- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2003

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele was not quite 5 years old when his parents took him to one of the most important events in the history of America’s civil rights battle — the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I remember being on the Mall for that event, not fully appreciating or understanding what it was all about,” the lieutenant governor said Friday on the eve of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the rally. “You look at it and say, ‘Oh yes, I was there.”’

A two-day commemoration on the Mall was held Friday and Saturday for the rally that attracted 250,000 people 40 years ago.

Mr. Steele said most adults attending the march probably didn’t immediately understand the power of the speech that he described as a watershed moment in the civil rights movement.

In the address to the throngs of people who filled the Mall around the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, King spoke powerfully of his dream of an America where people of all races lived and worked in harmony and equality.

“The power of the speech was it planted a seed. That seed germinated and is now beginning to flower,” said Mr. Steele, who is black.

“I’m in this office because of that speech, because of the seeds that were planted by that speech,” he said. “It took 350 years to elect a black man statewide here in Maryland, but we’ve turned that corner now.”

Despite the advances made since 1963, Mr. Steele said he believes King would not be satisfied with what has happened in the past 40 years.

“I think Dr. King would be disappointed in that he would say, ‘You haven’t filled out the rest of the story,’” Mr. Steele said.

The lieutenant governor said in some ways there has been great progress toward equality of the races.

mRunning on his mind

Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott Rolle says he’s considering a run for Congress next year.

Mr. Rolle told WFMD-AM (930) that he hasn’t officially decided to run in the March Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District against U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett.

But he said many people are encouraging him to do so. Mr. Rolle said he offers a clear choice from Mr. Bartlett in issues such as foreign policy, the death penalty and business growth.

He said he plans to make a decision in the next several months.

The filing deadline is Dec. 21.

mSlots alive?

A proposal by House Speaker Michael E. Busch to put slot machines at the state fairgrounds in Timonium is a positive development in the debate over whether to allow slot machine gambling in Maryland, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said.

“The threshold issue here is the speaker is willing to negotiate on slots. Last year, the answer clearly was no,” Mr. Ehrlich said Thursday during an interview with WTOP Radio.

Mr. Ehrlich has opposed slots at the fairgrounds and instead supports placing them at racetracks. Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver said the first-term Republican governor still “favors the approach he proposed and supported during the last legislative session,” but is open to other ideas.

Mr. Busch opposed a slots bill approved by the Senate during the legislative session this spring. The bill was killed in a House committee after Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, said it was “poorly thought-out” and would have enriched a handful of wealthy track owners.

On Wednesday, Mr. Busch said a state-run slot machine emporium at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium could serve as a model for gambling establishments across the state.

In a meeting with fair leaders and other state officials, Mr. Busch proposed having the Maryland Stadium Authority finance and construct a “first-class facility” that could feature several thousand slot machines. It could also have restaurants, Keno, horse racing simulcasts and other forms of entertainment.

Under the plan, the state would lease the site from the nonprofit corporation that runs the fair and hire a casino firm to operate the facility. The Maryland Lottery Commission would own the slot machines, giving the state security and control, Mr. Busch said.

mIt’s show time!

Television stars, camera crews and a lot of curious onlookers were in Northwest Friday.

The CBS-TV series “The District” had been filming in the city since Tuesday. The crew used the Wilson Building and Dupont Circle in some of their scenes.

On Friday, film crews were at the old Howard University Theater in Northwest to film a rally involving the show’s fictional police chief, played by actor Craig T. Nelson.

Before appearing on the set, Mr. Nelson took time to meet with Mayor Anthony A. Williams. He told the mayor the show is interested in exploring real life issues in the city. Mr. Williams suggested they consider focusing on the District’s statehood battle.

Mr. Nelson said the city has been very enthusiastic about the show and he has gotten a lot of positive comments. But the actor had one complaint, saying the District is “too hot.”

The movie “Hannibal” and the NBC-TV series “The West Wing” also have been filmed in the District over the past two years.

mTroubled relations

The son of a Prince William Country supervisor is being held without bond after pleading guilty to five drug charges.

William Hill, 21, was arrested May 14 and charged with two misdemeanor marijuana distribution charges and three other felony drug charges.

Hill is the son of outgoing County Supervisor Mary Hill, a Republican who represents the county’s Coles district. He sold marijuana to an undercover narcotics officer in March.

At the time of Hill’s arrest in May, police found marijuana and Ecstasy in his car. They also found more drugs, $1,900 dollars cash and drug paraphernalia in his room at his mother’s Lake Ridge home.

Hill already was on probation for a 2001 drug conviction. He faces sentencing Oct. 21.

mStay tuned

Richmond voters will get to decide whether to change the city’s leadership system.

Currently, Richmond voters elect city council members from nine districts. They, in turn, appoint a mayor and vice mayor from among themselves. The mayor presides over council meetings and largely serves in a ceremonial role. The council also hires a city manager who runs Richmond’s bureaucracy.

But the city registrar’s office says supporters of an executive-style mayor in Richmond have secured enough signatures from registered voters to get the issue on the Nov. 4 ballot. The Richmond Circuit Court must order the election.

If the referendum passes and is approved by the General Assembly, Richmonders would elect a mayor every four years. That mayor would have the power to appoint a city administrator.

mGovernment work

Maryland officials say they have found evidence of shoddy work by a contractor who did construction work at Baltimore City Community College’s Liberty Campus nearly 40 years ago.

Now officials are trying to determine if the same firm cut corners on other state projects.

General Services Secretary Boyd Rutherford told the Board of Public Works last week that the now-defunct Lacchi Construction Co. should be criminally liable for putting people at risk.

The faulty work has been repaired.

The matter has been referred to the state attorney general to determine whether the state can take civil or criminal action against any successor firm or the company’s former operators.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the firm also built a number of school buildings in Baltimore and Baltimore County and at least one in Anne Arundel County.

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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