Riley pledges increase in spending on parks

County executive hopeful stresses helping children

October 04, 2002|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Douglas B. Riley, the Republican candidate for Baltimore County executive, is pledging to spend more money on parks and recreation if elected.

In a newly released plan, Riley promises to spend more money on the parks and recreation staff so that families won't have to pay as much for Little League or ski clubs.

"My emphasis is going to be on programming, on making sure we have programming children, in particular, and families can afford," he said.

Riley didn't say how much more money he would spend. That would depend on the county's finances, he said.

The proposal was part of a three-page plan Riley said was designed to improve the quality of life for Baltimore County residents while attracting more residents and new business.

"We see it as part of the whole economic package," he said.

In his plan, which was drawn from a recent speech, he also vowed to restore the oversight role of the Recreation and Parks Board, a group of citizens that he said should review Recreation and Parks Department decision-making.

The policy paper was the first released by the former councilman. His opponent, Democrat James T. Smith Jr., has released "blueprints" on economic development and education, and he plans to release more on other issues.

Smith said recreation and parks are "integral" to his economic development plans and his goal of aiding mature neighborhoods. He supports spending more on programs and maintenance if the county's finances allow.

"I will be pushing for ways we can help without spending more," he said, "and I will be making the financial commitment we can afford."

The county has hundreds of parks and community centers, many on school grounds, offering everything from bird-watching to children's basketball leagues.

Riley said many parks and community facilities fell into disrepair while County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger cut the recreation budget and emphasized buying parkland.

The Ruppersberger administration disputes that, saying the county executive has raised annual funding to $11 million, an increase of almost $2 million, during his tenure.

"During the early 1990s, when there were some personnel cuts to the department, that was all a period when Doug Riley was on the County Council," said Elise Armacost, county spokeswoman.

John Weber, director of recreation and parks, said the county has instituted a better management system to ensure cleanliness and safety during Ruppersberger's two terms in office.

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