George Washington would surely notice Maryland traffic congestion, O’Malley says

February 19, 2013

A speech delivered by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Presidents Day included the kind of lofty rhetoric one might expect when the topic is George Washington’s legacy. But in his address to the Maryland Senate, O’Malley also managed to work in a plug for something more mundane: dealing with traffic congestion.

“One can only wonder what Washington would tell us if he were somehow able to join us here tonight,” O’Malley told senators and guests assembled in a ceremonial room in the State House in Annapolis. “I suppose he’d probably comment on the horrible traffic congestion on 495, which can be brutal if you’re trying to get here from Mt. Vernon at this time of night, even on a federal holiday, like Washington’s birthday.”

O’Malley’s office has said he is working with House and Senate leaders to develop a transportation funding bill that has a chance of passing before the end of the 90-day legislative session. So far, the governor has run into resistance from lawmakers wary of tax measures that would raise prices at the pump. In his agenda-setting “State of the State” speech last month, O’Malley said “we can either figure this out together, or every citizen in our state will continue to waste more time and more money sitting in traffic.”

Monday night’s speech was less overtly political. O’Malley delivered it during a George Washington’s Birthday Celebration that also included patriotic selections by the University of Maryland Chamber Singers, including “Yankee Doodle” and “America the Beautiful.”

The balance of O’Malley’s address warned of “a deeper type of congestion, of which our transportation woes are merely a symptom.”

“I speak of the congestive failure,” O’Malley said, “that increasingly grips democracy’s heart, that integrating, synthesizing center of our collective being as a people … the heart, whose function it is to sort through the divisions, conflicts and competing fears in order to hold the creative tension necessary to advance the common good.”

Were Washington present today, O’Malley said, “he would lambast the divisions and factions … of these times that turn the public dialogue toxic and make principled compromise nearly impossible.”

Speeches at the Senate’s annual Washington celebrations are usually given by a senator. But former governors Harry R. Hughes (D) and Parris N. Glendening (D) also have accepted the honor during their terms in office.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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