Where's Roger? (The Sequel)

April 15, 1993

At first glance, Baltimore County fared well during the just-completed General Assembly session. The county will receive 11.4 percent more in state aid during fiscal 1994. It also won a good share of the state's capital budget. Funds will go toward renovations at Goucher College, the construction of a Catonsville day-care facility and building repairs at a few public schools.

Yet county legislators left Annapolis frustrated they didn't win more prizes. The source of their frustration? County Executive Roger Hayden.

Mr. Hayden was rapped during the 1992 session for his conspicuous absence. "Where's Roger?" was the cry often heard in the State House. He apparently made even less of a showing this time around. He began the session on a bad note by sending his administration's list of bills to the delegation only days before the opening gavel. Once the list did arrive, county legislators were aghast at its skimpiness.

They were just as shocked when Mr. Hayden came to them two weeks before adjournment and requested $1.8 million from the state for construction of a new Essex Elementary School. The money later seemed to be in hand, but a day after the session ended the grant was in jeopardy because the state had yet to receive the necessary information from Mr. Hayden's office.

So, where was Roger? Perhaps the fiscally conservative county executive, preoccupied with his plans to downsize the local government, wasn't inclined to visit the state capital with his hand out. If so, someone should tell him the idea is to hit Annapolis with a bundle of requests, understanding that not all of them will be met. As a rule, though, the more you ask for, the more you'll get. Ask for little and that's what you'll wind up with.

The only notable Hayden proposal that passed was a bill enabling the county to raise the salaries of prosecutors in the local state's attorney's office. A worthy measure, but hardly of earthshaking importance to county residents.

Disappointing results aren't surprising when a poor communicator like Mr. Hayden is paired with a group as fractious as the Baltimore County delegation. But because of their lack of planning and communication, county leaders in Towson and Annapolis missed a prime opportunity to help their hurting subdivision. For a change, the state had some goodies to pass around. Too bad Baltimore County's elected officials didn't have the vision or the skill to bring more of those goodies home.

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