Playing games with regionalism

June 09, 1994

3/8 TC The news that Baltimore Metropolitan Council executive director Charles Krautler has a new job in North Carolina brought this response from Mayor Kurt Schmoke: "Regionalism as an effective approach to our shared problems has gained wide acceptance by the public officials in the Baltimore area."

To that we say, prove it. At best, area officials have talked a good regionalism game, but that has been the extent of their commitment. The action to back up those words with a forceful plan has not been forthcoming.

The current debate over Baltimore's five-year ban against incinerator construction underscores how miserably local officials have failed at finding regional solutions to regional problems. The City Council is considering lifting the ban after only two years. The main purpose of this action would be to allow Willard Hackerman to tear down his troubled Pulaski Highway incinerator and replace it with a larger, state-of-the-art trash burner. City officials, including Mayor Schmoke, like the idea; it was made sweeter still by Mr. Hackerman's offer to give the city $10 million and a cut of any profits.

The facility, still in the planning stages, won't make a nickel, though, unless it has enough garbage to burn. Mr. Hackerman says he has no commitments from neighboring jurisdictions, though he expects his new plant to take trash from Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties.

At the same time, serious discussions of building incinerators have been held in Anne Arundel and Carroll, while the Howard County Council has backed a plan to close its only landfill by mid-1996, partly in the hope that a regional plan for solid-waste disposal will soon be created. That seems a very high hope, given the fact that officials in the region have been unable to develop any such plan.

A broad waste-disposal plan was one of the early primary goals of the revamped Baltimore Metro Council. However, a long-promised, often-delayed disposal strategy from the regional council still has not been released.

Regional officials have spoken of the necessity to spread waste-disposal facilities around the map so both the pain and the gain would be shared by all the jurisdictions. But the officials have not progressed much beyond words. The evidence lies in how the Baltimore City Council and other local governments continue blindly making plans for new waste-disposal facilities as if they were six separate islands rather than one cohesive region.

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