Blair Lee: 2011 best and worst awards, Part III -- Gazette.Net


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Biggest disappearing acts

ŸConstellation Energy Group: Baltimore loses its last Fortune 500 company when Constellation merges with energy giant Exelon.

ŸGary Williams: Terps basketball coach retires after 22 years at College Park.

ŸFederal stimulus funds: No more bail out money from Washington, D.C.; Maryland budget must balance on its own.

ŸDisney Co.: Abandons its plans to build a 500-room resort hotel at P.G.’s National Harbor.

ŸSparrows Point steel mill: Shuts down suddenly in December.

ŸBaltimore-College Park merger: Senate President Mike Miller’s plan to merge University of Maryland’s top two campuses rejected by regents.

ŸRalph Friedgen: ACC coach of the year fired after Terps’ 9-4 football season.

ŸO’Malley’s tuition freeze: Safely re-elected, governor lets state universities hike tuitions 3 percent.

ŸNancy Grasmick: Celebrated state schools superintendent announces retirement.

ŸTrent Williams, Fred Davis: Two NFL Redskins suspended for failing drug tests.

ŸAllen Foods: Major Eastern Shore employer goes bankrupt.

ŸJ.W. “Bill” Marriott: Hotel magnate steps down as CEO.

ŸBill Miller: Legg Mason’s investment genius hits a losing skid, calls it quits.

ŸRFK Stadium: Iconic sports venue closing after 50 years.

ŸBishop John L. Rabb: Episcopal bishop suffragan of Maryland retires after 13 years in post.

ŸCracked Claw: Famous Frederick restaurant/betting parlor, formerly the Peter Pan, closes after 35 years.

ŸEd Gallagher: Baltimore’s longtime finance director, who served six mayors, retires.

ŸSyms, Filene’s Basement: File for bankruptcy, close all stores.

ŸWashington Post suburban bureaus: Daily newspaper pulls back on suburban coverage, closes suburban bureaus.

ŸMontgomery County curfew: After a four-month debate, County Council punts teenage curfew bill.

ŸBaltimore Pepsi plant: Closes, blaming city’s new beverage tax, lays off 77 workers.

ŸPolish Festival: After four decades, the Baltimore festival disbands for lack of interest.

ŸChuck Lyons: Gazette CEO steps down after nearly two decades guiding his newspaper.

ŸJeff Singer: Health Care for the Homeless CEO retires after 40-year career helping the homeless.

ŸFracking: Environmentalists convince Gov. O’Malley to put a moratorium on deep-well, hydraulic natural gas drilling.

ŸCandy Thomson: Baltimore Sun ends Thomson’s popular outdoors column.

ŸShakespeare Festival: Folds after 17 seasons in Baltimore due to funding constraints.

ŸSophie Kerr Prize: Because it distracted from graduation ceremonies, Washington College moves the nation’s most lucrative ($61,000) undergraduate literary prize announcement to New York.

ŸDonovan McNabb: Redskins quarterback is one and done in D.C. Traded to Vikings.

ŸMark Miller: WBAL radio news director leaves after 32 years at the station.

ŸBaltimore population: This was the year that the census count was supposed to show a turnaround in the city’s population flight. Instead, a net 30,000 loss.

ŸBill McGregor: Retires after 40 years coaching at football powerhouse DeMatha High School; McGregor scored 278 victories.

ŸMark Garver: Frederick businessman is moving his operation to Florida for the climate — weather and business. “I don’t think Maryland cares to keep people like me,” says Garver, who will save $60,000 in state-local taxes.

ŸJoe Murphy: Maryland Court of Appeals judge leaves bench early to resume law practice.

ŸDiane Leasure: Respected Howard County judge retires after 15 years, will teach at University of Maryland Law School.

Heroes of the Year

ŸJohn C. Malone: Hopkins alum donates $30 million to build an engineering research building.

ŸFreeman Hrabowski III: UMBC’s president, who turned down numerous Ivy League offers, named one of nation’s top leaders by Harvard’s Kennedy School.

ŸVicky Thoms: Only bystander to come to the aid of Chrissy Lee Polis during a vicious assault at a Baltimore McDonald’s that went viral on YouTube.

ŸEdward St. John: Successful real estate developer gives University of Maryland $10 million for campus classroom building.

ŸMaryland’s field hockey team: Won its eighth NCAA national title by defeating top-ranked North Carolina, 3-2.

Person of the Year

ŸNeil Parrott: Freshman delegate from Western Maryland single-handedly restored Maryland’s voter referendum right. Maryland’s Constitution allows voters to petition General Assembly bills to the next election’s ballot for voter ratification or rejection — a final check on the legislature and governor.

But Maryland’s Court of Appeals gutted the referendum by ruling that petition signatures must conform, exactly, to the way voters signed their voter registration cards years earlier. No petition drive has been successful in the past 20 years.

So Del. Parrott, a civil engineer, set up a website with software that connects voters with their registration cards, allowing their signatures to meet the court’s conformity standard.

Thanks to Parrott’s innovation, the 2011 Dream Act (in-state tuition rates for illegal aliens) met the signature test and will be on November’s ballot.

But The Dream Act isn’t the issue. The one-party state legislature had no interest, whatsoever, in restoring the people’s right to have final say over its legislative acts. But Neil Parrott and the Internet put the people back in charge of the government and, for that, he deserves every Marylander’s gratitude.

Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His email address is blair@leedg.com.