Your Tax Dollars At Work: Blacking Out Bobby Haircut
When a governor takes office, almost before the new guy has sworn to uphold the state constitution, the signs alongside the Interstate highway are changed: The old governor's name is taken down and the new boss takes on the duties of welcoming travelers to, say, Maryland.
Whatever the cost of replacing names on billboards all across the state, the practice is a commonplace and the taxpayer has to eat it. But now Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration has taken this official erasing of the other guy to a new extreme. A volunteer who works at the information desk at BWI Airport has sent along copies of the before and after versions of the 2006 MTA Visitors Guide, a pamphlet that shows tourists how to get around Baltimore.
Published by the state transit administration, the guide included a listing of top state officials in small type on the back of the folder, as well as an introductory note from Gov. Robert Ehrlich welcoming visitors to the state and recommending that they take advantage of Maryland's buses, subway and commuter rail. The welcome note appears under a color photo of Gov. Bobby Haircut, his lovely wife and their two children posing in front of the Governor's Mansion in Annapolis.
But when O'Malley took over the top job, volunteers at the airport were instructed first to toss out all copies of the Visitors Guide, and then, perhaps in a fit of anxiety over what might happen if thousands of perfectly good maps were found in the dumpster, to continue distributing the guides, but only after blacking out the names of Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, and clipping out the entire panel of the fold-out guide on which the Ehrlich photo and letter appeared. Never mind that the flip side of that panel included the directions for getting to the American Visionary Art Museum (my fave!), the Babe Ruth Museum, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. I've seen smoother exercises in censorship coming from the clods at the East German Stasi state security apparatus.
There is, of course, no good reason why a governor's name needs to be on the Welcome signs on the Interstates, but fine, it's a reasonably harmless bit of self-promotion. This, however, is such a petty and small-minded little display of pique. If the new administration wants to put its name on the next edition of the map, go right ahead, it's part of the great American tradition of flackery. But asking volunteers to sit there and scratch out the other guy's name and clip out his picture is a bit much, no?
By Marc Fisher |
February 26, 2007; 7:59 AM ET
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