Life and Politics in Maryland, 2009

Posted on January 5, 2009

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First Monday of the Year in Ocean City

Back to work! I’m always happy when we have survived the holiday season, and we can get back to life and work and politics as normal in Maryland, whatever that is.

This morning, I have already dust mopped the entire apartment with a Swiffer-brand dust cloth. This is not a real big deal, because it’s only an efficiency apartment. But I have to make myself do at least one household chore before I turn on the computer and start blogging, or else no chores would ever get done.

The floors were particularly in need of dust mopping, since I tracked in a lot of sand after covering the New Year’s Day Penguin Swim at 91st Street in Ocean City. Let me emphasize that I did not personally participate in this January plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, although it was for a good cause, the Atlantic General Hospital Foundation.

But I did get my so-called waterproof hiking boots and the bottom six inches of my bluejeans thoroughly soaked while taking digital photos of the event. Oh, the sacrifices we make in the pursuit of excellence in journalism.

Top Montgomery County News Stories of 2008

Adam Pagnucco at Maryland Politics Watch is out with his well-researched list of the top news stories of 2008 in Montgomery County, which he compiled with input from his blog’s frequent readers. Adam has been getting a lot of attention lately as one of Maryland’s premier bloggers, and deservedly so. I understand that his blog sometimes gets 30,000 hits in a single week!

Gov. Martin O’Malley bouncing back

The Washington Post had a story, “Key Wins Bolster O’Malley In Run-Up to 2010 Elections,” on page C1 of Sunday’s (01-01-09) paper. The story makes the point that Gov. Martin O’Malley is bouncing back nicely from the hard feelings left by the tax increases of late 2007 and early 2008.

I was just about to write that same general story, but The Post beat me to it. That’s why The Washington Post is the second or third best newspaper in the U.S., and I am not.

The general public is coming to realize that those moderate tax adjustments were indeed necessary in light of the present economic crisis. With the bursting of the housing bubble, the demise of great financial institutions, and rising unemployment and uncertainty, people recognize that Maryland is fortunate to have a strong, experienced, and fearless governor at the helm.

BTW, is it already time to start thinking about the 2010 election in Maryland? Well, not until after the 2009 General Assembly is over. But I will venture one wild prediction about 2010. I doubt that former Gov. Bob Ehrlich will seek a rematch with O’Malley. O’Malley will be too strong, and another defeat would be the end of Ehrlich’s political career. Ehrlich is still relatively young, and I think he will wait to run for the U.S. Senate, if and when Sen. Barbara Mikulski decides to retire. I’m thinking Sen. Mikulski has at least one or two more good terms left, which means that Ehrlich will be waiting a long time.

Barbara Mikulski, Live And In Person

Speaking of Sen. Mikulski, I do not know her personally. But like any good politician, she smiles at me as if I were a friend when she sees me. Come to think of it, I haven’t run into her since I lived in Baltimore. Once, I was picking up my shirts at a small dry cleaner on Cold Spring Lane. It’s just down the hill from Loyola University, but not the kind of business that college students frequent. As usual, the clerk and I were the only people in the store as I was paying for the shirts.

The door opened and someone walked in and stood beside me. The person was so short that I thought it must be a child. As I turned to leave, I was face-to-face with Sen. Mikulksi, who was dropping off her laundry. What a great opportunity to give her some constituent input on the important issues of the day! But I believe that public servants deserve a modicum of privacy. They do not deserve to be accosted by celebrity worshipers every time they show their faces in public. So what is the proper thing to say when you suddenly come face-to-face with your U.S. senator in a dry-cleaning store? I smiled and said, “Hello,” and walked out the door, where her car and driver were waiting at the curb.

Another time, and this is my final anecdote for today, I went to a weekend Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on Charles Street in north Baltimore. For some reason, I took a pew only a few rows from the back (which is a long way from the altar; it’s a big cathedral) and on the opposite side from where I usually sat. I didn’t even notice the diminutive older woman in the pew directly in front of me.

Before Mass started, one of the ushers came over, leaned down, and said quietly to the woman: “Would you like to take up the collection?” The woman said, “No, thank you,” and I realized from her voice that it was Sen. Mikulski. I would have been surprised if she had said yes, but I thought it was a nice courtesy for the usher to offer her the opportunity.

Later on, after the “Our Father,” came the sign of peace, where everyone in the congregation greets their neighbors. Sen. Mikulski turned around, smiled, and shook my hand. “Peace be with you,” we both said, and that was that. — Bernie Hayden

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