Governor Invites People To 'Speak Up' About Budget

November 08, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer is looking for advice. He wants the people to come out tomorrow to give him suggestions on what state government should do and where it should spend its money.

And if citizens don't want to speak out publicly, the can fill out a questionnaire that is sort of a civics test. And if they don't like that, they simply call an 800 telephone number.

It's all part of a new program called "Speak Up, Maryland," a town meeting held in virtually every county in the state tomorrow with the governor's Citizen's Cabinet playing host.

"We are seeking advice from the average citizen," said George E. Surgeon, head of the citizen's cabinet for Anne Arundel County. "Just how would they like thegovernor to spend the money that is in the budget."

Organizers said they have no idea how many people will show up or what they will say. "No one has ever tried this before," said Pam Kelly, a special assistant Schaefer.

Surgeon, who also is director of the Anne Arundel County Careers Center, said he is looking for thoughtful and constructive advice on how to run the state.

"This is not a complaint session," he said. "We don't have the authority to solve problems. We want to get the thoughts of the plain John and Jane Doe.

"It is a chance for the average citizen to speak without going through the political process," he said.

But Surgeon acknowledged that stopping people from complaining, especially with the latest budget cuts that stirred an uproar throughout the state, will be impossible. "Of course there is such a feeling about the governor right now that a lot of people are complaining. How can you stop them?"

Kelly said the governor also is looking to see how much people know about state government. "People may not know everything that the state does," she said.

Indeed, the questionnaire asks five true or false questions, testingwhether people think the state is totally responsible for funding community colleges, whether the state builds all new highways and roadsand whether the state manages all public works parks and forests.

"We hope it will work," Surgeon said. "All we can do is try."

TheCitizen's Cabinet will meet 9:30 a.m. to noon in the Pascal Performing Arts Center at the Anne Arundel County Community College in Arnold.

For more information, call Surgeon at 222-3560 or 761-3667. Operators in Baltimore will take calls from people interested in participating in the forum by phone tomorrow 9:30 a.m. to noon at (800) 321-8667.

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