Retailers: Turn bottle tax from a bane into a boon

Orioles, toll booths, Republicans in moderation, Arundel Follies, and a suggestion for Baltimore's bottle tax

March 14, 2012|Dan Rodricks

Sometimes less is more, more or less. Sometimes, less is all you have and all you have will do just fine. Sometimes, the small things, the short things, the bits and pieces are worth keeping because they might be one day useful; my father felt that way about stove bolts. Walter Hard, a Vermont folk poet of Robert Frost's generation, once told of the frugal Yankee woman — was there any other kind? — who left a bag in her attic labeled, "Pieces of string too short to use."

So, alrighty then, that's my preamble and I'm going with it. Here, forthwith, are pieces of column too short to use ...

Suggestion for the Baltimore merchants who oppose Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's proposal to increase the city's bottle tax to five cents to pay for school renovations: Turn what you see as a problem into an opportunity. As a city parent named Karen DeCamp suggested in a recent email: "Market the bottle tax with a big campaign: 'A Nickel For Our Schools!' Make it a good deed to buy a bottle, just as you can buy yogurt to fund breast cancer research.  I'll buy more bottles to help our kids!"

Given the election results in Mississippi and Alabama, Maryland's April 3 primary might have some bearing on the Republican presidential nomination. But is there still time for Maryland Democrats and Obama supporters to switch affiliation and help Rick Santorum become the GOP nominee? Alas, no. The deadline for switching passed Tuesday at midnight, the very moment the idea occurred.

I heard from one of America's endangered species: a moderate Republican. The MR expressed agreement with Tuesday's column on the foolish Republican tendency to concede voting blocs — specifically, immigrants and minorities generally — to the Democrats. Because of his position as an appointed public official in Maryland, the MR asked that I not quote him by name, something he believed could hasten his demise. "Not only is the GOP sending negative messages to potential minority voters," he said, "but elements within the party hope to purge it of centrist/moderate Republicans.  Not only is the GOP losing out on new party members, they are killing off a part of the party — the centrist/moderates — who could make a case to immigrants and minorities to join" the GOP. Note to the MR: The deadline for switching parties before the April 3 primary has passed, but you can still switch any time after that.

The world is upside-down: The Republican former governor of Maryland, Bob Ehrlich, plans to teach a how-to law class in pardons for felons while the Democratic current governor of Maryland,Martin O'Malley, maintains his general opposition to early release for dozens of longtime inmates who have been recommended for parole.

Republicans are pretty much anti-government, right? Even the ones in government seem to be anti-government, determined to convince the public that government is an unnecessary farce. Now, I'm not a conspiracy nut, but look at Anne Arundel County: The Republican county executive indicted for alleged misconduct in office for all kinds of unseemly things, and the Republican-majority county council in a prolonged, foolish deadlock over a vacant council seat — an embarrassment under the leadership of its young Republican chairman. It's tempting to see it all as a grand Republican scheme to make government look ridiculous and corrupt. But then you remember that numerous pro-government Democrats have done the same — Sheila Dixon flash! — so forget it. There's no conspiracy. It's just the human condition.

Here's another example of the human condition: After 14 losing seasons, the longtime Orioles fan who at last has absolutely no faith — or interest — in the team. At a recent hourlong breakfast of friends, three of whom were once season ticket-holders, conversation about spring training, new-player acquisitions and the coming season lasted less than 45 seconds. It's sad, but who wants to invest any more time, money and emotion in the Peter Angelos Orioles?

It totally makes sense for Maryland to phase out toll booths on the state's highways, bridges and tunnels and switch to electronic toll collection. Every time I zip through a toll with E-ZPass and see a long line of cars in the far-right lanes, their drivers waiting to pay with paper money, it looks downright paleozoic. Plus, with all-electronic collection, no one will ever again have to feel guilty or creepy about some good-deed-doer in the car ahead paying their toll for them. It happened to me last year and it haunts me, it haunts me.

Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. His email is dan.rodricks@baltsun.com. Follow him on Twitter at DanRodricks or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dan.rodricks.

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