Some Young friends do more harm than good

January 14, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

Several years ago I sat in the office of a Baltimore Circuit Court judge, who described Maryland's state legislature as "one of the most corrupt in the country."

He mentioned no names, certainly not embattled Sen. Larry Young's. He just made the observation about the entire body. I wondered if he was exaggerating, had some ax to grind or, heaven forbid, he was telling the truth.

Monday, the ethics committee of Maryland's legislature recommended that Young be expelled. The 44th District Democrat was charged with using his legislative office for personal gain. The committee's decision answered one question what to do with Young - but has raised another just as troubling: Did Young do anything that is not standard operating procedure for Maryland legislators?

Some people, in calls to this paper, have raised questions about Young for years. His supporters say he's an ideal public servant and they will back him all the way. But do the charges brought against Young, first in articles in this paper and then by the ethics committee, support the claim that he is one of the state's "biggest crooks"?

At worst, the revelations indicate Young is a small-time crook. At best, the accusations reveal Young may be less than fastidious about reporting income sources to the appropriate ethics body. Mind you, there might be more to Young's activities than has been reported. But again we face the question of what other legislature members are up to.

It's Young's friends who should be asking that question. Some are. Others are doing the man more harm than good. It might be time for Young to lose his friends at Radio One. If yesterday's broadcasts were any indication, the whole lot of them are dancing frighteningly close to the lunatic fringe, where just one misstep might take them over.

Assuming the role of lead loony yesterday was Cathy Hughes, who owns Radio One. Being the owner gives you the prerogative of being loony, I suppose, but even Hughes crossed several lines on WOLB, her talk-radio station that is so contentious it has been dubbed "Hate Whitey Radio."

Hughes began WOLB's morning show, as might be expected at this point, with an anti-Baltimore Sun tirade.

"Are we going to let a newspaper and a few frightened politicians dictate who's going to represent us?" Hughes asked, adding that Young had provided 24 years of "outstanding service to the poor and disadvantaged." She would have served Young better if she had continued in that vein, simply citing the things the embattled senator has done for people over the years. Word in the 44th is that Young's service for his constituents has been so exemplary that, even if he is guilty, a case could be made that he deserves to be forgiven.

But Hughes didn't go there. She chose to go loony. She was turning down the state's $500,000 Sunny Day loan for her station, calling it "bloody money." Mind you, no one's been killed here, and it's the man she supports who was portrayed by investigators as a key figure in a homicide investigation but not a suspect.

Not content to stop there, Hughes then railed against the "Uncle Tom, handkerchief heads" who voted to expel Young from the state Senate. Actually, the "Uncle Tom, handkerchief heads" - Baltimore Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr. and Prince George's County Sen. Decatur W. Trotter - voted against the resolution calling for Young's expulsion.

Hughes then spewed venom at the "crackers" who were the cause of all the problems. For those of you who have led sheltered lives and have no idea what Hughes was referring to, let me assure you: She wasn't talking about Saltines.

She was using the racially pejorative term some blacks use for whites. The term predates "honkey" but is just as disparaging. Judging from the reaction, Baltimoreans are apparently quite comfortable with Hughes' choice of words. You can only imagine what the reaction would be if the owner of WCBM or WBAL radio got on the air and referred to blacks as "niggers." They'd be called racists.

No one's called Hughes a racist, for in the world of the WOLB "family" no black person can be a racist. You need power to be a racist, you see, and blacks have no power.

But Hughes has power. She could have used it yesterday to urge listeners of all races to demand that the state legislature's ethics committee take a long, hard look at all legislators, not just Young. Hughes, with her mephitic outburst, probably thought she was helping Young. If she truly believes that, I have a $H suggestion for her.

Hurt him a little.

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