Journalists in public office? Stop the presses!

June 11, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

The joy in my heart at hearing word that County Commissioner John Schnebly will not seek re-election cannot be described.

He's been a thorn in my side for long enough. My first problem with Schnebly is that he tells the truth. That's a trait unbecoming to any politician. My second problem is that he will put the facts before the community even if it's not what they want to hear.

Third, he's not afraid to take an unpopular stand if he believes it's the right thing to do, as evidenced by the redistricting and consolidation issues. Fourth, he watches the purse strings closely without being miserly. He's not a tax-and-spend type, but neither does he trumpet campaign boilerplate baloney about unfeasible cuts, or reject exploring projects that will benefit the community.

Fifth, he's a leader. I hate leaders. Sixth, he's not all talk - he acts. Seventh, he's able to build a consensus and negotiate without backing down on his principles.


Eighth - well, you get the idea. He's the type of politician that Washington County can't - that I can't - afford. Good commissioner equals bad copy. There's nothing to make fun of when a politician insists on doing the right thing.

Good riddance. I hope he doesn't reconsider.

But there is good news on the election front, right across the border in Frederick County, where a journalist is running for the Maryland House of Delegates.

Michael O'Conner (all right, it's O'Connor, but as one entering the public spotlight as a candidate, I thought he should at least get that warm feeling that politicians nationwide get courtesy of reporters, that of seeing his name misspelled in the press) has produced and hosted public affairs programming on Cable-10 TV.

At last! A precedent!

Journalists in public office. Could there be sweeter music for American ears to hear?

Look, we didn't want it to come to this, but the trouble is that politicians JUST DON'T LISTEN TO US.

For years, we've solved all of their problems in print and on the air. This advice comes at no charge and it's worth it.

Imagine our frustration at knowing all the answers, but sitting helplessly by as a parade of lawyers, real estate agents, school teachers, stockbrokers, insurers and even consultants go parading off to Annapolis year after year only to screw everything up.

For years, reporters have known they can solve any problem put to them with four simple words: "Let's have another round!"

And I spit on those people who fret over "conflict of interest" concerns revolving around the potential for a journalist to report on his own race. Do teachers not vote on education policy? Do lawyers not vote on new laws? Do doctors not vote on health policy? Do consultants not vote on medical marijuana bills?

Government is filled with conflicts. Get over it.

A school board member once asked me if I'd ever considered running for public office, and I said, "What, and give up my power?" But O'Konnor's tossing of his hat into the ring makes me reconsider, and think what a placid, prosperous land of sunshine and lollipops this great nation would become if all public offices were held by journalists.

To avoid the "conflict" charge, McConnor said he would shift his duties to sports and entertainment. So I put out a feeler with our sports and lifestyle departments. But they just made some joke about Buck Martinez that I didn't understand and went off to check the latest Senegal-Madagascar World Cup score and write reviews of the new caper-flavored Pop-Tarts.

I'm not discouraged though. I think there's a place for journalists in office. Why, just last week they asked O'Cotter what his opinion was of slot machines and he said the issue "needs more study."

See? We've already got the lingo down pat.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. You can phone him at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or e-mail him at

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