Jeffrey, Jeffrey, quite contrary

February 12, 1993

Day. Night. Black. White. Sun. Moon. Near. Far.

The preceding was a dramatization of a dialogue between Harford County Executive Eileen Rehrmann and Jeffrey Wilson, the County Council president. Their bipolar chemistry most recently flared when Ms. Rehrmann presented an upbeat state-of-the-county address and Mr. Wilson offered a doom-and-gloom rebuttal.

No, we didn't attach toy rockets beneath them to ensure combustion. Any sparks created were simply a result of the two leaders' natural animosity, which, amazingly, has yet to prove hazardous to Harford County's health.

As mom often reminded us, it does take two to fight. And yet in this instance, we fail to see the rationale for Mr. Wilson's lengthy disclaimer.

First, aside from the custom of giving the minority party television time to rebut the president's State of the Union address, we can't think of any local jurisdiction outside of Harford where a council member makes a formal speech to rebut the executive's annual address.

Second, we can only marvel at Mr. Wilson's ability to deliver an oration that says a) financially strapped local business people fear they can't survive, yet b) the county must provide more money for education and employee raises. We don't object to either point, but we were amazed that anyone would combine them in one package.

Third, Mr. Wilson stressed the need for more humility in government. Great. But we question whether his 11-page rebuttal -- including phrases such as "beneath the dross of ideology, beneath the strident cacophony of contrary interests there is wisdom" -- qualifies as a step toward that goal.

Last, when a politician addresses the issue of deteriorating school infrastructure with the query, "How long do our children have to wait for us to do better?," one is left to wonder whether he wants a dialogue or just to demagogue the issue to death.

The Harford council president is entitled to his say, on everything from the state of the county to the appropriateness of an AIDS education play in the schools to the closing of a small branch library. But the context in which he raises his ideas, in a fire-and-brimstone speech or in a threatening missive to some county agency head, often overshadows what it is he has to say.

A preacher by trade, Mr. Wilson relishes his mastery of flowery language. But folks in an agricultural county such as Harford knows what plants grow best in.

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