Just say Shellenberger

Our view : The lure of self-promotion claims a state's attorney

June 16, 2008

About 6,000 Baltimore County students came home from the last week of middle school with an opportunity to pin the county state's attorney to the wall.

But please, allow us to do that for the rest of you.

Scott D. Shellenberger spent $23,000 on the glossy anti-drug calendars that feature prominently the name Scott D. Shellenberger on the cover and on every month of the year. Add the one-page don't-do-drugs message from the state's attorney and that's 14 credits to Scott D. Shellenberger (not counting the photograph and caption on Page 2).

That's the kind of free advertising that politicians generally crave.

The calendar may well be a worthy program, particularly for creative youngsters, and the overall message is positive enough. Each month features a winning anti-drug poster created by a sixth-, seventh- or eighth-grade student who entered the state's attorney's art contest through his or her school.

The contest, calendar and a poster featuring the student art are financed entirely from seized assets of drug dealers. Still, that's money that might be otherwise spent on more traditional uses, such as added training for assistant state's attorneys or their staff.

To be fair, Mr. Shellenberger didn't create the program, his predecessor did. It's just that we can't see how 15 repetitions of any politician's name helps persuade the average 12-year-old not to do drugs.

The state's attorney isn't the first elected official to find a way to use public funds to boost his political career. County executives, mayors and council members plaster their names on just about every public project. Governors end up on road signs, highway maps and public service ad campaigns.

Enough's enough with the publicly financed narcissism. Better for all of them to just say no.

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