Yelling 'betrayal' at Dell and Yates won't help

Comment

March 09, 1997|By MIKE BURNS

IS IT ANY surprise that South Carroll no-growth activists want to oust County Commissioners Dick Yates and Don Dell?

They have much to complain about, these denizens of the Greater Eldersburg complex, even if many of them are part of the problem (new residents, despite obvious facilities shortages) as well as trying to be a part of the solution. But some are simply of the gangplank mentality -- "Pull it up, I'm on board" -- that cannot pass for a solution.

Despite their varying degrees of distaste for development, some South Carroll protesters are organizing a movement to Yank Yates, Dump Dell. Y2D2, as "Star Wars" fans call it.

Naturally, their greater anger is reserved for the apostate Yates, who has allegedly betrayed his commitment to their cause. His most recent sin being the rejection of their nominee for the Board of Zoning Appeals and Mr. Yates' miserly decision to eliminate night meetings of the Planning and Zoning Commission. Both of those decisions (affirmed by Mr. Dell) can quite rightly be interpreted as hostile to the slow-growth camp, which considers itself the legitimate political voice of Mr. Yates' home base in Eldersburg.

The South Carrollines wanted him to name Carolyn Fairbank, head of the Freedom Area Community Planning Council, principal voice of the slower-growth movement. (Ms. Fairbank and Hoby Wolf, the airport operator and exporter named to the zoning board, traded barbs within days of the decision, lest there be any doubt that their differences of opinion are substantial.)

Y2D2 wanted the night meetings of the planning commission to allow more public comment and participation from people who could not easily attend daytime meetings. Messrs. Yates and Dell declared the night sessions a waste of taxpayer money, since the public could say its piece about developments at Subdivision Advisory Committee hearings. But the thrust of their vote was to restrict public input.

Misreading Yates

Perhaps the South Carrollines have misread the political complexities of Mr. Yates, and his populist, door-to-door polls.

He's been foremost an opponent of government spending and meddling, a knight in the crusade against higher taxes, an evangelist for the ways things used to be. Those positions are bound to eventually come into conflict, forcing a political choice at the expense of some supporters.

Mr. Yates came down in favor of a longtime friend, and an ally against developers three decades ago, in choosing Mr. Wolf for the board. And his parsimony with the public purse, to say nothing of contempt for excessive government process, made the elimination of one more meeting a worthy achievement in his mind.

That doesn't mean Y2D2 shouldn't target him for political annihilation, for voting against their positions. It simply means that Mr. Yates hasn't necessarily pulled a 180-degree turn and reversed his positions.

As for those sentimental souls enthralled by the simplistic siren song of Don Dell to "keep it country," they were not listening very clearly to the lyrics.

Misinterpreting Dell

Mr. Dell wasn't referring to the entire county, only to certain parts, and to certain farmers who could benefit from it. He certainly wasn't perceived as a darling of the slow-growthers in 1994, and it's only a curious political revisionism today that attempts to portray him as a traitor to some Greenpeace ethos.

In fact, it was almost a year ago that Mr. Dell told Solutions for a Better Carroll (forerunner of Freedom Area, same leaders) to butt out and stop creating problems with its know-it-all attitude. Mr. Yates, it should be remembered, explained to the same group that any halt to development growth would cost the county money, the nearest and dearest thing to his political heart.

These seething South Carrollines have had a long time to ponder their political interests and consider their strategies. It's not just the events of the last month that have shattered their hopes, but a long process that they hoped beyond reason would be radically changed in the 1994 election.

There's no chance of a regional development freeze, and little chance that public facilities construction will soon catch up with the current demand. See the county's problems in funding even a short-term school building schedule. See Gov. Parris N. Glendening's resistance to state projects in areas precisely like South Carroll's unplanned clutter.

That frustration adds to the region's political bitterness. Taking a swing at Commissioners Yates and Dell may help them feel better, even if some supporters know it is not the most politically effective way to act.

Forming a political committee to fight the 1998 election will take a lot more than the rhetoric of vendetta. It will require lots of work and committed recruits. Indeed, Y2D2 leaders seem reluctant to formally organize (which would mean registration, financial audits, etc.), even while dreaming of a spontaneous countywide grass-roots revolution that will sweep the rascals out.

Mike Burns is The Sun's editorial writer in Carroll County.

Pub Date: 3/09/97

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