Ecker urges Mikulski to regroup Howard with Washington under Clean AirAct The two discuss other area concerns

June 15, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski emerged from a meeting with Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker yesterday in Ellicott City saying there is "too much bureaucracy, too much inertia in decision making" in the federal government.

The senator was told that the federal government made a mistake when it put Howard County in the Baltimore region for the purposes of the federal Clean Air Act. Unless the county is switched to the Washington region from the Baltimore region, Montgomery and Prince George's counties "will have an unfair competitive edge" in economic development, Mr. Ecker told the senator.

Because air quality in the Baltimore region has been labeled "severe," businesses with 100 or more employees must reduce their commuting trips by 20 percent, Mr. Ecker said. Montgomery and Prince George's counties are free from such restrictions.

Mr. Ecker said that to his knowledge, no air monitors have been placed in Howard County, but he believes the quality of air here is closer to that in Montgomery and Prince George's. "I don't know how we were placed in the Baltimore region," he said.

"Everybody wants to comply [with the Clean Air Act], but they want the compliance to be based on common sense and good science," Senator Mikulski said. "I've asked this county to get its facts together."

Senator Mikulski said that the county contends that it has more in common with Montgomery and Prince George's, and that its placement in the Baltimore region is not based on common sense and logic.

"They want to compare apples with apples and not oranges," Senator Mikulski said.

The senator was also told about problems the county is having with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Howard County has good things happening" in the area of affordable housing, but wants HUD to respond more quickly, Senator Mikulski said.

She said she would not intervene to ask that specific projects "leapfrog up." She said she would tell HUD "to get off their guidelines and get Howard County some answers."

The county has yet to receive responses from HUD for several projects several months old.

The area office in Baltimore has agreed with Howard County's requests and sent them on to the regional office in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia office must also approve the requests before they can be forwarded to Washington.

Leonard S. Vaughan, county housing and community development administrator, said one of the questions he asked Senator Mikulski yesterday was whether two levels of review -- area and regional -- were really necessary.

Senator Mikulski set up the private meeting with Mr. Ecker in fulfillment of a campaign promise to meet with county officials throughout the state by July 1 to discuss local needs.

In addition to affordable housing and the Clean Air Act, the senator discussed wetlands problems and funding needs for Route 100, use of Tipton Air Field at Fort Meade as an auxiliary airport, and federal funding for repairs to Brighton Dam Road Bridge with Mr. Ecker and department heads from the departments of Public Works and Planning and Zoning. "She said she will help us work on some things," Mr. Ecker said. "I don't know the outcome, but I was favorably impressed, very pleased. It was a very, very good meeting."

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