Archive for September, 2010

MTA Considers Commuter Bus Connections to BWI

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

HANOVER, Md. – As the opening of the first phase of the Intercounty Connector nears, the Maryland Transit Administration is considering plans to add commuter bus service along the new Gaithersburg-to-Laurel toll highway.

The MTA held a public hearing Wednesday on two proposed routes, one going to Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport and the other to Fort Meade. Both would start at the Gaithersburg Park and Ride.

“We’re going to do our best to try and make this very successful and give commuters a best option,” said Glenn Saffran, deputy director for MARC and commuter bus service for MTA.

A handful of residents quizzed officials before the public hearing, but none asked questions during the session.

Saffran said the target market for the two bus routes would be travelers and employees of both the airport and agencies housed at Fort Meade, including the National Security Agency.

A one-way ride on either route would cost $5. Ten-ride passes and monthly passes would also be available.

The BWI route is expected to run 14 round-trips every day of the week, while the Fort Meade bus will run three times in the morning and four times in the afternoon.

“We’re in an area where an east-west transit market doesn’t exist now,” Saffran said. “To get to close to 50 percent capacity on these buses in the first six to 12 months will be a great goal.”

The first phase of the ICC, a seven-mile stretch between Interstate-270 in Gaithersburg and State Route 28, is slated to open in late 2010 or early 2011. The entire 18.8-mile road is expected to be completed in 2012, officials said.

Until the highway is finished, the express buses will take alternate routes to Interstate-95 and their final destinations. “We don’t want to detour these buses too far,” Saffran said. “If people are already into their commute time, and then taking the commuter bus, they don’t want to tour the countryside.”

MTA will accept public comments on the proposed bus service through Oct. 25.

The MTA is considering extending commuter bus service to Howard and Prince George’s counties. Commuter lines linking College Park with Urbana and Greenbelt with Germantown via the ICC are part of the proposal.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Justin Karp

O’Malley: Recession Will End Soonest in Maryland

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Gov. Martin O’Malley told a building and construction industry group Wednesday that statewide efforts will create jobs, but he acknowledged the toll the recession has taken on employment in the state.

In a speech to members of the Maryland State and Washington, D.C., Building and Construction Trades Council on Wednesday in Baltimore, the governor said the state is fighting a battle for economic survival.

According to figures released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland’s unemployment rate rose from 7.1 percent in July to 7.3 percent in August, which represents a loss of 5,700 jobs. However, the state has added almost 14,000 jobs since August 2009.

O’Malley said Maryland has seen a net job gain of 33,200 jobs this year due in part to the capital investments made possible by the state’s AAA bond rating, against which it is able to borrow. He cited a $5,000 tax credit for companies that hire from unemployment rolls, an increase in the tax credit for biotech companies, jobs gained through Base Realignment and Closure decisions in 2005, and Maryland’s high growth rate in the technology sector as ways the state of the state is improving and will continue to do so.

“It all comes down to jobs, and I get it,” O’Malley said. “This recession too will end. You’ll start to see it end soonest in our state.”

The governor also pledged to work with the White House to secure the loan necessary to build a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs. The project would decrease greenhouse emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, and create 4,000 jobs, O’Malley said.

“Nuclear’s our bridge to the future,” he said.

Council President Rod Easter said the organization has endorsed O’Malley over his opponent, former Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

– By Capital News Service’s Abby Brownback

Ehrlich: Business Reputation Is Top Priority

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich on Tuesday condemned the “goofy ads” incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s campaign has been airing.

“Nobody prepared me for the O’Malley attack ad that blamed me for the Louisiana oil spill,” Ehrlich joked to members of the Maryland State Builders Association at a luncheon in Columbia. “It’s a serious time for serious people talking about serious issues in a serious way.”

Before a friendly audience of businesspeople, Ehrlich said his top issue is repairing Maryland’s business reputation. Small business has been hammered, the former — and only living Republican — governor said, by the highest state sales tax in the region and by harsh regulations on business.

The regulatory environment of a state is “a reflection of the philosophical orientation of the executive,” Ehrlich said. “We’re going to change this business culture. Maryland’s back in business.”

When one member asked Ehrlich how Maryland could recover business that has been lost to neighboring Virginia, he said he would use his clout to generate one good piece of economic news to create positive momentum for the state’s business climate.

Association President Thomas Farasy asked Ehrlich to address his plans for mass transit in Maryland. In his Roadmap for 2020, Ehrlich comes out against the Purple and Red line projects — in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and in Baltimore, respectively — that O’Malley has endorsed and for which his administration has proposed an initial $90 million.

Ehrlich said a rapid bus transit system, instead of the proposed light rail, is less disruptive and much cheaper. He also said there is no demand for the east-west red line in Baltimore.

“Thousands of families need this long-term commitment to transportation and sustainable development,” said Mark Giangreco, a spokesman for O’Malley.

To forgo these two projects is to expand gridlock and put the state’s economic growth at risk, Giangreco said.

With several references to Nov. 3, the day after the election, Ehrlich, who has been working as a consultant for a law firm and hosting a radio show with his wife, said he’s ready to get back to work for Marylanders.

- By Capital News Service’s Abby Brownback

Dead-Dog Ads Arrive Late for P.G. County Executive Race

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
The late ad.

The late ad.

ANNAPOLIS – The big sad eyes of a black Labrador retriever stare up at Prince George’s County voters from the front of an ad slamming county executive candidate Michael Jackson, whose sheriff’s deputies infamously killed a local mayor’s two dogs in a botched July 2008 drug raid.

“You shot my dogs. You shot my dogs,” the ad reads.

But the ad, which says it was paid for by the 1199 SEIU Political Action Fund, arrived in some households Thursday, two days after the Democratic primary election in which Rushern L. Baker III defeated Jackson, the current county sheriff. Baker is now unopposed in November’s general election.

A union of healthcare workers, 1199 SEIU, sent the mailing that reminds voters of the invasion staged by the Prince George’s County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office into the home of Cheye Calvo, the mayor of Berwyn Heights.

Calvo’s two black labs were shot, and he and his mother-in-law were handcuffed while the police and the sheriff’s office ransacked the house for a package of drugs addressed to Calvo’s wife, Trinity Tomsic. Later, authorities admitted Calvo and Tomsic were caught in the middle of a smuggling scheme in which drugs are shipped to innocent neighbors and intercepted, often, before the packages are collected.

Jackson could not be reached for comment.

An earlier ad, which also says it was paid for by 1199 SEIU, urges voters to “take a look at Sheriff Michael Jackson’s brutal record” and lists incidents involving the sheriff’s office that date from September 2006.

James Adams, Baker’s communications director, said the campaign did not have any input into the ads and could comment only on its own campaign materials.

“SEIU represents thousands of working families in Prince George’s County, and they have the right to advocate on their behalf,” Adams said. “We have been the target of so many attacks. We have chosen not to address those kinds of attacks on us.”

Attempts to reach 1199 SEIU for comment were unsuccessful.

–by Capital News Service’s Abby Brownback

Obama Lauds Maryland Team at White House

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
President Obama at the NCAA ceremony.

University of Maryland women's lacrosse player Mary Jordan shakes President Obama's hand at the White House reception honoring the team and other NCAA athletes. (Photo courtesy of the Maryland women's lacrosse team)

WASHINGTON – Jerseys, helmets, cleats and kneepads were replaced with shirts, ties, heels and dresses this week as more than 650 NCAA collegiate athletes from across the country — including a team from the University of Maryland — were welcomed to the White House by President Obama.

Students and coaches from more than 30 NCAA championship-winning teams, including the women’s lacrosse team from the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Virginia’s men’s soccer and women’s rowing teams, were honored Monday for their excellence in athletics, academics and community service.

“That term student athlete is the thing that makes me so proud to stand before you today,” Obama said. “When each of you won the titles that you won, whether it was in lacrosse or wheel chair basketball, you didn’t do it as professionals. You didn’t have multi-million dollar contracts or huge endorsement deals. You woke up early. You put in countless hours of practice for the love of the game and for the pride of your school.”

Amid the sprawling group of participants vying for the perfect picture of Obama, players from the University of Maryland’s women’s lacrosse team secured a position close to the president’s speaking podium. For a team known for their defense, protecting their turf wasn’t hard to do.

Down six points in the opening minutes of the 2010 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championship in May, the team orchestrated a rally to defeat the five-time defending champions, Northwestern University, 13-11.

“This is really exciting. I’ve been here four years; I’ve never [gotten] the chance to come to the White House,” said Brandi Jones, mid-fielder for the Maryland team. “I would say that our favorite part was getting the chance to shake Obama’s hand. He actually said, ‘Congratulations Terps’ in our camera.”

Obama told the players that lessons learned while studying in airports and locker rooms will help them transition from student athletes to professional doctors, lawyers, nurses and teachers.

The president also spotlighted lesser-known teams, such as Texas Christian University’s all-female rifle squad.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Michelle J. Nealy

O’Malley Pitches Job Creation to PG County Business Leaders

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s address to the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable was a chance to reiterate his familiar remedy for the ailing economy—job creation and retention.

But Geoffrey P. Pohanka, president of Pohanka Automotive Group in Marlow Heights, said it was little more, and the governor failed to talk about specific solutions.

“It’s an election year, so it’s time to kiss the babies and smile,” he said.

His auto group has been losing dealerships to bankruptcy, Pohanka said, and he feels public office holders are too out of touch with what is really plaguing small businesses—uncertainty about the future, and whether higher taxes and regulation can be expected in the near future.

Though CEOs received O’Malley’s message with varying degrees of support, several said his message indicated no evident or direct impact on their businesses. The exception was Southern Maryland Hospital Center.

O’Malley said there’s a chance for some federal support for the hospital, which is struggling in an area that is largely uninsured, and from about 15 years of mismanagement, said CEO Michael Chiaramonte.

The potential for federal support is not news to him, but it’s also not far out of the realm of possibilities in his opinion. “(Majority Leader) Steny Hoyer could probably get that done,” he said.

It wasn’t just hospital representatives who applauded O’Malley’s commitment to Southern Maryland Hospital Center. Jason Groves of Verizon in Annapolis, a member of the board for Anne Arundel Medical Center, said it’s been key to developing that county, and he believes it could be the same for Prince George’s County.

“You don’t have a hospital, you’re going to have a problem,” he said.

By Maryland Newsline’s Shannon Hoffman

Murphy to Air Ad During Glenn Beck Show

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Long-shot Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy will debut his first ad of the campaign during Fox’s Glenn Beck show tonight. Murphy will run the television ad in the state’s three major markets — Washington, Baltimore and Salisbury — during Beck’s show through Sept. 13, said Karla Graham, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

The ad also will be shown tonight at the Frederick Keys baseball game, where Murphy will throw the first pitch as part of his statewide “Refuse to Settle” tour before the Sept. 14 primary election that pits Murphy against former Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

In the ad, Murphy touts his background as an entrepreneur.

“We need a governor who understands that small business is the heart and soul of Maryland,” Murphy says in the ad.

The ad faults Ehrlich for the largest spending increase in the state’s history and Gov. Martin O’Malley for the largest tax increase.

“The budget is broken, and with all due respect to the previous two governors, they broke it,” Murphy said. “We can do better. We expect a big turnaround in the next 11 days.”

Ehrlich’s campaign would not comment on the ad.

– By Capital News Service’s Abby Brownback