The Baltimore County Council faced its first really tough...

January 23, 1991

The Baltimore County Council faced its first really tough decision this week -- and it waffled. It put off for at least two weeks the issue of a whopping $16,000 pay raise for Merreen Kelly, the nominee for county administrative officer. Ironically, the raise was requested by County Executive Roger Hayden, the man who had campaigned on a promise to slash staffing, stop Rasmussen-era spending and save the county millions of dollars.

New council members, who were elected on a wave of anti-tax and anti-spending sentiment, cannot now seem to square campaign rhetoric with their allegiance to Hayden's leadership. Little wonder. The proposed pay raise would increase the salary of the administrative officer from $69,000 a year to $85,000. Certainly that would make the salary competitive with nearby metropolitan counties. But comparable worth is not the issue.

Kelly, who retired from the county school system, will be collecting a $49,000 pension which, with the proposed raise, would bring his annual take to $134,000. Regardless of the arguments for the increase, which are indeed substantial, the election was a clear signal that the voters of Baltimore County are disturbed not just by actual fat in spending, but also by the trappings of costly bureaucracy, which were symbolized by the defeated executive's monogrammed shirts and Lincoln Towncar.

In terms of real spending, of course, Dennis Rasmussen's shirts couldn't have been more meaningless. But the fact is that in public life, perception is reality. Rasmussen forgot that, and Roger Hayden and the new council members exploited it. Voters are certainly justified now in wondering whether it was, after all, just election rhetoric or whether the anti-spending candidates actually believe what they were saying on the campaign trail.

Rhetoric and reality

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