Hands off liquor board Republicans trying to stack deck with appointments before election.

July 14, 1998

THE FLIMSY excuse that the Republican majority on the County Council has given for its haste to appoint the newly created liquor board is hogwash. The trio's stated desire not to leave unfinished business to the next council isn't being extended to other important concerns.

This council hasn't devised an adequate policy to encourage more construction of affordable housing. Neither has it erased residents' fears of overdevelopment in western Howard County. But, by golly, it won't leave the liquor board appointments hanging.

Councilman Darrel Drown isn't running for re-election. Charles Feaga and Dennis Schrader are opponents in the GOP primary to replace Republican County Executive Charles Ecker. The Republicans know that after the general election Democrats could become the council majority, recommending liquor board appointments to a Democrat county executive.

The rush to make appointments doesn't bode well for the liquor board's future. It was created to take some of the politics out of liquor license decisions made currently by the council. But the emphasis on appointments now suggests the council's thinking.

The law creating the board gives the council veto power over its decisions. But council members apparently don't want to leave anything to chance. They won't be satisfied with being able to reverse the liquor board. They want subservient board members who won't make decisions that would be politically risky to change.

Howard County needs an independent liquor board that doesn't take orders from the council. Perhaps there should be a mechanism in which liquor cases can be appealed to the council. But it's really hard to see the point of a paper tiger board filled with appointed cronies whose decisions can be ruled meaningless anytime the council wants.

It took quite a bit of legislative wrangling to reach a compromise liquor board bill. But the board's shortcomings are apparent before it is appointed. The legislature needs to take another shot.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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