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For many Marylanders, the office of the state comptroller is something of a mystery, recognized more often for the larger-than-life personalities who have occupied it — including Louis L. Goldstein and William Donald Schaefer — than the actual duties. Those involve supervising the state’s fiscal affairs and acting as Maryland’s chief tax administer and collector, its accounts payable agent, its lead investment officer and its overseer of the state treasury. But the comptroller also plays a major role in giving the final approval to most state procurement and capital expenditures, as one of just three votes on the Board of Public Works (the others belonging to the governor and state treasurer who is an appointee of the General Assembly). It is a level of administrative oversight uncommon at the state level outside Maryland.
In Baltimore, the power of the state comptroller was amply demonstrated in 2016 when the BPW killed the $1.5 billion State Center project, a mixed-use redevelopment project that would have brought 2,000 residential units, retail space and 2-million-square-feet of office space to the 28-acre state office Midtown complex, which today continues to deteriorate with neglect. That turning of a back on Maryland’s largest city — along with Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to end the $2.9 billion east-west Red Line light rail project that was slated to be up and running this summer — was a double-whammy of abandonment that continues to haunt Baltimore as it grapples with inadequate transportation infrastructure, substandard housing and a lack of job opportunities.
The lesson? If nothing else, Maryland needs a comptroller who recognizes that the economic health of the state hinges on a more prosperous Baltimore, as one of the best ways to counter the city’s gun violence woes is to address the core issue of concentrated poverty. Del. Brooke Lierman, a Fells Point resident and Democratic candidate for comptroller, understands this. That’s among the reasons why The Baltimore Sun endorses her in the primary race.
Not only has she represented the city’s 46th legislative district since 2015, but along the way, the 43-year-old has developed expertise in relevant issues such as transportation infrastructure and state pension finances, having served on the committees that oversee those matters. She would seek to modernize the comptroller’s online presence, advocate for taxpayers (making sure that more are aware of tax credits, for example), and serve as the “people’s advocate” on the Board of Public Works.
In Annapolis, Ms. Lierman has earned a reputation as a hard worker who pays close attention to the details, which is exactly what Marylanders should expect from their fiscal agent. In her legal practice, she has often advocated for small business owners in the state procurement system, which can be seen as a bonus, along with her long-standing relationships with lawmakers from all corners of Maryland. The mother of two may reside in Baltimore, but she’s well aware of the needs of communities from Friendsville to Ocean City. She would also be the first woman to occupy the office, breaking a glass ceiling that has no business existing in 2022. “I look forward to being a voice for all Marylanders,” she told us, adding that she brings to the job “the experience of being a mom, a legislator and a woman.”
Ms. Lierman’s sole opponent in the primary, Timothy J. Adams, 63, the founder and chief executive officer of a successful professional services firm and the mayor of Bowie since November of 2019, is also a compelling candidate and holds many of the same progressive views as Ms. Lierman. We hope he will continue his role in civic affairs, both in Prince George’s County and in Baltimore where he is known for his philanthropic efforts. The only other candidate for comptroller, outgoing Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, 60, is unopposed in the Republican primary.
This year’s election poses an opportunity to return the office to its core mission of getting tax and fiscal policy right, prosecuting scofflaws, making sure corporations pay their fair share and, yes, when possible, making sure Baltimore is not denied essential state investment. Brook Lierman is the right person for the job.
Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.