Glendening calls Maryland's minority business set-aside program 'sham' CAMPAIGN 1994

August 18, 1994|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Sun Staff Writer

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Parris N. Glendening last night called the state's set-aside program for minority businesses a "sham" that needs stricter oversight.

Citing reports of fraud and abuse in recent years, Mr. Glendening told a forum on minority business that African-American and other minority businesses deserve more state contracts.

"Being nice and saying the program works isn't going to get rid of a problem," said Mr. Glendening, the three-term executive of Prince George's County.

None of the seven gubernatorial candidates who attended the forum sponsored by the Council for Economic and Business Opportunity Inc. suggested a cut in the state set-aside program, which requires that 10 percent of state business to go to firms owned by minorities or women.

State Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a Baltimore County Republican, did suggest, though, that minority firms should eventually lose eligibility for set-aside programs as they prosper.

"If we are going to use preferences to get companies up and running, the preferences should not go on forever," Mrs. Sauerbrey told an audience of about 40 people at Loyola College in North Baltimore.

The candidates fielded several questions dealing with opportunities for minority business owners.

In response to a question, state Sen. Mary H. Boergers, D-Montgomery, said she strongly opposed recent legislative efforts to make female-owned businesses ineligible for state set-aside programs as a way of benefiting black-owned firms.

"I think one of the tragedies is when minorities get pitted against each other," Ms. Boergers said. "Instead of fighting for crumbs, [minority] communities should be fighting to make sure there is a big enough pie for everyone."

Asked about how he would help the economically depressed minority communities on the Eastern Shore, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, a Democrat, stressed the need to maintain a statewide perspective.

"I'm not going to say to the Eastern Shore or Garrett County . . . this is what I'm going to do for you," Mr. Steinberg said. "That only exacerbates the problem in the state."

William S. Shepard, a Republican from Montgomery County, discussed the need for a more aggressive state effort to attract new businesses.

"We don't even have a vibrant exit interview plan" to find out why businesses locate elsewhere, he said.

State Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, a Baltimore Democrat, said that as the manager of a tavern he understood the needs of small business.

Lawrence K. Freeman, a Democrat affiliated with the extremist political movement of Lyndon H. LaRouche, stressed the need for industrial development.

On several occasions, Mr. Glendening highlighted the large number of minority-owned businesses in Prince George's and bragged about the county's own set-aside program.

The forum's rigid format prevented any interchanges between the candidates, although Mr. Glendening and others did manage to take quick shots at some opponents.

Mr. Glendening, the Democratic front-runner according to recent polls, criticized the leading Republican, U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley for the "outrage" of voting against the crime bill pending in Congress just as she was proposing a harsh anti-crime proposal for Maryland.

Mrs. Bentley, who was in Washington where Congress was in session, was the only leading candidate who did not attend last night's forum.

Mr. Shepard, the GOP's nominee in 1990, noted that this was the 41st such forum that Mrs. Bentley, who represents the 2nd District, has skipped during the campaign.

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