Glendening Presses Schools Funding, Lawmakers Slam Curry's Comments
By Robert E. Pierre
But Curry himself came under fire from some lawmakers, who said the county executive has done little to help his own cause. Legislators said that Curry has been almost nonexistent in Annapolis this session and that he needs to tone down his anti-Glendening rhetoric to save the schools deal.
Yesterday, legislators had some choice words for Curry, who this past weekend accused Glendening of trying to "trick" Prince George's voters when he agreed to have the state pick up construction costs such as engineering and planning fees not typically assumed by the state. Curry said Glendening has not worked hard to fulfill the agreement, a key ingredient of a proposed settlement to end 25 years of court-ordered busing.
"I think he's lost his mind," Del. Mary A. Conroy (D-Prince George's) said of Curry. "I can't imagine why he would say something like that. Wayne hasn't been down here either. He should be down here working the halls. He knows people."
"One of the things we want to do is expose Wayne Curry's con job," said House Appropriations Chairman Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore). "The problem is Wayne Curry is trying to bully the governor, and we're just not going to subscribe to it."
Rawlings said Curry has provided lawmakers little justification for his demand that the state pick up school construction costs -- such as engineering and architecture fees -- that the state does not pay now. Other jurisdictions would clamor for the same deal, he said.
Curry was not available for comment yesterday. His chief lobbyist in Annapolis, Len Lucchi, dismissed the criticism, saying: "All sorts of things get said the last week of the session."
For the past week, school funding has taken center stage in Annapolis. Curry's criticism of the governor has raised questions anew about whether he will endorse Glendening, his fellow Democrat and predecessor as Prince George's executive. Glendening has promised $140 million over four years to help build 16 schools, but both the House and Senate last week rejected Glendening's pledge to have the state pick up all the costs the county requested.
That decision has set off a flurry of meetings and fiery accusations. Yesterday Glendening summoned Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany) and other top leaders to his office to try to work out a resolution.
After the meeting, Rawlings agreed to take another look at the issue and give Prince George's officials an opportunity to make their case about why the special funding change is needed. Prince George's officials said that without the funding change, they can afford to build only 10 of the 16 schools called for in the desegregation agreement.
But House and Senate members have questioned the county's claim, and Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah (D-Prince George's) said a lack of data from county officials has made it difficult to convince her colleagues that a change is essential. It has become clear in recent days that many county legislators are not knowledgeable about exactly why the change is needed. Curry's lobbyists yesterday passed out "talking points" to county legislators to help them persuade their colleagues.
"The information that is being evaluated was presented to the state last December," Lucchi said. "No questions were raised at that time; now at the eleventh hour they are being raised. We've complied with every request for information."
Legislative leaders predicted that all the hoopla may have been over nothing, and that all parties will eventually leave satisfied when the General Assembly adjourns April 13.
"The session's not over," Miller said. "The money has not been decreased by one red cent. I think when it all is said and done everyone will be happy."
But legislators yesterday said that Curry -- whom Miller characterized as "emotional" -- needs to tone down his attacks on Glendening and allow the process to work itself out.
Lawlah, who voted against the changes sought by her own county, said that residents need to remember that Prince George's is slated to receive $140 million over four years and that that number will not be reduced. She said that unlike Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke (D), Curry has not learned how politics in Annapolis works. His attacks on Glendening, she said, have been unfair.
"He went political and ballistic," Lawlah said. "This is not an arena for a person with a short fuse."
Conroy of Prince George's said that the fighting among Democrats may come back to haunt the party. "The Republicans love this. They love to see Democrats fighting," she said. "It's disgusting."
Staff writer Daniel LeDuc contributed to this report.
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