Baltimore County's New Math

March 19, 1993

People who aren't job hunting, but who have heard the economy is coming back, may find the following statistic unsettling:

Of 270 workers laid off from Baltimore County government a month ago who have received assistance from the county's outplacement center, only six have found jobs. And three of those were recalled by the county.

People considering running for Baltimore County executive in 1994 because they've heard the incumbent is in tough straits, likewise may find the following figure unsettling:

Executive Roger B. Hayden expects by spring to have $300,000 in his war chest, more than double what he raised to win the seat as a near-unknown three years ago.

The above numbers may not be related, but the circumstances behind them certainly are intertwined. Surely, the key event in Mr. Hayden's term so far was "Black Thursday," his sudden layoff of hundreds of county workers Feb 11.

How that action -- and events still to unfold -- will play in the voting booths 20 months from now is hard to predict. But, certainly many countians who saw their government in 1990 as a bloated, lavish operation will view the county executive's downsizing as overdue and politically heroic.

Naturally, that won't be the view of laid-off workers, their families and the unions, which will try to impede the incumbent's re-election. Already, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County has run a radio ad implying that the layoffs and other cuts were unnecessary because the county is rolling in dough. (Not true.) The white-collar Maryland Classified Employees Association has filed suit, contending that Mr. Hayden's restructuring (read: layoffs) violated everything from the county charter to the U.S. Constitution.

The director of the county employment assistance center, who has seen legions of people in both the private and public sectors displaced by the recession, said that county employees seemed to second-guess the decision to cut their jobs to a great extent than workers who get fired from beleaguered industries. County workers clearly felt that public employment meant secure employment.

With a $250-a-ticket harbor cruise slated for May, his most expensive fund-raiser ever, Mr. Hayden is demonstrably committed to continuing his political career. His ability to do so will depend in part on how voters view, or are persuaded to view, his actions regarding hundreds of other careers.

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