Self-Serving Hypocrites

November 16, 1992

Faced with the hard decision of where to build a new detention center, the Anne Arundel County Council has chosen the most gutless and self-serving option. The existing jail site on Jennifer Road is now the favored location, not because it's the best site, but because it allows a majority of council members to save their political skins.

One expects a degree of parochialism with something as unpopular as a jail. But the double standard applied by four of the seven council members shows how little they care about finding the right location.

Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, Diane Evans, George Bachman and David Boschert fought sites in their district, saying there are too many homes nearby, yet Jennifer Road is in the heart of densely populated Annapolis and Parole.

They talk about the cost to taxpayers. But all the available information shows that a Jennifer Road prison, because it would be a high-rise, would cost millions more to construct and operate.

They said jails must be surrounded by a buffer; Jennifer Road is so small it has no buffer.

Security is a top priority, they said. Yet high-rise prisons are considered riskier than other jails. Mr. Holland's position is particularly interesting. He won't expose his Pasadena residents to the dangers of a jail, but so long as prisoners stay in Annapolis, he's in favor of housing them in trailers!

Council members have made a great pretense of doing the right thing. Instead, they will take the easy way out. They won't consider the best proposed site -- the Fischer property in Crownsville -- because they don't want to condemn property. And they've virtually ruled out all other locations by refusing to anger people who don't want a jail near them. So it was only a matter of time before they took the path of least resistance, which led to Jennifer Road.

Perhaps that is as it should be, if that is what the people want. But if council members are responsible for reflecting their districts' wishes, they are also responsible for making sure people understand what price they will pay to keep the jail out of their back yards. They haven't done so, and they probably won't. They'll just keep grandstanding, pretending to have their constituents' best interests at heart when all along the only ones they've really looked out for are themselves.

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