For Glendening, votes on stadiums come with a price: State lawmakers rush to trade for 'pork' for their counties

February 23, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron and C. Fraser Smith | Thomas W. Waldron and C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

If Gov. Parris N. Glendening is going to build football stadiums in Baltimore and Landover, he may have to fix a few alleys in Catonsville and buy some parkland in Owings Mills.

And find new transportation funds for Baltimore, build a few more schools for Baltimore County and commit himself to $100 million or so for something called the American Dream Mall in Silver Spring.

As he scours the State House for votes for the stadium deals, Mr. Glendening and the General Assembly leadership may agree to all of the above spending and more. The stadiums are slated to cost $273 million, but the added cost of vote-building could take the price much higher.

"I'm sure there's a line of people standing outside the governor's office looking for something," said Sen. John A. Cade, a Republican from Anne Arundel.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. says Mr. Glendening must use the financial and political power of his office aggressively.

"He has to distinguish between those whose opposition is substantive and those whose opposition is posturing," said Mr. Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat. "Posturers should be punished."

How should those who posture be punished?

"That's for him to decide," Mr. Miller said. "They certainly shouldn't be rewarded for now."

While few legislators will talk publicly about the help they are seeking in return for a stadium vote, they have made their needs clear inside the State House.

Some lawmakers are wondering why the governor already included in his budget a $20 million conference center for Montgomery County, whose legislators form a solid bloc of stadium opposition.

The center is the sort of reward that goes to jurisdictions that support big state initiatives. But senators and delegates in Montgomery seem determined to vote "no" regardless of what the governor offers them.

Cashing in

Other jurisdictions, though, are seeking to cash in quickly on their stadium support. One of these is Baltimore County, where legislators are waiting to hear how much their votes are worth to the governor.

The asking price is additional school construction and a handful of capital projects sprinkled around the county -- $1 million for Catonsville streetscape improvements and $2 million for Essex renewal efforts, to cite two examples.

The governor's office hasn't given an answer, apparently holding off on any paybacks until it is clear just how many votes are needed.

"We're in this dance," said one Baltimore County official. "The governor's office is saying, 'Do we need them?' "

'The symmetry down here'

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which has a hand in all state spending decisions, insists that he is not making deals for stadium votes.

But he also says that every legislator is aware of what he calls "the symmetry down here."

"The House tries to build consensus on issues, and when you're outside of the consensus, you ought not be running to get support for your projects," the Baltimore Democrat said.

Beginning next year, Montgomery County, for example, wants state help for what Mr. Rawlings calls "a stadium-like project for Silver Spring," the American Dream Mall.

How can Montgomery County delegates expect help from the state on a project like that, Mr. Rawlings asked, if its

representatives vote solidly against the stadiums?

Difficult math

With each day, the political calculus grows more complicated.

Recently, the governor and legislative leaders dragged a long-simmering dispute over transportation fund revenue-sharing into discussions on a new stadium for the Washington Redskins.

Maryland legislators want Prince George's County and Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke to pick up about one-third of the state's $73 million cost for that project, although they have failed to reach an agreement on how to do that.

To make it easier for Prince George's to chip in, Mr. Glendening has endorsed a plan to transfer road money from Baltimore City to Prince George's and other counties.

That move, however, will force Mr. Glendening to find about $13 million in replacement funding for the city.

'High-fat diets'

Tradition in the General Assembly holds that "tough votes" can be won by a leadership willing to distribute a bit of "pork" -- public works projects a legislator can take home for purposes of community development and personal aggrandizement.

"High-fat diets can kill in politics as well as elsewhere in life," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, a Hagerstown Democrat. "Those offers could boomerang in these times."

The question is whether anything the governor or legislative leaders have to offer can give a delegate or senator the protection he or she needs to vote for $273 million worth of football stadiums.

"On something this big and this visible, people back home are going to say, 'Don't tell me you got some $2 million recreation center or a new lane for a road,' " said Mary Lehman, a leader of a grass-roots anti-stadium group. "That just doesn't cut it."

'A statewide perspective'

Still, the old reflexes die hard.

At least one legislator from Montgomery County, for example, wants an important subcommittee chairmanship and might be prepared to offer his vote in exchange despite the opposition at home.

Del. John F. Slade III, a St. Mary's County Democrat, said he wants to make sure that some $21 million worth of road improvements reach his county as proposed.

"I try to have a statewide perspective," said Mr. Slade, who said he is leaning toward support for the stadiums.

"I've been here long enough to know that I have to work with the state administration."

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