Snow in Ocean City; Budget Angst in State Capitals and City Halls

Posted on January 27, 2009

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It’s snowing in Ocean City, Maryland, this morning, steady but not too hard. The temperature is shivering right around freezing.

In Washington and New York, this is the winter of economic uncertainty. Nationwide, unemployment is spreading week by week. Unemployment may hit 10 percent by spring, which seems far away right now but really isn’t. I won’t mention the word “fear.”

State and local governments are faced with varying degrees of dire budget circumstances. California and a dozen or more other states are said to be almost broke. Are politicians exaggerating and over-reacting to the economic impact on state and local governments? I suppose it varies from place to place.

Maryland government is in experienced and able hands. Gov. Martin O’Malley, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Comptroller Peter Franchot, aka the Board of Public Works, are the best and the brightest. This is Mr. Franchot’s opportunity to prove that he is not out of place in such competent company. Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch are tested and true political leaders. They lead a General Assembly that unfortunately includes a few of the best legislators money can buy. Fortunately, Mr. Miller and Mr. Busch are fully equal to the task of shepherding the Senate and the House to wise and just legislative decisions. Sometimes the Maryland General Assembly shines, and sometimes it falls short.

You may notice that I have been ignoring the early deliberations of the General Assembly session. It is ably covered by the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun and the Gazette (the Gaithersburg Gazette). You can browse feeds from the Sun and the Post political blogs in the sidebar, just below the Maryland Weather feed. Farther down, you can click on the best of the Maryland mainstream media, and a selection of the best Maryland blogs. There is not much need for me to duplicate their work.

I am not in Washington, or Annapolis. I am in Ocean City. “Write what you know,” I always say. So this winter, I will concentrate on covering the economic uncertainty from the perspective of one small town, Ocean City, Maryland. Ocean City stands somewhat apart from the great nearby metropolitan areas, and even apart from the rest of the Eastern Shore. But in most ways, Ocean City is about as American a small town as you can find (in winter) and as American a small city as you can find (in summer).

This afternoon, the Mayor and City Council will hold a work session on the Ocean City budget. Countless similar deliberations are taking place in state capitals and city halls across America. I will be telling the story from Ocean City. — Bernie Hayden

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