Thursday, November 15, 2012


                     Department of Legislative Services
                          Maryland General Assembly
                               Anne Arundel County
                                 Travel Expenditures
                                   Fiscal Year 2012

Member                                 Expenditure                      Amount
Barnes, Ben(D-21)                 Session Lodging                 9,307.00
                                               Session Meals                      2,850.26
                                               Session Mileage                      566.10

Beidle, Pamela(D-32)            Session Lodging                  9,090.00

Costa, Bob A.(R-33)             Interim Meals - In State           150.81
                                              Interim Miles - In State              93.24
                                              Session Meals                        3,018.26
                                              Session Mileage                     1,678.32

Dwyer, Don(R-31)               Session Lodging                         100.00
                                              Session Meals                         2,940.00
                                              Session Mileag                       1,554.00

Frush, Barbara A.(D-21)       Interim Meals - In State            126.00
                                              Interim Miles - In State             143.20
                                               Session Lodging                    9,191.00
                                               Session Meals                        2,766.26
                                               Session Mileag                          512.96

George, Ron(R-30)               Session Meals                         2,028.26
                                              Session Mileage                         599.40

Kipke, Nicholaus R.(R-31)    Interim Miles - In Stat                39.96
                                               Session Lodging                        402.28
                                               Session Meals                          2,976.26
                                               Session Mileage                       1,338.66

Love, Mary Ann E.(D-32)      Session Lodging                      9,191.00
                                                Session Meals                          2,730.26
                                                Session Mileage                          298.18

McConkey, Tony(R-33)         Session Meals                           3,096.48
                                                Session Mileage                           976.80

Pena-Melnyk, Joseline(D-21)   Session Lodging                     9,191.00
                                                  Session Meals                         2,892.26
                                                  Session Mileage                         584.80

Rosapepe, Jim(D-21)               Session Lodging                       1,225.99
                                                 Session Meals                           1,740.00
                                                 Session Mileage                        1,740.20

Schuh, Steve(R-31)                 Session Lodging                           808.00
                                                Session Meals                            3,060.26
                                                Session Mileage                         1,392.02

Simonaire, Bryan W.(R-31)    Session Meals                            2,940.00
                                                 Session Mileage                         1,127.76

Sophocleus, Teodore(D-32)     Session Meals                               714.00
                                                  Session Mileage                        1,558.44

Friday, August 24, 2012

What should Dwyer do now?

On Thursday evening, Delegate Don Dwyer confirmed the whispers that started swirling in Anne Arundel political circles earlier that morning. Approximately twenty hours after his near catastrophic boat accident, Dwyer admitted to consuming alcohol prior to operating the vessel. In fact, his blood-alcohol level soared 2.5 times beyond the legal limit in Maryland. While Dwyer immediately took responsibility for his actions, it does not diminish the seriousness of the incident. In all, Dwyer and five others sustained serious injuries. Tragically, that number includes four innocent children. Also, John Moran, a two time Republican candidate for Sheriff, accompanied Dwyer on the boat. Interestingly, Moran has worked on the police force for the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Considering he tends to run for political office every election cycle, Moran certainly didn’t need his name attached to this incident. Keep in mind, Dwyer has said he plans to challenge Senator Bryan Simonaire in the 2014 primary. Perhaps he made this decision knowing he could not win the one Delegate seat in the newly created District 31A. Nonetheless, he recently moved back with his father in Pasadena, which provided him an avenue to seek re-election to Delegate in a heavily conservative area. All of a sudden, this development puts his political career in serious jeopardy. No matter what, he now has virtually zero chance of unseating the relatively popular Simonaire. Regardless, Dwyer now has bigger worries than what seat he will choose within the next two years. After all, he finds more than his political career on the line. Soon, he’ll likely face criminal charges in this matter. Make no mistake; defendants in these highly publicized incidents don’t usually get off with probation before judgment. Instead, those convicted almost always face a period of incarceration. Thus, it’s completely understandable that Dwyer will get preoccupied with retaining his freedom. In the meantime, Dwyer’s constituents in Pasadena, Glen Burnie and Brooklyn Park will have a legislator more focused on his legal problems than the ills in their community. As a result, the taxpayers will remain on the hook for Dwyer’s full salary despite the fact he can no longer devote his undivided attention to the issues that convinced them to vote for him in the first place. Therefore, Dwyer should do the right thing and resign from office. Really, should Delegates Kipke and Schuh have to pick up his slack while this legal process plays itself out? Inevitably, some will make this a Republican versus Democrat debate. Yes, in Maryland a disproportionate number of Democrats hold elected office. Still, how does that mitigate Dwyer’s alleged actions? Besides, Republicans like to tout themselves as tough on crime. Rather than employing a double standard, they too should join the increasing number of voices suggesting that Dwyer step aside.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

$4,143,000 boat ramp?

By Wednesday, the fiscal 2013 budget will get its final approval. Despite all the empty talk about trimming millions from this budget, the County Council cut a mere $3.9 million. Last week, it appeared that they would slash a taxpayer funded boat ramp at Ft Smallwood Park. Unfortunately, the $4,143,000 project remained in the budget. Now, they must provide answers about why they rubber-stamped such an egregious purchase. No doubt, we face tough economic times. Moreover, county workers can breathe a sigh of relief that they won't get furloughed next year. Nonetheless, it's clear the County Executive and the County Council cannot differentiate between luxuries and necessities. After all, how does this boat ramp benefit the majority of out populous? Really, it does not in any way. In reality, Leopold has silently advanced this project for years. Ironically, this has emerged as a priority for a segment of the population that consistently decries government spending and tax increases. Of course, they somehow feel entitled to free usage of a boat ramp. Thus, combined with state and federal grants, the county has approved this multi-million dollar project. Meantime back in 2011, Worcester County removed an old two lane boat ramp in West Ocean City and replaced it with a facility complete complete with a bulkhead, fixed piers and floating docks. In all, the project cost a mere $450,000. Therefore, one must ask why a smaller scale project in Anne Arundel County contains a price tag almost ten times more. Seriously, if the county wants to throw a bone to the tea partiers on yachts, then why don't they just lease an existing ramp in North County? Certainly, many of these cash strapped community associations would welcome an influx of $10,000 to $20,000 a year. Then, they would provide the required annual maintenance as they have always done before. In other words, this means the county assumes limited responsibility in the upkeep of the ramp. Keep in mind, the City of Baltimore owns Ft Smallwood Park. In turn, Anne Arundel County signed a 30 year lease of the property for a nominal fee. Under their control the park has transformed from a place that provided a safe haven for drug use to a beautiful, family-oriented property. Still, how much should taxpayers invest in a park that Baltimore City could elect to reclaim once the lease ends? Armed with these factors, county leaders must bring this idea back to the drawing board. Even if it gets approved, there's no obligation to go through with the expenditure. Besides, if they do, they can no longer portray themselves as responsible stewards of our tax dollars.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Will Daryl Jones return to his old seat?

Well, it looks like District 1 residents might not have to wait much longer for a Councilperson. Moreover, it’s a name most Anne Arundel County residents already know quite well. And, the winner of this prolonged battle goes by the name of Daryl Jones. No, someone with the same name as the imprisoned former Councilmen hasn’t convinced four of the current members to vote for his candidacy. Rather, it looks the man who won re-election in 2010 may return to this seat.

Tomorrow, a judge will hear an appeal on behalf of Jones that challenges his removal from the Council. Keep in mind, the justification for his ouster hinged on his inability to represent his constituents while in a federal prison. Nonetheless, since his former colleagues cannot break their 3-3 tie, it’s unlikely the county can successfully defend the decision to remove him.

If the court sides with Jones, it would nullify the 6-0 vote in favor of expulsion. In turn, Jones would reclaim the seat he held until this past January. Sources tell me that the current Council realizes they will likely lose this court battle. Still, it hasn’t spawned any progress towards their impasse.

Meanwhile, the Council next meets on March 19th. They plan to take another vote on this matter on that date. Granted, that could change depending on the decision of the judge

Friday, February 17, 2012

Synopsis of Last Night's Council Meeting

The process started at 7pm. Going in alphabetic order, the Council first interviewed Lewis Bracey for the seat vacated by the now imprisoned Daryl Jones. Each sitting Councilman then asked all ten hopefuls a barrage of questions. For instance, John Grasso specifically requested each one to define diversity. Meanwhile, Jamie Benoit sought details about their respective experiences. By the time Steven Wyatt concluded this process at 9:45, most assumed District 1 would soon have a new representative in Annapolis. By midnight, the Council dismissed without agreeing on a victor.

To earn the coveted seat, a candidate needed support from four of the six Councilmen. After the first roll call, Marine Lieutenant Peter Smith secured votes from Jamie Benoit, Chris Trumbauer and Jerry Walker. Meanwhile, Derek Fink and John Grasso endorsed former Senator Michael Wagner. Moreover, Dick Ladd lent his support to Richard Forgo, a former primary opponent of Daryl Jones. By the next roll call, Mr. Ladd changed directions and joined Fink and Grasso in supporting Wagner. After almost 2 hours and approximately 100 subsequent roll calls, none of the Councilmen would budge on their guy.

At times, the debate got heated. Often defiant and confrontational during the entire process, Mr. Grasso suggested they stay all night if needed and concluded that such a tactic would ultimately end the stalemate. Meanwhile, Chris Trumbauer got visibly annoyed when Grasso challenged his support for Mr. Smith. “I am not going to be bullied, Mr. Grasso”, stated Trumbauer, suggesting such tactics worked against the ultimate goal of selecting a successor for Jones.

Later, Jerry Walker questioned why Mr. Wagner attempted to buy tickets to Dick Ladd’s fundraiser just days before this hearing. Calling the actions “unethical”, Mr. Walker openly questioned the motive behind such a tactic. Mr. Ladd immediately dismissed the allegations, explaining he returned the donations once the matter got brought to his attention.

With no winner established, the Council agreed to reconvene on Tuesday, February 21st, at 2:00pm.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Soaring Tuition Could Cost State in Long Run

During the 2010 Maryland Gubernatorial campaign, both O’Malley and Ehrlich tried to appeal to college students and their parents by railing against the rising cost of tuition. In recent years, many institutions felt the need to raise tuition and fees when the state could no longer afford to grant them lucrative handouts. Of course, the colleges made no secret on how they would make up the difference.

Perhaps the community colleges and universities of our great state should have reevaluated some of their priorities prior to demanding more money from their customers. In other words, they should have weighed certain extra curricular activities and other luxuries to see if the reduction in their size and scope would eliminate the need to raise tuition. Now, I realize the need for some of these campus perks. Still, every college I’ve ever considered had enough associations and clubs to appeal to just about every student.

Eventually, the soaring cost of tuition will put Maryland public institutions at a competitive disadvantage. Over the past year, I decided to pursue a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice. I naturally thought I would get the best deal using my residency status to get a lower rate. All told, a graduate course at University of Maryland University College would cost me around $1500 a course. Just before the fall semester, I balked at the cost and postponed my return to school.

During this time, I started to casually research other universities. Since my work schedule forbids attending class on a set day/time each week, I opt for online classes. Therefore, my pool of potential matches increases greatly under this scenario. Looking around, I discovered that many accredited universities across America try to woe students by offering reasonable prices.

After considering all my options, I applied to a school in Kansas known as Fort Hays State University . Though they have many students attending classes on their beautiful campus in Hays, Kansas , they also have an extensive distant learning curriculum. Long short, they accepted my application late last week.

Now instead of paying the exorbitant prices charged by University of Maryland University College, I will get a similar education for $700 a course. No doubt, both Fort Hays State and I make out on this deal. I never dreamed I could get my Masters Degree for just over $7,000.

Meanwhile, this state has lost potential revenue because they could not keep their costs under control. As more and more people seek virtual courses, competition among universities will heat up. As of now, Maryland colleges have priced themselves out of the equation. And with the threats of more cuts in state aid on the horizon in fiscal year 2013, tuition almost certainly will rise again.

In fairness, state run universities technically operate as non-profit agencies. Nonetheless, they theoretically want to attract people that wish to further their educational endeavors. Hence, it’s time to bring down the cost of tuition. Think about it; online students do not use a great deal of university resources. Why not slash the price in half considering the university will continue to come out ahead despite the drop in revenue? In the end, the influx of new students will offset that proposition.

Come January, I suspect we’ll hear the college presidents spewing their annual threats. This time, students should make it clear that they won’t accept that proposition. In the meantime, I’ll see how this unfolds as I attend virtual classes at Fort Hays State University . Go Tigers!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Speed Cameras Coming To Annapolis

Ever since Maryland allowed local jurisdictions to erect speed cameras, Anne Arundel County has elected to decline to take part in the program. Granted, the state has stepped in and placed some within work zones along Route 295. Still, our county has not exploited this revenue opportunity like many of our neighboring jurisdictions. Now, the city of Annapolis wants to tap into this well.

This week, the Annapolis City Council unanimously approved legislation that fines vehicle owners $40 for traveling 12 or more miles over the posted limit within designated school zones. Amazingly, not a single resident spoke out against the measure during the public hearing.

On its face, the use of speed cameras looks like sound public policy. After all, most parents would support increased speed enforcement around their child’s school. Of course, the motive doesn’t really involve safety. Rather, it’s little more than a money grab for cash strapped municipalities. Typically, a local government will contract with a vendor, who will maintain the equipment, forward the picture of the offending vehicle to police and then mail the citation to the owner. In other words, speed cameras truly mean a cash cow to the businesses behind them.

In theory, the potential for profit shouldn’t make its way into this argument. Still, these enforcement tools often disappear once the revenue fails to meet certain expectations. For instance, Baltimore County recently moved three speed cameras when the once lofty profit projections evolved into a net-loss. Likewise, red light and speed cameras disappeared in other areas such as Arizona and Los Angeles once the earnings didn’t outgain the operating expenses. Wait a minute, didn’t they cite safety concerns as the primary reason for installing these machines?

Bottom line, old-school police enforcement remains the best tool for getting drivers to slow down. If they increase their presence in school zones for a couple weeks, most drivers will cautiously slow down for months. Besides, under this scenario an officer can cite an actual driver instead of automatically punishing the vehicle owner.