Commission for Women is proposed for Carroll County officials say they like the idea

August 25, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Women filled the Carroll commissioners' meeting room yesterday morning, and the talk bounced from promoting women as political candidates to considering them as sex objects.

About 15 women -- and a few men -- asked the commissioners to support legislation to start a Carroll County Commission for Women.

Commissioners Julia W. Gouge and Elmer C. Lippy said they would support such a group. Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he was not opposed to the idea, but would have to study the specific proposal before making a decision.

"You're not going to overtake the men, are you?" Mr. Dell asked, jokingly.

"That would be impossible," answered Uniontown resident Rachelle Hurwitz, who chairs the steering committee for the proposed commission.

A Commission for Women would have many goals, including providing the government with an agenda to deal with women's issues and encouraging women to seek political office and other community leadership roles.

"Carroll County needs to devote a greater attention to the significant issues of concern to the women in its community," the group's purpose statement says.

Women's concerns include health care, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and family and work place issues.

The state of Maryland and 13 of its counties have women's commissions, many of which were formed in the 1970s. Joanne M. Saltzberg, executive director of the Maryland Commission for Women, attended yesterday's meeting.

"I don't think we're doing anything radical or extreme," said Ms. Hurwitz, the mother of two and a member of the county's Waste-to-Energy Committee.

"We will be a legislative advocate for women and families in the community," said steering committee member Kay Garnish of Eldersburg, who owns a marketing business and is active in the League of Women Voters.

One of the goals of the commission is to provide a clearinghouse for information on services available to women in Carroll, Ms. Hurwitz said.

The Commission for Women would have 15 members -- 10 appointed by the steering committee and five by the county commissioners for three-year terms.

An advisory committee would include at least one high school and one college student.

Men would be eligible for membership, Ms. Garnish said.

The commission would be run by volunteers at first and would ask the county for money for postage to send out a newsletter, Ms. Hurwitz said.

The proposed legislation says the commission would submit an annual operating budget to the county.

Organizers have been working on forming the Commission for Women since March, after the first Carroll County Women's Fair, Ms. Hurwitz said.

The nine-member steering committee includes a minister, a lawyer, an insurance agent, a teacher and two entrepreneurs.

The county commissioners will consider the proposed legislation and decide whether to recommend that the Carroll delegation introduce it during next year's General Assembly session.

Ms. Hurwitz said the steering committee wanted the Commission for Women established by legislation so that a future board of commissioners could not abolish it.

Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, said yesterday that he supports the new commission.

"It's about time for us. It's the right thing to do," he said.

Del. Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, who chairs the county delegation, said he had not seen the proposed legislation. If the commissioners approve it, the delegation likely would introduce the legislation, he said.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, also had not seen the proposal. "I'll have to look at it and see what they've got."

During the morning meeting, Mr. Lippy offered the women what he called "grandfatherly advice." He said he was "a champion of women's rights on those things that matter."

He said he doesn't like the fact that women still earn less than men. The 1993 World Almanac says women earned 74 percent of what men earned as of the fourth quarter of 1991.

Mr. Lippy mentioned that he was born the year women gained the right to vote -- 1920 -- and said he hoped women would excuse him if he called them "girls," opened a door for them or tipped his hat.

"I think women's groups do themselves a disservice when they resent being called sex objects," he continued. "Regarding each other as sex objects has to be part of any equation" between men and women, he said.

No one responded to his comments.

"OK, we're about out of time," Mr. Dell said then, ending the half-hour meeting.

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