Howard County must get more money from the state for school construction or face vastly increased property taxes, says Frank S. Turner, a candidate for the House of Delegates.
"Schools in the east side of Columbia and in Savage and north Laurel have to be renovated," said Mr. Turner, a Democrat running for a District 13A seat. "We have to reverse the decline in school construction money [that the county is receiving from the state]. If we don't reverse it, our community is going to have to come up with more and more property tax dollars."
Even with a relatively stable tax rate, his own property taxes have doubled in the past 12 years because of increases in the assessed value of his property, Mr. Turner said. "We can't afford to have it double in another 12 years," he said.
Mr. Turner is the first to file for what could be a very crowded race in next September's primary for two seats in the newly drawn district.
If he survives the primary, one of his Republican opponents in the general election is likely to be incumbent Martin G. Madden, who was elected from an adjoining district in 1990 but is expected to run for re-election from 13A.
Getting past the primary will not be easy. County Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, and incumbent Democrat Virginia M. Thomas, a member of the House leadership, are said to be considering the race. Ms. Thomas, who was unopposed in the last election, has represented the district since 1982.
Political activist Pearl Atkinson Stewart earlier announced her intention to run for the seat, and Wanda Hurt, president of the Columbia Democratic Club, might enter the fray.
What sets him apart, Mr. Turner says, is his experience, especially his seven years as a special assistant to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. In his work on a small-business committee on the Maryland Democrat's behalf, he dealt with members of Congress and the General Assembly.
"I know the players," Mr. Turner said. "I am someone they know, respect and can work with. I know the problems, and I can bring resources to the county" to address them.
Getting construction money for renovation of the schools in the district is his first priority.
"When compared to Ellicott City, they are not the same state-of-the-art," he said of the schools.
Crime is a close second on his agenda.
"We need to get a handle on car thefts, robbery and the breaking and enterings that are jeopardizing our quality of life," he said. "It is not just locking people up; it's also providing jobs, business opportunities to attract small businesses and build job opportunities for people."
Mr. Turner sees education, crime, and jobs as interrelated. "You cannot create a better society and solve one problem without dealing with all," he said. "I don't want to re-create the wheel, I just want to work on some problems I think are important."
One of the things he wants the legislature to reform is the awarding of scholarships by delegates and state senators.
"We need a rational way of determining who gets scholarship money," he said. "The patronage system has got to be revised. The middle class needs help. Scholarships have to be based on need and academic performance. They can't be based on who I know and who can help me later on."
In his only previous try for public office -- orphans court judge in 1990 -- Mr. Turner was defeated. He had been appointed eight months earlier by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to fill a vacancy. Mr. Turner takes no consolation from the fact that he was one of eight local Democratic incumbents caught in the Republican rout of 1990.
"It was a very, very quiet day after the election," he said, "a somber day of reflection. I am working so hard so early because I never want to have another day like that."