Set sights high, Glendening exhorts county officials Few specifics detailed in speech to local leaders

August 09, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

OCEAN CITY -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening outlined a utopian vision of 21st-century Maryland yesterday in a speech that was long on exuberance but short of specific policy proposals.

Addressing the Maryland Association of Counties' summer convention for his fourth time as governor, Glendening urged local officials to pursue lofty goals for education, health, public safety, transportation and the environment.

"Maryland can be the best place to live, and no one will be left out," Glendening declared. "Together let's build a better Maryland for all of our children and our children's children."

Glendening's speech wrapped up a three-day gathering that attracted most of the state's leading political news-makers but produced remarkably little news.

MACO's summer gathering is a traditional venue for governors to foreshadow specific proposals or policies they intend to push for in the next year's General Assembly session. In the past, Glendening has used it for precisely that purpose.

This summer, facing a bipartisan audience in an election year, Glendening kept his remarks inspirational rather than informational. He urged local officials to join him in adopting such goals as a crime-free society, the best educational system in the world and a health system under which no child is denied needed medical care.

The closest the governor came to a new initiative was a contest among jurisdictions for the best programs to restore wetlands.

In one of his more specific references, Glendening said he would try to expand the college scholarship program adopted this year for students in high-technology fields to all high school graduates.

"We cannot tell our high school seniors that they cannot afford to go to college," the governor said.

Glendening, usually a wooden speaker, delivered the address in an unusually animated style. He received a friendly reception from a crowd that had visibly thinned from earlier in the week.

But the governor's political foes complained that he was feeding them rather thin broth.

"It was his opportunity to set forth what he's going to do the next four years, and he didn't say anything," said Democratic primary challenger Eileen M. Rehrmann, the Harford County executive. "I think I'll have a different speech next year."

Donald Messenger, a Howard County Board of Appeals member who supports Republican front-runner Ellen R. Sauerbrey, said Glendening's education priorities were misplaced.

"I think they should teach fourth-graders how to read before they talk about college scholarships," he said.

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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