In his first job out of office, Glendening to fight sprawl

Educating lawmakers is group's national goal

February 11, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening's first job after a 30-year political career will combine his experience as a teacher with a commitment to land preservation that became a hallmark of his final years in office.

Glendening, 60, is set to announce today that he will become president of a newly formed organization called the Smart Growth Leadership Institute.

Affiliated with Smart Growth America - a national Washington-based coalition of planning and environmental groups - the institute will strive to educate political leaders on the value of programs and policies to curb sprawl.

"He will be a paid staff member," said David Goldberg, a spokesman for Smart Growth America. "We've raised money to create an institute for elected officials, to teach them about Smart Growth policy. He's going to head that."

Glendening did not return a telephone message left at his temporary Annapolis office yesterday, but he has scheduled a news conference for this morning in Washington with Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America.

He will be joined at the new institute by Harriet Tregoning, special secretary of the Maryland Office of Smart Growth, a creation of the former governor.

Tregoning said yesterday that she will serve as the executive director, overseeing most of its day-to-day operations.

"He does all the really important stuff to raise money, and he is going to be the main spokesperson," Tregoning said.

Glendening and others have been raising money for the not-for-profit venture and have commitments of between $300,000 and $400,000, Tregoning said. She declined to disclose which foundations or other groups have given money. "We are hoping we can run the organization on a half-million to a million dollars a year," she said.

If Glendening continues raising money for the institute, it would be no surprise if he turns to some of his most loyal supporters over the years, such as organized labor.

As governor, Glendening - a longtime political science professor at the University of Maryland, College Park - gave collective bargaining rights to state workers and public university employees and included a 2 percent salary increase for state unions in his final budget.

Amid cries of fiscal irresponsibility, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. overturned the raises.

Representatives of the AFL-CIO did not respond yesterday to questions about whether the union has contributed to Glendening's effort.

Neither Tregoning nor Goldberg would disclose Glendening's salary, although Tregoning indicated that at least initially, she may not earn as much as in her position now, which pays $116,000 yearly. And Glendening will be putting in fewer hours than she does, she said. "This is a half-time thing for him."

But Goldberg gave a different account, saying the former governor would be working on additional projects that would take most of his time. "Along with the other things he is planning to do with us, it's pretty much full time," he said.

Smart Growth America has five paid employees.

Glendening left office amid much speculation about his next job. In December 2001, he was forced to renounce his stealth candidacy for chancellor of the University System of Maryland after ethics experts and donors raised questions about the propriety of his seeking a $375,000-a-year position from members of the Board of Regents he appointed.

In the environmental field, the ex-governor has developed a national reputation for Smart Growth programs, which have become models for other states. Glendening refused to locate government buildings where they would contribute to sprawl, and used the "carrot" of state funding rather than the "stick" of regulations to encourage denser development close to urban centers.

"He has definitely proven in Maryland that livability is a major 21st-century asset," Tregoning said.

While Glendening's future is becoming clearer, the plans of former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend are still unknown. Reached at home yesterday, the unsuccessful candidate for governor said she had no announcement about her future and did not know when one would be made. "Don't worry about me," she said.

Asked about a story circulating in Annapolis that she was trying to start an international political consulting firm and that she had recently traveled to London to secure clients, Townsend responded: "All rumor, all rumors."

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