The Abcs Of '09

December 31, 2009

A is for Arundel Mills Mall. Ground zero for the slots debate, the regional mall is the proposed site of what would almost surely be the state's most lucrative casino. But zoning was held up for months as residents protested a development they say would increase crime and traffic. Our view: The Arundel Mills proposal is sound and has the potential to make far more money for the state than any other.

B is for bong. Michael Phelps' image took a big hit when he was photographed smoking a bong in a college dorm room. Our view: He should send Tiger Woods a thank-you card; who's going to remember his little indiscretion now?

C is for cuts. Since approving its budget for the fiscal year that began in July, Gov. Martin O'Malley has made cuts totaling more than $1 billion, and more fiscal pain is on the way next year, when Maryland could face a budget shortfall of as much as $2 billion. Our view: Broad tax increases are off the table politically, but some targeted tax increases - such as a raise in the woefully low alcohol tax - could be warranted.

D is for death penalty. The General Assembly again rejected the idea of outlawing capital punishment, but it did enact the most restrictive rules in the nation on when capital punishment can be used. Our view: Though we wish the state would outlaw executions, the restrictions should make capital punishment even rarer in Maryland than it now is.

E is for Electricit? de France. Despite a hard time from the governor's office, Constellation Energy Group sealed its deal to sell half of its nuclear business to the French-owned firm. Our view: The state's review led to some important protections for BGE customers, and the deal could be good, especially if it leads to a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs.

F is for flamingo. When restaurant owner Denise Whiting was ordered to remove her iconic flamingo sculpture from Cafe Hon or pay hundreds of dollars for a "minor use" permit, she refused - and hundreds of pink flamingos blossomed on the City Hall lawn. Eventually the fee was cut in half and a new, improved bird was returned to The Avenue. Our view: Hampden wouldn't be the same without the big bird.

G is for gift cards. Mayor Sheila Dixon was convicted in city Circuit Court in December of embezzling about $600 in gift cards she had solicited from a developer. The cards were supposedly for charity, but she used them on herself. Mayor Dixon could lose her job and her pension over the matter. Our view: The mayor is trying to hang on to office while she plays out her appeals, but that creates a leadership limbo that's only going to hurt the city. She should step aside immediately.

H is for hip-hop Republicans. Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee in January, promising to broaden the party's appeal to the young and to minorities. Our view: The party's subsequent civil war over ideological purity isn't the new politics the Obama generation was looking for.

I is for infield, BYOB. For the first time in years, people were told they couldn't bring their own alcohol onto the Preakness infield, leading to a smaller, tamer crowd. Our view: It was about time.

J is for Jon and Kate. Maryland-based cable channel TLC hit the big time with the televised implosion of the marriage of Jon and Kate Gosselin, stars of "Jon & Kate Plus 8." Our view: Louis Rukeyser, Maryland TV misses you.

K is for Kiefaber, Tom. The longtime owner of the Senator Theatre was forced to relinquish control as his debts mounted, bringing an end to the Art Deco landmark's use as a first-run theater. Our view: It's sad, but it was necessary for the city and state to stop sinking money into a business model that wasn't working. It's encouraging, though, that bidders to take over the theater intend to continue showing movies.

L is for leash law. Baltimore canine lovers howled over the city's efforts to increase the fine for having a dog off leash from $100 to $1,000. After massive protests, the fee was dropped to $200 for a first-time offender. Our view: The fine was egregious, but c'mon, people, leash that lab!

M is for millionaires. The fate of the state's most well-to-do has become a burning political concern as people debate whether a surcharge on top earners has caused people to flee the state. Our view: We're guessing the recession, not the tax, has more to do with the sudden decline in million-dollar earners.

N is for nepotism. Shortly before his term as city school board chairman expired, Brian D. Morris' colleagues voted to create for him a new position as schools CEO Andr?s Alonso's top deputy, earning at least $175,000 a year. The board did not advertise the position, and it did not conduct a background check on Mr. Morris. If it had, it would have discovered a string of lawsuits and bad debt claims against him. Our view: This is why jobs should be advertised and awarded competitively. To his credit, Mr. Alonso apologized.

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