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Lawmakers' sparks over power pacts not too bright

July 27, 2011

I am not proud to say that I live for these moments. The moments when the tense, dysfunctional relationship between state Del. John Donoghue and Sen. Chris Shank blow sky high, hot and frothy like a Yellowstone geyser.

These are supposed to be grown-up lawmakers, but they behave more like two little brothers in the back seat of a car during a family trip.

"Mom, he hit me.

He started it.

He did it again, did you see him?

Tattletale.

Snotnose.

Stop it, or I'm telling."

As voters, don't we somehow have the power to swing around in our seat and say that upon hearing the next peep out of either of them, we're going to turn this State House-bound car right around and take them back to their home districts and dump them both off at the curb?.

The latest spat, not that it matters, involves a proposed solar project on land owned by the state prisons south of Hagerstown.

Shank thinks the solar power company isn't paying the state enough money to lease the land. Donoghue says the lease is reasonable and that if you try to soak the power company, it will take its project — and its 125 construction jobs — elsewhere.

It sounds to me like both boys have a legitimate point.

So two normal lawmakers might sit down and compare notes, And if other communities are getting far more rent money for their land, let's negotiate a higher price. If not, let's all get behind the project so that we don't risk losing those jobs. The whole discussion should take about 20 minutes.

Or that's how it would work in Normalland, anyway.

But since we live in Nutville, we have to sit through gallons of spittle as the two kids try to assign blame to what should be a happy little story about clean energy.

To recap, Shank sent a letter to the state Board of Public Works asking that the state negotiate a better land deal. Fair enough, although the project has been in the works for nine months — it might have been nice if Shank hadn't waited until the week before final approval had been scheduled. Still, it matters if, as Shank contends, the state did "a lousy job of negotiating."

On hearing of Shank's letter, Donoghue "reacted with outrage" and accused Shank of trying to kill badly needed construction jobs.

"He's just trying to gum this up," Donoghue said.

You might wish — or you might not — that Donoghue wouldn't always be so fast to rise to the bait. Like, feel free to take a few less shots at that tar baby, man. We know Shank's MO — throw a wrench into a local project and then sit back with an innocent look on his face, protesting that he was only looking out for the best interests of the people.

Right. For the best interest of the people and the sweet enjoyment he must get at watching Donoghue shear a pin. Give him credit, he knows the buttons to push to send Donoghue over the moon.

The value of this whole charade to you and me is that it pretty well explains what's going on in Washington in regard to the debt ceiling. Play whatever games you need to in order to make the other guy look bad.

Governing? What's that? They're spending too much time arguing over who gets a window seat. And for the rest of us, all it means is that we're not there yet and probably won't be for some time.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant on www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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