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Capital for a Day briefs

May 09, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

New County Commuter buses coming

While Gov. Martin O'Malley was in Hagerstown on Thursday, the state Department of Transportation announced Washington County will get 11 new County Commuter buses.

The buses will replace buses now in the county's fleet, department spokeswoman Erin Henson said. Nine will arrive this year and two next year.

The 11 new buses are among 72 local transit buses the state Board of Public Works agreed in March to buy for $19 million.

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The County Commuter buses will cost $180,000 apiece, she said. Each will hold about 25 passengers.

The new buses will emit lower levels of sulfur than the buses they replace, she said.

Comparing capital campaigns

When then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a Republican, and his cabinet officials went on the road during his administration, the state Democratic party cried foul.

"Ehrlich and [then-Lt. Gov. Michael] Steele stage these fake cabinet meetings as a backdrop for what really is a campaign press conference paid for by the taxpayers," then-Democratic Chair Terry Lierman wrote in an August 2006 press release.

David Paulson, a Maryland Democratic Party spokesman, said the party sent someone to tape one of Ehrlich's public cabinet meetings. Footage showed political supporters wearing Ehrlich T-shirts, cheering in a college auditorium as cabinet members were introduced, he said.

"I don't think in general it's a negative thing as long as it's not connected to your re-election campaign," Paulson said of the roving cabinet idea.

Henry P. Fawell, who was Ehrlich's press secretary, disputed Paulson's characterization, calling him "a career political operative" with no credibility to determine what a cabinet meeting is.

Fawell said Ehrlich cabinet members conducted business at their meetings across the state and spread out into their host communities to do more business.

Every "Cabinet Day" event included substantive meetings in the community, he said.

Ehrlich and two cabinet officials came to Hagerstown's Public Square in August 2006, while he was running for re-election, to announce about $3.2 million in cash awards for Washington County projects and programs.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said Thursday that cabinet officials under O'Malley were "expected to conduct business with their local counterparts" while in Washington County.

He called many parts of Capital for a Day "a valid use of time."

The cost to state taxpayers is minimal, Abbruzzese said.

There might have been some travel expenses, but most of the events and tours were free, he said.

One extra cost was a hotel room for three state employees who stayed Wednesday night in Hagerstown to set up activities early Thursday, Abbruzzese said.

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