Friday, February 6, 2009


The first time I ever heard of Severna Park Maryland was in the summer of 1975. I was 15 years old and my mother who knew little or nothing about the sport of lacrosse had agreed to drive me the 10 miles from Chevy Chase to College Park to attend Buddy Beardmore’s University of Maryland Lacrosse Camp.

When we checked in one of the assistants noticed that I was from Montgomery County and called Buddy over to the table. Coach Beardmore looked at the address on my registration and laughed. “ Montgomery County!” " What the heck are you doing here, they don’t have any lacrosse there”. He then went on to kindly explain that his dream was to one-day see lacrosse being played in the area some refer to as “Greater Washington.”

During that week Coach Beardmore referred frequently to the many wonderful things javascript:void(0)about his hometown of Severna Park. Having never been there, at the end of camp, I left envisioning a quiet bucolic village on the banks of the Severn where everyone spent their days playing lacrosse and attending crab feasts (in the spring and summer this is not far from the truth.) But I also left with an understanding that although I had been raised in what H.L. Menken called the “Great Free State of Maryland” I was really only familiar with the part that looked toward D.C. and not Baltimore. In short even at the age of 15 I realized that there were really “Two Marylands” each with its own culture and priorities.

In 2005 this situation has been altered a bit. Over time the two regions have slowly started to develop common interests. Even so, with all of the changes that have taken place, I still find myself constantly re-explaining to my childhood friends where I live.

To a man they are Redskin fans. Baltimore to them is place to watch Oriole games. And when they tell you they are going into the city, they mean they will soon be driving down Connecticut Avenue and not Russell Street.

I tell you this because I believe that the next occupant of the State House must make a more concerted effort to bring these two disparate worlds together. To paraphrase Lincoln, our state cannot remain, half-Baltimore, half Washington if it is to ever reach its potential.

Growing up in Montgomery country I often had the pleasure of talking frequently with the now retired Delegate Donald Robertson, the former majority leader of the Maryland House under then speaker Ben Cardin. Don would often make the point that it was important for Montgomery County to take an active interest in helping Baltimore City to thrive and prosper. His unique ability to see the state as an entity in which each region was interdependent on the others was an inspiration to me.

Today. Robertson's views are even more important to the future of our state. As Paul Krugman of the New York Times points out " America is a much richer country than it was 30 years ago, but since the early 70s the hourly wage of the typical worker has barely kept up with inflation.” Translated, this means that those states that have the ability to generate well paying jobs will do far better economically than those that stake their future on wage slave operations like Wal-Mart.

The key to this equation is Baltimore. Our next governor must resist the impulse to blame all of Maryland's ills on our state’s largest and most important city. Instead he (or she) would do well to focus instead on the city’s potential and work to meld the robust economic forces of the Washington suburbs with world-class facilities like the Port of Baltimore and Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

The goal in the end would be the creation of an unbeatable symbiotic relationship that would have the potential to fuel and sustain the economies of both regions. Montgomery County offers high-tech and advanced bio-medical industries. Baltimore offers a state of the art airport and seaport. Together these two regions can lead the way in answering many future questions of concern to us all. Questions such as where is the next generation going to live? Where are they going to work?

Baltimore City at present is undergoing a renaissance, but due to crime and urban blight it has a long way to go. We have two choices. We can let the region devolve in an east coast version of Detroit where people only travel into the city during day light hours or to attend sporting events. Or, we can give the city the support it needs to reduce crime and promote conditions that can create affordable housing and well-paying jobs for nurses, policemen, teachers, fireman and millions of other middle class Marylanders who seek the American dream. Maryland has often been referred to as America in miniature. Like our nation our goal should be to construct an environment where the industrial and intellectual areas of our state compliment one another.

These challenges call for someone who has experience in both of these worlds and an understanding of the uniqueness of each region. With this knowledge the new governor will have the required insights to motivate the leaders of Baltimore and Montgomery County to work together for the common good.

Playing one region off against the other will only play into the hands of our friends across the Potomac who are always ready to undercut our efforts to secure our state’s economic future. In short, like Greece in the 5th Century, we should refrain from fighting over whether Athens or Sparta is the better city-state and keep our eye on the Persians.

November is a year off but I am betting that the winner of the next gubernatorial election will be someone who is less inclined to badmouth Charm City, and more adept at, as Richard Nixon used to say, “ bringing us together.”

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