Smart Growth's urban meaning Program: Gov. Parris N. Glendening is making the case that his plan to control development in rural areas can have a positive impact inside the beltways by freeing state money for use there.

The Political Game

October 07, 1997|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

AND NOW, the urban side of Smart Growth.

You may have missed it when sprawl control slogged into law earlier this year, but the idea has an urban component: rational development could free state funds for use inside the beltways and in other urban areas, according to Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

The governor made his case last week during a tour of Baltimore neighborhoods.

When he was courting (his word) 21 years ago, he walked through the streets of Cumberland with his bride-to-be, Frances Anne. Her hometown was humming, Glendening thought. There were night spots, hundreds of people out walking and "a sense of community."

Then came the new mall, located several miles outside the city.

The result? A downtown Cumberland which to Glendening seems deserted at night, bereft of people and devoid of commercial activity. A third of the stores are empty, he said -- except for the occasional thrift outlet. The state is partly to blame, because it helped to pay for a road halfway up a mountain where the mall was built.

"We shouldn't use tax dollars to create that sort of situation," he said. What we should do, he said, is look carefully at the projects such money backs, preparing a kind of urban-impact statement -- and refrain from things that might hurt. Under the Smart Growth law, government will have more money to help Baltimore neighborhoods such as Waverly and Hampden, where Cafe Hon relocated and grew with state money.

A more careful husbanding of scarce resources, Glendening said, would help the state reclaim the Memorial Stadium property -- after the Ravens fly off to Camden Yards. Several potential new tenants -- the Johns Hopkins University, Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Stadium School -- are potential beneficiaries of this savings, the governor said.

"That's where we should be investing our money," Glendening said.

His audience of 70 or so Waverly residents cheered enthusiastically. Pressed to make a commitment to help with construction or relocation of the neighborhood's new community-run Stadium School, Glendening said, "If it's a school on the list, we'll help."

Proving once again that all politics is local, Glendening took questions for a half hour -- and got appreciative applause for most.

"People like to see the governor come into their community," said Jackie MacMillan, a member of the Better Waverly Improvement Association.

"He came out relatively unscathed," said Buzz Merrick, another association member who was there with his young family in search of a financial commitment to the Stadium School.

From the Smart Growth savings pool, perhaps. Sounded good to this crowd.

"People underestimate the importance of Smart Growth for people committed to living in cities," said Ann Gordon, another Waverly devotee.

While Gordon and her cohorts were pleased with Glendening's remarks, they are not waiting for the city or the state to save them. Waverly, situated north and south of 33rd Street west of the stadium, represents 2,400 households. Block by block, it works to preserve housing, the quality of public education and a sense of personal security.

Its new organizer, Debra Evans, and her team have offices above Pete's Grill on Greenmount Avenue courtesy of Pete.

If necessary, Glendening can be flexible in dress

Even the most casual observer of Maryland politics will have noticed that Glendening seldom deviates from his sartorial devotion to the plain white shirt and striped tie.

But he certainly can be flexible. Before he started his tour last week, the governor showed up for a news conference in an Orioles baseball jacket. Them O's were about to play Seattle in their big series. So the governor of Maryland wore the team colors for a photograph taken at the Dundalk Marine Terminal.

If he were a real baseball man -- hoping to avoid the bad luck a change of clothing can bring -- he might have worn the same shirt and tie all summer. That would have been real commitment.

But then, who would have noticed?

Pub Date: 10/07/97

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