Franchot to O’Malley: You’re My Green Governor
Harry Hughes, governor of Maryland from 1979 to 1987, took top honors at Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ Seventh Annual John V. Kabler memorial tribute. Praised by his successor Martin O’Malley for “taking political power and turning it into moral force,” Hughes opened our political era of Bay awareness and achieved tremendous practical success: a comprehensive package of 45 initiatives topped by the region-wide Chesapeake Bay Agreement in 1983.
Before and after the affable, self-deprecating Hughes rose to accept his award, today’s political powers took the podium to praise him and stake their own claims.
First rose Peter Franchot, Maryland’s comptroller. Franchot’s official duty was adding his encomium to the collection that Hughes, said, swelled his hat size to “nine and a half.”
“We would not have a Bay to protect without Governor Hughes,” Franchot said.
Franchot’s subtext, however, was proclaiming fealty to his own governor. Franchot’s loyalty though not his ambition comes in doubt by way of his vocal opposition to O’Malley’s decision to make slot machines part of his revenue-raising package. Then, on a radio talk show, he let doubt linger over whether he might challenge O’Malley next time around.
To the Conservation love feast, celebrating not only Hughes but a new environmental era, Franchot brought an olive branch: the apparently simple acknowledgement that he “follow[s] Governor O’Malley’s leadership.”
At those words, knowing winks passed through a gathering of conservationists very much in the know.
Last among the praise-sayers came O’Malley. A polished rhetorician, he explained how, to walk in Hughes’ big shoes, he would “reflect, hone and crystallize the ambitions people have for themselves and for the Bay.”
The governor turns a fine phrase, but his greatest gift as a speaker is his power to make each willing listener feel locked in intimate dialogue.
He didn’t feel much like “speechifying,” he said. He’d spent the long week “trapped” in that old Star Trek episode where a guy with a face half black and half white chases around planets in hostile pursuit of his mirror opposite.
Even if you didn’t know, you didn’t have to wonder what he meant. His next words named Franchot, though not in the Star Trek context of self-destructive misunderstanding.
With which the governor changed his mind about speechifying, launching a long list of his environmental achievements and ambitions. Reaching crescendo, O’Malley gathered up his audience. “I really, really need your help to remove the obstacle in front of us,” he said, identifying the state’s need to find $1.7 billion to keep running. On that, he said, “We all have the responsibility to find consensus.”
The environmentalists didn’t, however, get the help they hoped for: On their latest Bay-Saving plan, a Green Fund dedicated to their causes, O’Malley said only “Stay involved. … I encourage you to continue to advance your cause.”