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PROGRESSIVE VIEWPOINT:

Charmed or Harmed?

Viewpoints and observations about state and local events and personages.

by Andre German
How can Keiffer Mitchell, Jr. claim to be a law-and-order candidate when his own campaign apparently doesn't believe in law and order?
Tues., Aug. 7—Charmed by tonight's National Night Out. The 24th Annual event is a unique crime/drug prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. The program takes a grassroots method towards fighting crime and is celebrated across the nation with displays of outdoor lights and front porch vigils, cookouts, block parties, parades and exhibits.

Harmed by Mayoral candidate Keiffer Mitchell, Jr. As if it's not bad enough that his father misspent $40,000 of his son's campaign finances, for which he resigned last week (admission of guilt, anyone?), but now two different excuses are being used by those involved in this scandal. The father is saying that thousands of dollars spent on a hotel were appropriate because the room was used for fundraising. Which obviously begs the question, what about the tens of thousands of other dollars? And as for the son, he's saying that his father reimbursed the campaign.

So, if I rob a store, but get caught, do I get released if I pay back the money I stole? Mitchell Jr. made news recently for gaining the Baltimore FOP endorsement as a result of his promise to increase police salaries and numbers. Who knew that promising people more money and more backup would garner their endorsement? Mitchell Jr. seems to want to be the law and order candidate over Dixon. But how can that label stick when his own campaign apparently doesn't believe in law and order?

Charmed by Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. Brown has foreseen what will most likely prove to be the most problematic part of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) plans. In order for BRAC to succeed, the local counties of Maryland will have to work together and take a statewide approach to the projected influx of 28 thousand households, and the resulting strain on the state's infrastructure. To that effect, Brown presided over a meeting of local officials who are part of the governor's BRAC subcabinet yesterday. During the meeting, he focused on the nine counties that will be affected the most by the influx. Brown says the key to success will be to take a regional approach, so that neighboring counties don't fight over state resources and asked the group to submit feedback for a statewide plan by October. The statewide plan is due in December.

Charmed by the first move of BRAC. The first major move to Maryland resulting from BRAC has been planned by the US Army. A $500 million contract for a large office complex at APG is set to be signed by next month. The complex, will employ 5,000 civil defense workers, many of them moving from Fort Monmouth, N.J. The complex will be built like a campus, with multiple buildings and plenty of greenery and parking space, Harford County's economic director, Jim Richardson, said.

Harmed by the United States Department of Agriculture. Though, as I've reported elsewhere, a lot of the adverse effect of the drought is felt because of an erroneous over-emphasis on the importance of corn and its byproduct, corn-based ethanol, the effect on corn is not the only disaster resulting from the drought. In addition to corn, local farmers are starting to feel the effect in feeding their cattle as well. In the absence of grass feed for their cattle, farmers are having to resort to using their winter supply of hay as well as looking in other areas for feed, including New York and Canada, where hay that usually sells for $3 or $4 a bale may double in price.

A coalition of state representatives, including Governor O'Malley, Senator Mikulski, Senator Cardin, House Majority Leader Hoyer, Representatives Gilchrest, Wynn, Bartlett, Cummings, Ruppersberger, Van Hollen, and Sarbanes petitioned the US Department of Agriculture on July 26th, requesting a Secretarial Disaster Designation for several Maryland counties. Such a designation would allow Maryland farmers to receive federal assistance for their crops. The US Department of Agriculture, whether through waiting out the situation in the hope of rain, simple bureaucracy or just because they don't care, have yet to respond.

Charmed by the ACLU-MD. The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union recently took the case of two students who sued the Kent County school system and the Kent County Sheriff's Department over a strip search. The drug search at Kent County High School in Worton, where drug-sniffing dogs were used and more than a dozen students were searched, revealed no drugs. The settlement, announced on Monday, awarded the students $285,000 in damages and written apologies from the school system and sheriff's office. We're charmed by this not only because of the specifics of this case, but because it influences youth to stand up for their rights.

Harmed by the Eastern Correctional Institution. A permit allows it to pump 25,000 gallons a water a day from Manokin aquifer, but a state official has recently stated that they are drawing 230,000 gallons per day. That's not a typo. The ten-times-the-legal-amount of water has been blamed, along with a sod farm, for the failure of more than 120 local wells. The Maryland Department of the Environment is working on a consent agreement to force ECI to adhere to its legal pumping limit in one month. The most harm of all from this comes from the fact that ECI is run by the Maryland Environmental Service, whose stated mission is "to protect and enhance the state’s air, land and water resources." Apparently this includes protecting the state's water resources by using them all up so others don't misuse them.

Charmed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Recently, members of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation volunteered to wade chest-deep in mud to try and restore oysters in the South River in Baltimore County, one of the many points that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. Historical levels of oysters in Maryland are significantly down. The CBF plants millions of oysters each year.

Harmed by the Maryland Comptroller's Office. This office recently publicly named the state's top 50 tax defaulters on their website. The list includes 25 individuals and 25 businesses. With the recent Depublican extension of the warrantless wiretapping program, I have to ask: what happened to the right to privacy in our country? Granted, perhaps, and I stress that perhaps, this move by the Comptroller will be enough to shame the people into paying their taxes, but is it worth the price of people's privacy? And that's not even getting into the can of worms that's opened up if some overzealous Maryland patriot decides to harass the tax evaders.

Charmed by Baltimore bars. In a fundraiser called Neighbor's Night Out on Sunday, August 5, 2007 from 2-8 p.m., more than two dozen Baltimore bars and restaurants donated up to 20% of their profits from that time period to help pay the medical bills of a city man still in a coma after a beating two months ago in Canton. The bars dedicated a portion of their proceeds yesterday to 27-year-old Zach Sowers. He was beaten and robbed near his Patterson Park home as he returned from a local bar. Four youths have been charged in the attack. They allegedly stole credit cards, ten dollars in cash and a Timex wristwatch. Check out the list of the specific bars and restaurants that took part.

Harmed by Anne Arundel County parents. 11 Anne Arundel county schools will require students to wear uniforms this school year. Tyler Heights Elementary and Meade Middle became the first public schools in the county to require student uniforms last year. Other schools requiring uniforms are Jessup, Quarterfield, Meade Heights, Mills-Parole, Seven Oaks and Georgetown East elementary schools, as well as Bates and MacArthur middle schools and The Phoenix Center, an alternative school in Annapolis. The uniforms mostly consist of khaki or navy blue pants, shorts, or skirts and white or blue collared and oxford shirts. Students at Meade Heights, for example, can wear navy blue or khaki pants, shorts or skirts matched with blue or white polo or oxford shirts. They can wear sweaters in the winter and any shoes, including sneakers. This is outrageous. We need to teach our kids to be individuals, not NOT to be.

Charmed by Representative Elijah Cummings. After the Minneapolis bridge disaster, Cummings is asking Maryland Transportation officials for a list of Maryland bridges that are considered to be structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. He says Congress needs to assess the adequacy of current inspection regimes for bridges and investigate why the number of deficient and obsolete bridges is so high. As a a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, he's right to try to take care of this problem nationally, but he gets a special "charmed" for starting with the state that elected him.

Harmed by Brad Botwin and the group he founded: Help Save Maryland. Help Save Maryland is an anti-illegal immigration group, and Brad Botwin has recently been quoted as saying, "We are anti-illegal immigration, not anti-immigration." Another member of the group goes on to say, "People want to say anybody who’s against illegal immigration is a racist, Well, if supporting the enforcement of laws makes someone a racist, so be it." I've heard this argument before, and it always strikes me as false due to the fact that the immigration system in America is broken to the point where illegal immigration is tantamount to breaking a law that's unjust in the first place. And if you don't support that, then I suppose Rosa Parks shouldn't have sat where she wanted. After all, it was the law.

Harmed by the Baltimore City Police. The trial of Det. William Welch, 41, who is accused of raping a 16-year-old prostitution suspect at a police station, was postponed Monday because the Baltimore Police Department said it cannot find important evidence in the case. Despite "extensive searches," officers said they cannot find a sexual assault forensic evidence kit, clothing from both Welch and the victim, wet wipes and DNA evidence, said Warren Brown, Welch’s attorney. "It’s all still missing," Brown said. "They’re still looking for it." I'm actually speechless. I don't know if this is incompetence or self-protection, but could be there's something rotten in Denpork.

Finally, a related Charmed by the Maryland State Police. State police officials said Monday they will handle evidence in future cases brought against Baltimore officers, after forensic material went missing in the trial of a city detective accused of raping a teen. Though naysayers will say that it's still a case of "Who watches the Watchmen?," there's little alternative. At least there's more distance between State Police and City Police than there is between sub-departments of the city police.
Andre German is a Charm City patriot. For more information on him, see his myspace profile. Contact him at AndreGerman@punkmusic.com.


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This story was published on August 7, 2007.