The following letter was sent from Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc. Parade Chairman Michael I. Blum as a rebuttal to Del. Pat McDonough’s letter:
To the Editor:
The Bel Air July 4 parade is a non-sectarian, patriotic event, celebrating what is best about our country. All participants in the parade sign a contract in advance in which they specifically agree not to display any signs promoting a cause or issue, and not to campaign for office, or electioneer. Furthermore, each participant in our parade also agrees in advance in writing to obey all commands of the parade marshals, and agrees that failure to so do will subject the participant to immediate ejection from the parade.
These rules have been in place for decades — long before I became parade chairman in 1992 — and have been vigorously enforced every year, to the best of our marshals’ ability. These rules are non-sectarian, and have been observed by Republicans, Democrats, Independents — hundreds of high-minded individuals — without demur. We have been vigilant in enforcing them, too: against Republicans, Democrats, Independents — because they are the rules!
Our parade marshals are charged with carefully reviewing all parade units to make sure they are consistent with the rules. As the chief marshal, I also have to enforce the rules. It does not matter if a sign says “Break Up the USA,” “Vote for Me in 2010,” or “Speak English” — all such signs are treated the same. They violate the rules.
In fact, in every one of our parades, many elected officials gladly and willingly remove their campaign signs, or cover them up, just for us, because of this. This was very much the case last evening, with many of our elected officials. I respect and admire these people greatly — they are the best examples of dedicated public servants. Those who played by these rules and covered up or removed campaign signs included Harford County Councilperson Jim McMahan, Maryland State Delegate Susan McComas and Maryland State Senator Andy Harris. They believe in “playing by the rules” — particularly the rules they agreed in advance to honor.
It is regrettable that McDonough did not act in the same way. He greeted my request to remove his sign with obscene disrespect. He did not (and obviously still does not) understand that my role is to make sure everyone does what he or she has agreed in advance to do. I believe that we can judge a person by just that — does he or she do what he promised? Pat McDonough promised to obey the rules. When put to it, he refused to do so. By this egregious misconduct McDonough insulted the hundreds of volunteers who had worked for weeks to organize and manage the Bel Air parade, and he insulted the tens of thousands of spectators who have the right to expect their elected officials to keep their word.
Yours most respectfully,
Michael I. Blum
Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc.