Thoughts on Maryland's Sept. 12 primary

September 10, 2006|by BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends on Maryland's Sept. 12 primary:

I was unable top keep my promise to interview all three of the candidates in the Democratic primary for state comptroller, but Anne Arundel County Janet Owens probably will not be harmed because I didn't quiz her.

Instead, she is likely to benefit from the the latest brickbat delivered by incumbent William Donald Schaefer, who described Owens as looking like "Mother Hubbard" and "sort of like she was a man."

Let me say now I am a long-time admirer of Schaefer, not least because he was the keynote speaker at a 2001 fundraiser for the Parent-Child Center, a local agency that works to prevent child abuse.


This was shortly after the terrorist attacks of 2001 and many people were wary of gathering in public places. But he came, gave a great speech and made the event a success. For that and many other accomplishments over his 50-year career, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

For others, however, the issue may be not be the certainty of what he has accomplished in the past, but the difficulty in predicting what he might say or do in the future.

Those who are still not sure about which of the many candidates they will vote for on Tuesday, Sept. 12, will get another chance to see all but two of the candidates in action tomorrow - Monday, Sept. 11.

That's when two of the earlier forums will be rebroadcast on Antietam Cable TV Channel 19, back to back, starting at 7 p.m. It's a two-hour investment of your time in the county's future, which is not really much time to spend, considering what issues are involved.

Given that this is just about the last minute, electorally speaking, I won't offer recommendations on specific candidates.

What I will do is offer some suggestions for watching the forums. They are as follows:

Most candidates had only 90 seconds to answer the questions, but anyone who has been a parent, a supervisor or even a friend should be able to tell when a person has more to say than they could possibly fit into 90 seconds or whether the person responding is clueless and just trying to fill up the time.

Candidates who spend a great deal of time thanking those who made the forums possible might be polite folks, but might also be trying to cover for their lack of knowledge about the question that was asked.

Washington County already has zoning that directs development to the Urban Growth Area, where services such as municipal water and sewer are available. Those candidates who say that the county should have such things are either unaware that they already exist, or hoping that they get credit for something that has already been accomplished.

The recently enacted rural rezoning is unlikely to undone, no matter what candidates say. State officials won't allow it. Check the recent history of Carroll County, where officials tried to defy state restrictions.

One good thing about this election is that it is likely to be the last in which the proponents of development claim that it brings in more in new tax revenue than it costs. And the voices we heard in the past, who claimed that any new fee would make housing unaffordable, are mercifully silent now.

No one is throwing a lifeline to the children of county residents who can't afford to buy homes here. Grandma and grandpa will be traveling to Morgan County, W.Va., or Fulton County, Pa., to see their grandchildren.

The federal No Child Left Behind act may be a pain for the local school system to deal with,but it is unlikely to be repealed and any sschool ystem that tries will feel the federal government's wrath.

Why? For many reasons, but the one that will most sting those who balk is the suggestion that they are racists, unwilling to accept NCLB's mandate that every child, regardless of background, race or emotional problems, will make "adequate yearly progress."

Don't want to go along? Get ready to be fitted for a hood and a sheet.

The proposal to revive trades education in the high schools is unlikeley to get much traction.

Why? Because high-schoolers often don't do what's in their best interest. They want to remain their home schools instead of being bused to the Washington County Technical High School.

At that stage in their lives, they imagine that their common sense and pluck will carry them along. It's only when they reach college age that they realize that they need additional training, which is why much of that sort of instruction is moving to the community college level.

It's a face-saving thing as well. Years ago, when I worked with a group on literacy promotion, we found it was easier for people who needed help learning to read to tell their friends and family they were going to the junior college than to admit they were going to reading classes.

Though candidates often say what they will do when elected to office, the truth is that they will have to persuade others to go along with their visions. Just as it was in kindergarten, those who can demonstrate that they can "work well with others" have the best chance of succceeding.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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