Former Maryland secretary of natural resources John R. Griffin is getting a firsthand look at some environmental issues from the other side of the political fence these days.
Griffin, unceremoniously ousted by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) last month, has accepted a temporary position advising U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Republican with a strong environmental reputation who represents the Eastern Shore. Although Glendening has a strong environmental record, Griffin said he wasn't "on the same communication wavelength" with the governor. Griffin said he's comfortable with Gilchrest, describing the former schoolteacher as a "good guy."
"Despite speculation . . . I am not changing my party affiliation," said Griffin, a Democrat.
The move makes political sense for Gilchrest, who, as Griffin noted, "has developed a pretty keen interest" in things green in recent years. It also makes sense for Griffin, who said he needs a paycheck to tide him over while he pursues a permanent job.
Griffin said he will be advising Gilchrest, now in his fifth term, on the role the federal government can play in environmental issues affecting Maryland's 1st Congressional District, which also spreads across the Chesapeake Bay into Anne Arundel County.
"We'll be looking at things like [the declining population of] crabs and oysters, land preservation and groundwater supply to see if there are ways the federal government can promote interstate cooperation," Griffin said.
He said he also will be setting up site visits where the congressman can be briefed by environmental specialists.
"John has shown true vision and leadership in his many years at DNR [the Department of Natural Resources], and I know that he will provide a wealth of knowledge and advice in my role as a federal legislator," Gilchrest said. "Often legislators are left to react to crisis situations, but with John's help and knowledge of environmental issues, I'm hoping to have a chance to look at Maryland's long-term needs."
One place Griffin won't be taking Gilchrest is Site 104, the controversial area in the Chesapeake Bay north of the Bay Bridge where the Glendening administration wants to dispose of 18 million cubic yards of sand and silt dredged from the Baltimore harbor shipping channels. Griffin supported dredge disposal at Site 104 during his tenure at DNR, while Gilchrest endeared himself to the environmental community by vigorously opposing the plan.
"That's the only issue I'm not going to do for him," Griffin said. "We agreed it wouldn't be appropriate for me to get involved, given what I did for the administration."
Lobbing by Letter
Duck, Mr. Speaker!
Here comes the latest rhetorical grenade lobbed by Del. Leon G. Billings (D-Montgomery) toward House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany).
In a fund-raising letter sent out this month, Billings writes of "an increasing split among Maryland's Democratic legislators between those who are more closely aligned with the national Democrats and those who are more closely aligned with conservative Republicans.
"Our Speaker is pro-life, pro-gun, anti-environment and anti-patients' rights. . . . It is difficult to distinguish the Speaker's agenda from the agenda of very conservative Republicans."
Billings, a longtime foe of Taylor's, noted that he was able to distribute $15,000 to Democratic candidates to help elect more liberals to the House. Although he's not holding a fund-raiser this year, he enclosed an envelope with his letter for those who want to help his cause.
At the beginning of the last session, Taylor tried to reach out to liberal Democrats in his early speeches, even going so far as to say he wanted abortion issues set aside because they were so decisive.
So much for outreach.
Anne Arundel Appointments
Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens (D) last week named William A. Badger Jr. as president and chief executive of the county Economic Development Corp. Badger, a Brooklyn Park resident, is the former senior vice president of the corporation who has been serving as its acting president and chief executive since last month, when Richard Morgan left the post for a private-sector job.
Owens also tapped Virginia A. Thomas as director of the county Department of Aging. Thomas, an Annapolis resident, had been a financial administrator at the agency since 1980.
"These are two of the brightest minds in the county," Owens said.
Owens also named Michael A. Wassel as manager of Tipton Airport. Wassel, a former Air Force officer, has been deputy manager of the Airport Administration Department at Reagan National Airport.