Glendening: He's everyone's target

THE POLITICAL GAME

June 15, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

These days, all the gubernatorial candidates seem to be after Parris N. Glendening, proof positive that they perceive the Prince George's County executive as the front-runner in the race for governor.

They've banged him hard for all the promises he has made -- promises they say were intended only to win endorsements and that the state cannot afford to keep.

They've hit him on schools, saying that for a candidate who calls education his top priority, his county's schools are in pretty poor shape. Now they're going after on him on crime, suggesting that Mr. Glendening has some explaining to do about the high crime rate in Prince George's.

The most recent attack came from a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, who questioned whether the crime rate in the Prince George's town of Glenarden is the success story Mr. Glendening claims it to be.

Or is it, as Mr. Steinberg would have voters believe, "a lie" that Mr. Glendening has put on his resume of executive accomplishments?

Mr. Glendening devoted a full page in his campaign booklet, "A Vision for Maryland's Future," to touting his efforts at stemming crime in Glenarden, especially at the 500-family Glenarden Apartments, a federally subsidized complex that had been besieged by drug dealers and other criminals.

"Today, the Glenarden Apartments are a changed place. Crime has dropped, children play on the playgrounds and residents feel more secure in their homes," the campaign booklet says. "The Glenarden story is proof that with Parris Glendening's leadership and common sense solutions, people can work together to fight crime and take back their neighborhoods."

According to county police figures supplied by the Glendening camp, there were 313 crimes of all types in Glenarden in 1987 and 216 by 1993.

But if Glenarden is such a success story, Mr. Steinberg challenged last week, how come Glenarden's police chief just three months ago requested a $44,000 government grant to deal with the town's crime problem?

Steinberg campaign aides gave reporters copies of Glenarden's grant application to a state commission on drug abuse. The application cited "an increase in drug-related incidents" in the town over the past year and a 70 percent increase in police calls involving the sound of gunshots. In the past nine months, it said, 13 firearms were recovered from the Glenarden Apartments.

Mr. Steinberg also distributed a copy of a federal grant application from the Prince George's Police Department. It notes that the county "has more homicides than all other Maryland counties combined, and it leads all other counties in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area in violent crime."

Asked Mr. Steinberg: "Did this situation come about because, as it says in [the Glendening] book, 'Glendening used innovative ideas and common sense to tackle crime' " in the county?

"This pattern of deception shows a lack of respect and contempt for the people of Maryland," Mr. Steinberg said.

Emily Smith, Mr. Glendening's campaign manager, said Mr. Glendening never claimed that crime had been eliminated in Glenarden -- or in the county -- but only that the crime rate in Glenarden had dropped in recent years, in part because of his efforts.

"Things have improved in Glenarden, but you can't change overnight what was a very difficult place to live," she said.

Glenarden Mayor Marvin F. Wilson said Mr. Glendening's claims are true.

"He's not lying. It is fantastic," the mayor said of the changes at the Glenarden Apartments. "It's not perfect. . . . But it is nowhere near where it was back in 1985."

"In the bad days, we made CNN," he said. "Today, I can take you there, you can see the difference, see the mothers with their children on the playgrounds that weren't there before."

The Glendening camp has treated the Steinberg attack as negative campaigning by an opponent who is struggling to catch up.

"Mickey Steinberg has never had to deal with the issue of crime, so it is easy for him to criticize from the sidelines," Ms. Smith said.

"Personally, I don't believe in negative campaigning," Mr. Steinberg replied. "The next governor of this state has to prove he is the best qualified person.

"But, at same time, I'm not going to sit quietly and let them distort facts and statistics. The people of the state are entitled to the true facts, and let them make their decision."

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