Glendening gets look up close at sprawl

Ex-governor battles traffic on way to new job in D.C.

February 12, 2003|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- After eight years of walking a few steps to work from his mansion in the center of Annapolis, former Gov. Parris N. Glendening got his first taste yesterday of his new job preaching the dangers of sprawl: a nasty commute down U.S. 50 into the nation's capital.

"It will every day be a reminder of why sprawl is a problem," he said at a news conference announcing his job as head of the new Smart Growth Leadership Institute.

Glendening, 60, earned national recognition as a leader of the Smart Growth movement, a push to contain rampant growth by preserving open space and revitalizing existing communities. The former governor will continue in that role as he advises policymakers across the country on how they can follow his lead in changing the way they think about planning and development.

Glendening, a former head of the National Governors' Association, said he hopes to help governors put together Smart Growth-friendly legislative packages and organize their Cabinets to get the best results.

"He is the person that is most credible on these issues in the country," said Donald D.T. Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America, a Washington-based coalition of planning and environmental groups with which the new institute will be affiliated.

Glendening said the institute would have a yearly budget of about $1 million, a third of which has been raised. The money will come from foundations, private philanthropists, business and labor groups as well as "fee for service" arrangements, he said. He would not name most of the donors, but said the Ford Foundation is one.

"Support is not going to be an issue," he said.

He would not say what he will be paid, saying it is "confidential" under his contract, but called the salary "competitive with like organizations." Glendening, a longtime political science professor, said the job is part time and he is looking for other work.

Kaid Benfield, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the Glendening appointment "a maturing of our movement." Greg LeRoy of the nonprofit Good Jobs First said it was a coup to snag the former governor when "some ex-governors are looking for 10 corporate seats and a cushy pasture."

Shelley Poticha, executive director of Congress for the New Urbanism in San Francisco, called Glendening a "nationally recognized figure."

"To have him join Smart Growth America is a wonderful opportunity for us," said Poticha. "To me, the way that these ideas get incorporated into the way we do business is through leadership. To have someone of the stature of Governor Glendening willing to do this is remarkable. It will move the ball forward very far."

Glendening said he wants to have a national conversation on the way the people think about development. For example, he said, when he was a child, almost everyone walked to school. Now, children can rarely reach their schools by foot -- which he said contributes to traffic problems, worsening air quality, even obesity in the young.

"People have to be driven to something as fundamental as education," he said. "It's having its impact."

Sun staff writer David Nitkin contributed to this article.

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