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July 25, 2005

Random Thoughts for a Hot Summer's Day

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

How in the world does Roy Meachum do it? Writing a regular column is tough stuff, developing an idea, doing research, and then composing rational thought in understandable prose is a lot more difficult than it seems.

Given that, and considering that my mental energy is currently consumed by memorizing lines and songs from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (July 22-23-29-30 at 8 P. M., and July 31 at 2 P. M. at the Weinberg Center), I'm taking the easy way out this week.

It's time for another compilation of random thoughts.

Terrell Owens - This life-long Philadelphia Eagles fan (yes, it's hard to be an Iggles fan surrounded by Redskin and Raven fans) celebrated the signing of the former San Francisco 49er receiver standout two years ago. Terrell was going to be like a savior, turning around the postseason fortunes of my team.

Unfortunately, events have played out differently than advertised. Sure, the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl. Yes, Owens makes the team better. His threat to break the big play causes opponents to focus more than one defender on him wherever he goes on the field.

Sadly, his out-of-control ego has overwhelmed his on-field contributions. His troubled personality has turned an entire city and legions of rabid fans into his enemy, and he has forever damaged his reputation by proving that the problems he suffered through in 'Frisco were not due to the team.

* * * * * * * * * *

Judge John G. Roberts - Judge Roberts has a problem. His intellect, his love of the law, his impeccable academic background, and his stellar reputation have facilitated his choice by President George W. Bush to serve as an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court of The United States.

Most judges, especially a sitting judge on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia, would be ecstatic to receive this honor. Remember, Judge Roberts received a unanimous vote from the U.S. Senate to serve in his present capacity.

Legal scholars all seem to view Judge Roberts as possessing exactly the right mix of knowledge and temperament to sit on this nation's highest court.

Democrats in the Senate, all (or at least those who voted) supporters of Judge Roberts during his appeals court confirmation, now sound either very reserved or in some cases, reticent to consider him for the Supreme Court.

What changed? This is the same guy with the same record that received unanimous approval less than three years ago.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D., NY), a liberal standard-bearer, says it best. Senator Schumer is very concerned that Judge Roberts refused to answer specific questions about issues and cases that might be the subject of future Supreme Court action.

I did a little research. Senator Schumer is correct. Judge Roberts did refuse to answer specific questions during his appeals court confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Judge Roberts didn't try to dodge questions for political purposes. He specifically avoided answers that would tie his hands given the need to consider facts and evidence that might be placed before him on the federal bench.

Why do we do this? Why do we let stupid political posturing denigrate the process of selecting the jurists on our highest court? This is not an attack on the Democratic Party, because the GOP is equally guilty.

* * * * * * * * * *

County commissioners serving as board/commission liaisons - Recently the collateral duty component of the county commissioners' duties and responsibilities have been in the headlines.

County Commissioners Vice President Mike Cady was assigned the mission to represent the commissioners on the county's Parks and Recreation Commission. No big surprise here as Mr. Cady had previously served as a volunteer on that same commission before he ran for public office.

In fact, Mike was a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission while I was serving as a county commissioner. No one was more dedicated to providing recreation services to county residents. His attendance record was outstanding, and he pursued expanding Parks and Recreation services and programs with vigor and passion.

Flash forward to a BOCC meeting, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a baseball cap. Commissioner Cady has already apologized for his angry reaction to the staff member who demonstrated a disappointing lack of respect for our flag.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Cady also voted against a budget request from the county's Department of Parks and Recreation to hire a program manager during the recent budget deliberations.

Parks and Recreation Commission volunteer board members expressed outrage and a lack of confidence in Commissioner Cady's continuance as their liaison. They expressed concern over a linkage to his reaction to the hat/pledge incident for his vote on the budget request.

I'm troubled by the reaction by the members of the Parks and Recreation Commission. First, I don't think that a county commissioner has an obligation to satisfy volunteer commission members with their policy decisions or positions.

Serving as a liaison to a board or commission does not mean that the county commissioner who represents that board/commission must agree with every single decision or position.

The county commissioners are assigned to a number of these boards and commissions. I served as the liaison for approximately 15 different boards, from the Frederick Community College Board of Trustees to the Weinberg Center board.

I had so many of these responsibilities that my incredible administrative assistant, Sharon Hale, had to attend many meetings on my behalf. It was so demanding that when I ran for delegate, my general election opponent attacked me in a candidate debate for missing a specific number of commissioner's morning work sessions.

When I pointed out that my opponent clearly didn't understand county government, and talked about dozens of mandatory meetings I was attending on behalf of the BOCC instead of the work sessions, I got a good laugh (and probably a few votes).

All of this is added to bring some context to the debate. Commissioner Cady has switched his liaison duty with Commissioner John Lovell, by swapping the Parks and Recreation Commission with the Animal Welfare Board.

If the Parks and Recreation Commission volunteer board members think they've obtained a shrinking violet that'll agree with them on everything, they probably need to study John Lovell a little more closely. John is an independent thinker who believes in controlling the cost of government.

I know that Commissioner Lovell supports recreation, but he also has serious concerns about the growth of the budget and the need to increase revenues to pay for expanding programs. Will he be a "go-along to get-along" guy, or will the volunteer Parks and Recreation Commission pine for another commissioner?

A county commissioner should not be subject to the wishes of a volunteer board. If Mr. Cady's vote was motivated solely by anger, then stepping aside is the classy move. If, however, Cady voted against the new position in the budget because of budgetary concerns, then the volunteer P&R Board members have no right to expect that he surrender his role as board liaison.

My next random thoughts column will include some city primary election observations.

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