I've been doing this unofficially for a while now, so I might as well make it official: I'm putting this blog on hiatus for the foreseeable future. Free State Politics has been a labor of love for me for the last year and a half or so, but it's not something I can attend to with anything near the level of commitment it deserves. It was easier when it was a side project I was doing during grad school, but trying to fit in blog posts (and good ones, at that) with my current work situation -- i.e., underemployed and trying to find a better job in the midst of a world-historical recession -- just isn't feasible anymore. I want to thank my other co-bloggers, in particular Eric, Andy, OnBackground, and Bruce, for all their contributions, which usually were better than my own. Hopefully soon I (or someone else) can give this site a reboot; until then, enjoy Maryland Politics Watch, Lost on the Shore, and other Maryland political blogs out there.
Today's Capital got me shaking my head, tsk, tsking and wondering what the hell is so wrong with government half of the time--or is it just Annapolis? The first piece is an editorial about the failure of the special tax increases from the special session to do much of anything special. Okay, that's not directly about Annapolis--but it is about the state government that meets in Annapolis. And there is the piece about the failure of the Knighton Garage to really do what it was built to do--provide parking. It just has not worked. CP watched that whole venture unfold, raising the clarion call that downtown does not and has not ever had a parking problem. Even the mayor's former "parking coordinator said "...now the discussion is we have too much parking".
CP has long maintained that the issue is not parking. What we have is a transportation and mobility challenge. Downtown parking garages really serve little utility. They suck up public dollars, take otherwise productive land out of real use and they don't solve or address problems of mobility or congestion--they just take us away from our largest personal investment where they let our second-largest investments sit...and sit.... So--does it come as a surprise to CP that the garage is not doing what it is supposed to do?
The parking management contract is up next year and this is what The Capital says: "TownePark, a local company that currently manages the West Garrett garage, said it would be interested in managing city garages if the city were to open up a formal bid process. If the city were to bring in (a parking company) that was a little more innovative and creative, they could capture some revenue at that garage," said TownePark marketing director Suzanne Reese. Calls to the Philadelphia based Park America Inc., which manages all city garages and parking lots, were not returned."
Ooooohhh. Did anyone notice that Park America is a sponsor of the mayor's "hooray for me" fundraising party? Maybe Park America needs to donate more money..to somebody? Oh, excuse me, Park America is also a sponsor of the mayor's "hooray for me" party.
And it gets worse. The Capital reports that "Ms. Moyer said she has tentatively looked at consolidating parking operations into one department in the city." I can see it now. A new department and a new bureaucracy with the job going to...drum roll please....an old friend of the mayor herself. Any way you cut it, more parking causes more problems than it resolves.
HERE IS AN IDEA.....END PARKING AT CITY DOCK AND TURN IT INTO SOMETHING USEFUL AND ATTRACTIVE THEREBY ENDING THE GRIDLOCK DOWNTOWN. TAKE THE EXCESS TO THE KNIGHTON GARAGE. BEEF UP OUR TRANSIT SYSTEM.
Part Two... coming soon in which CP looks at the anniversary of the failed Chesapeake Bay Program (and I attended the original conference in 1983), and downtown possibly collaborating with Westfield Shoppingtown (aka the mall) and so-called Towne Center, which is neither. It's funny how they love the word "town" or "towne"....when they destroy real towns.
The former Senator and Delegate has been appointed by Gov. O'Malley to head the commission that will select operators of the five slots casinos that will be built, thanks to the newly-passed referendum. I know little about him, other than what the WaPo article mentions, which is that he's currently head of the business group the Greater Baltimore Committee. Anybody know more?
Bi-monthly Board of Public Works meetings have been sparring grounds for Gov. Martin O'Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot, but yesterday the sharp-tongued tax collector issued rare kind words for his political rival from Baltimore.
"I ... want to salute the governor," Franchot said.
The reason for Franchot's decorousness: O'Malley was voting to approve an $87 million software upgrade that the comptroller's office says will yield hundreds of millions of dollars in uncollected taxes.
A month ago, the O'Malley administration refused to bring the contract before the board, composed of the governor, the comptroller and state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp.
Of course, given that the slots referendum passed -- a big win for O'Malley -- this change of heart comes off as more of a consolation prize for Franchot, while still painting O'Malley in a positive light. Let it never be said that the Governor doesn't know how to play hardball.
In a recent piece at the Huffington Post, Sally Kohn eloquently wrote:
The single greatest thing we can do to honor the spirit of Obama's campaign and life work is bring as much enthusiasm to holding Obama accountable as we did to electing him.
Personally, I could not agree more. I'm sure some people will be hesitant to begin pushing Obama. Many of you are still reveling in the glory of this historic election and want nothing more than to keep believing the ballots cast on November 4th will equal the change we need. But our civic engagement cannot end with Election Day. Obama's campaign proved that America can truly harness its people power for positive and progressive change. NOW is the time to keep that momentum rolling.
Ok, so, how can you help? For a start, you can tune into the December 4th event Realizing the Promise: A Forum on Community Faith and Democracy. , organized by the Campaign for Community Values and the Gamaliel Foundation (for which Obama once worked). This event is an unprecedented opportunity for real, everyday people to have a voice in shaping public policy in our country.
During the forum, community leaders will speak directly with elected officials about the issues that matter most for all of us and the policies and solutions we need to make America work for all of us.
Wrapping up all the loose ends in their final session this year, the city council banned all gas-powered devices including leaf-blowers, lawnmowers, automobiles, trucks, buses, aircraft, and trains. They "municipalized" every telephone pole in town, seizing them from the utility companies and declaring them "free speech zones" where citizens are allowed to post lost-pet notices. The council passed an ordinance ordering the police to taser all WSSC contractors found working within city limits after January 1, 2009.
OK, having taken an illness-related hiatus last week, let's ease back into blogging, shall we? I think the biggest news in Maryland politics in the last few days are the reports of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, already a member of the presidential transition team, being considered for a position in the Department of Veterans Affairs, possibly even as Secretary. That would be excellent news if it pans out: Not only has Brown done quite a bit of work on veterans issues as Lt. Governor, but the symbolism of having an Iraq War veteran in charge of the VA would be powerful as well. As we begin to (hopefully) wind down our presence in Iraq, ensuring that soldiers coming home are getting adequate treatment will be a top priority, and I think Brown would be well-suited to looking after those issues.
First, President-elect Obama gives the Democratic weekly address on YouTube, something that will be a regular occurrence once he assumes office:
Next, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore tears into Neel Kashkari, head of the Wall Street bailout program, over reports of AIG handing out multi-million dollar executive bonuses even after AIG was nationalized: