Harford's Health: Body and Soul

February 12, 1993

Mens sana in corpore sano -- a sound mind in a sound body -- was the ideal balance of human existence espoused by the Roman poet Juvenal. That balance is in serious peril in Harford County, according to the divergent judgments of the county executive and the county council president.

In her State of the County message this week, Eileen M. Rehrmann recited her accomplishments over the past two years in successfully steering Harford through the shoals of economic recession. The $13 million surplus saved, county jobs preserved, water rights secured, sewage plant expanded, management PTC constraints on development begun -- these were the highlights.

"We have been through difficult times but we have persevered," said Mrs. Rehrmann, whose tenure as a career politician has been marked by numbers-crunching efficiency and cheerleading while coping with adversity.

As her text was evocative of the Book of Job, so was Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson's brooding dissent drawn from Jeremiah. Despite its apparent economic health, the county's soul has suffered from a bleak depression of doubt and despair, the Presbyterian pastor asserted.

"How long do our children have to wait for us to do better?" he pleaded, painting a picture of environmental apocalypse, dilapidated public facilities, loss of community and of rampant development unaffordable for the next generation.

The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between. Most people would find it closer to the Rehrmann view, while being concerned about niggardly spending for education, the ecological pressures of resurgent growth and the two-year pay freeze for public employees that helped to build the surplus.

As the county executive noted, important pieces of the growth management puzzle remain to be put into place, tying development to availability of adequate water, sewer and transportation facilities. Mrs. Rehrmann advocated more community spirit and voluntarism, and proposed a Futures Commission for more grassroots involvement in shaping the county's development. Harford employees will get a pay raise this year, she pledged.

Some might find Mr. Wilson's reply to the county executive's speech unnecessary and needlessly contentious, as he does not represent the entire council's views. But he reminds Harford countians that problems remain to be addressed, and that bookkeeping figures alone cannot reflect the health of the county.

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