Meet the Carroll County commissioners, possibly the first politicians ever on home detention while serving in office. Whenever these commissioners announce plans to go out of town to drum up economic development, they often end up scaling back or canceling the itinerary entirely -- as they did with a recent planned visit to next month's Preakness race -- after feeling pressure from various quarters.
Indeed, this is an election year and the small-minded will make a big fuss about the commissioners partying at taxpayer expense. But the costs are incidental when compared to the potential return.
We're not talking about sending the commissioners to the French Riviera for two weeks, but to Baltimore for a day. The commissioners aren't simply budgeteers or bureaucrats. They are this county's top public executives, its political ambassadors. The commissioners plan to send a contingent of economic development officials to Pimlico in their place, which a) still costs money and b) misses the point. Corporate executives want to talk to the generals, not just the lieutenants.
By staying away, the commissioners telegraph an unintended message: They are not serious about economic development. Carroll can't just base its actions on what its neighbors are doing. Frankly, other metro counties have had more economic development success than Carroll recently. Without a solid foundation of industrial and commercial enterprises, Carroll becomes just an ever-bigger bedroom for people who work elsewhere.
The commissioners must try harder to attract new business. If occasionally that means spending money on travel or receptions with a focused goal, so be it. All the complaints will be drowned out by cheers should a major manufacturer decide to locate in Carroll.
HAINES' WORLD: Speaking of travel, isn't it ironic that state Sen. Larry Haines, who takes great delight in bashing Baltimore City, has no qualms about filling his political coffers there? His campaign committee can't find an attractive enough locale in Carroll for his big fund-raiser so he's going to hold it in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Welcome to Bawlamer, Senator Haines.