Embarrassed by what they call the ignorance and insensitivity of county government leaders, the mayors of all eight Carroll County municipalities have agreed to take part in an unprecedented regional effort to combat racism.
At a news conference tomorrow, the mayors will announce their support for "Call to Community: An Honest Conversation About Race, Reconciliation and Responsibility." Community leaders, including the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, will participate in the project.
In March, the Carroll County Commissioners refused, by a 2-to-1 vote, to join Baltimore and Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties in the project.
Commissioner Richard T. Yates said Call to Community would draw Carroll into Baltimore's problems and spawn racial turmoil in a county that has no racial issues. Rather than help the city, Yates said, he was willing to watch it die. "Maybe we will dig it up and make farmland out of it," he said.
Yates later said his comment earned him plaudits from many constituents. "I probably could get re-elected on that comment alone," he said.
John C. Springer, executive director of Interfaith Action for Racial Justice, the Baltimore-based group sponsoring Call to Community, said, "There is no question about who the majority of people in Baltimore City are and they hear that as a racist statement. That insensitivity is precisely the reason why Carroll County needs to do this."
Carroll's mayors said they wholeheartedly accepted Springer's invitation to help remedy Baltimore's increasing economic and social isolation by joining in study circles planned throughout the metropolitan area during the next five years.
"This is another in the commissioners' famous ostrich moves," said Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman, a former Baltimore resident. "It is no way to approach a relationship with anybody."
Outvoted by his two colleagues in March, Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said yesterday, "The mayors' action more truly reflects Carroll County."
Yates could not be reached for comment.
Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said, "All of us were distressed that the commissioners did not support this effort. As a group, we are standing up and recognizing there is a problem."
The mayors have endorsed a resolution that acknowledges the need to build community with Baltimore "so that citizens and leaders within the entire metropolitan area can cooperate across class and racial lines in dealing with many pressing economic and social problems."
"Someone that says there are no racial problems here has his head in the sand," said Yowan, whose recent proposal to bring Mass Transit Administration bus lines into Carroll County has drawn fire from many residents.
"I have no doubts many of the comments from those opposed to the MTA here were racist," Yowan said. "Some explicit comments to me were embarrassing to think we still have people in the community that will express those thoughts."
A dying inner city has far-reaching repercussions for those who work there and who enjoy its culture and sports opportunities, said Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin, a banker who works in Baltimore.
Issues are becoming regional in nature and one area no longer is insulated from another's problems, he said.
"How can we talk of letting the city die when the city is moving toward us?" said Union Bridge Mayor Perry Jones, the only African-American mayor in Carroll -- a county where 3 percent of 146,000 residents are black.
"We are going into the 21st century," Jones said. "It is time to wake up and realize there is racism. Let's get it out of our systems and work together as one people."
Pub Date: 5/14/97