OCEAN CITY -- Seven candidates for governor told Maryland municipal officials exactly what they wanted to hear yesterday: that they would stop state government from slapping requirements on local governments without sending the money to pay for them.
All of the candidates answering questions at a forum at the Maryland Municipal League summer conference here said they would prohibit such "mandates" without accompanying funds.
HTC Two -- Democrat Parris N. Glendening and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey -- went even further, saying they would support an amendment to the state Constitution prohibiting unfunded mandates.
That, said Jon C. Burrell, the Municipal League's executive director, was music to the ears of the nearly 500 local officials attending the conference.
Most of the officials, he said, are struggling to find the money needed to pay for state-imposed environmental and other requirements on top of their responsibilities to provide police protection, trash pickup and other services.
The forum was attended by all of the major candidates for governor except U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, the front-runner for the Republican nomination.
The gubernatorial hopefuls here yesterday said that if given the chance as governor, they would sign a pair of bills vetoed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer that would have increased state aid for local and county police departments by a combined $5.25 million.
Municipal officials complain that the state share of paying for police protection in municipalities has dropped from 20 percent to 10 percent over the last decade.
The candidates also seemed to uniformly support a proposal to curtail the power of counties to veto annexation plans by municipalities.
Reacting to a 1992 state law that attempts to direct new growth to existing communities, the municipal officials say they sometimes need to annex communities to provide the tax base necessary to support such growth -- a tax base counties are reluctant to relinquish.
All pledged to work more closely with municipal officials, and one candidate, Democratic Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, said he would make representatives of the Municipal League and Maryland Association of Counties ex-officio members of his Cabinet.
Also appearing at the forum were state Sens. Mary H. Boergers and American Joe Miedusiewski, both Democrats; Lawrence K. Freeman, a Lyndon H. LaRouche follower who is running as a Democrat; and Republican William S. Shepard.
All of the candidates jockeyed for support among the city and town officials, but it was clear that Mr. Glendening -- a former Hyattsville councilman and three-term Prince George's County executive -- was the audience favorite.
That support was evident when Mr. Miedusiewski accused Mr. Glendening of "stretching the truth" by claiming he was a police commissioner in Hyattsville in the early 1970s. Mr. Glendening was a member of the city's board of commissioners with oversight responsibility for the Police Department.
Reading from a news story in which the current Hyattsville mayor said Mr. Glendening had a gun, a badge and a police radio at his disposal in those days, Mr. Miedusiewski sarcastically replied: "So did Barney Fife," a reference to the bumbling deputy in the old Andy Griffith television show.
That elicited a chorus of boos and hisses from the municipal officials, many of whom sported Glendening lapel stickers.
Immediately after the forum, Mr. Glendening handed out a list of 230 municipal officials who have agreed to endorse him.