Seeking Vision -- or Political Cover?

May 04, 1994

Carroll Commissioner Donald I. Dell is to be commended for soliciting citizens' views on the county's future. His "Vision for the Future" committee can make a substantial contribution in defining the county's long-range direction.

However, it is a mistake to have this committee make the tough policy decisions, as Mr. Dell seems to have suggested. That is the job he was elected to accomplish.

Mr. Dell, along with Elmer C.Lippy and Julia W. Gouge, were voted in as county commissioners four years ago to lead, not to follow.

In a democracy, voters give the elected officials the power to carry out the wishes of the people, but the people don't speak with a unanimous voice. The community's politicians have the difficult task of choosing among these different -- and conflicting -- desires. Being attentive to their constituents does not mean blindly following their wishes, however.

Elected representatives who pander to the loudest voices do not serve the community at large, or its future. A politician's job is to listen to all sides of an issue and then select the course of action that achieves the greatest good for the greatest number.

Judging from the remarks made during the committee's first meeting, Messrs. Dell and Lippy don't want just guidance from the committee; they would like to relinquish their elected responsibilities.

For example, Mr. Dell said he would like the committee to establish a schedule for tax and fee increases so that revenue sources wouldn't be subject to the "whims of politics."

It is not -- and never will be -- up to an appointed committee to decide the timing and the level of county tax increases. The members, while a good cross-section of the county, were not elected by voters. (A more appropriate role for them might be to analyze the county's fiscal condition and make appropriate recommendations.)

The commissioners can't expect this "vision" committee to provide them with protective political cover for tax increases and other unpopular decisions regarding growth.

As much as they may not relish the job, the commissioners were elected to tackle these difficult matters.

If they are not up to it, the voters should find other members of the community who are.

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