Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) was noticeably absent from the list of political luminaries in Baltimore earlier this month when Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) proposed that Maryland spend $1 billion during the next decade on cancer research and anti-tobacco programs.
Glendening wants to use 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.)
During the last General Assembly session, the Senate president balked when Glendening advocated a $1 increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes. 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 supports 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.
Governor Raises $335,000
Glendening picked up a cool $335,000 during a recent fund-raiser at Camden Yards. About 250 people attended the affair, including Baltimore developer John Paterakis Sr., who supported Glendening's rivals last year.
Glendening plans to pay off roughly $40,000 in bills from last year's gubernatorial race. The rest of the money, spokesman Mike Morrill said, will be used to fund receptions and other expenses if, as expected, the governor assumes the chairmanship of the National Governors Association next year.
Though the governor cannot seek another term, he plans to actively support progressive candidates in the state, Morrill said. Glendening has said that because he is only 56 years old, there is no reason to write his political obituary.
"He's going to continue to be active and deeply involved in shaping policy for Maryland," Morrill said.
A Move to Preserve Radio Towers
Three historic 600-foot-tall radio towers on Greenbury Point outside Annapolis would be preserved under the terms of an amendment offered by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) to the defense authorization bill approved by the U.S. Senate late last month.
"It's a good solution because it reflects a consensus of the communities involved," said Del. Richard D'Amato (D-Anne Arundel), who worked with Sarbanes and leaders of the Severn River Association and the Broadneck Federation to save the Depression-era structures.
In hearings earlier this spring, public safety officials said they could use one of the towers to mount an antenna that would improve police and emergency medical communications in the county. Others suggested that the county could rent space on the towers to private telecommunications firms. Those ideas will now be pursued, D'Amato said.
The Sarbanes amendment would exempt the three radio towers, which are among 19 defunct towers standing on Naval Academy land, from scheduled demolition in October. If the House approves the bill, the three towers would be preserved for one year, during which time the county or state could take ownership.
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 had 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 since 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."
Staff writers Robert E. Pierre and Scott Wilson contributed to this report.