Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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Some people will get a chance to relive the disturbing slaying and dismemberment of Martha Crutchley and Joshua Ford at the hands of Erika and Benjamin Sifrit this weekend. The investigation and the case in general will be featured on the Oxygen Network’s show “Snapped,” which details cases of females accused of murder that seemingly flew off the handle and killed for no reason at all. This would be an interesting episode to watch, but the bad news is Comcast subscribers do not get the Oxygen network. After flipping through the 500 or so channels available on my digital cable box at home, I called the cable provider to find out if I was simply missing it. A spokesman for the cable provider told me this week the network is not available and my best bet would be to go online and watch it.

Krista Ruggles and Jermaine Wright are household names for some of us around here. Wright murdered Ruggles after the two met at an Ocean City club back in 1995. This was the first murder I was ever involved in covering, and many people involved in the case still remember it well today. Wright reportedly strangled and sodomized Ruggles before dumping her body outside of Ocean City on a side road. State’s Attorney Joel Todd said in an interview with me in 2006 he would never forget the case and the circumstances that surrounded it from the beginning of the investigation to the disappointing outcome. After being convicted and initially being sentenced to life in jail in 1999, the case was overturned because the jury reportedly was mistakenly given a news account detailing Wright’s three previous sex assault convictions. When it came time for a second trial in 2001, Wright struck a plea bargain with the state that earned him just 15 years in prison for the brutal murder of the teenaged woman from Pennsylvania.  According to the Altoona Mirror, Wright’s sentence has been reduced because of good behavior and he will be released Feb. 8, less than seven years after the plea bargain was reached.  The disappointing as well as disturbing aspect of this case continues.

Employee compensation is a lot like taxes in that decreasing them is almost unheard of in this country. That’s why it was startling to hear an Anne Arundel County Republican has proposed a way to consider reducing his and his colleagues’ pay. Currently, legislators make in the neighborhood of $43,500 to $56,500 per year. In many cases, that’s for a 90-day legislative session, but many officials would say the scope of their work goes far beyond just the legislature’s time in Annapolis. The senator says he’s not requesting or even suggesting lawmakers’ pay be lowered. He merely wants the law that stipulates salaries can only be raised (or lowered) every four years be changed. He said it should be on the table for discussion with all the tax increases being weighed. In 2006, legislators denied a wage increase. In 2002, a 30-plus percent raise was authorized. Insiders say the bill has no chance of passing, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

There’s a major lobbying effort underway to kill the so-called “Tech Tax.” The Maryland Chamber of Commerce is leading the way and the Ocean City Chamber is pitching in to help. In a message on its website, the Maryland chamber expresses its position. “Regardless of company size or industry sector, Maryland businesses rely on computer services to compete. Imposing a 6-percent sales tax on computer services like web design, network maintenance and custom programming is bad public policy,” the statement read. That’s true.

It didn’t take long for the first major accident to back up traffic on Route 90. As one reader wrote in an email this week, “since there was no way for me to get home because all points to Ocean City was blocked, I had to sit in traffic and miss the first quarter of the NFL playoff game.” That’s too bad, but I don’t think that’s exactly going to make the state roads guy reconsider their decision to shut down the Route 50 Bridge for a month or even speed up the work.

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