Lt. gov. takes critical tack

Townsend criticizes handling of maglev

But she still backs train project

Community input needed early, Democrats are told

Howard County

May 15, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Acknowledging complaints about the proposed path and the process used to promote the high-speed maglev train, Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend last night criticized handling of the proposal by state transportation officials, but did not abandon her support for the $3.5 billion project.

"I think it's important to get community input. Clearly, I think they [residents of Anne Arundel and Howard counties] have not been consulted," she said. "They have not been included early enough in the process."

But Townsend, who appeared before more than 300 people at the Howard County Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Clarksville, said "it's too early to tell" if opposition to the routes between Baltimore and Washington - or mistakes in presenting the project - are serious enough to kill it.

"It may be the technology of the future," she said.

The political speeches did not reflect that controversy, however, as local Democrats congratulated themselves on winning control of Howard County's top offices four years ago, and vowed to expand their control in November.

County Executive James N. Robey endorsed Townsend for governor, saying she personifies a remark attributed to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

"If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, tell a woman."

Townsend stood beside, not behind, the podium and vigorously delivered a stump speech about Maryland's progress under Gov. Parris N. Glendening and herself over the past eight years.

"It's like a song you can sing over and over again in the next six months. I hope you'll all sing this tune," she said to the partisan Democratic crowd.

With Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan sitting before her, she also made repeated references to the frustrations of people forced to sit in congested traffic - and the valuable time they lose.

After her speech, she said she is committed to the Intercounty Connector highway that Duncan wants to link Montgomery and Prince George's County and ease the Capital Beltway congestion.

"The ICC is going to be built - in an environmentally sound way," she added after a pause.

She noted the achievements of the Glendening era: lower crime rates, higher personal income, jobs created, the income tax cut, efforts to fight drug addiction and help for children in school.

"We have to teach kids that they have indispensable destiny. They were put on Earth for something special," she said, repeating a campaign phrase that had drawn critical media comment. "They'll have the ability to say, `I have a dream, and the ability to reach that dream.'"

Townsend formally declared her candidacy for governor May 5, although as Maryland's best-known lieutenant governor she has been running for the top job for the past few years.

So far, she is the only announced Democrat in the race. Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and retired surgeon Ross Z. Pierpont are vying for the GOP nomination.

Although Townsend may win votes in Montgomery and Prince George's counties with her support for the Intercounty Connector, her stand on the maglev train could cost her in Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

Most elected officials in those two places, including Robey, have declared they oppose the project, which Townsend supports.

Robey and other opponents say the project, for which Baltimore-Washington is competing with Pittsburgh, would monopolize local transportation funding for a 240-mph train that would offer very little service to local commuters, while disrupting life along its route.

Supporters say the train could boost Baltimore-Washington International Airport, provide an important transportation link for the 2012 Olympics and provide the first link in a new high-speed transportation line for the East Coast.

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