Chesapeake Bay's Independent Newspaper ~ Since 1993
1629 Forest Drive, Annapolis, MD 21403 ~ 410-626-9888

Volume xviii, Issue 2 ~ January 14 - January 20, 2010

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Mad at Government?

Tell the Legislature

I’ve just celebrated Russian Christmas in the home of Peter and Helen Perry, which is so deep in the Patuxent River woods that five-point stags peer into the windows. Helen’s embrace of the season extends beyond banquets of good food — heavy on caviar and vodka — to as many seasonal icons as she can find and fit in. One alcove holds an illuminated village of homes, shops and observatories (Peter is an astronomer and rocket scientist) set so you can peer in and imagine the life inside.

Each annual visit refreshes my vision of Chesapeake Country as just such a village, bound together under the same piece of sky by the dynamic geography of our Bay alcove and our shared interests.

Peer into our big Chesapeake village, and you’ll find life speeding up in one particular neighborhood.

The Maryland legislature has just opened for business in Annapolis, bringing to town a buzz of activity as frenetic as another of Helen’s villages: her electric circus where many rides rock and roll in their separate orbits, bells clanging and whistles blowing.

The week or so leading to the January 13 opening of the Assembly resembled Mardi Gras, with rounds of parties dedicated to raising money so legislators can afford to run their campaigns for reelection, which is the political circus scheduled for the second half of this year. Like Mardi Gras’ Fat Tuesday, the parties lead to a long stretch of serious business. Lent is a six-week season of discipline and fasting, and the 90-day session of our General Assembly forbids fundraising by our Annapolis politicians.

As our lawmakers get down to the public business, it’s you who have their ears.

Do you worry that the big political contributors — business and industry, labor, education and health services, even environmental activists — have special influence over politicians? Not only do these lobbies donate to political campaigns; they also keep in touch with politicians — in person, by phone and by email — to present educated arguments in support of their causes.

Now’s your chance to make the same contacts, by yourself and through the organizations that support your causes.

Lobbying your lawmakers won’t cost you a dime, either. But influencing your future will cost you in time.

First, you’ve got to get educated.

Lawmaking is specialized business. Crafting the means to get to ends that do us good is like rocket science to most of us. That’s why hooking up with groups that share your interest — for environmental interests alone there are hundreds — is like going to college for learning how to make policy work for you. The 16th Annual Environmental Summit coming up on January 26 (5-7:30pm at St. John’s College Key Auditorium, Annapolis: www.cbf.org/2010mels) is a good start in getting educated and one that will take you to Step 2.

Second, you’ve got to reach out.

Lawmakers want to hear from you. By telephone, by email, by letter, in person (though the Maryland capital complex has no public parking), your words, they say, direct their vote.

In the words of Del. Maggie McIntosh, chairwoman of the House Environmental Matters committee, “You bet I listen when get 50 calls or emails on an issue — particularly from the people in my district.”

All politics is not only local; it’s personal. Tell me who you are, advises Mike Miller, the president of the Maryland Senate and the senator for much of Calvert County. “Say where I met you. Leave a detailed message” or a written statement of what you believe and why, including how it affects your life, he further advises.

This web page is your best link to Maryland lawmakers: www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/07leg/html/ga.html.

The Editor Is In

Make 2010 the year you encounter your inner storyteller. The editor is in to meet aspiring Bay Weekly writers from 4 to 6pm on three January Thursdays: January 7, 14 and 21. Call early for your 15-minute appointment: 410-626-9888. Or, if you don’t mind a wait, drop in.

Sandra Olivetti Martin

editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

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from the Editor