Too expensive? Just give it time Reconsider: Gov. Parris N. Glendening promises $1.7 million in state funding for Strathmore Hall, a project he opposed two years ago.

The Political Game

March 17, 1998|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

WHOEVER promised a chicken in every pot was a piker. In Maryland, we might build a performing arts center in every middlesex, village and farm.

In College Park, the state recently spent $100 million to build such a venue on the University of Maryland campus at College Park.

In Baltimore, taxpayers will plunk down $1.7 million to help renovate the Hippodrome on Eutaw Street, a half-block south of Lexington Market.

Yesterday in Montgomery County, where politicians worry that Baltimore might appear to be ahead in the race for public dollars, Gov. Parris N. Glendening promised an exquisitely even-handed $1.7 million for a symphony center at Strathmore Hall inside the Capital Beltway off Wisconsin Avenue.

The state's money would be used to design a 2,000-seat second home for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and cultural arts education center.

Combined with an $800,000 bond bill approved for Montgomery last year, the state's total investment in this $50 million project stands at $2.5 million.

And to think the Strathmore Hall project was once regarded by the governor as unaffordable, excessive and senseless.

In 1996, the governor rejected the project because it would duplicate and compete with the College Park facility, which Glendening had championed. The distance between the two sites is about 10 miles.

"In terms of tax dollars," he said then, "it wouldn't make any sense to put $50 million [for Strathmore Hall] just down the road" from the $100 million College Park center.

Since then, said Glendening spokeswoman Judi Scioli, Montgomery officials have convinced the governor that he was wrong. The center is "not duplicative in any way," she said. His initial opposition, she said, was overcome by a new need assessment.

And, she said, "He really does try to support the arts."

Glendening's announcement on Strathmore Hall might have *T salved a wound or two. He continues to labor under the image of the man who spent $270 million or so to build two professional sports stadiums (one in Baltimore). And, days before his Strathmore Hall announcement, he shelved the inter-county connector, a highway project that gave some a hope for less rush-hour traffic congestion in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Time passes, of course, and new information comes in. Who would want an executive so rigid he could never bend in the face of more data, or a stronger argument?

In an election year, of course, everything looks political. A cartoon in the Montgomery Journal showed the governor with a weather vane-like device revolving around his neck, suggesting that he had changed his mind on gambling (which he opposes), the highway project -- and, now in a good way, the performing arts center.

By the way, it was Herbert Hoover who promised the chickens in 1928. In 1929, they came home to roost. But that was then.

Quayle shows deference toward his Lincoln Day host

GOP gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey attended the Howard County Lincoln Day Dinner last weekend. Her special guest, former Vice President Dan Quayle. Quayle was in town to help Sauerbrey raise money -- and to watch his son play lacrosse at the Naval Academy. He hopped from event to event in a helicopter -- delivering Sauerbrey to Turf Valley.

The national star and Sauerbrey made a bit of a stir. Quayle was careful to avoid endorsing anyone and that was a very nice thing because Sauerbrey's Republican primary opponent, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, was the host.

Pub Date: 3/17/98

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