Carroll County officials recently “disrespected” Prince George’s by offering it as an example of failed smart-growth policies in their fight against Gov. Martin O’Malley’s land-use plans, said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.
Baker (D) conveyed his objections in a letter Nov. 3 to Carroll Commissioner Richard Rothschild (R-District 4). Baker said Rothschild offered Prince George’s as a place where smart growth has led to increased crime and poor schools.
Rothschild’s comments were made during a public meeting several weeks ago to discuss the PlanMaryland Initiative, a statewide plan to curb suburban sprawl.
“I was stunned that you would portray another jurisdiction in such a negative light in order to philosophically and ideologically justify your disagreement with the PlanMaryland initiative,” Baker wrote. “Your efforts, regardless of intent, were misleading and insulting to me and the people of Prince George’s County.”
During the meeting, Rothschild, who said he is worried about his county’s ability to retain local control over zoning, offered a presentation called “PlanMaryland Concerns and Alternatives.”
The governor has invoked a 37-year-old law to withhold state funding from local governments that fail to curb sprawl.
Rothschild said that increased development in urban areas raises costs for police and social services. “We believe the state mischaracterizes the two costs,” Rothschild said.
Baker essentially said that Rothschild’s argument was based on incorrect assumptions.
“You offer Prince George’s County as an example of the failure of Smart Growth policies by pointing to problems in our public school system and rising crime as evidence of that failure,” Baker wrote.
“However, you offer NO link between Smart Growth policies and these challenges, while ignoring historical issues and other past policy choices that were entirely unrelated to Smart Growth, yet have had a significant impact on the issues we now face. Moreover, I believe that you misrepresented our county, because there have been great strides in many of these areas.”
Baker said that in his presentation, Rothschild showed crime rate indices from last year, which are misleading. “It does not show actual crime rate statistics, rather it references a ‘risk assessment’ for major crime,” Baker wrote.
Baker said that crime had dropped in the past year and that students in the county had made “impressive gains across the board in reading and in math.”
“I am deeply disappointed in the way you approached this issue and the negative light you chose to portray our jurisdiction,” Baker said. “It was very disrespectful to the people of Prince George’s County.”
Rothschild said Monday that it was not his intent to insult Baker.
“I have the highest degree of respect for County Executive Baker for moving Prince George’s forward and for what he’s doing there,” Rothschild said. “This in no way had to do with County Executive Baker.”
Aubrey D. Thagard, assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development in Prince George’s, said Baker did not consider Rothschild’s remarks a personal attack.
“Our concern is that we don’t get used in such a negative fashion,” Thagard said. “That argument could have been made without inserting Prince George’s or any other county. There’s no need to talk about another jurisdiction if you have the evidence to support your position.”
Rothschild said he selected Prince George’s to make his argument against PlanMaryland because former governor Parris Glendening was once county executive there, and he “is the father of smart growth.”
“We thought it was appropriate,” Rothschild said during a phone interview. “We wanted to contrast counties that are at the forefront of smart growth and those that aren’t at the forefront.”
Rothschild said Prince George’s was mentioned in one slide during a four-hour presentation.
Thagard said Rothschild sent an e-mail to Baker on Monday offering his views but not specifically an apology.
“This is not a Prince George’s County versus Carroll County situation, or vice versa,” Thagard said. “The county executive believes we are all one Maryland. The approach used by Mr. Rothschild goes against that grain.”