August 25, 2014

State Roundup, August 25, 2014

Print More

IMMIGRANT EDUCATION CHALLENGE: While Maryland schools are well equipped to take in immigrants, the thousands of unaccompanied minors streaming across the border from Central America bring a new set of issues. They are most likely teenagers who not only don’t speak English but also have significant deficits in their education. School officials said they have seen nearly illiterate high-schoolers, girls who have been sexually assaulted during their journey across the border, and others who are overwhelmed and depressed, writes Liz Bowie in the Sun.

MORE COMMON CORE CHANGES: It’s Year Two for the phase-in of controversial education reforms known as the Common Core. Students returning to Maryland classrooms this week  will see more changes. They can forget about the Maryland School Assessment and learn the name for new state tests: PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers, writes Liz Bowie for the Sun. These tests, aligned with the Common Core, will be much harder as the state begins to expect more analysis and deeper thinking from students. Pass rates of 80% and higher seen at most Maryland schools are expected to drop substantially in the spring.

SCHOOL BUS SAFETY: The editorial board for the Sun opines that this week, youngsters across Maryland will board the “big yellow cheese wagon,” as it’s sometimes called, and head back to school. And chances are high, the school bus commute from home to classroom will take place without incident. But the latest survey conducted by the Maryland State Department of Education shows that students’ fate is being tempted on a regular basis by drivers who seem either unaware of the law or unwilling to follow it.

OPEN MEETINGS BOARD: The Open Meeting Compliance Board held its annual meeting Aug. 20 and largely rejected or held off supporting several proposals to change legislation regarding meetings by public bodies, Les Knapp reports in the Conduit St. blog of the Maryland Association of Counties.

PRIVATE PENSION TASK FORCE: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Bryan Sears of the Daily Record talk about the governor’s new task force that’s looking into how to increase private sector retirement savings and why one gubernatorial candidate thinks it’s a bad idea.

FIRING FINALLY REVEALED: When a high-ranking O’Malley administration official was fired after allegedly steering about $774,000 in federal grant money to a company to which the official had close ties, no announcement was made. Only this week was the dismissal two years ago made public by legislative auditors, reports the Sun’s Michael Dresser.

HOUSING CHIEF RETIRING: Raymond Skinner, one of the original members of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Cabinet, will retire at the end of this month, the governor’s office announced Friday. Michael Dresser of the Sun reports that O’Malley appointed Skinner, 67, as secretary of housing and community development in 2007, shortly after taking office. It was the second go-round for Skinner, who previously served as housing secretary from 1999 to 2003 under Gov. Parris Glendening.

VOTER ROLE DUPLICATES: Kenric Ward of Watchdog.org is reporting that an election-integrity group is challenging the status of nearly 15,000 voters reportedly registered in both Fairfax County and Maryland. Virginia Voters Alliance on Wednesday urged Fairfax’s electoral board to do what state officials have so far not done across the commonwealth: Purge those duplicate voters.

AIRLINE LINES AT BWI: In recent weeks, Southwest Airline — the largest at Baltimore’s “easy come, easy go”-branded airport — has run into major peak-hour problems, with summer vacationers tripping over business travelers in ticketing and security lines that at times have intermingled, creating confusion, airline and airport officials said. The congestion’s been compounded by Transportation Security Administration staffing declines and a decision to close one of the airport’s security checkpoints to minimize the mixing with long check-in lines, reports Kevin Rector of the Sun.

ARMS & THE MAN: Annapolis and Anne Arundel County police departments and sheriff’s office have received more than a half-million dollars worth of surplus military weapons and vehicles from a federal program that’s drawn scrutiny since the police response to riots in Ferguson, Mo., reports Tim Prudente for the Annapolis Capital. M16 and M14 rifles, Glock pistols, an armored truck, helicopters, motorcycles and night-vision goggles make up equipment sent free to law enforcement agencies in this county, according to Maryland State Police records.

EDUCATING ELECTED OFFICIALS: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that training creates stronger employees with better skills, which in turn leads to a more productive, more effective company. Why, then, shouldn’t it be the same for elected officials, particularly those who serve in local government like towns, cities and counties, where the posts are frequently part time and not well-compensated, and where candidates are drawn from numerous, diverse backgrounds, often with little in the way of civic knowledge?

ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE CHALLENGED: The act of dumping a bucket of ice water over one’s head for charity could pose ethical questions for public officials in Maryland. The growing popularity of the ice bucket challenge, which raises money and awareness for ALS research, has given rise to new questions about how public officials participate and whether it runs afoul of rules prohibiting the use of “prestige of office” to benefit others, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record.

POLL SHOWS TIGHTER GUBERNATORIAL RACE: The Maryland Republican Party released a poll Friday on the race for governor showing Democrat Anthony Brown at 45% and Republican Larry Hogan at 42%, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. There’s been a lot of chatter recently about internal polls showing the race tightening to single digits. But this is the first publicly released poll that includes breakdowns and methodology. Admittedly it is a partisan poll done by Republican pollster Wes Anderson, a national pollster who happens to live in Anne Arundel County.

HOGAN SEEKS AD CANCELLATION: Maryland Republican gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan took the unusual step Saturday of demanding that television stations take down a campaign ad produced by his Democratic opponent, calling the 30-second spot “a desperate attempt to slander me,” writes John Wagner of the post.

TRUTH IN CAMPAIGNING: Opinionator Barry Rascovar, writing for MarylandReporter.com, asks: Do Maryland’s gubernatorial candidates in the November election take voters for fools? Do they really think they can con the electorate with promises of vast spending programs (Democrat Anthony Brown) eclipsing $1 billion a year or sweeping tax cuts and givebacks (Republican Larry Hogan Jr.) also topping 10 figures? What’s lacking from each nominee is truth in campaigning.

FLANAGAN SEEKS DELEGATE SEAT: Eight years ago, Robert Flanagan was one of the most powerful officials in state government, earning $151,262 for overseeing an agency with a $3.7 billion budget and more than 9,200 employees. These days, as a lawyer with a family law practice, the former state transportation secretary is knocking on doors and waving signs in the hope of becoming one among 141 members of the House of Delegates, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

DELANEY VS. TWO: Incumbent U.S. Rep. John Delaney is one of three candidates running to represent voters from the 6th District, which runs from the far western border of Maryland to the Beltway and River Road in Bethesda. It covers Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties plus parts of Frederick and Montgomery counties. The other candidates are Republican Dan Bongino and George Gluck of the Green Party, reports Peggy McEwan for the Gazette.

APG SQUEEZED: Federal budget cuts have become familiar topics of conversation in Central Maryland, where proximity to Washington drives economic activity, reports Lizzy McLellan for the Daily Record. But the squeeze has been felt farther out from the capital as well. In Harford County, federal adjustments are top-of-mind issues. That’s because the county’s No. 1 employer is Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Army facility about 35 miles north of Baltimore City.

CITY CASINO OPENS: Baltimore City’s first casino could have risen more than a dozen years ago on the faded industrial stretch that is now posh Harbor East. Instead, the city’s long and at times fraught path toward slots and table games brought it to Russell Street south of the stadiums, where on Tuesday night the $442 million Horseshoe Casino opens to the public — and begins seeking its niche in an increasingly saturated market of gambling options, writes Jean Marbella for the Sun.

GARDNER VS. YOUNG: The first race for Frederick County executive is bound to feature some truths, half-truths and outright lies, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. The matchup between Democrat Jan Gardner and Republican Blaine Young involves two prominent figures with starkly different viewpoints. And to support their opinions, the candidates have each assembled an arsenal of facts and figures, many of which stand in complete contradiction to each other.

KITTLEMAN VS. WATSON: Howard County Democrats have launched a website attacking the record of Republican state Sen. Allan Kittleman, who is running a competitive race for county executive against Democratic County Council member Courtney Watson, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. KittlemanFacts.com challenges Kittleman’s positions that put him at odds on issues that have strong appeal to Democratic voters — school funding, abortion, environmental policy, gun control and the minimum wage. Kittleman needs Democrats and independents to support him since Republican make up only 28% of Howard County’s active voters.

WHY PEROUTKA IS RUNNING: Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital interviews Michael Anthony Peroutka, the controversial candidate running for Anne Arundel County Council. She writes, the service at Cornerstone begins with a prayer. On a recent Sunday, about two dozen members of this Pasadena evangelical church look on, nod, gently bow. Michael Anthony Peroutka raises his head toward the pulpit. I’d like to say a prayer for our civil leaders, Peroutka says. I pray they follow God’s word as they serve us while serving him. This is the foundation of his run for public office.

O’MALLEY RUNS FOR MO CO COUNCIL: John O’Malley, 62, of Silver Spring, is running as a Republican for the District 4 Montgomery County Council seat currently held by Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D) of Silver Spring. Now retired, O’Malley lives near Ashton and operates a small sheep farm. While their families come from the same county in Ireland, he said he’s not aware of any relation to the more famous O’Malley in Maryland politics, Gov. Martin O’Malley, writes Ryan Marshall for the Gazette.

NOMAD MAYOR: A beige pop-up tent — borrowed from an ally on the mostly hostile Seat Pleasant City Council — has become the place from which recently evicted Mayor Eugene W. Grant conducts municipal business, reports Arelis Hernandez for the Post.