Hoyer to the Rescue in West County ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

June 03, 1993

During the last election, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-5th, took a lot of flak for being an ambitious, power-hungry politician. But there are benefits to having a congressman with clout, as western Anne Arundel County residents have discovered.

Thanks in large part to Mr. Hoyer, the D.C.-run Cedar Knoll Youth Detention Center in Laurel has finally been closed. And land that had been earmarked for a homeless shelter in Maryland City -- which, surrounded by correctional institutions, already bears more than its share of society's ills -- has been given instead to the county for a park. Residents had long fought battles over these issues, but got nowhere until Mr. Hoyer stepped in.

It has been a full seven years since a federal judge ordered the poorly run Cedar Knolls to close. Congress kept ignoring the order and giving D.C. the money to keep it open. Meanwhile, local residents lived with the constant threat of escaped juvenile offenders. In the two years from 1990 to 1992, 177 youths -- many of them dangerous -- escaped or failed to return from weekend passes. City officials kept promising to build a security fence around the facility, but didn't until late last year after Mr. Hoyer sponsored a bill to do what somebody should have done long ago -- close the facility by cutting off its funding. The bill passed and Cedar Knoll's money ran out May 31.

In neighboring Maryland City, residents have been trying since 1989 to halt plans for a shelter to house 900 homeless people on a 35 acre-tract. Such facilities spark violent opposition almost anywhere they are planned, but Maryland City had a legitimate reason for standing its ground. Its 10,000 residents already live near 10 state and federal prisons; to make them absorb more of society's problems would be unfair. Mr. Hoyer saw this and took action. His bill ordered the Department of Housing and Urban Development to turn over the land to the county, which HUD did last week.

When Anne Arundel was sliced into four congressional districts, many were skeptical whether representatives such as Mr. Hoyer, whose political base is closer to Washington, would ignore county constituents. But Mr. Hoyer has remembered two tiny communities that tend to be forgotten even by county politicians. South and West County seem to have come out of redistricting all right.

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