Not resting on their Laurel

February 18, 1994

What is it about Anne Arundel County that makes it so desirable to outsiders? The water? The air? If so, it ought to be packaged in flasks and sold to tourists.

A few years ago, some of the county's neighbors in Baltimore's Brooklyn community wanted to defect from the Queen City of the Patapsco Drainage Basin (a name journalist John Goodspeed coined decades ago) and secede to Anne Arundel County. They felt neglected by the city in spite of the high property taxes they pay. The secession effort eventually withered.

Now it is Laurel's turn. A Laurel politician is proposing to have his hometown flee Prince George's County for the friendlier confines of Anne Arundel.

"I have yet to find anybody who can give me a reason it would be a bad idea," Councilman Robert Stahley said.

Bad or not, the idea was defeated on a 4-1 vote when Mr. Stahley took it to his fellow council members. Interestingly enough, Laurel Mayor Joe Robinson has his own proposal for the city to separate from Prince George's. He wants to set up Laurel as an independent entity outside any county, somewhat like Baltimore.

Laurelites, at least according to some dissidents, have always been ill-served by Prince George's County government. They even exhume the fact that eight years after Laurel was founded in 1870, city fathers were forced to sue the county over the road tax -- and won. Oppression by Prince George's County continued in later years, the secessionists maintain. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission also treated Laurel poorly.

Billionaire Jack Kent Cooke's contemplated move of his football team from Washington to Laurel has prompted certain Laurelites once again to reconsider their governmental future. "The Redskins' coming has kind of opened people's eyes" to alternatives, Mayor Robinson said.

One of the immediate problems the secessionists face is that while downtown Laurel is in Prince George's County, parts of that postal address belong not only to Anne Arundel but to Howard and Montgomery counties. That's a lot of counties to battle, if it comes to a fight.

Maybe Laurel could become the 51st state of the union. Opting for a separate country would be even more profitable: Laurel could issue stamps.

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