- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003

In Wednesday's State of the State address, Gov. Robert Ehrlich offered a new vision for Maryland. The governor presented the poignant, yet inspiring, stories of several Marylanders, four of whom were in attendance during his speech. They included Bob Newberry, a commercial waterman whose business is in trouble due to onerous state regulations and a lack of adequate sewage-treatment facilities, and Adela Acosta, a nationally recognized teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Hyattsville.

Also in attendance was Michael Taylor, a 44-year-old man with developmental disabilities who had spent 30 years in state institutions at a cost to taxpayers of $1.6 million. Released in 1999, he is now employed and living on his own. "Our 2004 budget includes programs that will help people in similar circumstances live with independence, dignity and self-sufficiency," Mr. Ehrlich stated. "It's not only a moral imperative and a constitutional right it's a good deal for the taxpayers."

The fourth person was Keith Day, a 25-year heroin addict and former homeless man who kicked his drug addiction and has turned his life around, thanks in large part to the Helping Up Mission, a faith-based organization in Baltimore. Mr. Day is assistant manager at the Sheraton Inner Harbor hotel, where he was voted 2001 employee of the year. Mr. Ehrlich vowed to "work with faith organizations of every denomination to offer treatment programs on a nondiscriminatory basis."

The fifth person mentioned by the governor, Rio-Jarell Tatum, was the most poignant story by far: On May 26, he was shot to death during a robbery in Baltimore. Mr. Tatum, who was represented by his parents, was a member of the National Honor Society and captain of the baseball and soccer teams at his high school, and was admitted to Penn State University on a full scholarship. "He did everything right, yet he still became a victim of the gun violence sweeping our state's largest city. The story is a wake-up call for all of us. As long as gun-toting criminals roam our streets and communities, no one not even the best and brightest is safe," Mr. Ehrlich stated. He urged the General Assembly to create Project Exile, which calls for stiff prison sentences for criminals using guns during the commission of a crime and has been enormously successful in Richmond.

Judging from some of the partisan reactions coming from the Democrats, some lawmakers seem more interested in nitpicking at the speech than in cooperating with the new governor. "Unbelievable! This is our governor?" sniffed Prince George's County Sen. Paul Pinsky. "Five heartwarming stories, but no plan and no vision." Sen. Delores Kelley, Baltimore Democrat, groused to The Washington Post that the governor didn't mention slots.

The governor's speech emphasized situations that unite people, not things that divide them. It would be a genuine tragedy if some Democrats allow their displeasure over the election get in the way of working with Mr. Ehrlich to improve the quality of life for all Marylanders.

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