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O'Malley says 'Together, we can make progress'

October 11, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, the Democratic candidate for governor, told a group gathered Tuesday at Four Points Sheraton that prisons need to be properly staffed, farmers need more say on growth and the state government just needs to work.

O'Malley's comments came during a question-and-answer forum hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce as part of its Decision '06 series, chamber president Brien Poffenberger said.

O'Malley, who will face Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich in the Nov. 7 general election, addressed the crowd gathered for the luncheon in the Dual Highway hotel's conference room.

O'Malley challenged Ehrlich's attacks on his management of Baltimore's high crime rate and low-performing school system, saying that the city has made progress in both areas.

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"If we had a governor who believed Baltimore was still a part of the state of Maryland, we could make even more progress," O'Malley said.

He said crime in Baltimore is at "its lowest levels since the 1960s" and elementary schoolers in the city have gained proficiency on state tests.

O'Malley said he wants to make college education more affordable, help family-owned businesses get health care coverage, preserve land using open space funding and expand Interstate 81.

He said schools should focus attention on vocational studies to give at-risk students skills to make them marketable in the work force.

In response to a question about the state's prison release procedures, O'Malley said prisoners should be better supervised by the Maryland Department of Parole and Probation.

On the issue of slots, O'Malley said he "is not subscribing to slots everywhere," but he would be in favor of a limited number of slots at the state's racetracks.

On growth, O'Malley said it's important to "have a plan and stick to it," quoting a farmer with whom he spoke on the issue.

"Farmers need more than just a seat at the table," he said.

O'Malley also would like to see the state invest in ethanol and soy diesel, he said.

A Maryland native, O'Malley said he has an appreciation for the entire state and wants to address each county's issues.

"We'll never be able to make it perfect, but together we can make progress," he said.

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