Wandering Eye: If the Dems consider Martin O'Malley, did the Terps get screwed?, and more

Many years after other states have them, Maryland is contemplating the creation of a State Public Information Act Compliance Board. As the A.P. reports, Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) sponsored the bill to update the Maryland Public Information Act by creating a full-time mediation board—three to five members, say—to settle disputes between citizens and the government officials who so often tell them they can have the information only if they pay several thousand dollars. The idea seems to be to save both parties the time and expense of a trip to Circuit Court. But as yet there is no explanation for the curious trend that prompted the bill: even as government information has been cataloged electronically—which would make it easier to find and transmit to information-seekers—state and local governments have imposed increasingly onerous "search fees," saying that retrieving the information, and reviewing it to make sure nothing that is not public is revealed, is a burden on already-stressed government employees. "Les Knapp Jr., legal and policy counsel for the Maryland Association of Counties, said the number of public information requests is increasing, with some being far-reaching or 'fishing expeditions,'" the A.P. story says. "Even those that are more focused can take time and money to fulfill, he said, such as having attorneys review the information before it is sent out." In practice, the attorneys typically review the material with an eye toward finding a provision of the law that will let them deny the request outright, it appears, as every element of the Maryland law seems to underscore its own broad exceptions—with severe penalties—lest someone's (or some business') privacy be violated. The other strategy, now coming into vogue, is to place or leave government data on nongovernment servers and then claim that the government does not "control" the requested government data. So it appears that, for the foreseeable future, compliance-by-lawsuit will continue to be the expensive norm. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Slate staffer and Baltimore-based writer Alec MacGillis succinctly dissects the Dems' sudden need to consider Martin O'Malley as a viable 2016 presidential candidate, after Hillary Clinton's private-email scandal erupted recently, and concludes it's a risky proposition. O'Malley's record as Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor is marked by a string of liberal successes, MacGillis points out, but his managerial legacy—the only leg the Dems can stand on, if they choose him, given O'Malley's otherwise uninspiring persona—is at risk. His statehouse successor, Republican Larry Hogan, is in the midst of dismantling some of O'Malley's achievements, and due to the considerable power Maryland's constitution gives governors, his efforts are likely to succeed to some extent. This threatens to obscure and complicate O'Malley's presidential selling points, and that is the nut of the Dems' O'Malley conundrum: "If we shall know Martin O’Malley by his deeds and not his words," MacGillis concludes, "his deeds must remain visible." (Van Smith)

 

Baltimore loves a good sports conspiracy. "The refs are out to get the Ravens!" "The national media only care about the Yankees and Red Sox!" So on and so forth. And now enter the NCAA committe in charge of assembling the men's basketball tournament bracket. An explanation and a recap: There are 68 teams in the postseason tournament (some of them face a play-in game before entering the main bracket of 64). They are divided up into four regions and seeded one through 16 in each region. Following a loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Conference tournament, the Maryland Terrapins were second in their conference and ranked No. 8 in the country. They were projected to be a No. 3 seed and playing their first game in Pittsburgh. Instead, they are a No. 4 seed and playing a little further from home, in Columbus, Ohio. And the No. 1 seed atop their region? The still-undefeated, tournament-favorite Kentucky Wildcats. Ouch. As The Sun reports, the viewing party at coach Mark Turgeon's house had a bit of a sour note with the surprisingly low seeding. And a fan quoted in the story is already screaming "bias!" In this case, at least, it seems like the conspiracy theorists have a legitimate gripe. (Brandon Weigel)

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