Used to be its own worst enemy during the...


April 17, 1996

BALTIMORE COUNTY used to be its own worst enemy during the annual General Assembly session. It didn't exercise influence or bring back from Annapolis the kind of money a jurisdiction of its size and importance should expect because state and county leaders refused to work together. Former county executives, especially Roger Hayden, tended to shirk their responsibility to organize all the players, hammer out an agenda and prioritize legislative requests.

"We never had a real legislative program you could point to and say, 'This is what Baltimore County needs,'" says Sen. Barbara Hoffman, a Democrat who now represents part of the city and county. Baltimore County in past years didn't know what it wanted.

That era appears to be over. Lawmakers give credit for that mainly to County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger. As he did in 1995, the first year of his term, Mr. Ruppersberger gathered state lawmakers, County Council members and others prior to the session to develop a legislative program and a sense of unity.

They responded, yielding their most successful General Assembly session in years. Baltimore County got the most school construction money in 20 years ($15 million) after Mr. Ruppersberger marshaled elected and community leaders to descend on the capital. It got millions more for police, libraries, transportation and community colleges, to revitalize older communities, to build sound barriers near I-83 and the beltway, to restore waterways, to buy land for parks in Owings Mills, for a teacher mentoring program and to buy property from Lockheed-Martin in Catonsville for the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Baltimore County's new-found coalescence also made it a player on the session's major statewide issue, the football stadium at Camden Yards. At Mr. Ruppersberger's urging, delegation members decided early to support this vital project. The bloc -- Democrats and Republicans -- held, a phenomenon with implications beyond this issue or session. It means Baltimore County can swing votes of statewide importance, a far cry from its fractious past. And it means the county can help counter the growing influence of the Washington-area subdivisions, a fact that augers well for Baltimore City and the metropolitan region.

Pub Date: 4/17/96

Baltimore County's newfound clout; Player in Annapolis: Led by Ruppersberger, county enjoyed a successful session.

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