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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

A look back at my work with the LGBTQ community. I first became active in the gay rights movement in 1980 when I launched my LGBTQ jo...

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Zany ‘Godspell’ Brings Teachable Moments to Toby’s

Godspell has been around for 50 years, but the musical’s message of love, kindness, tolerance and loyalty is timeless.  The high energy, entertaining production of this classic musical now playing at Toby’s Dinner Theatre, has been clearly modernized to reach a contemporary audience.

From the opening Prologue when the 10-person cast all use smartphones as props to many modern references including lampooning popular game shows, TV series and even Donald Trump, you knew you were not in 1971 when the production had opened off Broadway.  

Based on the Gospel of Matthew, the show is a mixture of Scripture parables as told by Jesus loosely tied together with an eclectic array of songs, such as rock, pop, folk and vaudevillian, and dance.   Yes, there is Jesus (played superbly by Justin Calhoun) and John the Baptist/Judas (played splendidly by Shane Lowry).

However, the other eight characters, who all remain on the stage throughout the production as do the aforementioned ones, will not be found in any version of the Bible. In fact, the performers are assigned their own names rather than biblical or even fictional ones.  They comprise an eccentric collection of comical folks, decked out in everyday street clothes, all with different personalities, who work with Jesus to present lessons through parodies of pop culture and politics. These moments elicit most of the laughs in the show—not the lessons themselves but the manner in which they are conveyed.

For example, Toby’s veteran Jeffrey Shankle delivers hilarious impersonations during these sequences with none better than that of Donald Trump when the topic of taxes comes up.

Though enjoyable, Godspell seems to be searching for an identity. In many places the show features full-on comedy with vaudevillian shtick, slapstick, corniness and other high-jinks especially during the first act. In other parts, serious messaging, teachable moments from Jesus and, of course, the tragic ending of Jesus’ life on Earth contribute to a noticeable change in mood. Sometimes, the solemn and virtuous lessons can be overwhelmed and distracted by the comedy.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz who went on to pen Pippin and Wicked, and a book by John-Michael Tebelak, Godspell whose most well-known song “Day By Day,” has become a staple of high school and community theatre as well as numerous professional mountings, revivals and tours since its debut.

Co-Directors Mark Minnick and David James—both Helen Hayes Award recipients—masterfully guide the performers and technical crew in a cohesive, fast-paced production. Mr. Minnick also choreographed the production and deftly arranged dance numbers in a tighter than normal area of the in-the-round stage because of the set pieces that remained onstage throughout. 

The performers are called on to dance, ride a bicycle and move about navigating and weaving around these set pieces that include benches, bleachers, lamp posts, and a swing while staying in synch with the music, which was ably performed by conductor Ross Scott Rawlings and his 4-piece orchestra. (Nathan Scavilla conducts in other performances. )

So much was this orchestra integrated into the show that it was actually visible to the audience whereas in most other Toby’s productions they are concealed by a curtain in the upper level. Mr. Rawlings even briefly participated in one of the parable games from his perch.

As Jesus, handsome Justin Calhoun is masterful on many levels. Mr. Calhoun lights up the stage with charisma and energy, and his beautiful tenor voice soars in “Save the People,” “All the Best” and “Alas for You.”

In a simply dazzling performance of a challenging dialogue-heavy role, Mr. Calhoun, showcases his versatility to the delight of the audience.  Aside from his excellent vocals, he dances with precision and clearly seems to enjoy himself while doing so. He also demonstrates his athleticism by using a jump rope while singing and manages to juggle two basketballs. Mr. Calhoun’s comedic lines are delivered with gusto, and when called upon in dramatic moments like when he is experiencing self-doubt, he pulls that off as well.

"Mr. Calhoun lights up the stage with charisma and energy..."

And boy does his character show patience! Trying to earnestly teach the Gospel, Jesus must overcome the rowdiness, unruliness, and smart-alecky behavior of the troupe. Mr. Calhoun demonstrates the right balance of exasperation but mainly patience as he plows through the distractions.

Shane Lowry does a fine job in portraying John and then Judas. As John the Baptist, he is Jesus’ most loyal fan and most fervent disciple. Later as Judas, Mr. Lowry further puts his acting skills on display as a doubter and then a rebel leading to the climactic conclusion. He dances smoothly and sings ably in “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” and “All for the Best.”

Each of the talented company members has a chance to shine and lead off a song with the rest of the company joining in. Janine Sunday sings the show’s popular number “Day By Day” with a sparkling-clear, lovely voice.  Crystal Freeman delivers a powerful and emotional performance in “O, Bless the Lord, My Soul”—one of the show’s standouts.

Rounding out the excellent female cast are Heather Beck (“Light of the World,” “Turn Back, O Man,” “On the Willows”), MaryKate Brouillet (“By My Side” with Janine Sunday) and Tina Marie DeSimone (“Learn Your Lessons Well”)—all exceptional performers through voice, dancing and comedy.

DeCarlo Raspberry, showcasing his powerful vocals, is sensational in his moving rendition of “All Good Gifts.” It is another standout performance.

Jeffrey Shankle and David James are always high camp in Toby’s productions, and Godspell is no exception. They are hilarious throughout with their antics and comedic lines. But as many Toby’s patrons know, they can also sing quite well.

Mr. Shankle is outstanding in “We Beseech Thee” and “On the Willows.” Mr. James performs nicely with Heather Beck in “Light of the World” and “Turn Back, O Man,”   

The technical crew is proficient in contributing to the success of this production. David A. Hopkins who also designed the simple and functional set does a superb job with the lighting effects especially in the second act. John Pantaziz’s sound design is also spot-on.

Godspell at Toby’s is a quality production aided by superb direction, strong technical elements and a lively, talented cast.   The musical provides teachable moments that convey timeless messages of love and kindness and delivers high energy performances, lots of laughs and joyful music.

It also has a bit of history with Toby’s as it was the first show on Toby’s stage 41 years ago. Toby Orenstein, the owner and artistic director of Toby’s, dedicated this revival production to the memory of James W. Rouse who founded the city of Columbia by bringing people together as is the message of Godspell.

Running time. Two hours and 15 minutes with an intermission.

Godspell plays through October 31 at Toby’s Dinner Theatre, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, MD 21044.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the Box Office 410-730-8311 or visiting Toby's website as well as Ticketmaster

Toby’s website also contains the theater’s updated Covid-19 policies and protocols that are in place to ensure the health and safety of the employees and patrons including the requirement that proof of Covid-19 vaccination must be presented or proof a negative Covid-19 test taken with 72 hours of the performance.

Justin Calhoun shines as Jesus in Godspell

Photos by Jeri Tidwell Photography

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Landing the Bad Boy: A Review of ‘I Alone Can Fix It’

The year 2020 will be remembered for three major events: the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd that sparked protests and unrest, and the general election.

Globally the pandemic was and continues to be an insidious health crisis resulting in millions of lives lost. In addition, the U.S. confronted once again the quest for racial justice with a demand for reform in how the police interact with people of color. And the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, the election itself and the tumultuous aftermath placed the United States at the precipice of losing its democratic traditions and democracy itself.

At the heart of these events, President Donald Trump played a key and massive role in how the country would respond to the first two crises and how he literally created the third one.  All were dangerous.

In their book, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year, Pulitzer Prize winning reporters from the Washington Post Carol Leonnig and Phillip Rucker present a chilling and at times horrifying account of how President Trump mishandled, exacerbated or created these crises. The title is derived from a statement President-elect Trump gave at the Republican National Convention in 2016 whereby he told his faithful that nobody knows the system better than he does, and, therefore, “I alone can fix it.”

In their previous best seller in 2020, the authors used another well-known Trump phrase, “A Very Stable Genius” as their title. Should they pen additional books about this presidency, there is a plethora of Trump phrases to draw from.

Speaking of lifting phrases, I used the title of this review from a chapter title “Landing the Bad Boy” later in the book.  Referring to the drama, frayed nerves and mounting fears leading up to the 2021 inauguration and the determination to have a peaceful transition of power, one senior official was quoted in the book as saying, “We’ve got an aircraft, our landing gear is stuck, we’ve got one engine, and we’re out of fuel. We’ve got to land this bad boy.”

Keeping to a chronological format, Ms. Leonnig and Mr. Rucker present the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Trump administration as it courses through its fourth year beginning with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic through the inauguration of Joe Biden.

While many of us have witnessed Trump’s behavior and character flaws in real time through his tweets, press briefings, appearances on Fox News and other platforms and have read previous accounts of his presidency and personality in other books, I Alone Can Fix It offers a chronicle that stems not from a single person or a few persons but dozens of eyewitnesses to history being made before their very eyes (and ears).

The authors gleaned from hundreds of hours of interviews with more than 140 sources including those at the highest levels of the Trump administration. Various sources spoke on the record while others spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity as the authors note, “to share private accounts of moments that profoundly challenged or shook them, to protect future careers, or to fend off retaliation from Trump or his allies.” Some of the information stemmed from the authors' own reporting for the Washington Post as well as that of other journalists.

And as Pulitzer Prize journalists do as a matter of routine, they fact-checked and verified the accounts from their sources. There are scores of referenced notes to back up the accounts. In other words, what is portrayed in I Alone Can Fix It is extremely credible. The authors do not offer their own opinions; they present these accounts often from people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Throughout the book, Trump’s well-documented personality defects are exposed, again not by the authors themselves but by the subjects of their interviews. His ever-frequent demonstrations of victimhood, grievance, oversized ego, narcissism, inability to tell the truth, lack of empathy and revenge supplement the narrative. Trump’s transactional nature is his state of nature. He saw the COVID crisis as more of a threat to his re-election than the public health crisis it truly is. Everything, and I mean everything, was seen through the lens of his political fortunes.

The book highlights Trump’s interactions with his underlings and advisors, such as Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley. He had strained relationships with Dr. Deborah Birx, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Alex Azar among others on the pandemic front. They didn’t buy into Trump’s happy talk about the virus magically disappearing. However, the book contains praise for Trump on pushing for the accelerated manufacturing of a vaccine while there were scathing condemnations on everything else related to the president’s handling of the pandemic.

Trump’s relationship with AG William Barr was solid until Barr refused to relent on Trump’s demands to send federal troops to respond to Black Lives Matter protesters. And it worsened when Barr would not pressure certain states to review the results of their elections. Despite a fawning, disgraceful ass-kiss of a resignation letter to Trump, Barr was on the outs.

The same could be said for the four years of servitude and sychophancy by Vice President Mike Pence. His refusal to reject the certification of the Electoral College tallies led to a chilly end to their relationship. During the siege on January 6, Trump never inquired about the safety of Pence after he attacked him on Twitter during the insurrection.

The dynamics between Milley and Trump were almost a core part of the book. Milley was determined to not permit the military to be deployed to quell civil unrest and was adamant about not allowing the military to be involved in the electoral process. This back and forth between the two and the thought processes between Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other trusted individuals were among the most revealing episodes contained the book.

Milley feared that Trump would use the military to stage a coup. “They may try, but they’re not going to fucking succeed. You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns,” he said.

They were also concerned Trump would try to launch a war against Iran in his final days. 

The portions of I Alone Can Fix It relating to the election are particularly poignant. The drama unfolding on election night is described in vivid detail. Trump’s refusal to accept the results, promulgating “the big lie” that the election was stolen, and his futile battles in dozens of courts led by the hapless Rudy Giuliani held your attention.

And the authors’ account of the harrowing experience of the January 6 insurrection and that critical period between that assault on our Capitol and the inauguration is loaded with palpable tension and hand-trembling fear. Even though we all witnessed it and will continue to see what transpired, the book effectively conveys the horrors of the event, the incitement of the riot based on that big lie, and how close democracy in the U.SA was in peril.

 I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year is an extraordinary work for the ages. History will find that this book accurately chronicled this last nerve-wracking year of this nerve-wracking Trump presidency. 

It's a fast read and a must read.


I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year; Carol Leonnig and Phillip Rucker; published by Penguin Press; 2021; 527 pages plus refence notes and index; hardcover - ISBN: 9780593298947; ebook – ISBN: 9780593298954; international edition – ISBN: 9780593300626

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Dancing Feet Abound in Beth Tfiloh’s ‘42nd Street’

Matthew Trulli and the cast of '42nd Street' Photo by Diane M. Smith
You can always count on Artistic Directors Diane M. Smith and Evan Margolis finding a challenging musical for the annual Beth Tfiloh Community Theatre summer production. In the classic musical 42nd Street under the meticulous direction of Ms. Smith, BTCT met that challenge and then some. An energetic and talented cast from the Baltimore area performed at a high level and produced thunderous ovations from the audience throughout.

With music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin and a book penned by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, 42nd Street captured a Tony Award for Best Musical in 1980. The Broadway revival in 2001 also won the Tony for Best Musical, and for good measure the London production netted the Olivier Award for Best Musical in 1984.

Based on the 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes and the ensuing 1933 film adaptation, 42nd Street tells the feel-good story of a young tap dancing performer from Allentown, Peggy Sawyer and her journey that began as a nobody to a becoming a star. She had to endure several obstacles enroute, not the least of which was impressing a demanding Broadway director Julian Marsh as he struggled to mount a musical called “Pretty Lady” during the Depression.

It was Peggy’s involvement in this show that launched her to stardom following a freak mishap to the show’s diva, Dorothy Brock. Despite much self-doubt and lack of confidence, her talent took over and Peggy seized upon the fortuitous opportunity.

BTCT, now in its 13 year, is adroit in mounting musicals that contain other plays or musicals within.  Man of La Mancha and Pippin come to mind. The backstage musical 42nd Street is no exception.

Well-known songs, such as “We’re in the Money,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” the iconic “Lullaby of Broadway” and the title song “42nd Street” are nostalgic to us oldsters, but the BTCT company performed so admirably that I am certain the younger audience members appreciated these classics as well.

From the opening number “Auditions”, I knew I was in for a treat. The tap dancing throughout the show sounds impressive and looks impressive as the able hoofers are clearly in sync and on point. All members of the company participate at some juncture  in which the numbers vary with slower methodical dances in some as well as high-tempo ones in others.

There are so many amazing dance selections that the choreography responsibilities were split between two talented individuals. Rachel Miller handled “Auditions,” “Go Into Your Dance,” “We’re in the Money,” “42nd Street” and “Act I Finale.”  James Hunnicutt choreographed “Young and Healthy,” “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “Dames,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Montage” and “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.” They did a splendid job in leading the cast through their paces.

The main performers are superb, and the rest of the cast back them up proficiently. As the lead tenor Billy Lawlor in “Pretty Lady,” Matthew Trulli is a standout.  A triple threat with his acting skills, dance moves and singing voice, Mr. Trulli shines. This isn’t surprising given his extensive list of credits. But what is surprising is that he has all this experience under his belt, in key roles no less, though he is a young adult.

Mr. Trulli has a smooth tenor voice that is evident in the duet “Young and Healthy” and group numbers “Dames,” “I Know Now,” and “We’re in the Money” among others.

Hanna Elliott as Peggy Sawyer plays her role well as the enthusiastic, talented but nervous chorus girl who auditioned and secured a role in “Pretty Lady” mainly through her dancing skills. She displays her melodic soprano vocals in “Young and Healthy,” a duet with Mr. Trulli who was trying to woo her early on and “About a Quarter to Nine,” another duet with Cheryl Campo playing the diva Dorothy Brock.

As Dorothy Brock, Cheryl Campo has the primary comic role in the show. Though Dorothy Brock’s best days as a performer are behind her, she remains a star through reputation if not talent. Despite her lack of dancing ability, which is crucial in “Pretty Lady,” she was signed to the lead role principally because one of her two boyfriends, Abner Dillon (David Zisow), is a financial backer of the project.

Ms. Campo's acting skills and comedic timing are top-notch.  An accomplished performer and director in local theatre, she is on target portraying the diva Dorothy Brock. She commendably demonstrates sufficient restraint so that she does not go too far over the top in the role. But she is funny!

Ms. Campo can also sing well, and that is demonstrated in the group number “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me,” the duet with Mr. Zizso in “I Know Now” and the aforementioned duet with Ms. Elliott, “About a Quarter to Nine.”

Then there is Brian Singer who plays the harsh and impatient director Julian Marsh. This role was played by the late Jerry Ohrbach when 42nd Street opened on Broadway. Mr. Singer, also demonstrating strong acting abilities that he accumulated through years of experience on stage, radio and television, is the thread that stitches the plot together. He delivers his lines in a clear, resonant voice to manifest his demanding nature and harsh demeanor. Yet, he exposes a soft side on occasion, which is endearing.

And as his name might suggest, he can sing, too. He starts off “Lullaby of Broadway” deliberately and with emotion as the rest of the Company joins in and builds to what is a blockbuster number. He also effectively wraps up the show with “Act Two Finale.”

Other notable members of the cast include Matthew Byrd, Ryann Reich, Eitan Murinson, Rachel Miller, Emily Signor, Carly Dagilis,  Ava Correlli, Ryan Holmes, Sharon Byrd, Emily Machovec, Julia Egan, Maytal Fleisher, Beau Smith, Taylor Fruhling, Quinn Holmes, Ryan Holmes, Rachel Murinson, Abby Ostrow and Tejal Schwartz.

A round of applause goes to Costume Design and Coordinator Lizzie Jaspan for decking the cast out in a wide array of colorful period costumes.

Set Designers Diane M. Smith and Evan Margolis oversaw imaginative scenery that was highlighted by a large screen reflecting the projection of scenes and images that adds depth to the stage. In addition, various scaffolds, platforms, turntable sets and a variety of props and set pieces provide additional quality to the production. Laura Miller and Dassi Cohen contributed to this effort, which made for good visuals.

Overall, from a technical standpoint, the production was solid including the Lighting Design by Tyrell Stanley on the day the show was reviewed, but there was some unevenness in the audio in spots, which hopefully will be addressed by the next performance.

BTCT’s 42nd Street is an ambitious undertaking especially for community theatre considering the size of the cast and the skill sets needed to pull it off. With the capable Diane M. Smith at the helm, the talented cast and crew did so with aplomb. With only two performances left, you should hurry to get tickets to see this wonderful production.

Running time. Two hours and 15 minutes with an intermission.

42nd Street plays August 3 and 4 at the H. Morton Rosen Arts Center located at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, 3300 Old Court Rd., Pikesville, MD 21208. Tickets can be purchased by calling 410-413-2436 or visiting the box office.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

How Dems May Surprise in 2022

Few pundits are giving the Democrats any chance of holding the House of Representatives or clinging to the narrowest of leads in the Senate as a result of the 2022 midterms. There are significant reasons for the long odds.

One, history is not on the Democrats’ side. The party that controls the White House almost always loses seats in the midterms regardless of how the president is polling. It makes no sense, but that’s just the way it happens. Secondly, with most states controlled by Republican legislatures, gerrymandering congressional districts will give the GOP a significant boost. They know this, and they act like they are playing with house money.

Furthermore, with COVID-19 still attacking our bodies and the economy in whiplash mode depending on how the pandemic plays out between now and next November, the uncertainty will clearly be blamed on Democrats and the Biden administration. Again, it makes no sense but that’s how it goes.

And with McConnell-led Republican obstructionism in full swing and two Democratic senators who are loath to change the filibuster rules, Biden’s agenda will have hit a brick wall, so the GOP will point out the failures of this administration to accomplish anything.

Then there is the decrease in turnout by voters of the party who controls the White House.

Despite these daunting headwinds, the Democrats still have a chance of not only holding the House but gaining seats in the Senate. There is one thing that’s going to help them in this unlikely quest that no amount of fundraising or good fortune from the economy could ever do: their Republican opponents.

The Republican Party is tethered to Donald Trump and Trumpism and the Big Lie about the November 2020 election that led to a violent and deadly insurrection on January 6 in an attempt to overturn the election results.

To be sure, gerrymandering could be a potent obstacle to success, but the Republican Party has not added new voters to their flock. In fact, many have taken flight from the GOP principally because of the Big Lie that continues to be perpetrated by Trump and his acolytes and the horrors of January 6. Control of the House will be determined by suburban voters in swing districts, and they are not too thrilled with the Republican Party writ large. Voter suppression laws passed by Republicans are not helping their image either.

The more Trump dangles his interest in running again for president in 2024, the more it will help Democrats across the board. Not only is a majority of people around the country disgusted by Trump’s clear incitement of the riots at the Capitol and his failure to do anything to quell the violence as he joyfully watched the events unfold on TV, they are sickened by a Republican Party whereby a vast majority of Congressmen opposed the certification of a free and fair election.

Moreover, McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate blocked a bipartisan commission to look into the run-up of January 6, what transpired, who may have coordinated the attacks and how such an episode could be prevented in the future. They obviously don’t want the truth to come out because all roads will likely lead to Trump, at least that’s what they fear. Trump is still the top dog of the GOP until such time he is indicted as a result of the multiple investigations still underway.

In the meantime, Democrats will benefit from the fact Republican candidates will be primaried by Trump-light crazies who will do anything to receive his endorsement. The MAGA base will turn out for these clowns and send them to the general election.

Keep in mind, at no time did Trump ever break 49 percent approval during his term in office. After January 6, it plummeted to 29 percent. Republicans just don’t get it. Trump is only popular among his shrinking base and nowhere else—not independents, not suburban Republican voters and certainly not Democrats. Thus, placating Trump to head to a general election with Trump-like candidates is a perilous venture.

In Deep South Georgia, two Democratic candidates for Senate prevailed in a runoff mainly because of exceptionally high voter turnout among Democrats and independents largely seen as a rejection of  Trumpism and the former president’s antics following his defeat. Key swing districts around the country could follow that model.

Yes, Joe Biden can succeed in getting an infrastructurebill passed. The economy can rebound. COVID can finally get under control. Democrats can and should tout any successes that manage to come their way. But it will take more.

“If Democrats want to prevail in 2022, good government won’t be enough,” Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons penned in the Chicago Sun-Times. “They need to turn the midterm elections into a referendum on the Trump cult and GOP sycophancy toward his alarming assault on democracy.”

They also need to make Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Green, Jim Jordan, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and many others as well as Trump himself the faces of the Republican Party during the campaign.

They should run ads depicting McCarthy’s and Lindsey Graham’s initial outrage over January 6 and then display them reversing course and verbally dropping to their knees at Mar-a-Lago.

And don't EVER let Trump and the Republicans off the hook regarding Jan. 6.

For Democrats approaching the midterms, this is golden, and they can thank the Trump Republican Party for this opportunity. Dems can do this and surprise the experts if they manage to muster the courage and play some hardball. That, too, would be a surprise.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Why We Must Not Forget January 6


We mark the 6-month anniversary in one of the most fateful days and arguably the most disgraceful day in U.S. history. It was a chilly, breezy and sunny day in Washington D.C. when the outgoing president Donald Trump who had been defeated just two months ago in a free and secure election, had assembled a large gathering of thousands at the Ellipse near the White House. 

He used his then Twitter account to summon his supporters on this day aided by his sycophantic megaphones at Fox News and other pseudo-journalistic outlets as well as social media for this rally that is centered on “the big lie,” which states absence of any evidence that the election had been stolen from Trump primarily because of fraudulent votes. He promised the event would be “wild,” an unusual description for merely a speech and rally.

That dangerous and disgusting lie had been disproven and debunked by some 60 courts around the county including the Supreme Court as well as state election officials who tallied the votes over again and certified the election as clean.

Were these Democratic activist judges as Republicans often describe jurists when things don’t go their way? No. Most of them were Republican appointees thanks to the shenanigans of Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and many, if not most, were Trump appointees.

Nonetheless, the lie continued and is alive today with at least half of the people who identify as Republican believing such bubkas.

At his rambling, fact-averse, grievance-laden speech, Trump, a mentally unstable man who cannot accept defeat much less failure, marveled at the expanse of the crowd that included not just his supporters but violent far right white nationalist groups and self-appointed militias.

While he never explicitly ordered the crowd to breach the Capitol where the election’s votes were being certified by both houses of Congress and presided by Vice President Mike Pence, his droning soliloquy amped up the already highly-charged masses to a dangerous froth. The match had already been lit; his speech simply added the fuel.

“Because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated…We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” What else could he mean?

We are all familiar with the carnage that ensued. Five deaths, hundreds of undermanned police injured, millions of dollars in damage to our sacred seat of democracy. The very same people who revere the police and who use the “blue lives matter” mantra constantly to counter legitimate protest for social justice especially in policing, had no problems shoving Trump flagpoles in the faces of police officers and using other weapons including chemical spray on those who were attempting to guard our house. That’s right, OUR house.

The rampage continued for hours with the chants “Hang Mike Pence”  and “Where are you Nancy?” were clearly audible in the numerous video clips that surfaced.

The riots, the insurrection was a violent attempt to prevent the certification of the ballot as laid out in our Constitution. This was not a protest of the election results. These thugs in which Federal authorities have already charged 500 and counting on various offenses, sought to forcibly stop Congress from doing its duty. In other words, it was a violent effort to overturn the election.

Democrats rushed to impeach Trump for a second time and presented a compelling case in the Senate. All Democrats agreed to convict the lame duck president; seven Republicans who paid a steep political price later did the same. By a vote of 57 to 43, a substantial margin by any measure, these Senators agreed Trump was culpable. Only the Constitution requiring 67 votes to convict thwarted that outcome.

December 7, September 11 and now January 6—Days of Infamy all—must be remembered as blights on our history and the American people. Republicans are feverishly attempting to minimize the effect of January 6 from denying the severity to minimizing its significance calling the insurrectionists tourists.  

They succeeded in stopping the formation of a bipartisan commission to look into the full scope of what happened, how it happened, why Trump did nothing to quell it after it started, how such a travesty could be prevented in the future.

They don’t want any of that. They don’t want the truth to come out, which would surely highlight their cult leader Donald Trump’s role.

The Department of Justice should be looking into Trump’s role as they would probe deeply had there been a foreign terrorist attack on our country. They’re not as far as I know.

This cowardly disgrace must be remembered no matter how many people wind up in prison. Democrats need to not allow the Republicans to sweep it under the rug. This was an attack on our soil by Americans, not foreign actors.

All the more reason we should never forget. The further the ship sails away from the dock, the smaller the lights appear on the shore.

Trump referred to this horrific event as a "love fest" by "tremendous people. Check this out:

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

‘Elf’ at Toby’s Brings Christmas Right This Very Minute

The cast of Elf The Musical

It may be 95 degrees outside, but when the doors at Toby’s Dinner & Show opened, it might as well be a frosty December at the North Pole.

Elf The Musical, a fanciful, totally enjoyable Christmas production based on the 2003 film with the same name, is a welcome remedy for the horrendous past 15 months we endured that included essentially missing in-person holiday celebrations with family and friends due to the lockdown.

As Broadway musical icon Jerry Herman penned for the classic Mame, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute. We need a little Christmas now!”  With the production Elf, Toby’s delivers just that—in the midst of summer—and at a time we could all use it.

Yes, the pandemic and the associated government restrictions have altered theatre production schedules so what would normally be a timely Christmas musical in December, we can celebrate the holiday in July. In fact, Toby’s bills the show as “Christmas in July.”

Leaving the heat outside, patrons enter a holiday wonderland in a comfortably air conditioned theater with Christmas trees attached to the walls and lit garland and cardboard snowflakes above. The simple Christmas atmosphere is done just right by scenic designer David A. Hopkins.

The musical, which played on Broadway from 2010 to 2011, the West End from 2015 to 2016 and spawned several tours, was scored by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. The book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan was adapted from the film version, which did not contain music.

The songs are largely sentimental and lighthearted with melodies that are not necessarily memorable. Nonetheless, they effectively tie the story together and are performed exceedingly well by the Toby’s cast and the four-piece orchestra conducted by Nathan Scavilla on the evening of this reviewed performance.

The story is about a young orphan named Buddy Hobbs who accidentally crawls into Santa’s bag of toys and winds up at the North Pole where he is brought up by elves. He thought he was one of them as he became older until one blurted out he was really human.  Santa urged him to travel to New York City to find his actual father who happens to be on Santa’s naughty list because he doesn’t believe in, well, Santa and by extension, the spirit of Christmas.

Buddy learns to his chagrin that all adults do not believe in Santa Claus. He attempts to win over his newly discovered family and instill the true meaning of Christmas. Along the way, Buddy finds love that showcases some of the more touching scenes in the show.

"In a tour de force, veteran performer Jeffrey Shankle, slays the lead role of Buddy."

In over a decade of covering productions at Toby’s, there are three constants. One, the buffet is always scrumptious and themed to the show that is playing. Two, there is maximum effort put forth by the performers, musicians and technical crew under solid direction. And three, Helen Hayes award winners Director and Choreographer Mark Minnick and Artistic Director Toby Orenstein always seem to cast the right people for the roles. In Elf, that wonderful trend continues.

In a tour de force, veteran performer Jeffrey Shankle, slays the lead role of Buddy.  Playing the naive but happy elf/human, Mr. Shankle draws upon his comedic instincts, timing and superb vocals. Not only is his singing pitch perfect, but man can he hold a note! Mr. Shankle’s tenor voice is in stellar form in such songs as “”Happy All The Time,” “World’s Greatest Dad,” “Just Like Him” and in a marvelous, well-choreographed production number “Nobody Cares About Santa.”  

His duet with his love interest Jovie, played well by MaryKate Brouillet, in the tender ballad “A Christmas Song” is moving. Ms. Brouillet also showcases her crystal clear, melodic voice in the touching “Never Fall In Love (With An Elf)”.

Jeffrey Shankle as Buddy

The supporting cast is similarly outstanding. David Bosley-Reynolds as the stern father Walter Hobbs exhibits his strong acting skills and solid baritone voice. With his job on the line as a developer of children’s books and little time for family, Mr. Bosley-Reynolds as Walter conveys his toughness and newly revealed tenderness as the story unfolds. He performs well in the group number “In The Way.”

Janine Sunday does a fine job as Emily Hobbs, Buddy’s stepmother and devoted wife of Walter. She proficiently expresses her true love for her family while hoping her beleaguered husband spends more time with them. It was Emily who procured a DNA test to prove that Buddy is Walter’s son.

Her son Michael, an adorable and smart 12 year-old, was played by Luka Van Herksen on the night of this review. He demonstrates potential as a strong performer in musical theatre as he is blessed with a fantastic singing voice. Happily, Luka had the opportunity to showcase that talent in duets with Ms. Sunday in “I’ll Believe In You” and “There Is A Santa Claus.”  He shares that role with two other boys on a rotating basis.

DeCarlo Raspberry performs admirably in the dual roles of Santa Claus and Manager using his laudable comedic skills. He also can sing with the best of them and performs well in the production number “Happy All The Time” and in a solo “Nobody Cares (Santa Reprise)”.

Other members of the cast and ensemble are outstanding as well. They acted, they sang, they danced, they moved set pieces, they did it all. Among them are Kalen Robinson, Alexis Krey, Justin Calhoun, Shane Lowry, Crystal Freeman, AJ Whittenberger and Patricia Targete.

Then there is the always entertaining David James, who effectively plays the part of Walter’s boss, the cranky and demanding Mr. Greenway who never spent Christmas with his family in 30 years to build a children’s book company and it shows.

Mark Minnick’s choreography is precise and detailed as always. Using all areas of the in-the-round stage, the performers moved about in synch and in rhythm. Such numbers as “In The Way,” “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” (what a title!) and “Nobody Cares About Santa” are fine examples. And the simulated Rockefeller Center skating rink with several cast members rollerblading in lieu of ice skates in the number “A Christmas Song” is a nice touch.

Brilliantly hued costumes were coordinated by Janine Sunday—from colorful elf attire to street garb. There are countless combinations and costume changes throughout—all executed seamlessly.

Also notable are the imaginative set pieces employed. David A. Hopkins and Shane Lowry (also a member of the Ensemble) designed numerous clever props and sets especially in the opening scene where the elves were riding wagons. That was awesome.

And kudos to sound designer John Pantazis for the well mic’d audio throughout.

Elf The Musical is an early Christmas present for the young and not so young. It provides much joy and fun in Santa’s bag of goodies for a laugh-filled, nostalgic escape highlighted by a talented cast and crew under expert direction.  Enjoy the show, think Christmas even now, and know that you won’t have to deal with icy roads on the way home.

Running time: Two hours and 15 minutes with an intermission.

Elf The Musical runs through August 22 at Toby’s Dinner & Show, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, MD 21044.  Tickets can be purchased by calling 410-730-8311 or visiting online . The website also contains the theater's updated policies and protocols that are in place to add comfort to the patrons.

Photos by Jeri Tidwell Photography

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Alphabet Mafia Showcase Promises to be Funny to the Letter

 I Baltimore will once again be treated to live (that’s right, live!) entertainment as an eclectic group of young LGBTQ+ comedians from around the mid-Atlantic region will celebrate Pride by performing at The Crown on June 26. And who cannot use a good laugh about now?

Alphabet Mafia is an LGBTQ+ standup comedy showcase that will be hosted by Baltimore comedian Jake Leizear (he/him).  The performers, says Leizear, include some of the region’s best queer comedians, with a lineup of Alejandro Morales (he/him, Phillidelphia), Andie Basto (they/them, Baltimore), T Moony (she/her, Baltimore), Kate Flaherty (she/her ,DC), and Anthony Oakes (he/him, DC), with special guest appearances from Tom Behler (he/him, Alexandria, VA), Alexa Sciuto (she/her, Baltimore), and Charlie Girard (he/him, DC).

Andie Basto  Photo credit: Hayley Nelson

“The lineup looks to represent not just Baltimore’s queer comedy scene, but also the greater mid-Atlantic, bringing in performers from Pennsylvania, DC, Virginia, and Maryland,” explains Leizear.  

“Comedy in the DMV is a multifaceted and diverse scene, as is the LGBTQ+ community, and this show works to provide opportunities to all kinds of comedians within the community.”

Because of the pandemic, entertainers had to perform on Zoom or other digital platforms.  Going live for this show pleases Leizear.  “We wanted to celebrate Pride with a laugh shared in person at a beloved venue that has always been a home to out and proud performers of all kinds,” he says.  

No stranger to comedy, Leizear is a show runner at The Lou Costello Room in Hampden and has performed at DC Pride, the Ellicott Silly Comedy Festival, and the Charm City Comedy Festival. With over a decade of theater and improv behind him, Leizear says his humor “focuses on his experiences as a queer millennial dealing with nerdom, anxiety, dating, and being a gay little fish in a big straight pond.”

Leizear is eagerly anticipating Alphabet Mafia performing at The Crown. “The whole lineup is beyond ready to get back out there to live comedy and is excited to do what we do best: make people laugh!”


The Alphabet Mafia LGBTQ+ Pride Comedy Showcase performs on June 26 from 8:00 p.m.to 9:30 p.m. at The Crown, 1910 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Tickets are $10 in advance by visiting Eventbrite or $12 at the door.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

HoCo Executive Shines Light on LGBTQ Pride Month

June has traditionally been LGBTQ Pride Month (originally called Gay Pride) ever since the Stonewall uprising in June 1969 that most historians credit as the birth of the modern gay rights movement. In Howard County, Maryland, the tradition continues.

On the evening of June 7 County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball read an executive proclamation recognizing June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in the county. The event was witnessed by nearly two dozen diverse members of the county’s LGBTQ+ community and supportive allies who gathered in front of the George Howard Building—the seat of the county government—for the ceremonial proclamation reading.

County Executive Calvin Ball


Whereas… The LGBTQ+ community in Howard County is vibrant and growing with a mission to create ongoing opportunities for open dialogue about sexual orientation and gender questioning for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+; and

Whereas… Each resident deserves to be accepted with compassion, acknowledged for their contributions and inspired to celebrate life’s gifts within a safe and supportive community; and

Whereas… It is fitting for Howard County Government to recognize Pride Month as a way to support individual rights and reaffirm our commitment to inclusion, equality and justice for all.

Now therefore, I, … Calvin Ball, County Executive of Howard County, Maryland, do hereby proclaim

June 2021

Pride Month

In Howard County, Maryland


When the skies darkened following the ceremony, the Howard Building was alternately bathed in lights representing the colors of the rainbow, the familiar symbol of the LGBTQ+ community.

Howard County government has traditionally supported LGBTQ+ rights. In fact, it was the first jurisdiction in the state to pass a non-discrimination measure based on sexual orientation in 1973. And in 2011 it was among the first jurisdictions in the state to pass protections based on gender identity and expression.

In 2019, Howard County government co-sponsored the first ever LGBTQ+ Pride celebration in the county, which turned out to be a colossal success with some 10,000 attending. HoCo Pride will renew the festivities on October 9 after a year off because of the pandemic.

The significance of the proclamation presented by the County Executive was not lost on LGBTQ+ community leaders.

“This is a very important moment for the community,” says Jumel Howard, Chair of HoCo Pride, Vice President of PFLAG Howard County, and Regional Director of PFLAG Mid-Atlantic. “We are appreciative of the County Executive and his administration for being on the front lines in advocating for equity and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Alisha Tronetti, a student at University of Maryland and a member of the HoCo Pride Steering Committee, points out, “Events like these are extremely important. The LGBTQ community is small and need the public display of support from county government.”

Others see this as an opportunity for progress beyond the symbolism of this recognition.

 “I’m grateful our county government has recognized Pride Month,” says Byron Macfarlane, the county’s Register of Wills and the first openly LGBTQ elected official in Howard County. “It sends a message that Howard County embraces the LGBTQ+ community and that hate has no home here.”

He adds, “I hope that beyond today’s proclamation, we’ll continue to break down barriers and stand in solidarity for true and meaningful equality in every aspect of the daily lives of our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors.”

A video of the proceedings produced by the Office of the County Executive is shown here.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Why We Need More Like Tim Ryan

Consider this: the Democrats control the Senate albeit by the margin of the vice president. Yet, who do we see more of on TV or read about—Majority Leader Chuck Schumer or Minority Leader Mitch McConnell?   

The Dems also control the House of Representatives by a shrinking margin, but who has dominated the recent news cycles—Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi?

The Democrats have their standard bearer in the White House in Joe Biden, but why is it the former president Donald Trump seems to get more notice, even without being on Twitter?

The media is still infatuated by everything Trump and how his acolytes obey his whims. Whether they want to or not, the Republicans continue to dominate the news, and the Democrats are having a tough time getting a message across much less news coverage. That changed for a news cycle on May 19 with Congressman Tim Ryan, a centrist pro-worker Democrat of Ohio.

The measure voted on by the House on May 19 that would establish a bipartisan commission to look into the run-up to and the ensuing events of January 6 was the backdrop.  While the FBI proceeds to nab hundreds of people who took part in the insurrection, a commission would be able to do a deep dive into the role Trump played in inciting the riots and as important, his slow-roll in stopping the violent mayhem. What was Trump doing as the riots unfolded? Why did it take him so long to tell his supporters to go home? What was the substance of the phone conversation between McCarthy and Trump?

As it turned out, only 35 Republicans in the House voted to establish the commission but it passed on the strength of unanimous Democratic support. Alas, it will die in the Senate because a commission would keep the story alive into the mid-terms and you know how McConnell can’t bear being in the minority yet again.

Prior to the vote, Rep. Tim Ryan who announced he will run for Ohio’s open Senate seat in 2022, laid into those Republicans who could not muster the courage to look into the fateful day when their workplace was attacked and rioters were looking to hang the vice president.

In a fiery speech, Mr. Ryan excoriated his Republican colleagues.

“To the other 90 percent of our friends on the other side of the aisle, holy cow! Incoherence! No idea what you’re talking about!” Ryan said. “Benghazi! You guys chased the former secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) all over the country. Spent millions of dollars! We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship?

“If we’re gonna take on China, if we’re gonna rebuild the country, if we’re gonna reverse climate change, we need two political parties in this country that are both living in reality, and you ain’t one of them!” Ryan concluded.

The video of his speech can be found here.

 It’s about time a Democrat rose up and brought the horrors of January 6 into focus. Too many stand on the sidelines and allow the GQP to seize the stage. Former Bill Clinton adviser and political pundit James Carville was right on point urging Democrats to use January 6 as a bludgeon against those Republicans who voted against impeachment of Trump and voted against conviction.

“They have to make the Republicans own that insurrection every day,” Carville told Vox last month in an interview. “They have to pound it. They have to call bookers on cable news shows. They have to get people to write op-eds. There will be all kinds of investigations and stories dripping out for god knows how long, and the Democrats should spend every day tying all of it to the Republican Party. They can’t sit back and wait for it to happen.”

McConnell saw the truth in that and included quotes from that interview in a message to his caucus urging them not to support a January 6 commission.

Clearly, the Dems must keep the pressure on.  Our democracy is at stake if the House turns over. Already 47 states are trying to make it harder to vote. And if the country simply moves on from January 6, it is sure to happen again.

Ryan’s outburst went viral with millions of views. Hopefully, he prodded other Democrats to be more aggressive in attacking the Republican stance on this issue. We need more like Tim Ryan. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Please Leave a Message


Thank Goodness for Barack Obama’s “Hope and Change” slogan in 2008! Other than that, I cannot think of a consistent, punchy, winning message over the past few decades that Democrats came up with. Even Joe Biden’s “Restore the Soul of America” message was poetic, but I doubt it had any impact on the 2020 race.

To be clear, effective messaging doesn’t need to be limited to a slogan or bumper sticker.  But it seems that every time a slogan or a comment is put forth by a Democrat, Republicans pounce on it.

Look how “Defund the Police,” “Medicare for All,” and ‘Green New Deal” were used as weapons against congressional Democratic candidates in 2020. Data are inconclusive as to the impact they had on those races but anecdotally, some politicians claim they had an effect.

Look how the George Floyd murder protests, which were mostly peaceful, were allowed to be manipulated by Republicans to shift the message from needed police reform to the destruction of buildings and even cities. It was a classic case of “Whataboutism.”

The most recent example is Rep. Maxine Waters’ comments regarding the Derek Chauvin trial and what should happen (confrontation) if the verdict is not favorable. The GQP took it and ran with it, and a censure action by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had been organized though tabled.

Did the Democrats attempt to censure Marjorie Taylor Greene for her heinous comments or those Republican congressmen who have perpetuated Trump’s big lie on the 2020 election outcome? No. Or even those congressmen who spoke at Trump’s rally that incited the insurrection on January 6? Crickets.

It wasn’t that long ago when Republicans bludgeoned the Democrats for being soft on terrorism. In fact, the 2004 election cycle featured that mantra.  Is it asking a lot for Democrats to turn the tables on Republicans during the 2022 cycle by pointing out THEIR softness on domestic terrorism and white nationalism?

Even the establishment of a 9/11-style commission to look into the events surrounding January 6 can’t get any traction. Why aren’t Democrats beating the Republicans over the head with January 6? Yet, the Republicans Benghazi-ed the Democrats to death when they saw an opportunity.

We cannot ever forget what happened January 6, and we should not allow the Republicans to escape the linkage between the atrocities of that event, Donald Trump and those Republicans who voted to acquit the former president in the impeachment trial when he so clearly incited the attack.

The Democrats do not need a catchy slogan to inculcate this matter into the conversation during the 2022 cycle. Footage will do just nicely. Those horrific images of Trump flag-carrying thugs breaching our Capitol should be a staple in every Democratic ad against those Republicans who are apparently soft on insurrections. Pictures do speak louder than words.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Financial Transparency Deflection

Columbia (MD) Democratic Club Treasurer pushes back against non-transparency allegations and reveals what this is really all about

By Bob Ford

Treasurer, Columbia Democratic Club

I want to set the record straight about financial transparency. Despite the gas lighting, innuendos, and demonstrably false statements made by the CDC president Jake Burdett and the attacks by his acolytes on public platforms, I am not opposed to financial transparency.     

I emphatically believe that our financials should always be transparent to the executive board and the members so that all interested parties have an understanding of how we are doing financially. This especially applies to those dues-paying members who provide virtually all of the club’s income.

That information is conveyed by my traditional monthly treasurer’s reports, which I present to the executive board and at general meetings. They are an accurate reflection of our bank statements and financial activity.

In email communications from the president sent to the rest of the executive board, my integrity, honesty, and competence had been called into question. He characterized my performance as “incompetent,” “suspicious,” “not transparent,” “nefarious,” and “concerning” and more recently at a public executive board meeting, "shady."

These accusations are a desperate attempt to deflect from the true reasons for the CDC’s current dysfunction by searching for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Since so much manufactured suspicion was pushed out by the president and a handful of his allies, our club secretary and a past president were asked to review my financial processes, spreadsheet,  bank statements, and PayPal account onsite, and they saw the diligence I applied in keeping accurate records. They determined everything was in order. Any concern by the president was and continues to be unjustified.

“I can report back to anyone who is interested in the matter: Bob has a very good and consistent process,” wrote Past President Sean Ford (no relation) in a letter to Shahan Rizvi, chair of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee. “The club’s finances are in good hands with him.”

There was a wild conspiracy theory recently posted on Facebook by an ally of the president who infers that the county executive is somehow part of a financial cover-up with the CDC. It said, “Just how bad are the Club's finances and who else is implicated?" 

That fantasy should earn him a laminated QAnon membership card.

Keep in mind that our balance increased by 76% since March 2020 and more than doubled (120%) since  November. It is at the highest level in our club’s history. And since I became the club's treasurer 7 years ago, our balance has gone up over 1,550%. That’s how bad the club’s finances are.

Since March of last year and because of the pandemic, which prevented in-person meetings and our annual holiday party, I’ve had to write a total of just 7 checks. On the monthly treasurer’s reports I indicate the amount of the check, the payee and its purpose. Anyone receiving this report sees this; nothing is hidden.

Throughout my tenure as treasurer I have paid every bill and reimbursed members accurately and on time. Nobody has ever complained about late or incorrect payments.  It serves no club purpose to thrust impediments on an already efficient payment process. Note that any expenditure exceeding $100 must be approved by the membership, so it doesn't get more transparent than that. 

The PayPal account was created a few years ago as a convenience to our club members as a means of paying dues. Since the club does not have a Taxpayer Identification Number or an Employer Identification Number, I had to furnish my own Social Security Number in order for PayPal to establish the account. I regularly transfer the accumulated amounts in  PayPal  to our checking account. Again, this is clearly indicated on my treasurer's reports. Nothing is hidden

Each member’s transaction on PayPal, which the president constantly refers to as "receipts," are required by PayPal to include the name of the person, the home address, the email address and the telephone number, which is maintained for 2 years.  When a transaction is successfully made, the payer is sent an acknowledgement from PayPal. 

If a person mistakenly bills the club instead of making a payment, I immediately advise that person accordingly.

I have no intention of releasing members' phone numbers and home addresses to this president. It does nothing to make the membership list more accurate or improve the voting process, the purported rationale for the president's botched and potentially defamatory recall attempt. Nor do the bylaws require the president to have access to our financial accounts.

To prove this has been Mr. Burdett's goal, the very first charge on his recall notice included, in part, "Your long time refusal to provide...access to this PayPal account..." 

My refusal to grant him access to this account and any other financial account is based on one factor: I simply do not trust him to safeguard the members' phone numbers and home addresses or any other personal and private information. And I certainly don’t trust him with my Social Security number at his disposal.

The president’s track record does not alleviate my concerns.

According to Matthew Molyett, a former CDC vice president, former executive board member, and a candidate for Board of Education in 2020 for whom our current president was the campaign manager, “Jake Burdett failed to secure the campaign data when he created it. The file was originally seeded by exporting the Mail Chimp mailing list without prior discussion.”

It should be pointed out that this database was exposed to a breach where personal information was unprotected causing a major firestorm on social media. In my view, that failure contributed to Mr. Molyett’s defeat. To be clear, he is not saying that Mr. Burdett caused the breach but that he did not safeguard the data.

This red herring is not about transparency as characterized by the president and his allies. To me, the issue is really about security and privacy.

We witnessed the backlash to the April 8 Zoom meeting debacle whereby individuals’ email addresses were captured without their knowledge by an outside organization as a prerequisite to enter the meeting.

People want to protect their privacy as they should. I am quite certain that folks do not want their home address and telephone number floating around either.

Don’t believe me?  Here's how an ally of Mr. Burdett’s responded to a Facebook post on April 10:

“I know that there is a concerted effort by some irresponsible people in the party to attempt to intimidate me by disclosing where I live and threatening the safety of my family.”

"Disclosing where I live," he says. Isn't it likely that others may have similar fears and concerns and want to protect their private information?

I see myself as duty-bound to preserve the private information of our members, not to mention my own Social Security Number, which, as I stated before, is attached to our PayPal account.

In my opinion, Mr. Burdett's end game has been and continues to be to gain access to and ultimate control over our PayPal account and our club’s checking account under the guise of transparency. In fact, at a board meeting several months ago, he directly requested from me access to our PayPal account to include log-in code and password.

His demand (later withdrawn) that I provide my signature to him raised additional questions. I asked representatives from the financial, legal and law enforcement communities to determine if there is any legitimate justification for that request. None of these professionals was able to identify one. There is no way I would grant him possession of my signature.

The notion that this president could gain control over our financial accounts similar to his recent commandeering of our social media and communications platforms should send up red flags. To this day, the secretary does not have the full access to Mail Chimp and other communication tools, which are preventing her from fully doing her job. Undoubtedly, I’d be locked out, too, from our financial accounts--not a good place for a treasurer.

This financial transparency subterfuge is a deflection from the president's own divisive behavior that has led to chaos and acrimony within the club. It is weakening and splitting the party to the delight of Republican groups on social media whose members publicly cheer him on.  

I have been a member of the Columbia Democratic Club for 16 years, the last 13 of which I have been a member of the Executive Board for 7 different presidents. As stated previously, for the past 7 years I have served as the club’s Treasurer working with a variety of Executive Board compositions over that time period.

It’s an office I hadn't previously sought, but my esteemed predecessor recommended I do so as she prepared to step down.  I had been asked by the previous 6 presidents to work with them as treasurer and was proud to serve. It is clear that during this time I had the confidence of those presidents, the various executive boards and the general membership.

These folks entrusted me with this position, and I have done absolutely nothing that would give them pause. Furthermore, I coordinated several club elections and endorsement meetings without any candidates disputing the accuracy of the membership list. Overall, I’m not aware of any member losing sleep over the fact that I have been the club’s treasurer.

To that end, I can attest that our financial records are accurate, up-to-date and most importantly secure. My reports to the executive board and membership reflect that.  

As I indicated earlier, our club secretary and past president conducted a review of my records and found that they are in order. Notably, these individuals viewed the general transaction history on PayPal but only opened up their own transaction--not anyone else's-- so they can see what private information is contained in the "receipts."

Financial transparency is essential but not at the expense of security and privacy. The release of private information does not promote accurate membership lists or improve the voting process. It just invites abuse.

My fiduciary responsibilities as treasurer, as I see it, are to keep accurate records, safeguard the club’s assets and protect the private information of its members. And that’s what I intend to do.