CECIL CHATTER: Polls, Free Lunches and “Green Bags”

February 20, 2011

Poll on Same-Sex Marriage: What’s the Question?

Opponents of the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland recently commissioned a poll which they claim shows a significant majority of voters oppose legalization. But the questions they say were asked are not the same questions that this reporter was asked when a pollster said to be representing the same organization called our home phone.

The National Organization for Marriage states its poll of 600 registered voters found that respondents opposed legalization by a margin of 54-37. The group also states that 78 percent of respondents wanted voters, not the General Assembly, to decide the issue. (See NOM’s press release with details of its poll here:

The yes-or-no questions we were asked were different from the more open-ended questions listed on the press release that would have elicited what’s called in the polling world “volunteered” answers. Anyone who has spent time dealing with polls—as we did in our previous life supervising poll reporting for the Baltimore Sun—knows that how you ask a question can influence the outcome.

In its statement, NOM and its pollster say that those surveyed were asked, “As far as you personally are concerned, should marriage be between a man and a woman, or should it also be available to same-sex couples?” That question would have elicited a ‘volunteered’ answer, picking one option or the other, with perhaps some additional comments.

But the pollster, who identified the NOM as the entity that had commissioned the poll, asked us a yes-or-no question including essentially just the first half of the question above. We did not tape record the poll questions asked on the phone—which would be illegal under Maryland law. So the question we got was, essentially, whether we thought marriage should be limited to a man and a woman. Yes or no.

We also were not asked an open ended question about the process of General Assembly action versus voters deciding in a referendum. But we were asked demographic questions that seemed to be seeking voters age 50 or older.

Opposition to same-sex marriage has generally been found to be stronger among older voters.

One question the pollster didn’t ask: are you a news editor or writer. Maybe the next time they will, so the poll-ees don’t poll and tell.

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Annapolis is a Food-Fest, Del. Jacobs Reports

Newly elected Del. Jay Jacobs (R-36) from Kent County is getting into the swing of things in Annapolis, he reports on Facebook, and that includes lots of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and receptions with lots of food provided by groups seeking to make their pitch to legislators.

Reporting on his schedule, Tuesday was quite a caloric day, with lunch provided by Frederick County and its Chamber of Commerce. Then there were the evening receptions hosted by the Council of Shopping Centers and representatives of credit unions.

Wednesday had lots of opportunities to pack on the pounds. Breakfast was with Cecil County Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2), who has been acting as the commissioners’ liaison on legislative issues. Then there was lunch, “provided by the American Institute of Architects,” followed by a wine tasting later in the day sponsored by the association representing Maryland wineries. “I attended but did not taste,” Jacobs dutifully reported. Then he was off to a birthday party for Sen. Richard Colburn—but he didn’t say if he ate any birthday cake.

Thursday’s munching began with breakfast with the Asphalt Association, then a “taste of the Eastern Shore” event and two receptions, followed by a committee dinner with the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers. Friday was a dieting day, with just a lunch with visiting mayors.

By the time he got back to Rock Hall for the weekend, Jacobs must have been ready for two days of low-fat cottage cheese and salads—hold the dressing.

A number of years ago, state ethics rules were tightened to sharply limit private dinners between lobbyists and lawmakers so group dinners and big receptions are now the norm in Annapolis. Members get some food along with an earful from the hosts on their concerns and issues. Any legislator who pays for his/her own meals must have severe food allergies.

Food aside, Jacobs’ report on his week is a refreshing and illuminating account of his busy schedule and gives constituents useful insights into the gamut of issues he is dealing with. Unlike some of the Internet postings of his Dist. 36 colleagues, there wasn’t an ounce of posturing, overblown rhetoric or sharp partisan attacks. Just a morning-‘til-night diary of “a fast pace we are all on in Annapolis,” as he wrote.

We look forward to reading more of Jacob’s reports and by the end of session perhaps he can do some ratings of which groups serve the best food.

[Link to Jacobs’ Notes on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/notes/jay-jacobs/last-week-in-annapolis-february-7-through-11-with-delegate-jay-jacobs/10150131954546043

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“Green Bag” Appointee from Cecil County for “Green” Panel

Gov. Martin O’Malley issued the annual list of “green bag” appointees several days ago to various state commissions, advisory and regulatory panels, and local posts such as school boards and community college trustees. The list draws its name from the tradition of placing the names into a green bag and presenting it to the state Senate, which confirms appointments.

The bag included 191 appointees, according to the governor’s office, and was touted as representing all areas of the state. But on the entire list, there was just one name from Cecil County: Carol Collins, who was reappointed to the “Clean Energy Center” board of directors.

The Center was created in 2008 to promote clean energy technology and create jobs in the new “green economy.” Collins has an extensive resume in energy technology and environmental cleanups, including work in New Jersey’s wind and biomass Clean Energy Program. Collins has also created a business, Spiralcat, which specializes in high tech systems to recycle useful products from wastes. (See link here: http://mdcleanenergy.org/about_us/board

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