O'Malley, Duncan want land preservation funds restored

August 20, 2004|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan are urging Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to restore recent cuts to land preservation programs.

The two Democrats, both widely expected to challenge Ehrlich in 2006, wrote a letter to their Republican rival yesterday expressing concerns over funding reductions to Program Open Space, Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation, Rural Legacy and GreenPrint.

"Any efforts you may undertake to protect the Bay will be undermined unless full funding is restored to the State's land preservation programs," the letter read. "We urge you to get the State back on track with respect to land conservation, and put in place a strong plan to stop sprawl development."

Ehrlich first called for a temporary halt on Maryland's ambitious land preservation programs in October due to the budget shortfall, and many Democrats objected then. But with O'Malley and Duncan attending the Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City this week and Ehrlich slated to address the gathering tomorrow, the Democratic leaders thought the time was right to join forces in the letter.

"We're talking about growth at this conference, and you can't have a discussion about growth in Maryland without a discussion on how to control sprawl," said Duncan spokesman David Weaver. "And the vehicles to control sprawl are on life support."

The letter landed on yesterday's agenda of the "big seven" meeting, which includes leaders from the state's largest jurisdictions. But none of the other county executives signed the letter. Howard County Executive James N. Robey said he passed on signing it because he thought the letter's tone was too harsh.

In an interview at the conference yesterday, Ehrlich said the absence of other signatures proves that the letter lacks credibility. He called the letter "bad politics."

"The other county executives didn't sign it," Ehrlich said. "It speaks for itself. It's a political document."

Sun staff writer David Nitkin contributed to this article.

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