Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Clinton) was noticeably absent from the list of luminaries in Baltimore last week when Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) announced that Maryland would spend $1 billion during the next decade on cancer research and anti-tobacco programs.
Glendening is using a big chunk of the $4.4 billion Maryland is to receive in the next 25 years from the national settlement with cigarette makers to make the state a leader in the anti-smoking movement. When he announced the ambitious plans, the news conference was packed with health researchers and state officials, including House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas L. Bromwell (D-Baltimore County.)
Miller and the governor had clashed in the last General Assembly session when Glendening advocated a $1 increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes, and the Senate president balked. Miller represents an area that includes tobacco farmers, and his initial resistance--coupled with a Republican-led filibuster--reduced the tax increase to 30 cents.
Miller said he supported the spending Glendening has proposed, especially because it includes $83.5 million for crop conversion for tobacco farmers. Asked why he wasn't at the announcement, Miller said: "I wasn't invited. . . . I guess he and his staff thought I might take away from the positive vibes they hoped to come out of that press conference."
But Glendening's office said Miller was invited, with a call made to his scheduling office. "We never would have invited the House speaker without inviting the Senate president as well," said Glendening spokesman Ray Feldmann. In addition, he said Miller was asked to provide a quote for the governor's news release to name a senator to a task force overseeing some of the anti-tobacco programs.
Miller acknowledges appointing Sen. Martin G. Madden (R-Howard) to the task force but says that's all. As for the governor's news release from that day, there's no mention of Miller.
New Elections Chief
The Montgomery County Board of Elections has appointed Richard G. Goehler as acting elections administrator, filling the large shoes left by the retirement of Carol Evans last month.
Goehler has been Evans's deputy since 1992, running the office responsible for managing county elections and registration rolls that now exceed 440,000 voters. But the retired Air Force officer takes his post on a sad note: Evans is very ill after suffering a stroke.
Evans came to Montgomery's Board of Elections in 1991 after working in the elections field at the state level for almost 30 years. Renowned for her breadth of knowledge on state and county election law, Evans was acclaimed upon her departure last month by election board members who said she demanded "100 percent accuracy for each election."
In a statement, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) called Evans a "dedicated public servant."
"Our thoughts are with her and her family at this difficult time, and we are going to miss her expert leadership in our elections office," he said.
Dueling PR Machines
It started a few months ago as a threat. Montgomery County Council member Michael L. Subin (D-At Large), never known for equanimity, warned County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's image guru that he would lose staff during budget season. At the time, Subin was fuming over comments made by David Weaver, Duncan's director of public information, about the council's criticism of the Clarksburg jail. In Subin's view, Weaver was trying to blame the council for the project's most controversial elements when his boss also endorsed them two years earlier.
Subin wrote Weaver an e-mail accusing him of "writing revisionist history" and "having too much time on his hands." He warned that the council would address "staffing levels" in Weaver's office during budget time. Weaver, who oversees four public information officers, said at the time that he didn't "believe Mr. Subin wants to take out his frustration on the hard-working people in the county public information office." But when the council passed the county budget last month, Weaver found his office short one position.
At the heart of the fight is public image, a topic that has marked Montgomery politics for much of this decade and has heated up after the November elections. Since then, a new council has hired Teamster-tested Patrick Lacefield to run its public relations operation, and council members gave him money last month to hire an assistant to help him compete with Weaver's PR machine.
Weaver has irritated council members before. A few years ago, council members moved to take away his county car, a punishment narrowly averted when Duncan found him another. This time, though, three members of his staff have received "reduction in force" notices, and one will need to leave, he said.
"The bottom line is somebody is departing my shop," Weaver said. "The position is going away, but the work isn't."