The way Carroll's eight mayors see it, the state is up to the same old trick again this year.
That trick, according to the local leaders, is to tell cities and towns what to do and, in return, provide less money to do it.
Spurred on by the recommendations contained in Gov. William Donald Schaefer's 2020 Commission growth control report, by increasingly demanding federal Clean Air regulations and by a significant downturn in state and federal aid to cities and towns, Carroll's municipal leaders last week said they've passed this way one too many times before.
"This is just another cynical attempt to manipulate the legislative process," said Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, who -- along with several other Carroll municipal leaders -- has written a letter to the commission expressing outrage over what he sees in the 2020 recommendations.
"To interject state bureaucrats in the land-use process is unacceptable and will result in citizen outrage and opposition and a loss of local control," Brown said in that Dec. 20 letter.
Those recommendations would change planning, zoning and land-use practices throughout the state, resulting in more uniform land use in Maryland's 23 counties. Currently, land use is primarily the domain of local governments, not the state.
"If this went into effect, you'dhave to overhaul everything you've done," R. Edmund "Ned" Cueman, the county planning director, told the mayors during their quarterly meeting with the Carroll Commissioners on Thursday. "To think that the state would enact something like this is beyond my comprehension."
Other recent issues seemed beyond the comprehension of many of the local officials during the two-hour morning meeting.
The newly strengthened Clean Air Act, with provisions for civil fines, criminal charges, loss of federal highway money and even a citizen environmentalwatchdog group, brings with it a whole new set of rules for local governments.
Within the next 10 years, the Clean Air Act will mean municipal vehicle fleets will have to switch to alternative fuels, monitor air pollution more carefully, arrange for car pools and perform a host of other tasks.
"I would say 2020 pales in comparison to this," said James E. Slater, director of the county's Department of Natural Resource Protection.
Underscoring discussion of state and federal mandates was the realization that money is tighter than ever this year. But Management and Budget Director Steven D. Powell said Carroll's municipalities will not see a decrease in the amount of money they receive from the Town/County Agreement.
The eight municipalities received about $1 million from that agreement this year.
Money from that program is tied to the inflation rate, and, Powell said, the county intends to hold to the agreement for the upcoming budget year.