Rockville Pike to Snow Hill

Posted on December 22, 2007


 Yesterday, Dec. 21, was the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.

Today is the longest shopping day of the year, the Saturday before Christmas.  Ah, Rockville Pike at Christmastime. Retailing on steroids. SUVs and pickups bumper to grille from Georgetown Prep to Richard Montgomery. Four-wheel drive and no place to go. Commercialism meets road rage. Rockville Pike is the triumph of materialism over planning and zoning.

If that’s not bad enough, there will be no snow in Snow Hill on Christmas. Even if there were snow, there would be no downhill skiing. The winter tourism business is terrible in Snow Hill. In contrast to the commercial excess on The Pike, there isn’t even a grocery store in Snow Hill. (If you’re hungry after a day on the slopes, there’s McDonald’s.) Snow Hill is the only county seat in Maryland sans supermarket (as far as I know). You want groceries, you drive to Berlin or Salisbury. If you drive south, Pocomoke City has a Wal-Mart. Pocomoke has a Wal-Mart and Rockville Pike doesn’t? Go figure. The Pike has a Target.

You may have guessed, this is our year-end wrap-up on politics and the economy. What, me worry? America doesn’t manufacture anything, but we shop until we drop, spend until the end.  Still, we are the world’s leading producer of sub-prime mortgages. My nieces and nephews are about to graduate from college, and the fastest growing  job categories are “unpaid intern” and “independent contractor.” Looks good on your resume.

Enough economics. On to Maryland politics. Please fasten your crash helmet.

Gov. Martin O’Malley defied WBOB radio, hammered out a progressive tax package, and summoned the General Assembly to Special Session. In an uncharacteristic burst of responsibility, the Tax and Spend Party passed a watered-down version of the tax package.

It took only three weeks for the Tax and Spenders to collect threadbare majorities in House and Senate. Let the record show that it was a party-line affair, with nary a senator or delegate from the Free-Lunch Libertarian Nativist Party daring to offend the wealthy patriots of the right.  A footnote to the Special Session: One General Assembly member, who shall go unnamed, had perfect attendance. Said member, from Montgomery County, did not attend or cast a vote for the entire three weeks. Perfect.

In a bizarre postscript — a last-ditch effort to preserve government dysfunction and gridlock — the Free-Lunch Libertarian Nativists filed a lawsuit to reverse the tax package. This judicial exercise is unfolding in Carroll County (where else?). The first order of business is delay. Judge Thomas F. Stansfield has postponed a hearing until 2008, The Washington Post reports, because an important witness has gone missing. Mary Monahan, chief clerk of the House of Delegates, is apparently enjoying the holidays in another state, beyond the reach of Carroll County’s long arm of the law. The attorney for the Free-Lunch Libertarian Nativist legislators is not pleased. The judge is not amused. Who could make this stuff up?

The song says: “Let there be Peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” Toward that end, I will take a Christmas break from blogging. There’s a ton of unfinished business on my desk. Immigration, education, Ann Patchett novels, the February primaries. It will still be there when I return.

If any process servers or bill collectors come looking for me, say that I am skiing in Snow Hill.

Merry Christmas to all. Peace.  —  Bernie Hayden