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Comptroller Turns Up Heat on Baltimore County Executive over AC in Schools

Howard County Library System via flickr

State Comptroller Peter Franchot says he will ask legislative leaders for a hearing on why some Maryland public school classrooms are not air conditioned. This comes after a recent dustup between Franchot and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz over the lack of air conditioning in some county schools.

Franchot says he wants the public hearing because leaders in the legislature are blocking a change in the rules that would allow state school construction money to be used to buy portable air conditioners for classrooms. Franchot says that’s the way to quickly fix the problem in Baltimore County.

“How about just getting the job done,” Franchot says. “Getting these units into these classrooms. Relieving these kids of these high temperatures and inhumane conditions and move forward.”

But Kamenetz sees portable air conditioning units as a bandaid  and a waste of money. He wants to renovate the schools instead, with a permanent air conditioning fix. And he says the state should give the county more money to do just that.

In October, Kamenetz proposed that the state give Baltimore County an advance of about 177 million dollars in school construction money. Kamenetz said if that happened, every school in the county that needs it could be renovated and air conditioned by 2019.

Officials in both the Governor’s and the Comptroller’s offices have dismissed the idea. They say in order to do that, they would have to take state money from other localities, basically robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Saint Mary’s College Political Science Professor Todd Eberly says the air conditioning issue is a proxy battle between Franchot and Kamenetz. Eberly says they are sizing each other up as possible opponents for the 2018 Democratic nomination for Governor. Eberly says both are viewed as conservative to moderate Democrats. So they would be targeting the same voters in a Democratic primary.