Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Top Stories of 2009, Maryland

Today, our panel of thirty-seven readers picks the top stories in Maryland outside Montgomery County. Let ‘er rip!

1. Budget Crisis, State
25 votes

Reader: No mon, no fun.

Reader: What else is there?

Reader: Nothing else significant will get done that isn’t related to the budget.

Reader: The biggest issue for the state last year and next year. I’m sure Martin O’Malley says to his staff, “Why won’t this budget problem go away so I can be a great governor!” But he is stuck with it and stuck navigating the politics that comes with any and every cut or tax.

Reader: This is a top story mainly because Democrats continue to recreate the crisis everyday. O'Malley's refusal to spend within the state's means is amazing, even more so when you think about the tax revenues that continue to decline thanks to higher taxes and a worsening business climate.

Reader: The 2009 legislative session will seem mild compared to what we’ll see in 2010.

Reader: Although Maryland is better off than other states, the fiscal situation is real and there will be cuts to local governments. The challenge for Montgomery County is for our Delegation in Annapolis to quit being wimps and start playing hardball to bring home the bacon, provided it is not smoked bacon, it is low in trans fats and the packaging is properly labeled with a calorie count. Baltimore City doesn’t care about either our county or calories, they just want our money. Enough is enough.

2 (tie). Economic Crisis
18 votes

Reader: Hurt is all around us. Here’s hoping for a brighter future in 2010.

Reader: The State suffers from the same problem as the County - both have a complete lack of vision about how to create jobs. The State could benefit from some out-of-the-box thinking and politicians with the balls to push through some big ideas.

Adam: The story that drives so many other stories: the state and county budget crises, political tumult, the drive towards slots, the postponement of transportation projects and much, much more. How many politicians will be unemployed come 2010?

2 (tie). Slots Problems
18 votes

Reader: So much for the “magic bullet” that many voters thought would solve our fiscal problems! No one wanted to invest. If they did, they didn’t have the capital. And that was before slots opponents spoke out!

Reader: Slots were supposed to be the budget savior. It will be a long time before they are up and running, with many locations not on track to even be awarded a license by the state let alone start producing revenue. Coupled with this is the limited benefit slots will have for horse racing. I don’t have too much of an interest in horse racing, but a long time ago supporting that industry was a big part of the point of slots. Increased purses from slots, but no slots at the tracks, does not look like enough to keep an active industry in the state outside of the Preakness.

Reader: No money, mo’ problems. Not even the Wright Brothers could get this flawed idea off the ground.

Reader: Like a burrowing maggot, slots have infested the State with a host of problems. Here’s a stone cold lock: there will be more problems once slots are up and running.

Reader: The irony is simply incredible, but Montgomery has lots at stake here since it has no location but will be a benefactor – at least the millionaires in Montgomery will. Electing Anthony Muse as County Executive would guarantee a casino at National Harbor since you’ll need religion on your side – could be a “MoCo most selfish / best pick.”

Adam: I can’t wait to compare the original projections of slots revenue to what actually comes in.

4. Sheila Dixon Trial
17 votes

Reader: Finally, the people of Baltimore and the people of Maryland can feel somewhat certain that somebody is watching the henhouse....even though lord only knows how many other Maryland Democrats (and you notice they are always Democrats) are getting away with it....

Reader: Does it get more low rent than using gift cards intended for the underprivileged?

Reader: My Monopoly game is missing a “get out of jail free” card. Maybe Dixon took it.

Reader: Clearly, the City has finally officially passed the torch for graft and corruption onto Prince George’s County after 100 plus years – this is history in the making.

Reader: So what if she thought it was the gift cards that her boyfriend developer gave her (in small denominations) or if it really was the gift cards that were intended for the poor kids? The jury got it right. Another blemish on Maryland politics. Law students (you too Adam) should read the trial transcript, particularly the defense’s opening statement that made the case for the prosecution that the prosecution never put on. Oops!

Adam: No matter what goes on in Baltimore, the rest of the state will put up with it. Why? Because we have made the judgment that the city is too big to fail. Unfortunately, our leaders do not see that the city failed decades ago and the rest of us have been paying the price ever since.

5 (tie). Donna Edwards Problems/Ivey and Taylor Challenges
16 votes

Reader: Who would have thought less than two years after she beat an incumbent by 20 points we could be seriously talking about her losing in a primary?

Reader: Just because her predecessor held the seat for 15 years doesn’t mean she’ll hold on to it that long. But if Ivey and Taylor both jump into the race, they’ll cannibalize each other. The game of chicken continues into 2010.

Reader: The consequence of taking out any established incumbent with seniority.

Adam: I can’t take a single phone call about Donna Edwards without the subject of her staffing problems coming up. That is creating an opening for her opponents.

5 (tie). Purple Line/Red Line Selections
16 votes

Reader: Transportation will always be a major issue.

Reader: It is big news on two fronts. One, it is a major step forward for an issue of great importance to Montgomery and Prince George’s. Two, it confirms once again that the Governor of Baltimore will not put himself out for the DC suburbs.

Reader: The Red Line more than the Purple Line is destined to remain a major story, because it seems like when you talk to residents in Canton that nobody likes the proposed solution. When you consider the yuppie class that lives in Canton that won’t trend as Democratically as the rest of the city, O’Malley may have awakened a sleeping political giant.

Reader: What is there to debate? The Red Line’s single-track design is a death trap. Which would you want to ride on?

Reader: Who will get the money and when?

5 (tie). Teacher Pension Debate
16 votes

Reader: Last stand for Montgomery.

Reader: This has huge implications for county governments, with none positioned to lose more than good old Montgomery.

Reader: There should be no “debate.” The Montgomery County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, and Prince George’s County delegations should put an end to the “debate.” Tell Big Daddy (trust me, hear me, “this is my last term,” maybe) Mike Miller that the State has already burdened the local jurisdictions with teacher social security and the state needs to find the resources to pay its share toward teacher pensions.

Adam: Come on, politicians – tell us what great champions of education you are while you cast down teacher pensions to jurisdictions that can’t afford them.

5 (tie). WSSC Issues
16 votes

Reader: Who will finally tame this beast?

Reader: Reform this agency. Three votes from each county is a recipe for stasis. Although there has been some movement with a new manager and some necessary fee increases, much more remains to be done.

Reader: Deserves its own blog to catalog all of the water main breaks and political infighting. Potential title: “WSSC or Bust.”

Adam: WSSC is a less entertaining place these days with the hiring of a General Manager and the departure of Commissioner Juanita “Wild Child” Miller. But the resolution of those issues just exposes the agency’s deeper problems even more: the fixation of the Prince George’s Commissioners with minority contracting and the inability of the two counties to agree on capital fees sufficient to make progress on repairing aging pipes.

9. No Progress on Transportation Funding
9 votes

Reader: Transportation funding and economic development go hand in hand. $$ for transportation (emphasis on mass) and economic development = jobs.

Adam: The biggest single failure of leadership in Annapolis.

10. Electricity Reregulation Debate
8 votes

Reader: What better way to highlight Martin O’Malley’s outright lie from the 2006 campaign about keeping energy costs low than to talk about the fact that, ten years after the fact, Mike Miller and Company still take no responsibility for their involvement in the ass-backwards deregulation scheme that wasn’t really deregulation at all. Insanity...

Reader: Because of the complicated nature of this issue, it is often ignored by the general public and misunderstood by many politicians - which is unfortunate for consumers.

Adam: Any politician who promotes independent green energy suppliers like Clean Currents but supports re-monopolization that would eliminate their ability to attract customers is a complete hypocrite.

Most Underrated Story: Washington Post Boy King

The Post could not have shown more contempt for its Maryland readers if it had sent garbage trucks to dump stinking waste onto our lawns. The paper’s bosses have never even acknowledged, much less apologized for their use of an ignorant, out-of-area intern to write local editorials. What more is going on inside the mainstream media that has not yet come out?

That’s all for 2009, folks!