Agency audit plan vowed

The Baltimore Sun

Mayor Martin O'Malley, the Democratic nominee for governor, unveiled a plan yesterday to better manage state agencies plagued by problems that have dogged Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

O'Malley said he would launch a state version of his management system in Baltimore, called CitiStat, which audits government agencies weekly and which city officials say has resulted in millions in savings at City Hall.

The planned "StateStat" initiative was the latest element of the mayor's 10-point policy platform that promises everything from lower college and health care bills to an improved Chesapeake Bay and public safety agencies. O'Malley did not rule out tax increases to pay for the ideas.

The mayor said he would establish StateStat first in departments overseeing juvenile, social and public safety services - agencies Ehrlich first vowed to reform as a candidate for office four years ago.

"Our state government is poorly managed," O'Malley said. "We are a wealthy state; there is no reason why we should be a poorly managed and a poorly governed state."

Ehrlich responded yesterday by saying O'Malley has a "tendency to whine."

"He has a record, too, and particularly on major issues, it's one of failure," Ehrlich said.

The mayor released his proposal during a speech at Federal Hill Park with running mate Anthony G. Brown and 40 supporters by his side, delivering a vision for state government that he said was superior to that of his incumbent opponent.

"We are going to move our state forward again," O'Malley said. "We will pay for this through compromise, through consensus, through coming together with Democrats and Republicans elected to the General Assembly in order to make sure that we make our state a better and safer place."

His goal, he said, is a smoothly running government that has the resources it needs to help people efficiently and effectively. But now, O'Malley said, parole and probation operations work out of notebooks, prisons are understaffed and the Department of Juvenile Services is "worse now than it was before" Ehrlich's taking office.

A U.S. Department of Justice report written in August but disclosed last week showed that youths in the state-run Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center "suffer significant harm and risk of harm" from violence because there isn't enough staff on hand, and behavior management and treatment plans are inadequate.

In addition, violence at state prisons, which are managed by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, have led to the killings of two correctional officers this year while on duty - the first such deaths since 1984.

O'Malley's focus on public safety follows Ehrlich's efforts through television, radio and mail advertisements to portray the mayor as having failed to effectively fight crime in Baltimore. Republicans also criticize the mayor's plan for lacking financial details.

"O'Malley has been relegated to the world of lofty ideas and campaign promises with no specified funding source because of his failed record in Baltimore," said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver. "A campaign promise and an issue paper doesn't make you a leader."

Aides to the mayor countered by saying that Ehrlich does not have a similar plan and that the Republican incumbent is running solely on his record.

The mayor said yesterday that he could not rule out tax and fee increases to pay for his plans. He said that, if elected, he would find money for his initiatives after discussions and compromises with the General Assembly.

"I think that [ruling out tax and fee increases] would be irresponsible at times of national threat," he said. "Governor Ehrlich ... did that three years ago shortly before raising $3 billion in fees and raising the property tax on every individual in the state of Maryland."

Passage of slot machine legislation - a limited number of the gambling devices only at racetracks - was not factored into his platform, O'Malley said. Both O'Malley and Ehrlich are backers of slots.

The mayor managed to deliver Ehrlich a backhanded compliment about this year's freeze on college tuition.

"It goes to show that sometimes this administration will do the right thing if it's an election year, and Anthony Brown and his colleagues force them to," O'Malley said.

A recent campaign mailing from Ehrlich notes a freeze on college tuition. Tuition was raised during the first two years of the governor's term, and Ehrlich endorsed a freeze this year after lawmakers pledged to find the money to keep college costs flat.

The mayor said he would prefer a "contest of ideas" before the Nov. 7 election but that Ehrlich has "none of his own."

"If his pattern and practice of ... engaging in dirty tricks, whisper campaigns, [and] smear hold true, you're probably going to see a lot of it in the next few days," he said.

Sun reporter Andrew A. Green contributed to this article.

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