Rawlings forced to allow city school funding cut Embarrassment: In pushing for huge increases in state aid, the Baltimore legislator was left in an awkward position.

The Political Game

March 11, 1997|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

IN THE MIDST of his effort to convince legislators from around the state that Baltimore can make good use of another quarter-billion dollars in state education aid -- $30 million this year alone -- Del. Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings was left with an embarrassment.

Even as he was pushing for more, the Baltimore legislator was obliged to go along with a $2 million cut in the current year's budget at the city's expense. That money had been provided to pay for a teacher evaluation system. The purpose: to collect data that would support giving Baltimore teachers pay parity with surrounding school districts.

But the evaluation system was not in place as required.

Rawlings was left to defend the indefensible. He didn't try. The city school system, he said, had shown "great reluctance and negligence. As a result, the system can't be in place by the end of the year." If the system isn't there, the $2 million isn't needed, so it was cut.

The city's defenders say its classroom performance cannot be judged fairly because it does not have the resources. But the case is more difficult to make when the city isn't prepared to use the millions it has already.

Election questions: Is Cardin the answer?

Will Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin run for governor in 1998, taking on his party's incumbent governor, Parris N. Glendening? Who would back him? Who would be his running mate? Why doesn't the 3rd District congressman say what he's doing one way or another? Will he stand down if Glendening is judged to have had a "good" legislative session?

The questions remain a staple of talk among those who want to get their political ducks in a row as soon as possible. The money men in the business world and the candidates want to know as soon as they can so they can judge which candidate they want to run with if there were to be a primary. Or they may want to keep prospecting for a horse to ride.

In recent days, sources say, H. Furlong Baldwin of Mercantile Bank, who helped to convene a political summit last year to discuss Glendening alternatives, and Kalman "Buddy" Zamoiski, a Baltimore businessman, met with Cardin to ask for a decision.

Cardin told them he's not in -- or out -- at the moment. Still thinking seriously about it, though.

He was to meet in the next few days with Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who says she is running for governor. Here we have a classic example of why people want to know Ben's inclinations as soon as possible: Rehrmann might stay in the race, or she might become his running mate. Or, someone else's?

Or maybe Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry will run.

Or fill in the blank. In the end, probably only one of these worthies would make a primary challenge. Or perhaps no one will.

In the speculation game, any number can play.

Economic recovery and family stability

Legislators and lobbyists always feel a bill's chances improve if the purpose is economic development -- jobs and a resultant whirl of dollars through the marketplace.

Thus when he stood gamely last week to defend his proposal to put slot machines at Maryland race tracks, Del. Clarence Davis suggested his bill be thought of as the Economic Recovery Act of 1997.

Federal cutbacks, corporate downsizing and other heavy blows to the state's economy need to be offset by the gambling dollars that would flow to the treasury if slots were allowed.

Davis had a list of the causes that would be advanced financially if only the machines were permitted.

Some of the money, he said, could even be diverted to local treasuries for the purpose of reducing the high cost of buying a house in Maryland.

Renters could be homeowners, he said, if only they had the closing costs -- if only those costs could be reduced.

The purchaser must pay a full year's property taxes in advance at closing.

But changing that practice has an effect on the locals because, by now, the money is counted on to run government. To change the system and relieve the purchaser of this burdensome requirement, slots revenue could be distributed instead.

The bill could be thought of as a "Family Stability Act," Davis suggested.

Others, somewhat cynically, have suggested diverting the money for early childhood education.

Then we could have the Slots for Tots Act of 1997.

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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