Curry Says Glendening Not Helping
By Terry M. Neal
Wayne K. Curry expressed "profound disappointment" yesterday in the performance of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, saying his predecessor as Prince George's County executive had failed to use his influence on behalf of a county whose voters did much to get him his current job.
In his most critical public comments on an elected official since he took office in December 1994, Curry said Glendening was responsible for allowing a $4.5 million decrease in school construction funding for Prince George's for next fiscal year. Curry said the decrease from this year's funding comes at a time when enrollment is booming and the county is trying to build schools to help end court-ordered busing for racial balance.
"I am disappointed," Curry said in a lunch with Washington Post reporters and editors. "I think Prince Georgians had the right to expect if they supported the favorite son and he was elected governor that they would get benefit out of it. There has been no appreciable benefit politically that I can discern from having the governor there."
It is unusual for any mayor or county executive in Maryland to so sharply criticize a governor, but especially so in the case of Curry and Glendening, Democrats who share a political base.
Curry suggested that Glendening was bending over backward to show that he was not favoring his home turf. "Both in political and good government terms, this situation is almost as though we're getting treated worse rather than better for having been supportive," Curry said.
He dismissed the view of many state legislators that Montgomery County and Baltimore, the other two jurisdictions that turned out majorities for Glendening, received extra money for school construction because Prince George's received state aid for the Washington Redskins football stadium in Landover.
The two leaders have long had a strained relationship, but both had avoided strong public criticism of each other. Although Curry resented Glendening's decision to stay neutral in the Democratic primary for county executive, Curry and his campaign workers helped get out the vote for Glendening in 1994.
Asked about Curry's criticism, Glendening said yesterday that he found the comments odd because Prince George's receives more state aid overall than any other county.
"If he's unhappy about something, I'm sorry," the governor said. "We'll work with him."
Prince George's received $432 million from the state this year, more than any other jurisdiction except Baltimore. That money will go toward general government, libraries, operational education needs, health care and community colleges, among other areas. But Curry argues that most of that money is based on formulas and has nothing to do with any action by Glendening.
On school construction for Prince George's, Glendening said, "I will step in in a big way for funding for school construction when that is tied to a successful plan to end busing."
School board Chairman Marcy C. Canavan (District 9) said the board "would like more money from the state for school construction, but our problem has been the county." She said that the state allocated $3.4 million to Prince George's last year to plan new schools but that Curry asked Glendening to withhold the money until the board agreed to return to court on the desegregation issue.
Curry said at the time that he was asking Glendening to withhold the money because it made little sense to spend millions planning for schools that the county might not be able to afford.
For the 1997 budget year, which begins in July, the county asked the state for $11.6 million for school construction. Most of the money was earmarked for building or renovating three elementary schools inside the Capital Beltway. The three-member state Board of Public Works, of which Glendening is a member, approved $5.7 million. Counties rarely get full funding for a given year's request.
In the next budget year, the county will get 4.2 percent of the $135 million state school construction pie, the lowest percentage since at least 1989, said Douglas A. Brown, county budget director. This year, the county, which has about 15 percent of the state's public school students, received 8.7 percent of the total. Five counties and Baltimore got more school construction money than Prince George's. Montgomery County received 27 percent of the total.
State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), who has accused Curry of ducking controversial issues, said he was glad the county executive was now "standing up and speaking up publicly on issues that are important to the county."
But he said Curry is at least partly to blame for not lobbying harder with the governor and the legislature, which approves the budget. Miller said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke (D) did a much better job of lobbying.
"[Curry] did indicate that he wanted taxes raised," Miller said. "But never once did I hear anything raised by him or any of his aides regarding school construction."
Staff writers Michael Abramowitz, Lisa Frazier, Eugene L. Meyer and David Montgomery contributed to this report.
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