Monday, June 21, 2010

Farewell to Maryland Politics Watch

In all probability, this is the last original post I will be writing for Maryland Politics Watch for the foreseeable future. I owe it to all of you to explain why.

It’s actually pretty simple. Two endeavors occupy nearly my entire life. In the first endeavor, I work for an international union (the Carpenters) as its sole researcher. I am responsible for investigating corporate, economic and academic issues throughout the United States and Canada. I travel frequently. My “office” is often nothing more than a cell phone, a laptop, a rental car and a never-ending series of randomly located hotel rooms. I do whatever I have to do to perform this job as well as I possibly can.

Every spare minute that I can find goes to my second endeavor, which is writing Maryland Politics Watch on an unpaid basis. I owe a great debt to everyone that has aided me in this, especially my precious spies. Even though I write the blog at night and on weekends and program the content for daily viewing, it requires almost as many hours as my job. If that were not the case, then the quality of the work here would not be high enough to create and sustain the audience that this blog has.

Caught between these two activities is my family: my wife Holly and my one-year-old son Andres. Tragically, I have spent more time working on the blog than I have with my son.

Andres Pagnucco trying to get his Dad's attention.

So long as I have both a very demanding job and a very demanding blog, I cannot be the husband and father that my family deserves. So I have to choose. And right now, I am choosing the job that puts food on my son’s table. That, of course, is not the blog.

Some may wonder why I don’t simply “cut back.” It is not my nature to do anything without giving it 100% effort. I’m just not made that way and I can’t change.

If I had one wish for MPW readers, it is that they could see the political process as closely as I have witnessed it. It’s really not about third readings, zoning text amendments, committee votes, task force reports, staff memos or any of that. It’s all about the people who participate in government decision-making. I have come to know these people better than anyone – perhaps, even better than they know themselves. They are a fascinating group. Elected officials are not the cardboard, All-American baby-kissing characters they try to become at election time. Nor are they all evil, money-grubbing con artists as they are frequently portrayed by the media. Yes, many of them are insecure, needy, egotistical and overly sensitive, though there are plenty of exceptions. A few of them are even paranoid, arrogant and self-obsessed. But the vast majority of them enter politics with some spark of good intent in their hearts. Many of them really do have beliefs, and even principles, and are not faking them. Most of them want to perform well. The late Delegate Jane Lawton (D-18) was an example of the very best of politics, and even of humanity itself.

What the public never sees are the sacrifices they make. I can’t count the number of times elected officials have despaired in private conversations with me – often very emotionally – about the impact of their office-holding on their families, their careers, their finances, their social relationships outside of politics, their enjoyment of the fun things in life, and even on their emotional condition. Some sacrifice these things for the wrong reasons. Maybe it’s ego or the need to be recognized. These people become little more than the badges they wear on their chests. But some sacrifice these things for the right reasons, like a true dedication to helping others. The really good ones often can’t serve without giving 100%. I sympathize. I wish there was a reliable way for the voters to tell apart the good ones from the mediocre ones and the really bad ones.

Now to the blog. I can’t say whether I will ever write again about state and local politics or policy. If I do, it will have to be in a way that is compatible with the economic and personal well-being of my family. No matter how hard I have tried, I cannot make it work under the current circumstances. I may occasionally put up guest blogs, press releases, event announcements, endorsements, videos, photos, literature and the like. (Isn’t it a shame that the mainstream media ignores most of that material?) But I cannot simultaneously be the Walter Winchell of Maryland and an international union corporate investigator and a good husband and father. Unless things change, I can no longer write original columns for Maryland Politics Watch.

Thank you to everyone, and especially to the great David Lublin, who is the best blog-father an online rapscallion like me could have ever had.