O'Malley wants funding increased $179 million

Mayor lobbies counties to support request to governor

January 06, 2001|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

SILVER SPRING - With his city in desperate need of more money, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is reaching out to county executives and state legislators to line up support for his ambitious request for $179 million in additional state funding.

Yesterday, O'Malley visited Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. Earlier this week, a delegation from Prince George's County, along with County Executive Wayne K. Curry, came to Baltimore and saw a demonstration of the highly praised CitiStat program.

Both visits are indicative of O'Malley's heightened push to gain allies for the fiscal battles that will likely occur after the General Assembly convenes Wednesday.

"There's no reason why our jurisdictions should be at odds," O'Malley said yesterday. "Our challenge in the years ahead is to make people realize that you can't make the state stronger by holding your neighbor down."

Getting money for drug treatment tops O'Malley's list this year, as it did last year, when the state gave the city $8 million more. This time, O'Malley is looking for an additional $17 million to pay for another 2,000 treatment slots for the city's estimated 60,000 addicts.

"We have a much more organized, comprehensive, thoughtful, extensive package than we did last year," O'Malley said. "We had the sort of short and simple version last year, and not very much was funded."

Last year, the city received about $800 million in state funding.

O'Malley took extensive notes and listened intently yesterday as Montgomery County officials detailed their array of drug treatment programs and the links they have forged between the social service network and the Police Department.

Montgomery officials said about 1,000 people were treated last year in outpatient treatment programs. More than 4,500 addicts are treated each year through Montgomery's programs.

"It's a real problem in your jurisdiction, but we have a problem as well," Duncan said. "So does Prince George's."

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has declined to say how much money he will include in his budget for the city's projects, though he is expected to propose an increase in drug treatment funding.

He, too, got a lobbying visit from the mayor.

During the Ravens game last Sunday, O'Malley stopped by the governor's skybox to talk about the city agenda. Among those items: $45 million toward his Digital Harbor plan to attract technology firms and other businesses to Baltimore by creating parks, bicycle paths, roads and waterfront boardwalks; and $10 million for west-side revitalization.

"Most of his priorities are absolutely consistent with my priorities," Glendening said in a later interview. "We won't be able to fund everything the city is asking for, but we'll be a helpful partner."

O'Malley was criticized in some quarters last year for his administration's work during the legislative session, and the mayor said he is aiming for a better year - and better results. Part of his effort has included making CitiStat - a computer program to track complaints and services - a "must-see" for visiting legislators.

"It debunks the myth that we're a bottomless pit," he said. "It's such a stark difference from what they've seen in previous years."

All this - the visits, the Citi- Stat demonstrations - is aimed at turning around Baltimore's image as the "sick man" of Maryland, he said.

"We were starting to drop off the map," O'Malley said, describing the city's decline in the eyes of state legislators. "We're turning that around. We didn't do it last session. We won't do it this session, but hopefully, over time."

Baltimore seems to be better positioned this year. However, Glendening said he has not developed a close relationship with O'Malley, who has verbally jabbed at the governor over the limited amount of money made available to help the city with its overwhelming drug problem.

"Those are never overly productive," Glendening said of O'Malley's comments. "But people use different approaches and tactics. The most productive is to work closely with the governor and explain your needs."

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the West Baltimore Democrat who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, commended the mayor's efforts and said he believes the city is much better prepared than last year. O'Malley had been in office barely a month when the General Assembly met in January last year.

"I think we will be more successful than we were last year," Rawlings said. "I think the important thing is that the mayor has been an effective mayor. I think the mayor's popularity is very high around the state."

O'Malley hopes the time spent with the governor, county executives and state lawmakers will pay off in the city's push to increase state funding for the school system. City officials are working closely to strike a deal with the state that will provide additional money and end a lawsuit the city had filed over the claimed underfunding of its schools.

The city planned to request $101.5 million - $74.1 million more than it received last year - for this segment of state education aid; legislative leaders are discussing $55 million total as a compromise that could end the legal wrangling.

O'Malley said yesterday that the $55 million was only $1 million more than Duncan is seeking in capital funds for Montgomery County's school system.

"Clearly the state needs to step up and provide more dollars," said Duncan, who is considering a bid for governor in 2002. "You've got to look at things statewide."

Other city requests include:

$10 million to demolish some of the more than 13,000 abandoned houses in Baltimore, up from the $2 million the state provided last year. City officials have identified 36 blocks that have no more than five occupied buildings.

$3 million for the Healthy Neighborhoods program that provides low-interest loans.

$3.3 million for two police helicopters and their maintenance.

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