Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Washington Post: Duncan's 'building spree' neglects schools

County Executive Doug Duncan's $200 million "building spree" has created fancy housing developments, a beautiful concert hall, and lots of commercial projects, but his taxpayer-funded binge has hurt Montgomery County schools, the Washington Post reports.

Saying he's "very proud" of having urbanized the once-quiet Montgomery County community, he has little comment on how his central planning has forced 17,000 Silver Spring kids into portable classrooms.

"Everything I have tried to do is about bringing the community together and building a sense of community," Duncan told the Post. "We have transformed from a bedroom community into an urban center and the economic engine of the state of Maryland, and I am very proud of that."

According to the Post: "Although business and community leaders offer generally glowing reviews of Duncan's record in executing big projects, there is concern about long-term fiscal implications of the building spree.

"Although the county has spent more than $100 million to revitalize Silver Spring, the school system has been unable to keep pace with enrollments. About 17,000 students are being taught in portable classrooms."

Former County Council member Blair G. Ewing, a Democrat, said, "I think the conference center, the new jail and Strathmore Hall fall into the category of expenses we could have forgone in assuring our public schools were top-flight."

"Duncan, noting that 14 new schools have been built on his watch, said his investments go beyond new cultural venues," according to the Post.

"There are signs, however, that all those projects, most funded with bonds that have to be repaid, have taken a toll on the county's bottom line.

"In 2002, Governing Magazine and Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Affairs gave the county B grades for financial management, human resources, managing for results and information technology, and a C for capital management. The study cited delays, cost overruns and a backlog of road maintenance projects as reasons for the average grade."