- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

A Maryland activist who led a campaign two years ago to rid state schools of Indian mascots and nicknames is looking to the federal government for help in changing a state highway name he regards as offensive.

Richard Regan, a former member of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, said he has filed a federal Title VI complaint against the Department of Transportation for its sanctioning and promoting of Route 210, known as Indian Head Highway.

“The name ‘Indian Head’ is an affront and literal racial slur against American Indians and Alaska natives who reside in the state of Maryland,” Mr. Regan wrote in his complaint, dated Dec. 1. “It conjures up a place and time in the history of this country when it was legal to kill American Indians and sell their body parts.”

Mr. Regan, a Lumbee Cheraw Indian who lives in Montgomery County, said he hopes the federal government will deem the name offensive and withhold federal highway funding until the state changes the name of the road.

Indian Head Highway, which starts just outside of the town of Indian Head, at the Indian Head Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Charles County, stretches about 30 miles to the D.C. border, where it turns into East Capitol Street.

According to the town’s Web site, www.townofindianheadmd.org, the origin of the name is not specifically known, but it most likely is a corruption of the term “Indian Headlands.” The entire lower end of the peninsula was once occupied by American Indians and was an Indian reservation.

A spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration checked with the department’s civil rights division and said Mr. Regan’s complaint was unprecedented.

“This is the first of that type they have received,” he said. “They regularly get Title VI complaints, but as far as one specifically related to the name of a street and the consideration of a slur, they do not typically get those.”

The spokesman said typically the administration conducts an investigation of complaints to determine if they are valid Title VI complaints.

“If it is determined to be a valid complaint, they will get back to the state to get them to comply with whatever the violation is.” He said he could not speculate on how the state might be forced to comply if Mr. Regan’s complaint is deemed valid.

• Down on Dean

A top Maryland Republican Party official blasted Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s recent endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

“Mayor O’Malley’s endorsement is disheartening considering Howard Dean’s extreme left views and instability,” Eric Sutton, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party said of the Democrat. “Dean’s stands on key issues do not reflect the mainstream views of Maryland.”

Brian W. Hammock, deputy campaign director for Mr. O’Malley, who is running for re-election, said the mayor had no comment, but issued this statement: “I just think someone needs to tell Mr. Sutton that two-thirds of the voters in Maryland are Democrats, and I guess that same clever, understated style is why he was successful in courting swing voters in Delaware, which has a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators. We think he would have better luck if he kept moving further south, then a maybe his tired cliches would work in Mississippi.”

• An Ehrlich victory

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. scored a victory last week in a lawsuit brought by Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley over who should run the city’s Department of Social Services.

A city judge denied a request by Mr. O’Malley’s office to block Floyd Blair, Mr. Ehrlich’s choice to head the department, from making changes to the 2,400-employee agency.

Mr. O’Malley’s lawsuit claims the governor’s appointment of a novice manager to run a chaotic agency endangers children and violates the law because it didn’t have city approval. City officials also said the mayor, a Democrat, didn’t want Mr. Ehrlich to clog the agency with “unqualified” Republicans.

Circuit Judge Kaye Allison, however, ruled Tuesday that the claim that Mr. Blair was causing harm to the city with recent hiring and firing decisions was “speculative.”

City attorney David Ralph said the appointment was illegal because Mr. O’Malley didn’t give his approval to the choice and Mr. Blair didn’t have five years of management experience, both legal requirements.

“This is a far-reaching case,” Mr. Ralph said. “They can do this anyplace, essentially usurping the rights of local officials at their whim.”

Mr. Ralph had asked the judge to restrict Mr. Blair’s duties to “menial tasks,” but Judge Allison said that would cause a situation where both sides would be in her court regularly, disputing what Mr. Blair could and couldn’t do.

• A new swan song?

Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest is considering introducing legislation that would exempt mute swans from federal protection, allowing Maryland and other states to resume killing them.

At a meeting of the House Resources fisheries conservation, wildlife and oceans subcommittee Tuesday in Annapolis, the 1st District Republican said he believes the nonnative birds have done “minimal” damage to the environment, but could pose much more of a threat if their numbers aren’t kept under control, the Annapolis Capital reported.

“Exotic and invasive species are having a huge impact,” he said.

Mr. Gilchrest, whose district includes the Eastern Shore and part of Anne Arundel County, said he could reach a decision in a “few months.”

Maryland’s mute swan population has grown to more than 4,000 since five mute swans escaped from a Talbot County estate in the 1950s. The birds eat up to 8 pounds of Chesapeake Bay grasses daily, or more than 10 million pounds a year, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Bay grasses, which provide habitat to fish and shellfish, are considered vital to the health of the Bay. Since the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in 2001 that mute swans are covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, Maryland and other states obtained federal permits to kill mute swans or shake or grease their eggs to keep them from hatching.

An animal-rights group sued Maryland, and a federal judge ruled in September that the state did not prove it would suffer “substantial harm” if the birds weren’t killed. That opinion led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop issuing the permits.

• Unfrozen

Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner last week lifted a state hiring freeze that had been in effect for more than a year, one day after officials received a revenue forecast showing an improved economic outlook for the state.

Her decision to lift the freeze imposed in September 2002 allows state agencies to begin filling 1,559 vacant positions that were still subject to the freeze.

Last month, she exempted 624 positions at institutions that operate around the clock, such as hospitals and prisons, from the freeze.

The first-term Democrat asked agencies planning to fill positions to put a priority on jobs that affect the public.

“The hiring freeze was an important cost-saving measure for the last 15 months, saving the state approximately $15 million,” she said.

She eliminated 431 vacant positions from the state general fund in June, permanently saving $6 million.

• One vote wins it

It’s official: Elsie Dennis won a seat on the Surry, Va., School Board by one vote.

A recount Tuesday showed that Nov. 4 election results were accurate: Miss Dennis received 211 votes for the Bacon’s Castle District seat. Her opponent, Linda Ruffin Warren, received 210 votes.

“It’s unusual,” Miss Dennis said, “but it takes only one vote to win.”

Mrs. Warren filed for the recount about a week after the election.

Matthew Cella and Robert Redding Jr. contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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