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Advertise on the Tentacle

October 31, 2007

Martin and His Merry Band of Hucksters

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

The special session of the General Assembly looms over state legislators like a specter; how appropriate that today is Halloween. Instead of the Grim Reaper looking to take your soul, these guys (and gals) merely want your wallet.

Dressed in pinstripes instead of funeral black, Martin and his Merry Hucksters have been busy traveling the state to spread their message of urgency. At first, they were satisfied to use a computer-based budget presentation, but as the session gets underway and public outcry over the enormous level of taxation is fully realized, they've now shifted their strategy.

Every cabinet secretary (the aforementioned Merry Hucksters) has taken to the Internet, spreading fear, desperation, and despair. Read these plum words from Secretary of Business and Economic Development David Edgerley:

For members of Maryland's tourism, film and arts communities, the $27 million in proposed budget cuts would be catastrophic. Specific cuts include:

Abolishing the Maryland Tourism Development Board and its $7 million budget, a severe cut to the state's tourism marketing efforts.

Abolishing the Maryland State Arts Council and its $16 million budget, eliminating assistance to hundreds of local arts organizations, individual artists, and arts-in-education programs statewide.

Eliminating the highly successful Film Production Rebate Fund and its $4 million allocation. This fund is Maryland's only financial incentive to attract lucrative film and television projects.

Eliminating funding for the Maryland Heritage Preservation and Tourism Areas Program and cutting funding for other tourism-related projects statewide, including the Baltimore City and Ocean City convention centers, the Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

Awful, huh? Sounds like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as long as they're not stabled at the Baltimore Zoo, that is.

In their own unique way, each agency head has figured out how to spook, scare, or generally rile their customers and consumers to protect what might be lost. One cute little ghost story had the state forced to shut down every state park in Frederick, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett County if tree hugging outdoors' people didn't immediately write to their delegate and senator to protect these important public places from the budget axe.

Transportation Secretary John Porcari visited Frederick City Hall recently bearing the message of gloom and doom. The till at MDOT is bare, and there will be no new highways projects until we refill it. Subtle hint: if you hate your commute now, let us raise the gas tax or you'll really hate it!

One little problem, though. This ghost story, like most ghost stories, might sound plenty real when seated around a crackling campfire munching on a S'mores. The only problem is that it just isn't true, not a shred of truth can be found in it.

People, who - fearing the closure of their own little park - dash off an email to their legislators might be more shocked to find out that the only person in Maryland to even raise the specter of these park closures is ol' Martin himself.

Yep, that's right. The same guy, who says he needs your help, is the one manufacturing the lies designed to get you all riled up in the first place. It's like the Scooby Doo cartoons from the '80s. The dog lifts up the ghost's robe only to find the sneaky land baron trying to scare the people away so he can take their land.

In this case, it isn't your land he wants, just your income, your purchasing power, and quite possibly, your job.

Old timers say to watch out for a guy like this. When somebody goes to these lengths to get you to do stuff you wouldn't normally do, and especially when you find out he misled you to get your help, you have to wonder about his motives.

This is the same guy who employed poetry and lofty rhetoric to define his vision of One Maryland. Remember back when he said we needed to replace Bob Ehrlich for governor because Martin was going to change the political landscape, and bring integrity back to the State House?

I long for the days of Bob Ehrlich, back when honesty meant something and the governor's office was used for something other than a press machine of distortion, deception, and the dark secrets of Martin and his band of Merry Hucksters.

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