County Council becomes the bully Instead of staying on high road, it took gratuitous swipe at residents.

June 03, 1996

IN A FIT OF PIQUE, the Anne Arundel County Council decided to take the low road in its fight with Annapolis city officials over the city-county tax differential. Council members may be aggravated that the city took the question to court, but its cut of $160,000 in grants to Annapolis just before approving the county budget for the coming fiscal year is a stupid, wrong-headed approach to resolve this thorny issue.

The Annapolis city government has every right to seek redress in the courts. As a society, we have established the courts as neutral forums where differences can be resolved. To extract retribution from the city because its officials exercised their legal right is a reaction worthy of a schoolyard thug, not a group of elected officials.

Who suffers from this act of spite? It's not Annapolis' officials who will bear the brunt of these cuts. It will be Anne Arundel taxpayers, who happen to be Annapolis residents. They will have less police protection because a $50,000 grant was stripped from the county budget. County residents will also suffer because bus service to neighborhoods beyond the city line will be cut now that the council has eliminated a $110,000 grant.

Until last Thursday, the county government held the strategic and political advantage in this tax dispute. In the past six months of political jockeying over the tax differential, the county executive and his budget officials out-maneuvered city officials. Between Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins failure to show up before the council to make his case and the City Council's failure to keep abreast of the issue as the county budget was being prepared, Annapolis government looked less than competent.

In reality, this entire battle over an 8-cent rise in the rate has been blown beyond its intrinsic importance. The county's budget officials have made a convincing case for it. Also, there has been no groundswell of opposition from the Annapolis taxpayers because the increase amounts to about $61 a year to the average property owner.

Yet in one tantrum last week, the County Council squandered its advantage. The courts will probably rule in the county's favor anyway. All the council had to do was let the process run its course. Instead, it played the bully.

Pub Date: 6/03/96

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