Vol. 8, No. 27
July 6-12, 2000
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A Nod to Leaders Who Lead

“As my wife Frances Anne says, ‘If we sit on our laurels, all we get are sore laurels’.”

Those words come from Gov. Parris Glendening, who enhanced his environmental credentials on two fronts last week. First, he oversaw the signing of the new Chesapeake Bay Program agreement, a regional partnership that includes a precedent-setting feature aiming to rein in unwise development (see Dock of the Bay).

Second, he backed away from his stubborn insistence on open-dumping of the muck from Baltimore Harbor in a four-mile stretch of the Chesapeake near the Bay Bridge known as Site 104. Glendening made his prudent call after getting the word from the Army Corps of Engineers that the harbor spoils and silt contain toxic chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer. It was a finding that conservationists anticipated and a decision by the governor that removes a stain on an otherwise sterling performance on conservation issues as chief executive.

In this era of low regard for public officials — and during the week we celebrate our nation’s birthday — we think that it is important to praise leaders for doing right by the public as opposed to favoring the interests that finance the campaigns and thereby win special access in decision-making.

Our praise is bipartisan. It goes not just to Glendening, a Democrat, but to Virginia’s Republican governor, James Gilmore, who signed the new Chesapeake Bay Program agreement to combat sprawl. We also thank Gilmore for imposing a ban on deep-water crabbing in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay, helping to forestall a potential collapse in the Bay’s most valuable fishery.

Likewise, we laud the decisions of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, another Republican who consented to the anti-sprawl features of the Bay Program and who has worked with his Legislature to get a grip on unwise development. We would note that Ridge’s efforts will serve him well if he becomes Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s running mate in the presidential election when the Republican Party gathers in Philadelphia this month for its nominating convention.

We don’t overlook the fact that some of our leaders in the Mid-Atlantic region — especially Glendening — have forcefully taken up the cause of battling harmful development. In many parts of the country, especially the Midwest and mountain states, pro-property forces have stalled the anti-sprawl drive. Their motto: “If we own it, we can do what we want with it.”

Property rights are indeed protected in the Constitution. But over the years, society has routinely imposed rules to protect the public good. And there are ways to manage growth — building in town centers, for instance — that permit (even encourage)
development while protecting people from strip malls, congestion and coastal construction.

So, in a word, thanks. Now, we’ll be watching to see that you and your successors in public office make good on these promises.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly