Haifley's Parting Shot CARROLL COUNTY

April 12, 1993

Rather than retire with grace after eight years of service to the city of Westminster, Council President William Haifley decided to leave with a gratuitous blast. He took a broad swipe at Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, saying there would be an "improvement" in the city's municipal government if the mayor were voted out of office. Yet, Mr. Haifley refused to volunteer to challenge the mayor in next month's election.

Mr. Haifley's behavior affirmed a maxim H.L. Mencken loved to quote: "The only way to look at a politician is down."

When pressed on why he decided not to run, Mr. Haifley said it wasn't his fear of losing, but the fear of winning. Being mayor might require committing more time to city business than he currently does as council president, he said.

Mr. Haifley's assertion that he wouldn't run because he might win was a statement of political cowardice. His words will never be put to any test. We will never know if the citizens dislike Mr. Brown's administration as much as Mr. Haifley does. If Mr. Haifley is convinced of his convictions, he should have taken advantage of the opportunity to challenge the mayor.

The genius of our democratic system is that if something is not to our liking, any one of us has the opportunity to change it. We can express our ideas, solicit support, run for office. And, unlike in large cities, where the average citizen would have to combat entrenched, moneyed interest groups to get elected, Carroll's municipalities are wide open politically. Anyone who campaigns seriously for office stands a good chance of winning.

A vigorous democracy depends on people participating at all levels of government. In public life today, there is too much carping from the sidelines. Not enough people volunteer their time, energy and effort to correct problems, challenge (or preserve) the status quo and contribute to community life. Government is like any activity -- the more you invest, the better it is likely to be.

In a month, all of Carroll's municipalities have elections scheduled. In several of these towns, the incumbents are unchallenged.

Anybody who complains about the towns' governance and doesn't run for office -- especially someone with Mr. Haifley's political experience -- or at the very least vote, has little right to complain after the fact.

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