Regional rivalry is an increasing concern and ultimately a loser for the state, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. told members of the Columbia Democratic Club last night.
"I'm concerned about regionalism, and I won't have any part of it," said Mr. Curran, who could be a candidate for governor in 1994. "We are one state -- and very diverse."
Mr. Curran pointed to bills now in the General Assembly that he said were aimed at helping Montgomery County at the expense of Baltimore City.
"It is said by some that Montgomery and Prince George's County is the engine that drives the state" and therefore should be given an advantage, the Baltimore Democrat said, adding that he will not be part of regionalism no matter what form it takes.
Mr. Curran told the Howard County political club that he is "flattered by suggestions by a number of persons that he run for governor in 1994," and that he will be assessing his strength around the state in the next six to nine months.
That assessment will not be made on the amount of money he thinks he can raise, but on how receptive people are to what he says will be an issue-oriented campaign.
"I lose on the issue of raising money," he said. "But you don't need money if you have issues that make sense."
The issues that make sense to him, Mr. Curran said, are not just those that will be in the forefront in 1994, but also those that will be in the forefront a decade from now.
He said he hopes to get a handle on some of those issues in a series of forums he is sponsoring on education, health care, the environment, the economy and crime. "I'll just be sitting back and listening," he said. "I want to learn."
Mr. Curran said he has his own "instincts" about the issues and shared some of them when he plugged his March 24 forum on crime at the Johns Hopkins University.
He said the forum would explore three aspects of the crime problem -- guns, drugs and poverty.
"There are far, far too many guns," he said, "and it is far too easy to get them."
While he does not think legalization is the solution to the drug problem, he is willing to put the idea on the table and talk about it.
"I honestly believe it's a health issue as well as a crime issue," he said.
Mr. Curran said he wants a program that will provide clean needles for drug users to prevent the spread of AIDS.
On education, Mr. Curran said the best investment he ever made was in his children's education and the best investment his father made was in his education. "It's a priority that the dollars we have be directed in education," he said. "We need good, strong, PTA-supported neighborhood schools. Put your money in there."
However, Mr. Curran said, he would not want to increase public dollars to support private schools.
The attorney general blasted the use of the lottery and especially keno, an electronic numbers game, to increase state revenue.
"The lottery and keno together gross $1 billion and that means some people are not able to buy food, clothing or anything of value" because they are spending their money on a "worthless piece of paper," Mr. Curran said.
If that same billion were invested in the economy, it would produce jobs and raise needed revenue through sales and income taxes, he said.
"Every dollar [spent on keno and the lottery] is a dollar not going for something else. Every dollar spent on gambling never comes back to us any way but as a product -- a piece of paper," he said.
Mr. Curran is the first of several potential gubernatorial candidates who will address the Columbia club.