"I'm boring, I know," County Executive Janet S. Owens said before formally presenting her state funding wish list for schools and land preservation to the county's legislative delegation last night.
In addition to those traditional requests, she's also making a big push for programs she considers Smart Growth initiatives. One example is an $8 million intermodal transit center to help revive Parole Plaza near Annapolis and make Parole into more of a town center.
Of the $89 million on her list of budget priorities unveiled last night, Owens, a Democrat, says all but $1.5 million is for education, land preservation and Smart Growth programs.
"Janet, I suggest you buy some lottery tickets," state Sen. John C. Astle, an Annapolis Democrat, said with a smile during the presentation at Harry Browne's restaurant in Annapolis.
"It's ambitious, and I give her credit for being ambitious," said Democratic Del. Michael E. Busch, chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee.
Busch, assistant to the county's recreation and parks director, said he expects Owens' strong relationship with Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a fellow Democrat, to benefit the county again this year. The General Assembly session begins next month.
"She's done extremely well with the governor and over two years has built a great rapport and articulated the needs for the county," Busch said. "The governor has responded."
The biggest piece in her request - $40 million - is for school construction, Owens' top priority. Last year, the county got $21 million from the state for that purpose, and Owens acknowledges she is being optimistic by asking for nearly twice as much.
"But we can document every penny, we completed projects on time and we have a track record now that shows we can handle this," she said.
Other education-related requests include $2 million to add 18 teacher mentors to the group of 21 and $1.5 million in grants for Annapolis-area schools.
In keeping with tradition, Owens wants to preserve more land. She is asking for $5 million to help buy 645 acres in southwest Anne Arundel near the Patuxent River and $2 million to expand the Magothy Greenway. The county will participate, too. She estimates that the county will contribute about $1 million for the 645 acres.
Owens also is focused on revitalization.
In addition to the transit center, where people could park and take a bus to downtown Annapolis and other destinations, Owens wants the state to spend $5 million on land for a new exit from U.S. 50 to Route 2 South. That would funnel traffic into the town center and Parole Plaza, which has been renamed Parole Centre and is envisioned as a mini-city with retail, office and residential towers.
One possible surprise on her list, she said, is a request for $24 million for two indoor swimming pools in Glen Burnie and Odenton. Both are planned as areas labeled "town centers," and Owens sees both as Smart Growth projects.
Owens won't know how well the county fares until the General Assembly session ends in April. And Busch said it will not be easy.
"This is very competitive," he said. "For every dollar spent, there's probably $5 worth of proposals. Each subdivision is competing against the other."