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January 23, 2008

Iron Chef Maryland

Kevin E. Dayhoff

As members of the Maryland General Assembly prepare a menu of legislative edicts that will save the world from global warming, the weather feels rather chilly for State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

Never fear, Mrs. Grasmick, word in the airways is that Gov. Martin O’Malley is breaking out the large backyard crab pot and the sharp knives – and you, my dear, are to be served for dinner.

Fellow Maryland crab aficionados are aware that crabs are put in water, in a large pot – alive. Heat is slowly applied and before you know it, after a brief kerfuffle, the tasty crustaceans are boiled alive. Of course, at first the crabs just think they have escaped the bushel basket to go for a swim.

In December, the state school board voted to extend Mrs. Grasmick’s contract. Ah, the cruelest hoax of all is the hope for safety. The Democrat leadership of the General Assembly and the governor’s office were less than pleased.

The program in Annapolis is really called “Iron Chef Maryland,” with all appropriate apologies to any reference to the hit “Food Channel” program “Iron Chef America.”

Today, the governor will utter the opening battle cry – and serve his State of the State “appetizer” to the legislature assembled jointly in the kitchen-chamber of the House of Delegates.

Sure to be included in the annual address will be the menu the governor prepared before the session began; environmental initiatives, electricity, and energy matters, perhaps some discussion on public safety – with some “it’s for the children seasoning.” Maybe the education cheesecake is being saved for dessert.

Whether or not the governor understands it, he begins the 425th session of the General Assembly with his pantry shelves fairly well depleted of canned political capital as a result of another series of backyard barbeque initiatives.

It’s time to serve the macaroni and cheese, and put out a bright bouquet of flowers, and light some soft candles. And, oh – put down the electric guitar and break out the Barry “I write the song the whole legislature sings...” Manilow.

Today, everyone will be interested to see whether or not the governor will serve any leftovers and continue defending the tax increases enacted in the exhausting 22-day special session in November. It still seems like the session ended just last night as many on both sides of the aisle complain of a “special session hangover.”

While most everyone else has been hooked-up to an IV drip cocktail of Maalox and Alka-Seltzer, the governor has remained unaffected, unrepentant – if not defiant – to recent polls which found his approval rating from the citizens of Maryland looking like temperature on the thermometer out on the back porch.

Marylanders have weighed in saying that only approximately 35 percent of them approve of the way Iron Chef O’Malley is working in the kitchen, with taxes being the overriding cause of heartburn and dyspepsia.

Governor O’Malley responded by saying: “It's not a matter so much of my political capital as it is a matter of the ambitions that the people of our state have for the future of their kids…” Oh, please.

While the politically astute are calling for a menu of comfort food, before the session even began, the governor, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch broke out the “Old Bay” and began filling the crab pot for cooking-up Mrs. Grasmick.

Irony abounds in this latest cooking session. If you will recall, in the matter of Linda Lamone, the Maryland state elections administrator (for life,) the people (at Baltimore’s Sun) on Calvert Street and Democrats screamed to high heaven when former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., challenged her over performance issues back in 2006. Governor Ehrlich was prevented by the legislature from ousting Mrs. Lamone under the same rules that protect Mrs. Grasmick from politics.

Then came the electrocution of the Public Service Commission chairman, Ken Schisler. Remember those hot dog cookers years ago in which you impaled the hot dog and flipped the switch and a jolt of electricity cooked it.

Mr. Schisler got cooked as the fall guy when the Electricity Rate Price Caps expired. In the fall 2006 election, voters were told that Mr. Schisler would be replaced by someone who would lower your utility bill.

Well? Oh, never mind.

Which brings us to the next cookout. On the heels of “Education Week” ranking the Maryland public school system the third best in the nation, Governor O’Malley, Senate President Miller and House Speaker Busch renewed the rhetoric campaign that Mrs. Grasmick should resign from a post she has held since 1991, under four different governors.

For what? Because the state’s education system is ranked third best in the nation? Let’s see, Mr. Schisler was cooked for the global market increase in electric rates, and Mrs. Grasmick is about to boiled alive for orchestrating Maryland’s schools ranking as the third best in the nation.

It begs the question: What metrics are we measuring longevity on the job and success?

On WYPR’s “political summit” hosted by Marc Steiner, the morning of the opening day of the General Assembly session, Senate President Miller said: “Nancy Grasmick is not going to be the superintendent, that's my prediction. She should step aside.”

Governor O’Malley waved his sharpened skewer ominously and said Mrs. (Nancy S(hish kabob) Grasmick is “a poster child for No Child Left Behind or a pawn of the Republican Party.”

Hmmm, didn’t the leadership of the Maryland Democrat General Assembly spend about $1 million dollars investigating former Governor Ehrlich for allegedly firing appointed officials and state employees for being a Democrat?

For extra measure to the plot, the battle flag was raised that morning at Phillips Seafood Restaurant in Annapolis. The Democrat leadership has vowed to introduce legislation this session that will change the law so the governor can serve Mrs. Grasmick up for dinner.

Seemingly, the only question remains: “Would you like fries with that?”

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

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