2012 best & worst awards: Final -- Gazette.Net



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Rising stars

Lillian Lowery: Maryland's new state superintendent of schools fills the shoes of renowned predecessor, Nancy Grasmick.

John Delaney: Overcame Democratic bosses to win 6th Congressional District primary, then knocked off 20-year incumbent Roscoe Bartlett.

William Lori: When the Pope made Archbishop Edwin O'Brien a cardinal, William Lori became archbishop of Baltimore.

Greg Merson: This 24-year-old dropout, battling drug addiction, took up professional poker and won the World Series of Poker, taking home $8.5 million and the $150,000 champion's bracelet.

The gay lobby: Mounted relentless effort to enact same-sex marriage, then made Maryland the first state to approve it at the polls.

Nationals and Orioles: Perennial cellar dwellers shocked fans by making baseball playoffs.

Mike Miller: Risked his Senate presidency to single-handedly push gambling expansion through the legislature. After 38 years in the Senate, 26 as president, he's the biggest survivor on Annapolis' Survivor Island.

Falling stars

Tiffany Alston: Misconduct in office and theft charges cost her law license and House of Delegates seat.

John Leopold: Anne Arundel County executive indicted for misconduct in office, misappropriating taxpayer funds.

Carl Snowden: Assistant attorney general resigns after DUI, marijuana convictions.

Randy Edsall: Terps football coach goes from 2-10 last season to 4-8 after four QBs are sidelined with injuries.

Rob Garagiola: Mike Miller's chief acolyte is rewarded with his own gerrymandered congressional district but loses to outsider.

Don Dwyer: Delegate faces charges for drunken boat crash, sending six to hospital.

Penn National: Casino company spends $50 million fighting gambling expansion, loses referendum vote.

Ted Leonsis: Owns the arena where his NHL Capitals were locked out in labor dispute and where his NBA Wizards stink.

Biggest “duh?” moments

Cigarette tax: After the state raises Maryland's cigarette tax in 2007 from $1 a pack to $2 a pack, anti-tobacco activists claim plummeting sales indicate decreased smoking. Then a 2012 study shows Maryland cigarette smuggling is up 100 percent, and 25 percent of cigarettes now smoked here are smuggled.

Boat tax: Maryland has a 5 percent sales tax on boats purchased here or docked here more than 90 days (Delaware has no tax). While national and Delaware boat sales climb, Maryland's decline from $248 million (2008) to $162 million (2011) and the number of boats registered here drops every year for the past eight. Meanwhile, since 2006, Maryland's boat tax revenues are down from $29.9 million to $15 million.

Gun sales: Strict gun-control proposals in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre result in skyrocketing Maryland gun sales. In 2011, Maryland State Police processed an average of 3,861 gun applications a month. But in December 2012, more than 8,200 applications were processed.

Booze tax: In 2011, Maryland raised its alcoholic beverage sales tax from 6 percent to 9 percent. Now, while national off-premises sales are up 3.3 percent, (Virginia's are up 5 percent and Delaware's are up 8.8 percent), Maryland's sales are down.

Metro fares: After D.C. Metrorail raises fares dramatically in 2012, ridership falls and farecard sales drop from 628,000 (first four months of 2011) to 353,000 (same period, 2012). When the popular one-day pass goes from $9 to $14, sales fall 49 percent.

ICC toll scofflaws: Thanks to a legal loophole, Intercounty Connector motorists who don't use EZ Pass and, then, ignore mailed toll fees suffer no penalty. As a result, $6.7 million of ICC tolls go uncollected — four times more than Maryland's other toll roads.

Keno cuts: Now that Maryland has three casinos in operation, revenues from the state's Keno games drop $12.2 million, or 9 percent, for 2012.

Black youth mobs: When gangs of black youths terrorize Baltimore's Inner Harbor, Baltimore County Del. Pat McDonough's news release, “Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore,” calls for the governor to close the harbor until order is restored. Next, McDonough is branded a “race-baiter,” and The Baltimore Sun intones, “Race is simply irrelevant in this instance.” Later, this headline appears in The Washington Post: “Pattern in shooters, most are white men.”

Heroes of the year

Alex Rasin: Kent County commissioner resigns in disgust over state's usurping local government powers.

Calvert Hall football team: Fifteen players on Baltimore's No. 2-ranked team miss opening game to take SATs.

Larry Gibson: When political consultant Julius Henson is jailed for a minor elections infraction, Gibson, Henson's lifelong foe, vigorously protests Henson's sentence, demands his release.

Peter Franchot, Donna Edwards and Phil Andrews: In one-party, one-media Maryland, these three independent Democrats exhibited extraordinary courage and integrity by speaking out against their party's gerrymandering and gambling expansion bills.

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.