OCEAN CITY -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening issued an environmental call to action to local officials gathered here yesterday, urging municipal leaders to reject the strip malls and cookie-cutter housing developments that are devouring forests and farms.
Delivering his final speech as governor to the Maryland Association of Counties, Glendening told officials to "act with a real sense of urgency" to protect the environment, especially during unstable economic times.
"I was in local government for more than 20 years," he said. "I know the pressure to approve projects. ... But we are in a new era. We must show leadership by looking our friends in the eye -- looking our supports in the eye -- and saying `no.' "
Glendening's presence here was in doubt until the last minute because his wife, Jennifer E. Crawford, is due to give birth. The governor flew in yesterday morning, and kept a cellular telephone by his side during his remarks. He said he was prepared to leave midsentence and have Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend finish the address if it rang.
The governor said he has attended association conventions for 28 years, but is about to embark on a new career -- he is prevented by term limits from running again this year. His address provided further evidence that his top choice is a position with a national or international environmental group.
He cited a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that said half of the nation's coastal waters have been tainted by runoff and pollution. Increased water salinity caused by global warming is threatening the Chesapeake Bay, he said. In the past year, Glendening said, the number of beach closures caused by contamination in Maryland rose from 111 to 262.
"The time has come for a call to action," Glendening said. "We can make it clear that it is our obligation -- as individuals, as counties and states, and as a nation -- to protect our most precious resources."
Glendening said he recognized that the Smart Growth programs he launched sometimes irked local officials who complained about intrusion into land-use decisions, but the programs were delivering results. "Today, Maryland is protecting more land than we are losing to development," he said.
The governor also reviewed his accomplishments while in office. He said the state was spending $1 billion more yearly on public education than when he was first elected, and spent $1.6 billion modernizing and constructing classrooms.