Rawlings keeps projects on track

THE POLITICAL GAME

April 21, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

At the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the gym has a secondhand basketball floor -- a gift from the University of Massachusetts. The roof leaks, and there aren't enough lockers.

Not to mention that UMES has more than twice as many students as it had when its gym was built.

But with the help of Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the school will get $400,000 in borrowing authority to cover costs of designing a new, $15-million facility.

The project was in danger of being delayed, but Chairman

Rawlings, who is black, stepped into the breach for the predominantly black Eastern Shore school.

"We had to send a message that we'd deal with this problem -- and not in the year 2000."

The UMES project was quickly back on track. Such is the power in Annapolis of an Appropriations Committee chairman.

Mr. Rawlings also asserted his authority on behalf of his home city, Baltimore. The city's delegation has been praised for its effectiveness.

The major difference this year: Mr. Rawlings and his control of the purse strings.

Baltimore came home with $13 million for an array of projects that include $2 million for the aquarium; $50,000 for a community center at Engine Company 33; $500,000 for work at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum, $750,000 for a youth enrichment center at the Druid Hill YMCA and $1 million for the child care center at Union Baptist Church.

The chairman was also a pivotal negotiator in the late-session imbroglio over a $100 million state contribution to improve and expand the Baltimore Convention Center. Other legislators wanted the city to cede partial ownership of the center in exchange for the money.

The city, he said, was being asked for concessions not demanded of others. Perhaps legislators wanted to say: We gave Baltimore the money, but we own part of the center.

Under a compromise, the city regains full ownership after the bonds are paid off in 20 years.

Mr. Rawlings sided with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who thought humiliation was too high a price. Once again, in the legislative councils, the Appropriations Committee Chairman prevailed.

Earlier, he had disagreed sharply with Mr. Schmoke on how best to get change in Baltimore city schools. Mr. Rawlings wanted to withhold funds in exchange for more accountability. The city schools, he said, have to be ready to get rid of teachers who do not contribute to the mission: education and socialization of children.

As a black legislator whose focus on education is well documented, he had more leverage than many lawmakers.

"A white legislator would have been called a racist. I was called an Uncle Tom," he said. Mr. Rawlings later relented on his threat -- but not before strong accountability language was inserted in the budget.

"To have credit with our colleagues in the assembly, to create a comfort level for future funding, we have to show we are serious," the chairman said.

Now speaking for the Democrats

Del. Maggie McIntosh has been elected chair of the House Democratic Research Group, a new organization in search of information about legislative issues, including the budget. Ms. McIntosh is a freshman Democrat from Baltimore.

Republicans running a straw poll

The Maryland Republican Party may have a way to find out who's running in 1994:

Conduct a straw poll and see who authorizes the use of his or her name.

Already in the race for governor is Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey of Baltimore County. William S. Shepard of Potomac, the 1990 nominee, is almost certainly in as well. He's having a fund-raiser on May 8.

The party has been urging Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, to say what she's running for.

Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall and others may be looking at statewide races as well.

Will this ploy force a few hands?

The answers will be known soon -- probably before the party's May 21-22 convention in Ocean City.

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