Baltimore County is at a precarious juncture, with its fiscal future up for grabs and the war of images in full swing. Across the political landscape -- from Dundalk to Owings Mills -- Republican challenger Roger Hayden accuses County Executive Dennis Rasmussen of setting a prodigal example. Indeed, some of Hayden's politicking hinges on accusations that the incumbent has sold taxpayers down the river for a fancy new office and a Lincoln Town Car.
This kind of stuff is nonsense, but it plays well in a year in which incumbents are being routinely knocked off by voter cynicism and frustration. Moreover, the rhetoric has become so twisted that the accusations themselves have become the issues.
The irony in all this is that the root of dissatisfaction is rising property taxes, which are a result of assessment increases that are not the county's responsibility. Rasmussen's response has been low-key and uninspiring, but he deserves more credit than anyone else for launching efforts to take the pressure off homeowners. It was Rasmussen who initiated the container tax, asked the General Assembly to let the county increase its share of the piggy-back income tax, and successfully pressed for a 4 percent assessment cap on homes that goes into effect July 1.