Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening said yesterday he intends to seek massive new funding for education if elected to a third term but will not support a property tax increase to pay the bills.
Glendening, the front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination, said that raising up to $125 million in new money for schools over the next three to five years would be the top priority of his administration. Much of the money would go toward implementing the recommendations of a task force that spent a year studying ways to improve the performance of black males in the county schools, he said.
"It is in everyone's interest that all of our students do better and that they maximize their potential. If any one segment of the population is dragging within the system, then thewhole system drags," Glendening said.
In a luncheon with Washington Post reporters and editors, Glendening also criticized the County Council for allowing politics to influence land-use decisions, defended his administration's land transactions with developers and said the county police department had made great strides in improving its relations with blacks.
Glendening said he would not support the recommendation of some education leaders that new funds be raised through a modification of TRIM, a provision in the County Charter that strictly limits property taxes. "I don't believe for a moment that the voters of this county will go for a property tax increase," he said.
Although he offered no specific plans for raising the money, Glendening said he will concentrate on "increasing the health of the private sector because that's what's paying the bills." The executive, who has been criticized throughout his term for failing to consult community leaders and the county's legislative delegation, said he wants to "work with a consensus" of leaders in the county to devise new sources of revenue.
Glendening called for a wholesale revamping of the county's zoning and land-use procedures. "They are broken and they need to be fixed. They need to be changed in a very, very major way," he said. Too much authority for land-use decisions has been placed in the County Council, which often makes decisions on uses for specific pieces of property that are "influenced by politics," he said.
Glendening, whose aggressive management style has often offended members of the nine-member council, said he has had initial discussions with council members about the problems. "Their opinion is that everything's working fine," he said. "You're going to need substantial changes relative to the power arrangements with County Council." He said another priority during a new term would be the creation of a citizen group to study ways to change zoning procedures through revisions in the County Charter and state law.
Glendening, 48, a University of Maryland political science professor and former County Council chairman, is considered the favorite in a field of four candidates in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary. His principal challenger is veteran council member Floyd E. Wilson Jr., who has tried to capitalize on Glendening's often-strained relationship with the county's black community. Other candidates are Arthur B. Haynes, of Capitol Heights and Artie L. Polk, of Mitchellville.
Yesterday, Glendening picked up an endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters, which praised his record on public safety. He also has won endorsements from the labor and education groups, the Fraternal Order of Police and Build PAC, a political action committee of developers and builders.
During the wide-ranging interview, Glendening adamantly defended his administration's handling of land transactions involving politically active developers and zoning lawyers, including land sales at the county-owned Collington Center industrial park. He said his office's handling of the sales helped the county, which had invested $5.2 million in the land, reap $67 million from developers.
"Our goal has always been to run an absolutely professional, honest and ethical government," he said.
Noting his own political support from the business community, Glendening, who has raised $750,000 for the campaign, said "that support in no way influences our decision making." He said many of his contributions have come from private citizens donating less than $100.
Glendening said initiatives such as impact fees and an ordinance requiring adequate public facilities for development demonstrate that he is protecting the public interest.
He noted that he has called for a package of legislative revisions that would give the public more input into county land transactions and require greater public disclosure of land deals that could benefit county employees or their relatives.
Glendening, who said he took the action in response to a critical report from a county grand jury, said he wants to implement the changes although "there was absolutely nothing illegal or wrong, in a technical sense" about any of the land matters probed by the grand jury.
Glendening, who has devoted much of his effort in office to transforming the county's longstanding reputation as Montgomery County's ugly stepsister, said he has accomplished many of the economic development and education goals he established when he was first elected in 1982 and "in some cases, far exceeded our original plans."
With a dramatic increase in the size of the county police force, he said, the department is now "significantly on the way to becoming one of the better police departments in the country."
The increased staffing also has been effective in the county's war on drugs, he said. Glendening said he is aware some residents still complain about the use of excessive force by the department, particularly after the death last year of Gregory Habib. He said such complaints will be quickly addressed once they are brought to his attention.
"Our surveys show a fairly high confidence level in the police," he said. "I'm not for a moment saying there are no problems or perception problems or anything like that. There are."
He also promised to be "ever more sensitive in terms of outreach" to the county's black community, which comprises about 50 percent of the population. He admitted he made mistakes in his handling this year of a new contract proposal for School Superintendent John A. Murphy, whom Glendening was trying to keep in place for the next decade. He blamed his errors, which drew strong protest from blacks, on an attempt to take quick, decisive action.
"I've got to make a very explicit effort to have that kind of dialogue," he said. "I've got to make even more of a conscious and explicit effort to reach out."
Glendening said he hopes to open new communication with the county's black elected officials and to continue a policy of meeting regularly with small groups of black residents who have concerns about issues.