Ehrlich on local issues

October 23, 2005

On prison security and his support for Project RESTART (Re-entry Enforcement Services Targeting Addiction Rehabilitation and Treatment), piloted at Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown:

Ehrlich: I am committed to (RESTART). ... We're talking about a subpopulation of very savable people, who are going to be back on the streets in any event. I would rather have them come back with mental health issues better taken care of, with drug addiction issues taken care of, with training, with the ability to compete in the real world and not have to return to the streets. And that's really not a complicated ... Sometimes change is feared. I have requested my secretaries throughout the cabinet to act conversely. If you inherit an intractable problem, look at the new solution. Because clearly, with respect to what we've done with this population over many decades, it has not worked.

H-M: Would it have helped if a little more time had been taken to sell the correctional officers on the program?


Ehrlich: That time was taken. And some, I believe, have bought into it, I hope. Some obviously don't believe in it. And it's a legitimate philosophical debate, that they just haven't followed the tide of with the evidence, and knowing that what was done in the past hasn't worked very well. And recidivism and related numbers speak volumes.

H-M: There has been one personnel change and there've been a number of meetings to deal with the situation ...

Ehrlich: It's an unfolding process ... it's not static. And that's good. And feedback from the people on the front lines is always appreciated. Incidentally, that feedback falls into two categories - constructive and status quo. The former is terrifically welcome; the latter is not so welcome.

H-M: I imagine we'll be hearing plenty of feedback when (the Washington County delegation) have their pre-session meeting in January ...

Ehrlich: And we really encourage it. We encourage it if it helps. And they're professional. Every once in a while, they have issues, too. They're not immune to some of the problems in field of police work or law enforcement in general, and we try to work with them on those issues as well.

On affordable housing:

Ehrlich: We had a housing conference yesterday where we talked about work force-related housing issues (and programs) targeted to a different population - nurses, policemen, teachers, firefighters. It's the type of people who make their community go, that you have to have. And the public policy here is that we should encourage people who fall into those occupational categories to live near where they work.

But you know what? What you're asking a question about is a function of the fact that Washington County, Frederick County, are so hot because they're so attractive; people want to live there. And as soon as they move in, they want to be the last person to move in. They want to take advantage of the quality of life, of the space, of the schools, of the proximity to Baltimore, to Washington. It's a really nice place to live.

So you could be asking a series of negative questions, which would be a function of lack of success. But what you're asking me is issues brought about by success. How many groundbreakings have I been to in Washington County since I've been governor? That means jobs; that means employment base. That means local revenue; that means local marketing efforts. It means consumerism, it means demand for housing. It's good.

But what I'm also trying to protect is the need to accommodate the rural nature of rural counties, and the real goal here is to protect against inappropriate outer-suburban sprawl.

On taxes and fees:

H-M: What we hear a lot about is, "I've got this septic system at my home and I'm going to have to start paying for that," or "my assessments are going up 30 to 40 percent ..."

Ehrlich: Yeah, but you're real happy about that when you sell.

H-M: But the converse of that is that you can't sell and make a profit unless you leave (the area) ...

Ehrlich: Unless you want to buy down.

H-M: Yes.

Ehrlich: That issue, it goes with a hot state. We have a good employment rate, we have next to no unemployment in many counties. And we have people move in who have a very high level of demand for services, for education, for nice houses in the suburbs in Washington County, in Frederick County, whatever. So part of it is a byproduct of success.

On the Bay Restoration fee, that is something that is big-time important, and very, very few people have told me that $25, $30 a year to literally save Chesapeake Bay is a problem. Now, the septic systems, we really tried to reduce that ...

H-M: You opposed that, didn't you?

Ehrlich: I did oppose it. And that was Sen. (Paula) Hollinger (D-Baltimore County) they can thank. I'm serious about that. They can thank Sen. Hollinger. I think they raise a good point, and I agree with them, and that was not in our bill, as you know. If you're 4 percent of the problem, you pay 4 percent of the fee, that was my view.

But in any event, the overall structure of what this program is doing, inures to the benefit of all Marylanders. And we really receive next to no complaints; they may pay another 20 bucks a year, 30 bucks a year, but actually, they don't mind it when they know where it's going and what it's for. ... I can take you right to where the money's being spent. People understand that. They get that.

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