Sailing Under True Colors CARROLL COUNTY

August 12, 1993

The timidity of Carroll's commissioners in disclosing their planned trip to Chicago this week to promote economic development indicates how unhealthy their sensitivity has become to criticism for venturing outside county lines. The result has been to heighten public suspicions and to reinforce the antiquated notion that all of the county's business can be effectively conducted right here at home.

In a county that badly needs business development to help pay for its burgeoning population growth and to employ residents already here, the commissioners should make every effort to land new enterprises.

The Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development's dockside reception aboard the Pride of Baltimore II in the Windy City last Tuesday provided a welcome opportunity for Commissioners Julia Gouge and Elmer Lippy to sell the advantages of Carroll County to two business prospects. William Jenne, the county economic development administrator, also set up appointments with a half-dozen other companies interested in possible relocation. These are legitimate business promotions. Carroll officials should not shirk from that aspect of their jobs, or try to hide it from the public as long as it would not jeopardize the discussions.

This week's trip to Chicago constituted the second in a month for the two commissioners, who also attended a National Association of Counties convention in July. The tropics in February qualify as junketeering. Two trips to Chicago in summer? Hardly. So the public must ask why the commissioners did not put the trip on their weekly agenda, and why they seemed reluctant to discuss their travel plans.

One reason is the long-held view in Carroll that economic development is a sometime job. The fact is economic development is like fishing: You can't guarantee what you will land, but you won't catch fish unless you put your line in the water.

Another reason is Mr. Lippy's decision to pay some of his own trip expenses. But his personal preference shouldn't become the public standard for all officials engaged in justifiable county business. The commissioners should make known these legitimate trips and accept reasonable reimbursement, but should not be cowed by the myth that all travel outside the county constitute waste and abuse.

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