Give Elmer Lippy His Money Back CARROLL COUNTY

July 29, 1993

By reimbursing Carroll County $250 for part of a recent trip with his fellow commissioners to a conference in Chicago, Elmer Lippy shows he is a man of his word. But this bit of political gamesmanship also shows that Mr. Lippy doesn't give himself sufficient credit for absorbing useful information while out of the county.

Before departing for the National Association of Counties annual convention in Chicago, Mr. Lippy promised he would reimburse the county coffers if the trip wasn't worthwhile. On his return, Mr. Lippy wrote the county a check to cover his meal and hotel expenses for two days he considered to be totally unproductive and not worth the taxpayers' money.

While the program may not have lived up to his high expectations, it seems as though he actually did pick up plenty of good lessons from Carl Sandburg's city of "big shoulders" that might be useful in running Carroll's county government.

Mr. Lippy spent time at Chicago's magnificent lakefront and noticed the benefits of cleaning up Lake Michigan. He also noticed that even though Chicago is one of the more densely populated American cities, there is open space -- bikeways, playgrounds, softball fields and flower gardens -- throughout the city that is easily accessible to residents and visitors. Certainly those observations can be applied to Carroll.

While at the Loop, Mr. Lippy also took notice of how the interplay between public and private architecture enhances the simple act of walking down a street. Mr. Lippy realized that aesthetics, regardless of whether in a city of skyscrapers or a county with cornfields, should be an important consideration when public officials make decisions.

After observing Chicago up close, Mr. Lippy came to the conclusion that farsighted government officials can have a positive impact on a community. "Somebody has been managing Chicago well to have it look as well as it does," he said. The lesson that government can make a positive contribution to our lives is particularly important in this time where many believe that government is a destructive force.

Mr. Lippy's gesture might win a few plaudits, but it wasn't necessary. He seems to have learned enough in Chicago for Carroll taxpayers to pick up the entire tab.

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