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June 19, 2009

Dirty Shots

Roy Meachum

My blood boiled this week at a pair of dirty shots; their targets were County Commissioner Charles A. Jenkins and Fredericktowne Players' "Annie" director Samn Huffer.


In particular, Mr. Huffer did not deserve the sensationalist treatment he received Wednesday from The Frederick News-Post. Some editor should have told reporter Gina Gallucci-White: That's not news. The paper covered extensively – and I wrote a News-Post column – about the former Brunswick and Walkersville drama teacher's trial and conviction as a sex offender almost eight years ago.


Since Mr. Huffer directed a Fredericktowne production of "Gypsy" in 2006 – as pictured in Wednesday's News-Post – does anyone in the paper's editorial department think their predecessors were inept? It's possible the people on the desk three years back knew the story was not news. They were right.


Certainly the theatre group's board of directors knew Mr. Huffer's history when he was first hired. By the way, since Ms. Gallucci-White and her bosses may not know: "Gypsy" has lots of parts for kids. No crimes or rumors came out then.


Fortunately for the sanity of all concerned, Del. Rick Weldon, who serves full-time as president and CEO of Frederick's United Way, plays Daddy Warbucks in the show. He told Ms. Gallucci-White the director is one of the reasons he sought the part. He also pointed out the group's policy commands that a single adult and single child cannot be left alone, and not simply for the youngsters' protection.


Furthermore, Mr. Huffer was never accused of molesting a minor; his admitted crime was in ordering a videotape that he claimed was for someone else. He took the fall, as everyone around Frederick knew at the time; we also knew his sexual orientation. Dredging his lurid past up is no substitute for genuine news about the community that is not published.


The story and the placement are not the reporter's fault; it represents a decision by an editor who doesn't know his knee from his elbow about this community.


Commissioner Charles Jenkins' mistake was in switching positions on the incinerator issue that has embroiled the community in controversy for months now. During the legislative session, state Sen. Alex Mooney attempted a gesture reminiscent of Alexander the Great's cutting the Gordian knot; he sponsored legislation to kill a proposal to plop the project smack dab next to the Monocacy Battlefield. That deservedly sank without a trace.


"No incinerator! No time! No way!"


These cries have always struck me as unrealistic – in the category of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). Frederick generates literally tons of trash collected daily. We are shipping much of it south, to someplace in Virginia. How long can that last? Certainly the largest land-mass county in Maryland can find someplace to tuck away the "incinerator." On the positive side the plan is known as waste-to-energy; it would generate electricity.


Frederick and Carroll counties will undertake the venture jointly; the price tag hovers around $600 million, some of which would be underwritten by the federal government, I understand.


While Commissioner John "Lennie" Thompson has given this column lots of reasons for criticism, he seems to be right: "My position remains that this is the least undesirable of many undesirable methods of getting rid of the county's unrecyclable trash."


Colleague David Gray agreed. Now Mr. Jenkins provides a majority on the board. His name trashing began with a question from incinerator activist Edith Eader asking if it were his intention to run for office at any level. Another Eader, Caroline, pulled up a news story announcing Mr. Jenkins' intention to seek a slot in the General Assembly. Winning no prize for perceptivity or intelligence, the commissioner confirmed and replied on his official email account: "Contributions most welcome!"


It sounds like a flippancy to me, but Caroline Eader sought the county attorney's opinion and possible action on the commissioner's alleged impropriety and unprofessionalism in passing the remark on his county email account. She wrote to Mr. Jenkins:


"It's simply a question of ethics I'm sure many of us would like to understand."


I agree with the commissioner's observation to a reporter:


"It's scorched earth, they're likely going to be on the losing end of the waste-to-energy debate and they're not happy about it, so she's trying to play a snarky game."


There's entirely too much anger in public life: both the brouhaha engendered by Samn Huffer and the all-out attack on Charles Jenkins prove my point.


Life is not simply: Gotcha!


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