Governor looks tough on sprawl

The Political Game

Confrontation: Delivering bad news in Montgomery County might have been just the platform the governor was seeking in another campaign he's waging.

February 23, 1999|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

THOSE WHO WATCHED Gov. Parris N. Glendening talk to the voters of Brookeville on Friday were a bit stunned at the vehemence of his remarks.

He had bad news about the Brookeville bypass in Montgomery County, and he didn't sugarcoat it. No bypass, he said. And no appeal.

This seemed to violate a basic political principle: Bad news must come from a spokesman and not in person.

"That's what the telephone is for," one elected pol observed.

The governor's press secretary, Ray Feldmann, said the governor did not go looking for a confrontation but didn't back away from one when it arose.

"He had to be honest. He's willing to take the heat when someone's program comes off the table," Feldmann said.

But Glendening might have had another objective, equally political. He wants to look tough on the issue of sprawl -- to burnish his Smart Growth program -- so he can continue to impress his colleagues in the National Governor's Association and perhaps even Vice President Al Gore, for whom sprawl control is a priority.

"The governor doesn't want to see a high-visibility project like the bypass overturned as the first test case for Smart Growth," said state Sen. Christopher McCabe, a Republican who represents Brookeville.

With education, Smart Growth has been Glendening's platform for his campaign to become chairman of the NGA -- and even a Cabinet officer, should Gore become president. The issue that has gained him national attention is Smart Growth.

But some have wondered whether Maryland can make the program's sanctions stick once projects such as the Brookeville bypass hang in the balance.

If the people of Brookeville were upset, the governor seemed all the more resolute as the NGA's convention was convening in Washington.

"Everybody wants to go to heaven," he said, "but no one wants to die." In Brookeville, residents say the dying will happen on local streets if no bypass is built. They say growth control is secondary to safety. Feldmann said the governor is willing to look for other solutions, but McCabe said there are none.

An appeal may be pending. Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon are promising to oppose the governor.

Glendening traveled to Washington last weekend for a meeting of the governors, who will decide whether he becomes head of the NGA. The trip might not have helped him.

Glendening said opponents of certain Democratic education initiatives were no better than, in the Washington Post's words, "the bigots who, in earlier years, refused to offer jobs to religious or racial minorities."

Republican governors were incensed, assuming Glendening's remarks were aimed at them.

"What he said had zero to do with GOP governors," Feldmann said yesterday. Glendening was restating his view that young people who are not prepared for the "knowledge-based society" could face "whites-only discrimination," he said.

Ehrlich prepares two-track fund-raiser

With the future more than amply filled with challenge and peril, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. prepares an unusual, two-track fund-raiser March 22.

Tickets to the event's "state" campaign division are available for $1,500. The "federal" side of the hall will cost $500. The difference in price derives from the different contribution limits -- $1,000 for federal offices such as U.S. Senate, $4,000 for individual candidates in Maryland races. Also, corporate contributions are allowed in Maryland but not on the federal level.

Ehrlich expects to add $200,000 to the state account, $500,000 to the federal on this night alone. He has assembled a strong finance committee, headed by Shelly Kamins of Montgomery County. Dick Hug, who helped Ellen R. Sauerbrey out-raise Parris N. Glendening last year, is also on the team.

The current political wisdom puts Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes out of Ehrlich's reach. Democrats are too strong now, having pummeled Sauerbrey last fall.

So, Ehrlich could be pressed in coming months to run for governor in 2002 -- and he might choose to do that particularly if his congressional re-election prospects are damaged by new district lines to be drawn by a panel controlled by Glendening after the 2000 census.

He doesn't have to play in the gubernatorial arena, but that option could seem inviting if his new district is packed with hostile Democrats.

Pub Date: 2/23/99

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