Glendening's core focus

January 31, 1995

I am stressing that we must not permit Maryland to become, as Judge Otto Kerner warned America almost 25 years ago, . . . two separate societies: one rich, one poor; one with jobs, one without work; one with good schools, the other barely literate; one with quarter-million dollar homes, and the other with homeless shelters.

Every time we move economic development ahead and into already established communities, we take one giant step forward for the environment. And we make one big step toward solving urban and social problems, and we make a major step for business.

-- Gov. Parris Glendening, State of the State address, Jan. 26, 1995.

The question most asked during Parris Glendening's run for governor was how his familiarity with the Washington area, where he had served as Prince George's County executive, would squeeze his relations with Baltimore. While it's too early to answer that, from the start we surmised that warnings about that schism were overblown.

The real split in America is not city against city, but urban versus suburban. By every measure of social and financial health -- from household income to school test scores to teen-age pregnancies -- there are two Marylands, as the new governor suggests.

And while these urban problems dominate in Baltimore, they're not confined to the city. Eastern Baltimore County suffers profound family dysfunction. Northern Anne Arundel has the state's worst cancer prevalence. Prince George's inner-Beltway areas are pocked by bullets and addicts' needles.

Whereas 30 or 40 years ago the inner ring of suburbs thought themselves immune from urban problems, now the outer ring so deludes itself.

But listen closely: You can hear urbanization creeping. You can hear it among residents of Columbia's older villages -- the planned paradise of Columbia of all places -- complaining that their 25-year-old neighborhoods are looking to them like slums. You can hear it in Harford County's plans to stabilize impoverished Edgewood.

Will the next generation skip past those places to move farther out?

Mr. Glendening seems to grasp that the gap between our growing communities and our stagnant or failing ones cries out for closure. He began that process as Prince George's County executive with a slate of tax credits and loans for businesses that relocated or expanded in the urban districts. Moreover, his government showed greater regulatory flexibility in the older areas, so long as public safety and health concerns were met. Baltimore County, in a similar predicament, is also engaged in a broad strategy to revive its older areas.

Mr. Glendening possesses a vision that Maryland cannot prosper if it perpetuates a policy of throw-away communities in a throw-away world. He's right.

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