- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will make his first overseas trade expedition this week, leading a delegation of business and Jewish community leaders on a six-day trip to Israel.

The 27-member delegation includes three members of the Republican governor’s personal staff, three Department of Business and Economic Development officials and three health officials. Mr. Ehrlich also will be accompanied by state troopers from his executive security detail.

Most of the group will leave for Israel tomorrow and return Sunday.

Mr. Ehrlich said the trip “will provide the opportunity to promote trade and joint ventures between Maryland and Israeli companies and research institutions, as well as explore and share approaches in the area of homeland defense.”

“Both Maryland and Israel have developed technology-based economies and have much to share and learn from each other,” he said in a statement issued Thursday by his press office.

Shareese DeLeaver, Mr. Ehrlich’s assistant press secretary, said the cost of the trip for state officials will be $52,350, including air fare, lodging, meals, ground transportation and security.

Mr. Ehrlich’s tentative itinerary includes meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and ministers of industry and trade, foreign affairs, defense and diaspora affairs.

The Republican governor also will meet with business leaders, attend a dinner reception at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Israel in Tel Aviv and attend a meeting on homeland security and emergency medical preparedness at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

mDown to the wire

Top Virginia Democrats are making a final push to help Gerald E. Connolly in his race against Republican Mychele B. Brickner to lead the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

As the two campaigns headed into their final weekend before tomorrow’s election, Gov. Mark Warner delivered mailers and phone messages on Mr. Connolly’s behalf, and U.S. Rep. James P. Moran had his own campaign manager deliver commercials in Spanish to woo Hispanic voters.

Mrs. Brickner is getting help from U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, who spent about $15,000 on her campaign in the first three weeks of October and more than $66,000 overall.

Connolly campaign officials say their surveys show that the race is very tight.

mA bridge too far

Mayor Martin O’Malley has lost Baltimore’s Battle of the Bridge.

Mr. O’Malley asked residents to vote on what color the Howard Street Bridge should be, and a rust red-brown beat Kelly green.

The mayor had backed Kelly green, but the 5,139 voters who used a City Hall Web site chose the rust color favored by Baltimore artist Stan Edmister. Mr. Edmister garnered 2,689 votes, while Mr. O’Malley’s choice got 2,450 votes — a 52 percent to 48 percent split.

Mr. O’Malley asked for the vote after he saw the rust color scheme at a ribbon-cutting last summer. The Howard Street Bridge spans the Jones Falls Expressway.

“I submit to the will of the people,” Mr. O’Malley said Friday. “To paraphrase Jefferson, I fear for my countrymen, that they may receive the bridge colors they deserve.”

Mr. Edmister created a color scheme for all the expressway bridges more than a decade ago. The design was approved by the city and received support from the Municipal Arts Society and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The artist expressed relief Friday that the last bridge in his series would be painted as planned. If the mayor’s scheme had prevailed, Mr. Edmister said, “It would be an embarrassment to the mayor and the city for a long time.

“This Kelly green color scheme, you would wince to see it.”

He said he wasn’t personally insulted by the mayor’s criticism, but said, “That was a reflection of his own lack of sophistication and ability to view the comprehensive whole.”

Some feared what they saw as political intervention in the public-arts sphere.

“We don’t elect the mayor to make arts decisions,” said Peter Doo, vice president of the Municipal Arts Society.

Kenneth Hart, an architect, called Mr. O’Malley’s actions “disrespectful.” He added, “This should not be an issue of rust or green.”

mTax code called OK

Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell told the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s governing board Friday that he opposes a sweeping overhaul of the state’s tax code, particularly if it increases the overall tax burden.

In a key address to leaders of the influential business group, Virginia’s most powerful legislator said the slumping economy, not an “antiquated and agrarian tax system,” has produced record budget shortfalls topping $6 billion in the past two years.

“We cannot tax our way back to prosperity and fiscal strength,” Mr. Howell, Stafford County Republican, told the group at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va. “In fact, increasing the tax burden on working families and businesses is exactly the wrong policy for promoting economic growth.”

Mr. Howell spoke as a panel of House and Senate members continues efforts that began last summer to revise and modernize the state’s tax code.

In addition, Gov. Mark Warner, Democrat, will outline his own proposals for revamping the tax code late this month.

Mr. Howell said that those who say the current tax code — which dates to the 1920s — is antiquated overlook several points.

“Just a few years ago, for example, this same tax code was producing unparalleled revenues. Many, from the bond-rating agencies to our own state economic development agency, were touting Virginia’s balanced economy and the corresponding tax revenues it produced,” according to the text of Mr. Howell’s speech.

“The tax code that worked so well just a few years ago did not suddenly become dysfunctional,” he said. “What happened was our economy stopped growing. And that is what policy-makers need to focus on correcting.”

mFracas over phone

A Hagerstown, Md., shop clerk has filed an assault charge against Washington County Commissioner John C. Munson, saying he pushed her during an argument over a faulty cellular-telephone charger.

Mr. Munson contends he never touched Trisha Lynn, but acknowledges throwing a phone and charger at a wall inside the U.S. Cellular store.

Mr. Munson, a freshman commissioner elected last November, said he “went off the deep end” last Monday when the woman became upset with him because he wanted the device replaced. “I was wrong. I threw it, and I should not have done it,” he said.

Miss Lynn called police and told them Mr. Munson had pushed her into a countertop, causing her to fall and strike her head.

She filed a complaint in Washington County District Court after the Hagerstown Police Department refused to charge Mr. Munson because the complaint involved a purported misdemeanor assault not witnessed by police.

mCity attorney quits

The Frostburg, Md., city attorney has resigned after the city administrator accused him of unprofessional and inappropriate conduct.

Jeffrey S. Getty said last Monday that City Administrator Andrew P. Fulghum had made him a scapegoat for a dispute over city water rates. Mr. Getty had served as city attorney for 10 years.

In a letter requesting Mr. Getty’s resignation, Mr. Fulghum accused him of not knowing how to do his job. The last straw, Mr. Fulghum said, was an “inappropriate” conversation Mr. Getty had had with an Allegany County official regarding charges that the city was overcharging some water users.

“This current breach in professionalism, while not the sole reason, was the final reason for my pending recommendation for your termination,” Mr. Fulghum wrote.

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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