Morning Read: Smart Growth, or “War on Rural Maryland”?

Is it a "war on rural Maryland" or promoting smart growth?

Joined by former governors Harry Hughes and Parris Glendening, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Md.) announced Monday that he'd signed an executive order on a long-range growth plan for the state.

The plan would aim to avoid building too much on declining acres of woodlands and wetlands by steering development toward areas that already have the needed infrastructure in place, reported The Associated Press.

But the move angered opponents who said the plan should have gone through the General Assembly.

State Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-Cecil), an outspoken opponent, called it part of a "war on rural Maryland," the AP reported. “What the governor did is the height of arrogance,” Pipkin said, according to a Washington Post story. “We have never seen this in the state of Maryland. We have never had an executive order of this significance without a review by the General Assembly.... It’s all part of his national agenda to boost his personal [profile].”

O'Malley, upset with the allegation that the plan was an attack on rural areas, said the state can't wait any longer to institute a plan because it's become the fifth most densely populated state, and is expected to keep growing.

"The consequences, if you will, will primarily be budget consequences -- as we make our capital allocations -- and as each department makes its decisions based on what promotes smart growth versus what promotes sprawl and unsustainable land consumption," O'Malley said.

The Washington Post says the plan could affect every aspect of growth in the state, "from where schools are placed to which roads are built to whether rural landowners are permitted to develop their property."

"Land use planning is not for the faint of heart," said Glendening, according to a piece in the Baltimore Sun.

* Front-running presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich heads to Richmond on Thursday to raise money for the Republican Party of Virginia -- the third GOP presidential candidate to visit the state in the last few weeks, reported NBC 12. Meanwhile, First Read-DMV reported that Gingrich's chief rival, Mitt Romney, plans to file for the Virginia primary Tuesday.

* The D.C. Council is set to take a final vote Tuesday on ethics reform, reports the  District of DeBonis, which previews the vote. Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), who introduced the bill, introduced a revision Monday that scraps a proposal to ease recall requirements.

* From governor to senator -- and back to governor again? Blue Virginia reports increasing chatter about the possibility of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) running to reclaim his spot in the Virginia governor's mansion in 2013. But it's unlikely the House GOP would change the constitution so he could run again, and "in practical terms, Mark would be giving [up] a safe gig in D.C., for the same four-year straight jacket he was in a few years ago."

* And speaking of Virginia's Senate seats, the battle between Tim Kaine and George Allen makes The Fix's list of the top 10 most competitive. The blog calls it "the marquee contest of the 2012 Senate cycle for three reasons: the size of the two personalities involved, the competitiveness of Virginia at the presidential level and the likelihood that this race will be very, very close."

* Voter-rights advocates and Republicans in Maryland are battling a redistricting proposal that a consultant for the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action committee called "pure racism," reported the Gazette. "This map is a map for incumbency protection of white Democratic males," said consultant Radamese Cabrera. A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for Thursday.

* Thinking about throwing your own hat in the ring? If you're considering running for office in D.C. yourself, Greater Greater Washington wants to run a guest blog post from you.  

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