For Duncan, a Chance to Reach Students

Douglas M. Duncan (D) told St. Mary's students his
Douglas M. Duncan (D) told St. Mary's students his "priority is education" during a talk at the school, part of his campaign for governor. (Photos By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)

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By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 16, 2006

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) brought his gubernatorial campaign to St. Mary's College of Maryland last week and discussed education, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and urban redevelopment in his home county.

On Wednesday, the former Rockville mayor held a question-and-answer session with students in an introductory political science course, then spoke in front of about 30 people in a campus auditorium. Duncan struck similar chords in both discussions, as he attempted to distinguish himself from his opponent in the Democratic primary, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, as well as Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

He used the topic of education -- particularly problems involving Baltimore City public schools -- to comment on both opponents.

"My priority is education," he told a political science student who asked Duncan to compare himself to O'Malley. "That has never been a priority for him. He has ignored the schools, and we're seeing the results of that today."

Duncan noted the battle in Annapolis over whether the state should seize control of 11 troubled Baltimore schools. He said it showed that O'Malley and Ehrlich (the Baltimore mayor opposed the plan backed by the governor) were more interested in control than "commitment."

"The tragedy is, the ones who are suffering are the students themselves," Duncan told the auditorium. "They don't care who's got control, they just want to know: 'Can I have a book for my class? Can I get toilet paper for my bathroom? Can I get heat that works?' They just want to know that someone cares about them and is going to give them an education."

In Prof. Michael Cain's political science class, Duncan began his discussion by pointing to the response to Hurricane Katrina as a way to answer the rhetorical question, "Why does government matter?"

"If we don't have competent leaders, people die," he said. "That's how serious it is."

He went on to talk about Silver Spring and how he considered it a success story of urban redevelopment. He said in places such as Southern Maryland, suburban sprawl is an increasingly serious problem, and he called for more state funding for land preservation and more focus on the "smart growth" policies of former governor Parris N. Glendening (D). Duncan said he supported Ehrlich's "flush tax" and cleaning up the discharge from sewage treatment plants that runs into the Chesapeake Bay. He also called for stricter air pollution controls on state power plants.

The students peppered Duncan with prepared questions.

Mary King, 19, a freshman from Ocean City, said her home town is "becoming too expensive now for the locals" and wondered what could be done about all the "huge houses that no normal people can afford."

Duncan said rising property values have been an issue statewide. He said governments can use policies such as "inclusionary zoning" to help supply affordable housing and ensure that "if you're good enough to work here, you're good enough to live here."


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