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Volume 13, Issue 50 ~ December 15 - December 21, 2005


No Holiday from Public Business

This time of year, it’s easier than ever to slide public business to the bottom of your mounting to-do pile. Meanwhile, most of the decision makers — the ones who make the proposals and the ones who approve, amend or deny them — are still on the clock and payroll. So holidays or not, they’re making decisions that shape our communities and our lives day in and day out for years to come.

A pair of projects moving ahead in Anne Arundel and Calvert counties have distracted our attention from decking our halls, doing our shopping and baking our cookies. In Calvert, a person representing our interest was alert and doing her job. In Anne Arundel, on the other hand, the people we’ve hired to represent us end the year looking like Grinches.

In Calvert, a giant energy company is edging ever closer to digging a 48-mile pipeline through the middle of the county. Dominion Cove Point is the company, and its project is to double its delivery of liquefied natural gas to out-of-state customers via a second pipeline. The LNG is shipped by tanker from foreign ports to its docks in Chesapeake Bay, before setting out under land across Calvert, beneath the Patuxent River, into Virginia and beyond.

It’s a project that enriches Calvert, too, as Dominion Cove Point is its second-biggest taxpayer, second only to the nearby Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. That’s one reason Calvert County has welcomed the expansion, with business and government rolling out the red carpet.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission convened a public hearing in Solomons so people could hear and talk about Dominion Cove Point’s Environmental Impact Report. Del. Sue Kullen — who’s new at her job, having been appointed last year after George Owings resigned — defied the common wisdom that expansion was a done deal and gave the 300-page document a hard look. In her reply, she took issue with the plans, demanding “honesty and accountability” as well as assurances on five points covering safety, jobs, routing and “transparent, active cooperation.”

We applaud Del. Kullen for not letting the holidays or her county’s prospect of enormous gain (some $11 million a year in tax revenue) deter her from the people’s business.

In Anne Arundel County, we’ve less reason to cheer. The project moving ahead is Greenberg Commercial Corp.’s transformation of the old Parole shopping center to its 2.1 million-square-foot Annapolis Towne Centre. Demolition is done, the old SHOP PAROLE sign just removed and work ready to begin.

If you’d like to know more or traffic congestion or building permits neighborhood impacts, you’re out of luck. As the project is already approved, there will be no public meeting because that’s the way public business is done in Anne Arundel County: behind doors too often closed.

What it looks like this holiday season to interested Anne Arundel citizens is that our county leaders are playing the Grinch, keeping us in the dark.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.