Anarchists in Dundalk

January 04, 1991

This year's first award for public irresponsibility goes to three novice councilmen in Baltimore County, Donald Mason, Douglas Riley and William Howard. At a mass rally at Dundalk High School, they called for county homeowners to paralyze the property tax process by appealing every reassessment. "Jam the system," urged the 28-year-old Mr. Howard.

Mistrust of government is one thing. It is quite another thing for three elected officials to incite taxpayers to mindless actions that serve no one's best interest -- especially when the 24 panels that hear property tax assessment appeals are already so overwhelmed that they have stopped scheduling cases in many counties.

This kind of civic anarchy can lead only to other ideas of mischief. What is next? Boycotting federal and state tax deadlines? Making obscene telephone calls to officials? Writing graffiti on public bathroom walls in Towson?

Mr. Mason has made a career as a demagogue who wants to dismantle the property tax system. So we can understand his reasons for stirring up trouble. But we thought Mr. Riley, a lawyer with Miles & Stockbridge, would have more sense than to become a political flasher.

There are occasions when a homeowner may want to appeal his or her triennial assessment. But to be successful, those appeals require ample documentation and good arguments. In their call for sabotaging the reassessment process, Councilmen Mason, Riley and Howard are sowing confusion among county homeowners, many of whom have no understanding of how the property tax system works in the first place. Their motives are opportunistic, their behavior reprehensible.

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