The timing could not have been better.
Local civil rights activists have been critical of Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee for months, hammering at his decision to release four white men who had initially been charged with murder in the July slaying of a black teenager.
But when word came Friday that Weathersbee had won a new round of indictments in the case -- charging the original four and two others with manslaughter -- the county chapter of the NAACP happened to be hosting an annual dinner at La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie.
Applause broke out among the 500 or so guests when the Rev. Pierre German of Friendship Victory Vision Ministries in Glen Burnie shared the news.
German said Tuesday that he had been contacted by Weathersbee's spokeswoman, Kristin Riggin, and that she told him about the indictments. "I think the state's attorney understood our concern," German said.
Jamahl Jones, 17, died of injuries suffered during a fight outside a party in Pasadena on July 24. Jones's friends have said they believe he was targeted because he had been dating a white girl.
Grand juries in Anne Arundel typically convene on Fridays, and Riggin said the timing was purely coincidental. "We were not even aware that there was a dinner going on that evening," she said.
BOE Process Under Fire
To Del. Herbert H. McMillan (R-Anne Arundel), the way the county's Board of Education is selected is "ridiculous," a "charade." And at a Dec. 14 meeting of the county's General Assembly delegation, he'll be pushing to transform the process.
When there's an opening on the board, a convention is held at which about 250 residents who are members of local civic groups vote for nominated candidates. The names of the top vote-getters are passed on to the governor, who then appoints the candidates to the post. At least that's how it works most of the time.
The governor is under no legal obligation to chose from the nominating convention's list -- and that, as McMillan sees it, is only part of the problem.
What most irks him -- and others -- is that the such a small group of people can have such a large influence over the process.
"We live in a democratic republic, and to me it makes sense to have people on the school board who are going to be responsive to the needs of the community," he said. Board members "make decisions with tax dollars that impact our children, and I don't think they should be isolated from the people."
Last year Del. Tony McConkey (R-Anne Arundel) sponsored a bill that would have put the issue to a countywide referendum. But the bill didn't have enough support and went nowhere. So McConkey withdrew and has been trying to gather support ever since.
"We'll look at it again, get some input and then come up with a new bill," he said.
But he knows it won't be easy: "It's been an issue that's been deadlocked in our county for a long time, and the delegation has been split for about 10 years."
Gay Alumni Try Again
A group of gay and lesbian alumni is trying again to establish an alumni group recognized by the U.S. Naval Academy, almost a year after it was rejected by the prestigious military school.
Last December, the academy's alumni association denied the group, saying it did not have a geographic base. Since then, the group has changed its name from USNA Out to Castro Chapter of the Naval Academy Alumni Association. The Castro is a predominantly gay neighborhood in San Francisco.
In the Castro Chapter, "one's sexuality is of no concern to our members, and all are welcome," said Jeff Petrie, the group's president, in a statement. The group is hoping its request will be approved by the academy's alumni association when it meets early next month.
"Last year the board of trustees said that our sexuality was never considered in their decision to reject us," said Petrie, a 1989 graduate of the academy who lives in San Francisco.