The Facts Were There Why Weren't They Heeded?

March 05, 1995|By ELLEN SAUERBREY

Now that the threat of a fiscally conservative governor taking office in Maryland is gone and the endorsed candidate of both the state's major newspapers is ensconced in Annapolis, there is a great gnashing of teeth among the media over the previously undisclosed warts that have come to light since their hero's inauguration.

One pundit, The Sun's Barry Rascovar, went so far as to suggest in his column last week that the fault lies with Mr. Glendening's opponents for failing to ''dig up the dirt'' during the last campaign.

To the contrary plenty of data were made available during the campaign, much of it spelled out in my literature, stump speeches and press releases to support my contention that we should not ''let Parris do for Maryland what he did for Prince George's County.''

With supporting data taken from past articles in The Sun and the Washington Post we showed that Mr. Glendening had a history of fiscal foibles and a record on crime and education that was the worst of any Maryland county executive.

We did our best to expose him as a dyed-in-the wool

tax-and-spend liberal throughout his past political career, who frequently skated precariously close to the ethical edge.

For example, we noted that in April 1991 and April 1992 newspapers (including The Sun) criticized Mr. Glendening for proposing short-term borrowing, rather than budget cuts, to balance his county's ailing budget.

In 1992 when the private sector and governments throughout Maryland were forced to lay off people and withhold salary increases, Mr. Glendening vehemently opposed and then vetoed county council legislation to freeze the salaries of county employees -- rejecting the view of council member F. Kirwan Wineland that ''People should be happy to have a job, rather than looking for 7 to 9 percent increases.''

On April 10, 1992, The Sun wrote a scathing criticism of a politically motivated and irresponsible pay increase: ''Last year's million shortfall was averted only by borrowing $60 million to create a balanced budget. Largely due to huge cuts in state aid, another $60 million in IOUs will be needed this year. Prince George's is in no position to grant county workers pay hikes this month. Mr. Glendening's strategies for avoiding reality may be politically palatable. But they're financially indefensible. Mortgaging tomorrow's cash flow to pay today's bills is not the way to run a household -- or a county.''

Mr. Glendening left ''tomorrow's cash flow'' for his successor, who is facing massive layoffs. He was looking ahead to a race for governor and currying support from organized labor.

Ron Miller, head of the fire fighters' union and president of the Prince George's County Coalition of Public Employees, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, ''I think it is fair to say that Glendening can count on strong support from the unions, and the council members who voted [for the wage freeze] can count on opposition like they have never seen before.''

My campaign literature pointed out that under Mr. Glendening's ''leadership'' per capita spending in Prince George's County increased by 97 percent, nearly double that in neighboring and far more affluent Montgomery County. He used taxpayer monies to lavish large salary increases on his top political appointees and to expand his own personal office. From '83 to '91 his staff budget rose 289 percent.

Between 1985 and 1991 Prince George's County's debt increased by 171 percent, the largest increase of any Maryland county. In 1991 the National Association of Counties ranked it as having the 4th-largest deficit in the nation; Standard and Poor and Moody's dropped its bond rating to last among Maryland's top four counties.

In 1992 and 1993 City and State magazine in its ranking of fiscal strength and management placed Prince George's County 49th among the 50 largest counties in the nation.

During the election The Sun was diligent in its efforts to prove that Gov. Christine Whitman's tax cut would devastate New Jersey and that my tax cut proposal would have evil consequences in Maryland. But it didn't bother to investigate Mr. Glendening's inflated claims of management skill or the consequences of his irresponsible fiscal policies right here in Maryland.

Mr. Glendening's self-enriching pension scheme could only have been uncovered before the election by diligent reporters doing the job top-notch news organizations are supposed to do.

In its editorial endorsement of October 30, 1994, The Sun stated that ''Doubts arise about Mrs. Sauerbrey, not because she will junk her campaign promises but because she will carry them out,'' . . . while Mr. Glendening could be relied upon to ''simply delay or abandon his proposals.'' It is rare indeed that a newspaper lends its editorial support to deceit and broken promises.

Last month Barry Rascovar waxed ecstatic about ''A Gentleman in the Governor's Mansion . . . a decent, fair-minded individual'' and caustically described me as being ''unyielding in her beliefs and inflexible in her approach.''

I would like to think that having firm convictions and being willing to fight for them is a virtue, not a fault. But it appears that Mr. Rascovar finally got it. The ''Gentleman'' is a slick pol suffering with a sleaze factor and an incredibly bad memory.

Ellen Sauerbrey, the defeated gubernatorial candidate in 1994, is the host of a talk show on WBAL radio.

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