Regionalism: Mission Impossible?

January 03, 1995

To: Paul Farragut, executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. From: Headquarters of UBOR (Undaunted Boosters of Regionalism).

Good day, Mr. Farragut. Are you ready for your next mission? As the new head of the BMC, you have the task of helping the mayor of Baltimore, the executives of Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties and the three Carroll County commissioners forge cooperative solutions to regional problems. Given the repeated failures of local executives to find such solutions, some would call your task a thankless one with little chance of significant results. An impossible mission.

The fact is, advocates of regionalism have good reason to feel pessimistic these days. Elected officials in the metro area have talked a good regional game for the past few years but they don't have a lot to show for it -- other than a committee or a report on solid-waste disposal, transportation and other issues. We had hoped Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke would step forward as a cheerleader for regionalism, but he has failed to do so. For one thing, he has generally gotten aid from the state when he needed it. For another, he knows all too well that his suburban counterparts tend to view regional cooperation as political quicksand. They didn't need the Nov. 8 elections to tell them parochialism is more in sync with the public mind-set.

On the positive side, new Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III has a reputation for bridge-building that should be helpful to the cause, especially if he can be teamed with Mr. Schmoke and Charles I. Ecker of Howard County and Eileen M. Rehrmann of Harford, two second-term executives who seem to appreciate the fact that regions that work together grow together.

Your mission, should you accept it, is to move the eight area leaders beyond the lip-service stage where regionalism is concerned. We believe your experience -- as a Howard councilman from 1988 to 1994, a Maryland Port Administration manager, Maryland Distribution Council chief, not to mention your first job 28 years ago studying land-water issues for the BMC's forerunner, the Regional Planning Council -- makes you eminently qualified to tackle this difficult but crucial job.

Good luck, Mr. Farragut. If you're successful, regionalism won't self-destruct anytime soon.

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