Ending the regional divide Montgomery's anger: Time to work toward common goals instead of bashing Baltimore.

March 24, 1996

YEAR AFTER YEAR, legislators from affluent Montgomery County come to Annapolis requesting millions of dollars in aid. They then spend much of their energy trying to deny aid to Baltimore City, one of the poorest subdivisions in Maryland.

This time, much of Montgomery's contingent led the charge to kill a new football stadium in the city and failed miserably. Now, the lawmakers may end up costing their county millions in aid as angry colleagues get even.

That's the way it usually winds up. Egged on by extremists in the Montgomery community, most county legislators have played to the emotions of their constituents rather than bringing home legislation beneficial to their constituents. Yet there is a chance in the next few days for that to change. For once, a few enlightened Montgomery lawmakers might prove to their colleagues that quiet compromise in Annapolis works better than destructive rhetoric.

Five county delegates had the courage to support the Baltimore stadium. They understood that a "yes" vote on stadiums could mean leverage for achieving Montgomery's top priority: school construction money.

In return for their support, these legislators have the backing of Gov. Parris Glendening for $36 million in school construction aid. Douglas M. Duncan, the Montgomery County executive, who had been fearful of antagonizing the extremists in his county over the stadiums issue, now supports the Montgomery Five's stance. He, too, has realized the necessity for compromise and negotiation in Annapolis.

Now it is up to the Senate budget panel, chaired by Barbara A. Hoffman of Baltimore. It must approve a bill shifting a $7 million surplus from a tire-recycling fund into the school construction program to be used in Montgomery. The problem is that Montgomery's senators failed to compromise on the stadiums and viciously attacked the city in floor debates. Animus remains from that pointless spectacle.

But Montgomery needs the new schools to keep pace with its fast-growing population. It would be in the state's best interests to approve the $36 million for the county. And it would help put an end to the regional squabbling that has proved so self-defeating. Cooperation, not confrontation, is the best way to achieve results in Annapolis and back home.

Pub Date: 3/24/96

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