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LOCAL Commentary :: Activism : Baltimore MD : Economy : Protest Activity

Protesters Rip Gov. Martin O'Malley for Broken Promises

As a result of deregulation, electric rates are going through the ceiling in Maryland. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s promises to “protect” the public have turned out to be lies. Protesters showed up at the governor’s mansion on June 23, 2007, to demand a “Special Session” of the legislature and for reregulation. Maria Allwine said the people are being “Enroned!” Leo Burroughs, Jr. said: “An injustice of the highest order” is being perpetrated.
leo burroughs jr.jpg
“If I’m elected, I will fire [the] PSC and replace them with...members who will ‘protect’ the public.” - Martin O’Malley

Annapolis, MD - During his campaign, in 2006, for the office of governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, repeatedly promised the voters that if he were elected he would do something to stop the huge Baltimore Gas & Electric/Constellation Energy electric rate hike, which was then set to go into effect on June 1, 2007. (1) After he got elected, however, he did nothing! The new Public Service Commission (PSC) that he appointed just rubber-stamped a rate increase of 50 percent. As a result, on June 23, 2007, demonstrators opposed to any rate hikes descended on the governor’s mansion in this city to make their voices heard. Despite a projected $1.5 billion state deficit, Gov. O’Malley has also taken on the role of chair, in Maryland, of Sen. Hillary “War Lite” Clinton’s presidential campaign. He also went up to New Hampshire on her behalf. One Maryland lawmaker, Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell, demanded O’Malley cut out “the road show” and do some “heavy lifting” on the state’s many “problems.” (2)

Over 50 activists staged a rally opposite the governor’s mansion, at Lawyers’ Mall, under a hot sun. Most carried signs and posters and a few chanted anti-O’Malley/BG&E slogans. One of the protesters was Leo Burroughs, Jr., the chairperson of the “Maryland Coalition to Stop the BG&E Rate Hike.” He said: “We are not going to be manipulated...or taken advantage of by those who should be serving the best interests of working people and poor people in the state of Maryland...Reregulation is what we are all about...We want a ceiling to be placed on energy cost...We are not going to be anybody’s victim.” He described Gov. O’Malley’s failure to keep his promises over the BG&E rate increase and the deregulation mess as “an injustice of the highest order.”

Background: The Baltimore Gas & Electric Company (BG&E) is now a subsidiary of a parent organization, Constellation Energy. 1.3 million Marylanders’ electric bills will rise by hundreds of dollars this year! Why? Well, because in 1999, the Democratic-dominated General Assembly of Maryland voted in a sweetheart deal to deregulate the industry after a six-year rate freeze. That screw-the-rate-payer scheme was orchestrated by the powerful State Senate President, Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr. (D-PG CO.) (3) He is a crony of O’Malley. Miller’s ego is so massive that Camden Yards isn’t big enough to hold it. He makes the camera-mugging O’Malley look like an acolyte of St. Francis of Assisi. Miller also insisted that the State Senate Office building in Annapolis, a sprawling, multimillion dollar edifice, be named after himself. In the old days, such grandiose rituals were reserved for dead politicos.

Rotten Politics 101: The Democratic leadership in Maryland has been playing games with deregulation. As pundit, Blair Lee, put it: “The Democrats caused the 72 percent increase by deregulating the industry...[which then] took rate-setting away from the PSC.” Since 2006 was a state election year, the Democrats needed a “scapegoat.” They found him: the Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich. Lee added: “If the voters figured out that Democratic deregulation caused this mess--there would be hell to pay at the polls. Ehrlich might even get reelected!” Thus, “the big lie” from the Miller-O’Malley Propaganda Machine--It’s all Ehrlich’s fault. He’s “too cozy” with the BG&E, PSC boy-ohs. (3) The strategy worked. The Miller-O’Malley Cabal now firmly controls the state government. To prove it, O’Malley has begun firing state employees for purely “political reasons,” according to a recent decision of an administrative law judge. One contract employee, who was cruelly axed was suffering “with cancer,” and another was “five months pregnant...and lost her health insurance.” (4) Today, the Sun reported at least “78” employees were purged.

Maria Allwine, also with the Anti-Rate Hike Coalition, said: “This issue with BG&E is [an]...example of why we need a revolution in this country. It has to start with us, right here...We have been ‘Enroned’ in this state. Make no mistake about...We are being ripped off [by O’Malley, BG&E/Constellation] and it’s legal!...We need our own publicly owned utility, like Hagerstown’s.”

This is the same Gov. O’Malley who recently vetoed a laudable General Assembly measure which would have opened up the possibility of parole for low-level drug dealers, i.e., “the dealer-users, not the drug kingpin.” Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun wrote on May 20, 2007: “O’Malley appeared [during the gubernatorial campaign] to support parole for these offenders after a couple of years behind bars...The change would have applied ‘only’ to nonviolent offenders...drug addicts who sell dope to maintain his own habit.” It costs Maryland taxpayers $24,000 a year to house an inmate. Jason Ziedenberg of the Justice Policy Institute called O’Malley’s veto: “A failure of leadership.” Rodricks emphasized that the state’s prison population, as a result of the draconian ten year manatory-mimimum-drug-related sentencing policy, has tripled “since 1980.”

Activist Chris Bush told the crowd: “We are being stolen from.” He accused Gov. O’Malley of lying to the voters. Mr. Bush demanded that he call a “Special Session” of the legislature. He reminded Gov. O’Malley, as he shouted towards the mansion, that he represents “the people” of the state, and not the “stockholders” of Constellation/BG&E. Alex Bennett said that it is time to “organize society” around the way we want it to be and to begin “taking care of the needs of the people first.” Rob Savidge said that what we are lacking under deregulation are both “social justice and grass roots democracy,” values which are championed “by Maryland’s Green Party.” Steven Ceci said: “Energy and gas and electric should be a people’s right.” He added the people have to “reorganized...continue to protest in their face.”

Back to deregulation: BG&E is now out of the electric-generating business. It transferred its valuable assets to its parent company, Constellation Energy. This now requires BG&E to purchase its electricity on the open market, including, strangely, buying it from Constellation Energy! Keep in mind, that there were some so-called “liberal” members of the Legislature who voted for this boondoggle. From Baltimore City, that list included Delegates Sandy Rosenberg (41-D) and Maggie McIntosh (43-D). McIntosh has close political ties to U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), who has approved wasting $437.4 billions on the war in Iraq and is a knee-jerk supporter of the Bush-Cheney Gang’s insane “Surge” ploy. As I write, 3558 U.S. troops have died in the conflict. Mikulski, like Gov. O’Malley, has endorsed “War Lite” Hillary for president.

Gov. O’Malley recently crafted a $57 million fund to aid rate payers. But, the Anti-Rate Hike Coalition, in its press release, denounced that offering as: “Nothing more than welfare.” They labeled the June 1st increase as “unjust and unwarranted.”

Meanwhile, the General Assembly can begin to reclaim its reputation by urging the state’s new Attorney General, the Hon. Doug Gansler, to join in a class action lawsuit challenging, under federal law, its own ill-advised decision to permit the deregulation of the industry. (5) Joe Curran, the then-Attorney General, and MD’s Gov. Martin O’Malley’s father-in-law, refused to participate in that important case. On top of that, Curran’ son, J. Joseph “Max” Curran, III, O’Malley’s brother-in-law, has just taken a job as an attorney/lobbyist for the high-powered D.C.-based firm of Saul Ewing LLP. He was assigned to its--“Utility Practice Group!” (6)

Also speaking at the rally was Alderman Samuel E. Shropshire (Ward 7) of the City of Annapolis. He said that BG&E representatives had “lied to the Annapolis City Council. They deliberately mislead us” about the nature and the extent of the rate hikes. The Alderman said that he would be pleased to introduce a Resolution in the City Council calling for “reregulation” of the electric industry in the state. Nnamdi Lumumba served as the M.C. for the spirited event and did a terrific job moving the program along. Marion Flood opened up the rally with a prayer. Rita Collins and Lylydia Stokes also spoke at the protest action.

Finally, it is long past the time for the people to wake-up and take back their power. Tomorrow may be too late! If the state of Virginia can reregulate its electric industry, why can’t Maryland?


2. Baltimore Sun, 06/03/07, “O’Malley Hits Road...for Clinton.”
3., June 1, 2007, Blair Lee, “Who’s Too Cozy?”
4. Baltimore Sun, “Mid-Level Firings Irk GOP,” 06/15/07.
6. Baltimore Sun, 05/30/07, “Name Sounds Familiar,” L. Vozzela.

William Hughes is an author and columnist. His videos can be found at:
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