Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Scandals of MoCo

That really is one humdinger of a scandal Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon is embroiled in! It’s got everything – money, corruption, sex, evil developers, furs, sex, contracting violations, sex, and probably even more sex. I hope for Baltimore’s sake that she doesn’t have some kind of perverted competition going on with Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. (My money’s on Kwame because the text messages are documented.) But then I started thinking – how does MoCo compare on the scandal meter? The answer is that we are just pathetic. Take a look at the pitiful scraps we are offering:

1. Jerry Weast’s meeting with the unions
When MCPS superintendent Jerry Weast discussed support for Nancy Navarro in the recent District 4 race with the county’s unions, he must have thought he was helping the school board president. He wasn’t. All he got for his trouble was spankings from bloggers and three straight weeks of negative Gazette coverage. Weast wound up hurting Navarro by giving ammo to her opponents and encouraging Don Praisner’s voters to turn out. This was a legitimate scandal because no school superintendent should be involved in elections, but its ultimate impact was to backfire on Weast. Scandal meter (1= Bennifer, 10=Monica): 3.

2. Illegal anti-Navarro robocalls
In a story first reported here and then picked up by the Gazette, illegal anonymous robocalls went out branding Navarro a tool of the developers. This played right into the hands of her opponents, all of whom rejected developer money. A few of us held a nice parlor game trying to figure out the source (I think it’s Foolio) but I doubt the calls alone tipped the race. And let’s face it – a Baltimore candidate who didn’t use illegal calls would be regarded as soft. Scandal meter: 3.

3. Duchy challenges council trips to Israel
When County Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg found out that the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington was paying for trips to Israel by council members, she requested an opinion from the county’s ethics commission. Ultimately, the commission ruled the group could not pay for the trips even though they had been going on for 20 years. Duchy’s instincts were proven right although I think the Council Members could benefit from some time away from each other every now and then. Scandal meter: 2.

4. Silverman and Knapp caught breaking the ex parte rule
Near the end of the 2006 primary election, the now-deceased MoCo Progressive blog publicized meetings between a developer lawyer and Council Members Steve Silverman and Mike Knapp. The meetings violated the county’s ex parte rule, which forbids private discussions between Council Members and outside parties on zoning issues.

Now I know that the ex parte rule is supposed to prevent developer (and citizen) influence over land use issues, but this may be a little silly. I want the right to talk to my Council Members about anything! Only in MoCo would we label a conversation between a developer and a politician a scandal. In Baltimore, that’s called “lunch.” Scandal meter: 2.

5. Ann Marimow catches Praisner campaign manager in council building
During the District 4 special election, Washington Post reporter Ann Marimow exposed Praisner campaign manager Eric Hensal’s trips to meet allied council staffers in the council building during business hours. The staffers claimed they used personal cell phones to communicate and ate lunch outside the grounds.

This is not just small potatoes, it's tater tots. The real scandal is how much time I spend in Rockville. One of these days the receptionists will get wise to my fake County Council staff badge and throw me out onto the street where I belong! Scandal meter: 1 (Hensal), 4 (Adam).

So what's next? Will one of the Council Members forget to wear green on St. Patrick's Day? Will MCDCC appoint Itchy or Scratchy to the next delegate vacancy? (Can you imagine their presentations before the committee?) Will Marc Elrich be caught skinny-dipping in Sligo Creek? Unfortunately, none of the above will probably occur.

Yawn... I guess I'll wake up when Marion Barry moves here.