Susan Gray's Balancing Act

September 28, 1994

Democrat Susan B. Gray, who is hastily fashioning a platform on which to run for Howard County executive, has concluded that raising taxes may have to be part of her economic formula for drastically slowing the county's growth.

Ms. Gray, who faces Republican incumbent Charles I. Ecker in the Nov. 8 election, made the admission recently as she revealed details of her plans to reform county government.

Part of that reform, she says, is to "change the tenor" of county government by requiring that decision-making be based on local community interests. Ms. Gray's positions sound appealing: Growth would only occur in those places where roads and schools can accommodate it, new roads and road expansions would become the responsibility of developers, and high-density development would be confined to Columbia.

But a thread running through Ms. Gray's platform would ultimately pit communities against one another. A neighborhood's concerns sometimes must be weighed against greater county interests -- and an executive has the duty to assuage that conflict. Moreover, Ms. Gray's antagonistic approach to the business community is likely to hinder economic development efforts, forcing officials to raise taxes to pay for increases in the costs of services. Ms. Gray feels that's a price residents would be willing to bear to clamp down on growth.

There are other changes Ms. Gray has in mind, each divisive in its own way. Her idea of having Columbia absorb all the high-density development in the county is coupled with a proposal to scuttle two planned mixed-use development communities in Fulton and western Howard, which would remain exclusive communities for three-acre estates.

On affordable housing, she says she is opposed to the county "being paved over in townhouses" and believes enough homes are on the market for under $100,000 to accommodate low- and middle-income residents. Ms. Gray holds up the real estate multiple listing as her evidence, but fails to mention that many of those units are one- and two-bedroom condominiums, unsuitable for families.

Only Ms. Gray's position on taxes acknowledges a trade-off exists for her other policies. We wonder if her anti-growth lyrics will sound as pleasing to voters with the background music of higher taxes and less equitable housing patterns.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.