Fri April 25, 2014
Gubernatorial Debate Schedules, An Online Ballot Marking Tool Rejected, & Pothole Repair Funds
Schedules are being finalized for debates between the gubernatorial candidates, as the June 24th primary approaches. The Maryland Board of Elections rejects an online tool that would have allowed voters to mark absentee ballots before printing them. Plus: pothole repair funds, Baltimore’s pension system, changes to Baltimore’s government access cable channel, the osprey / Bay Bridge saga, and more.
Gubernatorial Debate Schedules Forming: Maryland's top three Democratic gubernatorial candidates are set to square off in a their first televised debate May 7th. "Meet the Press" host David Gregory will moderate the discussion among Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, state Attorney General Doug Gansler and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur at the University of Maryland at College Park. The NBC affiliates in DC and Hagerstown will air the debate, but it’s unclear whether it’ll show up on Baltimore TV. The democratic gubernatorial candidates will debate again on June 2nd; in a forum coproduced by Maryland Public Television and WBAL-TV. Those organizations will also host a televised debate with the Republican candidates on June 6th – and all four have agreed to attend (Harford County Executive David Craig, Anne Arundel County Delegate Ron George, former Ehrlich administration official Larry Hogan, and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar). Maryland’s primary election takes place on June 24th. The Baltimore Sun has more.
BoE Rejects Online Absentee Ballot Marking Tool: The State Board of Elections has rejected an online tool that was designed to let absentee voters mark their ballots on their computers before printing them out and mailing them in. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Board’s decision came amid fears that it could “open the door to widespread fraud.” The online tool was supposed to be in place for the June 24th primary election. Consultants assured the board that the system was safe, but three of the Elections Board’s members were opposed to it. It’s unclear whether absentee voters will be allowed to download ballots at all. It’s also unclear how the decision will affect military and overseas voters, who are guaranteed online access to absentee ballots under federal law. The Daily Record notes that yesterday’s decision puts at risk a portion of a $630-thousand grant from the Department of Defense that was meant to be spent on developing the online tool.
$10-Million For Pothole Repair: An extra $10-million is heading to Baltimore City and Maryland's counties to fix potholes and repair roads damaged by this year's brutal winter. The money comes from the state's Transportation Trust Fund and was approved during the recent General Assembly session. The Baltimore Sun reports that the funding will be split among the 24 jurisdictions based on the number of roadway miles maintained by each local government. That means that Baltimore County will get the most money, since it has more locally-maintained roads… the County’s 27-hundred miles of roadway entitle it to $1.15-million. Baltimore City has about 19-hundred miles of roadway, and will get about $818-thousand.
Baltimore’s Pension System: Changes are coming to Baltimore City’s pension system. The Baltimore Sun reports that city unions have reached a deal with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration on the change, which would give new workers the option of choosing a 401(k)-style plan or a “hybrid” plan that combines a traditional pension with a 401(k)-style account. It’s taken nine months for the Mayor’s office and the union that represents city workers to reach the agreement; the union’s director says he thinks it’s “a good compromise.” A City Council committee signed off on the plan yesterday; the full Council will take up the measure on Monday.
More Charm, Less Government: Baltimore City’s government access cable channel, TV 25, has been undergoing a makeover. And WYPR’s Kenneth Burns reports that it’ll carry more than government meetings.
PSC To Consider Putting Uber Under Taxi Regs: Maryland’s Public Service Commission is considering a plan that would put ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft under the same regulations as taxis. The proposal was made yesterday by Maryland’s chief public utility law judge; the PSC will vote on the plan next month. The Baltimore Sun reports that Uber is threatening to leave Maryland if the PSC moves to classify it as a cab company. Uber allows customers to order rides directly from drivers, and pay for them through a smartphone app.
The Osprey / Bay Bridge Saga Continues: The Maryland Transportation Authority is hoping an osprey takes to her new home by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The Baltimore Sun notes that officials have been trying to discourage the bird from building a nest in front of a traffic camera for about a week… and yesterday, the MdTA moved the fishhawk’s latest home to a special platform they put up nearby. Not long after erecting the platform yesterday, the MdTA tweeted a photo of the osprey on the platform, saying "She seems happy!" The Capital Gazette reports that the MdTA will turn its traffic camera toward the osprey nest so that folks can get a glimpse of the birds every Monday through Thursday at noon (the camera’s feed can be found here; the camera with the nest is WPL C-501 AT GANTRY N-1).
Playground Planned For Frederick Municipal Airport: There could soon be a playground at the Frederick Municipal Airport. The Airport Owners and Pilots Association is backing the project, saying it would make the airport a more friendly place and “project a positive image of general aviation.” The Frederick News Post reports that the project would cost about $175-thousand.
Under Armour Profits: First quarter profits for Under Armour are through the roof. The Baltimore-based sports apparel maker saw a 73% jump year-over-year, netting $13.5-million. Sales in the first three months of the year were up by 36% to $642-million. The company believes the growth trend will continue, predicting net revenues will approach $3-billion in 2014. The Baltimore Sun has more here.
National “Drug Take Back Day” Is Saturday: Tomorrow is the annual Drug Take Back Day in Maryland and across the country. It’s an event administered by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, and offers people a way of getting rid of outdated, unneeded, or unused drugs. During last year’s event, over eleven-hundred pounds of prescription drugs were collected by State Police. In addition to local police precincts, 21 State Police barracks, five MVA locations and the YMCA in Harford County will all have collection boxes available.
Phelps Comes In 2nd At Arizona Swim Meet: Olympian Michael Phelps finished second to fellow American Ryan Lochte in the men's 100 meter butterfly final at the Arena Grand Prix from Mesa, Arizona. Lochte finished in 51.93 seconds to take home first place while Phelps was two-tenths of a second slower. This is the first competition since Baltimore-native Phelps retired following the 2012 London Olympics. He has not commented on whether he will try to qualify for the 2016 Summer Games. The Baltimore Sun has more.
Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles trounced the Toronto Blue Jays last night. The score was 11 to 4. The O’s will be back in Baltimore tonight, to take on the Kansas City Royals. First pitch is set for 7:05pm.
Washington Baseball: The Washington Nationals lost last night’s game against the San Diego Padres, after 12 innings. The final score was 4 to 3.