Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Politics, shmolitics: Weekday Edition...

Usually the overtly political stories are saved for the Sunday paper, but, I guess, since the event described in this story happened on a Saturday and the juicy political bickering was rampant, the Sun decided to go with it today. Good for me! And you, if you're into this kind of stuff.

Here's the set up:

During a two-hour forum Saturday at St. John Baptist Church, sponsored by the African-Americans in Howard County Political Action Committee, the predictable answers to policy questions were sprinkled with sharp criticisms, with County Council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon, a two-term Republican, taking the offense against Democrat Ken Ulman, who fired back. Harry M. Dunbar, a Democrat running a slow-growth campaign, criticized the County Council and the Robey administration for allowing what he calls "uncontrolled growth."
But...there's nothing juicy in there, you say. You're right. It's just the set up. Here's where it gets good.

Merdon, 35, criticized Ulman, 31, a one-term councilman, for inexperience, contrasted with Merdon's two council terms and his job in private industry, which he said involves supervising 100 people.

"What was the largest number of people who report directly to you?" he asked Ulman. Merdon, a vice president at Affiliated Computer Services, said Ulman, an elder-law attorney in Columbia, supervises one person.

Ouch. Merdon's opening salvo gets Ulman right where it matters: executive leadership. Hmm, I wonder how he felt about another lawyer/legislator taking control of the entire state government after having supervised but a small congressional office or two. Probably didn't concern him then, but consistency isn't the point; this is politics, people!

Ulman shot back at Merdon that "in fact, you're a lobbyist."

Ooooooh. Putting your opponent in the same group as Jack Abramoff. Always a good snippy retort.
A question from a Republican in the audience about government failures after Hurricane Katrina and other disasters prompted another biting exchange about experienced leadership.

"You don't want someone fresh out of law school, with very little experience," in charge of public safety, Merdon said of Ulman -- especially with a new County Council and executive taking office in December.

Again with the experience thing. Four more years as a councilman does not, at least in my book, constitute a major difference in experience. But, I'm open to the idea that the period from 1998 to 2002 was a time of dramatic change and upheaval in Howard County, one where boys were forged into men in the fires of the George Howard Building, while between 2002 and 2006 things went perfectly smoothly.
Earlier, Merdon told the African-American group that Democrats have not appointed blacks to high-ranking jobs in the Robey administration.

"Have they done it? No," he said, accusing County Executive James N. Robey, a Democrat, of promising to appoint blacks but not following through, except for special assistant Herman Charity, who was in the audience.

...Later, Charity said Robey has several African-Americans in high appointed positions, including the county's housing director, a deputy administrative officer, and the assistant budget administrator. The local social services director, chosen by state and county officials, is also African-American.
Maybe there's a magic quota for the amount of diversity one has to have on their staff that only Merdon knows about. It certainly seems like Robey does have high-ranking African Americans in his adminstration. Details, details, they only get in the way of baseless political attacks.

When the candidates got a chance to ask each other a question, Ulman asked Merdon if he has changed his mind about a smoking ban in restaurants and bars. Merdon opposed a bill sponsored by Robey and Ulman calling for a total ban in two years. He later favored a ban with a four-year enforcement delay that Ulman opposed and Robey vetoed.

Merdon said he has not changed his mind, but he accused Ulman of voting to sustain Robey's veto purely to exploit the issue for political purposes.

How about saying you were both acting like political sourpusses over the smoking ban? After all, that's the truth.

I suppose I could have taken this article a little more seriously, but the whole thing reads like a playground tiff, which is pretty sad when you think about it. They are both grown men. Perhaps they should start acting like it.

Is that asking too much?


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