The big family

March 6, 2013 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 4 Comments 

As a blogger who toils in relative obscurity (well, so far anyway), I can understand the thought process some might have when faced with a big payday. Such was apparently the case in a scandal that Robert Stacy McCain has written about frequently of late called MalaysiaGate, where a number of bloggers bagged nearly $400,000 from the Malaysian government to sugarcoat their stories. As he notes on the subject:

If powerful Malaysian interests had been willing to pay $400,000 to obtain the services of a natural-born smartass, how quickly would I have cashed that check? Immediately.

Let’s not kid anybody. Honesty is a virtue, and it would be dishonest to present myself as morally superior to Josh Treviño, Ben Domenech and their friends, simply because I have never sought the kind of reputation that would make my services valuable to the ruling regimes of foreign nations.

When I read about this, I was like “damn! Someone actually values the blogosphere enough to drop 400 grand on it?!?” Hell, I’d be happy to get a half-dozen advertisers at my going rate and a gig that pays me a few hundred dollars a week. Obviously I can’t speak for other bloggers – although I tend to agree with McCain’s take on the subject, which is well worth reading; I’ll wait for you - but there is a growing community of citizen journalists who could be harnessed in the right direction if the finances were there from a conservative benefactor.

The point is that we all have our own reasons for doing what we do. McCain makes a reasonable enough living at it, but he’s the exception to the rule. Most other bloggers have other outside jobs, whether they’re in the world of words or completely outside of it as one of mine is. (I also have freelance clients so I run in both circles.)

But we toil in order to make a difference in some way, and that includes bloggers on the other side of the political aisle as well. (They just happen to be wrong.) I know a few of them personally but most of them, particularly from outside Maryland, I’ve never met aside from on Facebook. It’s a reason I’m looking forward to CPAC, even if I’m only there for a limited time, because of the potential of meeting a few of them and others worth knowing in this extended family of ours.

And we do help each other out. I’m pretty careful about giving hat tips or credit where due, as I would hope that others are about my original material. Nor do I mind helping out other bloggers, with Jackie Wellfonder being one example.

Most bloggers would end with the pitch to hit their tip jar, but I’m going to be a little different. I have a long list of blogs I link to, some national and some local. One thing I try to do is keep the list stocked with blogs which are local or national in scope and are frequently updated, because a blog which doesn’t change often isn’t one which holds my interest (and probably not yours either.) So go check them out and support their fine establishments as well.

Depressing regularity

You know, it seems like every time I see a release from Change Maryland they remind us exactly how many tax increases Martin O’Malley has inflicted on the state – the total is now 24, going on 25. Something tells me that they could probably provide the exact dollar amount raised by all these tax hikes and how far short of projections they came out to be – after all, if enough dollars were raised by tax hikes 1 through 24 we wouldn’t be discussing number 25, would we?

Anyway, here’s what Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan had to say about the latest drop in this Chinese water torture we commonly refer to as the tenure of one Governor Martin O’Malley:

The Governor complains that Maryland has crumbling roads and bridges and the worst traffic congestion in the country, but what he doesn’t tell you is that it’s his fault. There has been no comprehensive transportation strategy from the O’Malley administration. Over a billion dollars has been diverted from the Transportation Trust Fund, and the vast majority of the billions of dollars that has been spent on transportation have been wasted on expenses that are completely unrelated to fixing our road problems. Now he wants struggling Maryland families to pay for his mistakes and his lack of leadership.

Over the last 4 years, Governor O’Malley has spent over $1 billion in dedicated transportation funds for things completely unrelated to transportation – even the money left in the transportation budget was also spent in the wrong place. In his 2014 budget, O’Malley proposes to spend $1.1 billion – a whopping 46% of our state capital and operating transportation budget – on public transportation, even though only 8% of us use public transportation to commute.

What we need is a coherent transportation policy that makes roads a priority and realigns spending based on how Marylanders actually travel. We also need the Governor to restore all of the money he has diverted from the Transportation Trust Fund and immediately appoint a competent Secretary of Transportation. The last thing in the world Maryland needs is another tax increase.

Actually, I have to disagree with Larry on one point: there is a comprehensive transportation strategy going on with Martin O’Malley. It’s just not the one most people would consider.

Remember what happened when gas prices went up to $4 a gallon the first time, in 2008? People parked their cars and decided it was cheaper to use mass transit. While O’Malley can’t directly influence the price of oil because Maryland isn’t that large a piece of the overall energy market, he can work on the the perceived problem of traffic congestion in two ways: try to steer development to urban areas – as I’ll expound further on momentarily – and raise gas prices through taxation, not to fix the highways but to increase the footprint for and subsidy of mass transit. After all, the logical method of addressing problems in the traffic flow through adding capacity is so twentieth century, even though it works.

Several years ago the state assisted in the development of what was called a “Central Maryland TOD Strategy,” with TOD being the acronym for transit-oriented development. One of its strategies for encouraging this sort of “sustainable” development was the following:

The uncertainty and slow pace of financing for transit upgrades hampers the market for TOD. Regional transit financing tools, such as the FasTracks program in Denver, can accelerate the implementation of transit and TOD and build market momentum. These initiatives often face substantial political barriers, so a coordinated and effective regional outreach and messaging campaign is essential.

Guess what’s in the O’Malley gas tax proposal? A study on creating regional transit financing. Granted, the idea has some appeal because it would more than likely serve as a sort of user fee and hammer just those who live in the area served, but once that genie is out of the bottle it’s not going to be forced back in and we will see all sorts of new taxing districts, both inter- and intra-county. Imagine a higher flush tax for the septic-rich Eastern Shore, for example – in Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton is proposing something along this line to come up with the city’s supposed nine-figure share of enacting the EPA’s Watershed Implementation Plan.

I’ve gone a little far afield in discussing this release, but one other goal mentioned in the Central Maryland TOD report was construction of the Red Line in Baltimore, and indeed that’s one of the prospective uses for the money raised by the gas tax, which, by the way, will automatically increase each year at the rate of inflation. No more messy votes for people like me to scour and make known.

That lack of accountability out of Annapolis is something else which happens with depressing regularity. How about making some changes to Maryland in 2014?

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