The ultimate snowmen Grabbing TV time: Governor, mayor, county executives tell cameras they are on the job.

January 10, 1996

IT WAS A MEDIA marriage made in heaven.

The Great Blizzard(s) of '96, still going on, pre-empted much planned television programming. As the snow grew deeper, even mobile camera units found it difficult to move around. Not to worry. Maryland's top elected officials were only too happy to assure captive audiences at home that despite all the difficulties they were doing a bang-up job.

This was local politics at its most elemental. Everyone in Maryland had to be interested in the weather. And since few could get around to check the road crews' progress, politicians could freely talk about the tremendous effort they were putting into clearing the thoroughfares from drifting snow.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening got the most exposure. He had the biggest snow clearing machine at his command. His early decision to mobilize the Maryland National Guard got him further air time. And for a good reason. The decision was a sound one. Guard Humvees enabled authorities to take care of medical emergencies and nip in bud any break-ins that might have developed into looting, had neighborhoods been without any patrols.

The next biggest star was Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger III. Knowing only too well how criticism of slow snow removal helped defeat his predecessor, Roger B. Hayden, Mr. Ruppersberger was ready for cameras anytime, anywhere. He was interviewed on location, he was questioned in studios. An ambitious politician, Mr. Ruppersberger seemed to relish the opportunity.

Baltimore's Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke got his share of air time. But even more prominent on television was the city's public works director George Balog. Which only means that the latter has targeted himself for blame if things do not work out all right.

While Anne Arundel's John Gary got some exposure, television seemed to forget Harford's Eileen Rehrmann and Howard's Charles Ecker.

Voters have proven to be unforgiving, if they feel their executives do not do a good job during snow storms. New York Mayor John Lindsay's political career ended largely because of a public perception he had done a poor snow job. There are many other examples.

As local politicians parade on television, voters should judge their performance, not words.

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