Transcript of Post Interview With Ecker
Ecker has been praised for his fiscal acumen, which he has touted during his first campaign for statewide office. In 1990, he defeated incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Bobo to become the first elected Republican county executive in Howard County.
Ecker, 69, has a doctorate in physical education and served as deputy superintendent of Howard Countyís public schools.
Throughout this campaign, he has presented himself as a moderate alternative to Ellen R. Sauerbrey, his rival for the Republican nomination, who lost to Parris N. Glendening in 1994.
The following is a transcript of a lunchtime conversation with Ecker conducted by Washington Post editors and reporters on June 17. (A portion of the transcript appeared in The Post's Maryland Weekly.)
Q; First question Iíd like to ask is: Do you really want to be governor?
A: Well, first, I wouldnít put myself through this or my family if I didnít want to be. Why? Because Iím concerned about the direction that Maryland is going. Iíve made a positive difference in Howard County. I enjoy public service. Iíve been in public service all my life, not politics all my life, but public service.
And I think I can do for the state of Maryland what Iíve done for Howard County. I inherited a fiscal nightmare when I got elected in í90, weíve turned that around and now we have a very sound fiscal foundation. We have a triple A bond rating from three of the bond rating agencies weíre one of 14 counties across the country that has that.
And weíve made Howard County a business-friendly county. We lead the state in job creation since 1990 and we have to make Maryland a business friendly state. Maryland finances are not like Howard Countyís, although the way weíre going we may be, I think. We have a tax reduction here, and thereís been no reduction in spending to offset that. Now there will be some additional revenues come in because of that tax reduction but it will not offset the complete loss of revenue because of the tax reduction and the fiscal experts or budget analysts are projecting a $300 to $500 million shortfall in three to four years.
So I think what is happening in the state is what has happened in Prince Georgeís County when Parris was there. And Iíd just like to turn it around.
Q: What are the chances? I mean itís not a surprise that most people give you very slim chances.
A: Slim to none.
Well, I think my chances are very good. As I go around the state, I hear that. Well, people tell me they did not want the same choices in 1998 they had in 1994. If you look at Ellen [Sauerbrey]ís negative ratings, all the polls show in the low 30s, I mean theyíve been there forever. They were higher in January of 1995 but, you know, for the last three years theyíve been in the 32 to 35 range. Parrisís negative rating is very high.
My name recognition, I have not taken any polls but other people have, my name recognition is in about the 40 percent range. Ellen Sauerbreyís name recognition in 1994, at the end of July 1994, was only 41 percent. So if you compare where she was in 1994 and where I am, you know, Iím no worse off in fact maybe a little better as far as name recognition. So yeah, people tell me Iíve slim to none, but Iíve heard that before in í90. I donít think that just because I did it in í90 means Iím going to do it in í98. I think that thereís real dissatisfaction out there with both the incumbent governor and the Republican that is running as an incumbent.
Q: You think that the state is headed in the wrong direction. But polls seem to show that people donít. What is the disconnect there?
A: Well, I think the economy is very good now. People have jobs, and I think whenever the economy is good, you know, people donít see what may be on the horizon. If you look at our job growth in Maryland, weíre lagging behind the nation in the percentage of new jobs. Weíre lagging behind the country. And I think the average citizen views businesses with mixed emotions. They really donít want new businesses to come in the county or into the state. Theyíll say it just brings in people and crime. It also brings in jobs and helps subsidize the quality of life that the average citizen receives.
The average citizen, in the property tax and the piggyback tax they pay, do not pay for the service they receive. Itís subsidized by businesses, and most citizens donít realize that, although we try to educate them in Howard County and other counties to that fact. Our largest property taxpayer gave the county a check for $4½ million last September. That company requires very little services.
It happens to be Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. But that goes to help subsidize our quality of life and we need business but I donít think the average citizen realizes that. As long as Iím happy and have a paycheck every week and things are going well, they donít look at the future. And itís good economic times. Thereís going to be a correction, you know, we have a surplus, the state has a surplus, Baltimore Countyís had surpluses, because of the performance of the stock market. Where is the stock market going to go? Is it going to 10,000 or is it going down to 7,000, 6,000? Thereíll be a correction and I think we have to plan for the bad times when we have good times. We did not do that in the '80s and Howard County really had a real problem.
Q: But how would you say that Glendening has not prepared for the bad times? I mean the state has a huge reserve fund thatís been socked away, even with the money thatís going into new programs. It seems hard to argue that the state is not ready for a potential downturn.
A: Sure. They can take a downtown for a year but what about the projected deficit that the budget analysts project in three to five years or whatever. Now thatís not preparing for the future when you build your budget today, and itís projected to be out of balance in several years. You have to budget not only for today but have considered the effect of what you do today on tomorrowís budget. And I donít think heís doing that.
Q: What are the main differences in your platform from Sauerbreyís?
A: Well gambling certainly is one. Iím opposed to slots, I donít want slots at the tracks. I donít want them on the Potomac or Inner Harbor or Western Maryland. She has come out in favor of a referendum for slots at the tracks. Thatís one main difference. The question of slots at the Iíll finish the question in a minute, the answer but the question of slots at the tracks is, in my view, the first question: Should the state provide additional financial incentives to the racing industry? Certainly the racing industryís a very important segment of our economy but we already provide some incentives financial. And should we provide more? If so, how much? I donít know that answer. I think we have to look at it.
If the answer is yes, we should provide more, then whereís the money come from? I do not think it ought to come from slots. And if we do provide extra money, then I think the racetrack owner, the breeders and the trainers and the horsemen, all have to get together to help revive that industry. Theyíre losing customers because theyíre dying off and not being replaced.
And if we do, the answer is yes, we provide them money, then where do we get the money is the question, and I donít think it ought to come from slots.
The other differences in my platfrom from Ellen? Iím not sure, because she has not come out really, sheís sort of been sort of nebulous on some of her platform statements.
I think the main difference between Sauerbrey and I, she was a legislator for 16 years. She had the authority to pass bills but then she had no responsibility for implementing those bills. Iíve had the responsibility of balancing budgets, of running a government, of creating jobs. Iíve had the responsibility of getting two opposing groups together and reach an agreeable compromise, reached an agreeable solution. Iíve worked with CEOs to keep íem in the county.
Some we lost, some we get. Iíve worked with CEOs to bring íem to the county. Iíve had that experience. She has not. My question is if you were going to hire someone to run your company, would you hire someone with experience? Or someone without experience? Ellen Sauerbrey does not have that experience. She was a legislator for 16 years and did her job well but they have a lot of authority but no responsibility as a legislator. They donít have the responsibility to implement the law. I do. And then I get blamed for the effects of those laws.
Q: Wouldnít she argue that she might be in a better position to deal with the legislature?
A: Well, again, in the debate the other night she talked about all the bills that she introduced. But it was always killed by the other side of the aisle. She could not work with the other side of the aisle when she was there, sheís going to have to work with Democrats and Republicans to come up with solutions and come up with things. She did not exhibit that when she was in the legislature. Will she be able to do that as governor? Not based on experience. She may be able to, but she does have the legislative experience and I do not. Iíd have to get someone in my administration that would be able to.
I have dealt with Democrats and Republicans in Howard County. My first term we had a Democratic majority council, my second term was a Republican majority council, and both councils and I worked together very well. So I know there are a lot less numbers there in the county, we have five and they have a lot more than that in Annapolis, but I think that I've proved I can work with Democrats and Republicans and work with other people with opposing views.
Q: Tell me what you think of the state of the Maryland Republican Party and Republicans who vote in the primaries. Some people thought that Sauerbrey did well four years ago, but those people underestimated how conservative Republicans in Maryland were. What do you think the case is now?
A: Well I think there is certainly a conservative part of the party I would estimate as about 20 percent, maybe 25. But I think the overwhelming majority are more moderate. Iím a fiscal conservative, I think Iím probably fiscally as conservative as Ellen Sauerbrey. Iím more moderate on other issues. And I think that the majority of the party are moderates. Now the trick is to get íem to vote, because the hardcore go to the polls.
Q: On what other issues, non-fiscal issues, are you more moderate than Sauerbrey? Besides gambling. What are the other issues where you can define yourself as moderate?
A: Well I think on the abortion rights thing . . . I donít think the government ought to tell you what to do or not to do, although I would sign a partial birth abortion bill, or late term, whatever you call it. I think thatís an awful procedure. But on abortion earlier on, you know, I really am against it, but I donít think government ought to tell you what to do. Whereas Ellen would ban that if elected.
And I guess on the gun issue, I believe the gun laws we have, I donít think we need any more, I think we have to enforce the ones we have. I would not be introducing legislation to repeal the laws we have now which Sauerbreyís position would be I think. I do believe we need instant check rather than a seven-day waiting period.
And on other issues, education, I know where I stand on it. I donít know where Ellen stands on it. I know sheís for education everybodyís for education. But I have some specific proposals.
Q: Youíve had a little trouble with parents in Howard County in the past tell you that you really were not investing in schools for the future that they needed to be. Maybe you could talk a little bit about that in Howard County and how that fits into the broader view of education and how it should be funded and supported.
A: Well, more money is not necessarily the answer to our educational problem. I think we have to have better utilization of our funds. The issue with the budget, the school system requests an 11 percent increase, I proposed a 6 percent increase at the county council. The superintendent and the board then sent out doom and gloom things, we were going to cut the existing elementary music program. And I was cutting their budget. Well people thought that I was cutting their existing budget, actually I was giving them a 6 percent increase. I was reducing the percentage of the increase from 11 to 6. And they were going to do away with existing programs, they were going to charge people to play sports and the parents, and I appealed to the parents because they didnít know the real truth.
And the papers didnít get the real word out. But I didnít do a good enough job I guess in explaining it to the press. I kept saying we were getting a 6 percent increase and that was enough to hire new teachers. It was enough to open two new schools and it was enough to fund our negotiated agreements with our employee groups and still have a couple of million left over to do with whatever.
But the school system has a built in lobbying group and they had elementary kids signing petitions and sending them to me and they gave credit to kids who got their parents to write me letters, or go testify before the county council. And this is a fact. And I went to that county council meeting that night and I normally donít go and I objected to that and I hate to see them use kids as pawns, which is what theyíre doing.
So then the county council did restore a couple of million dollars, and they now have a 8 percent increase.
I would have given them 11 percent, you know, if I was worried about election. What Iíve done as county executive and what I do as governor is what I think is right for the county, whether itís going to get me votes or not get me votes, thatís really the least of my worries. Iím not going to sacrifice what I think is right not only for today but for our kids and grandkids because itís going to get me a vote or two.
And, as you know, Howard County spends the second highest per pupil cost in the state. Montgomeryís the highest, weíre second. Kent is close behind third. And we spent $1,000 more per child in Howard County than they do in Frederick and Carroll. We have about 40,000 youngsters. Thatís $40 million theyíre spending, yet their test scores are not significantly different.
Now weíre No. 1. We are. But if you looked at composite test scores, weíre not significantly different. In fact, in grades 9 and 11, Howard County is down 14th, 12th, 11th, through the middle of the pack. Now some of the percentages are very close. You get this one county may have 97.1 and be No. 1 and Howard County may be 96.1 and be No. 12. But if you look at the test scores, here weíre spending $40 million and what do we get? And the teachers union tells me our salaries arenít any better than theirs so weíre not spending on salaries. So that was my beef with the, or disagreement with the Board of Education. I said, whereís that $40 million going?
Q: How would you assess Governor Glendeningís record on education? A number of your Democratic colleagues as county executives, even though theyíve been critical of Glendening on some other things, have applauded the governor for the school construction money theyíve gotten, the added operating money theyíve gotten and some other things.
A: I think [on] school construction, we certainly did get a lot [of money]. Although I donít think and we have additional operating budget money, too but it was not distributed in a fair and equitable manner, in my opinion. The Baltimore city school suit last year, I was opposed to it. I liked the change in management, [but] it did not treat all counties fairly and equally. I believe [if] a poor kid in Baltimore City deserved a dollar, a poor kid in any county deserved a dollar.
Baltimore City, 70 percent of their kids are defined poor, based on the free and reduced price meals. Somerset County has 53 percent of their kids poor, and Howard County got very little out of any of those formulas that we tried to get through, and [I'm] talking about the county executive, Doug Duncan, and the Big Seven. ... We want a fair and equitable distribution of aid. It didnít happen. And now again this year, you know with the payment, Prince Georgeís County, it was not a fair and equitable distribution, and school construction in my opinion is not a fair and equitable distribution of funds.
Howard County did not get their fair share. Weíre a fast-growing county student population wise. We got $13 million, which is more than any other year, according to Glendening, in the recent 10 years. But yet with all the additional money put in, we should have received more. So I do not think heís been distributing on a fair and equitable basis, and thatís my main complaint.
Q: Have you talked to the governor about this?
A; Yeah Iíve talked to him about it, yes. I donít have very many meetings with the governor but when I get in I talk to him about it.
Q: There is one body of thought that Baltimore has more problems, has more needs, that they should be given more and that why should Montgomery County or Howard County, which has less needs, why should [they get as much.] You donít subscribe to this?
A; Sure I subscribe to it. If a poor kid in Baltimore City gets a dollar, a poor kid in Howard County should get a dollar. Now, if we donít have as many poor kids weíre not going to get as many dollars. But other counties have some significant problems, too. I mean Montgomery County particularly with their student body that has English as a second language, I mean they have some real pockets of problems that we donít have in Howard County. We have a little of it but not much. But all the counties had some problems and I think that we need to look at the education funding formula and re-do it to recognize some of these new problems that have come up since the last formula was looked at and changed a number of years ago. But we did not look at the English as a second language, we didnít have that many.
So I think the whole education formula should be re-done. I think the maintenance of effort is wrong. And I think it all has to, just treat everybody fairly and equally and that would mean Baltimore City would get more money than Howard County, and Montgomery County would get a little more, because they have pockets of poverty, or not necessarily poverty but people with special needs.
Q: What about other aspects of aid to Baltimore City? Do you disagree with anything that Glendening has done for the city?
A: Yeah, I disagree with the funding the last year, a year ago, that went there. We have helped Baltimore City quite a bit. Baltimore City in my opinion has to help themselves a little bit and Iím not sure theyíve done that. They appear to be just giving more and more and more money. We took away the courts, no, the jail I guess, didnít take away the courts but the jail, the community college. The state has taken away a number of things that other counties have to fund. The answer to Baltimore Cityís problems I donít know, I wish I did. I wish I had a magic formula.
I think weíre going to have to provide some incentives to get some people to move back in. Maybe a tax break for people to come back, income tax break or something, to stop the out-migration and start an in-migration of similar class and above people. Citizens. We have to work on the crime. Crime this year. I sort of like what they do in New York City. They have their no tolerance and thatís worked very well there.
I think theyíre trying it in parts of Baltimore right now, I know weíre trying it in parts of Howard County. We have low crime, our crime is not anywhere near as bad as some other places so weíre very fortunate but we do have some and weíre trying to reduce that. But I think we have to have new thinking out of the box on that and go to no tolerance and arrest people for very minor incidents.
But a lot of times when you arrest them for that minor incident, it leads to a more serious crime and help prevent and then I think we have to get tougher on the criminals. We have to get tougher on juveniles. Juvenile crime is on the increase. We have to get I think make records of juveniles more readily available to the people that need to know.
The unfortunate fight that we had at Wilde Lake High School a year and a half ago I guess where the girls were fighting. We arrested eight people that day. Our police could not tell the school system the names of the individuals they arrested. The school system has to go to court to get us the names. Thatís not right in my opinion. We should be able to tell them. A juvenile steals a car in our county, goes to court and is charged, that same person may come to Montgomery County or Baltimore County, steal a car and probably nine times out of 10, they wonít know that individual stole a car in Howard county last month. There are records juvenile division has the records but not readily available. I think those records ought to be made [available], I donít think they ought to be put on a billboard on Route 29, but they ought to be made available, to those agencies that need to know, on a more regular basis. Because a lot of these people are repeat offenders and yet in different counties they donít even know.
I think juveniles have to realize thereís a consequence for their actions and now juveniles think our justice system is a joke. They just pat íem on the back and we have to get tougher.
Q: You mentioned earlier you success in job creation in Howard County. As governor how would you increase economic development jobs. Some governors are looking toward more tax incentives because thatís what business wants. Others have said no. They want places where employees can find a good school, good universities.
A: I think the first thing, work towards development. We need a work force. Thatís the first thing companies tell me. Whereís the available workers. So we have to get a coordinated effort on development of the work force.
We need to retrain our adults. There are a lot of adults now that have been trained for one job that the jobís changed and we need to retrain them and we have to get our college and universities working together, we have to get our community colleges working together so we do not ... have duplicate courses.
We ought to be able to cross counties. We have stop thinking about these county lines. We have to act more regionally, and I know thatís easier said than to do, but the we have to coordinate and consolidate training programs and we have to work with industry and we have to get out of this roughly 14-week syndrome for a college course. We ought to get into a few-week concentrated program, and some colleges are doing that to train people. We need to work with the businesses and have them make programs for that business around our needs. Weíre doing that in Howard County at our community college and some other counties are doing that, too.
But I think work-force development is one area that we need to concentrate on to get more people ready to throw [into] some of these jobs. The second thing is regulations. I think we need regulations that are consistently applied and are predictable. People want predictability in government.
Thatís one thing I think Iíve done in Howard county. Our predecessor put a building moratorium on at the end of the pipeline after people had already got all their permits and everything ready, had their financing all lined up. ... Now in Howard County, if a person comes in with project if thereís a capacity available in the school, if the roads are available, and we say yes, we can go, they can expect to complete that project if it meets certain time lines.
They canít put the allocation in their pocket and hold it forever. But they know weíre not going to stop it along the way. And I think we have to do that with the state. We have to streamline the regulations, we have to get the environmental community together, business community [and] developers, and come up with some mutually agreeable solutions to some of our environmental problems and other problems. Iím a firm believer that if you have people of opposing views you put them in a room together and when they find out each otherís concerns and problems they can work it out. We did that without an adequate public facilities ordinance. We put builders in there and developers, no growth people, school people and they came up with a workable facilities ordinance.
Q: How about tax policies?
A: Well tax policy, I think we have to overhaul taxes. I think our income tax is too high because itís hard for us to get workers. Again, a person applies for a job, they get a job offer here, they get one in Fairfax and one in Florida. They look at their take home pay, they look at the income tax. And they have less in Maryland than they do in Fairfax or in Florida. That says for a $50,000 job, they go elsewhere and we have a lot of these high tech jobs in Maryland that are going begging.
Q: Glendeningís performance as governor, whoís your idea of somebody thatís done a good job as governor of Maryland? Whoís performance have you admired?
A: Well, some of the things Glendening does I like, some of the things [William Donald] Schaefer did I like. I liked Schaeferís compassion for people, I liked some of these tactics knocking on doors. But I thought Schaefer, or his policies, or his practices toward business was not fair. ... I sort of liked Harry Hughes's low-key way of operating. I sort of operate that way, in a low-key person.
Q: Well, different take on the same question. Thereís all these Republican governors now around the country. Who do you see doing the job more or less the way youíd want to do it in Maryland as governor?
A: I sort of like [Michigan Gov. John] Engler. I thought you were talking about Maryland governors.
Q: Yeah, I was.
A: Yeah, yeah, I sort of like Engler.
A: Well, I like his welfare program, welfare to work and I sort of like his approach to veterans, servicemen. He has an incentive program for people that join the services. He has tuition assistance programs for them, and I think we need that. We need a course in patriotism in our country.
Q: Heís the one who eliminated property taxes as the basis for running the school system and put the sales tax in its place. Would you do anything like that?
A: Not at this time, I donít favor that. I think that we have to look at the overall tax. I am realized opposed to the value-added tax that he has.
Q: Do you regard Ellen Sauerbrey as an extremist?
A: I wouldnít call her an extremist. I know the governor did.
Q: [Are] some of her views out there?
A: Some of her views are there in my opinion, yes.
Q: Why then would [New Jersey Gov.] Christie Todd Whitman and [other moderate Republicans] come and campaign on her behalf?
A: I donít know.
Q: When you talk to party people, and you say a lot of moderates out there, they donít have a home and Iím it. What do [they] say?
A: Well, some of them agree with me and some of them disagree. Some of them feel that this is Ellenís turn to run for governor and she came very close in '94, in fact some are saying weíre going to reelect her. That they feel itís her turn. I say well, if you have that opinion, she would not have run in í94. Because it was Shepherdís turn. Shepherd ran in í90, got 43 percent of the vote, so he should have been able to run unopposed. But the party regulars, the hard core Republicans, they support Ellen and they think I should not be running because Iím ruining the party and this, that and the other. That she deserves it.
Q: Are you committed to stay in the race until the primaries?
Q: Are you going to pull out early?
A: I donít plan to.
Q: You [mentioned slot machines] earlier when we asked what the difference between you and Sauerbrey, whatís your basis for opposing slots? Is that a moral position? Practical position?
A: No, itís not moral, because I have gambled and I do gamble some. I donít make a specific trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic City to play slots. If Iím there on a convention Iíll do it. ... Iíve been to the track. They already take too much money in on gambling. The state already relies, in my opinion, on gambling receipts too much. ...
My opposition to slots, introduction of slots, is that [there are] the social ills, wherever slots have been legalized: suicide goes up, bankruptcies go up, families are ruined, careers are ruined, individuals are ruined. I think it was in Time magazine about 3-4 weeks ago thereís an article about South Carolina. They had these video slots and theyíre trying to get rid of them now, because of all the social ills thatís caused, and thatís my objection to it. I think itís anti-family. I think it breaks up families. And Iím a family person.
Q: Is that something peculiar about slots, or just the expansion of gambling and gaming generally?
A: Well, I think itís probably peculiar maybe to slots and to casinos. They tell me these slots, these video slots, you can get addicted in 1 to 3 years, whereas horse racing it takes 15-20 years to get addicted to that. So Iíd say itís peculiar to slots, although Iíve seen some people spend a lot of money on the Lotto. But I think they can spend more money on slots.
Q: As specific as you can be, what would be three or four major pieces of legislation that the Ecker administration would [introduce].
A: Well, Iíd have to look at the regulatory process and the various departments and see if we can confine the regulatory review into one department. Part of the problem is [that] now two or three different departments review things for the same thing and come up with different answers. I think that has to be combined. Another thing. I look at the health issue, the five health commissions or committees we have there see if we can combine those into maybe no more than two, because I think thereís a lot of duplication, and some of those can be streamlined and modified for more effective delivery of health services.
Q: Tax cut?
A: I think we can have a tax cut. Iím not promising a tax cut. Iím going to reduce expenditures first and then do a tax cut. The way we reduce expenditures is we would look at each department involved in that department and do a benchmarking study. I go back to Howard County. I took office we had $23 million shortfall in revenue, which was 8 percent of the budget.
We had to do a number of things including laying off people, furloughing people. And in the waste water treatment plant, they had 54 employees. I arbitrarily took it down to 44. Well, the union complained they were overworked. So I said, okay, weíll do a benchmarking study. If you need more employees weíll put íem on. If you need less, we wonít lay off anybody, weíll do it by attrition.
Well, we hired a consultant for $50,000 and we visited a couple of plants up there on the East Coast. When the report came on, we could do [the job] with 31, and the union bought it. And part of reason they bought it [was] because they were afraid we were going to privatize. And, now, they were saving $600,000 a year and thatís not all personnel savings, there were other savings, operational savings. ...
But I was naive. I thought we could look at ourselves and downsize. We needed outside help. And thatís what I would do at the state level. Weíre doing other benchmarking studies, weíre not getting the significant results we can see there. And we not receive that significant results in state, but there are savings there in my opinion and we could reduce taxes.
Q: To win this race youíre clearly [going to] have to change some peopleís minds, as it stands. Some of the things youíre saying on gambling, I donít think Ellen Sauerbrey has clearly stated what exactly sheís going to do about gambling to this point. Abortion, you draw a distinction. Yet a lot of what youíre saying sounds a lot like sheís been saying for four years. Tax cuts, streamlining regulations. ... How can you distinguish yourself from her and change peopleís minds?
A: Well just get out and meet people. And Iíve been there, done that. Sheís never done it. Iíve reduced the government, Iíve balanced budgets, Iíve talked with CEOs, created jobs, created a business-friendly county in spite of the stateís business-poor image. Iíve actually done it, not just talked about it. And hopefully, that will sell. I do not have a silver bullet. Iím looking for one, if you have one. Like the car tax.
Q: Lieutenant governor?
A: Well, Iím not ready to announce that yet.
Q: When youíre interviewing people for that job, what kind of response are you getting?
A: Some no's, some maybes, and some want it, but canít get into the ring ....
Q: What kind of person are you looking for?
A: Iím looking for a person that would have some skills in areas that I do not. Such as legislative experience ... Iím looking [for someone] that would complement [me] and I would utilize that person.
Q: Do you think Sauerbreyís choice of a running mate hurts you, because she chose someone more from the moderate wing?
A: I donít think so. I really do not believe people vote for lieutenant governor. I think they vote for the top person in the same way as [as they do for] the president. I donít think they vote for or against the president because of the vice president. The selection of a person is more important to the operation of state government than it is to [the electorate].
Q: Does geography matter?
A: Yes, I think it does.
Q: A lot of people say the battleís going to be in Montgomery county.
A: Yeah, They have the most Republican voters, yes. Geography does matter.
Q: Go back to the governor for a second. Itís curious listening to the Democratic race, because youíve got a lot of very prominent Democrats including the mayor of Baltimore, the former county executive Sid Kramer whoíve really taken remarkably tough shots at the governor on one theme: trust and integrity. And you know Governor Glendening pretty well. You were both in the Big Seven as county executives together and also working with him as governor. Iím curious, in your personal experience with him have you found him to be a trustworthy person?
A: Heís never promised Howard County or me anything that he did not deliver. Iíve been witness to other things that would question his integrity, but as far as Howard County, heís never promised me something that....
Q: What do you mean when you witnessed other things?
A: Well, dealings with Schmoke, other counties. Heís never promised me that much. He didnít carry Howard County, remember?
Q: Sauerbreyís been making a lot of ethics, Annapolis, and trying to lay that at the feet of Mr. Glendening. Is that a serious issue?
A: I think ethics is very serious. I think that itís a culture down there. I think we have to change it. I think itís been a way of doing business. You have the state ethics commission located in Towson. You file your financial disclosure forms with them. Then you have a state legislative ethics committee which is made up of delegates and senators there in Annapolis, and [when] you have a presumption of conflict of interest, you file a form with them, and nobody ever compares the two.
And as long as I file that form, I can do anything I want. Classic example, we had two legislators this year that are professional firefighters. Oneís a professional firefighter in Howard County and one in Baltimore County. They introduced a bill that would require counties to go to referendum in order to privatize the fire-rescue service. That was job security for them. I talked to [Assembly Speaker] Cas Taylor about it and he said, well they filed forms, they can do whatever they want. That whole process has to change.
Now, fortunately there were about 15 or 17 people in the teacher pension bill that did not vote on it. They recused themselves because there was a conflict. And I think they need to combine the financial disclosure with the presumed conflict of interest.
I think we have to have an outside oversight committee to legislate. I think we need a continuing education program for legislators because a lot of the conflicts are readily seen. Some of them are not. To give you an example, in Howard County, we have a guy who works in planning and zoning, which reviews developers' plans. He had a part-time job tending bar for Columbia Inn for banquets or large crowds.
Well, Columbia Inn was zoned for HRD [Howard Research Development Corp.] a couple of weeks ago. ... Some people said that was a conflict. He works for HRD, and then he reviews plans. Well we went to our ethics commission and they voted it was not a conflict, because he had a very low paying job at Columbia Inn. But in the state we have a part time legislature, which is great. Itís a citizen legislature and you have [all] sorts of [people] in there, and on any given day thereís going to be a potential for a conflict of interest and I think in those cases they were made aware of it and step aside when some bills come forward where there is a presumed conflict.
Q: Well, would you have language in the law then to make them step aside?
A: No, I think they should be made to step aside.
... I donít know whether you could write a law specific enough for each case.
Q: Terms limits was a part of your ethics report, is it still?
A: It still is.
Q: And how many terms do the legislators serve and how far into the Ecker administration would you see legislation along those lines.
A: Well, either the first or second year. [The limit would be] two terms. There was a bill in Annapolis this year for three terms, but it did not get out of the committee.
Q: Two terms for the legislators ...?
A: Thatís right. The governor has term limits, most county executives have term limits, some county councils have term limits.
Q: How do you size up the Republican Party in Maryland? [Will the party come together after the primary?]
A: I think it will. I think the important thing is what happens Sept. 16 after the primary. ... I think itís healthy for the party and I believe people will come together after the primary.
Q: Whatís Howard County going to do with all the money youíve got coming in?
A: Well, weíre going to give some back to the taxpayers. Weíre going to reduce the debt. The surplus, I initiated a charter amendment in 1992 that prohibits using surplus for ongoing expenditures. In previous administrations they used it for ongoing expenditures. Now it must be used for one-time expenses and weíre using it this year for capital projects instead of selling bonds. So Howard County does have a large debt compared to some other counties, although the bond rating companies donít see it as a large debt, they say you have the ability to pay it. ... The countyís not growing that fast. ... The seven calendar years Iíve been in office, residential permits have averaged 2,000 a year. Compare that with the last seven years of the '80s, and they averaged 3,925. Residential growth has almost been cut 50 percent.
Q: You say thatís the average of the seven years, but whatís it been the last...
A: 2,000. I think it was 1,900, or something, the last calendar year. Itís actually been right about 2,000 ... and itís well below the general plan, [which] called for 2,500 units per year. Itís below that. So itís a concern of some citizens. But I do think they do have managed and directed growth now, I think itís under control. Itís being controlled by our adequate public facilities ordinance, but there is a certain segment of the citizenry, and some candidates that are running on that platform. But you need a balance of residential growth in order to get businesses to move in here. And we need businesses.
Q: Would you continue the programs that Governor Glendening has begun to preserve some of the rural countryside or direct growth in the areas where there is growth?
A: The Smart Growth legislation, if it affects other counties as it did Howard County, because in Howard County weíre the only county that has a Smart Growth area defined and approved by the state. [At first] Columbia was not included as a smart growth area, it was not dense enough. And when we brought that to their attention, he said, well, thatís wrong. And they included it. So we do have an approved plan.
Now, I understand it affects some countries adversely. I donít know the details of that. Iím going to have to look at that. ... I do believe in building where you have roads. I believe in the I-70 corridor in Howard County, in my opinion, it should be slated for development someday. Put businesses up and down that corridor. Some day, mass transitís going from Frederick to Baltimore, and thatís where you would build along your main corridors and keep the interior free.
Q: Would you build the intercounty connector?
A: I would, yes, they need an approved east-west [connection]. I donít know the alignment right now, but weíd need an improved east-west connection and I would work to get something...
Q: How would you bring together the environmental and business leaders to accomplish that?
A: Well I think thatís been one of my specialties over the year. If you put them all in the same room, youíd put environmentalist on the committee, road crews, the planners, citizens and Iím convinced theyíll come up with a workable plan.
Q: If Sauerbrey wins, will you campaign for her?
A: Yeah, Iíll support her after the primary, yes.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company