ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The governor's mansion in Maryland appears pristine and well-kept, with new flowers and clean landscaping. Just across the street, a national historic landmark — the state Capitol — sits among piles of unraked leaves, weeds and untrimmed bushes.
The grounds have become so shabby that state officials are exploring the possibility of forming a nonprofit foundation to raise money to better maintain them.
The discussion arose Friday during a meeting of the State House Trust, which oversees the Capitol and the grounds around it.
"I've never seen the State House grounds look as shabbily as they look today," said House Speaker Michael Busch, who is a member of the panel along with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Gov. Larry Hogan.
The speaker noted piles of unraked leaves, weeds and untrimmed bushes around the national historic landmark.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who sat in for the Republican governor at the meeting, said budget constraints have strained staffing and resources at the Department of General Services, which maintains the grounds. Rutherford told a deputy secretary at the agency who attended the meeting to put money in the budget for more upkeep.
"There's a lot of work that needs to be done here," Rutherford said.
Busch, a Democrat whose district includes Annapolis, pointed out that the grounds of the gated governor's mansion across the street look "pristine" by comparison, with newly planted flowers and attentive landscaping. The speaker said he supports those efforts, but he doesn't want the Capitol's grounds to be neglected.
Miller, D-Calvert, agreed with the speaker.
"You go to other statehouses and, I mean, the lawns are manicured," Miller said. "They really do look nice, as compared to what we have."
The governor's mansion has a separate foundation that receives donations to pay for landscaping at the residence.
The Maryland State House is the nation's oldest statehouse in continuous legislative use. George Washington resigned his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army in the building in 1783, setting a precedent of the authority of the civilian government over the military. In 1784, the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War was ratified in the building.
"We have the most significant building in the state of Maryland sitting here — one of the most historic buildings in the country — and it looks like my front yard," the speaker said.
Later in the afternoon, staff from the state's Department of General Services removed piles of leaves the speaker had complained about.