Wandering Eye: Maryland Republicans don't understand the First Amendment, bad grades for the bay, and more

The anti-democratic tendencies of some the Free State's elected officials have become laughable, such as the Harford County Council's policy barring the public and the press from approaching its members during hearings, instituted last month. But yesterday, the laughter reverberated further after Frederick County Council member Kirby Delauter (R), in a Facebook exchange, threatened Frederick News-Post reporter Bethany Rodgers with legal action for putting his name in an article without his consent. Walter Olson, in his Free State Notes blog, jumped on it, saying "this is crazy on so many levels one scarcely knows where to begin," but starts with the obvious: "There is no right not to be written about or have your name used by a reporter, much less if you are an elected public official representing thousands of voters." Then Eugene Volokh in the Washington Post picked up on it, writing that "in our country, newspapers are actually allowed to write about elected officials (and others) without their permission" and adding that "it's an avant-garde experiment, to be sure, but we've had some success with it." The News-Post's managing editor, Terry Headlee, was quoted in an article published today saying that "to threaten to sue a reporter for publishing his name is so ridiculously stupid that I'm speechless," adding that "it's just a pointless, misguided attempt to intimidate and bully the press and shows an astonishing lack of understanding of the role of a public servant." The conservative Power Line website now has named a new award: the Kirby Delauter Award for Cluelessness in Public Office, the first of which goes, of course, to Delauter. (Van Smith)

 

The Chesapeake Bay's water quality is still D-minus, according to the biannual report card from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. As DelmarvaNow reports, the bay's water clarity, oyster population, and marine grass growth are improving, but the crab count is way down, as is the rockfish population. "We continue to have polluted water, risks to human health, and lost jobs—at huge societal costs," foundation president William Baker wrote in the report. The long-running report card breaks the bay's health into three categories and assigns a total score between 1 and 100. The 2014 score is 32. A healthy bay would score 70 or better. Much of the damage is out of Maryland's hands, the report says. Pennsylvania and Virginia both need to cut agricultural runoff into the bay's tributaries, according to the report. But Maryland ought to plant more trees and set more ambitious goals for cutting our own pollution, both from agriculture and urban sources. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

David Troy, the tech and social entrepreneur, offered some unsolicited advice to governor-elect Larry Hogan in this Medium essay. No, he tells the incoming governor, Baltimore is not "in decline," and the state simply must invest in the city to help it grow and prosper, but we just have a deuce of a time keeping track of our money. The answer: Help us do audits. "Neither the  Mayor, the City Council, nor the Comptroller's office have sufficient financial controls to make  decisions of any kind—nor do the heads of city departments and agencies." By now everyone knows that Baltimore does not do agency-level audits, and hasn't in at least a generation, despite a two-year-old charter amendment mandating them. The ongoing saga of the Recreation and Parks Department audit (it's been about five years since it was first suggested by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's transition team) is thought to epitomize the state of the city government's accounting. Troy says "we must invest more responsibly," and no one can argue with that. But what if the non-accounting and lack of policy are, as the tech guys put it, design features, not bugs? What if a leaky accounting system and unaccountable bureaucracy are the last threads of the city's shared culture—the only thing that allows many hundreds, maybe thousands, of otherwise unemployable (yet politically connected) oafs to get and keep nominally "straight" jobs? (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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