Ecker and Gray: What's Behind All the Claims?


November 06, 1994

Having spent my summer fighting the deception and misrepresentation bandied about by Jack Kent Cooke's hired guns, I thought I'd heard it all. Then came the media-sponsored "Stop Susan Gray Movement." The portrayal is nothing like the compassionate lady I have known the past five years who, through her research and analytical skills, has been committed to helping communities protect their quality of life.

As a Republican who has occasionally been embarrassed by my party's tactics, I find it laughable that Chuck Ecker, the developers, zoning lawyers and lobbyists have the nerve to call Susan "elitist." . . .

Addressing the most serious misstatements:

* The "anti-growth" picture painted by The Sun is colored by its strong support for most of the county's recent pro-development initiatives. Susan supports prior county growth levels (about 60,000 new residents between 1990 and 2010) because of the magnitude of infrastructure projects a higher level requires. Ecker supports the 1990 General Plan level of growth of an additional 100,000 residents (67 percent greater). How do you label Susan "anti-growth" when she's willing to add 60,000? . . .

* The Sun paints the referendum of comprehensive rezoning as some bizarre idea, although its basic concept of democratic decision-making has been referred to by the Supreme Court and the Maryland Court of Appeals as "a devotion to democracy." It's hard to challenge the referendum as a shift of most zoning power from the County Council to the county executive on the basis that the executive will gain the power of veto, since comprehensive rezoning only takes place once every six to 10 years. The everyday zoning administration is totally unaffected by the referendum. It's actually silly for The Sun to claim that Susan is attempting a power grab through the executive veto, since this theory anticipates that she would veto a new general plan or comprehensive rezoning in order to keep the current versions that she has waged battle against. Logic anyone? . . .

* Bond affordability: The Sun challenged Susan's integrity on this issue (Editorial, Oct. 11); however, The Sun misrepresented her position. There are four general measures of bond affordability. The first is fixed in the charter as an ultimate limit, but has little relation to economics. The Sun accused Susan of claiming that this legal limit was about to be reached; however, a review of the transcript shows that she did not refer to this largely irrelevant limit. . . .

Last, why hasn't The Sun seen fit to let voters know that Ecker has raised almost $300,000 -- at least $125,000 of which is from the development community? Ecker ran campaign ads in 1990 criticizing Liz Bobo for raising over $100,000. Ecker said "when the Howard County executive is thinking more about special interests and the next election than about what's in the best interest of all the people of Howard County, it's time for a change." Ecker had a good point. Too bad he didn't live up to it. ..

Thomas E. Dernoga


Funny thing about politics and campaigns. Sometimes, it is hard to see the actual candidate behind the veil of smoke and spin. The picture of Susan Gray painted for us by her campaign is a dedicated advocate of the people, a planner with vision, an attorney who has successfully defended the rights of the people through repeated court battle with nasty developers and non-compliant county and state officials.

I must admit that I was impressed by what I read and decided to look at the case files down at the courthouse. What I saw was unsettling.

Susan Gray's activities only appear to have caused the county to spend our tax money responding to incomplete demands for information and defending lawsuits. She was not successful in any of the cases or zoning appeals I looked at, either for herself or on behalf of a citizen of Howard County. All but one have been dismissed. . . .

Mrs. Gray has filed three lawsuits under Maryland's Public information Act claiming that documents were being intentionally withheld -- two against Howard County and one against the State Highway Administration.

Her first case against Howard County was dismissed because she would not identify the documents that were being withheld, though she claimed to know they existed.

The second case was dismissed because she neither identified the documents (again) nor backed up her statements with the sworn affidavit required by the Public Information Act despite being given a chance to do so by the judge.

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