Linda Nalls, the mayor of Mount Rainier just over the District line in Prince George's County, figures the Maryland state lottery sells more tickets in the one square mile of turf that is Mount Rainier than in any other single square mile of the state.
"We've got seven lottery machines in a single block of Rte. 1," said Nalls. "They come over here in droves from Washington to play the lottery."
But, noted the mayor sadly, "that brings lots of revenue in for the state but nothing for Mount Rainier."
Mike Mulligan, the veteran police chief of nearby Colmar Manor, could always use a little help from the state to buy a new fleet of scout cars or supplement the salaries of his eight-man force.
But, says Mulligan, "we feel we've had a very successful year if we don't lose ground."
Michael DiMario, a Bowie city council member, would like to see the state's highway user tax amended to give municipalities 100 percent of the revenue from auto registrations within their limits.
"There is only one pie and everyone sees equity differently," said DiMario.
Meeting last weekend in Rockville, Nalls, DiMario and Mulligan were among officials of the Maryland Municipal League gathered for their annual strategy session on what and how much to ask from the legislature this year.
Representing 134 of Maryland's 154 municipalities, the league's members range from Baltimore with a population of 900,000 to places like Colmar Manor, which has 1,200 inhabitants. Officials estimate that roughly half of Maryland's population lives in a municipality.
Yet in the rough and tumble competition with county and state governments for the tax dollar, the municipalities often finish a distant third, and success become a delicate balancing act of knowing just how much to ask for without asking too much.
"The bottom line on all of this is money," said Mulligan, who's been police chief in Colmar Manor for 41 years."What we continually have to fight for is to get rebated for our share of the money for the services we provide."
"The municipalities have equal standing under the law with the counties," added DiMario. "Since we do have equal standing, we want to be treated fairly."
From the 1979 legislature, the league will seek the increase in highway user taxes that DiMario wanted and legislation to protect municipal officials from lawsuits. The municipal officials also feel that municipalities don't get their fair share of state aid for police protection, but the league's legislative action committee advised against pressing for any changes in the police aid formula, partly on the grounds that chances for success are dim. Instead they decided to call for a study of the issue.
Put off for consideration by future legislatures were such issues as problems of enforcement of anti-littering laws, compensation to cities and towns in lieu of taxes for tax-exempt county and state property and plans for reducing the amount of paperwork that goes with revenue sharing projects.
Prompted by a rash of lawsuits against public officials, the municipal officials decided to seek legislation that would make public officials immune from lawsuits based on their official decisions and actions. In cases where immunity would not be applicable, the league decided to seek legislation that would set up insurance against such claims.
Currently, such insurance is extremely difficult to find. "The insurance companies have said, 'You guys are bad risks. We don't want to underwrite you,'" league director John Robinson told me the municipal officials.
"People have become slap happy about suing," observed Mulligan.
The issue of revenues from highway user taxes is one that has emerged periodically over the last decade. Currently, the municipalities get 62 1/2 percent of the money the state collects for auto registration fees from their residents. The league will try to persuade the legislature to raise that figure to 100 percent.
On the issue of state aid for police protection, the league's legislative action committee decided to seek a resolution from the General Assembly calling for a study by a legislative committee of the whole issue of state aid to county and municipal police departments.
Not all of the municipalities have their own police departments, but a significant number do, officials said. Of the 28 municipalities, in Prince George's County, for example, 20 have their own police force.
"We have a police force because the public wants it, and the public is willing to pay for it," said Colmar Manor's Mulligan. "The municipal police officer is equivalent to the man on the beat."