Gov. Parris N. Glendening will open his final conference as chairman of the National Governors' Association today, capping a year's labor that may be better appreciated outside Maryland than within the borders of the Old Line State.
Glendening has used his bully pulpit as a ranking governor to promote policies that fit under the banner of Smart Growth. He has spread his message of fewer highways, denser construction, farmland preservation and revitalization of older communities from state to state, and watched it take root.
When he visited Minnesota last December, Gov. Jesse Ventura unveiled his own package of growth-related initiatives at the same time. Governors in Kentucky, Utah and other states have all stood by Glendening's shoulder as they talked up their own programs.
"As Jesus said, a prophet is not without honor except in his own country," said Tom Hylton, a Pennsylvania-based author and journalist who has written on state planning.
"Among those trying to promote rational land use, Glendening is looked at as the national leader in the movement - no question about it. I would find it hard to believe that anyone could do it more effectively."
Keith Schneider, a program director with the Michigan Land Use Institute, called Glendening "one of the fathers of a new quality of life politic that is emerging in the United States."
"We have to redirect our public resources in a wholly different way," Schneider said. "He was able to articulate this package of concerns, and a package of solutions."
That national praise goes largely unnoticed at home. In Maryland, political junkies are already looking past the administration of the lame-duck governor, wondering whether Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will attract any serious competition in her own State House run.
Glendening maintains his power over next year's redistricting process and his healthy job approval ratings, but his legacy is by no means cemented the way it is elsewhere.
The governor recognizes that his name holds a different cachet in other states.
"At home, you have so many issues to deal with," he said. "Outside of the area, our reputation is more focused."
The summer meeting of the governors' association, which begins today in Providence, R.I., and runs through Tuesday, will focus heavily on Smart Growth issues and higher education. As chairman, Glendening selected the topics that became the framework for a year's worth of conferences, reports and meetings with officials from other states.
In the process, Maryland's Smart Growth plans were widely disseminated. Glendening also testified before Congress and met with President Bush.
"I exceeded by far any expectation that I had," Glendening said. "When I think what we've been able to do, it really has been phenomenal. What started here in Maryland three years ago has truly become a national movement."
Maryland's efforts to control growth began in earnest in October 1998, when a law took effect prohibiting state money for roads, sewers, water pipes and other projects outside of designated areas - often older cities and towns.
It is that breakthrough - using the carrot of government funds rather than the stick of regulations or restrictions - that has resonated throughout the country. The message delivered by a liberal Eastern Democrat found an audience in the Midwest and West.
"That plays into the conservative, Republican role of governing," said Schneider. "We're not saying you can't grow. ... It was the tool, the strategy that breaks through the anti-government sloganeering of the last 25 years."
The Smart Growth concept does have some critics. In Maryland, for instance, the Carroll County commissioners have bristled at Glendening's attempts to restrict growth in the county, which they see as trampling on the rights of property owners.
But for the most part, Smart Growth has received broad, bipartisan support. Ben Starrett, executive director of the Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities in Miami, Fla., said that more than 30 governors talked about Smart Growth issues in their state of the state addresses in the past year, more Republicans than Democrats.
Glendening, with his dry, professorial demeanor, might seem an unlikely leader of a national movement.
"There is a bit of policy-wonkishness in anybody who gets into these issues at a level of detail," said Starrett. "They tend to be complex issues that don't have easy solutions. I don't think his charisma has in any way hindered his message. It's clear that he's not just a mouthpiece for smart people behind him. He gets it."
Each year since 1998, Glendening has beefed up his Smart Growth portfolio. This year, he created a first-of-its-kind, Cabinet-level Smart Growth secretary.