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As Long as We Remember...

July 21, 2005

A Skunk by Any Other Name Still Stinks

Kevin E. Dayhoff

If there was ever proof that evolution can go in reverse, it is the news that House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., have actually (for real, I’m not making this up) appointed a committee of inquiry to look “into the personnel polices of the Ehrlich administration.”

I read in an Associated Press article the other day, that Speaker Busch has named a Un-Maryland Activities Committee “of four Democrats and two Republicans to join six state senators…” Ya Da Ya Da Ya Da.

Good grief.

Memo to Speaker Busch: “The more you run over a dead skunk, the flatter it gets and the more it stinks.”

This synthetic paper cut in shark-infested waters, called an inquiry into the fact that “the Governor has a right to have his own folks in place, just like all his Democratic predecessors,” is a dead skunk.

In a published account last May in The Washington Times, Senator Miller said. “A lot of people have indicated they want to testify before a commission... It is not going to be a witch hunt...”

Oh! I now feel better. How about you?

I guess what we are hearing is that the Busch/Miller team feel a good witch hunt every 300 years or so, does a state good.

According to an account of the Salem witch hunt trials by Douglas Linder, in the summer of 1692, 19 men and women were convicted of being witches and hanged. An additional octogenarian was crushed to death under some heavy rocks for refusing to agree to go on trial.

So if anyone out there is considering not playing along with the Annapolis version of “Salem 2005,” I suggest that you re-read the previous sentence. You say: “Oh well, that occurred in Salem Massachusetts. Something like that could never occur in Maryland, could it?”

I’m so glad you asked.

In an article entitled "Witchcraft in Maryland,” in the December 1936 edition of Maryland Historical Magazine, Judge Francis Neal Parke wrote of his research on how the courts of Colonial Maryland dealt with issues of alleged witchcraft.

“… [t]he earliest cases involved the hanging of women assumed to be witches while aboard ships traveling from England to the colonies in 1654 and 1658… Five cases before the colonial courts of alleged witchcraft were examined… The first four cases occurred between 1665 and 1686, and the fifth was in 1712…” They were accused of ‘practicing the black arts upon their victims to cause their bodies to be wasted, consumed and pined…’ ”

About 300 years later, the voters and taxpayers of the State of Maryland are being “wasted and consumed,” while this modern day witch hunt gets underway.

Some of the named committee members, that I am aware of at the moment, are: House Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat; Republican Minority Leader George Edwards, of Garrett County; Republican Jean Cryor, of Montgomery County; Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus, of Somerset County; John Hafer, of Allegany County; Democrat Maggie McIntosh, of Baltimore, Democrat Anthony Brown, of Prince George's County and our own Democrat Delegate Galen Clagett of Frederick County. (Good luck Galen. May the force be with you.)

Whatever your political persuasion, you must admit that the elected officials that have been appointed to this committee are capable and talented.

I just wish that we could find something else for them to do; something – anything – that would translate into meaningfully moving the ball forward for the average Marylander. There is too much yardage between the goal posts for these elected officials to be gazing into a reflecting pool.

Perhaps, our General Assembly leaders aren’t aware of some of the other “minor” challenges facing Maryland?

May I suggest a few other committees? How about a committee on the continuing crisis in health care? A little committee on the cost of prescription medicine? I’m not hard to get along with.

How about a small committee on the state’s continuing structural deficit? School construction? Transportation issues? How about the challenges in our juvenile justice system? Attracting new business to Maryland? Business retention? Teacher compensation and retention?

For all you folks watching this reality TV at home, these issues are affecting your quality of life. Don’t for one minute think that this little parlor game of partisan political charades doesn’t affect you.

The state workforce includes 80,000 employees. So what is the cause of all of this wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth?

According to a Washington Times article on May 25, 2005, by S. A. Miller (former Frederick News-Post scribe Steve), “Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., the governor's secretary of appointments, said the Ehrlich administration in three years has fired 280 of its 7,000 at-will workers. Mr. Ehrlich's Democratic predecessor, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, fired 309 at-will workers in a single year from the Department of Transportation alone…”

Paul E. Schurick, the governor's communications director, said it better than I could in a June 3, 2005, Gazette article by Thomas Dennison: "The double standard is as gross and as egregious as I have ever seen. The fact of the matter is dozens of legislators have made a career of trying to influence the hiring and firing of state employees."

Perhaps, the one great spectator moment in this orgy of outer body experiences is watching Senator Miller do a tap dance. It is obvious that someone is missing a few buttons on their remote control.

Memo to President Miller: For future dealings with Speaker Busch: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, when in a hole, stop digging.”

When it comes to hunting for witches, there is always a chance that an investigation will open up the witchcraft practices of previous administrations and current leaders in the General Assembly in hiring and firing practices.

There’s a dead skunk in the middle of the road and the more you run over a dead skunk, the flatter it gets and the more it stinks.”

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at:

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