Fireworks Gone, Concerts Are Next ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

July 09, 1993

This coming Labor Day will be the day the music died at Downs and Quiet Waters parks. A brief eulogy is in order.

After Anne Arundel County government caught folks by surprise by canceling the Downs Park Fourth of July fireworks for budgetary reasons, countians shouldn't have wondered long whether the Annapolis Symphony's wonderful Labor Day concerts would be history, too.

The concerts were a great experience for people who might not ordinarily go to hear a live orchestra. But County Executive Robert R. Neall has been true to his word to eliminate "frills" from the budget, and these events -- wonderful as they were -- fall into that category.

They were obvious extras, easy targets for fiscal conservatives and disgruntled employees. Mr. Neall could never get away with sponsoring the concerts, not in a year when he denied workers' raises and pledged a "plain vanilla" government. We know (and so does he) what the unions would say: "How can government afford to spend $30,000 on a concert, but not fund raises for its own workers."

Of course, the raises would have cost several million dollars, and in a $663 million budget, $30,000 is peanuts. Cutting the concerts is at least as political an act as it is a practical one. Nonetheless, governments should be narrowing their focus. Culture and community events are important to our quality of life, but in times like these responsibility for them should be shifted to the private sector.

Patricia Edwards, the symphony's executive director, said it is probably too late to arrange a concert even if a private donor supplied the money. She's hopeful for next year, though. So are we.

____________ WE'RE NUMBER 12: We were pleasantly surprised to find Anne Arundel ranked 12th in fiscal strength in City & State magazine's recent survey of 50 U.S. counties with the largest operating budgets -- the highest ranking ever for a Maryland county. It's a reminder that, although economics have forced unpopular changes in government, Anne Arundel is in a better position than many. All its libraries, parks and fire stations are still open. That can't be said of a lot of other jurisdictions.

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