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As Long as We Remember...

December 22, 2011

“Ebenezer” and PlanMaryland

Blaine R. Young

Merry Christmas, rural Maryland. Our good friend in Annapolis, Martin “Ebenezer” O’Malley, just gave all of us in the rural counties a few lumps of coal for Christmas. And, before it is all said and done, I think we will find we got more than our stockings stuffed.


Flanked by two very scary Ghosts of Christmas’s Past (former Govs. Harry Hughes and Parris Glendening), Governor O’Malley signed an executive order this week that fully implemented his pet project, PlanMaryland. The governor did this in spite of the fact that there is overwhelming concern and opposition from outside the Baltimore-Washington metropolis, and very strong suggestions by legislative leaders that the General Assembly should play a role in this process.


As a reminder, PlanMaryland is an executive branch initiative that will change forever (or at least until we can muster the votes and leadership to repeal it) how growth is managed in Maryland. From this day forward, rather than local elected leaders determining where their counties and municipalities will grow, non-elected bureaucrats in Annapolis will designate growth areas throughout the state and mandate that development be concentrated in these areas.


As I have said before, the motive behind this plan is not difficult to discern. In the materials circulated in support of PlanMaryland, the Maryland Department of Planning noted that – in the last 50 years – Baltimore City has lost 300,000 residents. PlanMaryland is designed to get them back. It is certainly no coincidence that residents of urbanized communities like Baltimore tend to vote for Democrats. PlanMaryland is designed, at least in part, to provide an ever increasing pool of loyal Democrat voters for “Ebenezer” O’Malley and his successors.


Other people have termed PlanMaryland to be a “War on Rural Maryland.” I don’t like to throw the term “war” around, so I prefer to look at PlanMaryland as a disastrously flawed process. All we are asking for in rural Maryland is a seat at the table to have a say in guiding our own futures. To provide that seat at the table, all I’ve ever asked for is that PlanMaryland go to the legislature for a vigorous and open debate, and an up or down vote.


There is no secret that we are outvoted in the legislature here in Frederick County and the rest of rural Maryland. But I’m not arguing that point. Whatever our legislature would determine after a full debate and a fair vote, I would live with. But we were not even given that courtesy.


In bypassing the legislature the governor cited a 37-year-old state law that he said gave him the power to do this. I have a couple of thoughts about that.


In the first place, if the law is 37 years old, why hadn’t previous governors acted to implement it as our buddy “Ebenezer” O’Malley has? The reason is that as much as I may have disagreed with the policies of past governors of the state, they had at least showed respect for the state legislature. I have never observed a governor thumbing his nose at the General Assembly the way this one does.


And I would also think that the fact that the law which allegedly authorizes “Ebenezer” O’Malley’s actions is 37 years old would be even more of a reason to send the question to the legislature. Things change over 37 years. When that law was passed, I was three years old. Lord knows I’ve changed over the last 37 years, and so has the State of Maryland. Why not let the legislature take a look at it and see if that legislation from yesteryear is still an appropriate guiding tool for Maryland in the year 2011?


But, that was not to be. Thirty-seven years later we continue to be haunted by “Ebenezer” O’Malley and the Ghosts of Christmas’s Past. Citizens who want to escape the urban areas will now keep traveling – like some have already done – to Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and Virginia.


Bah Humbug to PlanMaryland!


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