Growth question grows into day-after puzzle Commission candidates on both sides of issue

September 12, 1990|By Jay Merwin | Jay Merwin,Evening Sun Staff

Voters seemed to be of two minds in choosing candidates for the three seats on the Carroll County Commission. They nominated candidates who said the growth that's turning rural Carroll into a suburb has got to stop. And they renominated the only incumbent seeking re-election, a commissioner who defends the present policy on growth.

Republicans nominated Julia Gouge, who is seeking a second term in office. And they chose Richard Yates, whose slogan, "Had Enough?" seemed to hit a nerve about rapid growth, higher demands for services and higher taxes to pay for those services. The third winner, and biggest Republican vote-getter, was farmer Donald Dell, whose gentler slogan, "Keep It Country," suggested a similar holding of the line against growth.

With the Democratic and Republican primaries each offering a choice among nine candidates, name recognition and networking were also essential to the margin of victory.

"I really had more name recognition than most of them," said Elmer Lippy Jr., the mayor of Manchester, who was the top

vote-getter among Democrats. "That's my theory of it, anyway."

Lippy campaigned on a promise to try to bring more light industry to Carroll County, and to make residential and business developers pay more for the water and sewer services they'll require.

Democrats also nominated Sharon Baker, a social worker who is a volunteer in many community projects, and Richard Will Sr., a cable splicer who is active in veterans affairs.

In her campaigning around the county, Baker said, people asked most often about education. They asked about cutting down class sizes and getting children out of the portable trailers that have appeared at many schools to handle the overflow of students that growth has brought to the county, Baker said. "It does get back to growth."

Although Carroll has the lowest tax rate in the region, at $2.35 per $100 of assessed valuation, a building boom is driving assessments up, putting the bite on taxpayers.

As winners accepted congratulations, even some losers were happy. John Van Brunt, a University of Maryland professor, plans to run again and campaign in the meantime for a referendum on whether Carroll should switch to the home-rule form of charter government.

Last night, he was happy just to land in the middle of the heap. When he started the campaign, Van Brunt said, "there wouldn't have been 50 people in Carroll County who knew my name."

Many of the 18 candidates who started in the field proposed drastic remedies for the problems of growth -- from paying for schools with a head tax on families with school children to pegging property taxes to income.

Dell proposed limiting the number of building permits to what the county can afford to pay for new water, sewer and other services. He thought the idea helped distinguish him from the field of competitors, who denounced the rate of growth every bit as rigorously as he.

RTC Dell was competing against the rhetoric of candidates such as Yates, who suggested that higher taxes were unnecessary and that growth has solved itself, as the building boom has forced housing prices higher than most families with school-age children can afford.

"Down the line we're going to be stuck with schools that we don't need," he said. "I said I feel the taxes are too high."

Gouge, whose decisions during four years in office affected the tax bills Yates is complaining about, spent some of her campaign explaining that growth, like it or not, is proceeding according to plans laid well before her tenure. "A lot of people are laboring under misconceptions" about growth, she said.

How voters could vote for her and for Yates, who condemned the policies of the past four years, Gouge couldn't say. "I can't explain that reasoning either," she said.

The commissioners' jobs will pay $30,000 next year.

Commission President John Armacost decided not to seek re-election. The remaining incumbent, Democrat J. Jeffrey Griffith, won nomination yesterday in the 5th District state Senate race.

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