Bland: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Since I write a blog that focuses on the County from the perspective of a resident in District 9, I could not resist the opportunity to talk about the recent assault charges filed against Democrat Marilynn Bland, our very own County Council representative. To many of us in District 9, the allegations are unsurprising and entirely believable. It corresponds with everything we already know about how she treats others, and lines up with her character and reputation. The only question to be resolved, at this point, is whether she will have to be accountable for her actions. Based on what has happened in the past, she’ll continue to get a “slap on the wrist” and it shouldn’t hurt her too much.
Yesterday’s report of charges against Ms. Bland got me thinking, however, about the good, bad, and ugly news for all of us. The silver lining for District 9 is that she will no longer be representing us on Council, where she was known to advocate for developers, ignore constituents, and walk out of Council meetings when she was challenged about her actions. I personally experienced how she treats constituents shortly after I moved to Prince George’s County, when I attended a Women’s Democratic Club meeting and had the opportunity to meet her. I introduced myself and informed her that I was a new resident who was eager to make a positive contribution where I lived. She quickly handed me her card, told me to call her office, and brushed me aside. I called her office and e-mailed her directly several times, but never received any response. Over time, I learned that I shouldn’t have been insulted by the lack of response from her office, because that was how she treated many of her constituents in District 9.
When I worked on the campaign trail this past summer, most residents grimaced when we talked about Bland’s representation on Council, because she also has a proven track record of unethical behavior, like charging her family’s Disneyland trip on a government credit card, allegedly plagiarizing parts of her thesis to obtain her doctorate degree, and being named as part of a pay-to-play scheme carried out by County Council members just a few months ago. Though many believe she may also be tied to the corruption investigation in which the Johnsons were arrested on November 12, I just do not believe Bland is smart enough to be trusted with a significant role in a widespread scheme of this magnitude.
The bad news for all of us is that she will continue representing us as the new Clerk of the Circuit Court. Despite lacking clear qualifications for the job, voters elected her to carry out important county responsibilities. There is no doubt in my mind that she will use her position to continue abusing her power as an elected official. I’m not sure what kind of damage she can do, but I’m sure she’ll find a way to exert influence and misuse the privileges of her office, as she has always done.
The ugly news for all of us is that a person like Marilynn Bland who has consistently served under the shadow of corrupt behavior and questionable ethics is probably just biding her time as Clerk of the Circuit Court until she can run for higher office, such at the State Senate seat that Mike Miller currently holds but says he will retire from in 2014. No matter what she’s done to alienate people in her district, they voted for her to serve two terms on the School Board, two terms on County Council, and now serving countywide as Clerk. More than 5,000 District 9 residents voted for her in 2006. Will the 5,000 Bland voters please stand up? I haven’t met any of you yet! More voters cast their ballot for other Council candidates than for Bland in 2006, but as long as she can count on her people to get out the vote for her in the district, and split up all other voters among the opposition, she’ll be our “public” servant for the long haul. We need to come together to stop it, but that will require a vast grassroots effort to inform and engage the voters, and I’m not sure we are at the point where this is “mission possible.”