'Bi-metropolitan' O'Malley offers thoughts on being appreciated in Montgomery

John Wagner
Copyright 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010; 9:41 AM

Is Montgomery County not sufficiently appreciated by state leaders? Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) tackled that perennial question Monday with a mix of humor and candor -- and a trace of irritation. With Maryland facing a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion next year, counties across the state are bracing for the worst -- and trying to look out for their interests. That was a consistent theme in speeches given at a breakfast sponsored by the Committee for Montgomery, a coalition of business, civic and other groups that advocates for the interests of a county that sends far more tax dollars to Annapolis than it gets back in services. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who took the stage to introduce O'Malley at the event, proved no exception, noting Montgomery's heavily Democratic voting history. "It has a bank of support and bank of votes, and it delivered in this last election," Leggett told O'Malley and several hundred others gathered in a ballroom at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel Conference Center. "It provided an overwhelming level of support to the governor. ... It provided a bank of votes. Now, that's different, governor, than being an ATM machine for the rest of the state of Maryland." O'Malley, who grew up in Montgomery before becoming mayor of Baltimore, was in a playful mood as he began his remarks. He said it was good to be back in the "land of my bread and buttering, lest I ever forget it." The governor later referred to himself as "bi-metropolitan," asserting that he understood the challenges of both the Washington and Baltimore regions. And then came the following, which we present without interruption: "The county executive did a very good job of recapping the sense of not being appreciated that I have heard since I was a little boy ... and that is the sense that we're under-appreciated because of the wealth of Montgomery County, and the state treats us like an ATM and nothing every comes here. Not a 74 percent increase in school construction, not a huge increase in school operating funding. The ICC would never ever come to Montgomery County. No governor of Maryland would ever care about the Purple Line or mass transit or Metro. I understand that. "And then, just around the bend, in Prince George's County ... is the sense that 'we're not appreciated here. The reason we're not appreciated here is because we always vote loyally, and we always vote in big numbers, and therefore we're not appreciated here.' "And then you go up north, and in Baltimore City, the people in Baltimore City say, 'You know what? Governors of Maryland don't appreciate us. The reason they don't: because we're poor. ... They don't take us for granted, because we're loyal and we're poor, and the governor doesn't care about us.' "And then when you go outside of Baltimore City and into Baltimore County -- and I know from having grown up here that it's a lot closer to drive from Baltimore to Washington than it is to drive from Washington to Baltimore -- but in Baltimore County, there is a sense that, 'You know what, governors in Maryland don't appreciate us. The reason they don't appreciate us is they can never count on our votes. We swing back and forth from one election to another. Therefore, nothing ever comes to Baltimore County.' "I recognize all of that sense of not being appreciated, but look, we're all in this together."

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