Glendening: an aggressive approach

ON THE BAY

October 22, 1994|By TOM HORTON

For the Chesapeake Bay, "this will be a defining election," says Parris Glendening, the Democratic candidate for governor, in an interview for this column.

Certainly, he and Republican Ellen Sauerbrey, the subject of next week's column, offer contrasting philosophies on how Maryland's foremost natural resource is best protected.

Mr. Glendening, virtually alone, has offered since the primaries a range of proposals on how government should serve the environment. Mrs. Sauerbrey, blasted by environmentalists for her voting record as a legislator, has said that promoting private sector economic growth and development is key to environmental protection.

Mr. Glendening promises a more aggressive approach to

managing population growth than Maryland has seen to date; also, strong support for preserving open space and for helping farmers voluntarily control their polluted runoff.

He is prepared, he says, to push Virginia and Pennsylvania to maintain their wavering commitments to the bay cleanup; however, he declined to commit himself to a key provision of the current cleanup agreement: to permanently cap pollution from sewage and farms at 40 per cent of 1985 levels.

The interview continues in an edited Q&A format:

Few would disagree that environment suffers in a poor economy. What's wrong with protecting the bay by focusing mainly on "growing" the economy?

It is appealing, but very simplistic. . . . It leads to the philosophy that whenever the environment might get in the way, the economy always dominates.

That is [Mrs. Sauerbrey's] philosophy, and George Allen's [Virginia's governor], and if we get those two side by side, the bay's in real trouble. For two reasons, I think you can actually do better economically by meeting our commitments to the environment:

First, the bay is what Maryland's all about. The businesses of the future, the high-tech, biotech and information system companies want to attract put a high emphasis on quality of life. [The bay] is part of our competitive edge.

Second, good environmental policy, done properly, can save us considerable money. For example, state and local government spends literally hundreds of millions every year to accommodate new growth. A lot of that goes to sprawl development: new roads, new schools, new sewers. We can't continue to have as much of this 5-acre cookie cutter type of growth and call that rational development.

Q: How would you direct growth away from sprawling across farms and forests? Governor Schaefer's strongest attempt to do it, the "2020" plan, backed by environmentalists, failed. The growth management law he signed a year later has no teeth.

A: The 2020 plan won't work. It would have centralized a lot of land-use planning decisions and tried to control sprawl almost exclusively through the regulatory process.

I would have each locality come up with its own plan to direct growth away from outlying areas and into existing centers, then use a series of incentives and disincentives to help it happen.

For example: Don't ask the state to pay 50 percent of a new school or open up a new highway if it is not consistent with directing growth.

I'd urge tax incentives to the private sector, job-creation credits, investment in revitalizing older developed areas, all aimed at directing growth.

Q: How do you pay for that? Even though sprawl costs more in the long run, the upfront costs of redevelopment or for infrastructure to handle denser development can be higher.

A: To the extent you bring jobs to those areas -- and people go where the jobs are -- this will help pay. As an illustration, if you XTC give employers a 20 percent rebate on state taxes for new workers in designated growth areas, you still gain 80 percent in ++ tax revenues. For jobs that employed people already there, taking them off welfare or unemployment, you could give a much higher rebate.

There will be a trade-off: telling people in places where we have made a huge public investment in infrastructure, like mass transit, that we are going to develop around them at higher densities; we can't afford to do just single-family homes there.

Q: Since the state began taking part of it for general funds in 1984, Program Open Space "lost" more than $250 million that could have gone to preserve farms and natural areas. Do you support full funding, and the tax that supports it (half of a percent on property transfers), which is very un- popular with the real estate industry?

A: We need the program, fully funded, no question, and I don't think any alternative funding source is realistic.

I think Realtors are mainly concerned about adding to closing costs for first-time homebuyers. A number of states have small, revolving loan funds to help buyers with that.

Q: Will you hold to the present commitment to cap nutrient pollution from sewage and farms at 40 percent of 1985 levels? Otherwise, as population rises, any progress we've made could erode.

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