Here's A Clear Sign Of County Commissioners' Arrogance


April 05, 1992|By Darren M. Allen

Arrogance, thy name is commissioner.

In this year of congressional scandals, presidential indifference and General Assembly ineffectiveness, county government was seemingly a refuge in the jungle of American politics.

But that was before last week, when Carroll's commissioners concocted this ridiculous, short-sighted and incredibly pompous proposed ban on signs and placards at public meetings.

Commissioner Julia W.Gouge says signs "degrade" public meetings.

Commissioner President Donald I. Dell says he turns his head away if people approach him too loudly or too persistently with their views.

And Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy, a one-time champion of free speech and open government, has "safety" concerns about signs.

About the only"safety" concern we should have here is the safety of Carroll's citizens to -- how does the Constitution put it? -- "petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The proposed ban -- actually, since it was unanimously proposed by the commissioners in their executive role, chances are it will be adopted when the commissioners play their legislative role -- would keep people from bringing signs into any building where the commissioners are holding a public meeting.

And while such a ban seems aimed to silence yet another form of communication from us "little people" to our government leaders, it is hardly surprising coming from this group of commissioners.

Indeed, itwas Dell, Lippy and Gouge who brought us last year's county government shuffle, in which the debate and decisions behind the largest -- possibly most expensive -- shake-up in Carroll's bureaucracy took place behind closed doors.

They also brought us the "secret" memo fromDell to zoning enforcement officers, telling them to stop looking for zoning violations.

And it was they who had private pow-wows withdevelopers and other special interests as part of their decision-making process on landscape and recycling issues.

Banning any form ofcommunication at a public meeting seems to me more than just a little bit ironic. After all, if the commissioners are going to convince the public that these meetings are more than just lip service, tellingfolks with a message to keep that message at home isn't going to help.

A further irony is that this sign ban must itself be put through a litany of public hearings. And, as the commissioners have alreadymade quite clear, a ban is going to be passed, regardless of what issaid at the public hearings.

It all comes down to arrogance, and the almost universal belief among politicians of all stripes that they, as elected officials, know what's best for all of us, and that their experts know the world far more accurately than we do.

After all, if Donald Dell turns the other way when a Carroll resident has a loud complaint about the unusually heavy influence developers, mining companies and trash haulers seem to be playing in public policy, isn't it time he and the other commissioners learn who their real bosses are?

The commissioners are proving once again that they are basically uninterested in the views of their subjects.

The sign ban should be scrapped.

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