State Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Montgomery) wrote this month to the chairman of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in the hopes of preventing video games--many of them depicting scenes of graphic, if cartoon, violence--from becoming features at two county parks.

Renovation plans for ice rinks at Cabin John and Wheaton Regional parks call for video arcades, whose games have taken on a sinister reputation after recent school shootings.

At the request of concerned parents, Van Hollen wrote Park and Planning Commission Chairman William Hussmann to say building video arcades is an improper use of public money and to note that "the commercial world already offers more of these kinds of activities than our community needs."

"We should not be using public monies to promote games that glorify violence," Van Hollen wrote. "Nor should we be encouraging children to play these games in order to generate funds for the operation of the ice rinks (What's next, slot machines at the rinks?)."

Jerry Bush, an administrative supervisor for the commission, said the board pledged not to put violent games in the arcades after those concerns were raised during an extensive review process of the renovation plans. He said he would work personally with game vendors to ensure that the promise is kept.

"We think we've already addressed those concerns," Bush said.

The Cabin John project is already under construction, and work will begin soon at Wheaton Regional Park.

A Truce That Didn't Last Long

After a tongue-lashing from state legislators, Prince George's County school board members pledged earlier this spring to work in concert with the state-mandated oversight panel to improve management, and ultimately student achievement, in the beleaguered school system.

The truce came after the oversight panel had groused that school board members were uncooperative, and school leaders charged that panel members were overzealous and hungry to assume their power. But the love fest--such as it was--didn't last long.

Last week, Linda Botts, a member of the management oversight panel, wrote school board Chairman Alvin Thornton (Suitland) to complain that board actions had "undermined" the panel's effort to participate in "all aspects" of the search for a new superintendent.

Superintendent Jerome Clark retires this summer. Botts is the panel's representative on a residents interview committee, and she said she was not notified of the initial round of interviews until the day before they were to occur.

Botts could not attend the interviews because of a prior commitment.

"I am extremely disappointed the Board of Education waited until the eleventh hour to notify me of the scheduled meetings," Botts wrote in the letter to Thornton. "Failure of the Board to notify me in a timely manner has resulted in a lost opportunity for the panel's participation in this historic process."

For good measure, Botts reminded Thornton that the oversight panel's authority was mandated by the General Assembly. Copies of the letter also were sent to State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick, Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D), members of the Prince George's County Council and Del. Rushern L. Baker III (D-Prince George's) and Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's), the respective chairmen of the county's legislative delegation.

Schmoke Has Eye on Schaefer

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke (D), who is not seeking reelection, has vowed not to be actively involved in the campaign to choose his successor--that is, unless former Baltimore mayor and current state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer decides to run.

The two men have never been on friendly terms, and Schaefer contends that Schmoke has been ineffective and uninspiring as Baltimore's leader. Schaefer has said he won't run; Schmoke is not convinced.

"I still feel that the state comptroller is a probable candidate," Schmoke said last week. "I won't change that until July 6 at 9:05 p.m.," just after the city's filing deadline. If Schaefer does run, Schmoke said, he would work to defeat him.

"It would not be good for the city," Schmoke said. "I just think we need a fresh start and new energy here."

A recent poll by Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications Inc., of Annapolis, showed that Schaefer would beat several other Democrats in a crowded field. The poll showed that mainly because of name recognition, Schaefer would receive 32 percent of the vote, followed by City Council President Lawrence Bell, with 23 percent, and former school board and council member Carl Stokes, with 12 percent. The survey of 411 Democrats took place June 2 to 4 and has a 5 percent margin of error.

Schaefer announced Monday, after Schmoke's comments, that he was endorsing his former city police commissioner and state public safety secretary, Bishop Robinson. Despite being touted as a good match for the job, Robinson has not declared his candidacy.