Executive candidates make early forays

Smith, Riley outline administrative plans at separate functions

October 20, 2001|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

In one of his first major addresses as a candidate for Baltimore County executive, James T. Smith Jr. outlined yesterday for the Greater Baltimore Economic Forum his plans to reinvigorate community involvement in government, emphasize redevelopment over new building and expand inpatient drug-treatment facilities.

Smith, a Democrat, also said he would consider ordering a management audit of county government.

The recently retired circuit judge said that for the past 14 years he has seen the county's problems in the cases passing through his courtroom. By that time, he said, much of the damage had been done to families and the community.

Smith said he would like to become county executive so that he can address problems from the start.

"I missed the joy of working with people to make their neighborhoods better, to make their schools teach more and to make their businesses a stronger part of the county," he said.

Smith, 59, said that if elected, he would like to set up community roundtable discussions with neighborhood leaders, politicians, county department heads and others to work on local problems. He suggested that the sessions could be broadcast on the local government cable channel and could take input and questions over the Internet.

"We need to create an approach that not only takes in community input but melds it into policy," he said.

He said he was intrigued by a management audit the Greater Baltimore Committee conducted for the city government and would like to explore having a similar audit of county government operations.

Smith told the 60 business leaders gathered at the Baltimore Country Club that he has organized citizen groups from around the county to think of ideas to improve economic development, education, technology, public safety, services for senior citizens and the quality of life in neighborhoods.

Each is chaired by a prominent local expert in the field. Former county Police Chief Michael Gambrill heads public safety; Steve Burch, president of Comcast Corp.'s Mid-Atlantic Division, chairs technology; Joseph Blair, who helped recruit the Baltimore schools' chief executive officer, Carmen V. Russo, leads education.

Smith has no declared opponent for the Democratic nomination.

Republican Del. James F. Ports Jr. of Perry Hall recently formed an exploratory committee to evaluate a county executive bid.

Douglas B. Riley, an attorney and former councilman from Towson who announced for executive in February, held a fund-raiser last night at Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson, at which he called for a stronger role for communities in county government.

"The last eight years has been marked by an administration that has devoted itself to infrastructure, the bricks and mortar of the county, often to the exclusion of the people who make up the county," he said in prepared remarks.

Riley also called for increased funding for the Department of Recreation and Parks and moving the Office of Community Conservation next to the county executive's office as a symbol of its importance.

In addition, he proposed taking the Department of Substance Abuse out of the Department of Health and putting it under the executive's office to give it more prominence.

County political observers have suggested that Smith will have a hard time finding major political and financial backing for the Democratic primary until state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, a Perry Hall Democrat, announces whether he will run for county executive.

Bromwell said recently that he wouldn't make an announcement until after Gov. Parris N. Glendening completes the remapping of legislative districts this winter.

He added that he's leaning against running because of family considerations.

Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat and another possible candidate, represents the same voters Bromwell does and is unlikely to declare until the senator's plans are certain.

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