New year's resolutions, and a wish list for 1998


January 04, 1998|By MIKE BURNS

BY THE TIME this column is published, 1998 already will have made its debut. But it's still not too late to submit a list of New Year's resolutions and wishes.

I resolve not to swear in high dudgeon at the closed lanes, detours and other official traffic obstructions that seem to increase every year. I cannot understand what inevitably prods highway engineers and contractors in their attempt to make travel exceptionally unpleasant at the most inconvenient times. But allowing them to see your anger is to give them a victory, and to validate their perverse accomplishment.

Here's a wish that 1998 will see the realization of long-discussed, important growth planning measures in Carroll County.

Enactment of the concurrency legislation (pegging new housing to the county's ability to provide adequate public facilities and service) is a step toward rational, flexible growth control. It would set a limit of 6,000 new homes over six years, but the adequacy of facilities would determine where and by whom the dwellings would be built. The multi-year period allows time for the construction of facilities that could serve new housing. (Just make sure that lots that are already recorded don't use up all the available building permits.)

Final comprehensive review and revision of the master plan for land use is a close companion of the concurrency ordinance.

Citizen work groups and the Planning and Zoning Commission have labored hard to prepare the plan for final approval. The document has been delayed, both by work groups wanting to spend more time in study and by waiting for the adequate facilities ordinance to be enacted. But the sweeping overhaul of the 30-year-old plan is an accomplishment that should provide a visionary blueprint for Carroll's future.

I resolve not to be so critical of the commissioners. They, like the highway constructors, are simply doing the best they can -- although it's sometimes hard to believe that they are actually trying to please the public.

I'll also suspend judgment on the claim of Commissioner Richard T. Yates that he would be elected county executive if charter government should take hold in these parts.

Charter government overdue

Which brings me back to the wish list: Charter government is overdue in Carroll. It's a way to fix authority and responsibility, with an understandable balance of powers (like federal and state governments and other Maryland metro counties). Charter is no panacea for bad rulers, but it provides individual accountability that can be measured at the polls.

There would be no more uproar over whether an elected official met alone with interest groups to get their views, unless he blatantly did their bidding. It seems in the current view, one commissioner is unethical, two is a quorum and three is too many.

Work of the charter government supporters was encouraging. After the commissioners turned down a request from the eight mayors in the county to form a charter-writing body, the grass-roots campaign slowly, ever so slowly, began to mobilize. Last year, the advocates finally accomplished the goal of securing enough signatures on petitions to force the commissioners to act.

The final charter proposal may contain some unexpected land mines that could blow the effort to smithereens. But signs are so far assuring that voters will have a serious, reasonable document on which to decide in a referendum this year. Add to my wish list the hope that this important proposal goes to a special election, instead of being buried in the long general election ballot this November.

New Agricultural Center

Construction of a new Agriculture Center is a long awaited goal for much of Carroll, one that should materialize this year. Here's hoping the county will make a resolution to get it built right and right away. One can sympathize with the belated complaints of neighbors, who fear the added traffic. But the advantages for farming groups and for the county's economic benefit seem to outweigh their concerns. Residents need to hold the center, and municipal officials, accountable for effectively managing events held there.

Speaking of construction, how about a wish that the county begin work on a jail addition this year? It's badly needed, and has been for years. Population increases yield increases in crime, and inmates. That's clear enough. Tents in the courtyard, cots in the day room are no answer. Neither, in the long term, is paying to ship inmates to jails in other counties. Let's get on with meeting this need, as unpleasant as it may be to most taxpayers to spend more money to house criminals.

I'll resolve to be less critical of the Carroll school system -- when the Board of Education resolves to produce a workable school year calendar that doesn't play havoc with the families of students, just so teachers can share an occasional morning coffee together.

This is probably the first resolution I'll break, given the board's belief in its infallibility. That is, unless I hit another road construction backup during rush hour.

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

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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