Not the best way to do business

January 13, 1993

Someone recently described the Baltimore County legislativ delegation as "a fractious group," and added, "It's not the best way to do business."

Was this the opinion of some local pundit? A politico from another jurisdiction?

Guess again. The speaker was none other than one of the county delegation's leaders.

The Baltimore County legislators' penchant for unruliness is well-known in Annapolis and beyond. During recent General Assembly sessions, county senators and delegates have been conspicuous by their vocal opposition to budget-balancing measures that might anger voters back home.

Their truculence has, however, angered state leaders. As a result, few political plums from Annapolis have lately gone the county's way. The legislators don't appear wracked with disappointment, though. They know their theatrics will reap votes come election time. Never mind that the legislators, by alienating the big powers in the capital, and some voters, by encouraging this behavior, put their subdivision at risk.

The fact is, the delegation's fractiousness reflects the county itself. Economically, geographically, demographically, Baltimore County is many subdivisions in one, whether you're comparing Towson to Turners Station, Essex to Oella, or Woodlawn to Worthington Valley. Such a large, diverse area doesn't lend itself to a political agenda on which all its representatives can agree.

Yet that's not to pardon the Baltimore County delegation for seeming more interested in holding onto their jobs than performing those jobs to the jurisdiction's general benefit.

Some vision and leadership from Towson might go a long way toward bringing the county delegation in line, but communication between the legislators and County Executive Roger Hayden has not been good. Days before the session was to begin, Mr. Hayden still hadn't formally submitted his legislative proposals to impatient delegation leaders. Either he develops a stronger presence in Annapolis this session or he hears replays of last year's cries of "Where's Roger?"

Baltimore County these days is struggling with a budget crisis and various ills associated with urbanization, including increases crime and demand for social services. Now more than ever, legislators must drop their fractious ways and do all they can for the county. Being more concerned about re-election than aiding a troubled subdivision is, indeed, not the best way to do business.

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