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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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That is the Dems for you. More interested in celbrating victory over the Republicans (MD) or in trashing them for an election issue (VA) than doing the peoples work or saving money.

Posted by: Stick | February 26, 2007 8:51 AM

That's right, Stick, and I suppose Erlich was doing the "people's work" festooning his picture all over the state at taxpayer expense.

Posted by: Paul | February 26, 2007 10:44 AM

Illustrative, but merely a drop in the bucket compared to what this administration is up to, abetted by a single-party legislature. The result will be a state with a bloated government, a shrinking economy, and a massive illegal alien population.

Posted by: gitarre | February 26, 2007 10:49 AM

Remember Ehrlich appearing in TV commercials supposedly touting tourism in Maryland (while not saying anything about turist sites)? It is not just the Democrats. Not just the Republicans. It is a perk of power, at taxpayer expense. Let signs just say the people of Maryland welcome you. NO politicians´names, regardless of party. The first politico that proposes this idea will gain goodwill and save the taxpayers money. Official government buildings, including U.S. Embassies around the world, of course do the same thing with photos of the President and VP (and the respective secretary), no matter what party is in power.

Posted by: Steve | February 26, 2007 11:42 AM

No question that feeding gubernatorial egomania is an absurd waste of taxpayer money. (It's funny to imagine O'Malley having follicle envy of Ehrlich.) In this case, however, I would have been more concerned if Maryland had simply thrown away the thousands of maps and had replacements printed at taxpayers' expense. The maps could have been updated not by clipping out the panel, but by printing the O'Malley version of the panel on an office printer and pasting it over the Ehrlich version.

Posted by: Tonio | February 26, 2007 11:55 AM

But "Tonio", that would have required planning. Lets just go with the knee-jerk reaction. 4-8 years will go by in no time.

Posted by: SoMD | February 26, 2007 12:05 PM

Why was Erhlich's family picture on the maps? That's why he lost. He was treating Maryland's tax base as his own personal funds.

Posted by: John Nash | February 26, 2007 12:05 PM

The fact that politicians think its ok to put their names and faces on anything paid for by taxpayers is amazing to me. WHY do they think this is ok? When we elect them, we aren't CROWNING them. Pitiful...

Posted by: jj | February 26, 2007 12:12 PM

Republicans, Democrats, they're all the same. Politician scum. Stories like this will never end. Poll after poll show 95% of voters want the Illegals issue addressed, yet nothing gets done. Is it any wonder that voter turnout is so low?

Posted by: thermowax | February 26, 2007 12:34 PM

Um - I'm all for a nice sticker to apply *OVER* the 'Hurl-Ick' info. That way, you keep the map and ditch the gratuitous "family values" emphasis of the former gov. I also prefer head shots - why the heck do I need to see the gov frolicking or posing with the wife and offspring?

Posted by: Maritza | February 26, 2007 12:56 PM

Glad that O'Malley didn't throw the maps away, but cutting them up is a bit petty. It would be interesting to know just how many Bobby had printed and when.Perhaps there was some method to all this------or he believed he was unbeatable.

Posted by: jmsbh | February 26, 2007 1:00 PM

Never underestimate the ability of any pol regardless of party affiliation to waste tax payer money to inflate their own egos.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 26, 2007 1:23 PM

To: Comrade Fisher
From: The Committee for State Security, Subcommittee on Media

We have become aware of your wildly critical piece in today's New Pravda (f.k.a. The Washington Post website) on Comrade O'Malley. We remind you of the strict instructions issued by this Committee last year--there is to be NO, ABSOLUTELY NO, criticism of the Comrade, his wife, children, or father-in-law. All have served the State selflessly for many years and are beyond reproach.

Your piece should have continued your instructed criticism of the Lackey of the Running Dog Imperialist Bush, Robert Ehrlich, the true enemy of the people. Even though he is no longer Governor your continued criticism of his policies is necessary in order to defer attention being paid while Comrade O'Malley's Commissars continue their efforts to root out other enemies of the people who have occupied the offices of government. Additionally, while the instruments of the people's will change the nature of government to a true Socialist environment there is bound to be disruption; your continued efforts are needed to keep the Workers thinking about advancing the cause of world wide communism and not worrying about Comrade O'Malley's inability to deliver on his campaign promises.

You are also reminded that at no time are you to criticize in any way Comrade O'Malley's repayment of political debts, either monetary or in other fashions, especially the recently discussed acts in favor of the Progressive Worker's Communities (a.k.a., Unions). You are also not to criticize the "apparent" conflicts between his wife's positions and the conflicts with his father-in-law. You are also instructed to be dismissive of any attempts to hold Comrade O'Malley accountable to petty, bourgeois and self-indulgent institutions such as matrimony. The Comrade is a Model New Soviet Man and the paragon of what is to be achieved when the workers of the world have united to overthrow their reactionary oppressors and Wal-Mart.

You are also reminded that the penalty for failure to observe these instructions will be referral by Comrade Downey to the Committee of State Security's apparatus for political reeducation.

Posted by: 20th St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW | February 26, 2007 1:38 PM

While I'd usually agree with you, Mark, I happen to agree with the John Nash posting - Ehrlich undoubtedly wasted millions of taxpayer $ on self-promotion, and in this case I'm all for blacking him out. But let's get rid of the whole practice of sign-naming starting now.

Posted by: Haircut goniff | February 26, 2007 1:51 PM

to overthrow their reactionary oppressors and Wal-Mart. -- C'mon folks this was hilarious! Well done 20th & Penn!

Posted by: Georgetowner | February 26, 2007 2:23 PM

20th and Penn --

Brilliant! Thanks for this perspective! I wish I'd thought of it myself and I wish that if I had I could have done it as well as you did.


Look, they're volunteers. If people want to volunteer to cut up maps, so what?

I think the real bozos here are the volunteers who have nothing better to do with their time. Is this a great and affluent country or what? You can get volunteers for anything these days.

Posted by: KK | February 26, 2007 2:40 PM

20th & Penn: LMAO!!!

Please, please continue to contribute.

Posted by: SoMD | February 26, 2007 2:57 PM

20th & Penn:


Posted by: gitarre | February 26, 2007 3:28 PM

I don't get it. Why are the Erhlich supporters so giddy about the posting from 20th & Penn? Wasting taxpayer money is a serious issue, and former governor Erhlich has just been busted for carelessly putting his family pictures on state documentation as if it were his X-mas cards to be mailed. Why no outrage? I think all these maps need to be reprinted with all references to Erhlich removed and him footing the bill.

Posted by: Joe DiGammo | February 26, 2007 4:03 PM


"Wasting taxpayer money is a serious issue", yes it is, but get your head out of the sand. I don't think Gov. Ehrlich was by any means the first Governor to put his picture on a highway map. As I've posted on this site before, in one of my cars the Maryland MVA map has Harry Hughes' picture on it and the Virginia DOT map has Chuck Robb and his families' picture on it. I believe Gov. Glendenning had his maps redone after he got rid of Francis Anne for the younger model. Talk about a waste of taxpayer money.

Posted by: 20th Street and Pennsylvania Ave., NW | February 26, 2007 4:36 PM

After four years of demonizing Ehrlich, Fisher sure has a lot of nerve to complain when his readers do something like this. Sheesh.

Posted by: k-romulus | February 26, 2007 5:19 PM

Petty, petty, petty. Shame on O'Malley. He can't even get by the general assembly without being petty to Ehrlich.

Posted by: Bryan | February 26, 2007 6:39 PM

I give 20th & Penn credit for the time and effort he put into his elaborate posting, but the basic premise is shaky, at best, just plain wrong-headed, at worst. Marc's original post asks if it is worth tax payer money to black out the Erlich photographic legacy. If there is any implicit criticism, it would have to be directed at the O'Malley administration. We call this healthy scepticism, something that rarely made its way to the pages of Pravda. I ya eto khorosho znayu.

Posted by: Paul | February 27, 2007 10:33 AM

O'malley is an inspiring leader, he's right up there with FDR, and Lincoln. This is not petty at all. O'Malley won his name should be everywhere around MD and Ehrlich's should be wiped out. Kinda like the old Soviet Union days.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 27, 2007 12:02 PM

Actually, a curse on both O'Malley and Ehrlich -- neither party is solely to blame for this one.

When you cross the Wilson or Legion bridges into Virginia, you don't see the governor's name on the sign. (And considering how backward Virginia government normally is -- look at the transportation impasse as proof -- this is one area where the Old Dominion has an edge over Maryland.) This sign stuff probably began with William Donald Schaefer, who plastered his name all over projects in Baltimore when he was mayor and continued the practice in the governorship a la Frank Hague, notorious Jersey City boss.

I wish someone in the Maryland legislature had the cojones to introduce a bill banning such practice by either party, but he or she would probably be laughed out of the state house by both parties' bosses.

Posted by: Vincent | February 27, 2007 12:37 PM

Good point, Vincent. Over the years, Pennsylvania road maps have also pictured the state's governors with their families. It would be a laughable exercise in vanity if taxpayer money wasn't involved.

I am a map fanatic, and I laughed when I saw the post-Frances Hughes road maps from Maryland. Her midlife-crisis hubby was shown with schoolkids one year, and with Lt. Gov. Townsend another year. I suspect the state didn't want visitors to assume that Jennifer Crawford was his daughter.

Posted by: Tonio | February 27, 2007 4:55 PM

My god, O'Malley's people are so petty, but expect no less from backwater Balmorons.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 27, 2007 6:14 PM

Tonio: My freshman year in College Park (spring semester 1974), I took a government and politics course Parris Glendening taught, and Francie was one of my classmates. Even then, you could sense something between them.

Posted by: Vincent | February 28, 2007 10:26 AM

Vincent, was Parris married at the time? Even though college students are adults and Glendening isn't Letourneau, there is something skeevy about a teacher trolling the student body for dates.

Posted by: Tonio | March 1, 2007 2:02 PM

The boomers never grew up--they act like children and the one's in power act like spoiled children.

Posted by: Chris | March 5, 2007 4:39 PM

sorry that's "ones" not "one's"

Posted by: Chris | March 5, 2007 4:41 PM

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