Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Mike Knapp Takes on Baltimore Guy

Montgomery County Council Member Mike Knapp has commented on the long-running debate between your author and Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser, aka "Baltimore Guy." Following is the letter to the Sun written by the Gentle Giant of Germantown.

August 3, 2009

"Baltimore Guy" Off Base

I applaud Michael Dresser's "Baltimore Guy" for taking the interests of his home town to heart ("Getting There -- $4.6 billion to keep Montgomery 'vibrant' seems a bit much," July 27) -- but I'm afraid that after a closer look at reality, he will see that with his handwringing over the proposal to widen the I-270 corridor in Montgomery County rather than spending that money in Baltimore ... well, he really does protest too much.

Dresser bases much of his argument on an extremely short-sighted and rather spurious premise: Why should the state spend money "on a project few Baltimoreans are likely to use?" With that logic, Baltimore Guy might well ask why the state of Maryland would want to spend tax dollars maintaining parks in Cumberland, funding schools in Waldorf or repairing roads in St. Mary's County. Frankly, the idea of setting up a Montgomery County versus Baltimore dichotomy -- or, worse yet, Montgomery County versus The Rest of Maryland -- reeks of the playground. We can do better.

In fact, I absolutely agree that Montgomery County -- indeed, all of Maryland -- would benefit by having a vibrant Baltimore. Mr. Dresser suggests investing more funds in Baltimore -- and I'm pleased to announce that we in Montgomery County have done our part. Indeed, Montgomery County taxpayers not only send more funding to Annapolis each year than any other jurisdiction in Maryland -- about $2.1 billion comes from Montgomery County, as opposed to $629 million from Baltimore City -- but most of that money actually stays outside the borders of our county.

Under next year's budget, for instance, Baltimore City residents would receive $1,879 per capita in state aid, while Montgomery County residents would receive $768. If Baltimore Guy wants to pit one county against another, he better be darn sure he knows which way the money in Maryland is actually flowing -- because Montgomery County and others are definitely investing in Baltimore. But using Mr. Dresser's logic, our residents should be asking if it is really worth investing in Baltimore's schools, since none of our students in Montgomery County are attending them.

Further, I-270 serves as the western gateway to the nation's capital -- and every year, it is driven on not only by the Montgomery County residents Mr. Dresser finds so unworthy, but by hundreds of thousands of tourists who make their way to this region, bringing millions of dollars to the greater Washington, D.C./Baltimore region. If widening I-270 reduces congestion and makes it easier and less time-consuming to make it into D.C., well, I hope Dresser won't begrudge Ohioians, West Virginians and Kansans from using it.

Finally, I would point out to Baltimore Guy that a major expansion of I-95, reconstructing the highway from Interstate-895 to White Marsh Boulevard by adding two express toll lanes and four general-purpose lanes in each direction, is currently underway. Will Montgomery County residents use this road? Maybe. Does the fact that our residents may not use this improved road mean that it is not good for Montgomery County? Absolutely not. Such improvements are good not only for Baltimore and Montgomery County but for all of Maryland, period.

Mike Knapp, Rockville

The writer is a Montgomery County councilman.