The residents of Howard County, even those who vehemently oppose her, owe Susan B. Gray an acknowledgment. The Democratic candidate for Howard County executive has brought attention to the important issue of growth. She has made an election that otherwise might have been a sleepwalk for popular incumbent Charles I. Ecker something that challenges voters' intellect.
After having raised the growth issue, though, what sort of future does Susan Gray offer Howard County? The answer to that drives us to the conclusion that Ms. Gray is unsuited to assume the mantle of chief executive of one of Maryland's most popular and rapidly growing suburban jurisdictions.
If Ms. Gray were true to her promises, years of deliberations on the county's general plan and comprehensive rezoning would be for naught, since she has pledged to throw them out. The role of the County Council in zoning decisions would be undermined as she assumes powers she could theoretically wield if a zoning referendum on the ballot wins voter approval.
She would halt vital road projects in a desperate attempt to curtail already planned development. And she would summarily fire a host of high-ranking county officials who are well-respected, but who she contends have "deceived" residents.
In short, she would create havoc in a single-minded pursuit of retrograde growth policies and personal vendettas against those who have opposed her. We can't imagine any business that would find such an atmosphere hospitable.
A few months ago, Republican Charles I. Ecker was considered a shoo-in for re-election. His term as county executive bore the indelible stamp of good government: open, responsive, efficient. the budget, he turned a $23 million deficit when he assumed office into a $20 million surplus now.
Mr. Ecker, formerly a teacher and administrator in the county school system, has led an effective, forward-thinking administration. His policies on growth have placed limits on construction that have brought development to a reasonable, sustainable level. For those who find some of the rapid changes around them still too unsettling, they should be reminded that growth in Howard was twice as rapid prior to Mr. Ecker's tenure.
In the race for Howard executive, Susan Gray offers immense change; that alone these days seems to have great appeal. But in asking ourselves whether this change would be good for Howard County, our conclusion is it would not. Mr. Ecker himself has brought many valuable changes to county government. Without a doubt he has earned the opportunity to continue.