August 17, 2011

State Roundup, August 17, 2011

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TUBMAN PARK FUNDED: The state has secured enough money for a state park and visitor center bearing the name of Harriet Tubman, the former slave who led dozens to freedom on the Underground Railroad. It is slated for completion in 2013 — the 100th anniversary of Tubman’s death, reports Nicole Fuller for the Sun.

Ground should be broken for the Tubman visitor center next year, temporarily creating an estimated 225 jobs in all facets of the construction industry at the site adjacent to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, reports Gail Dean of the Easton Star Democrat.

Sun photog Barbara Haddock Taylor shot pix of the announcement yesterday, where Gov. Martin O’Malley, in announcing the funding, said, “Harriet Tubman was willing to work through the darkness and the cruelty of her time to move her neighbors forward and her country forward. There is no more powerful story.”

HEALTH EXCHANGE DIRECTOR HIRED: The board responsible for setting up Maryland’s open insurance market under health care reform has hired a Rebecca Pearce, who has worked for Kaiser Permanente and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, as its executive director, blogs Andrea Walker for the Sun.

COVER CROP PROGRAM GROWS: Maryland has enrolled a record 550,000 acres of farmland in the state’s winter cover crop program, which pays farmers to plant small grains in the fall to reduce the erosion of soil and harmful nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay, reports the Sun’s Frank Roylance.

Gail Dean of the Easton Star Democrat writes that, in announcing the milestone, O’Malley said that if residents of Maryland’s suburban and urban areas had done as much as farmers are doing, “we would be a lot closer to that healthy Bay tipping point.”

GOOD, BAD NEWS ON CHILD POVERTY: Maryland has one of the lowest rates of childhood poverty in the nation, but is in the middle of the pack in overall children’s well-being, according to a report released today by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, writes Steve Kilar of the Sun.

PLAGUE OF SEX TRAFFICKING: In an op-ed piece for the Sun, Beth Happick and Jeanne Allert write that Sen. Ben Cardin’s support has been crucial to the fight against sex trafficking, which is in all 50 states, including Maryland. But, they write, the federal government needs to step up with more funding since one year’s worth of funding to combat trafficking is the same as three weeks of funding in the “War on Drugs.”

WAR ON DRUGS FAILED: Speaking of the War on Drugs, former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and Dr. Dan Morhaim, deputy majority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates, write in the Huffington Post that not only has the War on Drugs failed, it continues to make the situation worse. A new strategy is needed.

CRIME LAB KUDOS: An international crime lab organization is awarding the Maryland State Police’s forensic division its highest level of accreditation, according to an AP report at WMAR-TV.

GRANTS CONFERENCE: With federal stimulus money coming to an end and the state budget strained, nonprofit organizations are searching for sources of future revenue. A state-sponsored conference scheduled for Sept. 12 and geared specifically to that topic is already almost sold out, Barbara Pash reports for MarylandReporter.com.

JOB GROWTH, INVESTMENT: In an article for the Gazette, Kevin James Shay writes that a state report released yesterday said, that in the first six months of 2011, businesses and government agencies in Maryland announced projects that call for more than 6,200 new jobs and $1.6 billion in capital investment. But comparisons with earlier figures indicate that investment is relatively stable but not accelerating, said Anirban Basu, of the Baltimore economic and policy consulting firm Sage Policy Group.

TEACHER UNION THUGS: Columnist Marta Mossburg writes in the Frederick News Post that it used to be that teachers were under contract to consider themselves “the willing servant to the school board and the townspeople.” Now teachers unions are the thugs who tell the people who pay their salaries how they must behave.

McDONNELL VS. O’MALLEY: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s becoming chair of the Republican Governors Association puts him at odds with Gov. O’Malley, who now heads the Democratic Governors Association, according to a Washington Post story by Anita Kumar and John Wagner. Both men said they cooperate on a lot of issues, despite ideological differences.

WHITE NOT WHEAT: The State House dome in Annapolis is undergoing a $500,000 refurbishment but painting it a “wheat-ish looking color” is out of the question, blogs Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. Meanwhile, the $9.9 million renovation of the Lowe House Office Building “is coming along good,” says Sam Cook of the DGS.

DNR ID’s CHUPACABRA: Paul Peditto, of the state Department of Natural Resources, has identified the mysterious “chupacabra” captured in a cage in Prince George’s County, blogs Justin Jouvenal of the Post. It is, Peditto emails, a “classic example” of a fox with mange. If you haven’t viewed the video yet, it’s embedded in Jouvenal’s blog.

B’MORE MAYOR’S RACE: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s Democratic challengers teamed up against her yesterday as they sparred over development, property taxes, school construction and crime in a spirited radio debate, writes the Sun’s Julie Scharper.

Here’s Alan Forman’s article on the debate for Investigative Voice.

To view snippets of each candidates remarks, shot by the Sun’s Christopher Assaf, click here.

And here’s a photo gallery of the event, shot by Kim Hairston of the Sun as well as an earlier one.

With less than a month left before the Democratic primary, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has opened a commanding fund-raising lead over her challengers, Justin Fenton reports the details of the entire pack for the Sun.

TOP DIGITAL COUNTY: Prince George’s County has been recognized as one of the top counties in the nation for its use of information and communications technology, writes Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette.

GOP PROPOSE DISTRICTS: Montgomery Republicans have crafted a proposal to redraw the county’s electoral districts to give them a better chance of being represented on the County Council, reports Erin Cunningham for the Gazette.