Did you hear the starter’s gun on Monday? Neither did I. But Maryland’s politicians, blessed with special dog whistle sensitivity, heard the kickoff shot loud and clear. You see, one year from last Monday is Primary Election Day in one-party Maryland, where, in most cases, the primary is more important than November’s general election.
How do we know the politicians heard the dog whistle? Well, just look at some of the crazy stunts they’re pulling off.
Ken Ulman is defending Howard County residents against the onerous “rain tax,” which takes effect next week. At the eleventh hour (June 20) Ulman asked the County Council to lower homeowners’ rain tax rates, soften the blow on nonprofits and delay the Rain Tax until December.
But the rain tax Ulman is now watering down (pun intended) is the same rain tax that Ulman, himself, proposed last winter and which the council adopted in March.
What’s changed between March and June? Well, the original rain tax was offered by term-limited Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, the new modifications are offered by lieutenant governor candidate Ken Ulman — the same person, but with a newly heightened appreciation for voters’ sensitivities.
Perhaps the two Ken Ulmans can meet and reach a rain tax compromise.
Anne Arundel State Del. Steve Schuh is running for county executive. Last Friday he wrote incumbent County Executive Laura Neuman demanding lower county rain tax rates, relief for some taxpayers and delaying the rain tax’s collection date. Sound familiar?
Apparently Howard County’s political schizophrenia (or amnesia) has lapped the border into neighboring Anne Arundel. You see, county executive candidate Steve Schuh, rain tax opponent, is the same State Del. Steve Schuh who, last year, voted to impose the rain tax on Anne Arundel and nine other counties.
Perhaps the two Steve Schuhs can conference call with the two Ken Ulmans and arrive at a regional rain tax measure.
Montgomery County’s “Farm Road” controversy has percolated in the county courts and government for years. The issue revolves around an old gravel road that the residents of a black community, dating back to a freed slave’s enclave, used for decades.
But, in 1999, when an adjoining housing development was approved, Farm Road disappeared from county tax maps. This left the black community with no access, no street addresses and devalued homes.
Now, under pressure from county officials, the county planning board is asking the state planning department to restore the road. However, the restoration is stalled by pending lawsuits.
But wait, here comes the Lone Ranger, State Del. Aisha Braveboy, riding to the rescue. Braveboy, chair of the state legislature’s Black Caucus, held hearings in Montgomery County this week focusing media attention on the controversy and on herself.
“We need to have a hearing,” Braveboy said. “I want to talk about solutions, I want to know what the facts are, ask the tough questions … look for solutions.”
There’s only one problem, Delegate Braveboy isn’t from Montgomery, she’s from P.G. A state delegate since 2006, she exhibited no prior interest in Montgomery’s Farm Road dispute until she recently decided to run for attorney general. That’s why she’s looking for headlines in Montgomery. Her pitch is that Montgomery’s state lawmakers have only “written letters,” failing to solve the matter, a stunning insult to Montgomery’s delegation inflicted without objection.
Imagine Montgomery Sen. Brian Frosh, another attorney general candidate, injecting himself into a purely P.G. local matter by holding hearings, in P.G., on the battle over control of the P.G. school system? Believe me, all hell would break loose!
Del. Jon Cardin, another attorney general candidate, tried to make political hay this month by beating up a few rural sheriffs who refuse to enforce the state’s new gun control law.
Cardin’s Baltimore Sun op-ed piece, “The Lawless Sheriffs of Maryland,” gravely opines that elected officials “take an oath to uphold our laws; they do not have the right to pick and choose which laws they like the most.” The sheriffs, said Cardin, are guilty of nullification.
Unfortunately, Cardin is equally guilty of picking and choosing his nullification targets.
How about Gov. O’Malley’s six-year refusal to restore Maryland’s death penalty? How about Maryland’s “sanctuary cities” ignoring immigration laws? How about Frederick’s refusal to impose a Rain Tax or Montgomery’s refusal to comply with state teacher evaluation standards? Or the state’s refusal to comply with a sex offender registry court order until a judge threatened contempt?
Are all these election stunts an insult to our intelligence? You bet, but, sadly, an entire year of it lies before us.
Blair Lee is chairman of the board of Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in the Business Gazette. His past columns are available at www.gazette.net/blairlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.