnel to suppress freedom of speech and
expression at a public event."

Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said yesterday evening that the
governor had not received Rosenberg's letter but would review it.

"The governor specifically spoke to opponents of his veto during his
remarks, shook hands with protesters following his remarks, and several
of those protesters are in the official photo taken at the event,"
DeLeaver said. "The governor insisted on meeting with these folks
afterward."
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-07-22 17:39:51 UTC
Permalink
At 'exclusive' club, Ehrlich goes inexplicably colorblind

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

July 5, 2005


FROM Groucho Marx, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. could learn half a
lesson. Years ago, Groucho told a story about his daughter, who was not
allowed into a swimming club because she was Jewish. Groucho sent a
letter of complaint to the club.

"My daughter's only half-Jewish," he wrote. "Could she just go in the
water up to her waist?"

Groucho made a joke of it because he was a comic. Sometimes laughter's
more powerful than rage. But it's half a century later, and we're all
supposed to know better now than to isolate people by religion or race
or anything similarly hurtful.

Week before last, Ehrlich held a golfing fund-raiser at the Elkridge
Club, out there on North Charles Street by the Baltimore city-county
line. Pay a thousand bucks, and get to schmooze obsequiously with the
governor of Maryland.

But don't expect to hang out with Michael Steele in that same setting,
due to the conditions of birth of the lieutenant governor of Maryland.
The Elkridge Club is generally referred to as "exclusive." This is
intended to indicate the wealth and social connections of its members.
But here it means not just blue blood, but a certain color of skin.

As several Elkridge members and former officers confirmed to The Sun
last week, there has not been a black person admitted to membership in
the club in its entire 127-year history, although the club has been
magnanimous enough to let minorities on occasion dine or play golf
there.

Like Groucho's daughter halfway into the pool, maybe they only played
the first nine holes.

It is the year 2005, and there are still places in America
distinguishing people by skin color, and one of them is the Elkridge
Club, where Ehrlich raises $100,000 in one day by holding his
fund-raiser there.

By state law, clubs must have inclusionary policies (not barring women,
blacks, or other minority groups from joining), and the clubs must
assure this by disclosing their membership rolls to the state, to get a
property tax break on their highly valuable land. In 1977, the Elkridge
Club decided to forfeit that break rather than turn over its membership
list -- and it has stuck by that decision.

Asked by a Sun reporter about holding his gubernatorial fund-raiser at
such a club, Governor Ehrlich's response was: "I'm not going to answer
this question," because it was "hypothetical." When it was confirmed
that the club has never had any black members, and Ehrlich spokesman
Henry Fawell was asked for a response, Fawell said, "It is
inappropriate for government employees to comment on political
fund-raisers."

Oh, please.

What would it take for the governor of Maryland to say, "I wouldn't
want to hang out at any club that would exclude somebody like Michael
Steele"?

Is that so hard to say?

This is a governor who has gained much political capital -- and rightly
so -- by choosing Maryland's first African-American running mate. He
has also been accused (by this newspaper, among others) of choosing him
not because Steele had a particularly inspiring personal history but
for the sheer symbolic strength of his skin color.

Now is the chance for Ehrlich to show otherwise, to say that Steele is
more than a symbol, to say that his selection really does stand for a
new day of understanding and mutual respect, that he really is a
spiritual brother as well as a political partner. And that such a
person (or any person) should not be subjected to this kind of
historical, isolation by any organization, any more than Jews or
Italians, or Greeks or Salvadorans, or any other minority might be kept
out for reason of ethnicity.

This is the governor who's still trying to explain his remark on the
radio that multiculturalism is "crap" and "bunk." But
"multiculturalism" is just a word. Michael Steele is supposed to be
Ehrlich's friend -- as well as the second-ranking member of state
government. A year ago, when he was asked about Ehrlich's
"multiculturalism" outburst, Steele said, "I'm comfortable with my
governor."

How comfortable is he with a country club that hasn't allowed any black
people to be members, and a governor who can't seem to understand that
we don't like to stigmatize people by background in multicultural
America?

The response to all of this has been predictable. Democrats have
accused Ehrlich of insensitivity. Blacks have done the same. Which
leaves us asking: Why? Why doesn't Ehrlich simply say, "It's a mistake
for the leader of the Free State to hold any kind of function at a club
that isolates people by background. I didn't realize its history. It
wouldn't have happened if I had."

Why can't he say that? Is it because this governor, when backed to a
wall, instinctively goes on the attack? Is it because he understands
there are still racial divisions in this country and, since there are
more white voters than black, that this is an issue that works for him
mathematically, if not morally?

Years ago, asked to join a country club, Groucho Marx famously joked,
"I don't care to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."

Robert L. Ehrlich should say, "I can't respect any club that won't
accept Michael Steele as a member."

Is that so hard to say?
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-07-29 12:57:29 UTC
Permalink
It's not about golf

July 7, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)


WHAT WAS Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. thinking when he attended a
fund-raiser last month at the Elkridge Club, which has never had an
African-American member? It turns out that he hasn't been bothered a
bit - by the club's history or by criticism that he ignored it.

Responses this week by Governor Ehrlich and by Lt. Gov. Michael S.
Steele that the club's membership is not their concern are
unacceptable. It's not enough for Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, to point
fingers and complain that Democrats have also used the club. We don't
defend those Democrats either. But Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele are the
top two officers in the government of a richly diverse, progressive
state. They are supposed to set the example.

Elkridge, Baltimore's oldest country club, has forfeited a state tax
exemption for nearly 30 years rather than disclose its membership
roster to demonstrate that it's not restrictive. But members and former
officers have confirmed to The Sun that the club has never had a black
member in its 127-year history. After Mr. Ehrlich's $1,000-a-head golf
fund-raiser there on June 20, some African-American leaders raised
strong objections.

When questioned on a radio show this week, Mr. Ehrlich said, "I don't
know what their membership is, and guess what? It's not my business."
He accused his critics of applying a double standard because prominent
Democrats, including Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith, have
held events there without coming under similar fire. Mr. Smith, who
attended a fund-raiser at Elkridge in May that was hosted by one of his
supporters, now says through a spokeswoman that he did not know about
the club's membership, but that he won't have any future campaign
events there.

That's what Mr. Ehrlich should have said. Instead, he appears to have
callously disregarded a significant group of citizens. Even worse,
however, was the reaction of Mr. Steele, who told the Associated Press,
"I don't know much about the club, the membership, nor do I care, quite
frankly, because I don't play golf." Excuse us, but this is not about
golf. It's about a history of struggle against discrimination and lack
of opportunity to which, quite frankly, the first African-American
lieutenant governor of Maryland ought to be more attuned.

It may be just a matter of time, internal pressure and the external
marketplace before private clubs that restrict members on the basis of
race or gender will change their policies. But certainly public
officials - regardless of party affiliation - shouldn't appear to
endorse such exclusionary policies by patronizing those clubs.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-08-03 19:21:15 UTC
Permalink
Duncan calls on Ehrlich to apologize

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

July 13, 2005


Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, an all-but-declared
candidate for governor, called on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday
to apologize for raising money for re-election at a country club that
has never admitted a black member, saying Ehrlich is "trying to divide
us."

Duncan, a Democrat, said he wrote a letter to Ehrlich "to urge you to
publicly apologize for your poor judgment in holding a fund-raiser at
the Elkridge Club, an exclusive club which has not had an
African-American in its 127-year history."

"Your refusal to apologize for holding this event at a club that
discriminates -- and your refusal to denounce the club's policies -- is
completely unacceptable," Duncan wrote. "Your failure to apologize is a
slap in the face to all fair-minded Marylanders."

A spokesman for the governor, Henry Fawell, said Ehrlich had no comment
on Duncan's demand. Republican Party officials said Ehrlich has a
laudable record in hiring and appointing black officials, and they
accused Duncan of political posturing.

Duncan sent a related letter to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, his
probable opponent in a Democratic primary. He asked the mayor to join
him in denouncing Ehrlich and to pledge to refrain from holding events
at private country clubs with membership policies that exclude women,
blacks and others.

O'Malley's campaign manager said the mayor has not and will not sponsor
events at such locations. The mayor did not return a call for comment
yesterday.

Ehrlich, a Republican, raised $100,000 for his expected re-election bid
at a June 20 daylong event at the club, which straddles the Baltimore
City-county line on Charles Street. Former club officers and current
members confirmed to The Sun that no African-American has been offered
membership there since the club's founding in 1878.

Prominent African-American leaders have decried the club's membership
roster, and several have criticized Ehrlich for holding an event there
and for the response from him and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele since news
of the fund-raiser was published.

"I don't know what their membership is, and guess what? It's not my
business. It's a private club, which we rented," Ehrlich said in a
radio interview early last week.

Steele told the Associated Press, "I don't know that much about the
club, the membership, nor do I care, quite frankly, because I don't
play golf. It's not an issue with me."

Duncan's letter comes a day after he and Ehrlich shared a handshake
during an announcement that the governor had selected a route for the
Inter-County Connector highway in the Washington suburbs.

Duncan said he did not raise the country club issue with Ehrlich on
Monday because it was a "different event."

He said he issued his call yesterday because "I was waiting for the
governor to apologize. Rather than apologize, he dug his feet in the
ground. I was waiting for Steele to reconsider his comments, as well.
What they are doing is an affront to a lot of people in the state. At a
time when we need to bring people together and build community, they
are trying to divide us."

Duncan's letter said that Ehrlich's lack of an apology "further deepens
those wounds" first opened last year when Ehrlich called
multiculturalism "bunk" and "crap."

Montgomery County is home to several exclusive clubs, including Burning
Tree, which has been the subject of extensive state litigation for its
practice of excluding women. Duncan said he has never held a
fund-raising event at Burning Tree.

The O'Malley campaign, which has been reluctant to respond to Duncan's
forays into Baltimore and his jabs at the mayor's record, said
yesterday that it would follow a policy of staying away from exclusive
country clubs.

"Martin O'Malley won't hold events at clubs that discriminate," said
Jonathan Epstein, the mayor's campaign manager. The campaign has found
no examples of prior campaign events at similar facilities.

Duncan sent an additional letter to the state Democratic Party, asking
the party to refrain from frequenting exclusive clubs.

"We absolutely abide by that rule," said Democratic Party Chairman
Terry Lierman, adding that Ehrlich and Steele's response to the issue
has inflamed the problem. "This is an example of their right-wing
arrogance with a comment that they didn't care," he said. "That alone
speaks volumes as to how they feel about human and civil rights."

Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane said Ehrlich has a laudable
record on civil rights, noting that his lieutenant governor is
Maryland's first black statewide elected official.

"Across the board, his record on supporting minorities and not
supporting racism has been very clear," said Kane. Duncan's demand,
Kane said, "is partisan politics in an election year."

Ehrlich has accused The Sun of a double-standard for not reporting on
Democrats who held events at the club. In a follow-up article, the
paper reported that Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., a
Democrat, attended a May fund-raiser for him at the club. Smith said
that after learning of the club's history, he will hold no more
functions there.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-08-29 15:55:11 UTC
Permalink
The inflatable surplus

August 29, 2005 (Baltimore SUN Editorial)


WILLIAM DONALD Schaefer made news last week by acknowledging that
Maryland had a $1.2 billion budget surplus on June 30. But how many
heard Mr. Schaefer's full explanation? Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has
already committed half that money to balance the fiscal 2006 budget
that began July 1. In the long term, red ink looms. State spending is
growing at a pace that the current tax structure cannot support.

Mr. Ehrlich claims to be fiscally responsible, yet he continues to
misrepresent his own government's finances. Even Mr. Schaefer, a
staunch Ehrlich supporter, couldn't help but scold the governor's staff
for asking him to trumpet a nonexistent billion-dollar surplus. "They
thought the billion would look better, and it would," the comptroller
said, "but that's not what we're here for."

Let's not ignore good news - higher tax revenues have helped Maryland
(and most other states). But the public needs to understand the big
picture. Mr. Ehrlich has spent several years taking from Peter to pay
Paul, shortchanging transportation and land conservation programs that
deserve to be restored. Worse, much larger costs loom, including
Medicaid's growing burden. And then there's the state's education
deficit - the extra $2 billion or so needed for school construction
that the state hasn't yet financed.

Mr. Ehrlich would clearly like to rescind his 55 percent state property
tax rate increase. We would too. But it's not prudent to cut taxes
until there's a viable plan to solve Maryland's long-term structural
deficit. This governor has earned a reputation for bringing Capitol
Hill-style politics to Annapolis. The state doesn't need Washington's
irresponsible budgeting practices, too.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-09-20 19:12:30 UTC
Permalink
Politics fills space around judicial vacancy

by David Nitkin, Baltimore Sun Staff

August 28, 2005


Criminal cases are piling up in Allegany County, where a political
standoff has left the District Court operating with one full-time judge
since late last year.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who selects judges, was given the names of
three candidates for the county's judicial vacancy by a nominating
panel in December. But nine months later, he has yet to interview any
of the finalists. As a result, Allegany County now has the
longest-standing judicial vacancy in the state.

Some Republican leaders and court officials in Western Maryland say the
holdup isn't because of who was nominated but who was not. The list
does not include the name of Kevin Kelly, a Democratic state delegate
from Allegany County and a longtime Ehrlich friend. Kelly applied for
the position, but his candidacy was rejected by the panel.

"The governor and Kevin are very good friends, and the governor wanted
Kevin Kelly," said Raymond Walker, a Republican who retired four years
ago after serving more than four decades as elected clerk and in other
posts in Allegany County Circuit Court.

John N. Bambacus, a former Republican state senator who teaches
political science at Frostburg State University, called the District
Court situation "a circus."

"It seems to me this appointment has languished far too long, and there
is some question as to whether justice is being served," Bambacus said.


Through a spokesman, Ehrlich affirmed his admiration of Kelly but did
not address whether he was working to place his friend and former
General Assembly colleague on the bench.

"Governor Ehrlich considers Delegate Kelly a close friend and a
committed public servant," said Henry Fawell, a spokesman for the
governor. "The governor also has a great respect for the judicial
nominating process. There is no deadline for the governor to make an
appointment. He continues to give thoughtful consideration to this
vacancy."

The episode provides a glimpse into the often-hidden world of judicial
politics. On one side is a local power structure that has coalesced
around a favored candidate. On the other is a first-term governor who
does not back away from fights and rarely demonstrates a taste for
compromising or deal-making.

Stuck in the middle are the users of the court system in Allegany
County. The criminal docket is being scheduled into January, when
normally cases would be heard in November, court officials say.

"The governor's first responsibility is to serve justice, not his
friends," said Del. Kumar P. Barve, the House majority leader from
Montgomery County. "He needs to appoint someone qualified very quickly.
If he's delaying appointing somebody because he wants Kevin to be a
judge, that's wrong. I can't think of any other reason why he hasn't
appointed somebody by now."

As lawmakers in their 20s new to Annapolis in the 1980s, Ehrlich and
Kelly became friends, even though they are from different political
parties and opposite sides of the state. The outgoing, single lawyers
sat a few seats apart on the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee,
sharing a right-of-center worldview and an appetite for late-night
policy chats followed by burgers at greasy haunts.

Since then, Ehrlich's political career has soared while Kelly's has
remained static. Voters turned him out of office after two terms, and
then he reclaimed his Assembly seat in 1998.

Last year, a vacancy opened up on the bench when one of the two
District Court judges in Allegany County retired. Kelly put his name in
for the job, as did four others.

"The governor knows I would very much like to be a District Court
judge. That's as far as I am going to comment," Kelly said in an
interview last week. "Bob Ehrlich and I are close friends. We know each
other's capabilities."

District Court judges earn $114,502 yearly. As a delegate, Kelly earns
$40,500.

But when the judicial nominating panel that Ehrlich appointed forwarded
its list of three names to the governor, Kelly's was not among them.
Instead, the panel recommended two other Democrats and Gregory H.
Getty, a lawyer who is the son of a retired Court of Special Appeals
judge and a member of a prominent Republican family.

"It would appear that Governor Ehrlich has lost control of the judicial
nominating commission," said Bambacus, the Frostburg professor.

Critics of Kelly said they weren't surprised he wasn't on the list.

"The general consensus is that Kevin is not qualified," said Walker,
the longtime court clerk.

State Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld, a Montgomery County Democrat who served
with Kelly on the House Judiciary Committee for several years, offered
sharper criticism.

"I don't think he ever approached issues of women or domestic violence
objectively," Grosfeld said. "I would have very grave concerns with
Del. Kevin Kelly serving on the District or Circuit Court bench because
of his attitude I have seen in relation to women's issues,
domestic-violence issues and family-law issues. He would be dealing
with protective orders. I would be extremely worried about his ability
to be fair to victims."

The members of the nominating commission who reviewed Kelly's
application won't discuss their recommendations. Their records are not
public, nor are those of several bar panels that also judged his
candidacy and forwarded their findings to the commission.

"The vote that the bar takes is a confidential vote for the governor's
eyes only," said Paul C. Sullivan, an attorney and president of the
Allegany County Bar Association.

Kelly said questions about his temperament, which some critics said
could border on sophomoric, are "absolute nonsense." And he said his 25
years of legal experience would make him a good judge.

"Kevin Kelly can be a fun-loving person, but when he needs to be, he is
as serious as a heart attack," Kelly said.

Even though he is a Democrat, the delegate's candidacy has drawn
support from some unlikely quarters. "I think Kevin Kelly would make a
great judge in Allegany County," said John M. Kane, chairman of the
Maryland Republican Party and an Ehrlich ally.

If Kelly became a judge, it would remove a veteran lawmaker from the
Assembly and create an opportunity that could help the GOP reach its
goal of picking up 14 seats in the 2006 election. Republicans want to
increase their numbers to make it more difficult for Democrats to
override Ehrlich vetoes. Kelly's seat is a prime target.

"We feel that that district is a very fertile district for Republicans,
and I think we'd have a good chance at picking up a seat, whether Kevin
Kelly is a judge or not," Kane said.

Local Republicans feel the judgeship should not go to a Democrat. Since
the District Court system was created in 1970, there has never been a
Republican judge in Allegany, and GOP leaders appear to want to make
history.

"That was from the beginning, the phone calls being made in favor of
Getty," said Walker, the retired clerk. Jervis S. Finney, counsel to
the governor, said former Republican U.S. Sen. J. Glenn Beall and
others have written to him on behalf of Getty.

Getty is the son of James S. Getty, 84, who is retired from the Court
of Special Appeals but continues to hear cases. The elder Getty said he
has made no untoward efforts to support his son's candidacy.

"I haven't done anything," James Getty said, adding that he would like
to see his son on the bench.

"Certainly. I think he's eminently qualified, and he's interested in
doing it," Getty said.

Ehrlich has named many delegates to executive branch positions, and is
particularly fond of his old colleagues from the Judiciary Committee.
Kenneth C. Montague Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, runs the juvenile
Services Department. Kenneth H. Masters, also a Democrat, became his
legislative lobbyist.

But Kelly says that other than a judgeship - or remaining as a delegate
- there is nothing else he wants.

"I'm going to sit back and see what happens," he said. "There is no
other position in state government that has any interest for me."

Sun staff writer Jennifer Skalka contributed to this article.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-09-24 11:53:27 UTC
Permalink
Ehrlich lists 18 golf tournaments, but not partners

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

September 3, 2005


Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has released records showing he played in 18
charity golf tournaments since 2003, but he will not disclose his
partners in those matches or the dates and partners for numerous other
private games, according to the governor's office.

"Private outings with friends are just that -- private -- and will
remain so," said the governor's communications director, Paul E.
Schurick, in a letter to the campaign finance watchdog group Common
Cause Maryland.

The letter was dated Aug. 28 and was released by the group yesterday.

Common Cause had asked Ehrlich, a Republican, to provide a list of golf
partners after misdemeanor ethics charges were filed last month against
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.

Taft, also a Republican, pleaded no contest and was convicted of
charges that he failed to disclose accepting greens fees as gifts.

Common Cause Maryland Executive Director James Browning said the public
has a right to know whom Ehrlich, an avid golfer, is spending time with
during games. Golf matches can last four hours or more and offer a
chance for private conversations and camaraderie, the group points out.

"This is a golden opportunity for his donors, for lobbyists and others
to get quality time with him, in private -- no record of the meeting,"
Browning said. "We don't know who is out there with him, and until we
do, the question is going to hang in the air: Is the golf course a
substitute for his office?"

Schurick denied in the letter that such access exists.

"The governor is competitive on the golf course, continually working on
his game, but still enjoying the friendship of his playing partners,"
Schurick wrote.

"Further, unlike some golfers, the governor does not use a round of
golf to 'network,' 'conduct business' or 'as an office in the rough,'"
he wrote.

Ehrlich's fondness for golf has been the focus of media attention.

After taking office, he became the first Maryland governor in years to
take advantage of a membership extended to the state's chief executive
at the pricey Caves Valley Golf Club in Baltimore County, where
memberships cost up to $125,000.

The state ethics commission ruled Ehrlich could use the membership
because it is offered to anyone who holds the office, not to him
personally.

Radio and television host and Washington Post sport columnist Tony
Kornheiser has talked on the air about playing with Ehrlich and
University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams. Ehrlich is a
skilled and methodical player, Kornheiser said.

Ehrlich's office says the governor pays for golf games with personal
funds, so does not need to report them as gifts on annual financial
disclosure forms on record with the State Ethics Commission.

The governor's office has not provided receipts or other documentation
showing that Ehrlich has paid for golf.

The list of charity tournaments released this week showed that Ehrlich
played in seven events in 2003, seven in 2004 and four this year.

This year's tournaments included the McDonald's LPGA Championship
Pro-Am at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace on June 7, followed
the next day by the PGA Booz Allen Classic Pro-Am at Congressional
Country Club in Montgomery County.

He has played at the Frederick Hospice Golf Tournament at the Holly
Hills Country Club for three consecutive years. Schurick said he was
disclosing those because the governor was acting "as an honorary host
representing the state."

Josh White, political director for the Maryland Democratic Party, said
the charity tournaments are just a fraction of Ehrlich's golf time. He
called on the governor to provide a full accounting of his play.

"The governor's business is the state's business," White said. "The
governor must think the people of Maryland are naive to think that this
many rounds of golf are not subject to question... It's a lot of time
away from the office. What does Ehrlich have to hide?"

Audra Miller, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Maryland,
called the criticism "ridiculous games being played by the Democrats."
Ehrlich has no more need to disclose his private affairs than do the
General Assembly's officers, she said.

"Tell me who Speaker [Michael E.] Busch goes to basketball games with,
or who Senate President [Thomas V. Mike] Miller has dinner with," she
said.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-10-20 19:28:12 UTC
Permalink
Subject: Did Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich help CRAFT a BOGUS
Terrorist
PLOT in an attempt to GRANDSTAND and look like Rudy Giuliani?


Queries rise on tunnel tipster

FBI can't confirm account; Associates say Egyptian lied

by Matthew Dolan, Baltimore Sun

October 20, 2005


Law enforcement officials and members of the local Egyptian community
are raising new questions about an informant who prompted Maryland
officials to close two Baltimore harbor tunnels and a major interstate,
fearing a suspected terrorist attack.

A day after the tunnel closures, the FBI has been unable to corroborate
the account of the informant - an Egyptian who once lived in the
Baltimore area and is now being held in the Netherlands on immigration
violations.

No criminal charges have been filed in the alleged plot to blow up one
of Baltimore's harbor tunnels, the FBI confirmed yesterday.

"I think there is doubt, because nothing happened and nothing else has
been developed to corroborate the account," said a federal law
enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

The informant's motives remain murky. But in interviews yesterday,
associates of the four men detained in the case said they believe they
know the identity of the informant and that he had lied because his
friends failed to get him back into the United States.

His information, which included names of people living and working in
Baltimore, helped persuade Maryland Transportation Authority Police to
close Interstate 95 Tuesday at the Fort McHenry Tunnel and Interstate
895 at the Harbor Tunnel. Authorities tied up traffic for hours as they
searched cars and trucks for explosives while FBI and immigration
agents scoured the region for the men named by the informant.

The tipster alleged that at least six Egyptians living in the Baltimore
area were plotting to drive a bomb-laden vehicle into one of the
tunnels and detonate the explosives. The explosives were to have been
smuggled into port aboard a ship, according to the informant. Agents
searched a Southeast Baltimore market and at least three pizza
restaurants and detained four Middle Eastern men on immigration
violations.

Suied Mohamad-Ahamad, 25, and Mohamed Ahmed Mohamady Ismail, 30, both
Egyptians, were taken into custody at Safa's Pizza on Merritt Avenue in
Dundalk.

A third man, Ahmad al Momani, 58, from Jordan, was picked up at Koko
Market, a Middle Eastern business in Highlandtown.

Mohamed Mohamed Abdel Hamed, 29, also Egyptian, was arrested in the
2900 block of Sollers Point Road in Dundalk.

The owner of the Koko Market was arrested on a gun charge, court
records show. Maged M. Hussein, 41, was charged with violating a
protective order by failing to surrender a revolver. The protective
order had been obtained by his estranged wife last month in Baltimore
County.

'A good man' Kamal Zughbar, 63, who lives in a basement apartment on
Rappolla Street in the Greektown neighborhood, described al Momani as a
friend and fellow Jordanian immigrant whom he has known for about five
years.

"He's a good man," Zughbar said. "That's what I know."

Abdel Hamed's and Mohamad-Ahamad's landlord said the men told her they
are cousins when they rented the basement of her brick rowhouse on
Sollers Point Road about eight months ago.

Eileen Katherine said she was shocked when FBI agents took Abdel Hamed
away in handcuffs Tuesday.

"We had no idea," she said, referring to their alleged illegal
immigration status.

Abdel Hamed was divorced from a woman in Egypt and had a 4-year-old
daughter, Katherine said. She said both men sent money to their
families in Egypt.

She said friends at Didi's Pizzeria Restaurant and Carryout, where she
said the men worked, came to get their belongings from the apartment
yesterday.

'Ulterior motives' Ahmed Barbour, manager of Didi's Pizzeria in
Dundalk, said he believes the informant is a man who used to work for
him at the restaurant. He said the man, about 25 or 26 years old, came
to the United States with a group of fellow Egyptians several years ago
and was deported last year on immigration violations.

Federal sources interviewed for this article said they could not
confirm that. But one law enforcement source did say that the informant
was an Egyptian and had lived in Baltimore in recent years. The source
said the informant had a "questionable" performance on a polygraph.

Since being deported, the man has tried furiously to get back into the
United States, said Barbour, sitting behind a cluttered desk in a smoky
office in the back of his pizzeria, a carry-out located behind a
7-Eleven on Holaview Road in Dundalk.

"He tried calling people here" to have money sent to him, Barbour said.
The people he was calling were the same ones he came to this country
with, Barbour said. "He gets very sad."

Carol Barbour, an employee at Didi's, confirmed her husband's account,
saying the informant had "ulterior motives" for tipping off the FBI to
a bomb threat that she believes never was.

"Does he understand what he's done?" she asked.

The four men detained Tuesday remain in federal custody on prior
deportation orders. One was named by the informant as a conspirator in
the alleged tunnel plot, according to a law enforcement official
familiar with the investigation.

Federal officials discounted an ABC report that the informant might
have lied because he had become involved romantically with a girlfriend
of one of the men he falsely described as a terrorist.

The right call? The decision to close the Baltimore harbor tunnels,
which received national attention, drew little public criticism in
Maryland yesterday.

After initially questioning the decision by state officials to close
the tunnels Tuesday without warning, Mayor Martin O'Malley toned down
his statements and suggested yesterday that there had been no major
breakdown in communications between state and local officials.

"The fact that we can always improve shouldn't make you feel like there
was another breakdown. There wasn't," O'Malley said at his weekly news
conference. "The one little glitch we had was the lead time to
accommodate the traffic. So, I think the rest of it went very well."

Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Gary McLhinney
acknowledged that the decision to close the tunnels was made, ordered
and executed within a few minutes, but repeated that the scenario had
been under consideration for days.

McLhinney said the order to close the highways had to be made just
seconds after the final decision because of the proximity of the
suspects to the tunnels. Officials were concerned that the suspects
could hear of the operation and move to "harm the tunnels."

During a radio call-in show, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said that the
decision to close the tunnels was "not a close call."

"Obviously you have to move, but the generic question is what do we
do?" the governor said on WBAL. "We have these opposing forces in our
society. You have prosperous free country, freedom of movement,
obviously free of activity against a war, and it's a very
non-traditional war. It's a terror war."

The director of the Maryland Office of Homeland Security, Dennis R.
Schrader, said the state will produce an "after-action" report on the
shutdown of the tunnels and that McLhinney's agency will head up the
effort with the support of the state's emergency management division.

The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Affairs issued a
statement yesterday saying said that reasonable precautions should be
taken when there is a confirmed threat. But Shama Farooq, director of
civil rights for the group, urged authorities to use restraint.

"We are concerned when members of a group that is already heavily
profiled are targeted once again for an investigation or arrest that is
based on uncorroborated information from an informant abroad," he said.

Egyptians living in Maryland are dispersed throughout the state, said
Dr. Bash Faroan, president of the Baltimore County Muslim Council. In
the 2000 Census, about 3,200 Maryland residents identified themselves
as being of Egyptian ancestry.

Terrorism experts said yesterday that state officials made the right
call in closing the tunnels in light of the information they had, but
suggested that the federal government should offer more detailed
guidance.

"This is exactly the kind of thing that the director of national
intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center are supposed to
be involved in," said Michael Greenberger, director of the University
of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security in Baltimore. "The
very purpose of the center is to bring all intelligence analysis to one
place and to advise consumers of that intelligence on how to respond to
it."

Greenberger said the lesson learned from the Baltimore bomb scare and a
similar threat in New York earlier this month is that "if we are going
to have an effective federal intelligence network, it really has to be
there to provide some solid analysis."

Without such expertise, cities across the nation could be crippled by
similar threats at airports, bridges and seaports, he said.

"Everyone is left to their own best judgment," Greenberger said.

***@baltsun.com Sun reporters Josh Mitchell, Lynn Anderson,
John Fritze, Laura Barnhardt, Liz F. Kay, Siobhan Gorman and Nicole
Fuller contributed to this article.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-11-02 20:00:20 UTC
Permalink
Democrats want to hear from Steffen

by Jennifer Skalka, Baltimore Sun reporter

November 1, 2005


Democratic lawmakers reviewing Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s personnel
practices said yesterday that they want to hear more from Joseph F.
Steffen Jr., the former Ehrlich aide who said last weekend he was
instructed by top administration officials to target low-level state
employees
for firing.

Meanwhile, Ehrlich said that Steffen - who is also considering running
for governor against his former boss - should feel free to join the
2006 gubernatorial contest.

"If Joe wants to run for governor, I think he should," Ehrlich said
yesterday while trick-or-treating in Annapolis with his son, Drew.

The Sun reported yesterday that Steffen said he was authorized by
Ehrlich's chief of staff and the governor's appointments office to
identify
employees to be fired who were not performing adequately. His remarks
come as a bipartisan committee of lawmakers investigates whether those
state employees - and perhaps others - were fired unfairly or as a
result of their party affiliation.

"He confirms something that the administration has been denying ever
since the Steffen story surfaced, that they were firing low-level
people
- secretaries and file clerks - and now you have it from the horse's
mouth that they were," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County
Democrat. "They were firing these people for political purposes. They
were
firing them so they could use their jobs for patronage."

Ehrlich said yesterday that Steffen's remarks confirm that his
administration was using one of the perks of power - the ability to put
people
whom the governor and his aides prefer in some state jobs.

"We wanted, obviously, to bring in some new blood," Ehrlich said. "You
get to do that when you are governor. And it was not on the basis of
party."

But Frosh and some of his colleagues on the committee want to learn
more about why Steffen, a Republican operative who had worked for the
governor in various capacities for more than a decade and who relished
his
nickname, "The Prince of Darkness," would have the authority to
determine which state employees should be terminated.

"I think the personnel group is going to be interested in why it is
that the chief of staff of the governor would ask someone to go into
agencies and usurp the authority of managers in those agencies," said
Del.
Maggie L. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat. "If people aren't performing,

it's their supervisors and managers that ought to be making those
decisions, not Darth Vader, not the Prince of Darkness."

Steffen resigned in February after he was discovered to have posted
derogatory messages on the Internet about the personal life of
Baltimore
Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who has since declared his candidacy
for governor. Steffen's name comes up regularly during meetings of the
committee reviewing the governor's personnel practices.

His latest remarks have sparked a new interest among committee members
in learning more about how state employees were targeted for firing.
The committee has secured the authority to subpoena witnesses, and
Steffen told The Sun last weekend that he would be willing to testify.

"I would like to see him come before the committee," said Sen. Thomas
M. Middleton, the committee's co-chairman and a Charles County
Democrat.

Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, a Republican on the committee who has
chastised Democrats for targeting the governor unfairly during an
election
season, said Steffen's comments don't show any wrongdoing by the
administration.

"I think he clarified that he was not sent in to remove Democrats,"
Stoltzfus said. "I don't think you have anything there."

Stoltzfus also said Steffen's remarks, which included an
acknowledgement that he had purposefully timed his statements to
coincide with
Halloween and that he is considering a run for governor as a
Libertarian,
reveal nothing more than a man who "likes to see his name in the
paper."

"The fact that he comes out on Halloween shows that things are a little

crossed up there," Stoltzfus said. "Steffen is obviously a bitter man
right now."

Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller said Steffen is a "side note"
in the legislative probe. The committee's main task, he said, is to
determine how to protect the nearly 7,000 state workers who are not
covered by civil service rules and can be fired for any reason.

"I think the committee is validated with or without Steffen's remarks,"

Miller said. "I've known dozens of [state workers] that were wrongfully

terminated. Good, qualified people that wanted to make a career in
state government."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said he was pleased to see Steffen
express remorse for his past political tactics, and he said that if
Steffen
does decide to run for governor he could spice up the debates.

"I think that it would be an interesting irony to see him stand between

Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. O'Malley on a podium during a debate," Busch said.

The personnel committee meets tomorrow for its first public session
with a new special counsel, Baltimore attorney Ward B. Coe III.
Middleton
said Coe is expected to help the committee draft its next steps.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-11-02 20:00:30 UTC
Permalink
Democrats want to hear from Steffen

by Jennifer Skalka, Baltimore Sun reporter

November 1, 2005


Democratic lawmakers reviewing Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s personnel
practices said yesterday that they want to hear more from Joseph F.
Steffen Jr., the former Ehrlich aide who said last weekend he was
instructed by top administration officials to target low-level state
employees
for firing.

Meanwhile, Ehrlich said that Steffen - who is also considering running
for governor against his former boss - should feel free to join the
2006 gubernatorial contest.

"If Joe wants to run for governor, I think he should," Ehrlich said
yesterday while trick-or-treating in Annapolis with his son, Drew.

The Sun reported yesterday that Steffen said he was authorized by
Ehrlich's chief of staff and the governor's appointments office to
identify
employees to be fired who were not performing adequately. His remarks
come as a bipartisan committee of lawmakers investigates whether those
state employees - and perhaps others - were fired unfairly or as a
result of their party affiliation.

"He confirms something that the administration has been denying ever
since the Steffen story surfaced, that they were firing low-level
people
- secretaries and file clerks - and now you have it from the horse's
mouth that they were," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County
Democrat. "They were firing these people for political purposes. They
were
firing them so they could use their jobs for patronage."

Ehrlich said yesterday that Steffen's remarks confirm that his
administration was using one of the perks of power - the ability to put
people
whom the governor and his aides prefer in some state jobs.

"We wanted, obviously, to bring in some new blood," Ehrlich said. "You
get to do that when you are governor. And it was not on the basis of
party."

But Frosh and some of his colleagues on the committee want to learn
more about why Steffen, a Republican operative who had worked for the
governor in various capacities for more than a decade and who relished
his
nickname, "The Prince of Darkness," would have the authority to
determine which state employees should be terminated.

"I think the personnel group is going to be interested in why it is
that the chief of staff of the governor would ask someone to go into
agencies and usurp the authority of managers in those agencies," said
Del.
Maggie L. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat. "If people aren't performing,

it's their supervisors and managers that ought to be making those
decisions, not Darth Vader, not the Prince of Darkness."

Steffen resigned in February after he was discovered to have posted
derogatory messages on the Internet about the personal life of
Baltimore
Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who has since declared his candidacy
for governor. Steffen's name comes up regularly during meetings of the
committee reviewing the governor's personnel practices.

His latest remarks have sparked a new interest among committee members
in learning more about how state employees were targeted for firing.
The committee has secured the authority to subpoena witnesses, and
Steffen told The Sun last weekend that he would be willing to testify.

"I would like to see him come before the committee," said Sen. Thomas
M. Middleton, the committee's co-chairman and a Charles County
Democrat.

Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, a Republican on the committee who has
chastised Democrats for targeting the governor unfairly during an
election
season, said Steffen's comments don't show any wrongdoing by the
administration.

"I think he clarified that he was not sent in to remove Democrats,"
Stoltzfus said. "I don't think you have anything there."

Stoltzfus also said Steffen's remarks, which included an
acknowledgement that he had purposefully timed his statements to
coincide with
Halloween and that he is considering a run for governor as a
Libertarian,
reveal nothing more than a man who "likes to see his name in the
paper."

"The fact that he comes out on Halloween shows that things are a little

crossed up there," Stoltzfus said. "Steffen is obviously a bitter man
right now."

Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller said Steffen is a "side note"
in the legislative probe. The committee's main task, he said, is to
determine how to protect the nearly 7,000 state workers who are not
covered by civil service rules and can be fired for any reason.

"I think the committee is validated with or without Steffen's remarks,"

Miller said. "I've known dozens of [state workers] that were wrongfully

terminated. Good, qualified people that wanted to make a career in
state government."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said he was pleased to see Steffen
express remorse for his past political tactics, and he said that if
Steffen
does decide to run for governor he could spice up the debates.

"I think that it would be an interesting irony to see him stand between

Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. O'Malley on a podium during a debate," Busch said.

The personnel committee meets tomorrow for its first public session
with a new special counsel, Baltimore attorney Ward B. Coe III.
Middleton
said Coe is expected to help the committee draft its next steps.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-11-18 18:57:34 UTC
Permalink
In governor's race, black ministers rate

by Doug Donovan, Baltimore Sun reporter

October 29, 2005

When Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan launched his
gubernatorial campaign last week, one of his stops was an
African-American
church in Baltimore where he was cheered by Mayor Martin O'Malley's
oldest
and harshest critics.

For Duncan, who is relatively unknown in the city, winning over black
voters on O'Malley's home turf is crucial if the three-term executive
is
to prevail in their battle for the 2006 Democratic nomination for
governor. His visit to Union Baptist Church reveals his main strategy
of
aligning with O'Malley's political nemesis: the Interdenominational
Ministerial Alliance.

While about 29 percent of Maryland's population is African-American,
the impact of black voters is likely to be magnified in the primary
because they are overwhelmingly registered Democrat. Most of the
state's
registered black voters live in Prince George's County and Baltimore,
and
Duncan and O'Malley are pursuing strategies to build support in those
jurisdictions, including contemplating the choice of African-American
running mates.

Today, Duncan's strategy of building a base among Baltimore's black
majority is set to enlist the assistance of Kurt L. Schmoke, the city's

first black elected mayor, who served from 1987 to 1999. Schmoke is
scheduled to accompany Duncan on a citywide tour, including a stop at
an
Associated Black Charities meeting and visits to a Park Heights
barbershop, a Charles Street beauty salon and an East Baltimore market.

Some political experts say that Schmoke's endorsement coupled with
backing from ministers could help Duncan garner greater black support.
Others say black voters are knowledgeable enough to see that the
support of
Schmoke and some pastors has more to do with their rocky history with
O'Malley.

The Baltimore ministerial group has never thrown the support of its
approximately 200 city churches to O'Malley. Duncan officials say they
believe the discontent expressed by many of its ministers provides an
opening with congregations that straddle the Baltimore city-county
line.

"We believe that in the African-American community there are a lot of
people looking for an alternative" to O'Malley, said Duncan campaign
manager Scott Archineaux. For example, on Sunday, three days after his
Union Baptist announcement, Duncan appeared at services at Lochearn
Presbyterian Church with two African-American Baltimore County
Democrats -
state Sen. Delores G. Kelley and Del. Adrienne A. Jones, speaker pro
tem
of the House of Delegates.

But O'Malley supporters say the ministerial alliance speaks for a small

segment and that the mayor's record on reducing crime and supporting
minority businesses has buttressed his support among blacks - most
notably with the City Council, which has a black majority.

They also point to his support from other ministers with large
congregations such as the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel
African
Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of
Empowerment Temple.

"I'm living in the middle of Mayor O'Malley's productivity," said
Bryant, who has a congregation of about 10,000. His support for
O'Malley
marks a reversal after opposing the mayor in 1999 and 2003. His past
opposition was based on close relationships with other candidates. "I
don't
have anything against Mr. Duncan, but I know Mr. O'Malley," he said.

Some O'Malley supporters say ministers and other blacks backing Duncan
did not like O'Malley in 1999 mostly because of race and have opposed
him ever since because of lack of access. Supporters say O'Malley's
1999
victory and his decisive re-election - with broad black support - prove

black voters do not like racial appeals.

"My election was a resounding rebuke to those who would engage in the
politics of division and fear," O'Malley said last week.

Nevertheless, Duncan has been working on getting the support of black
ministers in the city for months. In July, he spoke at Trinity Baptist
Church to support the ministerial alliance and its offshoot,
Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development, in their fight against
O'Malley's
$305 million bid to build a city-owned hotel.

The council approved the hotel, but only after O'Malley reached a deal
with BUILD to create an affordable-housing fund. Wounds from the fight
linger with some ministers, who say O'Malley sides with downtown
development over neighborhoods.

"The only kind of jobs we're going to have in this city are at hotels
and hospitals," said the Rev. P.M. Smith, pastor of Huber Memorial
Church and a ministerial alliance member.

Unlike Bryant, who commented about progress in his tony Canton
neighborhood, Smith says he sees too much crime and drugs outside his
Luzerne
Avenue home in a blighted section of East Baltimore.

The Rev. Gregory Perkins, pastor of St. Paul Community Baptist Church,
also in East Baltimore, said he also sees little progress and believes
that Duncan's strategy will work.

"O'Malley does not have a good relationship with the black community,"
said Perkins, former president of the alliance.

Despite BUILD's success with the housing-fund deal, it remains unclear
whether the ministerial alliance's support, which Duncan has yet to
formally receive, still holds sway with congregants.

Duncan could get further support if Schmoke - who as mayor clashed
frequently with then-Councilman O'Malley - resurrects his old political

organization to help. Former Mayor William Donald Schaefer, the state
comptroller who is still well-known in the city, also is backing the
county
executive.

O'Malley supporters doubt that Duncan will make serious inroads in
Baltimore because black voters see progress and know that perfection is
not
possible in the face of entrenched urban ills.

"I think the mayor has done a very good job," said Rep. Elijah E.
Cummings, the influential Baltimore Democrat and former chairman of the

Congressional Black Caucus. "I have not seen anything that would
warrant
any kind of campaign beating up on him based on some kind of racial
issues."

Several council members said any frustration among blacks is too small
to give Duncan traction.

The ministers "represent a segment of frustration in our neighborhoods
- of blight and of what's happening with crime," said City Councilman
Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. "They're resentful that the city has a white
mayor."

The resentment stems from the 1999 election, in which O'Malley defeated

two black councilmen, Carl Stokes and Lawrence A. Bell III. Crucial to
his victory was the backing of several black leaders: Del. Howard P.
Rawlings, who died in 2003; state Sen. Joan Carter Conway; and Reid.

After his election, O'Malley's relationship with the alliance was
further strained when he refused to finance an after-school program run
by
BUILD. Instead, he established a process to award after-school grants
to
more groups and with far more financial oversight.

Perkins said he became the alliance's president in 2001 in part to
re-establish ties with O'Malley. The mayor "made it clear he did not
want
to work with the IMA," Perkins said.

Reid, who said he will endorse O'Malley in the primary, believes the
alliance's lingering opposition stems from being shut out of City Hall.

Although the mayor enjoys a tight alliance with most of the council,
especially with President Sheila Dixon, O'Malley has not had good
relations with other black elected officials: State's Attorney Patricia
C.
Jessamy, Comptroller Joan M. Pratt and - more recently - Conway.

In 2003, Conway, Jessamy and Stokes joined businessman Raymond V.
Haysbert, chairman of the Greater Baltimore Urban League, at a secret
meeting to try to find a credible black candidate to challenge O'Malley
in
the Democratic mayoral primary.

None was found, leaving Andrey Bundley, a high school principal and
political novice, as the mayor's only opponent. O'Malley's detractors
claim that Bundley's 30 percent of the primary vote indicated weakness
in
O'Malley's black base. But O'Malley won with one of the widest margins
in city history and with a clear majority of black voters.

With O'Malley at the helm, the city has almost doubled awards to
minority businesses, from $44.7 million in 2000 to $83.1 million in
2004. And
more than 70 percent of city workers report to black department heads.
Such statistics have won praise from Haysbert and minority-business
advocate Arnold Jolivet, who say O'Malley has done more for minorities
than Schmoke did as mayor.

Duncan supporters say O'Malley is losing many black voters frustrated
with his policing tactics. Although most agree that city crime is down,

many critics question whether it's been reduced by 40 percent, as FBI
statistics show. They also are concerned that thousands of residents -
mostly black males - are being arrested, only to have prosecutors
decline to pursue the charges. Del. Jill P. Carter, a city Democrat,
has been
railing against the mayor and what she calls "illegal arrests."

"He has had no effect on crime," Perkins said. But he did concede:
"Drug dealers are not as brazen."

O'Malley supporters, like Reid, say police are only answering the call
to aggressively fight crime.

"The mayor and his Police Department - they do not commit murders,"
Reid said. "At the end of the day, it's about who can win. ...
[O'Malley]
would have a better chance of beating Governor Ehrlich."
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-12-15 16:27:45 UTC
Permalink
City crime stats a sitting duck as Duncan targets state office

by Michael Olesker

October 18, 2005


At the Edward F. Borgerding District Court Building in the city of
Baltimore yesterday, there was nothing special. Defendants marched in,
with
the usual respect for the law, wearing hooded sweat shirts and jeans
with the belt lines yielding to gravity. They mumbled into their
sneakers
when they stood before judges. There were 38 cases on the Northwest
District docket, and 67 more on the Western docket.

Somewhere in Montgomery County, Doug Duncan will hear about such
routine business, and take it to the bank. He is county executive there
and,
on Thursday, is slated to announce his run for the Democratic
nomination for governor of Maryland. Already, we have hints of Duncan's
campaign
intentions. They come out of places such as the Borgerding court
building and land in the lap of Mayor Martin O'Malley, who also wishes
to be
governor.

The city's crime rate drops dramatically, but not its homicide count.
Nor, in the public description from Duncan, has its reputation
improved.
In the district courts yesterday, it was the usual business: assaults
and break-ins and car theft, some homicides on their way to higher
courts, and almost all of this driven by drug trafficking. Thus, the
obvious
target for Duncan: He runs against not only O'Malley, but also his city

and its enduring crime.

Montgomery County is a different world. Baltimore, with roughly 650,000

people, does cartwheels when we keep our homicides below 300 a year.
Montgomery County, with roughly 930,000 people, had 18 murders last
year.
That is not a misprint. At mid-year count this summer, it had six.

"Our crime rate's so low, you wouldn't believe it if it weren't true,"
Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler was saying
yesterday. "Half our homicides are domestic. It's rarely
stranger-on-stranger. There's very little violent crime here at all.
When you attend a
Montgomery County political event, or a community event, they're
talking
about transportation issues, or housing or schools. Very rarely do you
hear mention of crime."

Martin O'Malley wishes he had such luxury, but he does not. And his
dilemma now becomes his party's. Democratic leaders are asking Duncan
and
O'Malley to stick to statewide issues and to criticize the current
governor, but to avoid ripping each other's home communities for
political
points.

These leaders are mainly talking to Duncan. O'Malley, with roots in
Montgomery County, has no wish to antagonize folks in such a
prosperous,
and vote-rich, jurisdiction. But Duncan looks at Baltimore and
inevitably must ask, How can I pass up such a target, and not blame
O'Malley for
its troubles?

Especially with Duncan's numbers. The early polls say he trails
O'Malley, and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., as well. Duncan sloughs this
off.
One day this summer, standing in a little backyard gathering in
Southwest
Baltimore County's Halethorpe, Duncan was asked about his seeming
inability to get much early traction going.

"The polls," he said, "have me trailing Ehrlich, but half the people in

the state don't know me. Everybody in the state knows Ehrlich. They
have me trailing O'Malley, and 90 percent of the people in the state
know
him. Ehrlich is the single most vulnerable Republican governor in the
country. O'Malley's the mayor who promised to end crime, and they're
still killing each other in his city."

This will lead us, as the campaign for governor builds steam, into
deeper discussions of responsibility: How much, exactly, do we credit
(or
blame) a mayor (or county executive) for a community's crime problems?
For this, go back to the state's attorney Gansler.

"Crime's low in Montgomery County," he said, "because we have a
phenomenal police department and a very concerned citizenry. There's a
great
deal of community involvement, of people looking out for each other.
Our
closure rate's very high. There are very few outstanding cases,
homicide or otherwise.

"And it's not that we're a rich county. Montgomery County isn't the
county of people's perceptions. We have rich and poor, and white and
nonwhite. The school system is majority non-white. So, does a county
executive, or a mayor, effect the crime rate? Directly, almost not at
all. But
they're the ones responsible for hiring and firing of police chiefs."

Baltimore, as Duncan has noted, has had a run of police commissioners
since O'Malley took office.

"I'm not sure how fair it is to blame O'Malley," Gansler said. "It's
not like there's one issue that keeps coming up with these
commissioners.
Is O'Malley going to be blamed? Sure. Is it fair to blame him? Who
knows? What the mayor did say was, I'm going to address the crime
problem.
He made it more of an issue than his actual ability to control it.

"And there's the real problem. It's very dangerous to take credit when
crime goes down, because then you've got to take blame when it
doesn't."

Beginning Thursday, we'll see how this gets translated through the
perceptions of Doug Duncan.


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FBI Reports: Baltimore Remains ONE of the Country's Deadliest Cities!
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2006-01-12 18:19:52 UTC
Permalink
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich made us #1


Maryland ranks among worst in alcohol-related traffic fatalities

By Greg Barrett, Baltimore Sun reporter

November 29, 2005

An annual study on alcohol-related traffic fatalities ranks Maryland
among the deadliest in the nation and is expected to give traction to
new
drunken-driving legislation headed to debate in Annapolis.

State lawmakers will consider next year a variety of measures that
include mandatory ignition interlocks - breathalyzers used to start a
vehicle - for drivers who have been found with a blood-alcohol level
double
the legal state limit of 0.08 percent, and three-year license
suspensions for drunken drivers under age 21.

Yesterday's so-called "Fatal Fifteen" report, compiled by a nonprofit
traffic safety advocacy group and the National Safety Council, listed
Maryland as ninth among 15 states or territories where 42 percent or
more
of traffic fatalities last year were alcohol-related. Nearly 45 percent

of Maryland's fatalities involved alcohol consumption. Nationally, the
percentage was 39.

Rhode Island ranked first with 50.6 percent and Utah had the nation's
lowest percentage with 24.3 percent of its traffic fatalities tied to
alcohol. Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and Virginia had 41.8 percent,
41.2 percent and 38.8 percent, respectively.

"This signifies to me that the state is failing to do all it needs to
in order to wage a war on drunk driving," said Del. William A.
Bronrott,
a Montgomery County Democrat who chaired the county's 2000 Blue Ribbon
Panel on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety. "It lends further credence to
the call for more action legislatively as well as the need to give
police ... more resources to do the job."

In 2001, the state's threshold for drunken driving was lowered to a
blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent from 0.10 percent. The next year, a

state law banning open alcohol containers in the driver or passenger
areas of vehicles went into effect. The violation is punishable by a
$25
fine.

But in the past three years, the percentage of Maryland traffic
fatalities involving alcohol has successively crept higher, from 42
percent in
2002 to nearly 45 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration.

No one has monitored this trajectory closer than victim and safety
advocate Nancy Kelly of Timonium, the public policy liaison for
Maryland's
chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Nine years ago, Kelly's 20-year-old son, Dan, was struck and killed by
a woman who admitted to police that she had just drunk two
vodka-and-tonics, according to police testimony. Dan Kelly, a
computer-engineering
student at Virginia Tech, was walking alongside a campus road at night
when he was hit by the woman's Chrysler New Yorker.

"It's a boat of a car," Kelly said yesterday. In court "the woman said
that as long as you were standing she thought it was OK to be driving."

When Kelly heard the news about Maryland's poor standing nationally,
she wasn't surprised. "It just reinforces what I've known for the last
few years; it just kind of shows a trend," she said. "Everybody knows
you
don't drink and drive, but the message is not getting across to some
people. ... If it was, we wouldn't have this terrible loss of life."

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. plans to reintroduce legislation next year
that would automatically suspend the licenses of motorists under age 21

who drink and drive, said Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell. "The governor

... is absolutely dedicated to getting drunk drivers of the road,"
Fawell said.

State Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr., a Prince George's County Democrat,
said yesterday that he would introduce legislation that would give
drunken-driver probation officers more authority. He would make it
easier for
them to order ignition interlocks, allowing the devices to be placed on

vehicles of drivers convicted of drunken driving.

The driver would pay for the interlocks, which cost about $150 and $50
a month to maintain, he said. The interlocks require a driver to pass a

sobriety breath test before the car will start, but the system allows
other sober passengers to override the tests.

Kelly doesn't believe the solution lies only with legislation.

"It all boils down to personal responsibility," she said. "Before you
go out when you know you will be drinking, we must have a designated
driver - someone drinking only soda and coffee - or you take a cab or
you
plan to stay at someone's home."

The second annual "Fatal Fifteen" study, spearheaded by the
physician-led and Chicago-based group End Needless Death on Our
Roadways, is
intended to give perspective to a problem that "plagues society," said
Dr.
Thomas Esposito, the group's co-chairperson and the director of Loyola
University Medical Center's Injury Analysis and Prevention Program.

"There is a tolerance for impaired driving that I do not think exists
for things like the West Nile virus or, God forbid, the avian virus,"
he
said. "When these things threaten, society rises up in arms."

After personal responsibility fails, Kelly said, sobriety checkpoints
and traffic stops are the next line of defense. "No one is saying you
can't drink," she said. "You just can't drink and drive."

During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend Maryland State Police increased

its traffic stops by 80 percent over last year - to 7,430 - and
arrested 127 motorists for driving under the influence of alcohol, an
increase
of 13 percent.

Before her son was killed - and the driver acquitted of involuntary
manslaughter on legal technicalities - Kelly and her family used to
donate
to MADD whenever the organization called. "Everyone is against drunk
driving," she said. "Like everyone else, we felt terrible whenever
someone was killed by a drunk driver."

Then her son became a statistic.

"And we became the other people," she said. "It proved firsthand that
no one is safe."
--------------------
'Fatal Fifteen'

The list of states and territories that had the highest percentage of
traffic fatalities linked to impaired driving in 2004. Compiled by End
Needless Death on Our Roadways, a nonprofit traffic safety advocacy
group, and the National Safety Council.

State, Percentage of fatalities Rhode Island 50.6
Puerto Rico 50.2
Montana 46.3
Texas 45.8
Louisiana 45.8
Hawaii 45.8
Wisconsin 45.2
Illinois 44.5
Maryland 44.5
South Carolina 44.4
Washington 43.7
South Dakota 43.7
Connecticut 43.6
Oregon 43.6
Massachusetts 42.7

[Source: 2004, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration]
Post by SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
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FBI Reports: Baltimore Remains ONE of the Country's Deadliest Cities!
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2006-02-02 19:02:00 UTC
Permalink
Isn't this one of Ehrlich's appointees?

Bad judgment

December 27, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

Maryland operates a judicial institute that trains new judges and
offers continuing education classes for veteran jurists. But Prince
George's
County District Judge Richard A. Palumbo must have skipped out on the
class on judicial demeanor when he joined the bench in 2001. His
insensitivity to a woman involved in a domestic dispute in September
doesn't
appear to be an isolated incident. New complaints suggest he needs more

than an attitude check - or a remedial class.

The 67-year-old judge was reassigned to administrative duties within
weeks of his Sept. 19 decision to rescind a protective order for Yvette

Cade, who, three weeks later, was critically burned, allegedly by her
estranged husband. At the September hearing, Judge Palumbo displayed an

"I know better" attitude about Ms. Cade's situation and ignored a list
of grievances about her husband's troubling behavior.

The House of Ruth Domestic Violence Legal Clinic has now alleged that
Judge Palumbo disparaged women in other cases, denied an immigrant an
interpreter and, more alarming, made bad legal calls on previous
requests
for protective orders. The center's complaint to the Judicial
Disabilities Commission seeks the judge's removal.

That's the harshest punishment, which is rarely meted out. In the year
that ended last June, the commission handled about 84 complaints, which

resulted in one reprimand and one warning. Judge Palumbo will get his
chance to dispute the allegations against him. But in several
celebrated
cases in the late 1990s that involved disdainful comments about women,
the panel issued less-than-satisfactory rulings. It dismissed a
complaint against one Baltimore County judge accused of insensitivity
against
a murder victim and merely warned a second county judge who struck the
criminal conviction of a batterer so he could join a country club. At
that time, the panel publicly affirmed the importance of bringing these

matters to it and, when necessary, discussing them in an open forum.

The Palumbo charges demand serious scrutiny. This is a judge who, in
court, has likened the availability of women to the timing of buses:
They
come along every five minutes.

When judges are insensitive to victims of domestic violence, they give
battered spouses another reason not to come forward. These victims
shouldn't be humiliated by the very system charged with protecting
them.
Such behavior insults the victims and the integrity of the system. For
the past 20 years, public health and women's rights activists have
worked
hard to get battered spouses to step forward, to seek help and to
testify against their abusers. That campaign has paid off in increased
reporting, expanded awareness and programs for victims and those who
batter
them.

Domestic violence victims who come forward deserve all the protection
and respect that the law affords them. No more, but certainly no less.
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2006-02-24 19:50:58 UTC
Permalink
Septic fee angers Ehrlich's rural base

by Andrew A. Green, Baltimore Sun reporter

February 13, 2006

PERRYVILLE -- Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. promotes the so-called flush
tax as one of his greatest accomplishments and proof that he can work
with Democratic legislators on important policy initiatives.

But on the eve of his re-election push, the Republican finds himself
trying to explain his support for the tax to rural voters - the bedrock
of his political base - who are incensed at having to pay the fee on
their septic systems.

Rural legislators say the topic is the hottest one on the Eastern Shore
and in Western and Southern Maryland. A Cecil County couple has erected
a giant sign reading "Flush You! Gov. Ehrlich" off Interstate 95. And
last week, the governor sent an op-ed article to five rural newspapers
explaining that he never supported taxing owners of septic systems.

"It was the most emotional issue in my district over the interim.
People are furious," said state Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, the
Republican leader from the Eastern Shore who has introduced a bill that
would exempt septic owners from the tax. "And you know, unfortunately,
they were blaming the governor for it."

Ehrlich pushed for and signed the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act in
2004, which requires those with municipal sewer hookups or septic
systems to pay annual fees of $30, or $2.50 per month.

The fees are estimated to generate about $74 million year, to be used
mainly for improving wastewater treatment plants, with a small part
earmarked for grants and loans to add nitrogen-removal technology to
septic systems.

Ehrlich originally wanted to exclude septic tanks, but they became part
of the final bill in a compromise with Democrats in the General
Assembly. Environmental leaders argued that leeching from the tanks
contributes to the bay's decline and that the waste pumped from them
must be treated at sewage plants.

Republican politicians in Annapolis and in the state's rural counties
generally are not criticizing Ehrlich over his decision to sign the
bill, and say they think he can explain his position and mollify rural
voters.

"Our assumption was always that the Democrats proposed this to muck up
Republican constituents with their elected officials," said Joseph M.
Getty, the governor's policy and legislative director. "This was one
policy decision they knew had broad political implications to separate
Republicans from their base."

But there are signs that the flush tax, coupled with higher fees for
vehicle registration and other issues, are costing Ehrlich support in
areas of the state that voted overwhelmingly for him in 2002.

Lewis and Billye Jo Jackson of Elk Neck, Republicans who voted for
Ehrlich four years ago, said they were already annoyed with him over
the vehicle registration fees and a development on nearby state
parkland that he allowed to be expanded. But the notion that they would
have to pay a fee on their septic system for a program that primarily
helps upgrade municipal sewage treatment plants was the last straw.

About a month ago, they printed the "Flush You!" sign and erected it on
a crane next to their son's house off I-95 in Perryville, just east of
the Susquehanna River. They also printed hundreds of matching bumper
stickers.

More than 100 people have called to ask for the stickers - as many
Republicans as Democrats, Billye Jo Jackson said. A woman asked if she
could get in trouble for sticking Ehrlich's picture on a toilet seat
and planting it in front of her house.

"People are just irate," said Lewis Jackson. "All he had to do was veto
it, but he didn't do that."

Ehrlich carried Cecil County by a margin of 68 percent to 30 percent in
2002.

In Southern Maryland, the conservative editorial page of the newspaper
St. Mary's Today recently endorsed Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley in
the governor's race, on the grounds that Ehrlich was governing like a
tax-and-spend liberal. The flush tax was one of the primary gripes.

"All the flush tax did was tax private septic systems across the state
to pay for improvements to sewage plants, which would then have a
larger capacity for more development for the builders," the editorial
read. "And this is supposed to help the Chesapeake Bay?"

Ehrlich won St. Mary's County, 63 percent to 36 percent, in 2002.

In Charles County, where voters backed Ehrlich 56 percent to 43 percent
in 2002, the first charges for septic system owners went out in
October, attached to property tax bills. Charles County Treasurer
Jerome Peuler said residents have been calling or coming into the
office to complain ever since.

"Most people have objected to paying it," he said.

One of their major objections is that they pay to have their septic
tanks emptied and the waste disposed of properly. That means they're
already paying to prevent runoff into the bay, some owners said.

"I think it's a crock," David Coppage, a beer salesman from Queen
Anne's County, said while eating a sandwich at Hillside Market in
Centreville. "It seems like we're paying twice."

Queen Anne's County voted for Ehrlich, 74 percent to 25 percent, in
2002.

Ernest J. Gregg, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners in
Garrett County, which Ehrlich carried 73 percent to 26 percent, said
opposition has been particularly intense there because in much of the
county, runoff from septic systems and treatment plants does not drain
into the Chesapeake Bay.

"It's a very unpopular issue up here," Gregg said. "Unfortunately, many
people are blaming local government. We tried to make the point that we
did not do it, that it's a state law."

John Bambacus, a political science professor at Frostburg State
University in Allegany County, which voted for Ehrlich, 64 percent to
35 percent, said the governor will have a hard time trumpeting the act
as one of his greatest successes without turning off core supporters.

"I'd be surprised if he'd be able to sell it," Bambacus said.

Ehrlich is trying. He has sent an op-ed article about the flush tax to
several rural newspapers and plans to distribute it more widely soon, a
spokesman said.

In his article, Ehrlich calls the restoration act essential to passing
along a healthy Chesapeake Bay to future generations. But he also seeks
to focus blame for the tax on Democrats.

Most rural legislators joined my fight to remove the septic fee from
the bill, but were unsuccessful," Ehrlich wrote. "To express your
concerns about the septic fee, I encourage you to call its author,
state Senator Paula Hollinger, at 1-800-492-7122."

The governor has said that he would sign legislation to repeal the fee
on septic tanks, but sponsors in the House of Delegates and the Senate
said it is unlikely that the measure will succeed.

"Too bad," Hollinger said. "Everybody flushes. The governor probably
wants to exempt septics because that's his base, and he doesn't want to
include those people."

Del. George C. Edwards, the House Minority Leader from Garrett County
and a sponsor of one of the bills to exempt septic system owners, said
many of his constituents don't see what they get out of the tax and
consider it to be an infringement by government. But he said he doesn't
see it as a political liability for Ehrlich.

"Some people are angry at the government, but most people ... when you
sit down and explain it to them, they understand," he said.


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FBI Reports: Baltimore Remains ONE of the Country's Deadliest Cities!
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2006-03-20 19:43:29 UTC
Permalink
Subject: Is Maryland Governor Ehrlich's wife producing porn videos on
the side?
Newsgroups: balt.general,md.general,md.annapolis,md.politics
Date: 20 Mar 2006 11:40:16 -0800


First Lady's Show Too Racy For Classrooms

POSTED: 8:07 am EST March 20, 2006
UPDATED: 10:47 am EST March 20, 2006


ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The State Education Department in Maryland has
declined to an offer to show Maryland First Lady Kendel Ehrlich's cable
television show in public school classrooms.

Mrs. Ehrlich had pitched the plan to show "Live Right: Straight Talk on
Substance Abuse" in schools, but was turned down because one episode --
filmed on the beach and in nightclubs in Ocean City -- includes sexual
language and brief nudity.

Comcast Cable Communications pays Mrs. Ehrlich $55,000 to host 16
shows.

The department has offered to distribute the videos to parents and to
local Parent Teacher Associations.


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b***@yahoo.com
2006-04-28 17:45:50 UTC
Permalink
Case against officers rests on wiretaps

by Matthew Dolan, Baltimore Sun reporter
March 26, 2006

The indicted police officers sit in federal court
every day but have never spoken to the men and
women who will decide their fates.

For two weeks, detectives William A. King and
Antonio L. Murray have watched silently as jurors
absorbed hour upon hour of the officers'
conversations that were secretly recorded by the
FBI.

Federal prosecutors say wiretaps show how King
and Murray masterminded an illegal drug-dealing
operation, nicknamed "grinding," that targeted
old and addled addicts in West Baltimore. Often,
according to the tapes, the officers "grinded"
before or after their regular shifts, calling it
their real work.

"You should have been like, yo, you know how King
is," King told one man he stopped for drug
dealing in March last year and later robbed,
according to authorities. "He took my [expletive]
drugs and he took my money, told me to get the
[expletive] out of here."

This week, their attorneys say, King and Murray
will have a chance to fight back when they take
the witness stand.

But to do so, the officers will need to overcome
a withering picture of police corruption
assembled by prosecutors that draws from the
officers' informants who became federal
witnesses, gel capsules full of heroin seized
from the officers' car and bank records showing
unusually large cash deposits - a trademark of a
drug dealer, according to prosecutors.

The strength of the government's case has been
the hundreds, if not thousands, of the officers'
conversations. They reveal moments both mundane
and monstrous, federal prosecutors say.

One call between the partners Feb. 17, 2005, was
fairly typical. It captured both staccato banter
between them and the shorthand references that
federal agents said the officers used to complete
their drug deals. A partial transcript said:

Murray: That was like 60 some pieces, wasn't it?

King: That [expletive] sitting in the car
somewhere. Middle console.

Murray: It's in the brown paper bag. Don't leave
it in there.

King: I don't know what you're talking about.

Murray: Yo, we went in the house, you found like
you said it was like 60 pieces. It was in a brown
paper bag. Where is it?

King: I told you I put everything in that middle
console.

The conversations are not evidence of a criminal
enterprise, the officer's lawyers argue. Instead,
attorneys Edward Smith Jr. and Russell A.
Neverdon Sr. said that the snippets are raw talk
from undercover officers simply doing their job -
a demanding one that required them to bend the
rules and adopt new, aggressive tactics, some
taught by policing experts from New York.

But King and Murray were more than aggressive,
according to prosecutors. For more than six
months before their arrests in May 2005, the
officers are accused of rounding up drug suspects
and holding them in cars, robbing and threatening
them with force, arrest and prosecution.

Later, the two police officers and their lookout,
Antonio Mosby, split the proceeds from the
robberies and sold the drugs they seized for
profit, according to court testimony.

For more than a decade, King and Murray followed
remarkably similar paths. They both graduated
from high school in Baltimore and joined the city
Police Department in 1992. They spent time in the
Central District, the Criminal Intelligence
Section and a specialized unit that swarmed over
high-crime areas in the city.

In December 2004, when the Police Department
assumed responsibility for patrolling Baltimore's
public housing communities, King and Murray
joined the new unit.

However parallel their careers, a review of
almost 700 pages of transcripts of the tapes by
The Sun shows the officers' different
personalities. Murray comes across as high-strung
and aggressive. Records show he amassed a large
amount of cash in his bank accounts, and part of
the tapes deal with his purchase of a new
Infiniti.

In contrast, King is laconic. His answers are
short and often without detail. He seems to let
his guard down a little when talking to Mosby,
whom he used to drink with in his off-hours.

The frustration both officers shared about Mosby,
an admitted heroin addict, led to one of the
trial's more humorous moments when prosecutors
played a conversation from Feb. 17, 2005. In it,
Murray is convinced that Mosby is trying to con
the officers by getting them to front him drugs
allegedly stolen without paying for them first.

Murray: What he think, we're super dummies?

King: Yeah.

Murray: Huh?

King: Yep.

Murray: Seriously.

King: Yeah, for real.

The conversation continues, but Murray appears
obsessed with idea of "super dummies."

Murray: I'm dumb, [slight laugh] but I ain't no
super super dummy.

King appeared to have more affection for Mosby,
who returned the feeling. Playful and teasing,
the two appeared to box out Murray at times,
including one phone call April 8, 2005:

King: During the daytime, but in the morning
before we hit Tony [Murray], even if we could,
just get, go get stashes yo. You know what I'm
sayin'?

Mosby: Yeah, for real yo.

King: You know we get ... I'm trying to make
something from it too [expletive]. You just want
me to give everything to you.

Mosby: No, no, no, no, no, yo. We go fifty-fifty
yo. Fifty-fifty.

King: All right. Well that's what's up then.

Mosby wasn't King and Murray's only source on the
street. The FBI and prosecutors argue that King
used others, including government witness Dion
Snipe, who were detained and then set free to
sell "packs" of drugs on the street and share in
the profits.

At 9:52 p.m. May 9, 2005, King and Snipe
allegedly talked about one of their last deals:

Snipe: We trying to get a couple of dollars in
our pockets, right?

King: Yo, it's [expletive] 10 o'clock!

Snipe: Hmph?

King: It's 10 o'clock. Time I get off ...

Snipe: What does that mean?

King: I ain't at work no more!

Snipe: Oh, so you're off?

King: Yeah.

Snipe: I thought you said you work till 1 o'clock
tonight?

King: No, I did not. I said 10.

Snipe: Oh man, oh [expletive].

King: What, what was up?

Snipe: Damn. Remember, when I tell you about the
people sitting on the steps.

King: Yeah.

Snipe: Two packs in there, right.

King: Say what?

Snipe: Two packs and I think like maybe 300
dollars. We can split that, right?

King: Damn, I'm off, yo. Tomorrow we can do that
though, definitively.

Two days later, the FBI arrested King and Murray.
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2006-05-22 17:48:55 UTC
Permalink
Early and often

May 5, 2006 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

There he goes again. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is trying to undermine
public confidence in Maryland's fall elections. He's repeating the
claim that early voting is a "transparent attempt to commit fraud." And
this time, he persuaded Comptroller William Donald Schaefer to delay a
contract (involving management of the State Board of Elections'
computer system) for a couple of weeks to make his point.

What a load of hanging chads. If early voting is tantamount to an act
of fraud, Mr. Ehrlich better call on the FBI to investigate those 34
other states that have it (including many governed by Republicans). And
why hold hostage the computer system that, among other things, allows
the state to write ballots and keep track of campaign finance records?
This kind of self-serving foolishness is why people have doubts about
Mr. Ehrlich's maturity.

Yes, we can all agree that Democrats in the General Assembly passed
early voting last year because they see political advantage in an
increased voter turnout. Mr. Ehrlich countered with a veto (that didn't
stick) and a referendum drive that appears doubtful, too. It's just not
reasonable for him to respond to this political setback by trying to
sabotage the election - which is about all that delaying the state
board's management contracts can possibly accomplish.

Later this year, the Board of Public Works is slated to review a $13
million contract to replace traditional paper poll books that track the
names of eligible voters with an electronic version that can better
guard against potential fraud. Holding that contract hostage could have
even more serious consequences - including casting doubts about whether
the hostage-takers ought to be re-elected.


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2006-06-02 15:57:20 UTC
Permalink
The acting governors

May 11, 2006 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

It's not often that a disgraced politician, someone convicted of
racketeering and mail fraud, is called upon to do public relations work
for others. But thanks to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Maryland's
toll-paying drivers are now footing the bill for a $725,000 ad campaign
for E-Z Pass that features not only the incumbent governor but also
Marvin Mandel, the former governor who spent 19 months in federal
prison. Too bad the late Spiro T. Agnew was unavailable.

Mr. Mandel was found guilty 29 years ago and his conviction was later
overturned - but not because the facts of this sorry episode were ever
refuted. Here's a history lesson for the under-50 crowd: He was
involved in a kickback scheme that hinged on his support for altering
the number of racing days at Marlboro Race Track. In the 30-second
commercial (aimed mostly at telling Ocean City visitors to come early
or stay late), Mr. Mandel briefly appears at the end dressed as a
tourist to offer a few dollars' tip to Mr. Ehrlich if he'll "get my
bags." There is humor in this payoff, but we're not certain it's the
humor that was intended.

The former governor is likely unknown to much of the local TV audience
today, but he also happens to be a lobbyist (a fact that has caused
conflict with his membership on the University System of Maryland's
Board of Regents). One can question not only the propriety of the
casting but also the effectiveness of the commercial: The few people
who recognize him will be appalled.

Mr. Ehrlich would be better off scrapping what amounts to
taxpayer-financed re-election spots anyway. The General Assembly nixed
the practice for the coming year beginning July 1 (although
toll-financed ones may slip through a loophole) and quite a few states
ban them outright. No matter who wins this fall, lawmakers ought to put
an unambiguous law on the books: No candidates for public office shall
appear in government-financed advertising campaigns.

The governor need not feel he's being singled out in this regard. We
railed against Gov. Parris N. Glendening when he pitched for the
state's college savings plan on taxpayer-financed radio ads in 1998.
Such blatant self-promotion on the public's dime was as distasteful
then as it is today.
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2006-06-30 18:18:00 UTC
Permalink
Gubernatorial two-step

May 23, 2006 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

At least Maryland's governor is reliable: When he's caught in
controversy, you can count on him to dance around the topic - and then
blame the media.

The case of the NAACP tax audit is a perfect example. Republicans are
steamed about the nonprofit civil rights organization's Democratic
sympathies. In 2000, Maryland's top GOP fundraiser, Richard E. Hug, was
among those asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the
NAACP's tax-exempt status. In early 2001, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., then a
congressman, wrote a follow-up letter to the IRS urging them to
respond.

Now the NAACP is stuck in an audit that officials believe is little
more than a partisan attack. Mr. Ehrlich's letter was disclosed last
week. And how did the governor defend his role in this? He says it was
just a routine, nonideological constituent service.

Of course, such an explanation requires a hefty suspension of
disbelief. First we must believe Mr. Hug (who never lived in Mr.
Ehrlich's district) is an average constituent. Then we have to see no
political purpose in an IRS audit of the NAACP. (Note: Mr. Ehrlich's
favorite rumor-mongering henchman, Joseph F. "Prince of Darkness"
Steffen Jr., handled the matter for him). Ouch.

It would be one thing for the governor to say he had legitimate
concerns about the NAACP's political activities at the time. Or he
might even say he made a mistake and regrets it. But he prefers the
sidestep and expects voters to believe he treated the matter the same
as a missing Social Security check.

No doubt Mr. Ehrlich's next move will be to blame the whole thing on
reporters. That's how he responded when the Maryland Public Service
Commission chairman was caught sending virtual mash notes to a utility
lobbyist. Whether the subject is land deals, state employee firings or
most anything that's politically embarrassing, Mr. Ehrlich likes to
do-si-do and then denounce. The gubernatorial shuffle is nothing if not
consistent.
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2006-07-22 19:36:11 UTC
Permalink
All the governor's men

June 12, 2006 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

It's sad that a touchstone for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s time in
office remains his appealing campaign promise to undo, as he put it,
the "culture of corruption" in Annapolis, the cozy club of cronyism
that for decades has held sway in Maryland's capital under essentially
one-party rule by the state's Democrats.
The reason that it's sad is that, in one case after another over the
past three years, the governor's pals have crossed ethical lines when
it comes to fundraising or lobbying.

In 2004, the governor's top fundraiser, University System of Maryland
Regent Richard E. Hug, and other administration operatives were found
to have set up a nonprofit to solicit big bucks from gambling interests
for a pro-slots "public policy" campaign.

More recently, the regents' chairman, David H. Nevins, helped to set up
high-level meetings in Annapolis for his employer, Constellation
Energy, while claiming he wasn't lobbying.

Another regent and Ehrlich pal, former Gov. Marvin Mandel, was lobbying
for a client without registering as a lobbyist.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ehrlich's appointed Public Service Commission chairman,
Kenneth D. Schisler, has been playing e-mail footsie with a top utility
industry lobbyist.

And now comes David Hamilton, the governor's so-called personal
attorney.

He heads his firm's government relations practice but says he's
lawyering, not lobbying, leaving the task of influencing government to
colleagues and himself free to operate in an unregulated manner.

Mr. Hamilton, it turns out, has been prodding Baltimore County
officials pretty hard to approve a liquefied natural gas terminal near
the port of Baltimore that many residents oppose. A complaint has been
filed with the state Ethics Commission that seems worthy of serious
investigation.

Mr. Ehrlich's supporters note that the governor is opposed to the LNG
project. But the point is, both the state and Baltimore County require
lobbyists to register, and the state bars them from fundraising.

And here's the larger point: It's fine to declare, as Mr. Ehrlich's
team has done, that there's a new sheriff in town - that Democrats for
the first time in decades, ought to get used to sharing power in a
two-party state. But then to just be playing the same old game in which
fundraising, cronyism and influence overlap with a new set of players -
well, that's just sad.


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2006-08-19 19:05:58 UTC
Permalink
Name-dropping

June 5, 2006 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

First, let's acknowledge a bias: We are fond of Helen Delich Bentley.
There is no more tireless crusader for Baltimore's maritime interests
than the 82-year-old former congresswoman. It is a role that has
sometimes put her at odds with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s
Transportation Department. No surprise there: Mrs. Bentley has never
been a shrinking violet - whether she was covering the port for The Sun
(where she got her start 60 years ago) or defending it today.

But at a black-tie celebration of the port's 300th anniversary last
week, Mr. Ehrlich announced that he had decided to rename Baltimore's
port the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore. And with that we can
only ask, what kind of cold medicine was the governor taking that
night?

According to the American Association of Port Authorities, no U.S.
seaport has ever been named after a person, let alone a living one.
Baltimore has never even named so much as a terminal after someone. But
now without so much as a public hearing or a cost estimate (and it's
likely to be substantial - the recent renaming of BWI to
Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was tagged
at $2 million to cover signs, letterhead and such), Mr. Ehrlich has
rewarded a political ally.

It's bad enough that Maryland politicians have a penchant for naming
things after each other. The fact that Senate President Thomas V. Mike
Miller works at the Miller Senate Office Building is one of those
self-congratulatory indulgences that gives Annapolis that unmistakable
air of cronyism. But this sets a new standard: Mrs. Bentley's got 45
miles of city waterfront.

What's next, the Harry R. Hughes Chesapeake Bay? The William Donald
Schaefer City of Baltimore?

Let's not name public landmarks on a whim or as a political favor. Mrs.
Bentley deeply deserves to be honored. But renaming the entire port by
executive fiat is a shallow way to go about it.
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FBI Reports: Baltimore Remains ONE of the Country's Deadliest Cities!
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2006-09-16 18:58:45 UTC
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O'Malley trips over his hyperbole

by Dan Rodricks (Baltimore Sun columnist)

August 27, 2006

What must grate on Martin O'Malley's critics is this: Baltimore has
been a better city since he became mayor. Supporters of the incumbent
governor, Robert Ehrlich, certainly can argue over how much progress
Baltimore has made during the past six years - and whether it would
have made more progress had, say, Ehrlich been mayor - but they are
hard-pressed to prove that the city has flat-lined or that it's worse
than during the long, painful and moribund Schmoke years.

And yet, that doesn't stop them from trying.

In a letter to supporters in June, Ehrlich wrote, "We are seeing
[school] test scores rise in every single jurisdiction in the state
except Baltimore city."

Wrong.

The other day on television, his running mate, Kristen Cox, said:
"State test scores across the state have increased in every
jurisdiction but for Baltimore City."

She was wrong, too, and Cox looked particularly foolish because she
made the comment just as the state released the results of last year's
ninth-grade proficiency tests in algebra, government and biology.

Turns out, the pass rate for students increased in every county and in
Baltimore. In the city, the percentage of students passing algebra
alone was up 15 points.

Oh, and the high school graduation rate rose slightly last year from
58.99 to 60.63 percent, giving the city the best rate in at least the
past decade. It's not great - in fact, still the lowest in the state -
but it's better.

That's what must bug Ehrlich and Cox. They really can't demonstrate
that things - the big things, like education and crime and drug
addiction - are worse than they were before 1999, the year O'Malley was
elected. The city continues to have problems and chronic failings, many
associated with the highest concentration of poverty in the state. But
by most measures, there has been progress.

And yet - here's what's bizarre - even with all that, O'Malley still
manages to provide material for his critics with what appears to be a
tendency - some might call it pathology - to exaggerate moderate
success. O'Malley repeatedly claimed that police had reduced violent
crime by "nearly 40 percent" during his administration, a rate
outpacing every other big city in the nation.

But that claim invited lots of press scrutiny and an audit. Many
experts said O'Malley's was an inflated assessment based on some bad
statistics. The city's FBI consultant said this year that the drop in
violent crime was closer to 23.5 percent.

The way most citizens look at things, a 23.5 percent drop deserves a
Morgan State chorus of hallelujahs, three marching bands, a fireworks
display and free snowballs for everybody.

But instead of throwing a party to celebrate 23.5 percent, the O'Malley
administration had to defend his "nearly 40 percent" claim, fighting
off Jayne Miller and accusations of cooking the books.

O'Malley also made a mistake, however admirable his ambition, in
pledging to bring Baltimore's annual homicide number - chronically more
than 300 all through the Schmoke years - not only to below 200, but to
175.

Never happened.

The number has not fallen below 250, and in 2005 there were 269
homicides.

Instead of O'Malley crowing about a significant reduction, relative to
the depressing Schmoke years, his opponents get to say he missed the
mark.

On education, the mayor has not been a hands-on player. That's in large
measure because of the way the city-state partnership on schools was
set up two years before his election.

But as this gubernatorial campaign drew closer, O'Malley got more
involved - the school system's financial crisis forced him to - and
started taking credit for gains in student achievement. In some
instances, he again seemed to be exaggerating. He called city students'
test-score improvements "one of the biggest turnaround stories of any
urban school system in the United States of America."

You make claims like that, you invite scrutiny and criticism. It's not
smart to make such statements because it's not necessary. O'Malley had
enough to offer voters in the way of progress - the moderate kind that
reasonable adults can appreciate in a school system that has been
problem-plagued for so long.

Hyperbole makes people uncomfortable. It gives me a rash.

Why not just point out that, during the O'Malley years, elementary
school kids did better, and that graduation rates rose modestly? Isn't
that enough for now? Giving O'Malley's staff the benefit of the doubt,
numbers and statistics can be a pile of split hairs, and some of this
stuff probably comes from sloppiness in the haste to tell a good story.

The latest foolishness showed up Friday in an article by Sun reporter
Doug Donovan. Here's the headline: "O'Malley ad overstates jobs data."

A new O'Malley campaign commercial says: "People are moving back to a
city that's creating thousands of jobs, reducing violent crime, and
improving their schools and test scores."

Wrong.

The city has lost, not gained, thousands of jobs during O'Malley's
time, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The city has more
employed residents than it did two years ago, and that's a good thing,
but their jobs aren't necessarily in the city. (We're actually
outsourcing our people.)

So you don't get to say that you've been the mayor of a "city that's
creating thousands of jobs."

Instead, you look like you're stretching again, when you don't have to.

And your opponent, who doesn't have much else to throw, gets to say you
exaggerate.

And the voters, even those who support you, probably wonder what's up
with all this.


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FBI Reports: Baltimore Remains ONE of the Country's Deadliest Cities!
Balti-Hole
2006-10-14 16:47:25 UTC
Permalink
The two primary gubernatorial pieces of dog shit (Ehrlich and O'Malley)
are finally sitting done for a debate today. Oh, what a phucking joy to
think
that one of these two lowlifes will be Maryland's next governor!


Ehrlich, O'Malley in 2 debates today

By Andrew A. Green, Baltimore Sun reporter

Originally published October 14, 2006

After months of nasty television ads, hit pieces in the mail and
long-distance squabbling, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Baltimore
Mayor Martin O'Malley will sit down for two televised debates today,
giving millions of Marylanders their first -- and probably only --
chance to measure the two major gubernatorial candidates side by
side....
your name
2006-11-17 14:17:58 UTC
Permalink
Crime up by 8% in first half of year

by Nick Shields, Baltimore Sun reporter

Originally published November 16, 2006


Crime in Baltimore County, which dropped last
year to its lowest level in more than two
decades, was up in the first half of this year,
according to county police statistics.

Crime rose by almost 8 percent in the first six
months of 2006 compared with the corresponding
period last year, with increases reported in six
of the eight categories that constitute serious
crime, including robberies, burglaries and thefts.





Robberies increased by about 29 percent and were
the highest reported since 1997. Burglaries
increased by nearly 20 percent countywide in the
first six months of this year, and thefts
increased by about 9 percent.

The 17 homicides in the county during the first
half of the year were two more than in the
corresponding period last year, and three cases
above the previous five-year average of 14 for
the first six months of a year. Motor vehicle
thefts increased by 18 percent.

Still, county police point out that the number of
offenses for the first half of the year is the
second-lowest of any comparable period going back
to 1984.

"Crime was never going to go away, but now we're
at a new, lower level than what we had been,"
police spokesman Bill Toohey said.

In March, police reported that crime in the
county last year was about 5 percent lower than
in the year before. Police said the number of
crimes in 2005 in the county was the lowest since
1983. Violent crime fell more than 8 percent in
2005, according to police.

The increase in crime in the first six months of
this year appears to be at least partially fueled
by juvenile offenses.

From January through June, juveniles accounted
for slightly more than 30 percent of all violent
crime arrests in the county. The statistics show
that juveniles have accounted for more than a
quarter of all violent crime arrests in the
county during the first half of every year since
2003. In 2001, they accounted for about one in
five such arrests.

Violent crimes include homicide, rape, robbery
and aggravated assault.

Toohey called juvenile crime "a disturbing
problem," adding, "This is not something that can
be arrested out of existence. We have to deal
with young people in a very comprehensive way."

Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said more
programs, such as drug treatment, should be in
place for juveniles.

To help combat the recent spike, the department
has detailed about 100 officers to youth crime
prevention activities, including the county's
Police Athletic League centers and Juvenile
Offenders in Need of Supervision program.

Statistics show there were 24 percent fewer rape
cases in the county during the first half of this
year, and aggravated assaults decreased by about
16 percent.

There were 26 more convenience store robberies
from January through June than during those
months last year. Statistics also show that
countywide robberies where a gun was used
increased by 128 cases.

A county police team, formed to help reduce the
number of guns on county streets, will soon begin
investigating all nonfatal shootings with
injuries and some serious assaults that required
hospitalization, Toohey said.


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FBI Reports: Baltimore Remains ONE of the
Country's Deadliest Cities!
ReKvest-or
2006-11-17 22:00:03 UTC
Permalink
Shouldn't you be starting your bitching about O'Malley and his wife, the
federal court judge? We all know it's going to start soon. What's
holding you up?
Post by your name
Crime up by 8% in first half of year
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2006-08-19 19:06:02 UTC
Permalink
Name-dropping

June 5, 2006 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

First, let's acknowledge a bias: We are fond of Helen Delich Bentley.
There is no more tireless crusader for Baltimore's maritime interests
than the 82-year-old former congresswoman. It is a role that has
sometimes put her at odds with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s
Transportation Department. No surprise there: Mrs. Bentley has never
been a shrinking violet - whether she was covering the port for The Sun
(where she got her start 60 years ago) or defending it today.

But at a black-tie celebration of the port's 300th anniversary last
week, Mr. Ehrlich announced that he had decided to rename Baltimore's
port the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore. And with that we can
only ask, what kind of cold medicine was the governor taking that
night?

According to the American Association of Port Authorities, no U.S.
seaport has ever been named after a person, let alone a living one.
Baltimore has never even named so much as a terminal after someone. But
now without so much as a public hearing or a cost estimate (and it's
likely to be substantial - the recent renaming of BWI to
Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was tagged
at $2 million to cover signs, letterhead and such), Mr. Ehrlich has
rewarded a political ally.

It's bad enough that Maryland politicians have a penchant for naming
things after each other. The fact that Senate President Thomas V. Mike
Miller works at the Miller Senate Office Building is one of those
self-congratulatory indulgences that gives Annapolis that unmistakable
air of cronyism. But this sets a new standard: Mrs. Bentley's got 45
miles of city waterfront.

What's next, the Harry R. Hughes Chesapeake Bay? The William Donald
Schaefer City of Baltimore?

Let's not name public landmarks on a whim or as a political favor. Mrs.
Bentley deeply deserves to be honored. But renaming the entire port by
executive fiat is a shallow way to go about it.
Post by SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
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FBI Reports: Baltimore Remains ONE of the Country's Deadliest Cities!
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-06 16:15:33 UTC
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Physicians urge governor not to veto malpractice bill

by M. William Salganik and Andrew A. Green (Sun Staff)

January 5, 2005


After fighting alongside Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for malpractice
reform, leaders of the state's doctors and hospitals stepped away from
the governor yesterday, urging him not to veto the malpractice bill
passed by the General Assembly last week.

MedChi, the state medical society, and the Maryland Hospital
Association said the immediate relief that the bill provides doctors on
skyrocketing insurance premiums was essential and warned they would
support an override if Ehrlich carries out his announced intention to
veto the bill.

"Maryland's health care system is in a crisis," Dr. Willarda Edwards, a
Dundalk internist who is president of MedChi, said at a joint news
conference. The bill, which cuts premium increases this year from 33
percent to 5 percent, "will enable physicians to continue to care for
their patients."

Later in Annapolis, Ehrlich reiterated his veto vow, saying the legal
reforms in the bill were "light as air" and its 2 percent premium tax
on health maintenance organizations to subsidize malpractice insurance
amounted to a tax on the poor.

He said that if the veto were sustained he could offer "short-term cash
and hope" by including funds in his budget for some relief in premium
rates, although not as much as provided in the legislation.

Vetoing the bill after physicians groups urged him to allow it to
become law could be politically difficult for the governor, who did
much to bring the malpractice issue to the forefront by touring
hospitals, meeting with doctors and urging them to lobby legislators on
the issue.

Democrats quickly seized on the situation to depict Ehrlich as isolated
in his opposition.

"The physicians support the bill. The hospital association supports the
bill. Med Mutual, the insurance company that insures 85 percent of the
physicians in the state, supports the bill. The trial lawyers, they're
not crazy about the bill ... but they realize it could have been much
worse, so they're standing solid," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike
Miller.

"Basically, there's no naysayers, with the exception of the one on the
second floor," Miller said, referring to the location of Ehrlich's
State House office.

Ehrlich has until Monday to veto or sign the bill or allow it to become
law without his signature. If he follows through on his veto pledge,
the legislature will have the opportunity to attempt to override the
veto as its first order of business when the regular General Assembly
session convenes Wednesday.

Both houses passed the bill with veto-proof majorities, and Sen. Brian
E. Frosh, the Montgomery County Democrat who chaired the Senate's
medical malpractice task force, said he expects the legislature would
vote to override.

"There are some Democrats that are so upset at how [Ehrlich] handled
this special session that they think if he vetoes this we should just
let him stew in it, but I think that would be a mistake," Frosh said.

At yesterday's news conference, the medical and hospital associations
made their break with Ehrlich a gentle one, praising him for his
efforts that led to the bill's passage and agreeing that further
reforms are needed.

But they said they didn't have a difficult time deciding what stance to
take.

"It was not a close call, in that we need to move forward," said Calvin
Pierson, president of the Maryland Hospital Association. "The bill
gives relief to physicians by stabilizing their insurance premiums and
raising Medicaid physician fees. While the bill falls short of tort
reform, it does contain some important steps."

If the legislature sustains his veto, Ehrlich said, he would budget $30
million a year for the next three years to limit malpractice increases
- an amount equal to that in an Ehrlich bill killed by both houses in
last week's special session. That would limit the rate increase this
year to about 12 percent.

Ehrlich has said in the past that he would support a subsidy on
doctors' premiums only if it were accompanied by limits on lawsuits,
known as "tort reform."

Ehrlich also said he would include $18.5 million in the budget to
increase Medicaid reimbursements for doctors in certain specialties -
up from $12 million in the bill the governor presented to the special
session.

That's about as much as in the first full year of the legislature's
bill, but the legislature would increase the amount going to rates (and
decrease the amount going to subsidize premiums) in the three years to
follow.

The governor said his analysts have completed a preliminary evaluation
of the legal reforms in the legislature's bill and found that, beyond
the rate subsidy, the reforms would reduce the premium for a typical
malpractice policy by just 2.9 percent this year.

He acknowledged that any tort reforms would take several years to have
their full effect. Ehrlich said he did not know how large an effect the
legislature's reforms would have in the long run but said he suspected
it would not be sufficient.

The bill lowers by half the cap on non-economic damages in death cases,
requires mediation before malpractice cases are tried, sets more
stringent standards for expert witnesses, sets up more reporting of
medical errors, makes it easier to discipline doctors, and changes the
way insurance regulators review premium increase requests.

MedChi and MHA said they would be seeking more reforms when the
legislature convenes next week. Pierson said major goals would be
allowing large malpractice settlements or judgments to be paid over a
period of years, changing the way economic damages are calculated, and
affording more protection to emergency room doctors.

Ehrlich said the doctors and hospitals would find it hard to get more
reform if the bill passed last week becomes law.

"The appetite for tort reform comes around every five to 10 years," he
said. "If this lighter-than-air package of tort reform passes, it would
be the last tort reform package you'll see in many years."

Miller and Frosh said the Senate would be unlikely to take up new tort
reform measures immediately, opting instead to see whether the reforms
the legislature just passed are effective.

But Del. John Adams Hurson, the Montgomery County Democrat who chairs
the House Health and Government Operations Committee, said he thinks
additional reforms would be possible in this year's legislative
session. Democrats in the House generally supported more tort reform
measures than their Senate colleagues did.

"The one amazing thing about a regular session is there are a lot of
things in play," he said. "The one thing I've learned over the years is
you should never say never in the legislature."

The state's HMO operators have not opposed - or supported - the premium
tax or the malpractice bill in general.

However, if the tax becomes law, "it would be inevitable that some of
all of the tax would be passed along to our customers in higher
premiums," Jeffery W. Valentine, a spokesman for CareFirst BlueCross
BlueShield, said yesterday. He said CareFirst has about 300,000
Maryland members in its BlueChoice HMO and the tax would be about $17
million in this calendar year.

Elizabeth Sammis, a spokeswoman for Mid Atlantic Medical Services Inc.,
which operates the Optimum Choice and M.D. IPA HMOs, also said the tax
would be passed on to customers. Membership and dollar projections for
MAMSI's share of the tax were not available.

During legislative debate, both sides estimated the tax, if passed
through, would increase HMO premiums for a family by about $200 a year
- an amount that would be paid either by the members or by employers.

Small businesses, in particular, have argued that the tax would be a
burden on them.

Alfred W. Redmer Jr., the state's insurance commissioner, said it was
unclear whether HMOs would be able to pass the tax on immediately or
would have to wait until contracts with employers or individual members
come up for renewal.

He said it was also unclear whether doctors - who have already paid the
33 percent premium increase for the year or for the first quarter -
would get refund checks or credits toward future payments.

Although his office would administer the rate stabilization fund under
the legislation, Redmer, an Ehrlich appointee, said, "a lot of it is
unclear, and a large part of it is unworkable."
Just call it Balti-PHUCKED
2005-01-02 00:19:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@yahoo.com
Ill feelings at the top hobble Md. governing
Gee, can't handle living in the city? MOVE YOU COWARD!
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