Appointments let out of bag

The Political Game

Nominees: Ehrlich's `green bag' choices for the Board of Regents appease advocates of Hispanics and Towson U.

February 24, 2004|By Alec MacGillis and Howard Libit | Alec MacGillis and Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

ONE OF life's small -- very small -- joys is studying the list of the governor's annual appointments to the state's umpteen panels and commissions in search of any telling political subplots contained therein.

The list, known as the "green bag," was announced late last week, and the tension was palpable: Who, pray tell, had been named to the State Board of Well Drillers? What back-room machinations had won nominees their coveted spots on the Advisory Council on Youth Camp Safety or the Amusement Ride Safety Board?

One batch of appointments was easier to analyze for subplots than others: those to the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents. A cynical observer might look at Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s four picks for the 17-member board and see in them a clear political logic, driven by an attempt to soothe minority groups that have felt overlooked on the board.

The four nominees are: Adela M. Acosta, a Prince George's County school principal; R. Michael Gill of Timonium, the chairman of Hoyt Capital; Jeremy T. Horine, a student at Towson University; and David H. Nevins, a public relations executive who has served one term on the board.

Acosta is the first Hispanic member of the board, a fact that has cheered Hispanic advocates who have been pressing Ehrlich to make more high-profile Hispanic appointments.

"We are encouraged. It's a step in the right direction," said Jorge Ribas, chairman of the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus, a group that broke from the state GOP after criticizing Ehrlich for his lack of support.

But, Ribas said, Acosta's appointment hasn't fully satisfied his group, which wants to see Hispanics named to paid leadership positions. "We're delighted that the governor has heeded our advice, but he still has to do more," Ribas said.

Then there is the other minority involved in the picks: Towson supporters. The state's second-largest campus has long complained, with some justification, that it is underrepresented on the regents, the majority of whom are most closely allied with the flagship campus in College Park.

The conspiracy theories of aggrieved Towson adherents were fueled during the reign of former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a former College Park professor, when Towson received less funding than other schools. But now Ehrlich seems to be trying to restore balance, with three picks associated with Towson: student regent Horine; Gill, the chairman of Towson's Board of Visitors; and Nevins, a Towson alumnus whose main public relations client is Comcast. Not to mention, of course, Ehrlich opted last year to bestow his congressional library on Towson.

Despite Ehrlich's clear desire to boost the board's Towson contingent, the reappointment of Nevins came as a surprise to some, given Nevins' close ties to Glendening. Two other Glendening nominees on the board were not reappointed by Ehrlich last week: retired Adm. Charles R. Larson, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's running mate, and William T. Wood, a Montgomery County lawyer.

But Nevins, who has been careful in meetings to mute any criticisms he might have of the new governor, was held over. Who knows: might we soon see one of the new classroom buildings slated for the Towson campus named after a certain Princeton graduate?

Rewrite makes Kasemeyer seem `pretty powerful'

As Senate staffers described the huge rewrite of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s proposal to legalize slots, Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer suddenly looked influential.

Among the most significant changes to the governor's plan was the exclusion of two of the six jurisdictions along Interstate 95 that would be eligible for freestanding slot machine facilities -- Baltimore County and Howard County, the two jurisdictions that Kasemeyer represents.

The Democrat had served as the "floor leader" for the slots legislation passed by the Senate last year, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has asked Kasemeyer to shepherd the bill through again this year. So some cynics suspected that Kasemeyer had used his influence to get his two jurisdictions out of the bill.

"It looked like I was pretty powerful," Kasemeyer later joked. "But it wasn't true. Before I had a chance to even bring it up, others had already decided to exclude Howard and Baltimore County."

Kasemeyer said the point of putting slots facilities along I-95 is to ensure they're near the borders of the state -- keeping Maryland gamblers at home and attracting others from Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. Miller confirms that Kasemeyer didn't play a role in excluding the two counties.

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