Two hundred council members and mayors from Maryland cities and towns are scheduled to gather in Westminster Thursday for the Maryland Municipal League's annual fall legislative conference.
The 2 1/2 -day conference is also expected to attract candidates running for state offices from governor to comptroller.
Democrat Parris N. Glendening and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey are scheduled to speak at a luncheon Friday.
The format doesn't include a debate, but the two candidates will be given a chance to rebut each other's points.
A debate was ruled out, said league Associate Director Stephen McHenry, because "we want the candidates to come."
William Brock, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate; Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Republican Paul H. Rappaport, candidates for lieutenant governor; Richard D. Bennett, Republican candidate for attorney general; Democrat Louis L. Goldstein and Republican Timothy R. Mayberry, comptroller candidates, are scheduled to make brief speeches.
U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., both Democrats, had not accepted late last week.
This year is Westminster's first as conference host. The city is the first Carroll municipality in the role.
City Council President Kenneth A. Yowan, who originated the city's bid, said the short-term benefit will be "probably 250 to 300 people in town for three days spending their money."
Mr. Yowan said he is more interested in the potential long-term benefits of impressing potential return visitors or investors and leaving Maryland's next governor with a favorable impression of the area.
"We want to get the word out to people around the state what a nice area we have and have them come back either as visitors or to invest in the area," Mr. Yowan said.
He estimated the total cost of the conference at $3,500 to $4,000. The league will pay slightly less than half. The city and corporate sponsors will cover the rest.
Lack of facilities stopped Westminster from bidding for the conference in the past, Mr. Yowan said.
But now the city has several motels -- which are reportedly booked full for the conference dates -- and meeting rooms at the Comfort Inn and Western Maryland College.
The fall legislative conference sets the league's legislative priorities for the next General Assembly session, Mr. McHenry said.
The league's 30-member legislative committee has narrowed 27 requests for legislation to three recommended priorities:
* Increased state aid for local police protection;
* Authority for towns to acquire land through eminent domain for development or redevelopment;
* Enabling authority for towns to adopt land value taxes, separate tax rates for land and buildings. Land value taxes have been used in Pennsylvania to help blighted urban areas, Mr. McHenry said.
Westminster's government plans to entertain its guests with a Thursday night reception and dinner aboard the EnterTRAINment line.