- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2011

New blood

Some of Metro’s rail cars are 30 years old and a handful of its train stations stood through the disco era. But many of the people making the tough calls on spending and service cuts this year have been with the agency about as long as it takes to get from Shady Grove to Glenmont in rush hour.

Half of Metro’s 14 board members have been appointed since December, and two additional appointments that will increase the size of the board are pending. March marked Richard Sarles‘ second full month as general manager after being named interim head of the transit agency just more than a year ago.

The transition was evident during last week’s board meeting when budget reductions and service cuts were on the table. Newly appointed board member Alvin Nichols, who still has three weeks until he’s sworn in, persuaded his fellow Metro leaders to give the Maryland representatives time to review service reduction options, saying he had “no sense of what they are.”

Kathy Porter, a Montgomery County representative — and a veteran board member, having joined in January — summed up the situation for the Maryland delegation.

“Three of the four members have only been official since last Friday,” she said.

In the cards?

The Maryland General Assembly is on the verge of repealing a 38-year ban on fortunetelling in Carroll County, a largely rural jurisdiction west of Baltimore County.

The bill, passed last month by the Senate, received preliminary House approval Friday. Fortunetelling for profit — by palm, tarot cards or any other “scheme, practice or device” — is a misdemeanor in the county, punishable by six months in jail and a $100 fine.

During Friday’s House proceedings, House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell playfully asked Delegate Nancy R. Stocksdale, Carroll Republican, whether county legislators knew what effect the law could have.

“Did the delegation consider, and could they predict with any degree of certainty, what would happen if this bill were to pass?” Mr. O’Donnell, Calvert Republican, said to laughs from the 141-member chamber.

“I used to never believe in fortunetellers,” Ms. Stocksdale replied. “But one of them told me yesterday that you were going to ask me some really bad questions today.”

Boo birds

Vincent C. Gray heard it from the crowd on Opening Day at Nationals Park.

A noticeable undercurrent of boos greeted the D.C. mayor as he took the field to deliver the call to “play ball.”

To be fair, the boos did not seem any worse than those that have greeted other recent city leaders on opening days.

Anthony A. Williams started off relatively well at RFK Stadium in 2005, the first year baseball returned to Washington. But when D.C. Council Chairwoman Linda W. Cropp was introduced, the fans filling the creaky 45-year-old stadium let her know how they felt about her opposition to a publicly financed ballpark.

Adrian M. Fenty was roundly booed when he took the field early in the first months of his administration in 2007. That, though, could be attributed to the fact that the noted triathlete bounced his ceremonial first pitch in front of home plate.

Mr. Gray’s appearance in front of a large crowd couldn’t have come at a worse time. With his administration reeling from a series of investigations, poll numbers released last week, before he made his appearance at the ballgame, showed the mayor with a 40 percent disapproval rating.

On the bright side, it did sound as if about 31 percent of the crowd was cheering Mr. Gray, while 29 percent seemed to have no opinion.

‘Tough’ times

Speaking of Mr. Gray, nobody can accuse the mayor of failing to advise D.C. residents of how tough his $9.6 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2012 would be.

In fact, he has reminded everyone of his reminders.

Here’s proof:

“This year’s budget cuts will be steep,” he said at last week’s State of the District address. “If I have been repetitive on this topic, it’s because it is vitally important for us to be honest about how things will change.”

At a budget briefing Friday before the D.C. Council:

“This is a very, very difficult budget. I have said that repeatedly.”

Moments later, speaking with reporters:

“I’ve said that again and again and again — this is a tough budget.”

He later added: “I wish I could count the times I’ve said to people this is going to be an incredibly tight budget.”

Don’t worry about it, Mr. Mayor. We’ve got it covered.

Serving the people

Maryland Sen. J.B. Jennings has served his constituents in more than one way this legislative session.

The Harford Republican and member of the Air National Guard was called to active military duty in January and has missed much of the session while attending training in Georgia. He could be deployed in the next year to Afghanistan.

Although Mr. Jennings is officially excused from the Senate, he has made six trips back to Annapolis this session — by plane or 11-hour drive — to attend key votes, the most recent of which was Tuesday’s Senate passage of the state budget.

“There are breaks in training where I can get away,” Mr. Jennings said. “I could have stayed there and nobody would have ever known, but I can’t sit down there and not honor my commitment.”

Senate colleagues have offered Mr. Jennings bipartisan praise for his commitments to country and state. They rescheduled their final budget vote last week from Wednesday morning to Tuesday night to allow him to attend, and afterward gave Mr. Jennings a round of applause.

“He’s serving the armed forces and trying to represent his constituents at the same time,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat.

David Hill, Tom Howell Jr. and Meredith Somers contributed to this report.

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