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8.10.07: Charmed or Harmed?

Viewpoints and observations about state and local events and personages.

by Andre German
Governor Martin O'Malley says today that reforms will include closing corporate tax loopholes and higher taxes for the rich.
Charmed by the Maryland Energy Administration. The MEA announced four new energy efficiency programs to save Maryland residents both energy and money yesterday. The programs will focus on increasing the energy efficiency of Maryland homes and saving energy through the use of compact fluorescent lights. They will coordinate the four newest programs under Governor O'Malley's EmPOWER Maryland initiative.

Harmed by Mittal Steel. Mittal Steel, who recently made the news because a federal judge appointed a trustee to sell their Sparrows Point mill to settle antitrust concerns, has been fined more than $98,000 for air pollution violations at that same mill. The Maryland Department of the Environment says the violations included failure to operate required particulate and dust control systems. Some of the violations have been corrected, others must be addressed by deadlines contained in a consent decree. The state says the violations have also been reported to the federal Environmental Protection Agency because of the nature and size of the emissions and violations. This would reflect very badly on Mittal Steel under ordinary circumstances, but what's worse is that, with the planned $41 billion acquisition of Arcelor SA of Luxembourg that led to them having to sell the Sparrows Point mill in the first place, Mittal becomes the world's largest steelmaker, and apparently the new world's largest steelmaker cares so little about the environment that it fails to operate a required system that causes damage to the environment on such a level that the federal government becomes involved.

Charmed by Governor Martin O'Malley. More info today on how Maryland plans to deal with the projected deficit of one-point-five billion for next fiscal year. The administration of Governor Martin O'Malley says today that reforms will include closing corporate tax loopholes and higher taxes for the rich. No details were offered on how much the tax increases would be or how the loopholes would be closed.

Harmed, once again, by BGE. The 2,000-member Evangel Cathedral in Prince George's County wants BGE to boost its power supply during the peak summer months. The church says they're seeing power fluctuations and wants BGE to improve the reliability of its service. Documents have been filed with the Public Service Commission that show that the church logged nearly 25 power surges in 2005 and 2006.

Charmed by Representative Elijah Cummings. Yesterday, Cummings endorsed City Council Presidential candidate Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. This is impressively refreshing because Cummings is seemingly putting his opinion of who the best candidate for the job is over his personal relationships with the family of Rawlings-Blake opponent Paul Sarbanes and Senator Ben Cardin, who supports currently third-place candidate Kenneth M. Harris Sr.

Harmed by nepotism and Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith. The Baltimore County Executive named Mike Mohler, brother of Smith spokesman Don Mohley, to the newly-created position of second deputy directory of the permits and development management department starting Monday. The job was not advertised, nor were any other candidates interviewed, nor does Mohler hold excellent qualifications for the job: former sales director for Guinness, and consultant for a Catonsville developer. County spokeswoman Marjorie Hampson tried to explain this obvious conflict of interest by saying Mohler will have no involvement in development regulation despite being a deputy director of a department whose primary focus is development.

Charmed by the Conservation Leadership Corps. An initiative of Johnson Controls, a Fortune 100 company that creates smart environments for vehicles, homes and workplaces, the Student Conservation Association, a nationwide organization that gives high school and college-age students practical conservation experience, and Civic Works, a leading nonprofit youth service corps in Baltimore, Baltimore's CLC was launched in April in conjunction with Mayor Sheila Dixon to provide meaningful summer jobs in conservation and leadership development to Baltimore youth. Students from Baltimore high schools graduated from the CLC today after spending the past six weeks restoring city parks and learning about environmental conservation. After taking part in a week-long job readiness class at the end of June, the students were led by eight crew leaders to build and maintain trails, remove invasive plant species and restore habitats in various Baltimore parks, including Cylburn Arboretum, Herring Run Park, Clifton Park and Druid Hill Park. In addition to hands-on conservation project, the program also provides students with educational opportunies such as a trip to Johnson Controls Institute in Sparks, MD to learn about environmental sustainability and building efficiency. The CLC program will be conducted annually.

Harmed by WOLB AM. The Radio One-owned station held a forum yesterday between democratic mayoral candidates Keiffer Mitchell, Frank Conaway Sr., Dr. Andrey Bundley, Jill Carter and acting Mayor Sheila Dixon on the radio station's Larry Young morning show. Left out in the cold were three other democratic mayoral candidates: Mike Schaefer, Phillip A. Brown Jr., and, this writer's favorite: A. Robert Kaufman, who were invited to the show on Friday. As if this separation of the seemingly "major" candidates from the outside candidates were not bad enough, Radio One had Kaufman escorted out of the building by three Baltimore County police officers. If you're going to hold a mayoral candidates forum, it's your duty to do it with all the candidates.

Lastly, a related Charmed by passion in politics. At the above-mentioned forum, Dixon and Carter disagreed sharply over state control of city schools, with Carter wanting to sever the city-state partnership while Dixon proposes re-examining the partnership. The disagreement turned ugly on air, with Carter and Dixon trading jabs back and forth over attendance records at legislative sessions. According to Conaway, things got even uglier off air: "They were at each other's throats...It wasn’t nice. They were getting at it. I had to spread my hands to keep them apart...It was a cat fight.” Both Dixon and Carter disagree with Conaway's assessment, with Dixon spokesman Anthony McCarthy saying, "I think that Del. Carter was forceful and pointed in her criticism, and the mayor was equally responsive,"and Carter stating, "“I was just forcefully setting the record straight with the Mayor.” Whatever the case, it's good to see politicians who are passionate about what they're working towards.
Andre German is passionate about what he's working towards, too. He just hasn't quite figured out what that is yet. For more information on Andre German, visit his myspace profile. Or for direct contact, he can be reached at his here.

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This story was published on August 10, 2007.