Thumbs down: To Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr. for the incident in which his boat collided with another vessel last month on the Magothy River after he had been drinking. While the Department of Natural Resources police investigation continues, Dwyer said outside a Baltimore hospital at the time that his blood-alcohol level had been reported as 0.2 percent — well over the legal limit. Seven people, including three children, were taken to area hospitals.
Thumbs up: To a new effort among some mid-Atlantic states to better coordinate the sharing of information on criminals who cross state lines. Officials from Maryland, the District of Columbia, New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania met in late June to work out the details of a program to share more data on parolees, such as gang membership and the fencing of stolen property.
Thumbs down: To the town of Crisfield in Somerset County for the dubious distinction of having its municipal election in June monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice. The move was to head off possible violations of the federal Voting Rights Act. The monitoring was believed to be tied to a 2010 municipal election in which the white incumbent defeated a challenger who was hoping to become the town’s first black mayor. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland fielded numerous complaints alleging voting irregularities after the 2010 election. Officials couldn’t remember similar Justice Department oversight of a local election in Maryland.
Thumbs down: To a gaping hole in gun registration procedure in Maryland, whereby gun buyers are asked to disclose if they have any mental health issues when they fill out their paperwork. Well, duh. Montgomery County police Sgt. Kenneth Berger says in his experience it is not unusual to find multiple weapons in the homes of those with mental health problems.
Thumbs up: To a number of Maryland counties, including Queen Anne’s, Allegany and Calvert, for what the Choose Clean Water Coalition called “innovative practices” to reduce Chesapeake Bay pollution. Queen Anne’s proposed applying alternative septic technologies, Allegany has a program that purchases properties with impervious surfaces in flood plains, and Calvert wants to create grass swales along 360 miles of roads to curb stormwater runoff.
Thumbs down: To online discounter Groupon for its apparent attempt at humor that clearly backfired earlier this summer. A Groupon deal described Annapolis institution Harry Browne’s restaurant as “relatively free of feral lieutenant governors.” Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown happens to be a regular, and restaurant owner Rusty Romo was none too pleased with the gibe, no matter how innocent it was meant to be.
Thumbs up: To a new state law that will allow the Prince George’s County Office of the Sheriff to throw out thousands of old misdemeanor cases contributing to a backlog of warrants. More than half of the 46,000 warrants are for failing to appear in court for a traffic citation and a number are more than a decade old.
Thumbs up: To organic food. While a recent Stanford University review of studies conducted between 1966 and 2011 concluded that organic foods have no greater nutritional value than conventionally grown food items, backers note that most eaters of organic produce do so to avoid the chemicals in fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed for pests. Claudia Raskin, editor of the Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association’s newsletter, says shoppers are unlikely to stop buying organic foods.
Thumbs down: To the pace of the cleanup of chemical contamination at Fort Detrick in Frederick. A member of the advisory board overseeing the remediation, Barry Kissin, complained in July about the slow going after a consultant hired by the U.S. Army revealed levels of a cancer-causing agent 3,000 times federal safe drinking water standards.
Thumbs up: To Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler for his decision at the time to try the Beltway snipers. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles were unconstitutional. That’s the sentence Lee Boyd Malvo received in Virginia; meanwhile, the convictions in Maryland, which Gansler pursued, could have been used to keep Malvo imprisoned had his Virginia conviction been overturned. Maryland does not have a sentence of mandatory life without parole.