Stand up, be counted

September 27, 1990

First it's the Maryland Court of Appeals decision allowing a referendum on tax caps in November -- and now comes the deafening silence. Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen, who is seeking a second term, has not publicly taken a position on what is indisputably one of the most important local issues of this election. And there's a chance that he won't.

It can't be for lack of commitment. It was the Rasmussen administration, after all, that challenged the constitutionality of the referendum in court and pushed through a 4 percent cap of JTC its own as a fiscally feasible alternative. Rasmussen -- who has since watched the defeat of two political compatriots on the council in the primary -- seems now to be just plain scared of alienating voters by publicly opposing the 2 percent cap.

Supporters are privately grumbling. Rasmussen's opponent, Republican Roger Hayden, has come out squarely against the 2 percent cap, which makes the political risks of commitment pretty minimal for the executive. Besides, none of the tax rebels seriously believes Rasmussen supports them anyway. Sure, some voters will scream either way. But even in the convoluted world of political image-making it's hard to imagine what possible advantage Rasmussen hopes to gain by taking no stand at all.

More than that, a basic tenet of public service is being scuttled here: How in the world can a county executive not take a strong, public position on an issue absolutely central to county government? What about leadership?

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