'One Maryland' misrepresented

Hogan supporters floated the 'most ridiculous' Red Line message yet, Dem chair says.

On Oct. 7, 2010, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced he was canceling the ARC tunnel project, which would have doubled rail capacity across the Hudson River and helped commuters reach New York City jobs. The project would have attracted billions of dollars of federal investment. And Governor Christie had no Plan B for transit.

Sound familiar? It should.

On June 25, 2015, Gov. Larry Hogan announced he was canceling the Red Line. The east-west light rail would have connected Baltimore area residents to jobs at Social Security, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and points in between. It would have attracted nearly a billion dollars in federal investment. And Governor Hogan has no Plan B for transit.

Mr. Christie has spent the last four years mired in the debate over the decision. To his credit, he's been disciplined and consistent with his message. Mr. Hogan and his partisans have spent the last eight weeks like Goldilocks, moving from message to message, desperately searching for one that is just right.

They called it a boondoggle. They tried to shift blame. They talked about buses. They tried to make it a partisan issue. They claimed someone else should be responsible for developing transit solutions. They swung at non-partisan budget analysts. And, in this newspaper, they tested their most ridiculous message yet: Disinvesting in the Baltimore region demonstrates Governor Hogan's commitment to restoring a One Maryland governing philosophy.

Nothing could be further than the truth.

Sen. George Edwards and Del. Bob Flanagan argued that former House Speaker Casper Taylor's One Maryland philosophy was based on allocating state resources geographically. That's a narrow and self-serving reinterpretation of a principle that was more accurately characterized as an "all for one, one for all" approach to government.

Messrs. Edwards and Flanagan glossed over an immensely powerful aspect of One Maryland. Speaker Taylor consistently emphasized that lawmakers could do well by doing good, and that the state had the power to improve the lives of all Marylanders by investing in those who need help.

With that understanding, investing in the Red Line would have demonstrated a commitment to resurrecting One Maryland. The project would have created thousands of high paying construction jobs in an area where unemployment is above the statewide average. It would have catalyzed transformative economic development, generating millions in private investment and creating hundreds of permanent jobs. This would have benefited everyone who lives, works and plays in central Maryland.

The same cannot be said of widening Route 404. The lasting impact of that project will be felt by vacationers driving to the Delaware beaches to spend their money. Thanks to Governor Hogan, they will reach the bottleneck at the state line where the road narrows to two lanes a few minutes faster, because Delaware is not widening its stretch of the road.

In addition to mischaracterizing One Maryland, Messrs. Edwards and Flanagan missed its point. One Maryland was a tool for building consensus to solve problems. The governor's decision to disinvest in the Baltimore region did not solve a problem. It exacerbated one.

The governor took funds which would have been used for a mass transit solution in one of the state's most gridlocked regions, and sprinkled those dollars on road projects in mostly rural parts of the state. In the absence of a Plan B for transit, he left the Baltimore area without a solution and without the funds to pay for whatever proposal his team might develop.

Try as they might, Messrs. Edwards and Flanagan cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. All of their spin will not change the underlying fact that Governor Hogan plucked a page directly from Governor Christie's New Jersey playbook. Four years after canceling the ARC tunnel project, Mr. Christie has done nothing to improve transportation in northern New Jersey.

If Mr. Hogan keeps following the Christie playbook, we can count on two things: More spin, and fewer solutions.

D. Bruce Poole is Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party.

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
46°